Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happy birthday...

... To my lovely big sister.

Life is pottering along. Still getting used to the new norm of the kids being at school all day. Time for me to start job hunting/deciding what I want to do next with my life, and bringing another income of some sort would be good too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Rainbow party planning ideas

 This post is just a quickie to share the links I found most useful when I was planning and preparing for Soph's rainbow party.
Rainbow biscuits  - our recommendation would be to not make equal parts of every colour, there's been some mathematical debate as to the actual proportions you need, but basically, start small and make each section bigger. We ended up making extra dough to do the final two and a half layers.  We used mostly food colouring from Aldi and some old liquid colours, but I'm told some power colours that you get in cake shops may be brighter colours with less effort.  
 Coloured pasta. I looked at a few blogs' and then sort of did my own thing.  Rubbing alcohol was suggested, but we cant get that easily in the UK, so I got a bottle of white vinegar.  Cheap and cheerful! Put a quantity of pasta in a bag, ziplock is good, but we made do without.  Add a capful of vinegar and a squirt of colour and then rub and shake around until they're all covered.  Tip out onto newspaper to dry.  We found that the ones we added more liquid to ended up sticking to the paper and not drying out properly and we threw one lot away.

Fruit and veg platters. I used
Veg - tomatoes, carrot, yellow peppe, mange tout, and beetroot crisps.
Fruit - strawberries, small easy peeler citrus, banana, green apples, blueberries and purple grapes

Colouring the cake  - I wanted to use as many natural colourings as possible, but I did supplement a couple of them with food colouring.   Some sites I used to get ideas are here and here and here.
I think the things I used were as follows
Beetroot juice for Red
Carrot juice and a little beetroot juice for orange
Turmeric for yellow
Spinach juice for Green
Blueberries (cooked and sieved)(and a fair amount of food colouring) for blue (still turned out grey!)
Blackberries (cooked and sieved) and beetroot juice for purple

As you can see, the colours didn't turn out exactly how I wanted them to for a strict rainbow, so I decided to mix up the layers.

Other ideas - pin the tail on the unicorn. We didn't end up having time to do this.
Decorate biscuits - We made biscuits ahead of time and used icing sugar and water and a little food colouring to make a couple of colours of icing, and a bunch of sprinkles (buy from B&M store, if you have one, cheapest place I've found for them!), marshmallows and skittles (taste the rainbow!)
Pass the parcel - the prizes were a colourful notebook and a packet of felt tip pens. I did two parcels with 12 layers each and sent them both round at the same time (I wasn't sure how many kids there would be, turned out to be 18, so some people got a second turn)
Different coloured pots of playdough for game prizes. 
Menard printed off some pictures of rainbows, rainbow dash etc and we hung them on thread from the ceiling.  And some rainbow butterflies were stuck on the windows.  And I got some multi-coloured bunting and hung that. We had paper plates with lots of colours on.

Hope that's helpful to anyone wanting to plan a rainbow party!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Savoury, yet sweet

Today's prune delights are being cooked for my church life group, so I hope they enjoy them!

I'm making a Moroccan themed chicken dish to be served with rice and sweetcorn (because it's easy!) and then a prune cake which I made yesterday for those who gave me the giant prune tin in the first place, and it got such rave reviews that I thought I'd make it again for my group. It's a bit like sticky toffee puddings, I think, but less fiddly to make. I used milk with a squirt of lemon juice in to make homemade 'buttermilk'. I used a couple of handfuls of flaked almonds, not a whole cup of nuts, and I used honey in place of corn syrup in the icing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Photos of things that have happened around here lately ish (now that I can post pics again!)

I found my 200th geocache
Soph got a happy birthday sticker at school and was very proud of it 

JJ sat on a swing with a book (school wanted places of kids reading in interesting places!)

Daddy added a cool cardboard den addition to the little bike shed.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

hashtag prune week

Ok, so it all started when I was gifted a ginormous tin of prunes. We're talking 2.7kg of prunes, which is almost 6lb of them.  Well actually, it says drained weight is 1.7kg of prunes, so there's a fair amount of syrup too, but its still a lot.

