Monday, 10 December 2012

#MealPlanMonday

Planning to use the slow cooker twice this week! And going to try soup in it at the weekend maybe...

Monday - Sausage and Mash
Tuesday - Chicken, spinach and lentil Curry in slow cooker
Wednesday - Meatballs
Thursday - Ian away - Fish and chips for me and Harry
Friday - Beef Stew/pie in the slow cooker
Saturday - Undecided!!!
Sunday - Pot Roast in the slow cooker (beef) - if I am brave enough!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Pineapple and Raisin Muffins

I bought some pineappple since Harry LOVED it as a snack at the children's centre - guess what? He has now decided that he doesn't like it. Luckily I found a very tasty recipe to adapt in Annabel Karmel's Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. The lady who moved out of our house very kindly left this book for me when she moved out as she realised I had one toddler and a baby on the way. Archie is now nearly 6 months, but we are expecting to follow the Baby Led Weaning style of weaning, so the puree ideas aren't much use to us. I'm glad I had a look in the book though, as towards the end I found some great baking recipes.

Annabel Karmel's recipe uses carrot, but as we aren't big vegetable eaters (bad mummy - we usually stick to the frozen stuff), I didn't have any in and substituted coconut. I don't have a picture. Ian suggested I just put in a photo of different muffins, shame on him!

4oz Plain Flour
4oz Plain Wholemeal Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 Bicarb
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Salt
6 fl oz Vegetable Oil
3oz Caster Sugar
2 eggs
4oz Coconut
8oz (225g) Canned Pineapple, drained
4 oz Raisins

Preheat Oven to 180degC
Sift together dry ingredients.
Beat wet ingredients in a separate bowl, smush up the pineapple if you have it in chunks.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients - remember not too much mixing, just enough to combine.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Yummy and lots of fruit in every bite!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful #r2bc

A bit late AGAIN! I am a bad blogger!

My reasons to be cheerful this week...

1. On Saturday I ran my first ever 5k run - I was so proud to even get around the course, and very pleasantly surprised to get my time, which was emailed out to me a few hours after the event. The weather was glorious, mind, so I am not expecting to better my time this week, although I am still planning to get out and run tomorrow (brr).

2. Harry and Archie have been a lovely little pair this week. Highlights of the week for Harry included a visit to soft play the evening Daddy was staying away (they do dinner for 75p if you go in after 3pm - bargain!) and him learning how to use all the big stuff all by himself - this is a big deal for our little 'Captain Cautious' as he is known by Daddy! It made for a much nicer experience for Archie and I as Archie therefore didn't have to get lugged up miles of softplay, squished through rollers and I didn't have to precariously balance with a rather heavy bubba in my arms! Harry has also nearly reached another 'big boy' milestone - he has now had two naps in his big boy bed! He asked to go to bed in his new room tonight, but we don't yet have curtains, so it isn't cozy enough for bed time yet. Maybe next weekend will be the time! We got my gorgeous little pile of loveliness (a.k.a. Archie) weighed this week. He is a rather chunky 21lb 8 at 25 weeks. Considering his big brother was on the, um, massive side and weighed 21lb 10 at 33 weeks, no wonder Archie is so cuddly!

3. Christmas preparations are getting on in our household. Today Harry and I made and painted a cardboard Christmas tree, daddy is wrapping presents as I speak and Harry is, in his own words 'really excited about Christmas!' Shh, we may be putting up some decorations this weekend. Can you tell we REALLY love Christmas in our house?!



3.

Bobchat - Moneys

H - Look my moneys. One silver, one brown... Oh look! Same lady!
M - Yes, darling, that's the queen.

Bobcat - Where's Archie?

Nearly every car journey, about 20 minutes in.

H - Where's Archie gone?!
M - Has he gone to sleep?
H - Yes, Archie sleep.

Maybe he really thinks we 'go' somewhere when we go to sleep!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Learning Through Play - the holiday edition

I just found this post hanging around in my draft folder, and thought I would share it with you all anyway! I think I was waiting for a picture, but haven't got around to it!

It is amazing how much toddlers can learn just from playing and experiencing the world around them. This doesn't have to be a planned, scheduled activity -although we do try to fit in a few of those each week. Most of the time we just go with whatever we are doing and I fit in whatever we are working towards.

Harry is just learning to count, so that it something we spend a lot of time on at the moment. Most frequently, of course, we count the vehicles we see as that is Harry's favourite thing! At the moment we re also working on Harry's sensory play as he has always been extremely reluctant to get wet or dirty. It has been a little disappointing on holiday to be met with firm rebuttals whenever we suggest a dip in the pool or sea (although he does like sandcastles, so that is progress!)

Yesterday we bought a cheap paddling pool and I filled it and left it in the sun to warm up during nap time. I was hoping to entice Harry in, but no such luck. However, I did manage to get him to splash his hands and by fetching a plastic mug and a bucket we had a great time learning about weight and volume, as well as practising our counting! We learned that 11 cups is lots and lots of water - nearly filling the bucket- and that Harry can carry 6 cups of water in the bucket, even though it was much heavier that 2!

We had a lot of fun, and it really did remind me that 2 year olds really do learn so much every single day!

Monday, 19 November 2012

#MealPlanningMonday

It's that time of the week! We are trying out some new recipes this week, and I am also cracking out the slow cooker for the first time this winter. Let's hope it all works out OK!

Monday Spaghetti Bolognese
Tuesday Beef and Guinness Pie a la Jamie Oliver
Wednesday Harry has a dinner date at soft play with one of his girly friends! I will have something from the freezer as Daddy is away
Thursday Sticky Chicken a la Jamie Oliver (15 minutes? I'll leave 30 ;-) )
Friday Sausage and Mash
Saturday Chicken Tray Bake (Jamie again)
Sunday Roast  - maybe a pot roast in the slow cooker if I am brave enough. Any tips?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bobchat - Raisins

Harry, on standing up from his potty after being given a treat box of raisins to sit on it.

D: Have you done a wee wee, Harry?
H: Oh, look! I done a raisin!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bobchat - finking

Whilst holding Archie watching Harry at the park. Harry scoots over to see us and peers into Archie's face.
H: Archie's finking
M: Archie's thinking? What is he thinking?
H: Looks at me seriously He's finking of an nidea

#Couchto5k - Success!


So my Couch to 5k Journey is over! Today I completed my first 5k run - it was a Park Run, and after running you are emailed with some statistics, so here goes: 
Time: 33.24
73rd out of 83 runners (that means I wasn't last!!)
3rd in my age category (I'm guessing there weren't many runners in my age category, lol!)
My 'age-graded' score was 44.31% - so I think when compared with other people my age I am on the 44.31st centile (ie 50 is average). I *think* that's how it works anyway!

I'm pretty pleased with that. I started running on 'Super Saturday', having never run before. Archie was a bout 8 weeks old when I started. I suffered with sore knees, a nasty fall and losing motivation towards the end - it's hard to get out and run with two little ones, particularly in the dark. So I am so proud to have done it.

I'm definitely going to keep running with the Park Run - once a week will keep me going throughout the winter I think, and maybe next summer I can push to get a bit faster or even start working towards 10k! I'm even considering joining a running club to keep me going.

So next week the goal is to try to run a smidgen faster - we'll see... it was great weather for a run today - not sure I would be so good in nasty weather. I will be using the Couch to 5k+ podcasts to try to keep me motivated throughout the run. Still, I'll be pleased jut to make it round the course one more time.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful #r2bc

Argh! I missed it! Thursdays are becoming a very busy day for me, but I can't believe I even missed r2bc! I've been having one of those weeks where everything seems to pile up on you, and everything just winds you tighter and tighter. It does not make for a gret mummy if I'm honest, I and I have been trying really hard to still stay relaxed and calm around my babies. It's nice to sit and reflect on what actually went well though.

1. Obviously I am proud and cheerful about my children ALL the time, but this week Archie is just one extra-cuddly gorgeous pile of loveliness. This morning he was wet so I stripped him off, and really there is nothing better than cuddly rolls of nearly-6-month-old goodness snuggling into you of a morning!

2. Harry is really settling in well with his childminder, he had another great day yesterday. We don't have much family local to us, and it is a relief to have someone I can leave him with once a week whilst I rush around and do all those jobs that are NOT fun for a toddler. It's bittersweet for me, as I hate leaving him, knowing that every day he gets a little bit older and a little bit closer to a 'big boy', but at the same time, a little break makes for a better, less frazzled mummy. I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to afford to send him for a few hours a week. Yesterday they played with Happyland, went on a Pudsey Bear hunt in Asda and made cookies! All between the hours of 9.30 and 1.30!

