Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Homemade Christmas food gift type things

This year (as most years) there will be lots of homemade food-y things being given.

I may make lemon (or lime) curd again, especially if I get any more lemons from work!

Jam. There is always jam. I've not many any weird flavours lately, but my general rule for pretty much any sort of jam is using the same amount of fruit as sugar. Again, there are many other places who can give you much more information about making jam, but if you want to come make it with me in person, that's probably the best way for me to impart my knowledge and 'feeling' about making jam.

Chocolate bark. This is a fancy link to give you an idea, but I'll let you in to my little secret. Mine is almost always made with super cheap chocolate, and I'm probably more likely to use smarties on the top than any of the fancy things they suggest, but I've not had any complaints about it yet!
A silicone mat is very useful for doing the flat pieces to break up, and I've also got a growing selection of different shaped silicone moulds in a variety of shapes (like Christmas trees, circles, and Father Christmas)

These are my go to ideas, I'll let you know if I branch out and try anything else this year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Homemade Christmas gift related ideas

Working with little kids, and planning Christmas activities with them, I've spent a fair amount of time on google (I hate pinterest, so don't suggest it!) and have found a fair number of fun projects.

Christmas cards or wrapping paper made with hand prints. I'm not including a link, but there are sooo many ideas. At my work we did cards with Rudolph (hand fingers down for the face, two hands fingers up to be the antlers). Father Christmas, I think the hand was the beard? And Christmas trees, where the hand with fingers pointing up was the tree, then finger prints on top added decorations on the tree.

Salt dough decorations. There are many places more experienced with these. I will let you google. We are hoping to do initials of the children on a background piece, which will allow there to be enough dough to make a hole through for the twine. You can also do hand prints and paint them to be similar things to what I said above. I'm going to experiment with making coloured salt dough, to save making (then drying) then painting. I'll let you know how it goes!

Decorations/present tags with photos on. Over the weekend we watched a lot of Christmas films cos I was too tired to do much else, and I saw this cute idea in one of the films which had a little snowman with a photo of the child in the family as the head of the snowman. I'm probably not describing that well. The head of the snowman was a photo of a child. It looked very cute. I might have stolen it for work, had my colleague not already made snow globes with a photo of each child inside a laminating pocket, along with some confetti/sequins, and sealed around the edges with a pair of straighteners.

Apparently these are all craft-y ideas, so maybe I'll do another post with food ideas!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Chrismas is coming, the Debs is feeling fat

I need to work out how to do my current job, be a wife and a mummy, and get back on track with getting healthier. I was doing Slimming world for a while, and had some success at the beginning of the year, but that was before the world of work got in the way. I could go on a Saturday morning, or an evening session, but to be honest, I resent the time I could spend in bed! (and that goes for a Saturday or sometimes an evening, I have days I go to bed at 7pm when I feel a catch up is in order!)

I know that I need to eat more (read at least some)  vegetables, and a lot less sugar. And probably less potatoes and bread. But those are very much what we get a lot of from work, and what Menard is good at cooking!

For starters I'm working on good breakfasts. And good lunches. That are not only healthy, but also ones that I want to eat! And less toast and bagels and other bread products at work!
(I probably need to suck it up and go low carb and no sugar, but I'm also realistic that that will be a very hard thing to do)

I also need to work out whether I try very hard to actually get to the gym, or whether it's time to admit it's not fitting into my life at the moment, and work out what would fit.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Good evening

Well my little run of blog posts got a bit scuppered, firstly by getting better from my chest infection, so although I had a few posts scheduled, I then didn't have time to write any more. And then, when I had a productive weekend on the computer planned, to get my assignment written and some blog posts in between, my clearly weakened immune system when down with a horrible stomach bug, which had me weak and feeble for several days. Tummy is ok, but still feeling a little tired and run down, so I'm hoping and praying I can avoid the germs while I try to get myself even better.
I've started taking a probiotic that my sister recommended, after the antibiotics. And I've been started off with some kefir grains from a friend, so I've been trying to drink some of that every day. Hopefully all the good bacteria will have me up and running in no time. I have three weeks left of my term (four for Soph and JJ) and it's all guns blazing from now until the end of the term, so I need to be not getting any more illnesses!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Christmas Presents

One of the things I hate about Christmas is the hype and the money spending. We had a wander around The Range the other day. If you don't know it,  it's one of those shops where you can buy anything and everything. Craft stuff, sewing, hardware and building bits, kitchen stuff, furniture, food and more!

We had a wander around looking at things for present ideas for the kids. OK, this may shock people, but while we were there we allowed them to pick something each that they wanted to be their Christmas present. And then we bought them, with them right there with us. And brought them home and put them away. I expect we will get a few little bits and pieces for them that will be a surprise, but right now they both have a big ish item, that they know about, and that cost around £15.
Yes, that's it. £15 is all I spent on each of my children for Christmas.  As I said, we may get a couple of other things, but I very much doubt we will spend much more than £5 or £10 on each of them beyond that initial spend.

