A Mothers Ramblings: July 2013

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Penguin on Holiday - A Review

Penguin on Holiday is a new book published by Bloomsbury that has delighted Big Boy. I don't think that we had read Penguin and the Pinecone, Penguin's previous adventure, but we immediately loved this little penguin and his desire for a holiday.


Penguin on Holiday Book

The book was very easy to read, and Big Boy was able to read a lot of it himself, although he preferred for me to read the larger/bolder words because he liked to be Penguin and Penguin's new friend...

This book fitted in so well as part of our Summer project on friendship. We created some great postcards from the characters in the book with some friends having moved away during the Summer, it was nice for the story to show that separation from friends can be sad but the reunions are always fun.

Postcards based on Penguin on the Holiday Book

The book is so sweet and full of love that it's going to be a favourite of ours for years to come and end up in every baby gift basket I'm giving from now on.

Penguin on Holiday is available from the 22nd August and is £11.99 for the hardback and £5.99 for the paperback and Ebook editions.

We were sent a copy of the book to review and have based some of our Summer Learning on the story. If you'd like to see what we did, take a look at our postcards and our artwork.

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Sunday, 28 July 2013

A British Crème Brûlée (Review and Recipe)

It's not going to be a surprise that I'm an indulgent pudding fan, normally of the Chocolate variety, but when I want to do something special and be a bit of a show-off I make a rather lovely Crème Brûlée.

A British Crème Brûlée

Saturday night, after we got back from the Science Museum, we had a rather simple meal of Hot Dogs and I thought I'd push the boat out with a pudding for Daddy and I instead of on the Sunday like I had planned.

I had been sent a cup of sugar to celebrate a new globally-inspired ‘Taste Experience’ range from Tate & Lyle (see their Taste and Smile website) and by luck of the draw was sent the British Inspired Golden Syrup Sugar (third from the Left below) which I thought when burnt as the topping of a Crème Brûlée would taste deliciously syrupy and because it's great for making glazes would hopefully turn a lovely colour. I think they turned out rather fabulous and have included my cheats recipe below so you can create them at home too.

Globally-inspired ‘Taste Experience’ range from Tate and Lyle

Ingredients


2 Innocent Fruit Tubes
4 Tablespoons Pre-made Custard
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup Sugar

Method


I had decided that I wanted to have a secret fruit layer at the bottom of the individual sized Ramekins, and so used two of the Children's Innocent Fruit Tubes to create a fruity layer on the bottom. I had originally planned to make my own fruit compote, but with having been out all day I hadn't had time. This fruit layer isn't strictly necessary, but remember I said I like indulgence!

I covered the fruit layer in pre-made custard (because I don't know how to make custard without eggs and Daddy is allergic to eggs) before sprinkling the Golden Syrup Sugar on top and using my Kitchen Blow Torch to melt the sugar into my cracking topping. I always find the secret to a brilliant topping, is to use the torch twice once to create the melting sugar glass effect and then a second time to even out the browning/burning of the sugar.

If you don't own a blow torch, then you can place your ramekins onto an oven tray and put under the grill for three or four minutes, just keep an eye on the browning process so it doesn't burn.


The sugar did make a lovely Crème Brûlée topping, with the Golden Syrup adding a lovely rich taste and it made a brilliant CRACK when attacked with a teaspoon. No doubt I'll be making more with the sugar, so check back and I'll link them up in this post.

We were sent the British Inspired Golden Syrup Sugar with a British Tea Cup.

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Summer Writing

This Summer, I'm working hard to make sure that Top Ender and Big Boy don't suffer from Summer learning loss and also to make sure that the skill areas that they struggle with at School is given some serious attention so that hopefully next year they will have a better foundation to work from and put them on a more level playing field with their peers.

Handwriting is one of those areas.

We have a theme for the summer, it's friendship and was decided by Big Boy. It fitted in well with some of the projects I had in mind and I was able to adapt others to fit in within the friendship theme. So far we've;

Created postcards from characters in a new book we were sent to review.

Penguin On Holiday Post Cards

Sent handwritten letters to Nanny B.

Handwritten Letters to Nanny B

Started to write down the stories we tell each other about Pirates.

Pirate Pictures For Our Story

There is a lot more that we've been doing, for example we're keeping journals (which maybe we'll share at the end of the Summer), and are going to be doing like writing Menus and invites to parties.

Do you practice writing at home? Or are you looking for a five year old boy and nine year old girl penpal? As always let me know what you do or think in the comments!

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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Washing The Car

Daddy decided he was going to wash the car and invited the children to help him.

Big Boy decided that he was only going to help, if he could use his water gun and had great fun doing so.

Big Boy Washing the Car with a Water Gun

Top Ender decided that she would help too and also had great fun.

Top Ender Washing The Car

Despite it being a rather good work out for Daddy, he had fun too.

