A Mothers Ramblings: September 2011

Friday, 30 September 2011

We Won!

The MAD Blog Awards are going on right now, I've just snuck away for a few minutes to come and collect my thoughts. You see the most amazing thing happened. Something that I really didn't expect and something that has left me grinning wildly.

I won.

Again.

Top Ender and Big Boy when they heard the news

Thank you everyone so much. I will blog again later, but right now I'm too busy grinning.

I'm on my way to the MAD Awards

Right about now I should be on a train going to London if everything is going the way I have planned. I have been lucky enough to have been nominated again for the Family Fun Category in the MAD awards, which are being held at the Talk Talk Customer Experience Centre. I've been dressed by Simply Be, and the lovely Vertbaudet (who are sending me some baby clothes for my Sister) have sponsored me in order so I could afford to come stay down in London (and to have a sneaky packet of crisps and bottle of Dr Pepper to enjoy whilst on the train) and I'm really excited to be going to find out if I shall be increasing the number of trophies on my fireplace.
The MADs Award for Family Fun 2010

No seriously, for me this isn't about trophies or prizes and it isn't even about winning. The very fact that I was nominated and then voted for by people who read this blog is just so amazing that it makes my head hurt thinking about it. What started as a diary of things I wanted to remember in years to come and share with those who were experiencing similar things has evolved into something more. I've met some amazing people who I now consider to be my gang of friends (Hello Emma, JenSally, and Vic) and even more who I hope are well on their way to being firm friends of mine (Hello Nicki and Melaina).

This blog has allowed my children to experience things that I could only dream about when I was their age. They get to try new toys and DVD's before they are available to buy, they have been to theme parks, tried new dishes, been given clothes, learnt a few new skills, made friends across the country and met a few celebrities too. The confidence that my children have now when trying something new is amazing, I wish I had been that self assured when I was that young.

I was talking to Emma the other day about a comment that someone who knows me in "real life" had made about my blog. The gist of it was that I am a normal person blogging about normal things and it struck me as funny. Granted, the things we do as a family are what every normal family do (or should do), but I don't think that is an accurate description of me and my family or my blog! Anyone who has read at least one blog post of mine can tell I am far from normal and I don't blog about normal things either, but to me and my family it is normal because this is our family life.

Tonight I will get to spend time with other bloggers and we will celebrate with each other. If I win my category great. And if I don't then it doesn't change anything my blog is and always will be about my "normal" family life and the fun we have together.

PS If you want to follow along then follow the live blog at www.the-mads.com/blog

Top Ender's Friday Lunches

At the start of the school term Top Ender and I agreed that every Friday and on special days I would prepare a special lunch for her to take to school. I looked at it as a chance for me to show Top Ender how much I loved her, that I was thinking of her when we weren't together at home, a chance for me to be creative and also if it was only once a week then it wasn't going to cause too much issue and Daddy and I could just slap dash her lunch together on every other day of the week! The problem came when term started and the first day back to school (which was a special day) was a Wednesday. So a special lunch was created for Top Ender to take in on her first day. It was a fish because Top Ender had been working on a Sea Creature Summer project which was the theme for the first few weeks back at School too.
Fish Shaped Sandwich

Face SandwichOf course that first Thursday at School was a special day, seeing as it was the first Thursday at School and so I had to prepare a special lunch on that day too


Sandwiches that look like Sushi
and then the next day was a Friday and so that was the agreed day for a special lunch and so I made special lunches for both those days.










Then came along Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday again.

Candace SandwichSandwich and Strawberries


Pasta, Hot Dog and StrawberriesLittle Bit of Everything

Rainbow List

You see what I did don't you? I've gone and made a rod for my own back by making a special lunch every day. In fact it's only seeing these pictures one after the other that I have realised just why when I post a picture on my Facebook and Twitter accounts that I get comments about how I am making other parents feel inadequate or how they have lunch box envy. I'm not going to stop though, I have far too many ideas for future lunches!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Home - The Gallery

This week the gallery theme is home.

My home isn't all that I want it to be.

I mean the carpets aren't what I would have chosen (but there is nothing wrong with them and I can't afford to replace them just because I don't like them).

The central heating was put in after the house was built and so there are pipes all along my walls making it a dust trap.

The kitchen is country style and I'm much more of a stainless steal and shiny black kind of girl.

The bathroom is tiny. And the tiles are horrid. And they aren't put up right.

My bedroom is only half painted.

The garage is falling down and probably has asbestos in the ceiling.

Next door got permission from a former owner to put a waste pipe into our waste pipe at a stupid angle that causes my toilet to block up roughly once every two years.

The garden is over growing and old fashioned.

The last few fence panels at the back of the garden need replacing.

The Kitchen roof needs replacing.

The window next to the front door wobbles when you shut the front door.

