A Mothers Ramblings: March 2012

Saturday, 31 March 2012

What We Are Eating This Week (W/C 31/03)

I've been blogging on Monday's about our meal plan for the week, partly to link up with others doing the same with Mrs M's Meal Plan Mondays and partly because it makes things sense for me to record what we are eating on our family blog. Food is a huge part of our family life, be it because Daddy can't eat something, that Big Boy or Top Ender won't eat something or because in years to come my children might want to remember what we ate and why. It also makes more sense for me to blog about this on a Friday or Saturday because that's when I go shopping and so it's when I make my meal plans for the week!

Saturday
Soup and buttered bread. We've all had the stomach flu and so this was all Daddy and I ate today. Top Ender and Big Boy were feeling a bit better and so they had some of the Warburtons Brioche that had been sent to us for a very late breakfast or a sort of early lunch. They enjoyed them, but with all the illness that was going around we'll do a proper review later this week!

Sunday
I don't think that we could cope with a Roast today so I'm planning on making Pork and Vegetable Kebabs to be served on a bed of Rice. There isn't any sauce on the Kebabs I'm just grilling the pork with some peppers, mushrooms, chunks of courgettes and red onion and brushing them with olive oil. I'm hoping that Big Boy will think having his meat and vegetables on skewers as fun and not think about what he has been given to eat!

Monday
I've said before we try to have Jacket Potatoes once a week so that we can keep the budget down. For me it costs 43p per person when we have beans (Daddy prefers Branston Beans), a bit of cheese (I prefer a mozzarella and cheddar mix)  and a bit of butter on our jacket potatoes. At £1.75 a meal I think it's almost a bargain!

Tuesday
I'm hoping that come Tuesday we will all be back to eating food without the worry of any reaction and so I've planned a creamy leek mushroom and ham spaghetti type thing! The creaminess is going to come from a low fat cream cheese which I think brings it down to about 380 calories per portion which will help with my healthier eating plan.

Wednesday
It's Pizza night! Another meat free night (unless everyone decides to add ham I've brought for Sandwiches to their pizza) but it's also fun as Tops and BB love adding cheese to the pizza and spreading the tomato over the base too. They might not make it very neatly but it all tastes the same when you're chewing it.

Thursday
Daddy is out so I'm making a Sausage and Leek Puff Pastry Pie with mash for the children and I. The children love sausage pie and I'm slowly tricking them into eating more vegetables in the pie by adding them little by little. I just wish I had a round pie dish although maybe I might be able to buy one with them this week.
Puff Pastry Sausage and Leek Pie

Friday
For Good Friday I thought I would make something special as a treat and sweet and sticky chicken wings with rice fits the bill. I'm making them with Sweet Chilli Sauce, Soy Sauce, Ketchup, Brown Sugar and Garlic so it might be wise to stay clear of me come Saturday morning!

So that is my week, what are you having this week?

Friday, 30 March 2012

Big Boy's Campbell Park Adventure

On Saturday morning Big Boy asked Daddy to google something for him. He wanted Daddy to look up "Parks in Milton Keynes" as he wanted to find somewhere for us to go as a family that afternoon. It was so sweet that Daddy agreed and they found the Parks Trust website and that is where Big Boy saw a picture of Campbell Park and decided that was where we should go. It sounded like a good plan and so we set off after lunch on what was the hottest day of the year so far.
Campbell Park Sign

Despite having lived in Milton Keynes all his life, the only times Daddy has been to Campbell Park is to watch the fireworks or for the Open Air Cinema. Even Top Ender and I have only been one other time and that was when we were trying to watch the sun rise and seeing as it is right next to the Shopping Centre we have no reason for not having been before or knowing that much about the park! Still we knew Campbell Park is big, it's where several of Milton Keynes festivals and events are held, there is a cricket ground and an amphitheatre and it has stunning views into Bedfordshire.

Panorama of part of Campbell Park

We started our walk by walking past the Cricket Ground. Big Boy seemed very excited about the explanation of how cricket is played and we have promised that we will go to a match as soon as we can, although we aren't sure that Big Boy quite understands that he is going to need to sit down and won't actually be joining in with the playing. There is a sculpture that was designed to be a Shadow Caster at this end of the park, to me it looks like a ball hitting cricket stumps so I think it is rather aptly placed, but I don't think that is what the creator intended people to see it as!

The Shadow Caster at Campbell Park is officially called Gnonom

Carrying on up the Park we got to the more formal gardens and Tops was really excited about coming back when there were more flowers blooming. She loved the "Chain Reaction" sculpture that is in the park and remembered from a leaflet that we picked up a few weeks ago that it is part of the Milton Keynes Art Trail, which we are going to walk soon!

The Chain Reaction Art Work at Campbell Park

Big Boy was loving that he was in charge of this trip out and was leading the way. Despite not knowing where he was going, he managed to lead us up to the labyrinth and Sundial (okay so maybe Daddy was giving him a little guidance). It was great fun watching Top Ender and Big Boy walk all round the labyrinth following the twists of the path, and even more fun watching Daddy and I trying to work out what the time was according to the Sundial.
Sundial at Campbell Park

With the weather having been so nice there were a lot of families enjoying the park. There were picnics going on, sunbathers, people riding bikes, several games of Frisbee and Football happening, other families walking, others just enjoying the views but it wasn't crowded and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. I was a little disappointed that there weren't any sheep grazing in the park (I love Milton Keynes for the grazing Sheep and Goats you can find in some of the Parks) and after having agreed that Top Ender could roll down the hill saw plenty of dried evidence they had been there stuck to her back. At least we know why all the flowers bloom so brilliantly.

