Boring Lunchboxes?

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Thinking about Summer?

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Having a Family Movie Night?

Why not take a look at what we've been reviewing and what we thought?

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Why not take a look at what we've been eating?

Monday, 30 November 2009

The Xmas Factor 2009

As I mentioned in my Let There be Lights post I did something silly at the turning on of the Towns Christmas lights. On the spur of the moment I entered The Xmas Factor, which was a little fun that was being had and included mostly children singing Christmas songs such as Jingle Bells and We Wish you a Merry Christmas.

I did say that if I could get the video I would post it for you all to watch/listen to and so I am posting this as quickly as I have been able to get it so that I don't lose my bottle and hide it away. I have tagged myself in it on Facebook, so if you are reading this as a note on Facebook, you can go hunt it down too.

And if you think I look distracted remember that I hadn't sung solo in public since 1998 and I keep waving to Baby Boy who is the baby you can hear crying.

video

Oh, and Top Ender is the little girl you can hear at the start who comments

"My Mum is definitely going to win the adults!"

She must be psychic!
Continue Reading...

The Yummy Mummy with no tummy Challenge - Week Fifteen

The Yummy Mummy with No Tummy Challenge Logo

This week on the Yummy Mummy with No Tummy Challenge, I have done well... despite eating a lot of junk food this past week as Daddy hasn't been around.

My weight has dropped by a further 1lb, but it isn't enough in my opinion and so I'm being silly this coming week and following a diet that if it were a Twitter user would probably be one of those Britney Bots providing lavish attention to the auparishtaka she is performing. Low IQ and plenty of hot air.

I am on the Cabbage Soup diet, but my healthier version of it! I am hoping that if I follow it for a week (I followed it in the 90's once or twice) that it will help me lose a bit more weight before Christmas. Yes I know that it will probably be just water, but it is the increased confidence in myself that the weight loss will bring that I am really after.

I hope that this week will see me losing around 7-10lbs and with the exercise plan staying the same (an hours walk everyday, 30 minutes following my online plan, the wii game work out for 20 minutes everyday and 10 minutes of weights) maybe even more.

I will just point out that I know this is silly and if I weren't as overweight as I am and needing something drastic I wouldn't even consider it, but at this point I need to take some drastic measures.
Continue Reading...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Let there be lights! Or Week Fourteen is Holiday Decor

The High Street Christmas Tree

This week is my favourite week in the Holiday Grand Plan because it is Holiday Decor Week! Normally I would of been putting up decorations today, but Daddy isn't around and so we will wait until he can be part of the fun before we put them up... hopefully it will be Tuesday! We will put up the trees in Top Ender and Baby Boys rooms and Top Ender will have some fairy lights hung too and we will make our Christmas cake later today.

What I will do this week however is make a few more treats and finish off the last few bits I need to do such as;

*Decorate the cake we are making today
*Work at least 2 hour a day on homemade gifts.
*Look for a Holiday Outfit for Me
*Watch one Christmas film as a family a week and one a day on my own!
*Enjoy the booked/scheduled family events

Talking of scheduled events yesterday saw the lights being turned on in our local High Street. As is now Tradition Top Ender, Baby Boy and I walked into Town to see this. We bumped into a friend of Top Enders who had also come down with her Mum and brother and we ended up standing together to watch the big switch on.

This year they were turned on by the the two leads in the Panto production of Cinderella. Cinderella (Louise Dearman) and Prince Charming (Ben Adams of A1) were there and when Cinderella walked past I couldn't help but say Hello as I use to go to school with Louise. When she recognised me and gave me a kiss hello Top Ender and her friend were most impressed and my street cred was raised.

Of course it may of been this that then caused me to do something very silly indeed. The Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon was requesting entrants into "The Xmas Factor". Top Ender wanted to sing, and so she went up with her friend and they sang Jingle Bells... and then I went up to sing.

Have you got the Xmas Factor

I use to sing a lot, I was considering becoming an Opera singer for quite some time and thought maybe even a lounge singer would be the right career choice for me but I knew I wasn't good enough and so sang for fun instead. That being said the last time I properly sung (something that wasn't a Nursery Rhyme or a Kids TV Theme or a snippet of a song) was in January at my Gran's funeral.

Anyway back to the story. I sang the first verse of In the Bleak Midwinter and afterwards everyone (there were quite a few people there) clapped and cheered and I nearly wet myself as I didn't realise there were that many people listening! About ten minutes after I went on they asked everyone who had performed to come onto the stage so they could announce the winners of the various categories.

"And the winner of the Female Adults is..............Pippa!"

Yup that's right me! I was then handed a bottle of wine, which as you all know (Yes you do it was in an Award post back in June.... look it is this one here) I can't drink as I am a Mormon.

There is a video of my performance, but at the moment it is stuck on the phone of the mum of Top Enders friend.... maybe if she can get it off I will post it here for you all to laugh at :)

As always if you would like to see how some others are preparing for Christmas take a look at theses fellow Bloggers and share the comment love with them;

Krista at Typical Ramblings
Candace at Diary of a FlyBaby
Diane at DianeDenmark
Kelly at Life at the Quinn Home
Hannah at Home Baked
Continue Reading...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

When Parents and Teachers disagree

A self portrait by Top Ender

In general I trust teachers. I don't go in and question every little choice that they make (even though sometimes I wonder!) and I tend not to take up their time unless I feel it is really needed (I won't stand bullying) or a parents evening has been scheduled.

In the parents evenings I take notes on what is said, ask questions about Top Enders progress, what can be done to help her at home and generally show an interest in her and her school life.