Not to be someone who does things by halves, I came up with the concept of prune week. I post all about prunes on facebook, and share recipes that I've tried out and stuff like that, and then if anyone else wants to do it too, they can use my #pruneweek to label their posts, and that way they can be searched and found (probably by me, but anyone else who is interested too!)

So today kicks off the start of prune week with a prune cake.  I like the idea of this recipe because it contains no extra sugar. Because I'm using prunes in syrup rather than dried, I adjusted the recipe by using 100ml of water and 100ml of syrup and that made the batter wet enough.
It's just cooked through (checked and the knife came out clean) and is cooling on the side, verdict to follow in the next prune week post!

Edited to add verdict - we weren't impressed, I'll admit. Also, although a skewer pulled out clean, it still managed to not be cooked through in the middle. It was ok cake, but I think the prune taste was too strong for the kids.
We shared some cake and prunes with our lovely neighbours. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Friday, October 07, 2016

summer throw back

Baby wearing my beautiful niece whilst on holiday in Devon in the summer. I loved every minute
(There is a real baby under that hat, honest!)

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Rainbow cake, or not

Busy baking.
Interesting results with my food colouring (natural and bought)
This is really just a place holder post!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Party prep

Yesterday was a busy day, I'd been in three shops, two of them supermarkets, and got home before half ten! My sister Bekki and niece Phoebe came for the day and we got busy busy busy.

We started off colouring pasta for the children to use to thread onto twine to make necklaces.
There's a photo on my facebook page here.

We baked practice cakes using natural food colouring to work out which will work for my rainbow birthday cake for Sophia, and which I'd do best to supplement with some not so natural food colouring gels!

And finally we made rainbow biscuit dough and made a few to try. They didn't turn out exactly as in the original post, and we ended up making extra dough for the final two layers.

Hopefully those links will work, not sure I've tried to do them on my phone before.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Experimental cooking

For dinner last night we had a random things out the freezer night. I found two 'white fish' fillets and decided to feed them to the kids.
We've made homemade chicken nuggets before so I decided to use a similar method with the fish. We coated them in cornflour (well, barely, I was running out). Then dipped into beaten egg and then into breadcrumbs (just some dry bread ground up in my ninja bullet with the grinding bland). Each child got to get messy and coat their own. Then onto a greased baking tray and into a hot oven and cooked until the breadcrumbs we're golden brown.

The verdict....

Soph - I like it a little bit.
(Mummy - that's better than "I hate it", I'll take that!)

JJ - yeah, good.

Mummy - no fish smell! Result! Would make this again for them (I don't eat fish)

Monday, October 03, 2016

Rainbow party

Can you believe it, Sophia will be 7 on the 7th. This very week! And this blog was going far longer than that too. I apologise for the huge inconsistencies in blogging (for the last two years that seems to be blogging in October and not much else!) and perhaps I'll manage to catch you up a little with our adventures along the way.

To celebrate her birthday we are planning a rainbow party. Now, I don't want to give everything away before hand, more whet your appetite for more updates after the event, and photos, I hope. My phone won't talk nicely to blogger but hopefully I can a device that will!

Cake - there will be multiple layers and there will be smarties. I also hope to experiment with natural food colouring.

Games - I still need to locate some rainbow themed (even just striped colours would be ok) wrapping paper for pass the parcel. I intend to alternate with newspaper because I'm still me thrifty self at heart!
We are also working on a variation of mr bear, your honey's not there. Possibly Mrs rainbow, your gold's not there?

Activities - I have a couple of activities I need to prep for, but which will hopefully let them create fun take home gifts at the end.

Food - I'm planning fruit and veg platters in rainbow stripes, and Bekki has found a wonderful recipe for rainbow biscuits so we might try making them on Tuesday when she comes to see us.