There is a loose floorboard in my bedroom.

The wallpaper in my built in wardrobe is terrible.

There aren't enough sockets in any of the rooms.

There are cracks in the walls and ceilings.

The bathroom is downstairs instead of upstairs.

The driveway is at an angle so steep I'm worried my hand break will give up and one morning I will come down stairs to find my car in my living room.

The light in the hallway is in the wrong place and so doesn't light up the hallway.

No matter how many times I weed there are always more weeds.

Next door don't seem to understand that when they drop rubbish in their garden it will blow into mine. I know it's not mine as nobody in my house drinks alcohol.

My home isn't all that I want it to be and yet it is still my home because home is where ever my family is.


A Fun Family Dinner

Zingzillas at Harveys - Wordless Wednesday

My Nieces, Top Ender and Big Boy got to meet the Zingzillas at Harveys Furniture store this past weekend. Apparently it doesn't get much better than this and Auntie kitty and I were pretty chuffed to meet them too!
The Zingzillas and some cheeky Monkeys


Monday, 26 September 2011

Death and Guilt

The other weekend we were travelling home in the car, from a fun filled family day out, when Top Ender said in a quiet little voice;

"Mummy? Do you know why I was crying a few minutes ago?"

I didn't. In fact, I didn't even know that she had been crying. She explained that she had been thinking about Nanny Maw (my Maternal Grandmother who died on Top Ender's Fifth Birthday) and about how she didn't spend enough time with her when she was alive. This broke my heart, as a seven year old shouldn't be suffering from guilt over the time not spent with someone whilst they were alive. In fact nobody should be judged over the time that they did or didn't spend with relatives or friends whilst they were alive.

I tried to put Top Ender's mind to rest with the a promise of a big hug when we got home and then I started telling her stories about Nanny Maw that soon had us both giggling again, but as I sat in the front of the car in the dark I started to cry again. Crying for the loss of someone I loved and for the loss of innocence of a young girl who learnt about death far too soon.

When we got home, I cuddled Top Ender on the sofa and after a few minutes gently broached the subject again. I wanted to let her know that sometimes when someone dies we wish we had done things differently, that we had told them how much they meant to us or had seen them more often but that no matter what the times that we had shared together were the important times and it was those that we should remember. I wasn't prepared for this though, how can I tell Top Ender that everything she is feeling is what I am feeling too?

I don't have any major words of wisdom, I don't have a magic wand that I can wave that can give Top Ender and I one more conversation with Nanny Maw. All I have is my love for my daughter and I hope that it is enough to take away the guilt that she wrongly feels.

My Maw

I spoke to a wise woman earlier this evening, she told me that wishing we could take away the hurt in one swoop wasn't a wise idea because we have to process these emotions, to understand our feelings and although it hurts, when we come out the other side we are stronger for it. That wise woman is dealing with her own hurt right now, but she gives me hope that the hurt and guilt that we feel over the death of loved ones will one day not hurt quite so much.

Caption It Monday! #5

This past weekend Big Boy had his face painted by Little Stars Face Painting, at Harveys Furniture store and they did a fantastic job. Seriously they were so amazing, I shall put up the other work that they did on the rest of the family over the next couple of days as you will love it. Anyway, the picture that I thought would be fun for you to caption is below which was taken just after Big Boy had looked in the mirror to see his face with the addition of a dinosaur! 
Big Boy with a Dinosaur painted on his face

Now last week there was a prize for the best caption of a photo taken of Daddy and I on our wedding day ten years ago so scroll down to see if you have won!

The groom forced a smile as his new bride just announced her mother was moving in!
Runners Up

"Stop standing on my foot (said behind a smile)" from Mum in the Madhouse

"Shit, who invited the stripper from my stag night?" from Crystal Jigsaw

"Did someone just say we'd have two children? They're joking, right?" from Rosie Scribble


Winner


"The groom forced a smile as his new bride just announced her mother was moving in!" from Emmy's Mummy

Congratulations Clare (aka Emmy's Mummy) I'll be in touch to get your address details so we can send out your prize. I hope that you enjoy hugging Tatty Puppy as much as I will once I have stolen him back from Daddy!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Tin Can Tea Light Holders

Yesterday for my Wordless Wednesday post, I posted this picture.

Tin Can Tea Light Holders

These are tin can tealight holders which I am giving to Daddy for our Tenth Wedding Anniversary next Thursday. I thought it rather apt because the tenth wedding anniversary is marked with a gift of tin and I've ten of them (four of them are hiding as Daddy needs a bit of a surprise right?). I had originally seen Tea Lights Holders similar to this on Pinterest and really wanted to make my own and so here is how to do it.