I felt that the teachers and I were a team.

Then a few weeks ago I was summoned to a classroom along with around twenty other parents where a teacher explained that our children were being put on to a special course to boost confidence and was just the same as the other children were doing, but they would get some really simple homework each week and did we have any objections to this if so speak now or forever hold your peace.

I didn't speak up then because I knew that Top Ender does suffer from confidence in her school work. She will often tell me that she can't do something, when I know that she can.

In her reading record book I have even written that Top Ender needed to be "tricked" into thinking the book she was reading was a lower level than it really was before she felt able to read this one quite wordy book. And she did then read it without any hesitation or mistakes.

So when Top Ender came home last Monday with spellings made up of two letters I got a little angry. Anyone that follows me of Twitter knows that Top Ender has been getting five out of five on her spellings for the last few weeks and the words are a lot harder than two bloody letters.

I decided to speak with Top Enders teacher about the spellings and why they were different for the children on this course as opposed to the other children in the class, but it was too late that evening so I went online and looked up this programme that Top Ender had been put on. I even downloaded the teacher lesson handbook.

The ELS programme is for children who are falling behind in reading or writing according to the levels set for children in year one.

Top Ender isn't falling behind in reading or writing according to the reports and parents evenings I have had and in some areas is reaching the levels set for children in year two. I was angry.

The following evening after School I asked Mrs Wise Owl why Top Ender had been put on to the ELS programme. Mrs Wise Owl made a few generalisations about the programme and repeated that it was a confidence building programme and looked at me as if I were a parent who thought that their little angel could do no wrong, when clearly they were.

I countered this look by explaining that I knew all about the ELS programme, what it was for, what it hoped to achieve and that I had a copy of the Teachers Handbook at home.

Mrs Wise Owl looked a bit sick. Eventually she explained that Top Ender had been put on this programme as she didn't always form some of her letters correctly and during a test piece of work they had spotted these errors.

I felt a little sick as I realised that Top Ender has been stopped from doing her normal work for twenty minutes a day and taken out of lessons because she sometimes doesn't form some of her letters correctly.

I asked Mrs Wise Owl why instead of putting her on this programme they simply hadn't asked me to go over this with Top Ender at home.

Mrs Wise Owl looked at me as if I was stupid.

I explained that I understood that as a Teacher she couldn't give one to one help all day, but that as a parent I could, and that as a parent it was my job.

Mrs Wise Owl looked at me as if I were a new breed of parent, or I had a third arm growing out of my head.

I explained that I wanted to revoke my permission for Top Ender to be in this programme and that as Top Ender learnt best from repetition that perhaps it would be best if I went over with her at home.

Mrs Wise Owl asked me not to remove Top Ender from the programme until the end of term, so we could see if the course was helping her or not and that she would look at Top Enders school work to see if there was improvement.

She then asked if I was happy with this.

"No, I'm not." I said "but I will go along with it until the end of term as long as you send home with Top Ender the proper spellings each week that I will test her on."

Mrs Wise Owl looked at me suspiciously but agreed and handed over the spellings for the week.

Am I right to expect to be included in Top Enders education?
Continue Reading...

Friday, 27 November 2009

A Wiggly Tooth

Top Ender and Daisy the Rabbit

"My tooth is wiggly Mummy!" said Top Ender
"A really wiggly tooth or just a little wiggly tooth?" I asked thinking that it probably wasn't wiggly at all
"Quite wiggly!"
"I shall have to check when we get home then" I said

The next thing we were home and were talking to Daddy on the web cam.

"I have a wiggly tooth Daddy!" shouted Top Ender
"Really? Which one?" asked Daddy
"This one" Top Ender said whilst sticking her finger in her mouth
"Let me have a feel then Top Ender" I said

I gave the tooth a little wiggle and was surprised to see it really was quite wiggly. I suddenly felt a little teary, a little older and a little sad.

"Oooh it is wiggly!" I managed brightly and added "The Tooth Fairy is going to visit us soon I bet"
"Quick Mummy take some photos before it falls out!" said Daddy

I know that Top Ender is growing up, I have been noticing little things that she says or does over the last few months and I have even purchased a lovely little bracelet for the Tooth Fairy to leave along with a pearl charm (and it comes with nine more charms) as I knew that this day was coming...

I just wasn't really prepared for it to come so soon.

Top Ender my beautiful funny little Princess please don't grow up so fast!
Continue Reading...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Top Ender Giggles - You will obey

Whilst walking round Tescos Top Ender spotted some shaped bubble baths.

"Mummy!" she exclaimed
"Oh yes!" I said "Disney Fairies Bubble Bath!" as I know when I am supposed to be excited
"No! Look at this!" she giggled as she disappeared round the other side of the stand

Whilst I tried to manoeuvre the trolley round the freestanding unit Top Ender got into place bending down behind a Dalek shaped bubble bath. As soon as I appeared she said in a quite good Dalek voice;

Dalek Bubble Bath

"I am a Dalek Bubble bath and I will exterminate dirt across the Universe"

We left the store thirty minutes later still giggling!
Continue Reading...

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Yummy Mummy with no tummy Challenge - Week Fourteen

The Yummy Mummy with No Tummy Challenge Logo
I cheated and last night I stood on the scales... a whole eight hours ahead of when I should of. I was deflated when I saw that I weighed 1lb more than last week. I then thought well I need to pee and I guess my dinner could still be being digested... and so I thought I would wait until this morning to check my weight. Turns out I was right to question my early weigh in, as I had actually lost 1lb... they do the weigh in at the same time every week on The Biggest Loser for a reason you know!