3. Archie and I also got loads of jobs done yesterday. We had to race around town in our free hour between dropping Harry and starting the breastfeeding peer support group to try to get curtains for Harry's room (which, regretfully, look like they might be a bit small), batteries and, best of all, new boots for me! I had a 20% off voucher for Clarks and have treated myself to some lovely new boots! I recently got some inserts from the doctor to help my over-pronated (flat!) feet and he told me my old boots were worn in a way that was going to counteract their good work. So I have treated myself to a lovely pair of chunky winter boots that I hope will see me through this winter and next at least.

I hope you've all had a more cheerful week that me, I'm looking forward to reading about it!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Monday Meal Planning

Back on the blogging train!! We eat so much healthier and better when I plan our meals properly. I'm hoping that this week sees a welcome return and I am trying to ensure we have a bit more variety. It's tricky with a fussy toddler in the house, but he always eats a lot at lunch - he's a big fan of sandwiches, cheese, ham and other lunchy things, but he really, really doesn't like dinner! Maybe it's just the time of day, but he seldom eats anything at dinner time (or so it seems...)


I'm really struggling with more wintery meal ideas, so looking forward to seeing what everyone has planned this week - hope I can steal it! Haven't done the shopping for this week yet, so maybe I can even steal it for this week!


Monday 12th November - Steak Pie (shop bought I'm afraid) and Sweet Potato Wedges
Tuesday 13th November -  Salmon and Bean stir fry with Noodles
Wednesday 14th November - Chicken Kievs with Oven Chips (or sweet potato mash)
Thursday 15th November - Club Chicken Sandwiches
Friday 16th November - Cheat's Macaroni Cheese
Saturday 17th November - Bacon Spaghetti Pasta
Sunday 18th November - Roast (Beef if I have anything to do with it! My favourite!)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Legacy - Katherine Webb


I've not been reading much recently, it seems like life takes over sometimes. But truthfully there's nothing better than snuggling up with a good book, and my mum lent me a few whilst I was down in Cornwall with the boys. She keeps a notebook where she writes down all the books she reads for her bookclub and their house is full to the brim of books, so it's brilliant to go down there and pick out a few choice reads. I hope that one day we might be able to have our very own 'library' in a spare room which I can alphabetise to my heart's desire - a room with bookcases all around the walls (my dream is something like the one from Beauty and the Beast - we can all have dreams, right?)

The first from the pile mum gave me was 'The Legacy' by Katherine Webb. Two sisters inherit a manor house from their unlikeable aunt - but they can only keep it if they live together. The book jumps between Beth and 'Rick' (Erica) in the present day - following their experience as they delve into a half-remembered past over Christmas - and Caroline, their great- great- grandmother in the 1900s.

Erica, the narrator of the modern half of the novel is a likeable and believable character. She is fighting to get Beth, her sister to tell her the truth about the disappearance of their cousin Henry who disappeared when they were children visiting the house. Her desire to uncover the mysteries of the house and their family history stems from a need to try to 'fix' Beth who is suffering from depression, and who has attempted suicide, risking losing custody of her son Eddie.

The mysteries and twists are gradually uncovered in both narratives, gradually drawing the two stories together. It doesn't take a genius to see the truths, but they are quite cleverly woven into the story, and I particularly liked the fact that Erica never *quite* finds out the truth - the reader does, as we see both ends of the story, but Erica has to try to fill in the gaps for herself. This makes it rather more believable than if the author had somehow had her find out everything, whilst still allowing the reader to have full closure.

I really enjoyed reading the book, it transports you to another place and time well - I particularly liked the sections about the America Prairie, and Caroline's story is, at times, heart wrenching. The setting of the manor house is close to where we live, near Devizes, so it was nice to be able to picture the countryside and the house too. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of mystery and tension, but it's also a very easy and pleasant read.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Muffinlicious

Muffins are the order of the day this week! I have really been enjoying playing with recipes I have found to match to the ingredients in my cupboard, and I think I hit gold this morning. Nothing like baking first thing in the morning so you can have something yummy for a (second) breakfast! (Can you tell I have a 5 month old early riser?!) I find these muffins are nice in the morning as they aren't super sweet, unlike your traditional cupcake which is more of an afternoon tea delicacy.

Cinnamon and Raisin Oaty Muffins

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup boiling water
1 2/3 cups SR flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
6 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp Cinnamon

For the tops
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

Preheat Oven 200 Celsius

Put raisins, oats and boiling water into a bowl. Leave to soak.

Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar. Sift.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon for the tops of the cakes, put to one side.

Add eggs, milk and oil to the oats mixture. Lightly beat to combine.

Add wet mix to dry mix. Carefully fold until just combine. Dollop into muffin cases.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on to the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Scoff. Bet you don't stop at one.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

I've been a very poor blogger recently, and I have lapsed in my regular posts, but normal service will resume from now!

1. One of the reasons my blog has been neglected recently is because we have been really busy - a real reason to be cheerful if there ever was one! We have been down on a holiday to visit 'Gran and Grandad Ford' (yes, he names them after the car brand they own!) in Cornwall, where we also spent time with one of my sisters and three of her children. Harry had teenaged playmates for the whole week, and Archie had his own personal sleep-inducing carrier in my 16 year old nephew! They were a massive help, it is always so relaxing to spend time with my family as they help so much with the little ones! Before that I had my other sister and her partner to stay for a couple of days, which was great as well. It's so nice to have a guest room in our new house, as I have a lot of family who I love to have to stay!

2. Another reason we have been busy is that Harry is potty training! I'm so proud of him, we have been going just over a week, and we have had hardly any accidents! And today he managed to ask to use it when he needed it, which was great. Up until now, I have been trying to anticipate his needs - very tricky with a toddler who doesn't want to stop playing! Small pants are very very cute, lol! I'm pleased we are getting it out of the way, as my 'deadline' was training him by the time he went to pre school in May, but in the end we both gave in to peer pressure when all his buddies were wearing pants. We are still working on his independence. I think it's going to be a while before he can go by himself, seeing as he can't even take socks, wellies or crocs off by himself - let alone trousers and pants!

3. My third reason to be cheerful this week is that Harry has started with his new childminder. His old childminder was great, but we are keen for Harry to start preschool when I return to work in May, and she wasn't going to be able to pick him up and drop him off for us. I am extremely thankful to a friend of mine who put us in touch with our new childminder. Harry had his first day today and loved it. She has a fantastic set up and I am so pleased I have found somewhere for my boys where I know they will be loved and cared for just like home. Archie will be starting there when I go back to work just before he turns a year, but he will have his big brother there before and after school to look after him.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Super Tasty Healthy Muffins!

After my exertions for our Hallow'een party I was rather butter-creamed out (I know, I can hardly believe it myself!) and my usual sweet vanilla cupcakes were not really inspiring me to bake - I also had a friend around who recently commented that her little girl was 'getting a sweet tooth', which left me thinking about how my baking habits might be affecting my lovely little man, who is always extremely appreciative of my efforts (unless they are savoury - see Pizza Pinwheels as an example!). So this week I decided to go for something a little more healthy. I had some bargain bananas bought for us by my sister when she was visiting that needed using up, so I adjusted a recipe for banana and white chocolate muffins that I found in my trusty Baking Magic cookbook - I really recommend this book for anyone wanting to bake cakes and cookies!



Here is my recipe:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour (you can just use 2 cups plain if you prefer)
1 tbsp baking powder (yes, tablespoon!)
2/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sunflower oil
3 small ripe bananas
handful of fresh berries - I used raspberries and blueberries

Preheat oven to 200 centigrade. Grease/line muffin tray.

Combine the flour and baking powder and sift. This is really important!

In a separate bowl (I did this in the KitchenAid) combine sugar, milk, egg, oil and bananas. Mix in the berries.

Stir together until just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX! A rubber spatula is best for folding in econmically and quickly. You need to keep in the sifted air from your flour.