Daffodills and a Butterfly in Campbell Park

After our walk we went down to the Grand Union Canal to look at some of the Narrow boats, to have a drink and to relax as we soaked up some of the late afternoon sun. The walk had been quite long and we had experienced a part of our home town that we had managed to miss before so we had a lot to talk about. We really loved Campbell Park and will be making it a regular walk from now on.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

What to do with Easter Leftovers - Hot Cross Buns

I don't know about your house, but we love Hot Crossed Buns here but they sort of get a bit forgotten when the Easter eggs are on offer and so we end up with a surplus of leftovers. And then we might see some in our local supermarket for a really cheap price and forgetting that we already have enough to feed a small army we buy some more and before we know it the hot cross buns have multiplied like bunnies and are threatening to take over the kitchen!
Hot Cross Buns

So every Easter I start to think up ideas about how to use up the Hot Cross Buns and here are a few suggestions for you!

1: Make Bread pudding

Instead of bread use the hot cross buns, they cut quite well when they are a bit stale!

Or Chocolate Bread Pudding

It's the same as normal bread pudding, but erm with chocolate bits (such as left over Easter Egg) in it!

2: Chocolate Stuffed Easter French Toast.

Honestly click that link you won't regret it.

3: Hot Cross Bun pudding

My favourite recipe for this is to take as many buns as you are serving people, cut each bun in half and spread with chocolate spread. Put in an oven proof dish and scatter some chopped chocolate all over before pouring over home made custard (or shop brought!) and baking in the oven for half an hour on about gas mark 4. YUMMY!

A variation of this is the Jamie Oliver version.

Everyone saw the Sainsbury Advert a few years back right? Cut a hot cross bun in half, spread Marmalade on it, put it in a ramekin pour custard over it and bake and eat. I didn't like it though...

4: Fruit Topped Buns

Grill a bun cut in half and then butter it. Then cut some poached fruit over the top sprinkle some sugar on top and put it back under the grill for a second!

5: Chocolate fondue

Melt up those Easter eggs, and dip in bits of the hot cross buns!

Melted Easter Egg Chocolate


6: Trifle

I know Trifle is a Christmas food, but I love custard, whipped cream and banana. Just don't had coloured sprinkles!!!!

7: Decadent

Load it up with butter, whipped cream and decadence is yours on a plate. If you have a bit of edible gold leaf floating around add that too and then invite me.

8: French Bread Pudding

I don't actually know if this really is French, my neighbour used to make this when I was younger and she was French... although saying that her husband was Welsh so maybe it is welsh. Anyway.

Crumb the buns (use a food processor it is quicker!)
Add dried fruit and custard to make a disgusting looking mix (it get's nicer honest!)
Pour it into a lined dish but don't worry if it looks messy
Bake for half an hour on Gas Four or Five (until it goes crispy) and serve in strips with Whipped Cream and icing sugar.

9: Savoury Cheese

Now this only works if you like Mature Cheddar, but I did have it with some Brie and it was quite nice. Slice some Mature Cheddar (stronger the better) and place on a toasted and buttered Hot Cross Bun half. Place under the grill so the cheese melts and then eat! The mix of the spice and fruit contrasts nicely with the Cheddar. Honest!

10: Feed to the ducks!

Well you might be full!

Feeding the Ducks

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

What to do with Easter Leftovers - Chocolate Easter Eggs

One of the great things for children at Easter is the amount of chocolate that they get from friends and family. Last year the number of chocolate eggs that Top Ender and Big Boy got was overwhelming and so it was no surprise that come July we were still eating it... in fact by the middle of July I got rather sick of it and so decided that we should use the chocolate to make something else.
Left over Easter Eggs - No Bake Cakes

1) No bake Chocolate cakes

We had a partially eaten bag of chocolate rice cereal and so decided to add that to the melted chocolate, making some rather yummy lunch box treats! This can easily be made with any leftover cereal and is a good way of clearing out your cupboards as adding dried fruit and marshmallows is also a big hit in our house!

or you could make

Tiffin

100g Margarine
25g Sugar (whatever you have in!)
5 tablespoons of Golden Syrup
250g of crushed biscuits (or cereal)
100 -175g of dried fruit (depending on how fruit you want it)
250g Chocolate

Mix everything together, put into a lined tin, pour on the melted chocolate and leave in the fridge for an hour or so.

or you could make

Millionaires Shortcake

Yum.

2) Chocolate chip cookies/Brownies/Chocolate Cake

Just make any cookie recipe (Baby Boy's New Years Day Cookies for example) Brownie recipe or Chocolate Cake recipe and add in the chopped up Chocolate instead of the other chocolate in the recipe.

3) Hot Chocolate

This really works best with good quality chocolate, but if you are like me and don't care about the cocoa content and go with what you think tastes nice then use anything! Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and then over a low heat slowly mix in milk until it is a drinkable consistency. Then drink! I like to grate mine and use in my chocolatiere.

Leftover Easter Eggs - Hot Chocolate in a Chocolatiere

4) Chocolate Sauce

Heat the chocolate until it melts, add a dash of milk (or cream if you are that way inclined) and then dribble over ice-cream, hot cross buns, toast, pancakes or anything else you fancy. Just be careful as it is hot and care should be taken not to burn your erm delicate areas if you dribble it there!