Daddy Washing The Car

It reminded me that the Children don't need fancy toys and days out to have fun during the Summer months, or indeed at any other time of year. All they really need is the encouragement and love of a parent and time.

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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The First and The Last

Today is the last day of School for us here at A Mother's Ramblings... well for this School Year anyway. I had said I was going to make today special for the Children and despite other things going on that are needing my attention (may I direct you to this tweet) I've still got my plans to stick too!

The first part of this plan was taking a picture of the children on their last day at School to see the difference between then and now.

Top Ender and Big Boy on First Day of Term 2012
First Day of Term 2012
Top Ender and Big Boy on Last Day of Term 2013
Last Day of Term 2013

What do you think? Have they grown? I think that they have both grown a bit and look a lot more slender now than they did at the start of the School year. 

My kitchen door also still needs painting...

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Sunday, 21 July 2013

What You May Have Missed...

Every so often I get to do a sort of roundup post of things that you may have missed if you don't live with me, don't follow my every word on Twitter and Facebook or notice the odd photo on Instagram. Of course if you are one of my many stalkers, then you'll already know all this but as we all know it's good to share.

So I went to Henley with BMW.


BMW Henley Badges

Posh people are most amusing as at their festivals they eat three course meals, drink Champagne and do it all whilst dressed in Evening Wear. I got to borrow a BMW 3 series for a few days, and there will be a blog post about it soon but I doubt I'll ever own one as I'd be constantly worried that someone would hit me or scratch it!

I went to the Hyde Park London Chapel and Visitors Centre.


Honestly, if you wanted to know more about Mormons (like me!) and are in London and on Exhibition Road then pop in. For a start it's air conditioned so nice and cool, they have some nice little videos to watch with some quite comfy benches and all Mormons are like me. No, not obsessed with social media, happy to chat to anyone!

We got our School Reports


I used to like getting a report sent home, as I could find out if I really was as smart as I thought I was or if I was actually just useless but the Teachers didn't like to tell me to my face. As I told Top Ender after her superb, advancing above where we'd expect a child of her age to be, report it's okay to be smart and it's even better if you work at it to be even better. Something I wish I'd been able to tell nine year old me. Big Boy's was just as brilliant, and despite knowing that he is a good boy I was still surprised to see it mentioned in his report.

I took an Ice Cream to School


Ice Cream in a Cool Bag

With the weather being warmer than we'd normally have (despite it being Summer, when it's supposed to be hot) and it nearly being the end of term, we took an ice cream to one of our favourite teachers at School. You see, we love Miss Charles* (*Name changed to protect the innocent and all that) and thought she deserved one. You'll be pleased to know that in a cool bag filled with reusable ice blocks an ice cream in a cone can last at least 15 minutes without looking sorry for itself.

My husband took a day off.


And spent it with me. We went for a walk, we had lunch, we sat in the garden, we talked and plotted for the future and of course spent a huge amount of time in companionable silence whilst we did bits and pieces around the house and on the internet (ie this blog post).

I'm sure there was more going on, but for now that's all I can think of. Have you had a busy week?

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Saturday, 20 July 2013

What Are Your Budget Summer Meals

I was talking with some friends about budgeting for shopping the other week and it made me look at how much I spend, which is normally about £50-£70 a week for my little family of four and three cats. The majority of that is spent on fruit and vegetables and then meat and poultry (in that order too) as try as I might I still can't get my whole family eating meatless more than twice a week and even then I have to be sneaky about it.

Spaghetti on Toast

I've already given up fizzy drinks, and Daddy is well on the way to following me with abandoning that habit too and Tops and Big Boy like the odd glass of milk and squash, but like me most often just drink water. As a family we don't really eat sweets, although we do have to keep them about so that if BB has a hypo we can treat it (there is only so much Ribena or Orange Juice that one boy can drink) and puddings are of the home-made cake variety.

So I'm looking to see if I could make further savings and the only way I can see this happening is by making cheaper meals, as I already shop around to get the best prices of the food items we do buy.

This is where you come in. I'm after your brains as searching the internet has brought me a whole lot of the same advice on reducing my shopping bill and the same four or five meals repeated over and over and over... which wouldn't be bad IF they were meals that were suitable for the Summer!

What are your favourite budget Summer meals? Let me know in the comments because until you give me some great ideas my family are stuck eating beans or spaghetti on toast as a summer budget meal.

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Material Things I Need And Want Or Possibly Don't

I'm being selfish today and daydreaming about all the things that I need and want and probably don't really need and want in the grand scheme of things. It's a great game to play because sitting out in the garden in the early morning sun and relaxing and letting my mind wander over all the things I would do if I had some extra money is almost as good as having the money.

The Current Patio and Table Set

A Skip


I need a big skip to put all the rubbish on my drive way in and all the little stones that cover my driveway and are supposed to make it look nice, but just succeed in making weeding my drive annoying. Whilst we're at it can someone send me some industrial strength and sized weed killer?

