Saturday 30 July 2011

Saturday Recipe Swap: Pasta Salad

Another week another recipe swap! This week's theme is summer recipes for BBQs and picnics - let's think positive and believe we're going to be eating outdoors lots over the next few weeks...

This is my recipe for pasta salad which my daughter used to eat by the bowlful when she was bit younger. It's nice and simple and you can adjust it to make vegetarian if required.

  • choose a nice colourful and interesting shaped pasta such as fusilli tricolore and cook the required amount as per the packet instructions (approx. 50 g per person)
  • drain and allow to cool
  • chop some ham into bite size chunks (omit for vegetarians)
  • chop up some apple and pear (unpeeled for more colour)
  • chop up some cheese into cubes
  • chop up some different colour peppers into cubes
  • toss all the ingredients into a large salad bowl and mix in mayonaise to make it stick together
  • serve and enjoy
Sorry no picture to go with this as didn't have all the ingredients in!

Please add your recipes old and new to the blog hop and don't forget to grab the code and put it on your post!

Friday 29 July 2011

Browsing Argos

At the beginning of the year I won some Argos vouchers in an online competition. This gives me an excuse to browse their online catalogue on a regular basis. Come on put your hands up if you do the same?

I have already spent some of the vouchers on some new furniture for the children's bedroom in the vain hope that it will help them to stay tidy! The open top boxes do make it easier for the kids (or me) to just chuck toys away at the end of play. Typically my daughter chose a girly option:

My son was lucky and grabbed a slightly bigger version that at the time was on special offer:

I liked the fact that the furniture was flat pack to be easy to take home. The kids had lots of fun putting it together. I wish I'd been able to get some of the Argos nursery furniture when my kids were babies as having come across it in the catalogue it looks like it would last longer than than bits I did get hold of! The combined offers appear to be a great way of getting more for your money when setting up a new baby's room. Really shouldn't get myself unnecessarily broody by looking at their range of pushchairs either - I'm sure I didn't have that much choice 8 years ago!

So now I need to keep looking out for ideas for what to spend the remaining vouchers on for my children's birthdays. I would love to introduce my son to Hornby but think I may have to hold off for a few years as he is still a bit young to respect it! He would probably ask me for Star Wars Lego. My daughter spends hours perusing the Playmobil section in the hope that she will get some additions to her collection. Although top of her list is a Nintendo DS and I can see that Argos so pre-owned ones to help stretch the budget. 

You know I really shouldn't have started looking at the catalogue as there are far too many tempting items in it! So I am going to close the browser tab to the Argos catalogue and I'll try not to come back until nearer my kids birthdays...

Thursday 28 July 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful XIV (#R2BC)

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

First week of the school holidays has been a roller coaster as those of you that know me on Facebook and Twitter are well aware! However I can still find reasons to smile:

1) Me time

I ran off down south for 36 hours without my kids to celebrate the last of my school chum's 40th birthdays. It was great to be able to relax (and have someone on Megabus mistake me for a 20 something!). Seeing good friends - some of whom I hadn't seen for over 8 years - in an adult only environment was a great way to unwind and recharge my batteries. 

2) The weather

Its been amazingly good since the kids broke up from school. This has meant that we've been able to enjoy lots of outside time. Living up here there are so many things to do outdoors and its so much better than being cooped up inside for days on end. So far we've been to Brockhole and Abbott Hall Park and we are hoping to do lots more if the weather holds.

3) Money

After nearly a month of stress over my benefits my persistent phone calls have finally resulted in them being restored with back-payments. Turns out my "rapid reclaim" a) been sent to wrong section b) been sat on by the Decisions Manager for over 2 weeks. Just need my Housing Benefit to be restored next week and then I can balance the books again. Nice to be able to spend time over the summer with kids and not have to worry about money for a while.

4) My garden

My mum came round yesterday and helped me make a big difference to my garden. We pulled out lots of weeds and she put in some spare bedding plants from her garden. Even the kids helped us. With my neighbour's father-in-law having mowed my front lawn on Tuesday (can you tell they are trying to sell their house!) the whole outside of my house is looking better to go with our stunning views:

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Top That Publishing Yummy Mummy Review II

This is my second "Yummy Mummy" book review for Top That Publishing:

Having really enjoyed the first 2 books we were sent I was looking forward to more good things. And I wasn't disappointed. For my 7 year old daughter I was sent Explore, Dream, Discover .... which is described on it's back cover as:

a travel-diary, memory-maker, doodle-pad, brain-engager, boredom-stopper, idea-waker, picture-keeper, captain’s log. A thought-provoker book!