Spoon big dollops into the pan. Don't worry about being tidy, these aren't delicate little cupcakes, they are big, floury, airy muffins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Yum. Great for breakfast!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Bobchat - Dinner Story

Sat at the table looking at recipe books whilst Harry eats lunch.
H: Mummy, can you read me dinner story?
M: This? It's a recipe book to tell me what dinners to make.
H: Dinner story, read dinner story!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bobchat - Phonics

Working with Harry on learning his sounds:
M: So, Harry, what sound does 'mouse' start with?
H: Squeak squeak!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Swimming

Since the slightly disastrous attempts to get Harry into the water whilst on holiday, we decided that it was time we started taking him swimming more regularly. I do have him down on the waiting list for weekend swimming lessons, but with no family nearby to look after the baby I can't manage to take him to sessions during the week. We used to go to fabulous lessons when he was little, but sadly I went back to work on Wednesdays, which was when they were, so we had to stop. In the mean time Harry has developed a fervent dislike of water (whilst Archie ADORES it) so we thought it was time that we 'jumped in at the deep end' so to speak...

So, we headed off to one of the local pools on Sunday morning - with slight trepidation on my part at least. We split up - Daddy with Harry and Mummy with Archie and off we went. I kept my ears keenly trained for the squeals of a reluctant toddler - but heard nothing. When Archie and I were ready we ventured to the door leading from the male changing room (why they don't have family ones I don't know). I saw Harry who came running towards me - and promptly stacked it. I guess the 2 year old has not yet had it drummed into him that running on wet floors is a BAD idea!! Amazingly he didn't cry much. We sat on the edge with our toes in the water and then we were in!

Our aims of the session was to spend maybe 30-45 minutes in the water - hopefully without Harry either screaming/clinging to us for the whole time. We were so pleasantly surprised! Harry really enjoyed it! The pool was very warm, which was great, and he made some great progress during the seesion. He was wearing armbands and we even got to the point where we could let him go to float on his own for a few seconds. He wasn't terrified and we didn't force him to do anything. He spent most of the time laid flat supported by one or other of us kicking his feet and splashing his hands. He also learned how to 'spiderman' along the edge of the pool with no support at all. He wasn't too freaked out when he got his face wet, and we are working on blowing bubbles, but I really couldn't be prouder. What a super star! We are already planning to go next week (although we may still be in Cornwall) and hopefully to make it a weekly occurence.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Hallow'een Party!

We had a brillinat time yesterday with our Hallow'een party. We invited Harry's NCT buddies(3 other children, J, E and A) and their parents. This included baby S who is only 7 days old today! So tiny, I can't even remember when my snuggly little bear was that tiny and it was only 5 months ago! We also invited our next door neighbour, G who is 16 months and came with his daddy.

The older toddlers had a grand old time playing with balloons and toys in the lounge, they were really good and as there were lots of adults we were able to take playing with them in turn. Meanwhile other adults chatted in the kitchen, eyeing up the buffet!

We decided not to do any organised games this year, as, in my opinion they are a little young at 2 1/2. We did, however, have sparklers (for the adults to hold) at the end of the evening and they enjoyed a run around the darkening garden.

On to the food...
I made spooky spider chocolate cupcakes with a minty buttercream icing:

Pumpkin cupcakes - these were supposed to be ACTUAL pumpkin cakes from the hummingbird recipe book, but I failed at making roast pumpkin puree so they were vanilla with orange glace icing and a small green buttuercream stalk.

Gingerbread skeletons - recipe courtesy of Mama Owl and including baby skeletons decorated by Ian!

 


Shaped sandwiches (ham bats, tuna spiders and cheese ghosts)

Sausage spiders - These are simply half a sausage taken out of its skin and rolled into a ball with half-twiglets for legs! I used to make these as a kid and they are really effective!

We also had spooky crisps and some un-spooky pizza, breadsticks and other bits and pieces.

The party was a great success, Harry was so excited to be dressed up, even though he is usually extremely reluctant to do anything like that. We bought some light up balloons and sent the children home with one each as well as some baked goods (I fear I made have over baked!) and it was great to catch up with all the NCT group. I was pleased that we didn't invite too many more people (although I would have loved my friend's lovely girls H and J to come - unfortunately they were away). I think the number we had was a great number for our house!


I definitely hope to have another Hallow'een party next year! It is such a fun celebration to enjoy with your kids. Maybe I have posted this in time to be some inspiration for someone - have a great Hallow'een!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Bob's Top 5... Toys

Harry is your typical 'boy' I suppose. He is completely vehicle crazy (cars in particular, but anything with wheels or wings will suffice) and spends every spare moment racing or playing with his cars. However, he does also enjoy his other toys - he loves pretend play and seems to concoct detailed scernarios every night at bed time with his 'animals' of which we hear snippets over the baby monitor. Sometimes he even seems to be doing it in his sleep!

So, here are Bob's top 5 toys of the moment:

1. Die-cast cars - he speicifically likes the ones that are definable makes and models. He dislikes others - dismissing them as 'just a toy car'. Top favourites at the moment are his Mercedes A Class and his new Ferrari. He has ALOT of these cars as he does get one every now and then for being a good boy during the weekly shop. I'd rather buy him a car for 67p than sweets or chocolate, so it works for me! The exception to the favourite makes and models of cars are his 'Cars' cars (are you keeping up with me here, lol!) - Lightning McQueen and friends. He loves to pretend play with them, talking, racing, playing hide and seek - you name it - these guys have all the fun! Sometimes I despair of his obsession with cars, but playing with them has taught him so much! First he learned colours, then numbers, then some letters. He now knows all the car logos and what they mean, so definitely understanding 'reading' - he knows lots of specific models, and remembers them - able to point them out in different colours and styles. He bamboozles me with his knowledge sometimes, able to name the old and new Nissan Micra for example. So, I guess his obsession has taught him a lot of useful and transferable skills!

2. Brio Train Set - Harry's love of his Brio train set is enduring! Some weeks it is all he wants to play with, and he asks for it first thing in the morning and plays with it all day - some days he plays with cars instead. I love the Brio trainset, although it can be quite tricky to understand the specific rules of whatever Harry has chosen to play on any given day. Daddy and I compete with making the best tracks, and it is a great toy to add to each birthday/Christmas. The train set will probably be making its way up to Harry's room when it is finally complete as it will probably be one of those toys that he won't appreciate Baby Archie playing with quite yet! The Brio set has really helped Harry's fine and gross motor skills what with the intricacies of fixing his tracks (which he has to do himself more often than not since Archie has come along) and the careful avoidance of breaking the tracks in the first place, which is no mean feat!

3. WOW Toys - These are another enduring favourite in our house. We were first introduced to them by my sister who bought a couple for Harry's first birthday. The men are a great size for small fingers, and are - in my opinion - a better size than Happyland/similar for little ones to play with. All our figures have names thanks to Harry - named after friends and family, and he always remembers which are which! We have a fair few now, and they are quite big toys, however, once again they are smaller than some of the other play systems so not quite as bulky to store. The larger toys are interactive - for example the rubbish truck has bins you can lever into the back, and the combine harvester feeds through hay bales. Most of the toys have a very satisfying 'driving' noise and they are of the push and go variety - some of the smaller ones, like the quad bikes and motorcyles don't. Harry will play for a long time with these and I feel that the inclusion of the 'men' is good for his imaginative play (although he does also have great conversations with his cars!)

4. Tom - Harry's favourite 'cuddly' for play time has to be 'Tom'. I looked everywhere for a little boy doll. I wanted more of a 'playmate' for Harry than a baby doll. I was remembering fondly the doll that my nieces and nephews used to have from Boots that had a rucksack, hat and removable clothes and was kind of like an explorer. However, I couldn't find anything similar in the shops (it was at least 15 years ago that I remember this doll, so I guess I will forgive them for not making it any more!) Then whilst in Spain in a shop called 'Imaginarium' we found Tom. Harry immediately took to him, although he was quite young at the time. It's only recently that he has become a real 'firm favourite'. Tom now shares Harry's bed with some other favourite cuddlies and we often take him out and about in the baby carrier (this is so cute!). Harry brings him downstairs each morning and I think it was a real comfort for him to take a friendly face on holiday.