This week I am eating fairly normally again, although I am trying to keep the calories to between 800 and 1000 calories a day. My exercise plan is going to be taken back up to an hours walk everyday, 30 minutes following my online plan, the wii game work out for 20 minutes everyday, 10 minutes of weights and a lot of heavy lifting with the garage continuing to be sorted out!
Continue Reading...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Stir it up Sunday - Week Thirteen of the Holiday Grand Plan

The Nativity scene at the Shopping Centre
Its Week Thirteen in the Holiday Grand Plan and whilst our American friends are stressing about Thanksgiving over here in the UK we aren't.... although saying that I have promised Top Ender a proper American Thanksgiving meal this week, (with marshmallows in Sweet potato mash and everything!) and I am making a few little table decorations including a tissue paper turkey... maybe I will stress a little.

This week in the Grand Plan it is the week for attention to be placed in the Dining room. I don't have a dining room, but I do have a dining area. At the moment the dining table is is covered in things that shouldn't be there so my number one task for this week is to get that moved. I am also going to need to move a toy chest so that we have area to put up our tree...

Tomorrow night we are taking a photo of Top Ender and Baby Boy to go with our Christmas cards. There has been a slight amendment to our plan of taking at the shopping centres display and we are going to take it in our back garden instead. When we went to the shopping centre we discovered that this year all of the display is behind fences and so it didn't make a very nice background...

Today was the last Sunday before advent, colloquially known as Stir it up Sunday. It has traditionally become the day on which the Christmas pudding is made and this year I have made my own for the first time! Finding a Christmas pudding that was suitable for coeliac Daddy and Mormon Mummy (read no alcohol) and didn't cost a small fortune was proving to be difficult. I followed the recipe laid out in English Mum's post making a couple of extra changes to suit our families tastes and traditions (butter instead of suet, extra apple juice instead of tea and I used some peel sorry English Mum but it had to be done!) but we all had a stir and made a wish.

This week I also need to carry on with the holiday prep which this week consists of:

*Make one batch of Holiday Goodies.
*Make one extra meal for freezer again labeled HOLIDAY MEAL.
*Buy two canned food items from menus
*Work at least 2 hour a day on homemade gifts.

And we will continue to;

*Look for a Holiday Outfit for Me and tights for Top Ender (I'm starting to think the ones she described don't exist!)
*Stock the Mummy Christmas Shop with chocolate
*Watch one Christmas film as a family a week
*Continue with Top Ender writing her Christmas cards to the children in her year
*Continue planning weekly Christmas memory events (although I have now booked all the big events)!

As always if you would like to see how some others are preparing for Christmas take a look at theses fellow Bloggers and share the comment love with them;

Krista at Typical Ramblings
Candace at Diary of a FlyBaby
Diane at DianeDenmark
Kelly at Life at the Quinn Home
Hannah at Home Baked
Continue Reading...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Eating out with Kids... cheaply!

Top Ender and Baby Boy love to go out to eat. It doesn't matter if it is a Sandwich in the park, a picnic at the lake, dinner in a restaurant or a snack in a cafe. Anywhere that isn't home makes the food taste magically better and I know it isn't because of my cooking skills or my lack of culinary art!

It is because of their love of eating out that I have a list of places that we can go to where we can grab something to eat, not break the bank and not have to resort to McDonalds... although plenty of that is eaten at times! Here is the low down on where you will find me and family when we can't be bothered to cook!

Costco's restaurant is a marvellous thing. Pizza, Jacket Potato's, Salads, etc are sold at a fraction of the cost that you could get them at other restaurants and the portion sizes are bigger too. This does mean that a slice of pizza and a bit of Mummy and Daddy's Jacket potato or salad will feed both Top Ender and Baby Boy!

You can refill your fizzy drinks if you wish and the food is cooked so that you can see it being prepared as they have large glass windows down one side of the Kitchen. Of course if you don't want to eat in you can take the food away which is sometimes a plus as the small seating area gets very crowded!

The only issue that we have is it is Fizzy Drinks. Top Ender refuses to drink anything remotely fizzy and Baby Boy pulls a funny face if he steals a sip of Daddys drink! Mind you seeing as it is Costco's you could just go and pick up a family pack of squash or water from one of the aisles!

Ikea has not one but two places to eat, the restaurant and the Bistro. At the Bistro you can buy hot dogs, meatballs and chips as well as puddings and they will offer meal deals so buying a combination will work out cheaper too. Of course there are no chairs. just circular tables that are chest height to either lean or put your food on, with a ring further down the table leg for children to put their food on. Just don't get me started about the Ice Cream Machine...

Top Ender eating an Ikea breakfast

The restaurant is Top Enders favourite (and mine for a cheap full English breakfast!) and she will often beg to be taken there. They serve a kids menu and a main menu as well as having plenty of Swedish snack foods too. The Kids menu is comprised of pasta with sauce or a choice of fish (Haddock) or meatballs and you can choose if you want potatoes or chips with the latter two and with the fish you normally get a vegetable serving too. It is even better value on a Wednesday because it is half price for Meatballs! The Main menu is basically the same as the Kids menu but bigger portions and you can also choose a starter if you want such as Gravalax and occasionally the chef will add other seasonal Swedish food items to the menu.

An Ikea breakfast

And of course if you want to recreate it at home you can always stop by at the Swedish shop and buy Swedish foods. Not that I have done that ever... okay so several times including Top Enders 4th Birthday.