It's a shame we aren't going abroad on holiday as this book is really geared around preparing for a trip overseas with places for writing down vocabulary or useful facts about your destination. At 7 my daughter is at the younger end of the target audience for this book and she needed quite a bit of input on it. She loved retrospectively filling out bits as if preparing for our trip to Mallorca:

memories of Mallorca

She has a very vivid and arty imagination so enjoyed doing the bits she has done so far. I can see that this would be a great book to get to entertain your older child when travelling. It makes for a great journal as well as providing plenty ideas for ways to pass the time whilst on a journey such as drawing your own inventions:

A way to transport your luggage

On the Top That web site its currently on offer for £7.19 (normally £7.99) so a good chance to get it. I look forward to doing the rest of the book with my daughter over the summer holidays.

My 4 year old son is currently mad about numbers so his eyes lit up when he saw that his book was all about Counting with a Sticker Activity Book. Doing some of the stickers kept him amused as we did the shopping in Morrisons!

The book was ideal for this as parts of it only require the included stickers and not a pen or pencil. I liked the fact that the stickers each had a page number under them so you could be sure you were using the right one. There are also pages on which your child can practice their number writing too. My son prefers the sticker pages at the moment but he does also enjoy writing numbers too. A fun way of helping your pre-schooler or Reception child practice their basic counting skills. This is also on offer at the minute for £4.49 instead of the usual £4.99.

Monday 25 July 2011

#BritMums Guest Post: Kat from iRant iRave

Hello! I’m Kat, mum to the Wee Man and the Squatter (who’ll be joining us in October) and other half to Moo Boy. I’m originally from Fife and now live in a market town in West Yorkshire. You can normally find an account of our exploits at iRant iRave along with some of my own ramblings on twitter as @katbroon amongst other places. Big thanks to Becky for hosting this post as part of the #BritMumsguestpost and be sure to drop by my blog to read her post about getting children interested in books from the get go.

Right now we’re starting a few new chapters in our lives. We have the arrival of Squatter getting closer and closer and all that entails. And after over a year of reading, research and a lot of soul searching we will be opting to home educate our sons.

We are not so different from you. We go to the supermarket and our local park. We like sweets and lots of things that are bad for us. We eat meat and dairy and have trouble getting our son to eat his five a day. You certainly don’t have to be a crusty hippy type to home educate. Infact more and more people from all walks of life are choosing to educate their family at home and my no means is it a decision that can be taken lightly.

Even with that decision made there are many more to come. Do we prefer the freedom of autonomy or feel that our kids would benefit from the structure of a curriculum? Do we push them hard or support them and follow their lead?

As school pupils neither myself or Moo Boy fulfilled our potential. Bullying, boredom and the inflexibility of the education system pigeonholed us into boxes that didn’t fit and that’s not something we want for our boys. At the same time that makes us entirely responsible for their learning and the opportunities open to them. Scary when I think about it those terms but then I remember instead of being cooped up in a classroom my boys will be able to spend their afternoons at Construction Club (lego and the likes) or learning how to build a fire in the woods safely which is a tad more useful in life than theoretical maths but then again they could do both if they wish.

Right now though the pressure is off. Technically the Wee Man’s official education does not commence until the first term after his fifth birthday. Before then we can plan and explore what will work for us as a family and explore the vast range of HE activities that happen throughout West Yorkshire and beyond.

Until then we carry on as normal. Helping the Wee Man answer the questions that pop into his head (What is blood for? Why do we have a recycling bin?), giving him the opportunity to learn what he wants (this week he’s started doing addition and subtraction in his head) and letting him play with cars, trains, mud, sticks and all the other things that little boys like to do.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Saturday Recipe Swap: Easy Peasy Fairy Cakes

On week 2 of this recipe blog hop I am after your easy baking recipes that you do with your children. Please post your link and then add the blog hop code to your post. Can be a new post or one from your archives! Look forward to trying some out :-)

Easy Peasy Fairy Cakes

This is something I regularly do with and without my kids and it is so easy that my 7 year old can do it herself (except putting in oven obviously!).

  1. Heat oven to 190 C (fan 175 C)
  2. Pop papercases into a 12 hole cake baking tray
  3. Get a large mixing bowl
  4. Sift in 4 oz of self raising flour
  5. Add 4 oz caster sugar
  6. Add 4 oz margarine or butter
  7. Add 2 medium eggs
  8. Add pinch bicarbonate of soda
  9. Add few drops vanilla essence
  10. Mix together until mix drops off a spoon
  11. Share between the 12 cases
  12. Bake for 15 minutes in the oven
  13. Once cooled decorate

For variations:
  • substitute 1 oz self raising flour for cocoa powder and instead of vanilla essence add a teaspoon strong coffee
  • Add 2 oz of chocolate chips or dried fruit
Please come and join in the blog hop. I loved trying out last week's recipes!