Sunday, October 02, 2016


So it may be something or it may be nothing, but I totally just invented prune week. It's from Sunday 9th October until Sunday 16th.
The idea is, during the course of that week you cook or bake something with prunes in, or even just eat some prunes, take a photo and share it on facebook with the hashtag #PruneWeek and if you're friends with me, tag me too. And then we all get to see new exciting things to do with prunes and raise the profile of an often put down fruit.
Will you join me in celebrating prune week?

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Culinary adventures

I've tried quite a few recipes/techniques lately, but because I'm sat on the sofa with the two kids, half watching Topsy and Tim, and blogging on my phone, you'll have to wait a day or two for actual links. But in the meantime I can tell a bit about what I've tried and you can wait in excited anticipation for links and photos. (If you're friends with me on facebook you may have seen photos or read statuses about some of them, so bear with me!)

Easiyog- this is a yoghurt maker kindly passed on to me from a friend. They're designed to be used with their branded sachets of powder, and I was given several of the sachets, but unfortunately they were past their best before dates and the good bacteria in them had obviously died. We had success with one of them by using a couple of spoons of live plain yoghurt to the mix, so that was fun, but yesterday I made a batch of yoghurt from scratch using some bought plain yoghurt as a starter, and skimmed milk powder and water. The first batch turned out tasty but quite thick, and I've made a few adjustments and a second batch is on the go. You have to let it sit for eight hours so I won't find out until bedtime tonight how it's turned out.

Slow cooker - we had almost two weeks without a working oven so I used it as a good excuse to cook a number of dishes in the slow cooker, savoury and sweet. More info to follow about banana cake, a dense brownie fudge cake, steak, chicken and bolognaise. I've been really pleased with how things have turned out, although I admit it helps if you read the recipe properly - I cooked the chocolate fudge cake thing on high the first time and it was meant to be on low!

Friday, September 30, 2016

The big ship sank to the bottom of the sea

Today the children have the day off so we're heading down to see my in laws. We've not been there since Felix's big 80th birthday party in the summer, so I know they're desperate to see the kids, and maybe me and Menard too! (If daddy wakes up in time to come!)

I also need to take jj to get school shoes as the stop gap pair I bought at the end of the summer term are also well and truly scuffed through to a hole at the toes. What is it about boys and shoes? Soph is hard on her shoes too, but they've not ever been as bad as Jj's!

Other than that I'm just settling in for a nice quiet weekend with jj. We will leave Soph to stay with nan for a couple of nights and collect her on Sunday.
Hm, did I say quiet with jj?! We shall see. Perhaps we can locate some local ish geocaches and get the last three we need for me to hit 200.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Time for me

Now both children are at school six + hours a day I have time! I will be job hunting soon, but for the moment Menard and I have agreed that it's important for me to focus on me.

The past year I've been focusing on my brain - I've had some CBT and been on a ten week course about self esteem which have helped a problem to with my mental state, helping me find techniques to deal with and work through anxiety and negative thought patterns. I'm by no means 'sorted' but I think it's helping my thinking and keeping me on a more even keel. But next it's time to concentrate on the physical again. I've put a lot of weight on since I moved to new town, and although I've had various pushed towards losing it, all of that has piled back on again. Tomorrow I'm going back to a weight  loss group with a friend and it's time to face the number on the scales again. I'm also trying to move more. Working at making the little man on my pedometer cheer more (when you hit 10,000 steps). And Menard and I are also looking into going swimming together now we have time without kids around!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Lying in bed fiddling on my phone and breaking back into blogger, I can hear the wind blowing outside in a slightly wild way, different to how it blows in the summer. There's a wildness, an expectation of things to come. It says, just you wait, things are changing.

And lots of things have changed around here. We still live in new town but JJ is now in full time education at the same school as Soph. This means a whole stretch of empty day awaiting mummy. I've filled some of the days and others I've enjoyed just being me, and others I've just clock watched, waiting for the moment it's time to go and collect them, not quite certain of what this new season is bringing.

It's exciting, it's scary, and it's going to be more than a little bit different.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

peek a boo

Not forgotten about blogging, not dead. Just busy!