A New Driveway


Once all the stones are scooped off my drive, I'll need a new blocked path driveway laid. That'll stop the weeds. Mwhahahahahahahahaha.

A Digger And One Of The Jack Hammer Things


I need a little mini digger to dig up part of my garden and the jack hammer to break up some existing concrete so I can lay a new patio and build a little retaining wall/raised flower bed along the side of the fence/patio and make it look pretty.

A Builder


I'd quite like a clever builder to come and knock down my garage and put a nice wooden timber frame garage/house thing where the garage currently is. Or build a ground floor extension to my house with a garage/storage bit towards the drive and a nice sun room towards the garage. Whilst he's at it could he put a French door in the den wall so we can get out to the nice new driveway?

Patio Furniture


I'm needing a nice little Parisian Cafe outdoor table set for the driveway, just outside the French Doors and a nice big wooden table for all the family to sit round on the nice new patio.

Hanging Baskets and Hooks


Big overflowing hanging baskets with flowers and foliage and brilliant colours and scents and if they are self watering all the better.

A New Camera


As my camera is a little bit broken, I need a new one so that I can take pretty pictures of my garden and my family enjoying the garden and the summer sun.

A New Car


I really do need a new car. Our family car is lovely, I love it and the little spaces in the floor to put drinks and high vis jackets and the like in but I'd be surprised if it is going to make it through it's next MOT without some serious cash being spent. Plus it likes to drink petrol a lot and so getting a new one might mean it's a bit more fuel efficient... and it'd look good on my nice driveway right?!


So that's it for now.

I could mention air conditioning and having pipes in walls, new curtains, a new sofa, new carpets, a new bed, a couple of windows and doors being replaced, a new bathroom and some nice clothes but I won't because instead I'm going to sit here and eat my breakfast and daydream about my garden a bit more.

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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Summer Holiday Plans

Every Summer, I hope for brilliant weather as I hope that Top Ender, Big Boy and I will be able to take long walks, have long leisurely picnics and generally enjoy the weather. This year, it has of course been a little warmer than generally us Brits are used to, but still here at A Mother's Ramblings we are excited about the weather and there is no grumbling about the heat, at least from me.

Big Boy and Top Ender on a walk

We have a plan in place, as is normal for us every Summer. We want to make sure we don't experience any Summer Learning Loss (where because Children aren't practising their skills, they basically lose the ability), we want to also maximise the amount of time we are spending together and also the Children quite like being my personal trainers in the summer and getting me running around after them...

Every year when we get the Children's School Reports, I take a look at what I can help the Children with over the Summer Holidays and make a plan of what we will do based around this. I've gone over my plan with Top Ender's teacher who has confirmed I'm planning activities that will help Tops improve her skills over the summer and give her a great foundation for next year and of course Big Boy will be getting the same great foundation for next year too.

We have a few family days planned. We aren't going on Holiday but we're having a Staycation and doing some bits and pieces in and around Milton Keynes. We'll be making sure that we spend some time with friends and family and of course with each other, although I'm sure that by the end of the first week Big Boy will have announced he's ready to go back to School!

And the children will have me running around after them. I love having them with me all day every day (remind me of that when I've broken up my 100th argument on the first day of the holidays will you?) and I love being able to do things for them and to let them know that I love them and want to mother them.

So, that's our plan for the summer, what's your's?

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Diabetic Insulin Pump

When Big Boy was diagnosed as being a Diabetic, the suggestion of a pump was brought up. It was brought up when we went for training on how to count carbs and calculate insulin levels, it was brought up at our appointments and each time I said No.

Diabetic Pen Injection

No, I don't want my son to have to have a pager sized machine attached to him 24/7.

No, I don't want to have to take out a cannula and reinsert a new one into my son every couple of days.

No, I don't want to run the risk of insulin not actually going into my son, because of a kink in a tube, or a tube accidentally being ripped out in the night.

Just No.

I had read up on the internet of what other people thought of the Insulin Pumps and continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion. I had read about the problems, I had read the downsides and when I weighed it up, the lesser of the two evils appeared to be injecting Big Boy before each meal and snack and correcting his levels as needed. And then the matter was sort of taken out of my hands, and our lovely Diabetic nurse talked me through the only option that would mean that Big Boy could lead a normal as possible life whilst at School.

I changed my mind about the pump.

And today when we go and see Big Boy's Diabetic team at the hospital for one of his quarterly check ups we're going to confirm that we want to start the continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion. We want to start insulin pump therapy. I've already spoken to our lovely Diabetic Nurse (I have no idea if she reads our blog, but if she does I hope she knows how much we love her) and she knew that we were going to change our minds about the pump, so she's already started the process about funding and arranging training for Daddy and I.

It's a big change for us, it's going to mean getting used to something new (again) but I'm hoping that this latest change will allow Big Boy more freedom to be him.