5. Doggy - OK, OK, toys that I have named for Harry show I am not very imaginative, I know! I have improved though - my own baby doll was called 'Lucy' because I couldn't think of any other name! Harry also has Donkey, Monkey and Mouse! Doggy is the first and favourite though. He has had him since he was born - another present from my sister Amy. He retains a cuddly milky smell from many baby cuddles. When we were going through hell and back trying to get Harry to sleep, Doggy was one of the sleep aids we tried. It never really worked for him as a little baby, but as he has grown older it is a definite comfort item. We said from the start that Doggy was to be a bedtime only toy. I didn't really want Harry to take his 'special' toy out and about where he could be lost. Doggy stays in Harry's bed all the time and has only ever been downstairs when he has been ill. I particularly love these Jellycat cuddlies, they are so so soft when new and are just the right level of snuggliness. Archie currently has one in his bed too which we are hoping will one day give him the same level of comfort.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday

Trying to get back to normal, but I am feeling a little lacking in inspiration this week. It's also time to start switching from lighter summer meals to scrummy warming winter meals - I don't think I am quite ready to crack out the slow cooker yet (especially as OH is tiling the kitchen this week!) but I'm getting there! Maybe next week - anyone have some good recipes I could try?

Monday Club Sandwiches and Chips
Tuesday Fish and Chips
Wednesday Chicken Kievs and Cous Cous
Thursday Bacon and Tomato Pasta with Garlic Bread
Friday Sausage and Mash
Saturday Hallow'een Party Food! Including: Spider Cupcakes, Spooky Gingerbread Men, Sausage Spiders, Bat Sandwiches and... some other stuff I've not thought up yet!
Sunday Roast courtesy of hubby.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday

So,we are back from our Spanish holiday, and settling back to home life. I have to admit that this week's meal plans are not the most frugal or healthy, as we took a bit of a trip down the prepared meal aisle to make things a little easier for my first week back as Mummy to the boys without Daddy's help. (Some of the choices might also be down to the fact that Daddy put together this week's meal plan!)

Monday Steak Pie with Garlic and Cheese Mashed Potato
Tuesday Chilli (made with leftover bolognese) and Nachos
Wednesday Fish and chips from the freezer
Thursday Hot dogs and homemade chips
Friday Chinese 'Takeaway' box meal from the supermarket
Saturday Burgers
Sunday Roast of some kind (up to daddy)

Looking forward to getting back into the swing of things next week - anyone got some tasty autumnal recipes for us to try?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Couch to 5k Week 8

I've got to week 8! Admittedly, it has taken me a few more weeks than that to do it... 11 weeks to be exact - I started the program on 'Super Saturday', the 4th of August. Not too bad considering I started when Archie was 2 months old and demand fed (well, he's still demnad fed, but goes a little longer between feeds now!), my nasty injury (at about 3 'weeks' if I remember rightly - my elbow is still not completely healed!) and the fact I've been on holiday for nearly 2 weeks (I managed to run twice whilst away, but also wanted to enjoy my holiday - plus it was super hot in naptime which is my main time to run!)

I'm pretty proud of myself, I am now running for 28 minutes at a time - last week in 24/26 degree heat! And today I was forced to run without the podcast as my ipod gave up the ghost 2 minutes in. I set a timer on my phone for halfway and then turned around for home.

I don't have a clue how far I am running. If I had an iphone I could download an app to track my run for me, but I don't, so... I might borrow my hubby's but in the meantime I am just focusing on completing the program. There are also some follow on podcasts to improve speed and stamina so I am planning on doing those afterwards before moving on to proper 5k runs! I've come so far already, but that's a bit scary...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

Hello everyone! I hope you are all well, can't wait to get into reading all your reasons to be cheerful today!

I have one major reason to be cheerful, we're HOME! I know I didn't put it on the blog yet, but things have been a bit quiet here - the reason is we've been on holiday to lovely sunny Spain. We had a fabulous time, which is another reason to be cheerful of course, but nothing beats sleeping in your own bed (although I did have to acclimatise to the cold, brr, and Archie decided that when we got home at 2.30 am it was time to play. Um, no. Not when you woke me at 3am the previous day and I've only had an hour's sleep since. Naughty baby!). Loving being home already, I'm even happy to see the rain! It's proper autumn weather, we need to get out and buy Harry some decent shoes today or tomorrow, as he only has summer doodles! Cant wait to crack out the wintery clothes.

Archie has come on in leaps and bounds on holiday, he is such a gorgeous little thing. When I say little, I mean baby - he isn't really 'little' - cue lots and lots of surprised Spanish people when they asked old he is. He really is NOT the size of a usual baby at quattro meses! I would say his thighs are about the same size as Harry's! He is now sitting alone for a few minutes at a time and showing real interest in his toys. I would say 'I love this stage', but I've said that at every stage for both boys ever since Harry was born, so I can't really say that!

Hallow'een is nearly here, and we are planning a (very small) get together with a few of Harry's buddies. Can't wait to get baking/cooking - I will be putting some of Mama Owl's ideas to good use, I got some gingerbread man cutters for my birthday, so I need to put my piping skills to test! Need to put some serious thought into costumes, although I'm afraid I may have to succomb to shop bought again. We'll see!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Bobcat - Opel

On arriving in Spain to pick up the car - an Opel Corsa. For those not in the know, Vauxhalls are called Opel in Spain and have a different logo.

H- looking at the badge on one of the wheels - What's that one, Daddy?
D - Opel
H - looks confused 
D - That badge means Opel, Harry.
H - No, that one's a Vauxhall! Walks around the front of the car to check.

Bear in mind it was dark and he saw only part of the car - my son is a crazy car genius!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Pizza Pinwheels

Ever since I saw Six Ways With Scones over at Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, I wanted to try my own pinwheel scones  and when I was wondering what to have for lunch: toast - boring, sandwiches - boring... I thought why not!

Scones are one of the easiest and quickest bakes ever - just flour, fat (could be butter, I use stork, mum uses oil) and milk to form a dough - great savoury or sweet, just vary what you add to the mix. Super quick to make and bakes in 10 minutes - what's not to like!

I didn't use the recipe from the website as I didn't have my computer to hand, so I used the trusty recipe from the Baby Led Weaning cookbook. I chucked in a few ounces of grated cheese and rolled out the dough nice and thin. I then spread with just a very thin layer of tomato puree and a dusting of dried basil before rolling it all up. I put it in a preheated over at 200 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Perfect toddler lunch when combined with a piece of sliced fruit! Next time I'm trying jam ones though. Yum!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Bobchat - water

After nap
M - Would you like something to eat or drink?
H - Just a piece of water please.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Busy Bees Benefits - Petition

Like many other working parents, I utilise the childcare vouchers scheme. It's great, it means I don't pay tax on that money and it can go straight to my childminder - easy and beneficial to everyone. I am reliably told that for those of us in the lower tax bracket this could be a saving of around £500 a year - more if you have two people who qualify for the vouchers.

However, what about single parents? They can only claim the maximum of £243 of childcare vouchers a month, no matter how much childcare they have to pay for or how many children they have. So where both my husband and I could claim, single parents wouldn't have that opportunity. Also, what if your childcare comes to more than double the allowed amount anyway? You pay for the rest yourself, obviously therefore taxed.

With the government apparently committed to a review of childcare, and improving options for parents, surely this would be a good place to start. Busy Bees have an online petition to raise the Childcare Voucher cap from £55 to £75 a week. To be honest, I'm not sure about the implications of this, and I haven't fully researched it myself. But I do think that the process should be up for some kind of review, the £243 cap seems quite abitrary, and doesn't seem to take into account individual situations which can be the difference in working or not for many parents.

If you want to sign, the link is here - remember to then open your email and click the link. 100,000 signatures will make this issue eligible for debate in the House of Commons.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Bobchat - cute

M - You are cute!
H - You are cute mummy?
M - Aw, is mummy cute?
H - Yes, mummy cute. Archie cute!
M - Yes Archie's cute!
H - How 'bout Daddy? Daddy cute?
M - Yes, Daddy's cute - Daddy's handsome.

I walk away to put stuff in the dishwasher. Harry looks at his bus who is 'watching' him eat breakfast.

H - How 'bout bus? Bus cute? Yes, bus cute.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bobchat - safari

At the safari park - driving through the monkey enclosure at great risk to the car - purely for the Bob's viewing pleasure on his second birthday.

H - Mummy, look!
M - Yes, darling! Look at the monkeys!
H - No, mummy, Ford Focus!
D - sarcastically Yes, Harry how exciting a wild Ford Focus!
H - WILD Ford Focus, mummy!

Guess what he told everyone about what he saw at the safari park. *sigh*.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Chicken Korma and Peshwari Naan

When I made curry, I was rather pleased with my culinary efforts and so was the husband, so I thought I'd note it down for posterity.

As I have previously stated, I am in no way, shape or form any kind of domestic goddess. I tend rather towards the 'lazy', particularly in my less liked tasks. One of which is definitely cooking. I will never quite understand why I can so heartily detest the art of cooking when I find baking therapeutic. Some might say that they are closely related, but I can tell you now, cooking practically brings me out in hives, and baking calms me right down so...