First of all do the world a favour and save some tin cans from being recycled into more tin cans. Make sure you really clean them up inside and out as you need to remove the label and the sticky glue and any traces of food from inside the tin. I ended up soaking mine in the sink over night and using a bit of WD40 on the sticky glue bit! If you end up using the WD40 too then make sure to really clean it all off as it will effect a later step.

Once they are all dry fill the tin cans with sand and then add water before putting them in the freezer. The sand allows the water in the tin cans to freeze but not to lose shape. You will use more sand than you think as you will need to compress the sand down like when you are building a sandcastle. I wasn't sure how long it would take for the cans to freeze and so I left mine for 24 hours. This was way longer than needed though, as they only took a couple of hours really. I had decided to go with a few different designs on my tin cans as I am hoping to use them at different times of the year and not just in the summer. I drew my designs on to greaseproof paper and then wrapped the paper around the can. I found that the tighter the paper around the can the easier it was to hammer our the design. The towel by the way was to protect my bunkers/work surfaces!

Tin Can Tea Light Holders

All you have to do is gently hammer a nail into the can around your sketch. I found that it was simple shapes that worked best and I think the double hearts and the stars look the most delightful twinkling away. I did think that I would have to work quickly because I was worried that the cans were going to defrost before I had finished, but as you can see from the next picture they were still very frozen.

Tin Can Tea Light Holders

I let the cans defrost in the sink and then gave them a good wash and let them dry before spraying the inside with a white aerosol paint can. The white paint is best as it reflects the light from the candles, and I think it looks neater too.

There are three points to this painting stage. The first being wear gloves when doing this as aerosol paint suitable for outdoor use is a pain to get off. The second thing always spray the can down wind of you, I learnt this after the first spray in the first can and let nothing more be said of this. The last point is spray paint smells good, but don't sniff it because that is bad.

Tin Can Tea Light Holders

After the insides were dry I spray painted the outside. Daddy had brought me blue and green to go with our garden (green and brown would have been better!) and so a few coats later we ended up with these! It was too late to respray the insides, but they needed it from where the outside had bled a little over the lip of the cans and so I sprayed them again a couple of days later.

Tin Can Tea Light Holders

The only other issue was that the layers of paint had covered up a few of the holes I had made, so I quickly cleared the clogged up paint by just poking a nail into the holes and giving a little wiggle. And so there you have it Tin Can Tea Light Holders, perfect for tea lights or Votive candles.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Home Made Tea Light Holders - Wordless Wednesday

Tin Can Tea Light Holders

These are going to be presented to Daddy on our wedding anniversary. There are ten of them (four of them are hiding so he gets a bit of a surprise), and they are made of tin! Perfect for our Tenth Wedding Anniversary right?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Angel Delight Ice Cream

Wednesday the 21st September is apparently the anniversary of the ice cream cone being invented. It's hard to say if it is true or not but to celebrate we made some Angel Delight Ice Cream which we had been sent to try before it is on sale in the shops. I'm not sure, but I read on the web somewhere that it might not be on sale until 2012 and although it is only a few weeks ago I'm not sure I can wait...

We made three different types, the ordinary Vanilla (centre front), chocolate with chocolate chips and marshmallows (back right but you knew that right) and then a fruit one which was Blueberry and Strawberries (because that is what was in the fridge!). We threw them into the freezer, went out for the afternoon and then had them for supper when we got home.

Angel Delight Ice Cream

The chocolate one was a firm favourite with Daddy who claimed that it was very similar to a popular luxury ice cream and a fraction of the price if it costs less than £5 for an Angel Delight Ice Cream powder mix packet! Keep an eye out on the Facebook page for news of when it will be available because this is one treat you will want to keep in the Kitchen cupboard.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Caption It Monday! #4

In my Mind four weeks is a month, I know that this isn't strictly true but seeing as this is Week Four of Caption It Monday! Then I'm quite pleased. I think that the picture #3 which was of Daddy last week had you all a little puzzled as there weren't half as many abusive captions as I thought that you could come up with, or maybe I'm just more practised at abusing him?! Well, you get another go with this weeks picture and not only does the caption winner get some linky love, but they will also win a prize thanks to Carte Blanche Greetings (UK only). That's right real prizes this week!

Tatty Puppy

You see a week on Thursday it will be my Tenth wedding anniversary. That's right, Daddy and I will have been married for Ten years and so this adorable little puppy will be given with love to my best friend... and then stolen back so I can keep him forever and ever because he is just so darn cute and soft. So keeping with the wedding anniversary theme here is the picture to caption...

A Wedding Dance

As usual the caption that makes me laugh the most will be the winner and I will announce it next Monday, also look out for a review of Tatty Puppy in the next couple of days here.

And here is last week's offering.