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Monday, 15 July 2013

A Letter To Top Ender's Teacher

At our School we find out who the teacher of our Children will be for the next School year tonight when reports are sent out. So I've penned letters to Top Ender's teacher, who has been her teacher for two years now and who I know won't be her teacher next year.


Top Ender at the park


Dear Miss Charles*,

You've been Top Ender's teacher for two years now and I can honestly say that apart from family members she loves you the most in the world. I know so much about you, or so it seems, because of the little tidbits you have shared with your class over the last couple of years and that Top Ender announces over dinner, that you seem like a family member so I hope it doesn't sound creepy that I think of you as family.

I remember meeting you for the first time, you seemed quiet and a little shy and I was pretty sure that the children in Top Ender's class were going to run rings around you. I shouldn't have worried, you had control over the class like the pro that you are because the Children like you and respect you. You gave them boundaries and support and they bask in this knowing that like their parents you'll tell them straight when you're disappointed in them but that you won't hold it against them. They know that you'll be there for them if they need you.

You have done so much for Top Ender. She's a bright girl, I know this, but sometimes she can be a little distracted. I have no idea where she gets that from... Under your tutorship she has blossomed into a wonderful young lady, who looks forward to sharing her knowledge and even though she still hates writing she is much more willing to give it a go because of the encouragement and help you've given her.

I know that Top Ender hasn't got you next year as a teacher and I'm actually heartbroken over this. I'm crying writing this letter, even though I'm not sure you'll ever see it, because I really want you to know how grateful I am to you and all that you've done for my daughter.

To me it seems that being a teacher is one of the most rewarding and yet unrewarding jobs that there can be. Here we are as parents entrusting our children to you, hoping that you'll help us raise them, teach them right from wrong, good from bad and what do you get for it? Do you get invited to weddings and graduations? No, you don't. You get all the work and none of the glory and I'm sorry for that, so please take this letter as some of your much deserved glory and I know it's not the done thing, but I hope that we can stay in touch so you can be invited to the graduation and wedding.

Thank you again for having loved my daughter.

Pippa

*Not the Teacher's real name, protect the innocent and all that.

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Mama's Family Cook Book Review

The last cook book I reviewed was the Vegetarian Step by Step from Parragon Books, given to me when I met the team at BritMums Live. This cook book was also given to me by the team and features one of my favourite cuisines as these are family recipes from Italian kitchens.

Mama's Family Cook Book Review

Reading in the first few pages that all the people in the book are made up, ruined my daydream of marrying into the family (I know I'm already married!) but didn't stop me drooling over the recipes! Reading through I knew that I would have to make a lot of adaptations to the recipes, as the Italians are well known for the inclusion of alcohol and pasta is of course not gluten free for the most part, but I knew it would be worth it.

I started off easy with making a Chicken and Mushroom Lasagne as I know my families love of lasagne, and it went down a treat, it was nice to have a change from a beef lasagne too. The Sausage and peppers was a great twist on our favourite sausage meal (we didn't use Italian sausages) and the Pork rolls were a fab idea and I have no idea why I never thought of it before!

I had a few of the other dishes for lunch and a few lovely starters with my favourite being the Calabrese Salad.

Mama's Family Cook Book Review

As you can probably tell, the meals are going to feature quite heavily in my meal plans over the Summer (and the winter, who doesn't love Pasta in the Winter?!) although I do need to be careful because with them being quite carb heavy we don't want Big Boy having blood sugar and insulin balance issues.

The RRP for Mama's Family Cook Book is £16.00 and is published by Parragon Books.

I was given the book in exchange for a review.

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Year Ago Today

At 9:47am one year ago today I tweeted that we were off to the hospital with Big Boy again. We'd been just a few weeks before, but had been sent home after further testing has told us everything was fine.

Just under one and a half hours later, we were letting the world know that we were pretty sure that Big Boy was going to be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and it was a bit of a shock to be honest. I can't say express how much the comments from friends and family on my Facebook page and via mine and Daddy's Twitter accounts meant to us. I heard Oprah say recently, that if the only prayer you ever give is one of Thanks then that is enough. So to those who let us know we were in their thoughts and prayers, Thank You.

Facebook Status Update

The day is a bit of a blur, but at the same time crystal clear. I can remember moments of the day as if they have just happened and other moments I forgot about until I looked back at the tweets and Facebook status updates that I made. I remember Big Boy had some magic cream applied to his elbows and the back of his hands, which had Big Boy screaming. We thought it was just due to him not liking being in the hospital, but we have since found out he has a mild allergic reaction to the magic cream, so it's no wonder he doesn't think that magic cream is magic.


Picture of Big Boy in Hospital

In some ways looking back at the day, makes me realise how far we have come. My blood phobia was still strong just one year ago, and when they were filling the vials of BB's blood I couldn't look for fear of falling on the floor in a dead faint. Now I can see blood and not only do I not pass out, but I'm also active in scooping it up!