Top Ender eating Swedish Meatballs on her fourth birthday

Marks and Spencers cafe is at the upper part of our budget, but we do like it there as they always have gluten free and wheat free cakes out. This makes eating with Daddy a lot easier as if we just want to have a drink and snack it is nice to be able to have a choice rather than a packet of crisps. They tend to sell mostly Sandwiches, Jacket Potato's and Soup but they have been known in the past to sell other things!

The good thing about the M&S cafe's is that it gives me a chance to sit there in my best velvet voice saying things like;

"This isn't just any cafe table... this is an M&S cafe table."
or
"This isn't just any fork...this is an M&S fork."


I could go on for hours like that.

Sparks and Censor spoof of Marks and Spencer advert

Little Chef use to be a favourite of ours, we would often take Top Ender to one of the local restaurants for an ice cream or a meal. It is also great fun to go to Little Chef as I find the colouring pages particularly fun to do and you get a free lolly when you pay! Well maybe the kids do, but if I smile nicely I get one too.

Then there are the Supermarkets Cafes that you can find in most Tesco's, Asda's, Sainsburys and Morrisons. All have their charms and serve what you would expect from a Supermarket cafe and round here all of them are staffed with helpful staff members who will carry my tray to my table if I have Baby Boy and Top Ender on my own and the ladies in Tesco even came and cleared up for me when Baby Boy was a few weeks old and I was sat in the corner breastfeeding whilst Top Ender ate her sandwich!

So if you are ever in one of my local haunts pretend you don't know me, you will be safer that way!
Continue Reading...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Top Ender Giggles - Its a bloke wearing a Dress!

Top Ender and Mummy wearing a dress... not a bloke wearing a dress
Last week Top Ender was sitting in the back of the car as we drove past a local Adult Nightclub (Its the local Lesbian, Gay & Transgender Venue, don't you know). Normally when we go past this club the car park is empty and I have only once seen something (well someone) in the car park that made me double check what I had just seen as it was gone Midnight and I wasn't sure if I should believe my own tired eyes!

As we drove past I noticed in the car park a gentleman standing next to his car. The gentleman wasn't wearing the usual type of clothing that a gentleman would. He was however wearing a very nice black and purple Lycra dress and patent black high heels.

There were some giggles from the back of the car as Top Ender spotted him.

"Whats funny Top Ender?" asked Daddy
"There was a man wearing a purple and black dress!" giggled Top Ender
"How do you know it was a man?" asked Daddy
"It was very obviously a man!" I snorted
"He might of been going to a fancy dress party" said Daddy
"No he wasn't wearing a wig, it was just a man wearing a dress!" answered Top Ender
Edit: Obviously the picture isn't a bloke in a dress, its me when I was pregnant with Baby Boy going out to a Christmas dinner....
Continue Reading...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Top Ender Giggles - Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese!

Top Ender and Daddy in the front of the car
Whilst we were in the car, Top Ender was keeping us entertained with a constant stream of chatter about various topics including the near future.

"Mum? One day when my friends come round they will bring their boyfriend" she said
"Yeah?" I answered whilst wondering if it was one boyfriend per two girls these days
"Yes and then they will kiss their boyfriend!" she giggled
"You're only five!" said Daddy (a quick glance saw he was taking this seriously!)
"So are our Boyfriends Daddy!" she answered
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Wordless Wednesday - My very own Cindy Lou Who

Top Ender looking like Cindy Lou WhoTop Ender looking like Cindy Lou Who

If you want to see how we made this Cindy Lou Who look take a look at our quick Tutorial.
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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Where is Top Ender?

Last week Daddy took Top Ender to school one morning as they were having a good discussion and wanted to carry it on.

During the day I spoke with Daddy on Instant Messenger several times. More than likely about silly stuff like a shower curtain he had seen, or maybe how much thin mucus your nose produces every day (4 pints I am told, yeah I know that is disgusting!).

I'm not really sure though because we waffle a lot and the days all merge into one long waffled conversation, rather like the ones we have when he comes home at Midnight and I am asleep and don't realise until an hour later that he is in bed and I say something like;

"Oh its you!"

Well who else would be in my bed? Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Javier Bardem? (A girl can wish can't she?!) On a side note, don't they look similar? I also see a little of Nick Knowles about them, who my Mum and Sister met in a pub once, but I am digressing...

Jeffrey Dean MorganJavier Bardem
So Top Enders Teacher comes to the cloakroom door and the class starts to file out. They come out in alphabetical order, so I know I have a couple of minutes and so I carry on talking to High Heels Mum.

Then I realise that the children coming out are from the next class.

No problem Top Ender is probably having problems with her coat or trying to find a missing glove I think to myself.

Then I realise that the children coming out are from the third and last class.

Suddenly I realise that I don't know if Top Ender got into school that day because I didn't take her. What if Daddy dropped her off at the Gate, but then she decided to walk to town instead of going in to school? What if....

I catch Mrs Wise Owl's eye and she mouths something about Top Ender. So I have a moment of relief followed by confusion as I don't lip read all that well and she either said that Top Ender was inside or she didn't come to school. Thinking on it maybe I do have great lip reading skills, but Mrs Wise Owl needs to work more on bettering her mouthing words so people can understand them skills...

I walk down to the door and Mrs Wise Owl says that Top Ender is in the medical room as she accidentally bumped a table corner in a delicate area.... well they are at the same height!

Top Ender was fine sitting in the medical room discussing kittens with another little girl who had also been in some scrape just before home time. She was handed over to me without question (because apparently we look alike!) and we went off home... but now I always check that Daddy has deposited Top Ender into the school when ever he has taken her and we IM during the day!
Continue Reading...