This is one of the reasons, perhaps, why I don't mind this meal as much. Like the ubiquitous homemade pizzas, this meal retains a little of the baking goodness - I guess anything that uses the KitchenAid is a good thing (of course I am going to have to state here that you can also knead the dough by hand, but I'm also going to try to subconsciously ignore that fact, as doing all this stuff by hand kind of suggests I don't need the KitchenAid, when I quite obviously do!)

First I made the naan bread dough - a few hours before the meal as that was when I had a spare moment. I turned to the BBC recipe pages, which I generally find quite good (and usually pop up quite early on Google, haha). I used this recipe, although I only used half and didn't really measure the liquids - just chucked in some milk and oil until I could scooch my dough hook around in the bowl to make some recognisable dough. I left it to knead itself and played with my son in the garden. (Thank you KitchenAid, what a much better mother you make me! Let's ignore the fact I fed him 'breakfast' for dinner last night, shall we...)

After proving I decided I wanted to concoct them into peshwari naan. To do this, I got out my block of Creamed Coconut - this is a store cupboard essential as it also features in the curry sauce. I heard a little rumour that coconut fats are really quite healthy, so that makes it much healthier than the 'cream' option suggested on the curry jar. I'm not going to research it just in case I am proven wrong - but feel free to do so yourself if that floats your boat. You will also need raisins and I put in some ground almonds because I had some.

Mix together the coconut, about half an inch of the block, a handful of raisins and a sprinkling of ground almonds. When your dough has proved, split it into 2 (remember, I halved the attached recipe). It should stretch quite satisfyingly and be quite fun to work with. Flatten/stretch it out - I didn't roll, I just used my hands - into a roughly circular shape and place your filling in the centre, folding over like some kind of exotic pasty. I did this a good couple of hours before cooking and it didn't seem to have any adverse effects. I followed the recipe for the cooking part. Do remember to heat up the baking tray, as that is how the bottom gets cooked. I didn't 'serve with butter' - too much faff for me!

I use a little jar of Korma Curry Paste to make my curry. I basically follow the instructions on the jar to start with - soften the onions, add the paste, brown the chicken (I usually use thighs rather than breast), add some water. However, I don't add cream, as it isn't something we keep in and using a third of a pot in a curry sauce just means we scoff the rest - or, as we aren't great pudding eaters, it goes off. Instead, just crumble in about an inch of creamed coconut to add the creamy-ness. It suits us anyway, and it's a great tip I picked up from my mum who is the queen of store cupboard cooking. What I like about this meal is I have everything in to make it, and just have to pick up the chicken (or keep some in the freezer) so it makes it super easy.

And here is where I wish I'd taken a photo to add to the post... sorry guys. My naans looked like naans though, which is quite a triumph I think!

Happy Eating!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

This is going to have to be a super quick one this week, as I am very busy!

1. I am starting breastfeeding peer support training this morning - I wanted to do this after having Harry, but unfortunately the actual training sessions took place after I returned to work on a day I was working which was a realy shame. I am really hoping that this time round I am going to be able to complete the training and get the qualification, I'm sure it will be an eye opener!

2. I am starting to fit back into some of my 'fat' clothes! It makes such a change to be able to thrown on a pair of jeans or trousers instead of wearing leggings and tunics all day everyday. I'm not overly fussed about my weight - I'm more interested in staying fit, but it's horrible when you have a wardrobe full of nice clothes that you can't wear. I'm still a little way off fitting in some things - yesterday I was going into work, and couldn't quite get away with the trousers I wanted to wear (I could fit them on but they were a little bit figure hugging!) but I am getting there.

3. I finished another 'week' of Couch to 5k. I'm not getting through them quite on a weekly basis but there are only two weeks of the programme left. It's getting hard, but I am determined to complete it. Then I can join my local Park Run - exciting! I only hope I can make it 5k without collapsing!

Lookin forward to reading everyone else's R2BC!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Couch to 5k - Week 7

I completed week 7 today in monsoon conditions - it was literally like running through a waterfall. I have run for 25 minutes three times this week and I am quite proud of myself. It's hard though, and I'm worried about kicking it up a notch next week and again the following week. I've managed each step so far, I haven't had to repeat any podcasts but running for 30 minutes seems like a looooong time. Can I do it? Only time will tell!

On Friday I have a hospital appointment stemming from some knee pain I experienced in about week 3. It was bad enough to cause me to go to the doctor, who agreed that it was likely to be caused by my flat feet. I'm supposed to be getting some kind of inserts for my shoes on Friday. However, I haven't experienced any joint pain at all since, so I am a bit worried I might be wasting their time. At least I finally get an opinion on my feet though I guess - I had treatment for them as a child/teen but nothing since. I'm a little worried that my running will suffer because I am trying to change the alignment of my joints - it would be such a shame after coming so far - but I suppose I just have to wait and see what they say.

I think the main reason why C25k has worked for me so far is that it is such a small portion of your day. Most people could probably squeeze in 30 minutes for themselves 3 times a week. It is hard with a toddler and a breastfeeding baby (not on a routine), but I manage with the support of daddy. I think it helps that I have experienced no muscle pain/soreness at all, so it's easy to go out for the run, get it over and done with and feel good about yourself, then forget that you have done anything! I think the main thing I've had to work on is my aerobic fitness, which is why I started running - to be able to play better with my two gorgeous boys - so that's a good thing. It is so so hard when the podcast tells you you are *only* halfway through and every breath feels like an effort but worth it I hope! And I keep telling myself that once I get to the magical 30 minutes I will stick just to that for a few weeks, and it will hopefully just feel easier each time. I hope.

Bobchat - Fast awake

H - It's morning time, it's not dark hennymore! I am fast awake!

Makes more sense than fast asleep when you think about it!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bobchat - Es

Whilst listening to 90s Number Ones
H- E's are good, E's are good...

Hmm -perhaps not the best song to be repeating!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Bobchat - 'mage

After dinner

M - Harry, would you like a fromage frais?
H - Yes PLEASE mummy! 'Mage PLEASE!
M - What flavour would you like?
H - Brocolli!
M - Brocolli?
H - Yes mummy, brocolli 'mage PLEASE!
M - Do you mean apricot?
H - Apreecock. Apreecock 'mage please mummy.

Glad we got to the bottom of that one - brocolli fromage frais sounds rank!

Monday Meal Planning

This week my parents are staying with us, so I will be cooking for 4 adults and one Bob - this requires a little more thinking ahead for exactly what we will eat just to make sure that I get enough stuff in for everyone.

Monday 24th September - Homemade Pizzas and Dough Balls (my first try at dough balls last week was very successful :-) proud face). Fruit and ice cream for pudding.

Tuesday 25th September - Spaghetti Bolognese with foccacia if I can find a KitchenAid recipe!
Cheesecake for pudding (not my own... I don't think - maybe I will try! Anyone have an easy recipe?).

Wednesday 26th September - Chicken Curry with Naan bread (dare I make my own?!) Vienetta for pudding (ice cream cake, Harry's favourite)

Thursday 27th September - Chicken Caesar Salad. Banana Splits for pudding.

Friday 28th September - Fish and Chips. Fruit and ice cream for pudding.

Saturday 29th September - Burgers and Chips. Cakes for pudding (if I have time to make them!)

Sunday 30th September - Roast dinner of some variety (OH's domain!)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cakes

Another of our favourite activities is to make cakes - this is a dual purpose activity - we can make them AND eat them! Harry particularly likes using the new 'cement mixer' - KitchenAid. Let's hope he doesn't try to make actual cement in it :-/

First there is the measuring. I like to use recipes in cups because I think it's a little easier to understand. Harry can read all of his numbers up to 12 so he can help to read the recipe now which is lovely. He's not that dextrous at getting things into the bowl though, as you can see from the picture...


 
I did have a picture here of Harry licking the paddle (another key part of cake baking, I'm sure you all agree) but being the camera novice I am I couldn't figure out how to rotate it!

Once the cakes are in the oven, it's time to do some washing up...


...and to clean down the side. I'll be honest, I had to do it again after he'd finished, but he did a good job for a 2 year old and it kept him busy for the 10 minutes they were cooking!


Finally time to scoff a cake (and gloat at the baby who isn't allowed one...)