This time of year always seems to stress me out slightly.  I think its just the sheer onslaught of things to do and places to be, especially with Soph and JJ now at school (well, school nursery for JJ). There are craft sessions, nativity plays, parties, and various other events to sign forms for and send money to. There was the car MOT which stressed me out way more than it should have, but it's passed for another year, thank you God! Christmas shopping, which is actually mostly done, and just generally darker earlier evenings and later in the mornings which are just somewhat depressing.
Although we did go on a wonderful adventure to the post box the other day at 5.30pm with the kids dressed in high vis jackets and JJ had his hard hat on too. You never know what you might meet between home and the post box in the dark!
So I'm treasuring the empty moments when they do occur, to be some precious me time, and that means blogging hasn't been a priority.
If i ever work out how to make my technology agree with bloggers, I have some lovely photos to share. Maybe if i can remember how to hack myself into my flickr account I might manage to do it that way. Pondering....
Ok, bye for now, short and sweet, typing in the local library, who are wonderful and friendly, but I really ought to get on with my day now.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 days - day twenty two

Hurrah, school is out, half term holiday is here, we made it through the first half term of this year.

I'm wiped out.  Need some time to rest and have fun and enjoy life and not have to get up for the school run.

I'm also getting a bit burnt out on blogging, and I'm going away this weekend, so I will attempt to be back on Monday with something exciting to say.
I kow that breaks my streak,  but I think it's better to have something to say than to blog for the sake of it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

31 days - day 21

Today is back to the future day - it's the day in the future Marty travels to in the second film.
Fun random fact for you, which you probably know already if youve been anywhere on the Internet today!

I'm not even going to try to come up with anything else in this post because I have writers block

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

31 days - day twenty

It's half term next week for us, so the kids are off school for a week. Looking forward to having some fun as Menard is off work too. I will be looking for fun things that we an do, but we don't plan to spend lots of money.
Autumn is the perfect time for layering up and getting out, especially if you've got welly boots for squelching in the mud! Im hoping we can explore some of the parks and adventure places in our local and area and slightly further afield. If we can get some geo caches too then I'll be a happy mummy!

Monday, October 19, 2015

31 days of money saving and stuff - day 19

Oops. Almost got to the end of today without posting.  Better write something quick.

Actually, when I was in Aldi this morning I stocked up on some of their super six offer veg since they'll be changing on Thursday, I believe, and since it's potatoes, onions and swede, they ought to last for a while, so it was worth stocking up.

It made me think abut writing - make use of sales and special offers. But don't buy things that you won't actually be using, because that's not really saving money at the end of the day.

Today's hint/tip - make use of special offers and buy fruit and veg in season because they'll be cheaper.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

31 days of money saving and stuff - day 18

In a week where money is tight, or you need to pay some unexpected bills, try living out of pantry rather than going food shopping.  By that, I mean work on running down cupboards and fridge/freezer rather than buying fresh.

This serves two purposes, using up stock before it expires - this is good, if like me, you're not always good at rotating stock in the cupboard, making sure you use the old packets up before you use the most recent ones.

Secondly, it's an adventure! You're limited by what you have, so it's like an episode of ready steady cook. Think outside the box, think of ingredient substitutions you can make to switch up an ingredient in a recipe for something you have.  For example, it would be fairly easy to inter change fresh tomatoes/passata/chopped tomatoes/tomatoe purée.  It might change the consistsncy slightly, but overall the taste would be similar.
If you have a go, let me know what interesting concoctions you come up with!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

31 days of money saving and stuff - day seventeen

Happy Saturday!
I've been enjoying reading bits of The Complete Tightwad Gazette these last few days, and it's been reminding me that we all have different amounts of time and money, and it's about finding the money saving methods that work for you.

For me, I shop for reduced meat, veg and bread products. I compare prices and use coupons.
Don't feel bad if you can't do the same, but work on finding out what you do enjoy.  Do what you can do, without getting stressed and upset that you can't do it exactly the same way as I do. (although I hope I'm not reducing any of you to tears by my posts, but instead inspiring and challenging!)