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Yummy Mummy with no tummy Challenge - Week Thirteen

The Yummy Mummy with No Tummy challenge logo
I have stood on the scales three times this morning. Each time I got a different weight. The first two times either meant I had lost 15 stone in a week (I know I haven't) or put on a stone (knowing my luck that could be true!). It was after the second time I decided to change the batteries.

The third time I stood on the scales they showed a 3lb weight loss (Hooray!) and so I can lose weight, my body doesn't hate me, it is just that it needed reminding that food is an energy source!

This week is going to see me eating 1000 calories a day again with a menu plan that is not yet decided on for me but will include plenty of vegetables and fish and slim fast for breakfast. My exercise this week is going to be a walk everyday, ten minutes of weights every other day, my wii game three times this week for 30 minutes and as I am trying to clean out the garage a lot of heavy lifting!

My plan is that I will lose 3lbs again this week, but who knows?!
Continue Reading...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Getting the house ready for Christmas - Week Twelve of the Holiday Grand Plan

Top Ender sitting on the sofa with Toys and Christmas pillows watching a Christmas film
This week is Week Twelve in The Holiday Grand Plan, which means it is time to attack the attic. Unfortunately I am not allowed to do this one as Daddy doesn't like the thought of me falling down the loft ladder. So this week I will try to do the Garage again as last week the weather was against me.

I did spend a fair amount of time working on craft projects this week and have managed to do a lot more than I expected, even finding time to sew up some toys with holes and missing ears and the like!

This week I also need to carry on with the holiday prep which this week consists of:

*Make one batch of Holiday Goodies.
*Make one extra meal for freezer again labeled HOLIDAY MEAL.
*Buy two canned food items from menus
*Work at least 2 hour a day on homemade gifts.

And we will continue to;

*Look for Holiday Outfits for Me and tights for Top Ender
*Stock the Mummy Christmas Shop
*Watch one Christmas film as a family a week
*Continue with Top Ender writing her Christmas cards to the children in her year
*Continue planning weekly Christmas memory events (although I have now booked all the big events)!

The only thing I have left now is to start the menu plan for December. This year as we have all the big events organised I just need the perfect holiday food. I am going to make Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake for after we put our decorations up (which will be late this year as Daddy is going to Chile for work when I had scheduled it!) and here is the recipe for you (especially Flybabyf!)

All you need is;

•1 chocolate cake mix
•1 chocolate pudding mix
•3/4 cup oil
•1 cup water
•4 eggs
•1 (6 oz) bag of chocolate chips
•1 pint sour cream

I like to oil the sides of the slow cooker before placing the mixed ingredients into the pot and putting it on low for the next six hours. It is great served with vanilla ice cream or just plain pouring cream!

As always if you would like to see how some others are preparing for Christmas take a look at theses fellow Bloggers and share the comment love with them;

Krista at Typical Ramblings
Candace at Diary of a FlyBaby
Diane at DianeDenmark
Kelly at Life at the Quinn Home


And this week I would also like to recommend Hannah at Home Baked who although isn't following the Holiday Grand Plan is getting ready for Christmas in her own way and has some great Christmas posts and some great ideas that I will be borrowing and adapting for myself!
Continue Reading...

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Frugal Christmas Food

An empty plate with Cutlery

Food at Christmas is a huge thing, it is all part of the celebration that we feel we need to have nuts and other snacks as well as the traditional Turkey and trimmings and that is just on Christmas day! On top of Christmas Day and New Years Eve there are the snacks at parties, during special seasonal events, when friends or relatives drop round and if you are like Daddy and me in the run up to Christmas too!

One way that I like to try to keep the cost down is by making most of my treats. Over the last few weeks I have been making biscuit and cookie dough and freezing them uncooked either in sausage shapes or in special cut shapes. All I need to do is to defrost the sausage shaped ones in the fridge over night and cut and cook the next day. The cut shapes I just cook from frozen!

I also like to make my own mince pies, you can keep them in the freezer until needed and either defrost them in the oven or microwave as you are about to eat them or again freeze them uncooked. The added benefit of mince pies is that you get a really lovely smell in you home as they cook or you defrost them too!

You don't need to buy everything fresh, despite what people say. Frozen Vegetables, frozen Turkey, frozen puddings are all acceptable if that is what you want. I have used a mix of frozen and fresh vegetables over the last eight years and I have never had a fresh Turkey, but have always brought a frozen one!

The label from my Frozen Turkey, so I would remember how long to cook it for

The benefit of frozen food for me is that I can buy food in advance of a big event that I know that we will want or will use when I see it reduced or on special offer. I can then put this item into the freezer and everything is fine when I then get it out for the meal and it cost less than I was budgeting for.

A Bowl of youghurt with frozen fruit topping

Christmas cakes aren't that expensive anymore, you can easily buy a good quality decorated cake (or if you prefer an undecorated cake that you can then decorate yourself). When you take into consideration the cost of the ingredients of making a cake from scratch it does normally work out a lot cheaper... unfortunatley with Daddy being a celiac and me not touching food with alcohol in it buying a Christmas cake suitable for us both is very expensive even with my thrifty searching the cheapest I have found is £15! This is why I am making a Christmas cake using value ingredients. I will also make a second small sponge cake for Top Ender as she isn't one for fruit cake. If your family is the same a sponge cake works out a lot cheaper than a fruit cake and you can still ice it in the same way!