5) Pop Tarts

If you are going to melt up the chocolate why not make some Home Made Pop Tarts? They are a big treat in our house and I must admit using my favourite chocolate inside makes them all the more tasty!

6) Chocolate spoons

These are so fun to make. Melt chocolate, dip in a spoon (buy some plastic ones) and then let set hard. Then next time you have a hot drink or a hot pudding stir or eat using the chocolate spoon. The heat will melt the chocolate and makes every sip or mouthful special!

This also works well with fruit. Top Ender loves to dip apple and strawberries before letting it set and then gobbling up.

7) Muffins with Chocolate melting centres

These are so easy to make and very scrummy. The first time I made them for Top Ender and Big Boy they sat at the oven waiting for the cakes to bake because they smelt so good.

Using an ordinary sponge recipe (4oz butter mixed with 4oz Sugar with 4oz of self raising flour added before mixing in 2 eggs) and add 2oz of cocoa powder (or any drinking chocolate if you are short) and 1/4 fill the cupcake cases. Add a piece or two of chocolate (depending on the size of your cupcakes and the chocolate) and then cover with more of the cake mixture. Cook for ten minutes or so in the oven and serve!

Melting Centre Cakes - Easter Leftovers

Watch out though as melting centres are messy and hot!

8) Home Made Chocolate Lipbalm

Seriously. See this Instructable and tell me you don't want to make it.

9) Fondue

Heat it up until it melts and then slowly add cream until it is all mixed in. Then dip in what you like!

10) Chocolate mousse

Whip up a pot of Double Cream and add melted chocolate to the mixture, carefully folding it in before allowing it to settle in the fridge for thirty minutes. Sprinkle shavings of chocolate over the top for an extra treat!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Swan Lake - Wordless Wednesday

Big Boy and I walked to the local nature reserve earlier this week. As we were sitting at the side of the lake we had a couple of visitors, they were so close at one point I was worried that one of us was going to be bitten by the Swans but they were just interested in posing for my camera!
A Swan on the Blue Lagoon in Bletchley

A Close up picture of a Swan on the Blue Lagoon in Bletchley

I don't think I have even been this close to a swan before, but they really are magnificent looking creatures aren't they? Don't forget to link up and leave me a comment below too!

What to do with Easter Leftovers - Lamb

One of the last things you probably want to think about two weeks before Easter is about the Leftovers, but for me last year I knew I needed to have a plan in place so that my leftover Lamb wouldn't go to waste! I knew that there were a lot of meals that I could make, but I wanted to make sure that I used all the meat as a leg of lamb can be very expensive! So what can you make with Lamb leftovers? How about;

Easter Leftovers - Leg of Lamb

Lamb Curry

Once you have served slices of lamb for your Easter Lunch, why not take the rest of the meat off the bone and cube it up for use in a lamb curry

Roast Dinner Soup

I know, I am always going on about Roast Dinner soup, but it tastes lovely! Follow my recipe from Christmas just add the lamb instead of Turkey!

Lamb Salad

Sorry another recipe from Christmas, but I will sum it up here for you. Get Salad into a bowl, add lamb leftovers. Serve.

Lamb Sandwich

I know you know how to make a sandwich, but check out the Conscientious Cooks version of the Ultimate Lamb Sandwich. I promise you it is fantastic!

Giouvetsi

I love pasta and so dishes with leftovers and pasta are a hit for me. I normally make something like a pasta bake, but since I found out about Giouvetsi I make this when I can!

Shepard's pie

It was when my sister made Shepard's pie using leftovers the first time that she felt it necessary to call me to tell me that she had just made the best meal in the world ever. I wasn't sure why she needed to but lamb twice baked is delicious and everyone loves delicious!

Roast Lamb Fritters

My Mum makes the best potato fritters and it was her that suggested that I make Roast Lamb Fritters. They are quite simple to make, just dice up some leftover lamb mix into some batter and then fry in a frying pan for a few minutes each side. These make a great dinner the night after a roast.

Pasties

So they can't really be called Cornish Pasties if you aren't in Cornwall, but you know what I mean right?  They are very simple to make and we love lamb, sweet potato and mint pasties.

I hope your leftovers are always as tasty as mine and try to keep this quote by the comedian George Calin in mind.

"Leftovers make you feel good twice. First, when you put it away, you feel thrifty and intelligent: ‘I’m saving food!’ Then a month later when blue hair is growing out of the ham, and you throw it away, you feel really intelligent: ‘I’m saving my life!’"

Monday, 26 March 2012

Twenty Ways To Surprise Your Children

We try and have a lot of fun as a family, it's something that is part of our family culture and I think we could go as far as to say it is part of our family psyche! It's so engrained that we don't think twice about what we are doing and it's only when someone else is surprised at something that we do (in a good way) that we even think that what we do is that different to the mainstream. Every so often we like to mix it up a bit, to surprise the children and to give us adults something to look forward to. It is just simple things that we do, but not letting the children know until we are just about to do it means that the children are surprised even if it is the 20th time they have done the activity!