Friday, October 16, 2015

31 days of money saving and stuff - day sixteen

Day sixteen! More than halfway through the month (just about!)

Hm, what to write about today?

A summary, perhaps?

I have a budget for my weekly shopping expenses. I make the most of supermarket price wars, supermarket offers, supermarket rewards and free stuff!

I think outside the box when it comes to things like present giving.

I like numbers.  I know in my head the cost of a lot of different items, but if you don't like numbers you can make a simple price comparison book (I say book, chances are a lot of you would want to use your phone, but I like paper and pencil lists!).  This can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be, but at its simplest, you'd write the name of the product and then what price it's being sold at in different shops, and add the date so when you look back, you can see how up to date that information is. I know I thought about blogging about price comparison books, but I can't remember if I ever did. Please ask questions if you want more info or help setting one up.
An alternative is to use a comparison site like My Supermarket, but Ive never had that much success getting it to work quickly when I wanted it to!

That's about enough for this post, right? What else would you like me to write about for the rest of the month?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

31 days of money saving and stuff - day 15


I can't talk about money saving without mentioning swagbucks.  Pretty much all my purchases on amazon are paid for with gift cards I bought from swagbucks using points I earned from doing simple tasks like answering the daily poll,and using swagbucks as my go to search engine rather than google.  You don't earn points every time you search, but they do add up. There are other things you can do like taking surveys, making purchases on other shop sites, but going through their site referral links.

If you follow my referral link below I will potentially earn some extra swagbucks for you doing so, but you won't lose out on anything :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

31 days of money saving and stuff - day 14

Make the supermarkets work for you

Obviously you have to give supermarkets money if you want to buy things from them, that's a given (of course, there are other places you can buy stuff too, and I'm all for shopping local and supporting local businesses,etc, but today im talking about supermarkets)

If you shop somewhere, and are likely to return, sign up for the loyalty card. Sainsburys nectar, Tesco clubcard, etc
- this means you get to earn points as you shop
- you'll also get sent vouchers/coupons either in the post, or printed out with your receipts at the end of a shop

Work the system.  I don't shop in sainsburys that often, I find them more expensive for the things I buy.  But I have a nectar card and pop in every so often, then that means I often get print out vouchers enticing me back. Like spend £15 and get 400 bonus points.  I combine those print outs with offers on sainsburys my coupons and I'm quids in. (more on that below) Can't get links to embed nicely.  You need to sign up for an account and link your nectar card, but once you have, you get a virtual wallet which you can fill with up to five coupons.  Next time you go, spend the money or buy the items that qualify you for those offers, wait a few days - make sure you leave the coupons in the wallet until you're credited with your bonus points.  If can be offers like 40 points if you buy a certain product, or say 450 bonus points if you spend twenty quid. If you ever shop at sainsburys, it might be worth a look.

Tesco orchard.  You'll need to google that, but it should come up easily.  Putting links in this post isn't happening today I'm afraid.  This is a site which runs campaigns.  Basically, you answer some surveys and then they'll match you up on campaigns that might interest you.  Currently I'm on one where they've sent me some vouchers to buy exotic fruit and then tell people about it! There's slightly more to it than that, but they talk you through it all in a friendly way.

Know your prices.  I know that sweet potatoes are cheaper at Aldi, so I generally buy them there. There are other things I can't get in Aldi, or prefer from Tesco that I buy there.  If you can, know prices and shop around.

If you shop in asda, always go online at least three hours after your shop and check the asda price guarantee. You may be entitled to a voucher if your compatible shop was cheaper elsewhere. There are a few terms and conditions, but super easy to do. You need to have bought at lest eight different items

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

31 days - day thirteen

Hm. Mid October writers block!

Happy birthday to my big sister, Bekki.

I'm attempting to get my eating back on track with whole30 program of eating.  This is my third round (although I only did twenty days on the last time, but that's better than none!)

Life seems to be getting crazy busy. Suppose I needs start Christmas shopping soon.

Monday, October 12, 2015

31 days - day twelve

The tale of Anna and Gill's apples.