Of course if you don't like Christmas Cake you can always make a mincemeat cake;

Grease and line an 8in round cake tin. Preheat oven to160 C.

Mix together 8oz self raising flour, 12oz sweet mincemeat, 3oz dried fruit mix, 3 eggs, 5oz soft margarine and 5oz soft brown sugar. Beat until well blended. Spoon into tin and sprinkle some brown sugar on top.

Bake for 1hr 15 minutes until well risen and firm to touch. Cool in tin for 5 minutes and then turn out on to rack.

Then you can ice it as you would a Christmas cake or just leave it. It tastes lovely and as you can use up the last of your mincemeat from the Mince pies it is being frugal too!

A shopping list of everything food wise that you need over the Christmas period, will save you a fortune. If you can make a meal plan of the food that you are going to eat you will know what you need to buy, and won't be worried that the shops are closed for a whole 24 hours and you don't have enough food. It also means that you can buy one or two items a week in the run up to Christmas and spread the cost.

I like to make a menu for Christmas Day with several choices for breakfast, starters and puddings. Then a week before Christmas I start to ask what everyone would like from the choices I have given. I can then add the missed choices into my menu plan for the rest of the Christmas Week. It means that I can make things work in my favour even if everyone does want a different breakfast on Christmas Morning!

The other benefit of a menu plan is you can pre-think what you are going to do with your leftovers. You might have bubble and squeak for tea on Christmas Day (or breakfast the next day!), you might have turkey and stuffing sandwiches for lunch on Boxing day or Turkey Curry on the 27th, but what ever you decide you can make sure you use up all that you have brought!

Omlette made using up leftover vegetables and ham

A lot of people I know have a traditional take away on Christmas Eve, we try to have one on New Years Eve. One thing that hardly anyone ever does is to ask for a discount on this, or at any time of the year to be honest! A lot of places offer a discount if you pick up your own meal or if you order over a certain amount of money... be cheeky and ask you'll never know until you ask!

The last thing I want to mention is not to be afraid to go into so called discount stores, or the Value Brands. Aldi, Lidl, Farmfoods, Netto and Poundland are all stores that I have been into buy food from and Tescos, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsburys all have good quality value ranges! Not one of them has ever failed me and this year Good House Keeping guide has done the hard work for you and have come up with a shopping list using value products for a full Christmas meal.

Good Housekeeping Christmas Dinner Shopping List

Well that is all that I can think of at the moment so I wish you a frugal Christmas and if you missed my previous frugal posts go take a look at my Christmas Gifts and the idea of being frugal post and whilst you are at it why not take a look at my Frugal Christmas Entertainment post whilst I wish you a frugal Christmas!
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Friday, 13 November 2009

Baby Boy Giggles - Early Morning Needs

Smiling Baby Boy in a Green T-shirt
Baby Boy was in the bed with Daddy, whilst Top Ender and I had escaped downstairs for Breakfast and a bit of homework. When Baby Boy woke up he rolled over and looked at Daddy.

"Dada?" said Baby Boy questioningly
"Yes, Baby Boy?" Answered a sleepy Daddy
"Boob pease" he said expectantly
"Sorry, Baby Boy I can't... I'm not Mummy! said a still sleepy Daddy
"Oh!" said a disappointed Baby Boy

There was a pause before Baby Boy yelled

"Mum-mum?!"
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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Frugal Christmas Entertainment

I don't know about you but when I was younger I always felt a little out of my friends conversations around Christmas time. It seemed to me that my friends parents spent hundreds of pounds more on my friends Christmas entertainment than my parents did on mine, they went to Pantos, to Lapland and other things that must of cost a fortune.

I often felt that my friends were being short changed however, because even though they had the most desirable places to go to I was always given what I wanted or needed I was given my parents time. I will have to ask my Mum, because looking back everything is slightly rose tinted and I know that it wasn't all Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows, but it certainly felt that way!

We did a lot of things over the Christmas period that cost next to nothing and to me is part of a frugal Christmas. So if you are time rich and money poor, I hope some of my ideas and traditions for Frugal Christmas Entertainment may become yours!

When I was little we use to go for Christmas Drives, hunting down the Rotary Club Santa. It was always printed in the paper, which area he would be in on which night, but my Sister and I didn't know that. As far as we knew we really were hunting for Santa. Top Ender has done this over the last few years and she adores looking for him, catching a glimpse and having to try to find him again. It is a good way to spend some time together, as long as you don't mind spending some petrol money or as long as you can all walk fast!

Starting in the first week of December we go on Christmas light hunts. We know of three or four areas, where the decorations outside the homes in the area are fantastic and so we love to drive around them and hunt for new ones!

Then of course there is our annual trip to see the Christmas Lights in London. We are lucky that we now have a Picasso with a giant sun roof, so that we can just look up and see the beautiful displays. This also works for us in our local town, as I think every town puts up some form of Holiday lighting these days!

Red Christmas Lights in London
For the last three years, Top Ender and I have gone to see the lights being turned on the Christmas tree in our local town square. It is really lovely and we enjoy the countdown before the lights are turned on. Our town council has made an effort to make it more enjoyable, with a small funfair and a light parade first.

Something we love to do is to turn the main lights off in our living room once our decorations are up, and either to just have the Christmas lights on or to light a few candles. Top Ender, Daddy and I have snuggled on the sofa just watching the twinkling lights for ages, Baby Boy tended to fall asleep, but then he was only seven months old!