Sesame Street auditioning new cast members after the sacked Cookie Monster

Runners Up

"Hmm, I think I like these grubs, I will have to make sure that we get out in the garden and collect our own" from Jen

"Is this what they mean by French Nouvelle Cuisine?" from my news filtering friend Chrissie

AND....

Winner

"Sesame Street auditioning new cast members after the sacked Cookie Monster" which  was from the fantastically funny Kat

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro and Hitachi Backup - A Review by Daddy

A tale of two backups!

We received an Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro external hard disk to review, which came with a free Hitachi Backup account.

In the "good old days", when photographs came from film and film came from the chemist, you were probably as selective as us when it came to taking a photograph. Nowadays, with the advent of digital photography, you probably take 4 digital shots for every 1 you would have taken on film. And why not.
Top Ender and Big Boy on the Swings

Unlike photographs, which you might put in a frame or an album, you probably tend to store your digital photos on your computer. In fact, talking to Mummy, we worked out that - with the exception of a few documents - photo's make up the largest, irreplaceable, part of the data on our computer. Software and applications can be reinstalled, emails and blogs are all stored online - but our photos are not.

So, when Hitachi asked us to review their Touro Mobile Pro hard disk, and the "cloud" environment Hitachi Backup, we decided it was a good opportunity to make sure our treasured memories were in a safe place.

The two products are quite different, so I'll give you the rundown on what they do separately:

The Touro Mobile Pro hard disk is an external disk - it's about the third the size of a paperback book and half the thickness. It also weighs very little indeed, so it's ideal for portability on both fronts. It comes with a single (sadly proprietary on one end, so don't lose it!) USB cable - which when connected to your computer supplies both data and power. It's a USB3 device - which means it meets the latest speed standards. USB3 is not found in many computers yet, so fortunately it is backwardly compatible with earlier USB revisions - albeit the data won't transfer quite so fast.

Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro Hard Disk

The drive has 500Gb capacity - that's half a terabyte - not a huge amount of space in comparison to most internal disks, but certainly big enough for backups. Mummy and I have both had digital cameras for nearly 9 years, and more recently digital video cameras too, but a quick count of all the photos and videos we've taken in that time only came to 245Gb, so after backing it all up to the Touro Mobile Pro, we haven't even used 50%.

Installing it was easy - just plug it into a spare USB socket and it immediately appeared as a new drive. It's virtually silent in operation, and even after a few hours use, it barely registers any heat.

We found, rather than using any specific Backup software, it was just as easy to create a couple of folders - "Mummy's Photos" and "Daddy's Photos" - and then copy our folders of photos and videos into those. It took about an hour to copy the whole lot the first time, and we've set ourselves monthly calendar reminders to remember to keep the backup up to date. We're storing the disk away from home, and to be extra secure we don't delete the photos from our camera memory cards until we're sure it's on both the main PC and the Touro Mobile Pro.

Now, onto the Hitachi Backup service.

As a blogger who works from a number of devices - main PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone (and sometimes all of these at the same time!) it is very important for Mummy to be able to access photos, pictures, blog designs, blog ideas, her address book and other documents from wherever she is working.

Hitachi Cloud Backup is one of a number of "cloud based" services that allow you to centralise such data on remote servers, and then access them from multiple devices and locations. To encourage you to sign up, the Hitachi Backup software is included on the Touro Mobile Pro hard disk - you don't have to use Hitachi Backup in order to use the disk BUT you do need an Hitachi disk to allow you to sign up to Hitachi Cloud Backup - it's a service you can only use if you've bought an appropriate disk.

Hitachi Backup Software

Installing the software was very easy - and I was able to install it on the main PC we all share, along with Mummy's laptop and my PC at work just by connecting the Touro Mobile Pro disk and running the installation. After signing up for an account, each of the locations appears as a separate folder.

I was able to configure the software to only backup certain folders - we have over 2 terabytes of data between these three computers which is far too much for the Backup service to hold - narrowing it down to just a few important document locations, and files we are working on right now (what we might call "work in progress") in as easy as a few clicks. Just as easy was telling it when to backup - instantly a file changes, or by a schedule. I set it to instantly, so I knew that once I'd worked on a document, it would straight away be accessible from my other devices.

There was no noticeable decrease in the speed of my computer whilst running the backup software, and as we have the luxury of a fast internet connection it took very little time to synchronise the folders we had selected to include.

A few other niceties - you can also access your files through a web browser, making for true usability on any internet connected device; it keeps at least 10 versions of the file (or up to 100 if you change a setting), so even if you delete or change the file you can always get the original back; you can select individual files to "share" with people - it will generate an email allowing your guest a one-time download of a file of your choice; there is an iPad and iPhone app available (with a caveat - see below).