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Bobchat - Playing Cows

Whilst playing with the Brio train set
H - Mummy you play cow
M - OK, what is the cow doing?
H - Looks up incredulously Cow say moo!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Bobchat - The Dark

H - Look, it's dark!
M - looking up at the cloudy sky Well, it's not dark, but it's a bit gloomy.
H - No, it's DARK!
M - Well, it's just the clouds over the sun.
H - looks at me in disgust at my stupidity Mummy, it's DARK!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

I have a surfeit of things to be cheerful about, but what I really like about Thursdays is that I am forced to sit down and take stock of these things and think really carefully about them. I think it really helps to do this, and focus on a few specific things that really make you happy -  it helps me to stay focused.

1. I nearly named my blog 'Charmed', because I really do feel so blessed and feel like I live a charmed life - I have so much everyday to be thankful for. I have a lovely home (albeit in the process of being transformed), a wonderful husband and two gorgeous boys who make me smile every single day. We are all healthy and happy. I'm sure I've used this one before, but what better reason is there to be happy?

2. Last night Archie laughed his first real 'sense of humour' laugh. Sadly, it does seem like his sense of humour tends towards the silly *sigh* - what's new in a household of boys (I am sadly outnumbered!). Daddy was making silly faces over the table at him (during our romantic dinner after the toddler had gone to bed, haha) and he was chuckling away in a manner I've only seen him do when being tickled up to now. It was super cute - he is nearly 4 months now and getting to an age when he can really 'play'.

3. I have had a fairly productive week of 'sorting' - I've sorted the EHIC cards for an upcoming holiday, which was more complicated than it seems as we have changed address and all sorts since we last had them. I've been calling nurseries and childminders, trying to arrange visits for next week when my parents are here to help, and as much as it pains me, I do think I am making some progress. So I'm quite happy with myself about these things. I really do struggle with talking on the phone and taking those initial steps to 'sort things out'. I've also been doing my best to clear what will eventually become Harry's room and quite a lot of the 'stuff' which has been hanging around since we moved is now in more sensible places. The room needs a complete overhaul so next step will be sanding down all the gloss work and getting some paint up. I'd love to see anyone's ideas for a little boy's room, as we keep going around and around in circles at the moment.

Thanks for reading - can't wait to read everyone else's reasons to be cheerful this week!

Bacon Pasta Recipe

OK, so this is probably all second nature to some people but I am always envious of my friend Sarah (a.k.a. the true Domestic Goddess) who can whip up a tasty sauce for pasta in no time. Luckily Harry, Archie and I get over there once every couple of weeks and are always provided with a yummy lunch (and some inspiration on the side).

Recently I've been thinking about 'pairs' of meals to avoid food wastage. We are only a family of 3 meal-eaters (Archie, sorry, you  are too little for food!) and that means that I can sometimes have food left over, so I try to figure out tasty ways to use it up. For instance, when we have Roast Chicken, we will usually have home made Chicken Pizzas the following week (thanks, KitchenAid!) I find that meal planning each week is a great way to figure this out. Before I planned out meals I used to find we had a lot more wastage because I'd forget all about using that last bit up.

When Club Sandwiches are on the menu I only use half a pack of bacon so Wednesday's meal this week is Bacon and Tomato Pasta and this is how I do it:

Ingredients:
3-4 rashers of bacon (I like streaky and smoked, which also works well in our Club Sandwiches)
1 onion
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Tomato Puree

I literally just fry off the bacon and onions and chuck in the tomatoes, but the real key to this recipe is to leave it simmering for a good 20 minutes or half an hour if you have time. I find it really needs this time to sweeten up and when it has had that time it is a really sweet, tasty sauce. While it's simmering, cook up whatever pasta is your favourite, and serve either stirred together or with sauce on top. Oh, and don't forget the grated cheese ;-)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Bob's Top 5 - Non Fiction Books

Any non-fiction book with even a tenuous link to vehicles is a good book in Bob's world. In fact these are the books we turn to time and time again, he loves to learn about exactly how things work and what the world around us does.

Busy Day at the Airport (Busy Books...)
1. 'Busy Airport: A lift-the-flap learning book' - This book has so much detail on every page that there will always be something to talk about. Harry has always particularly liked one man with a grey beard who he calls 'Ho ho'! You can follow the passengers through the airport and see them each step of the way so little ones can be well prepared for a plane journey. My only problem is that the copy we have is pretty large for fitting in hand luggage as I'd like to take it to the airport with us. I have seen other books in the same series in a smaller size though so you could probably get it smaller.


2. This is My Tractor (Mega Machine Drivers) - This is a pretty old book, I picked it up in the library book sale for 20p! It's definitely paid for itself many times over though. The book has lots of interesting facts about Charlie and his tractor (a John Deere, no less!) and it has a really appropriate amount of detail for Harry's age right now, pointing out all the different parts of the tractor and what they are used for.


3. The Usborne Big Book of Big Trucks - We bought this for Harry as a birthday present as it s quite expensive. It's a massive book though, with loads and loads of interesting facts and features of each truck and massive fold out pages. We've actually bought him a similar book for Christmas (shh, don't tell him) as we were so impressed with this one. It will definitely last for years, as there are lots of 'Guiness Book of World Records' style facts in it to keep him engrossed.


 
4. 'Cars' (Michelin I spy book) - This book has been a godsend for us, although it may not appeal to other toddlers Harry's age. It's nice and small and often gets thrown in my bag with a couple of toy cars if we are going out and about somewhere we might need distractions. Harry is absolutely obsessed with cars, and before his 2nd birthday could name lots of car brands from their logo or even just the shape of the car. We got this book so we could learn even more car brands with him, and we also use it to compare to his little toy cars to see which models he has. He can now name every single brand in this book when he sees them out on the road as well as some more unusual brands that aren't even included! He knows lots of specific car models too. Now he is keen on road signs, so we are looking out for a similar book!

 



5. Thomas the Tank Engine Haynes Manual - We don't actually own this book, but I'd really recommend it for any Thomas lovers out there. We got a copy out from my mum and dad's local library whilst we were on holiday there and I have learned so much! Like the difference between a tank engine and a tender engine, why Percy is chubbier around the middle (he didn't eat all the pies, he's a saddle tank engine, doncha know!). It's full of interesting facts and I have recently seen it in our local library too, so I'm sure we will borrow it again!


Bobchat - toes

M - Right, we'd better get dressed to go out.
H - My not dressed. My got toes on (pointing to feet with no socks) my got feet on.

The Land of Why


I was tagged in this post by Mama Owl in 'The Land of Why' which started over at Mummy Central.

As a mum of a toddler I am always dreading those 'whys' that are so difficult to answer - 'Why is the sky blue?' (or not, as is usually the case in my place of the world), 'Why is the sea salty?', 'Why can't I... (insert banned activity here)'

Harry's not really got to this stage quite yet, but I've no doubt it will come and although it's just a sign of their wonderful development, I'm sure all parents feel like snapping 'Just because!' when it becomes particularly wearing.

Here are a few of my whys:

Why does one of my children wake at 5.30am - then go back to sleep at 7.30am only for the other to wake at 7.45?

Why does my husband find it so easy to drop off to sleep at night even though I'm the one exhausted from night feeds?

Why do you hate the idea of going out, but love it when we are there? (And why, when I am too tired to fight you and agree to stay in, why are you a complete pain?)

Why do I have to go back to work, and why is it so so hard to find the childcare I want to suit my children?

Why do people always think Bob is a girl just because he has long hair?

Why do I feel the need to buckle to parenting peer pressure - why can't I just do things at my own pace?

Why is it that I never have enough room for everything even though I try so hard to fit to the mantra 'a place for everything and everything in its place?'

And the biggest one...
Why do you have to grow up so quickly and why, oh why does time go so fast?


The Rules
  1. Post your whys – as few or as many as you like
  2. Link up your post with Mummy Central and post a comment if you can
  3. Tag 5 bloggers to keep this going
  4. If you’re not a blogger, leave your whys as a comment below. We’d love to read them
  5. Show your support by reading a few others and commenting on them.