Christmas lights in the living room with the light off
Watching films is something that Top Ender and I do every week, we have a huge range to chose from and often watch one that I have recorded in the week on one of the kids TV Channels. Doing this with popcorn or some Christmas snacks (and with the lights off and just the Christmas lights on!) will just add the Christmas excitement!

One of my best memories was when Daddy and I were wrapping Christmas gifts listening to Christmas radio on the Internet and we heard a unique song that neither of us had heard before. I recommend that you don't listen to this if there are children around...

Lets just say that Daddy and I enjoyed that Christmas song and the wrapping of the gifts went a lot quicker that year...

Learning Christmas Carols as a family is great. Top Ender got the giggles a few years back when ever we sang "In the Bleak Mid-Winter". It took us ages to find out that she thought the line "Snow had fallen snow on snow" was the funniest thing she had heard! Even now when we sing it she will give us a knowing look at that line!

Christmas stories are plentiful and they might be classics ("Twas the Night before Christmas" anyone?) or new but they always bring a smile to someones face... especially if you are like Daddy and me and still think that Randy the Reindeer is a life choice rather than a name!

And of course you can always use the Great Robinson's website as reviewed by Top Ender here and put on a Panto!

Those are all that I can think of at the moment so I wish you a frugal Christmas and if you missed my post on Frugal Gift Ideas, go take a look here at my Christmas Gifts and the idea of being frugal post or at my Frugal Christmas Food post!
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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Spot the Robin Red Breast

Robin Red Breast hiding in a tree
I wish I could take credit for this, but this was taken by Top Ender!
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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Top Ender Does Panto... "Oh yes she does!"

This is a special post by Top Ender, (Oh No it isn't! Mummy stop adding things and Oh Yes it is!) Mummy has typed what I have told her to say, but she has added pictures and stuff. Mummy also wants to talk at the end.

Screenshot of Robinsons Put on a Panto

Last week we finished up our bottle of Blackcurrant that we had been given by Nanny B. On the label it said that I could Put on a Panto. I know all about Panto's as Mummy has told me about them as we are going to go and see Cinderella at the Milton Keynes Theatre as part of the Have A Lovely Time series "The Great British Panto, 2009".

The cast of the Milton Keynes Theatres production of Cinderella

So I got Mummy to take me to the website that is here and followed all the steps to get my own panto of Snow White. I thought that as I was going to see Cinderella that I should do another one, and I like Snow White.

screenshot of Robinsons Put on a Panto Script of Snow White

I asked Mummy if she would be the Beautiful Evil Queen as I would be Snow White and I was going to phone up Daddy at work and ask if he would be in my panto too, but Mummy pointed out that even with us all playing a part we still wouldn't have enough people and so I would need to ask some more people.

Screenshot of Robinsons Put on a Panto

I thought about this for ages and then decided that I would play all the parts using puppets! Mummy is going to help me make the puppets and a special theatre made out of a box, which she said we would paint red and white stripped like a Punch and Judy tent. I decided that if I used the laptop in my tent, I would be able to use the Autocue 5000T to do all the voices, and that way I wouldn't have to worry about not being able to read the script.

Screenshot of Robinsons Put on a Panto Autocue5000T

I am really excited and Mummy said she will record our Panto so that we can send it to Nanny B at Christmas as it was her bottle of Juice that gave us the idea! I am off to draw my puppets!

Mummy here (Boo Hiss!), Top Ender is really excited about this Panto and so if I can I will edit a small amount to be shown on here in the run up to Christmas... but you might need to wait until Daddy is around as I have no clue how to do it!

The Robinsons Website is great and Top Ender was easily able to navigate it, and understand what she was supposed to do. I would recommend it to anyone (in fact I already have in the School playground) and if you think outside the box like Top Ender it is easy for those who are younger to be involved in the Panto production too!
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Daddy Giggles - Banned from Tesco

Daddy took Baby Boy to Tesco's last night and decided to use the self service check out.

Tesco Self Scan Till
It seemed that the till that Daddy had picked was playing up as when Daddy scanned the first item it flashed up that there was an unexpected item in the bagging area. The supervisor came up and used her key to cancel this and went back to her stand. As she went back and Daddy scanned the next item, it again flashed up that there was an unexpected item in the bagging area, which the supervisor again came and canceled using her key and returned to her stand.

As he scanned the third item and it flashed up that there was an unexpected item in the bagging area, Daddy kicked the till.The supervisor at this point came rushing up to Daddy and Baby Boy

"Hey you!" she shouted as Daddy felt himself turn bright red from being caught out
"Yes?" answered Daddy"
"Where did you get those Brazil nuts? I have been looking everywhere for them!" she gushed
Daddy felt very relieved and hastily made an exit.
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Monday, 9 November 2009

The Yummy Mummy with no tummy Challenge - Week Twelve

Yummy Mummy with No Tummy Logo

This week sees me start my minimum calorie intake (as opposed to a normal amount for losing around 1lb a week) which should, if everything was okay in my body see me losing around 2-3lbs a week. Seeing as I have not lost any weight this week this will be the tell tale sign if things are wrong or right with the way my body has been re-programmed!

The meal plan for this week has yet to be fully sorted out, but I will be eating around 800 calories a day. This has been agreed with the Doctor as something that I am allowed to do, but he has warned me that it might have the opposite effect after I go back to eating a "normal" amount after the first two weeks.

Me with a daisy chain, three months after Top Ender was born

My exercise plan is going to remain the same for this period, but again I have been warned that this might not be do-able after the first couple of days!

Monday through Saturday: 30 minute walk, ten minutes of weights, and 20 minutes following my online plan each day.
Sunday: Two hour walk, ten minutes of weights and plenty of family fun!