Top Ender and Big Boy standing on the Gate

Here are 20 ways we surprise our children.
  1. Go on a Date Night/Date Day with them
  2. Phone them when you aren't with them
  3. Let Them Choose Dinner, even if it is something like Fish Finger Pizza!
  4. Celebrate something silly like New Haircut Day
  5. Frame their artwork or a picture they took and hang it up
  6. Make something or paint something for them
  7. Go on a Surprise trip day trip
  8. Have Pudding at a restaurant
  9. Hide a note in their bedroom and see when they find it
  10. Send them a letter in the mail
  11. Film a video for them
  12. Get them a gift and leave it somewhere secret
  13. Do something silly  
  14. Give them flowers for no reason
  15. Put Balloons in their room whilst they are sleeping
  16. Make them a special lunch
  17. Do things backwards
  18. Have a karaoke moment
  19. Turn up unexpectedly at school
  20. Do something you had said No to
What would you add to the list?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Seven Steps To Making More Quality Time For Family

When I blogged that we had made Sunday Nights Family Nights so that we had quality time together as a family I said we had made changes to the way we spent time together all the time to make the most of our time as a family, not just on the Sunday nights. I had a few messages asking how I did this and the changes we made were simple things that make sense to our family but before you think about implementing them into your family remember that these changes might not make sense to your family, but they will hopefully give you some ideas on how to maximise the amount of quality time you spend with your family.
Having Quality time as a Family

We decided that at the weekends we would let the schedule relax slightly. We have slightly later bed times, for the children and we have our main meal earlier. At the moment it doesn't make a difference to what time Big Boy gets up in the morning, but as Daddy and I have a lay in on the weekend on alternate days we don't mind getting up early on one of them. During the week we keep things fairly rigid. We find that being scheduled helps us to know what we do and don't have time for and having a routine means that we know what we do on what day.

Along with having our schedule we keep a calender, we have the one in the den which we use to keep track of big events, trips out and events we are celebrating. We also have a smaller calender which is kept by our coats on which we keep track of appointments and regular scheduled dates. Having both calenders is beneficial as the children can see in an instant what we are up to and know if we have something planned that they can look forward to it. Using the smaller calender Daddy and I can keep each other informed of what is going on and we can use it to plan when we are going to go on trips and keep a note of important events too.

The Wall Calender to keep record of family time

Every Sunday we enjoy eating a Roast together, everything apart from the PC is turned off (so that we can listen to music) and we take our time to eat the meal. We talk to each other and giggle and have seconds of the bits we like (normally Roast Potatoes and gray!) and because we have it at an earlier time than during the week it means that on the Sunday we can spend time after dinner playing on the Wii or watching a film. It's really important to us to have this big meal once a week where we are all able to talk together and enjoy each others company. We do the same thing on a Thursday night when Daddy is out at work. It's just a chance to sit together and talk and have fun and be together.

On Sundays when we have our last family time of the weekend, we make sure that we focus our time on each other and not on playing a computer game or reading or even tweeting! For us it's important that each other is the focus of our attention and whilst it might be that Daddy has to take a work call we know that he is completing it as quickly as he can so that he can be back to spending time with us. It isn't that we don't tweet, or take time out when we are together, it's just that we try not to make it a habit.

Multi Tasking

Daddy and I like to be able to spend one on one time with both Tops and BB and so we use the Divide and conquer rule. Each of us will spend time with one child, it might be in the evenings before bed when Daddy and Big Boy play Donkey Kong on the Wii whilst Tops and I read or work on a jigsaw together. It might be that Big Boy and I go to the park whilst Daddy and Top Ender spend time together but we get quality time with each child. The other way that we use the divide and conquer rule is to get a lay in, one parent gets up early one day and the other the next, it works well for us.

Getting absorbed into a TV programme is something that happens very easily, and so we reduce the amount of TV that we have on during the weekend and when we are spending time together during the week. It isn't that we think TV is bad, we spend time watching TV together, but we do realise that less TV is more time to spend together. We listen to the radio or to music (we don't have a CD player so we use our PC and we keep a lot of our music digitally these days too) and we find whilst we are interested in the music we listen to we don't block out everything else around us as we do when watching TV.

Creating the Family night on Sunday nights was the last step into making more time for our family. We wanted a way to end the weekend making sure that everyone knew what was important and for us that is family. Spending the time together, enjoying each others company and just being together as a unit.

Those are the seven steps we took to have more time together as a family. Would they work for your family or would you suggest something different to create more quality time with your family?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

An Evening Watching Happy Feet Two

We have two regular post people here at A Mothers Ramblings. There is the Post Man who brings bills and the general mail (we chat a fair bit, but he isn't my favourite person due to the aforementioned bills that he brings) and the Post Lady who brings the big parcels too big for the regular post. The Post Lady always greets me and BB by name and has a giggle with us over what is being delivered. This week when I was out at the Regis Salon in Oxford Street, being made to look beautiful with a new hair style, Daddy was at home with BB when the Post Lady came. She was a little shocked to see Daddy instead of me, but handed him the parcels and had a joke with him and was soon off on her merry way.

Unlike me however Daddy didn't then rip open the packaging there in the hallway but left the parcels to one side so I could open them when I returned later that day. I wasn't sure what was being delivered, but opened it up to find a parcel from Warner Brothers to celebrate the release of Happy Feet Two on DVD.

The Warner Brothers Happy Feet Two Bundle

I thought that we would watch the Happy Feet Two film on our Sunday Night Family Night, but on Friday night Daddy needed to work a bit late and so as a treat Tops, BB and I started to watch the film during their dinner. BB had been up since 5am, and was soon fast asleep but Tops and I watched the film together and when Daddy came home he watched the last ten minutes or so with Tops and I trying to catch him up with the plot.