Facebook Status Update

Facebook Status Update

And injecting Big Boy with insulin now, is so simple. We don't have to chase him around the house (we had to do that a couple of times at the start) we just ask him to come to us and he does. We've done it at Theme Parks, in cars, in hospitals, in shopping centres, in other peoples homes. Big Boy accepts it as part of his life now, as he does when I ask him if he is feeling low or high.

We've come to accept hanging around Hospital Waiting Rooms as part of life, I got quite an arty shot of an empty one once. We know to take something to keep us amused, something to drink (our local hospital seems to have the heating permanently on at the top of the thermostat!) and most importantly for me something to allow me to tweet.

Picture of Daddy and Big Boy in hospital

So today is the one year anniversary of Big Boy's diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. They say that the first year of anything is the hardest, so I'm pretty sure that despite this having been the biggest change to our family life, looking back we have coped pretty well and it can only get better from here.

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Lunch Plans (13/07)

I'm on a really tight budget this week (self inflicted) and I'm hoping that I'll be able to really stick to it, although I'm not sure I will!

Saturday - Leftovers Sandwich


We're at the cinema, so no doubt we'll have some popcorn and the like, but the children will need a sandwich when we get home (well Big Boy will), so we're thinking leftover of whatever we have in the fridge!

Sunday - Picnic


We're at the cinema in the morning (I know two days in a row!) and so we'll be eating lunch in the car on the way home. We have picnic because I know that Tops and BB love a picnic.

Monday - Quiche


I've made a lot of quiches recently. They are great because both children like them, I can sneak veggies in and they travel well.

Tuesday - Ham and Veggie Pittas


I'm hoping that the children will enjoy a ham and veggie filled pitta today, well I say veggie filled, I'm going to grate up a carrot and an apple and mix it with strips of ham. I think that it'll be a refreshing filling.

Wednesday - Chicken Goujons


Thermos Lunchboxes

Big Boy has a hospital appointment just before lunch today, so he'll actually have lunch with me and Daddy before going back into School for the afternoon. I'll ask Top Ender if she wants hot goujons and if she does I'll send her lunch to School in her thermos bento.

Thursday - Ham Sandwich


I was thinking about sending the children in with a Chocolate Spread Sandwich today, but because my children don't understand the brilliance of combining chocolate spread with peanut butter I'm refusing to allow it and they can have a ham one instead.

Friday - Top Ender's Friday Lunch and Big Boy's Too!


I thought that we'd move to Germany today, as I was watching Phineas and Ferb and heard Doof's Dad shout "dich nicht bewege!" which I recognised as German for "Do not move!" and seeing as Doof and I will one day be married (Yes, I know he is a cartoon) I'd better get used to his homelands food!

So these are the lunches for this week, what do you think?

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Vegetarian Step By Step Cook Book Review

If you read my meal plan posts, then you'll know that not only am I pretty useless at coming up with meatless ideas but that my family aren't that good at eating meatless meals too often. It was quite lucky therefore that when I met the team at Parragon Books that one of the books they thought I might like to review was a Love Food Vegetarian Step by Step Cook Book.

Vegetarian Step By Step Cook Book Review

Reading through the book was interesting, everything is explained step by step (as it says in the title) and the majority of the items it mentions are ingredients that I know and either regularly buy already or would know where to find them in the Supermarket. The only downside is that the book isn't really aimed at my normally meat eating family as some of the meals are too "vegetarian".

I know, I know, how can a Vegetarian book be too vegetarian. Of course it can't, but as I have learnt with getting my family to eat fish, we have to ease them in with "easy" recipes first and then work up to the more detailed vegetarian flavours and foods.

Vegetarian Step By Step Cook Book Review

I have made a few of the dishes from the book though. The Rigatoni with Courgette, Tomato and Mascarpone was delicious (despite Daddy thinking he'd hate it and having to change the Rigatoni for Gluten Free Penne) and the Watercress and Mushroom Pate was very well received as mine and Daddy's Sunday night treat.

I really do think that this book is going to become a trusted favourite, sure we'll have to make some adaptations to make the food gluten free but we have to do that for a lot of recipes that I find. It's great being able to see everything laid out step by step, with photographs because that way I can compare what I'm doing to what it should look like!

The RRP for the Vegetarian Step By Step is £16.00 and published by Parragon Books.

I was given the book in exchange for a review.

Have you added A Mother's Ramblings to your RSS Reader? Make sure you never miss a brilliant lunch or a fantastic family moment.  

Also don't forget to follow my Weight Loss and Fitness Journey at Pippa World too!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Banning Packed Lunches

It's not often that I talk about things that are going on in the news, I find it far too depressing and would rather live in my happy land where bad things don't happen and everyone is happy. Yet this morning I couldn't help but see tweets about a BBC report about packed lunches and how two chaps who own a chain of restaurants have come to the conclusion that packed lunches should be banned in Schools.