We will read books during December about the story of the Christmas nativity (more about that idea in another post, maybe). Each of those books came from the charity shop and cost 20p or 50p. They sit in a basket that cost about a quid, also from the charity shop.
We have a tree we bought last year from tesco, and the box was a bit battered, so it was reduced. I forget what to, but I think it was under ten pounds. We have a bunch of Christmas decorations. There are the ones the kids made, like the angel that sits at the top of the tree. We have a lot that we found in charity shops for a small amount of money.

I bought presents in Sainsburys the other day with some of my nectar card points. I've done the same with amazon cards I earned doing swagbucks and an online market research website.

Other presents we give will be homemade - jams and chutneys, most likely homemade chocolates and maybe biscuits.

I share these facts from our little world, to perhaps inspire, maybe make you stop and think. Perhaps you'll just think that I'm a cheapskate and leave it at that. But I'd like to inspire people to not just think about spending lots of money, not to think that is has to cost the earth. But instead, perhaps Christmas could be something different and something more than that.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Goldilocks and the three bears

I can't wait to use these story stones with the kids at work! They were beautifully painted for me by a friend, and I'll be using them this week for literacy and maths activities. Jaiden just tried them out and did a great re telling of the story! I'll let you know how it goes with the kids :)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Early Christmas Presents

My slow cooker, which I got when I was pregnant with Sophia, is giving up the ghost. It's been overheating somehow, which means it needs to be stood on the wooden chopping board, to protect the surface underneath, and it doesn't give us confidence to leave it alone cooking when we are out. (Basically it's regressed and turned into a reluctant small child?!)

So I'm been starting to look at other options to replace it, especially since my lovely Mummy offered to buy something for my Christmas present this year. I've looked at slow cookers, and I've looked at instant pot/pressure cooker type cookers, and I haven't been totally convinced about either. And then we went out too look for Christmas presents on Saturday and I spotted the air fryers. I'd thought about one of those too, but having looked up prices for the branded ones, I'd quickly moved that thought on!

However, what we spotted was a generic brand type air fryer, of a decent size, for an ok amount of money (and when it rang up £15 off at the till, that was even better!). I did some on the spot googling (gotta love phones these days!) and checked some of the things you could make in it, we saw it had a three year guarantee, and thought, hey, let's go for it. (And Menard said he'd get it for me for Christmas, so I'll have to come up with another idea for my mummy!)

And y'all, although we said we'd put it away for Christmas, the urge to make chips in it right away was too strong, so we pulled it out and go on with it. We made chips for lunch and they were pretty good. Then later we cooked some pork and veg (Carrots and potatoes) for us, and we did some fish fingers and potato croquettes for the kids (cooking bits and pieces sort of day). And we were impressed.

Today we've cooked a pork joint (rather than the tiny piece we had yesterday) and we were still impressed. I quickly cut up and cooked some roasted veg to go in the fridge and be taken for work lunches, and it cooked in under half an hour, and I can walk away and it stops itself. I didn't burn my veg because I'd walked away to do something else! That is a game changer right there!
And the timings. It's quicker than in the oven! And healthier - less fat.
Although, healthier... well, I have to go. I need to check if the chocolate  brownies are done yet...!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Talking of how grown up my children are..

She's nine, people. Nine! Going on thirty? Or something!
We love this coat we found in the charity shop the other day for £4! Four Quid!
Amazing!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thinkings from my brain part two

I am very lucky to be able to share though my work, in the scheme a local supermarket have for sharing some of their unsold food from the day before, which is collected by someone at work, and then shared out with families who use our facilities. Because I hate food going in the bin, if there's any left at the end of that day, I can often be seen taking home a motley collection of bits and pieces to share with my neighbours and cook for our dinner!

I think, so long as you can detach yourself from the idea of the perfect carrot, anyone can take a slightly sad carrot, wash and peel it, and give it new life in a meal.  It may be slightly sad and wanting, but it can still taste amazing!