The film is what you expect for a family film, there is a message that being who you are is what is important, some mild peril and a lot of fun. I cried several times, laughed almost non stop and smirked at a few of the jokes that were going over Top Ender's head. There is a great cast of voices and I had to look up a couple of them as I just couldn't place them, but was quite happy when proved right about several of the other voice actors.

Tops loved the film and has asked if we can watch Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two back to back one night. I'm just waiting on her realising that in the box we were also sent some temporary tattoos, (I think the ones of Will and Bill will magically appear on my arms this weekend) as well as some magnets which she is going to put on her locker at School. And as Big Boy fell asleep watching the film it wasn't surprising to me that on Saturday morning one of the first questions BB asked was if he could watch the film as he couldn't remember what happened after he fell asleep!

You can pre-order Happy Feet Two from Amazon as it isn't released until the 26th March, for £9.99.

We were sent the parcel by Warner Brothers.

A Family Walk At Sharpenhoe Clappers

When we won the MADS Best Blog for Family Fun last year (You can nominate me again if you like), part of the prize was a family membership to the National Trust. This has led us to be frequent visitors to the National Trust website and it was when Daddy was looking at the website for somewhere for us to go for a walk that he found Sharpenhoe Clappers.

Sharpenhoe Clappers

Sharpenhoe Clappers is a chalk escarpment in Bedfordshire, and despite being just under an hour away from us and having driven past it several times we had never been. We set off on a very early Spring day and it was so warm we abandoned our coats to the boot of the car before we set off on our walk around the woods. 

We set off and as we walked we started looking for different signs of the changing season and the everyday nature that was around us. We spotted hundreds of ladybirds and had a great conversation with a couple who were just finishing their walk.

A Ladybird at Sharpenhoe Clappers

As we were walking round the children spotted lots of bits of chalk on the ground and kept an eye out for the ghost which local legend has living in the woods. Daddy explained all about how the ghost was supposed to be Cassivellaunus who was a British Chief who defended Britain against the Romans during the time of Julius Caesar. During cloudy weather the top of the escarpment sometimes looks like it is magically hidden in the clouds which has given rise to the local legend. Big Boy was all ready to defend us from the ghost, but was rather pleased that we didn't find any.

We had Top Ender and Big Boy also looking out for evidence of the iron age settlement and for more rabbits holes (Clappers is derived from a Latin word for Rabbit Warren) and they both managed to keep surprisingly quiet at times as they tried to spot rabbits, but we decided that the rabbits must have all gone on holiday together as we didn't see even a whisker!

We were amazed at the views from Sharpenhoe Clappers and with a quick check of our position according to the GPS on our phone we were able to confirm that it was Milton Keynes we could make out in the distance. It was quite nice knowing that even though we were miles away we could still see home.

The view to Milton Keynes from Sharpenhoe Clappers

We all really loved walking round Sharpenhoe Clappers and know that there are other walks (Icknield Way crosses the Clappers on its route from Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire to Knettishall Heath in Suffolk) in the area that we could at least walk part of and so we will be heading back in the near future. 

If you are in the area then head on up to Sharpenhoe Clappers and make the most of the beautiful views. 

Gluten Free Egg Free Banana Muffins

I'm slowly learning how to bake again now that I can't include wheat or eggs in anything I bake for Daddy. I've been thinking over recipes that I have read in the past, adaptations that I can make to well known and loved recipes and trying to think up new recipes too. I was pretty sure that I had read a recipe once where muffins were made with yoghurt and so I set about experimenting with Big Boy and made some really nice Gluten and Egg Free Raisin Banana Muffins for Daddy. This is what I came up with.

Gluten Free Egg Free Banana and Raisin Muffins

Ingredients

4oz Self Raising Flour
4oz Butter
2 Bananas
2oz Raisins
4oz Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
200ml Plain Yougurt
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Xanthum Gum

Method

Mush the bananas and put to one side. Mix the other ingredients together, holding back the raisins and the banana. Once everything is combined stir in the mashed up banana and the raisins, try not to over stir the raisins as they can break up. Bake for thirty minutes at gas mark five and then let cool.

I think that they could have done with a little more time baking to give them a better and more even colour, but I was worried that they were going to burn. They tasted great and we are going to be making them again.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Ten Things To Do As A Family In Spring

This year Spring has infected me with it's sunshine and flowers and given me lots of ideas of things to do with my family. We love being outside and so I thought that I would create a list of our ten favourite things to do as a family in Spring and see how many of them we can get through this weekend.

1) Plant some seeds, bulbs, plants.

I love watching green shoots slowly push their way out of the ground and when the plants start to flower I love being able to sit in the garden and look at the different colours. I think that it's something which is great to do as a family because you all get the reward in a few weeks and most children like to dig in the dirt! I'm hoping we can get everyone to concentrate on the front garden and plant up some pots too!

2) Go for a walk.

We are always going for walks and there are so many places you can go. You can walk in local woods, around lakes or even around your own housing estate. There are a lot of things to see and we are always surprised just how much we enjoy just walking and talking.
On a Family Walk

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Would You Nominate Me?