Hitachi Backup Software for the iPhone and iPad

Whilst we chose to use the Touro Mobile Pro drive and the Cloud Backup seperately, you can just as easily set them to backup the same files in the Hitachi Backup software - effectively giving you the files on disk when you're working away from home on your laptop, and the same files online if you choose to work from an internet cafe or your mobile phone.

The basic Hitachi Cloud Backup service offers 3Gb of storage for free. You can increase this to 250Gb for $49 a year (approx £30). It is a shame you can't have more than 250Gb - our photos alone would fill this in one go. You also need to be on the paid plan in order to get the aforementioned iPad and iPhone application.

The Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro 500Gb external hard disk costs around £50.

As an online environment allowing us to move, share and synchronise files, Hitachi Cloud Backup comes well recommended. Likewise the Touro Mobile Pro is a fast, efficient and generously sized drive ideal for people on the go.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Can Be A Good Mother at Times Guide to the School Run

I was reading Sally's The Bad Mother's Guide to the School Run and despite my smirk (totally not a self-satisfied smirk) I realised that Sally did sort of have a point about the School Run. So many parents dread it, not because they are bad parents (although Sally is a really bad parent*, she didn't even recognise her own daughter in a school photo!) but because they expectations they have of themselves and their children just are not realistic.

And so I present to you The Can Be A Good Mother at Times Guide to the School Run!

Tip One Don't allow time for things to go wrong. By planning ahead.

The morning is a rush. Everyone wants a few minutes extra in bed, everyone wants a turn in the bathroom and everyone needs to be out the door without losing any limbs. So plan. The night before make sure that everyone has clean clothes for the next day, make sure that buttons have been sewn on (or sent to Grandma's/the lady down the road who sews things up) and that party RSVP's have been text back. Do make sure that you have enough time to do everything, but as Sally says don't allow time for distractions or you will regret it.
Top Ender being distracted and playing with a dolls house before School

Tip Two Location is everything.

Everything in your house needs a place, you already know that and even my very cluttered house has a place for the hairbrush (Top of the fireplace), a place for coats (by the front door), a place for shoes (in the box near the coats) and a place for School bags (again by the coats). If everything is there then you won't waste time looking for lost shoes, bags or children. Oh and moving to be a few minutes walk from the School whilst drastic works for some...

Tip Three Eat on the Move.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Rainbow at Big Ben

A Rainbow at Big Ben, seen after a great fun filled family day out

We took this picture on Saturday just gone, we had a fantastic fun filled family day out and the rainbow over the clock tower (and the bell inside Big Ben) just seemed to sum up how we were all feeling! Don't forget to leave a comment after you link up!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Caption It Monday! #3

I have had a few amusing comments passed along to me about Caption It Monday, and a couple of questions. Yes, you can suggest any caption for the photo that you think fits and as long as it isn't too rude, contains swear words or I consider it abuse I will let it stay! Just to confirm too that last week it was Top Ender in the picture and she was about seven months old. We had been for a BBQ at my parents and for some reason the wigs came out. I do have more pictures of other family members in the wigs and I will accept cash donations for not publishing them... I'm hoping that this week's picture will spark a caption in you as it features Daddy!
Daddy eating a taco

As usual the winner and runners up will get some linky love next week and so here are the winners from last weeks Caption It Monday!

Mummy, I asked for Marilyn Monroe...not Shaun the Sheep

Runner Ups


"*Sings*
#On the good ship, lollipop#" from Nickie

"A rare, early glimpse of Lady Gaga, performing." from Sally

"Darling, shouldn't you have left the cabbage patch kid at home" from Jen


Winner


"Mummy, I asked for Marilyn Monroe...not Shaun the Sheep" from Gilly

I shall leave the lovely photo of Daddy in your capable hands.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Tilda Mummy and Me Cookery School


A few weeks back Top Ender and I were invited down to Waitrose Cookery School to take part in a Tilda Mummy and Me cookery School. I was quite excited as Top Ender has only recently discovered that she likes rice, but was pretty certain that she only like plain white boiled rice and trying to get her to try other types of rice was proving near impossible. We made our way to London and found the Waitrose Cookery School in good time, even managing to squeeze in our little radio slot on BBC Three Counties Radio before the cookery session began. Top Ender was immediately drawn to the breakfast pastries put out for the attendees of the event and the fresh fruit juice and not just because she wasn't expecting to eat anything she cooked!

Top Ender eating a Pain Au Chocolate

We started the session by going into a rather clever hidden cookery demonstration area. I felt a bit like I was in the audience for some TV programme, but Top Ender quite happily jumped up on to a stool at the front of the room to get the best view she could of the cookery demonstration.

Top Ender ready for the Cookery Demonstration

Top Ender watched carefully along with the other children as they were taught how to make a very simple Special Fried Rice. I was actually a little bit in shock over how simple it was. I mean if it is that simple why haven't I made it at home before? We then went through to the kitchen area for the attendees to start creating the first part of our meal. The kitchen's were lovely, everything you could need was to hand with huge piles of shiny pans and smear free lids and I could have quite happily moved in.