Who I'm tagging

Mutterings of a Fool
Bare Naked Mummy
The Mini Mes and Me
Lakes Single Mum
My Darlings and Me


Monday, 17 September 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Monday 17th September - Home made pizza and dough balls

Tuesday 18th September - Chicken Curry

Wednesday 19th September - Bacon and Tomato Pasta Sauce

Thursday 20th September - Club Sandwiches

Friday 21st September - Fish and Chips

Saturday 22nd September - Spaghetti Bolognese and Garlic Bread

Sunday 23rd September - Roast Chicken and all the trimmings (courtesy of OH :-) )

Sunday, 16 September 2012

C25K - Week 6

Well, I finally completed week 6! Only 3 weeks to go now, and I will have graduated the programme. Today I had to run 25 minutes - the goal is 30 so I am nearly there. The most I had done so far was a 20 minute run at the end of week 5 so I was pretty nervous. However, the plan works!! I didn't find it as hard as last week's long run - I was even able to speed up a little at the end. I'm proud I paced myself well (although I do run very slowly).

I've had a couple of barriers on the way. The first was a nasty fall nearly 3 weeks ago now. My arm has still not quite healed, although a couple of days ago was the first time I could leave it without a dressing. It was really horrible and I did have to take a good few days break from the programme both to recover physically and to psyche myself up mentally. However, C25K is obviously suited to those of us who are bloody-minded and determined! I got myself up and carried on, only to be hit by the first cold of the season (always the worst!) I didn't let it stop me too much, although I have taken slightly longer breaks between runs whilst suffering. I'm really hoping to get back to running evey other day now, although that's also tricky now it is getting dark earlier.

In other C25K news, I got my first cheer this week! I wear shorts similar to these - they are called 'Cheer on the Rear' shorts and obviously date back to my cheerleading days. This week was the first time that someone took the instruction literally and cheered as I went past! Always good to get a bit of support, haha!

Painting Rainbow Footprints

Harry asked to paint the other day, so I got out our washable Crayola paints. we use a bun tin as a paint palette so we can get all the colours out and I recently found a pack of all different types of paintbrushes at Home Bargains. Our favourites are 'footprints' - little sponge 'stampers' on the end of a wooden stick. We have two sizes - the one used here is the larger one.

We dipped the stamper into different colours of paint to make a 'rainbow' effect. Rainbows are one of Harry's favourite things ever so this was very popular!


We talked a little bit about how mixed colours make different colours - not sure he quite 'got' it, but never mind!

Then he got down to some serious painting!

 

I love watching Harryenjoy messy activities because for a loong while he really hated getting dirty and didn't find it fun. Now it seems like he takes a real pride in his 'work'!

We also found some time to do some handprints.


The chubby little handprint closest to you is Archie's! The others are all Harry's - he pretty soon covered the whole paper so I had to do another Archie-print to save. Archie's first go at painting!!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Vehicles and Sticky Faces

I thought I'd try to get down on the blog some of the things we regularly do to entertain ourselves - I love getting new ideas of thngs to do from other peoples' blogs, and I also think if I keep a record of things we do I can look back and glean some inspiration from my own blog on those days when it just seems impossible to think of anything!

As usual, you'll have to forgive the poor quality of the pictures as a) I am not the photographer of the family (you'll want Ian for that) and b) I was using my BlackBerry.

As is probably obvious from most of my posts, my boy is a little vehicle obsessed so our craft attempts are usually heavily vehicle based. I do try to introduce other elements into our play though - today was emotions. I picked up these great foamy face stickers from the pound shop one day. They are very tactile and also easy for toddlers to use - although Harry can't yet peel off the backing by himself.

First, I drew the outline of some vehicles with circular windows: a car, a bus, a rocket and a plane. Harry stuck the faces into the windows. As we stuck them in we talked about the different emotions depicted on the faces. He is very precise about where he sticks things, although as you can see his motor control with drawing and colouring is not quite there yet.

 




We usually use crayons to colour, but as a special treat today we got out his (extra washable) felt tip pens. They are much easier to make marks with than crayons, so he does find them quite satisfying! Here is his completed bus - he was very pleased with it!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

It's Linky time! I'm excited to share this week's reasons to be cheerful... I just have to think of them first!!


1. I'm still getting that hopeful and happy autumn feeling, which is fabulous. This is no doubt helped by the fact we have had a fair bit of sunshine, despite a bit of a chill in the air so I have been out and about with the Bob and the Bear, manfully still having picnics in the park (even in the rain yesterday!) I kept getting reminded of an autumn holiday I took with my husband (then fiance) to the East coast of America the year I was pregnant with the Bob and feeling all nostalgic and wistful about the beautiful trees and the lovely time we had, so we have decided to embrace Hallow'een the American way and host a little get together for some of Bob's buds :-D

2. I realise he doesn't get featured much at the moment, but I just wanted to share what a little ray of sunshine the Bear is. This week he had his second jabs and didn't even cry, despite 2 days later featuring a bruise that covers nearly all of one of his (rather substantial I must admit) thighs. Poor little sausage. I love to have baby chats, baby snuggles and baby kisses. In all the excitement of toddlerhood I think I some times to forget to mention just how squishable and adorable he is.

3. And finally - this week's cold - the first of the season (oh, how I wish it would also be the last!) is just beginning to dissipate. I'm hoping to go out for  run when I gets in from work and also hope we will all be feeling normal again by the weekend when we have a cake photo shoot planned for a good friend who is starting a business as well as a bat walk on Friday. If feeling better isn't a reason to be cheerful, I don't know what is!




Brio Disaster!

Don't you just hate it when this happens to your Brio track? Must be some kind of metaphor for life going nowhere or something!
(Luckily I've ordered some magic double ended pieces that should be arriving tomorrow!)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Bobchat - Favourites

M - What's your favourite animal, H?
H - Um... Tigers. And... Rhinos.... And Horses.
M - Oh, wow, you have lots of favourites! Anything else?
H - Dump Trucks!

Bob's Top 5 - Fiction Books

Books (in no particular order):

1. Bizzy Bear books - these super-sturdy books have a variety of moving parts that have stood up to the most vigorous toddler action! The text flows well, and there are lots of things to spot in the pictures and talk about. We have two - 'Off We Go!' and 'Let's Get to Work!'. I'm not planning on getting any more or I might never get to read any other books again!

2. Meg and Mog books - these books have great bright pictures and interesting adventures that Meg, Mog and Owl get up to. The stories are very short and simple and thus appeal to little ones. I can see Bob really enjoying reading these to himself when he gets a bit bigger as they are quite comic-like with sounds and actions a key part of the illustrations.

3. Aliens Love Underpants - I pretty much know this book off by heart now from reading it many many times as Bob sits on the potty (please don't ask about potty training, that's a whole post of its own!) It has just the right amount of 'silly' and 'ridiculous' to appeal to little boys. I have a feeling this book is just the start of that sort of thing - anticipating Bob diving into the 'Wimpy Kid' favouries when he gets older.

4. The Gruffalo - Finally we are at the stage where Harry enjoys 'proper' stories, and not just books about tractors with a few words on each page! The Gruffalo is a big favourite with both Harry and Daddy - nothing at all to do with my silly voices, I'm sure! They particularly like it when I say 'Gruffalo Crumble' - although Harry seems to think that is his name - First name 'Gruffalo', second name 'Crumble'. We regularly have Gruffalo searches both in the woods and the supermarket (no, I don't know why either). We're meeting him for real this week at our new library!

5. Peace at Last - OK, so this is *my* favourite. I think this story is just the right length - not too many things happen - and it has noises as well as an easily understanable story with a nice ending. I think Harry kind of likes that there is a Harry bear but no Archie bear, ha ha.

Neopolitan Cake

Firstly, I'd like to apologise because I got my inspiration for this cake from a blog I read the other day, but I can't for the life of me remember which blog it was! So if it was yours, or you know whose it was, please comment and I will edit this post.

Edited: The blog I was looking for was  The Organised Penguin - also looks like this is where I first saw Lakeland's Duo Piping Bags I link to below - so thanks on both counts :-)

So, I read this amazing blog post about neopolitan cupcakes and I thought YUM! Off I went to the shop to buy pink colouring and strawberry flavouring - I had everything else I needed. I really *should* have visited the local cake decorating shop to buy my colour as I usually buy the gel colouring from there when I want to colour cakes. I find that the liquid colour you can usually pick up in supermarkets is OK for icing but you can never get a vibrant cake colour with it. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I nipped into Tesco to find Silver Spoon 'Colour Creator' in pink (and lilac, which I might well be going back for - another step in getting all my rainbow colours!) for just 79p. That's a lot cheaper than the gel stuff I usually buy.