The MADs (Mum and Dad Blogging Awards) were launched this morning, and despite thinking that I might not try to get nominated this year I've decided what the heck, I want to see if I can be nominated and possibly win the best blog for Family Fun again!
MAD Blog Awards 2012

Of course you can nominate me in any relevant category that you like but it is the Best Blog for Family Fun that I think I have the best chance of winning. If you need suggestions of other blogs to read to consider for other categories then let me know but otherwise vote for me! And please do ask all your friends to nominate me too, the more the merrier!

Vote A Mothers Ramblings

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Six Fun Family Spring Cleaning Chores

With today being the first day of Spring it starts me thinking about Spring Cleaning! A little unusual when I could be thinking about Spring Lambs, Spring Flowers and my upcoming birthday but if you have read my blog in the past then you will know that I love Making Chores Fun and Spring Cleaning is perfect for this. Click on the links for the original posts, with a more detailed idea of how to make the chore fun, but here are my top six Spring Cleaning jobs to do as a family that involve a huge dollop of fun too.

Number Six

After the winter months it's good to be able to get out in the garden and to enjoy some sunshine. The only problem is our garden, along with a lot of the country's looks a bit neglected with the lawn needing a good mow. Luckily this is a great job to start off working as a family to do and whilst a grown up mows the lawn everyone else can have fun running around making sure that the grass is clean of sticks, stones, toys and everything else that gets lost!
The Lawn

Number Five

Our fridge is always in use and gets a wipe out every week when it starts to empty and before we fill it again with more food. I think that Spring is a good time to make sure the fridge has a good clean as I am sure there are some forgotten science experiments lurking in the back and a clean fridge is a healthy fridge!

Number Four

Now that we have an in car bin (Thank you Pinterest!) cleaning the car doesn't take quite as long as we don't have to fish about finding the discarded wrappers, half eaten biscuits and empty juice cartons. It's still fun to pretend to drive the car and to clamber over everything in search of buried treasure.

Number Three

There are so many ways to have fun cleaning the carpet. It might be playing hoover chase or hunt the dried peas or our personal favourite mountain climbing! Climbing the wooden mountain will take on a new meaning when you vacuum the stairs whilst pretending to be a mountain climber. Adventurous souls who normally don't get very far from home can climb the highest peaks known and all in relative comfort and safety.

Number Two

If you are going to wash the windows, make sure that you brush up on your noughts and crosses strategy first! Using window pens have a game before washing it all away, or maybe sketch out a cartoon. Having someone playing on each side of the glass makes things a little easier when it comes to washing it all off, just make sure you both agree to wipe in different directions!

Cleaning the windows

Number One

The chore that started off my love of making cleaning fun. Cleaning the Kitchen Floor is a huge hit with my children and those of some the playground Mums... although I still don't think they have forgiven me for having introduced this wet sliding fun. This works best with a large flat floor as sliding up and down a small floor isn't as much fun I've been told!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Meal Plan Monday (Starting 19th March)

I quite enjoyed joining in with the Meal Plan Monday last week, especially as it meant I didn't have to keep looking at the Fridge door (that's where I keep the weeks menu) to tell me what was for dinner! Again I don't tend to do a lot of different types of meals, I stick to plain cooking because for us it makes more sense both financially and I know everyone will eat it! Let me know in the comments what you are cooking this week, or even if you you plan in advance or go with what you have in the cupboards when you get hungry!

Monday

I'll use the Leftover Roast with rice noodles and a Chinese Plum Sauce I have in my cupboard to make a stir fry. I'll add in some strips of carrots, spring onions and some red and green peppers. It's a cheap meal, uses up leftovers and gives me the takeaway taste I crave!

Tuesday

Jacket Potatoes and Beans with cheese. I might have some Tuna and cheese with mine, I've got a can of tuna in the cupboard, but I'm not sure on what I might fancy yet! We are trying to eat Jacket Potatoes once a week at the moment to bring down the price of the weekly shop and also because who doesn't like Jacket Potatoes?!  I try to keep our weekly shopping budget to around £60 and that includes cat food and cleaning products. It works for us, would it work for you?


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Cake Decorating with Renshaw

I love baking and whilst I'm not the worlds best baker, I do think that I have some skill. I'm quite ambitious with my cake decorating and have spent many hours in the past trying to create something that looks as pretty as the image in my head. I'm not always successful but my family happily eat anything I bake and decorate. Renshaw sent some decorating products to us here at AMR for us to use for some Easter baking. Like me you might not have heard of Renshaw before but they have been supplying products to the trade for over 100 years and have now brought a range of products to market for home bakers and it was from this range that they sent me some bits to try.
Renshaw Cake Decorating Products

I used the toffee flavour buttons first. They were really simple to use, you just cut off the corner and melt them in the microwave. Add to some cereal and put a spoonful into a paper case, let set and voila instant toffee flavoured cakes! The toffee flavour was really lovely, it wasn't too overpowering and I could see them very easily being used in a Millionaires shortcake or as a simple cupcake topping. There are four other flavours available (Smooth Strawberry, Yummy Yoghurt, Milk Chocolate and White Chocolate) and I'm going to be trying all of them.

Toffee Cluster Cakes

The icing ribbon I'm going to be using on our Easter cake, it just unrolls which is brilliant as it is the sides of the cake I always have problems with when I am icing. For some reason I never seem to manage to keep it neat at the bottom of the cake, at least with the edible icing ribbon it will look pretty and be edible. I haven't made my Easter Cake yet, but you can be sure when I do that I'll post a picture somewhere!