For example, things I do with carrots who've seen better days...
*Throw into soup. My favourite recipe is a butternut squash, carrot and cumin recipe, but to be honest you can't go too far wrong just throwing things into a pan with some homemade stock, or just hot water and a stock cube. My only advice would be, don't go too big if you're being experimental (unless you have some willing friends or family who'll help you eat up a vat of soup) or have some pots handy for freezing in portions. If I were super amazing, I'd use glass to freeze portions in, as is it, I tend to use plastic pots which get used umpteen times before they're recycled, so that's something anyway.
*Risotto is another fairly easy recipe to throw random veg into. You can always serve with bacon or sausages if you need your meat in the meal.
*Roasted veg. Any number of root veg can be thrown into a bowl and tossed in a little oil and herbs, then roasted on an oven tray. If you use what you've got, then eat time it will taste a little different, but it will most probably be delicious!
* Grate into other dishes. Things like courgettes and carrots are so easy to grate into other things. Bolognase, chilli, omlette filling, sausage casserole....
*Put it in a pie! I make chicken and veg pie. I'm a working mum, so don't judge when I say I usually buy the pastry (reduced, if i see it!).  A little chicken can go a long way. I either use leftovers, or poach some breast or boneless thighs. You can make a white sauce easily, or to be honest, I quite often use a tin or two of chicken soup (some of those came from work too!). Use loads of veg, saute together, starting with the stuff that needs longer cooking, like onion, or chunks of carrot, or grate the carrot in, and it'll cook quicker.
*Use it in baking. Carrot cake, muffins, most recipes are very versatile. You'd be surprised what I've used up in muffins, unless you know me in person, in case you might not be surprised!
*Throw them (peeled) along with an onion/celery/some herbs or peppercorns and some chicken bones into a saucepan or slow cooker and make your own stock. Add a dash of acid like vinegar or lemon to draw the nutrients out of the bones. 

There you go, at least six different ways to use up slightly (or very) sad carrots. What ingredients would you like ideas for? I might just have some ideas to share...

* By very sad, I mean the ones that are actually going a bit black on the outside. If they're not total mush, you can actually use a decent peeler and scrape that stuff off and still use the carrot. Ok, it won't be as good for you nutritionally as a fresh grown one, but it's still probably better than other things you might choose to eat. I dare you to give it a go!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thinkings from my brain part one

I've been reading a lot lately about reducing plastic use. I'm definitely not an expert in this, just sitting here, I'm looking around my room and I can see all sorts of plastic around me. But I definitely think it's something that every one needs to think about seriously. Recycling is not enough (although it's definitely the right thing to do with any plastic you have already that can be recycled) but we need to ultimately cut down on using plastic altogether.
Things I've tried to do so far -
* Reusable containers in the lunch boxes. I take a lunch to work every day. The kids have one maybe once a week, when they really don't like the school lunch options that are available.
I have a bunch of plastic (yes, still plastic) reusable pots which we use for sandwiches and fruit like grapes or raisins, rather than using plastic bags that will be thrown away after one use.
- more things I could change - working on sending homemade things like flapjack/cookies rather than sending things like cereal bars that we sometimes buy and send.

*Similar to the last one - reusable drinks bottles. Sophia has a metal one that she got for a birthday, from a company called One Green Bottle, I believe.  My sisters are both further ahead on this with me. We also have some plastic bottles which get washed and refilled many times before they are thrown out. (Some are systema, bought ones, a couple are purchased drinks that are reused). Again, not the best solution, but better than throwing a plastic bottle in the bin every day.

* Plastic containers/glass/plate on top options for saving leftovers. I could pretend that's because I've stopped using cling film, but actually, I've always hated the stuff and avoided it like the plague. So really I was just ahead of the pack on this one, right?!

* Shopping bags. I've got a lot of reusable bags. Some are plastic, some are better fabrics like cotton. ideally they'd all be organic fair trade cotton or something, but I settle for reusing what I have now, and making better choices if I do have to buy any more.

I'm sure there are others, but there are also people doing this far better than I, so get googling, and if I find any good resources I'll try to share.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

This is me, November 2018

Well well well, hello little blog, nice chatting to you again.

This post is inspired by a chance comment from a work colleague, so perhaps, here I go again .

A lot has changed around here. At February half term I put a cv online and got set to put my toe in the water for being a working mum. I had a half term temping in a lovely school, but the commute was too much and it wasn't working out for my family, and after much thought and tears, I realised I had to put my family first. Next came some temping in a nursery much more local, but they didn't have a job for me long time, and the temping hours were unpredictable, so I needed to look elsewhere.
Of course, I'm not going to tell you exactly where I am now, but I'm settled in a lovely early years setting, with an amazing team, and have been since June. I'm working towards an early years qualification, because despite having lots of experience and qualifications, I didn't have anything that was exactly what they needed in regards to legalities for staff ratios and stuff like that. So that's where I am, working fully time, every weekday. Menard, in the meantime has had to pick up a lot of the at home stuff, on top of his working hours, so things are a little different. However, by God's grace, and that alone sometimes, it is working!

Sophia is now 9 and JJ will be 7 in December, they're both growing up fast. It often, and especially with facebook memories and things like that, seems like it was just yesterday that they were little and it was all breastfeeding and waking in the night, the logistics of making sure we got out the house to wonderful mums and tots groups and all that jazz. Wherever did that time go?! I am enjoying working with little ones again, but also appreciating how grown up and responsible my two have got (most of the time!).  They're definitely still kids, but they're kids with their own minds and opinions and questions (and boy, does Jaiden have good questions!And by good I mean very hard to answer sometimes!)

So with all that going on, I don't really have time to resurrect my blog again, but I think I might like to all the same, to give myself a little place of my own to escape to briefly sometimes.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017