Cue the outrage.

Why are people angry though?


I'm angry because it's a case of labelling all parents who send their child to school with a packed lunch as irresponsible and unable to provide a nutritious and healthy lunch. I think that it's a far better move to spend money educating not only the children in School (and the younger the better) about nutrition and how our bodies use energy, but also going back over this for all parents. I took Home Ec classes at School and I remember being taught what makes a balanced meal. Sure I might have forgotten a bit of it and put on a few extra pounds but I'm dealing with that. I'm sure that all of us learnt things like that at School and if we didn't then how on earth are we supposed to know how to make nutritious balanced meal plans for our families? Something, which I've just read that Nickie totally agrees with me on.

Sandwich Sushi Packed Lunch


Are School Lunches better or just different?


Other parents are angry because of the nutrition offered from School Meals. It's not all Turkey Twizzlers as some news stories would have you believe but it's far from being perfect in a lot of areas. I heard a woman on the radio today whose child has been told that they are only allowed one portion of vegetables with their School Lunch of Shepherd's Pie and had to have another Carb added... despite Shepherd's Pie already being covered in carb heavy mashed potato!

Have lunch will travel


Of course just because the meal at lunch is hot doesn't mean that it is nutritious, which seems to be what one of the restaurateurs on the radio this morning seemed to be insinuating. He said something along the lines of how when packing a lunch food that lasts had to be included, so processed meat and packets of crisps were the obvious choice for parents. I'm pretty certain that sausages are processed meat and also on many a School lunch menu but I'm guessing because they are hot that it's okay...

A Rainbow Packed Lunch


Cost and Value


Whilst I'm sure I could find a way to pay for my Children to have a School Meal if that was what I was being forced to do, it would have a huge knock on effect to the rest of my life. No longer would my family eat a cooked meal in the evening together, instead the children would eat a sandwich whilst Daddy and I ate a cooked meal separately later. That's going to help the family unit stay together isn't it?

Every Child is different


Alex at DaddaCool mentioned how price is an issue as well as portion size and I have to agree with him. Every child has a different appetite, some may be more energetic and need more fuel for their bodies, others may eat a lot less or may need more food one day compared to another, but unlike how a parent can take this into account and add more or less food to a lunch box a School Canteen can't do that.

We're quite a good example of how every child is different. Big Boy being a Type 1 Diabetic needs an exact measurement of carbs in his meal, and we need to know exactly what that is each meal. A scoop of mashed potato (for example) could vary time to time and so knowing that one 120g scoop is 19g of carbs is all well and so Big Boy needs half a unit of insulin (not his actual ratio) for that scoop is fine, until the next time when it's nearly the end of a tray of mash and so he gets 90g of Mash but because it's a scoop still gets the half unit of insulin and before you know it he's suffering a hypo.

Chicken and Vegetable Rice Packed Lunch

What about children with allergies? Are School's going to make everything gluten free, egg free, milk free just to make sure there isn't cross contamination?

Will it ever happen though?


Today I've spoken with several parents on Twitter and Facebook who have said that they love the lunches that I make for my children, that they take inspiration from them and they can see that I carefully plan what the children have, making sure there is a variety and that nutritional needs are met. Thank you for the lovely compliments, and for all those who've linked to me in various posts today saying just that.

Halloween Themed Packed Lunch

Most of these parents are equally outraged by the suggestion of banning packed lunches and are sure that there are other measures that could be put in place to help parents, but what do you think?

Should the government be telling us what we can and can't feed our children?

Should School's be allowed to ban certain foods from lunchboxes?

Should there be more education to not only our children but to us too?

The only good thing I can see coming out of this rather stupid report is that it has opened a dialogue for everyone to join in with about food and health and nutrition. Maybe now we'll see some changes that actually helps families, maybe we'll see changes to the labelling of foods and the understanding of how a balanced diet means you can eat almost everything in moderation.

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Meal Plan (W/C 13/07)

This week is a really busy one for me personally, but I know that we'll be fine as long as we really do stick to our meal plan!

Saturday - Honey Mustard Lamb with Mashed Potato


We are out during the morning, at the cinema and then we're off shopping with my Mum and then this for our evening meal. I don't think we've had this for quite a while and when teamed with green beans and sautéed mushrooms it's one of my favourite meals.

Sunday - Sunday Roast


I'm technically not here today, but Daddy, Top Ender and Big Boy will need to eat and so Daddy will make a Roast to share. I think that he may go for Sausages instead of a Chicken though as it makes it easier for him as he won't have to carve the Chicken.

Monday -  Chicken Chilli


I'm going to be out for most of the day today, so I'm thinking that if I make Chilli I can put it in the Slow Cooker and let it cook away without me and by the time I get home with the Children after School, all I'll have to do is serve it up with Taco Shells or Tortillas and we can all eat!