The Snip and Swirl Chocolate icing is a brilliant idea because I hate washing my icing bags and with this once you have iced your cakes you just throw away the bag. I'm really bad at creating swirls on cupcakes, but for your amusement here is one of the cakes I decorated. Yes, I know what it looks like don't laugh too much, you might injure yourself.

Swirl Chocolate Cakes

Renshaw also sent some great products for the children to decorate cakes with too. The flavoured sugar dough will make some great cake toppings and some cute little animals for our Easter cakes and Top Ender is looking forward to creating some polka dots like on the package. I'm just not sure she realises that her cakes won't look as great as the ones on the packet!

Renshaw Cake Decorating Products

The magic melting icing is a great idea, but I didn't get along with it very well. I made some sponge cakes which I cut up in to smaller pieces and then half dipped and half poured icing on to the cake to try and get it all covered. It was just too runny and and I couldn't get a good covering all over the cake, but as I said before my family happily eat anything I bake and they really loved the flavour of the icing.

Raspberry Iced Cake Bites

The Renshaw products are available in supermarkets (I've seen them in Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda and I believe from what I read Morrisons sell them too) and you can follow Renshaw on Facebook and get some great inspiration from the Renshaw My Bakes website. Right now I'm heading back to the kitchen to see if I can pipe anything less offensive looking!

We were sent some Renshaw products to review.

Sunday Night is Family Night

Despite spending nearly all my time with my family it feels like I hardly see them and talking about this with Daddy we came up with a plan to increase the amount of quality time that we spend together as a family. We took a look at what we did during the time we had together as we knew that we weren't making the most of it and looked to where we could make changes.

The first thing we did was move our shopping day from a Saturday morning to a Friday night. Apart from my weekly appearance on the Saturday morning show on Three Counties Radio that meant we had all weekend to spend together. We love going for walks together in local woods or exploring further afield, we love to walk round the shopping centre where we people watch or play the £1 game or even hunt down the worst gift we can find for one of our relations.
Wrapped Gifts

We have great fun together and having that extra time on a Saturday was better, but there was still something missing. When we put the children to bed on a Sunday night we still didn't feel that the time we spent together at the weekend had been maximised or that it had rounded off properly, and talking it over we decided that we needed to make Sunday Night a Family Night.

For us the Family Night is on a two week schedule. One week we play a game together. It might be on the Wii (Big Boy is rather into Mario Party 9 at the minute) or a proper "old fashioned" board game such as the Monopoly board that one of Daddy's co-workers modified to be places local to us. All that matters is that we are spending some time together having fun. It's something that we look forward to and a great way to end the weekend.

The Second week we watch a film on the projector in our living room. For Christmas we brought four pairs of 3D glasses and we have a few 3D films that we are watching together, but we are also watching some of the films that Warner Brothers have sent us and our own collection too. It's like having our own private cinema and we are loving introducing Top Ender and Big Boy to films we remember from our childhood and to new classics too. 

Watching The Golden Compass on our Projector

For us making Sunday Night Family Night made the most sense, but it could be any night. The difference in the way we spend time together has made these Sunday evenings something we look forward to and something that I hope that Big Boy and Top Ender will remember when they are adults.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Books, Blood and Twitter!

Big Boy had some books arrive for him in the post and he was really eager to read them with me. We sat on the sofa together and planned which one we would read first, then second and then last. I had a couple of chores to do and said that if he gave me a few minutes we could read the books together and have a snack together too. This pleased Big Boy no end because he is constantly hungry at the moment (we are putting it down to a Growth Spurt) and so he let me do my chores but then my computer made a noise and so I sat down to see what it was alerting me to.

A minute or two later and Big Boy was starting to get impatient with me, so he brought the first book we had chosen to read to me. Only it slipped out of his hands and hit his toe. Big Boy started hopping around yelping that it hurt and I told him to go and sit down and I would come and kiss it better. Big Boy started crying and told me that I couldn't come to him to make it better because there was blood and he knows that I don't like blood. I put my fear to one side, used a damp flannel to cover his toe (which was covered in blood) passed out briefly and then asked Twitter how to deal with it. I don't think straight after passing out.

The tweet I sent for help!

Toe dealt with (thank you everyone!) Big Boy and I sat on the sofa, as we were both feeling a bit out of sorts and we decided we would read the books sent from the Little Tiger Press together so we could distract ourselves. We loved Monty and Milli, despite it being the book that caused the injury. It was interesting to see how Big Boy reacted to Milli following her big brother Monty around seeing as how Big Boy follows Top Ender around and I'm pretty sure that Top Ender sometimes wishes that Big Boy would disappear!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Marbling with Yellow Moon

There isn't a lot that I remember from School, but one thing I remember quite clearly is an art lesson when I was about eight years old and we did marbling. I don't know what we did with the pieces of paper that we marbled or even what we were expected to learn but when Yellow Moon asked if I'd like to do some crafting with Top Ender and Big Boy and that they were going to send out materials so we could do some marbling at home I was over the moon! I had a tray that we could use and explained to the children that by dropping the ink on to the tray of water the ink would float on top and we would be able to use the paper to pick up the ink. The children thought this was some form of magic (well science and magic are quite close!) and were eager to help and have a go.


As you can see we had fun and made some great patterns which we managed to transfer to some paper, some card and some polystyrene shapes! We weren't really sure what to make with the paper and card we had marbled so Big Boy and I made a monster to live in Big Boy's bedroom and we also decided to cover one of the new notebooks we brought for Top Ender to make it look a little more funky. Top Ender loves it and has plans for recovering a lot of her books and creating some new art for her bedroom.