Making this cake was a great excuse to use the magnificent KitchenAid, which whizzes up cake batter in a matter of seconds, enabling you to grease trays, lay out cupcake cases and begin tidying up whilst your cake mix is getting beaten. I chucked in all the ingredients - I'm a bit lazy and tend to use a VERY easy recipe from Baking Magic by Kate Shirazi - I even use the 'cups' version as it's even easier - I have these amazing russian doll cup measurers from Fred I got for a present once. That company is a great one to turn to for funky kitchen gadgets if you ever need a present for someone who likes baking/cooking!

After whizzing up the mix (as I said I am a lazy baker and figure extra whizzing makes up for things like sieving the flour - I don't think I am GBBO material just yet ;-) ) I separated it out into 3 parts, adding a spoonful of cocoa powder to one, vanilla essence to another and both strawberry flavouring and pink colour to the third.

I decided that instead of cupcakes I would make the cake in a loaf tin to add to the 'neopolitan' style. I carefully spooned the mix into the tin in stripes. I added the cocoa first as the mix was firmest due to the added cocoa (this recipe does give quite a firm cake batter, which helped), then the vanilla, then the strawberry. GBBO-ers would no doubt have fished out the piping bag to make this step a little smoother. As you can see, in typical lazy baker style I am using a silicone liner to save me from having to grease the tin.

My only problem was timing the bake. I find that loaf cakes take so much longer than you expect to cook - and this usually makes me turn bake to my trusting cup cakes or tray bakes which cook in about 12 minutes. I seemed to be waiting forever for this one.

It turned out looking quite good, although as you can see from the picture I clearly didn't split my mix quite evenly. The cake itself was also a little dense, although I think that was my fault for not beating it enough. This was my first time using the KitchenAid to make cakes, so that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I think it would look great with nice tidy piped rows of buttercream icing on top, but decorating is not my forte really. Especially as this was just an experiment to be eaten at home - not sure we really need the extra sugar to be honest! Later I made cupcakes which turned out much lighter and still had a really good effect but what I really need to get my decorating on is one of the Lakeland Duo Piping Bags - or ideally for this bake one that does 3 colours - how cool would that look!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Bobchat - 'noman

M - What do you want to do today, Harry?
H - Make a 'noman.
M - A snowman?!
H - Yes, with a carrot nose.

Bit tricky in September :-/

Monday, 10 September 2012

Meal Plan Monday

A little short on time right now, but as we have just eaten our first meal of the week I thought I'd better get the rest of our meal plan up!

Monday - Chicken Caesar Salad
Tuesday - Hot dogs
Wednesday - Fish and Chips
Thursday -  Spaghetti Bolognese
Friday  - Chicken Curry
Saturday  - Chilli Wraps (using left over bolognese sauce)
Sunday - Roast Pork

Bobchat - Feeting

At the beach with Gran and Grandad

M- Look, Gran is paddling, she's putting her feet in the sea!
H - Looks up briefly. Returns to sandcastle.
M- Come on, Harry, let's go! Let's put our feet in!
H - Another cursory look towards the sea.
M- Right, I'm going to put my feet in, coming?
H - NO! ME NOT FEETING!

Paddling will now forever be known as 'feeting'!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Bobchat - John Deere

At the zoo
M - Wow, Harry, look over there! Reindeer!
H - John Deere!
M - No, darling those are called reindeer, look at their antlers!
H - No! Over dere! John Deere!
M - Realising he his pointing to a green and yellow tractor in the distance - I assume a John Deere one. Oh, yes. John Deere, well done darling.

Knew we should have just gone for a walk in the countryside - who needs exotic animals, eh?

C25k - Week 5

I did it! I wrote about my Couch to 5k journey before - the programme builds you up very slowly to start with - but now things are getting serious (am I the only one who always sings that phrase? ...are you thinking about you - or us? probably showing my age there ;-) ).

 I've never been a runner in my life - the only time I've been fit in the past is when working towards a cheerleading competition - and, to be honest, I used to watch runners and comment on how boring it looked, and wonder why on earth they would choose to do something so horrible. Then my 30th birthday was looming, and a holiday was coming and I realised I didn't want to just resort to saying 'Oh, I'm getting older' any more. I wanted to be up and running around with my boys, enjoying life. I know full well I will look back at photos of this time of my life and think Look, I was so young! I don't want to waste it! So I looked around for exercise that was free, easy to start and wouldn't take me away from my baby for too long. C25k was the winner!

Last night I ran (very slowly... well, jogged) for a full 20 minutes. Now, I'm not sure if any of you have tried running recently (aside from those people who are already super-fit reading), but I haven't done much for my fitness in years - since I was cheerleading at university. The first day of couch to 5k nearly killed me, I came home muscles aching and completely puffed out. I was also engergised from the exercise, but also a little demoralised - I'd only run for 8 minutes a minute at a time. I began to doubt that I would ever manage the programme. I know exactly what day that was - it was super Saturday of the olympics, and Jessica Ennis was just bringing home the heptathlon gold - what an inspiration our British athletes are to us all. I wasn't about to give up at the first hurdle.

Anyway, now the programme is really cranking up. the last run was two 8 minute jogs, and now I've done 2 minutes. From now I just have to run more and more each time until I am running the full 30 minutes. Then it will just be working on my speed and fitness and it will be time to keep it up through the weekend by particpating in my local Park Run. And you know what, I'm looking forward to it! To hark back to my cheerleading days - Bring It On!

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Unbearable Braveness of Toddlers

I am forever grateful that Harry is cautious little soul - he didn't walk until he *knew* he could, he never climbed the stairs when little (or, on that note, the sofas, tables or bookcases). I could always leave him to nip upstairs or to the loo without too much worry of the mischief he would get up to.

There were times when I worried a little about this (I mean, it's the mother's prerogative to worry about even the good things, right?)- what if he grew up to be over-cautious, what if he never wanted to do anything exciting - what if he was a wimp?! But most of the time I recognised his caution for the blessing it was, and thanked my lucky stars.

Now he is a little older and getting a little braver - this has its pay offs - he is no longer permanently attached to my side when out and about, and his new found experimentation has seen him even trying new foods he would never have touched before. But, oh my god, I have never felt so terrified in all my life! I never wanted to be a 'helicopter parent', and always felt quite smug that I'd avoided that particular parenting sin - making sure I never rushed over when he fell over and bumped, so proud of my big boy bouncing straight back up. However, I fear that I have recently recognised that as much as I tried to disguise it, helicopter is probably my default.

I first started to realise my failings when out and about with Harry's little buddy from the childminder, P. Now, P is a few months older than Harry and a bit bigger so he ran over to the big slide and up the ladder. The ladder that is way too big for Harry (which I am kind of glad of because it leads to a platform 6ft up in the air with two sheer drops). Of course, Harry comes over whinging for help - unfotunately for him me and P's mum both have a feeding baby attached. This happens 3 or 4 times 'Mummy, HELP me!' and then all goes quiet. I assume he has gone to play on something else. Until my heart skips a veat (well, probably several) as I look up and see him on the ruddy platform! Waving! With a great big smile on his face! The first thing he does after whizzing down the slide is rush over saying 'Yay, did it Mummy!' and of course I feel so proud of his determination, but also a little wrench in my heart every time I see him up there willing him to be careful. Meanwhile P's mum calmly chats, seemingly unperturbed by the peril they are putting themselves in.

Since then, I've tried really hard to relax a bit and let him get on with the dangerous life of being a toddler, but I nearly reached my limit the other day at the park. We go to this park because there is a great climbing frame with fast slides that is perfectly suited to little ones his age. Apart from this one terrifying bridge thing that last time he went on I literally only managed to avoid a head-meets-floor incident by grabbing his ankles (in my defence I was heavily pregnant!) One of his little friends happens to be there - great I thought - time to sit back and enjoy a mummy chat. Oh no, no, no. How wrong was I - the next minute we look up and... no they are not on the scary bridge thing. They are at the other end of the bloody park on the big kids climbing frame! Climbing up a ladder that goes vertically and then horizontally up to a platform at least 8 ft high! Each of gaps between the rungs would easily fit one of our little cherubs and send them hurtling to their doom. Hearts in our mouths we race over, between us managing one mum at the top and one at the bottom, ready to catch. You know what? Neither of them so much as slipped! They climbed up there at least 10 times each without so much as a shake. I tried it just once and was nearly rendered incapable of movement halfway up.

I was really proud, no doubt about it - my heli-blades were whirring at the speed of light, but I was proud. Needless to say we soon ushered them back to the other play area - and for some reason, that terrifying bridge didn't seem so bad any more. I let him get on with it whilst standing at least an arm's reach away!