Tuesday - Jambalaya


Jambalaya

I really enjoyed the Jambalaya we cooked a few nights back, I think it was the Chorizo which really did it for me as I've been having dreams about it since.

Wednesday - Mushrooms on Toast/Beans on Toast


Tonight is our veggie night, the children will have Beans on Toast and possibly an egg whilst Daddy and I will have garlic mushrooms on Toast.

Thursday - Lemony Salmon Pasta


I'm going to stir strips of Smoked Salmon into pasta, complete with a cream cheese lemon sauce and possibly some spring onions and some salt and pepper. It'll be a light meal, but still quite sustaining and of course family friendly.

Friday -  BBQ Turkey Burgers


Tops was asking about food that we like to cook, and she assumed that the BBQ Chicken Burgers was mine. I'm not sure why, but it did remind me how much we love the burgers and so we had to put it into the meal plan.

So these are the meals I'm planning this week, what are you planning this week?

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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

When I drove a Volvo or My Audition for Top Gear

I don't know much about cars, well actually that isn't true. What I should say is other than what I've learnt from Top Gear and Fifth Gear, I don't know much about cars. Actually, even that isn't true as proved when Daddy and I met Quentin Willson and I was Top Girl on the Leaderboard at the Shell Event we went to last year.

Okay let me start again.

I know a bit about cars, not a lot, but enough to let me talk to people who do know things about cars and I know enough that when Volvo say;

"Come on out to Sweden where we'll show you some rather clever technology that we're working on to put into all our cars from the end of 2014 and we'll even let you test some of it out if you want..."(They may not of said this exactly)

you reply 

"When do I come?"

Volvo Logo on the Wall of a Swedish Hotel

So, I flew out to Sweden (which I only got to see a tiny piece of but have to say it's really pretty) and mostly looked at a lot of trees as I was driven to my hotel. Once in my hotel room, I looked out to see more trees and I think part of a golf course and then got to eat really nice food in a restaurant that looked out to yet more trees. And the next day I got taken to Volvo HQ (again there were more trees there too) where I heard lots of interesting facts about safety in cars, got to see what happens when two Volvo's hit each other and the damage a moose can do if you hit one, when it comes out from behind a tree... not so much a problem in the UK as in Sweden I imagine.

Then the fun bit happened, I got to drive a Volvo. 

Actually I got to drive several Volvo's and have a bit of fun with the new Technology, which you can see if you watch this video, which I'm titling;

My Audition for Top Gear



So there you go, lots of tech, lots of driving and lots of clever Swedish Engineers. I'd be a perfect fourth wheel for Top Gear wouldn't I?

I was flown out to Sweden to try the new Tech out for myself, it's rather clever and now I want a Volvo.

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Last Day of School Fun

Next Tuesday is the last day of School this year for Top Ender and Big Boy and I want to make it special for them, really special, so these are my plans to make the day fun.

Top Ender and Big Boy on their First Day of School 2012


1) I'm decorating their bedroom doors for when they wake up, like I did for Big Boy's birthday.

2) I'm taking a photo to compare to the one from the first day of term.

3) They are going to have a special packed lunch.

4) I'm putting a banner across the front door welcoming them to Summer.

5) If it's dry, we're going to have an outdoor movie night and BBQ.

I'm sure there are a lot more things I could do, but these are the ones that I know that Tops and Big Boy will enjoy. What are you planning on doing or have you already done?

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Nashville Boxset Review

My Mum brought my Sister and I up listening to Country Music, amongst a whole range of other types of Music, but it was Country that really spoke to me. I loved the stories that were told and the seemingly simplicity to the music. Even Daddy has a soft spot for Country, and is often heard humming a few of his favourite tunes. When I saw that two of my favourite actresses were going to be in a show about Country Music and set in the home of Country Music, I knew I was going to watch. The main story of the show is about an older established Country Star, Rayna Jaymes (played by Connie Britton) who has secrets and family issues being pitted against newer Country star Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) who has her own family issues and secrets too. 

Nashville Boxset Review

The two dislike each other, but need each other to be a success after being thrown together by their record label. As each battle between them is won or lost, nobody is quite sure if the personal losses they suffer along the way are going to be worth   being the undisputed Queen of Country.

Nashville DVD Box Set Cover Art

I was hooked, the show is amazing and as the finale was getting closer, I was getting more and more eager to find out how the stories were going to climax ready for a second season. I was thrilled when the complete first season was sent to me to review as it meant I no longer had to wait to find out what happened!

The finale has now been shown on TV and the 21 episodes will be available on a five disc set from July 15th with an RRP of £34.99. 

I was sent the box set to review.

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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Complaining And Change

I was in Tesco's doing the weekly shop, looking for various bits and pieces that I could buy for Daddy as treats that would fit his dietary needs. I got to the quite small free from section that is in our local store (small compared to the other local supermarkets) and saw some Muesli that looked nice and seeing as it is on the Free From section new that it was going to be gluten free, or something. On closer inspection however it wasn't Gluten Free. It wasn't "anything" free.