Anna, a friend from school, who I'd reconnected with on Facebook, posted on facebook she had apples from her tree if anyone would like them - she wanted to spread some love and kindness and such like.

I'm a sucker for free stuff, and I thought it would be interesting to see Anna again after all this time (about 17 years on!) so I asked, may I have some?

Anna said, sure, come over, so we did.  JJ loved playing with Anna's son's train set. Anna and I had a lovely time chatting and I definitely plan to see her again.  One person loved and blessed.

I gave some apples to my mummy. Two people loved and blessed.

My neighbour brought round some pears they grew in her garden, I gave her some of Anna's apples.
Three people.

Gill popped round with bags of apples.  I was blessed again.

I asked on facebook if any friends wanted to come eat leftover party food and help me process apples from Anna (and lots from Gill). Good times working and talking together. Three more adults plus three babies/children loved and blessed. And I was blessed again by their help.

In my freezer there are several bags of peeled and chopped apples. I will use them to make jam, cake, and crumbles.  Many more people the apples will be shared with, loved and blessed.

A tale of a bag of apples. Friendships rekindled, friendships strengthened, people fed, people loved, people blessed.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

31 days - day 11


Autumn is apple extravaganza time.

Lately I have made

Apple crumble - I don't have a recipe, but something useful I did try and it worked; I froze the butter and then grated it into the flour. Instead of having to rub it in with my fingers and get messy at just the moment my kids needed me, I could just use a fork to sort of mush/mix the grated butter into the flour.

Stewed apple in the slow cooker - just cut up a bunch of apples, after you peeled and cored them (and cut out buggy bits, if you're a realist and don't mind using apples with those in, so long as you cut them out).  I was using eating apples so I didn't add sugar. I just cut and cut and cut some more until the slow cooker was almost full and then cooked on high for a few hours or a bit longer on low, until it was yummy and mushy.  You can add a splash of water to stop it sticking and get it going, but remember the apple will probably release a lot of moisture when it gets going.  I've done it with cooking apples and added extra sugar.  I've also use the cooked apples from this to make apple crumble.  Means you're really warming through, browning top, rather than waiting for the apple to cook from scratch.

Apple pie jam -This will look horrid and messy, but I can't make blogger embed my links today, ad I'm running out of battery life and time to do it.
This may or may not be what I burnt my mouth n the other day, but it gates and smell yummy. Mine turned out a lot darker than the photos on there.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

31 days of money saving and stuff - day ten

Present giving - give from what's 'in your hand'

This is about thinking outside the box, not wanting to give a present and immediately running to the shops (or the present box featured yesterday)

There are times that you want to show someone your appreciation, but your budget is already over stretched and sometimes that means you have to let the moment go.  But take stock for a minute what you have.  I don't mean give the shirt off your back, or out of your wardrobe, but that can be appropriate on occasion! I mean think outside the box and use your skills.
One of my favourites is giving jars of jam that we've made (sorry, if I've just spoilt the surprise for anyone expecting a gift from me soon!)
This year we have made jam from plums and apples that grew wild in our area. I've also been given rhubarb, gooseberries and apples from friends, blessing me out of their excess. (if you're my friend and you want to gift me with something like that, then honestly yes, it really does bless me. I don't think, oh they're a cheapskate for giving me that, I think, wow, I'm so lucky that they wanted to share their bounty with me!)

Other ideas
Look in your cupboards, do you have ingredients to bake a cake, cook a meal, share your homemade goodies (like jam/jelly/chutney, biscuits, cookies, cakes)

Share your skills.  Offer to cut a lawn, prune a bush, teach someone an instrument, offer to babysit, give your time.  Time is money.  You don't have to physically spend cold hard dosh to give someone a gift of value.

Give a gift of memories - homemade calendars or photos or pictures, handprints are always good from children cos they (the children) don't stay small forever.  Sew a cross stitch.  Knit a scarf.  Make a mix tape - I guess nowadays that might be an iplayer or YouTube playlist!

Let me know if you've given or are planning to think outside the box with your giving this year.

What else could you do?