Chocolate and Banana Rice Pudding

This Chocolate and Banana Rice Pudding was the second dish that Top Ender and I cooked at the Tilda Mummy and Me cookery School. It says that it serves six which it can do easily, possibly even eight if you have had a big meal!

Ingredients


1 pack Tilda Steamed Pure Basmati rice
500ml semi-skimmed milk, plus extra for serving (optional)
50g caster sugar
50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 medium bananas, peeled and sliced 

Method

Tip the rice into a non-stick saucepan and add the 50g of sugar and 500ml of milk. Bring to a simmer and gently simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. 

Add the chocolate and stir until melted, whilst the pan is over a low heat (if it's high you might burn your fingers like Top Ender nearly did). 

Remove from the heat and add any extra milk according to preference. You can stir in the bananas and just remember to leave a few pieces to decorate the top.

Chocolate and Banana Rice Pudding

Tilda Special Fried Rice Recipe

This Special Fried Rice was the first of the recipes that Top Ender and I made at the Tilda Mummy and Me Cookery School. I can't believe how simple it is to make something so tasty and we have been making variations of the meal since we got home. The details were were given said that it serves four small portions or two adults portions, but I added another packed or rice and found that it served our family of four and gave us a lot of leftovers!

Tilda Special Fried Rice Recipe

Ingredients

1 pack of Tilda Steamed Basmati Egg Fried Rice
2 chicken breasts, skinless
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
4 spring onions
150g green beans
75g sweetcorn
100g pineapple, chopped (fresh or tinned in fruit juice and drained) 

Method

Thinly slice the chicken breast, place in a bowl and stir in the soy sauce and honey. Put it to one side to marinade whilst you take the next steps, if you really wanted to you could put this in the fridge over night but the taste is there after a few minutes which I think is enough.

Finely slice the spring onions and chop the green beans, into small pieces. I let Top Ender cut the green beans and the spring onions using scissors and she did a great job. Heat the oil in a wok then add the chopped vegetables and stir fry for about minute before adding the chicken and the marinade. Stir fry for a few more minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Add the Tilda Steamed Basmati Egg Fried Rice, the sweetcorn and the pineapple. Heat everything through by Stir frying it for about two more minutes and then serve!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Making Chores Fun - Making the Bed

Making the bed is a chore that like cleaning the bathroom is so simple that I don't mind doing it, which is probably a good thing seeing as I make my bed every day! The everyday making of the bed is something which for beds in this house just involves a flick of the duvet and repositioning of the pillows and toys or cushions that sit on the bed. We don't do blankets, turn downs or anything like that as we are simple creatures really. We start off with a bit of fun by having the child who is making the bed or who is at home laying in the bed. Then flipping the cover in the air so that it wafts down on to the top of them. We do that a few times (it's always fun to have a duvet land on top of you!) before Top Ender or Big Boy has to quickly scramble out of the bed so that the duvet cover will land nicely over the mattress.

Watching Top Ender or Big Boy then loving place back on to their bed the teddies and cushions that they like to keep on their bed in the day is so sweet. They like to help with my bed too, although I am not sure if that is because they want a double bed each or they just like helping out! 


It's such a silly thing to do, but is such a giggle that making the bed every morning becomes less of a chore and more game like everyday.

Taking off the sheets for putting on new ones is something that we have turned into a race or for variety a game of tug of war! If we are playing tug of war one of us has to hold the duvet or pillows and the other holds the duvet cover or pillow cases. Then we just have to both PULL! Just make sure that it is a little pull or you could find someone falling on to their bottom... Making a race of taking all the sheets off the bed has meant that both Top Ender and Big Boy could do it without any adult assistance, and as well as making the chores fun, teaching them how to do the chores too!

Putting on new sheets (or clean sheets as I sometimes leave the bed unmade for a few hours until the sheets in the wash are clean and dry) is something I used to hate. It would always be a struggle to get the duvet into the duvet cover, and then I would get stuck if I went into the duvet cover to straighten out the duvet. Now though with the help of Top Ender or Big Boy and (and sometimes both!) it is a game and easier.


An one last tip as I could never flip the mattress over without wondering if I was turning it the way it had been flipped last time, I numbered the corners of the mattress. Now I know just to make sure that the next highest number is in the bottom corner!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Nature Adventure Club Walks

With Autumn apparently having arrived already in rather a wet fashion, Top Ender and Big Boy thought that they had seen an end to our Nature Club walks. It amuses me to see how little they remember of last year where they were taken out every weekend to burn off some energy on some rather long rambles! Anyway with a bit of wrapping up warm (and adding our lovely wellies to our list of things to take with us when we go out) and a bit of protection from surprise rain showers we have been off following the cards from the Nature Club looking around us for signs of the changing seasons. We went to one of Milton Keynes Park Trusts managed green spaces called Linford Wood. 