Gluten free Cereal next to non gluten free cereal - a serious mistake

I planned on carrying on doing my shopping until I found a staff member or manager, and eventually found a manager a few minutes later supervising the clean up of some smashed bottles of beer. I mentioned the issue to him and was initially dismissed as it having been my mistake, it wasn't just gluten free items in the free from section so the cereal was probably there because it was free from another allergen.

Tesco Free From Section With a non Free From Food mistakenly stocked

I explained that whilst he thought that might be the case, that this wasn't actually true. The Free From Section by Tesco's own definition is food free from Gluten and Wheat and I know this as I shop this section regularly and having foods which contain wheat and gluten next to products that are free from wheat and gluten could cause cross contamination and worse people expect to be able to pick up these items without checking and could cause serious health problems for some consumers. The manager looked a little annoyed, but went off to check (even though he was the Warehouse manager) and I left it a few minutes before venturing back round. 

There was staff member removing the cereal from the shelf.

My complaint had caused the manager to check, find out that I was correct and they were sorting the issue out. Even though I was slightly disappointed that Tesco had made the mistake in the first place, I was really pleased that they had dealt with the situation so fast.

I learnt from this that if you are annoyed by something then complain and change can happen... now what shall I complain about next?

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Monday, 8 July 2013

Frankie and Benny's New Menu Review

The other night, Tops and I went out on a Mummy Daughter Date night. I had been planning it for a while, we were going to have a meal and then go out to the theatre and in between we were going to get in as much girlie gossip as we could manage.

Frankie and Benny's New Menu Review

Frankie and Benny's had invited us to try their new specials menu out, so we thought it would be a great place to start our evening, and we even got Daddy home early so we could have a really long leisurely meal together.

Top Ender at Frankie and Benny's

Top Ender had been reading about the Hot Dog's on the specials menu, and was excited to try them so she was most disappointed when she found out that they are only available at lunchtime and as we were there in the evening she'd missed out. Still at least I suppose that means we just get to go again in the future!

I thought, that at nine, that Tops was allowed to be introduced to Mocktails. She instead ordered a Strawberry and Coconut Smoothie whilst I ordered an Amalfi Sunrise, which wasn't as nice as the last time I had it which was a shame, but Tops still thought it was great.

Strawberry and Coconut SmoothieAmalfi Sunrise

We decided not to go with a starter, we wanted to save room for pudding, but I did order a side portion of dough balls knowing how much Top Ender loves them. Tops ordered the Chicken Carbonara Bake, which was a bit dry in places and I ordered the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich which was actually so lovely I could have eaten it twice. Tops and I kind of shared our meals, which was lucky as Tops seemed to have hollow legs and ate way more than me.

Chicken Carbonara Bake

Philly Cheese Steak SandwichDough Balls

For pudding, Top Ender asked for the Banoffee Brownie minus the banana pieces and I ordered the Apple and Raspberry Crumble which they didn't have. They did have a plain Apple Crumble though, and so I quite happily ordered that as it is my favourite pudding in the whole world. The puddings as usual were top notch and if Tops and I ever do our planned restaurant crawl (different course at different restaurants) we'll be ending the night in Frankie and Benny's.

Banoffee Brownie minus the banana piecesApple Crumble with Custard

I do think that our local Frankie and Benny's in Milton Keynes is a great place to visit, the staff are friendly and will help out as much as they can, and despite being busy you never feel rushed to get through your meal. Our meal came to £32.05, which for a fun evening out with my daughter seems like a reasonable price to me.

Our meal and drinks were mostly paid for so that we could review the new specials menu, but because Tops and I have expensive tastes we did pay a bit extra.

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Scrambled Egg and Spring Onion Bagel

I'm having a real love affair with eggs at the moment. I'm not sure if it is because I read that people that eat eggs for breakfast eat less calories during the rest of the day, or because there are 100's of things that you can do with an egg. Either way, eggs for breakfast is a great way to start the day and the other morning, I decided I was going to make Scrambled Eggs and I thought I'd share the recipe with the world too.

Scrambled Egg and Spring Onion Bagel


Ingredients


2 Eggs
Splash of Milk
Salt and Pepper
2 Bagels
Butter
1 Spring Onion
2 Tomatoes
Squirt of Tomato Ketchup

Method


Crack the eggs into a bowl, add a splash of milk and lightly whisk before seasoning with Salt and Pepper. Heat the eggs through (either in the microwave, or over a low heat on the hob).

Slice the bagels and gently toast. When they are lightly browned, butter and add a smear of Tomato Ketchup over the top of the butter.

Slice the tomatoes and lay across the lower half of the bagel.

Once the eggs are ready, cut the Spring Onion into thin slices and mix into the eggs. Add half of the egg mixture to each of the bagels, add the bagel top and serve.

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