Marbled Book Cover

And our hearts and birds are displayed in the plant pots in the kitchen window. They didn't turn out quite as good as we hoped they would but I'm sticking to it and planning on creating something... I'm just not sure what! We loved playing with the inks together and coming up with some ideas of what to do with the things we had  made.We have plans for a few other things to make and a really great idea taking inspiration from some art work we saw on display in a shop the other day. We'll keep you posted when we do!

Yellow Moon sent us the materials needed to do the marbling.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Complicated Surgery

Did you know that I'm a World Class Surgeon? Yup, I dabble in General Surgery and have been dubbed by the next of kin of my patients as being wonderfully talented. I've been told that my bedside manner is amazing and my colleagues have expressed gratitude at taking on cases that they knew only I had the skills to take on. My most recent Surgery was a tricky one with my patient needing to be readmitted to theatre because of complications that arose after surgery.

Super Dog in Surgery

That's right my patient was a toy dog.

Big Boy and I had been talking about having our own version of Crufts for him and Top Ender and their wonderful pet dogs, but Big Boy was really worried that his special dog Super Dog wouldn't pass any inspection because he had a hole where Doggies shouldn't have a hole. There was only one thing for it, we had to operate and lucky for Big Boy I'm the afore mentioned World Class Surgeon.

Big Boy was so pleased to have Super Dog back in one piece that Super Dog hasn't left Big Boy's side since!

Big Boy and Super Dog after Surgery

Do you have secret Surgical Skills? Are you like me and the Dr Meredith Grey on the General Surgery Scene? Does this mean I get to snog Dr McDreamy now?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

All About The Bacon!

I love getting emails that offer me food, especially when the food they are offering me is Bacon. With  Bacon Connoisseurs' Week coming up (19th to 25th March 2012) Morrisons Supermarket sent us some of their "The Best" Bacon range which comes from British Farms and the Online Sizzle team challenged us to create a meal either using the recipes they sent or by making one up ourselves. With the challenge accepted we started cooking using the bacon.
The A Mothers Ramblings All About The Bacon Flag

We started the week with a risotto. I adapted the BBC's easy risotto recipe (adapted as I didn't have any parmesan or onions) and used a pack of Morrisons The Best lightly oak smoked sweetcure rind less back bacon and despite the rice not being quite tender enough everyone ate it quite happily, as there was bacon.

Bacon Risotto

I thought the Risotto would be the best meal to give the recipe for but then Daddy made a Bacon and Cheese burger for our lunch using Morrisons The Best lightly oak smoked sweetcure rindless back bacon again. Daddy had cheddar and Ketchup in his and I had Brie and Dr Pepper BBQ Sauce in mine.

Bacon Cheese Burger

The Burgers tasted delicious and I thought that they would be the recipe we gave but then Daddy made a Fried Breakfast that was so yummy that the cooked slices of Morrisons The Best applewood smoked dry cured back bacon drooled on the table.

Fried Breakfast

Then Daddy decided that he had to make another recipe that he had seen and so locking me out of the kitchen he started tinkering with the recipe so he could present me with The A Mothers Ramblings Sticky Apple Bacon and Sausage Roast, served with Herby Mashed Potato.
A Mothers Ramblings Sticky Apple Bacon and Sausage Roast with Herby Mash
I apologise that the picture is blurry but Daddy isn't used to my camera
Daddy had read the original recipe on the BBC and it had made his mouth water, but he thought he could make it better and so he made a few adaptations to create his own version which is fast becoming our Saturday night treat. So here for your tastebuds amusement is how Daddy made it.

The A Mothers Ramblings Sticky Apple Bacon and Sausage Roast for Two

Ingredients

2 Rashers The Best Applewood Smoked Dry Cured Back Bacon cut in half (lengthways so you have four long strips)
6 Pork Sausages (Ours were Gluten free from the Co-op)
2 Red skinned Apples (washed cored and cut into wedges)
1/2 an onion finely diced (we have frozen chopped onion in our freezer)
2 tbsp Honey (we used Rowse Acacia Honey as we had a squeezy bottle)
1tsp Mustard
1tbsp Oil

A Mothers Ramblings Sticky Apple Bacon and Sausage Roast whilst Roasting

Method

Daddy started by putting the oven on to heat up with a tablespoon of oil in the roasting pan.

Taking the sausages he cut them in half and then wrapped four of the halves in the bacon slices before securing them in place with a toothpick and adding them to the roasting pan. He then left the Sausages to roast for twenty minutes at gas mark 9 whilst he prepared the apples and the glaze.

To make the glaze he took the honey and mustard and mixed it together making a runny spicy mixture. He half drizzled/ half spooned this mixture over everything when he added the onions to the pan and gave everything a jiggle to get the coating all over before adding the apples and returning it to the oven at gas mark 7 for an additional fifteen minutes.

Despite having a world surplus of potatoes Daddy decided to make Smash potato and added a teaspoon of both our dry herb mixes of Tzatziki and Patatas Bravas before adding the water. It actually tasted really nice together so maybe there will be some more Greek/Spanish hybrids added to our meals in the future. When everything was plated he drizzled the honey mustard glaze from the bottom of the roasting tin over the sausage mixture on the plate and served.

We were sent the Bacon and a voucher for Morrisons which we are going to spend on more Bacon or possibly Cakes.