Top Ender and Big Boy as Nature Detectives at Linford Wood

Now Linford wood is a little famous in some circles because it houses the one and only ever built staircase that was designed by Chris Lowe when he was a student architect and before he became one half of The Pet Shop Boys. See famous.

Top Ender and Big Boy had a blast walking round the woods and completing the different activities on the cards (on the lanyard that in the photos is around BB's neck). The great thing about these cards and the Nature Club website is that because it is seasonal there is always something relevant to do. Daddy and I found the cards really interesting too because the challenges are suitable for a range of ages as we all had a go at tree rubbing and we all loved looking out for different animals in the woods and looking for signs that different animals lived there.

Top Ender's First Day Back At School Lunch

As I mentioned the other day, after I went to the Disney round table about the Ultimate Packed Lunch, Top Ender and I agreed that on special days, holidays and Fridays I will create a special packed lunch for her to eat at school. If you have been following me on Pinterest you will have seen a fair few pins being put up of ideas to inspire me for these lunches. With today being Tops first day back at School I figured that we needed a special lunch to celebrate and also to mark our commitment to this new Friday oekakiben inspired lunches.

I thought I would ease myself in slowly and so started with Top Ender's morning snack. At the school Top Ender attends children in the Key Stage 1 years are provided with a morning snack of some form of vegetable or fruit. I actually found this to be a pain as we weren't told in advance what the snack was and so on some days Tops ended up eating the same fruit or vegetable as she had for her morning snack as part of her lunch too. Now that she is in year three I get to provide her with a morning snack so I get to be a bit creative with that too! Today Top Ender has a butterfly Clementine and some cucumber pieces which she insisted I add at the last minute so I didn't have time to do anything other than just slice! I really like the butterfly Clementine and so will develop this idea over the next few weeks I am sure.

Top Enders Morning snack of Clementine Butterfly and Cucumber

Top Ender had a project to complete over the summer to prepare her for the work she would be doing in year three. The theme for the term and her project was Sea creatures and so her sandwich had to be a fish, which you may have already seen if you were on Facebook last night. The sandwich is a ham and cucumber sandwich (there goes my rule for not doubling up on fruit and veg!) with a few pasta pieces from last nights dinner making the sea bed. You can't see it but the triangles that were cut out of the fish are actually underneath so Tops still has a full sandwich to eat, the only thing not in the sandwich is the crusts and the small piece I cut out of the mouth (I had to try it didn't I!). The green seaweed is actually chives, which tops will add to her sandwich, after she has finished looking at it!

Top Ender's Fish shaped sandwich

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Spider

I'm not frightened of Spiders, I rescue friends from Giant-Hide-Behind-The-Sofa Spiders. In fact anyone who knows me, knows that the only thing I am frightened of is Snakes, not teeny weeny Spiders. The other morning I was up very early and sitting on the sofa when out of the corner of my eye I saw something move. I was more than a little sleep deprived and thought for a moment that it was one of my Cats, it was about the same size after all. Then I remembered that the cats were still snoozing in the kitchen behind a closed door.

I looked over to see a spider calming walking across my living room towards the TV unit. As he ducked to go under the Television Unit (I've measured the gap it is 2 1/2 inches) I swear that he looked back at me over four of his eight shoulders with a "How You Doing?" sort of look. I decided like all sane and rational people that I had imagined this. I mean nobody has house spiders that big, I was obviously hallucinating.

The next night I was up rather late. Again I was sitting on the sofa when something moved from under the TV unit in what would be the most direct route to the sofa. It was the spider. This time he kept his head down and ran full pelt to the sofa, as if he was going to devour me. I very quickly turned everything off and vanished upstairs. Like I said, I'm not frightened of spiders but giant, sprinting, devouring, spiders are a different matter.

I had mentioned the spider on Twitter a couple of times, and so like a good Twitter following husband Daddy knew all about the giant spider that had decided to move in with us. Of course because he hadn't seen the giant sprinting spider and so was slightly dubious about my claim of his size and speed. Then again he didn't believe me when I said that Bear from The Big Blue House was stalking me until he witnessed it with his own eyes. 

Then it happened. 

The Spider got bored of being downstairs and whilst we were sleeping climbed the stairs and made his way into my bedroom. Where he climbed to the top of a wall (to get a good view of me sleeping maybe?) and sat there waiting to be discovered. Daddy spotted him first high up on the wall watching and waiting for the right time to make his move. We called the children to come and see the Spider that has been following Mummy and they both WOW'ed at his size, before quickly disappearing out of my room.