And if you want to join in then its not too late, you don't have to be a Mummy to a young child, you can be a Mummy to a fur baby (Dogs and cats to those not in the know!) a wannabe yummy with no tummy, or someone that just wants to think about what they eat and how they exercise! Please leave a URL link to your post in the comments below and I will update this post with your URL and you will automatically be listed next week.
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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday

Today is Remembrance Sunday.

I never really understood Remembrance Sunday as a child, I knew what it was about and why we had it, but I didn't get it on an emotional level. It was always kind of odd for me because my parents got married on Remembrance Day (the Eleventh of the Eleventh at Eleven O'clock to be exact) and so I always thought of it as being a happy day and so couldn't understand the deeper meaning.

It was last year when we watched the parade going to the Church that I really got it.

I stood at the side of the road with my family and cried for all those who had gone before me, for all those who had gone to war for me, for all those who couldn't today stand with family and I was thankful to them and I said a prayer for us all that one day we will all know peace.

The song that came to mind was one I learnt at Primary School, "Last Night I had the Strangest Dream", here sung by Steve Cottrell.

This post is dedicated to everyone in 9 troop royal engineers

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Making Space for the new Christmas toys (Week Eleven of the Holiday Grand Plan)

Top Ender with a painted Snowman on her cheek and red streaks in her hair
This week is the Garage and Storage week in The Holiday Grand Plan. My garage is one of those rooms where it will get cleaned up and tidied and then it will stay great for a few weeks, months even and then one thing will be moved and another and another and before we know it the Garage is in a shambles again.

I will sort out as much as I can without 'Daddy' helping, but with it raining this week it might be a little hard. I also need someone much more handy than me to drill in the Garage wall as I have brought a rack for our bikes, which should save some space for Top Enders and Baby Boys!

This week though I need to spend more time on Christmas Crafts and my general Christmas prep as I realised that I have used up some of my Holiday Meals and my Holiday cookies!

This week I also need to carry on with the holiday prep which this week consists of:

*Make one batch of Holiday Goodies.
*Make one extra meal for freezer again labeled HOLIDAY MEAL.
*Buy two canned food items from menus
*Work at least 2 hour a day on homemade gifts.

And we will continue to;

*Look for Holiday Outfits for Me and tights for Top Ender
*Stock the Mummy Christmas Shop
*Watch one Christmas film as a family a week
*Continue with Top Ender writing her Christmas cards to the children in her year
*Continue planning weekly Christmas memory events (like our late night trip to London)!

As always if you would like to see how some others are preparing for Christmas take a look at theses fellow Bloggers and share the comment love with them;

Krista at Typical Ramblings
Candace at Diary of a FlyBaby
Diane at DianeDenmark
Kelly at Life at the Quinn Home
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Saturday, 7 November 2009

Its not only Christmas that is Big Business!

Its not only Christmas that is Big Business in this house, but Birthdays too.

You see, my Birthday is the day after my Mum's and so we celebrated them together. It was great fun as I grew up, especially as my sisters birthday is three days after our Dad's and again we would love celebrating both the birthdays together. In fact the first Birthday that Daddy spent with my family was the joint celebration of my Dad and Sisters Birthday (and he didn't nearly get us thrown out of the Chinese Restaurant we were in with his Chinese accented version of Happy Birthday, that is just a rumour...) of which we even have documented proof!

Family photo at Chinese Restaurant with ex Boyfriends face hidden

It wasn't intentional that Top Enders Birthday was exactly two weeks before Daddy's, she was due before Christmas but managed to hold on until early in the New Year... and I was kind of forgotten by the Midwife team; But I will admit to some crafty planning with Baby Boy and he ended up being born 13 days after my birthday! I'm not sure what to do if we do go ahead and expand our family, perhaps I should aim for our Anniversary...

With Top Enders birthday being so close to Christmas and New Year, I have to start planning now so that other parents can schedule the party in and so that we can decide which one of our many ideas from our big folder of Birthday ideas we shall go with.

Last year we went with a Princess theme and we wrote special invites in Modern olde English (which we wrapped as a scroll and hand delivered to the other Princesses who were invited) inviting the girls to come in Princess dress. We spent the week before the party preparing the house...

Sign on Bathroom door saying The Royal Throne and a picture of Top Ender looking over her shoulderThe Royal Throne Room
A decorated mirror using Tissue PaperThe Magic Mirror (complete with recorded voice telling each Girl she was the fairest of them all)
Home Made Wall Sconce
Special wall sconces
Paper Flames in a fireplace
A Roaring Fire
Red Carpet leading to the Front door with Home Made Battlements

And of course a red carpet and Battlement leading to the Royal Front Door

We had Princess themed party games such as Snog the Frog, (which was my version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey) Decorating Princess Crowns, Decorating Cupcakes, Colouring in, Royal Pass the Parcel to name a few!

This year we decided to go with a Bag and Bear party theme and are holding Top Ender's party at The Bear Factory (hence the bear in the theme title) and we are going to make special bags for the party favours to go in (and there is the bag mentioned!), but I can't mention much more in case Top Ender's friends or their Mummies are reading as we don't want to spoil the surprise!

Last years surprise was a DVD that the children were given along with Thank you notes when we went back to school. It was a video of the photos that we had taken during the party, the very video that the children were watching as their parents came to pick them up!

Next year we are thinking of having a cinema party in a local hall... or maybe a make over party... or maybe a ball... or maybe a music party... or maybe a cooking party... or maybe...

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