Giant House Spider

The spider vanished again, but I know that he is somewhere in the house. Top Ender, Big Boy and I have looked everywhere we could think a spider might like to live and have had no joy in finding him, despite being the size of a small cat, he is very good at hiding. So there you have it the largest house spider in the world.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Carrot Apple and Sultana Muffins Recipe

With Top Ender going back to school this Wednesday, and the Carrot, Apple and Sultana muffins (that I was taught to make by Annabel Karmel at the Ultimate Packed Lunch round table) being suitable for freezing, we decided to make some for a treat today and for Top Ender's lunch box for the days she was at school.
Disney Character Shaped Carrot Apple and Sultana Muffins

We made Winnie The Pooh shaped cakes (and some in cases and a loaf cake for freezing) and used our wheat free flour so that Daddy could eat them too (if there are any left by the time he gets home!) but because they are so tasty here is the recipe for you too;


Ingredients

200g (7oz) Self-raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
3/4 Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 tsp Mixed Spice
1/2 tsp Ginger
200ml (7 fl oz) Sunflower Oil
100g (31/2 oz) Caster Sugar
2 eggs
100g (31/2 oz) Carrots, grated
100g (31/2 oz) Apple, Peeled and grated
75g (3 oz) Sultanas

Method

Preheat the over to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4

Put all ingredients into a bowl. Whisk together using an electric hand whisk until blended (although we did it by hand when we were with Annabel and it was really easy). Spoon into 12 deep bun/muffin tins lined with deep paper cases.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and well risen.

Eat. As I mentioned these are suitable for freezing, but they don't seem to last very long in our house.

The genius thing about these cakes is that they are versatile as to when you eat them. In our house we don't mind eating them for breakfast as a treat (they have fruit and veg in so we can make believe they are really healthy) or as a pudding in a lunch box or even as an after school snack.

I do think that you could probably reduce the amount of sugar in them, but will experiment and update this post when I can!

What Goes In Your Lunch box?

I don't think that I am Super Mum, although according to a couple of playground Mums I am one of those Mothers. I mean, yes I do try to make everything fun and interesting and exciting and that does stretch to food, but I am by no means a culinary genius. When it comes to Top Ender's Lunch box the items that go in are pretty much standard, and yes I do cut the sandwiches up using my cookie cutters or I might theme the lunch around a project she is doing at school but the actual food is a bit boring really.

So when I was invited to be part of the Ultimate Packed Lunch round table with Disney and the lovely Annabel Karmel I knew that I had to go so that I could get some ideas. Ideas that would inspire me to fill the lunch boxes with food that my children would love to try. The round table was fab, we got to share stories, ideas and find out about how Disney take seriously the branding of food products with their name and I'm not quite sure what I shared just before the photographer snapped this snap, but I think it was funny as everyone seems to be laughing.
Pippa making everyone laugh at the Ultimate Packed Lunch Roundtable

We then had a quick interview outside about what we had learnt and shared and I have to put my video up as I think that I looked good that day, do you like my lipstick?

(Video can be seen at http://youtu.be/o6vfhLxTSE0)

After we had all filmed our videos we made some wraps and cakes with Annabel to take home in Disney lunch boxes we were given for our children. Top Ender and Big Boy had come to London with me but were at the Athenaeum Hotel in the Winnie The Pooh Room and so after I picked them up from the hotel. and we were on the train we tasted what I had made. Top Ender and Big Boy were most impressed with the Carrot, Apple and Sultana Muffins which are from Annabels latest book Top 100 Means in Minutes, (which we were given a copy of).

The whole day helped me come up with an idea though, which some of you who follow me on Pinterest (or hear me on Three Counties Radio on a Saturday) might already know about. Every Friday or on special days (birthdays, holidays, sports days etc) I am going to make a special packed lunch for Top Ender. There are some ideas on Top Ender's Friday Lunch Pinterest pinboard already and Top Ender has looked over the pins and agreed that lunch this year is going to be interesting!

Caption It Monday! #2

Well we had fun last week with the first Caption It Monday! I can't believe the amount of you who emailed me with some rather risqué comments and yes thank you the pants were rather fetching and to those of you who asked they were Dr Pepper pants... Anyway here is a picture of Top Ender to caption this week!

Top Ender in a wig

Don't forget I will list and link to the best comments next week for this photo and now on to the caption winners for last weeks Caption It Monday!

Pippa Wearing pants on the outside of her trousers
Runner Up's

Something had gone awry with the fake tan. from Sally

And after 4 hours of hard slog, super mom finally defeated the housework! from Nicola

As usual, Pips forgets just where her underwear belongs... from Vic

Winner

"Phew, they do chaff less on the outside" from Nicki


Thanks for joining in and I can't wait to see what you come up with this week!