Thursday 21 July 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful XVIII (#R2BC)

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

It's not been a bed of roses this week but I'm coming out smiling and here's why:

1) My daughter's school report

After my son's report last week I was hoping that my daughter would get as good a one. A quick look at her KS1 SAT's results was a great start:
  • Speaking and listening 2
  • Reading 3
  • Writing 2A
  • Mathematics 3
  • Science 3
On the whole the rest of her report was also good though her teacher was trying to find nice ways to admit my daughter is "bossy"! She came across as an enthusiastic pupil who has done really well despite all the upheavals in her life over the last 2 years.

2) Son finishing nursery

This had the potential to be a tear jerker as its the end of an era! However we had a lovely farewell party at his nursery this week for all the children leaving this month. There were bouncy castles and a magician as well as free ice creams (supplied by my church!).

3) Kids' swimming

At the end of term both my children passed their assessments to move on up a group. They have come on so much since starting at Troutbeck in January. Their confidence has increased and its a joy to watch them. We will see how things are after the school holidays and we must practice over the summer!

4) Slimmer of the Week!

What a great way to get back on track with the diet - a 5 lb weight loss and slimmer of the week! It may well be that listening to my Thinking Slimmer slimpod is finally working. Let's hope it continues to stop me feeling hungry so I can stick with my Rosemary Conley low fat and lots exercise regime.

Nivea: 100 years of feeling closer campaign


NIVEA are marking their 100th birthday by celebrating closeness in 21st century Britain. We all know that being touched makes us feel better and in fact I’m typing this one handed whilst snuggling my daughter with the other arm!

The power of touch can bring us closer than ever together as a family, friends or lovers. We can bond together with a family hug:

Like many parents I have comforted a poorly or sad child with cuddles and stroking. Tonight I curled up on the bed with a very cross 4 year old until he calmed down. It comes naturally to most of us as parents and its great to share with our children. We start it with our babies and there is nothing quite like having a tiny infant nestling in our arms. This is why parents of premature babies are now encouraged to provide kangaroo care by placing the baby inside their shirt for close contact.

Buts it’s not just across the generations that touch can makes us feel closer to other people. Nivea have hi-lighted research showing that women who are regularly hugged and caressed by their partners have higher levels of Oxytocin and are therefore happier. No wonder that older couples that still show their love for each other with holding hands and hugs are happy and healthier.

There is even medical research showing that a gentle touch can encourage a frail person to eat. Even heart rates and blood pressure can be lowered just by the power of touch. What an amazing thing it is. This must be one of the reasons that when I’ve had a massage I come out with a better frame of mind.

To encourage all to get close to the ones we love Nivea have launched a million moments of closeness competition. They want to collect a million photographs of ordinary people enjoying moments of closeness with the ones they love. One photograph a day will be chosen to receive a £100 prize. I’ve entered myself and it’s wonderful to see all the other entries as well.

So go out and hug the ones you love and then share the moment on Nivea’s Facebook page and not only will you feel happier it may make you better off as well!

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Viral video by ebuzzing

Wednesday 20 July 2011

#TheGallery: Vintage

Tara wants us to dig out our vintage pictures today! Left this a bit late so all I can do is drag out some vintage clothing pics showing my families vintage clothing...

My great, great granny

Oh dear she was wearing a fur stole! 

This was her in an earlier time:

Fashions from 1915:

My great grandmother in the early 1900s:

Sorry this was short and sweet but no time to do anything else! Click on the logo for better posts ;-)

Tuesday 19 July 2011

#LoveABook Reading Group: grace williams says it loud

Cara choice for our reading group on Good Reads this month was grace williams says it loud by Emma Henderson. This book was a debut novel and has been shortlisted for the the Orange Prize. I hadn't realised before reading it that the book is based upon the life of her sister who was disabled and institutionalised.

The book is quite an eye opener as to how badly we treated children with disabilities even until the end of the 20th century. Sent to Briar Mental Institute in 1957 aged 11 when her parents can no longer cope and the doctors say that they can do nothing more society has given up on Grace. She was born with some sort of disability but a case of polio had left her with a range of problems. The story is told from her own words which she cannot speak out loud due to get disability.

The Briar is home to a whole range of children and adults who are shut away from society. Many of the medical and care staff show little feeling towards the people that are confined there. To get her through Grace has a best friend and later boyfriend Daniel who is an epileptic with no arms. Some of the staff do show kindnesses over the years but life at the Briar is no bed of roses. It is really is shocking about to read how people were treated by medical staff who thought that their patients had no emotions or could feel no pain.

I couldn't put this book down as I wanted to find out whether Grace and Daniel would ever escape from this awful place. There are bits of the book that make you want to cry, others make you laugh and others that will shock. I thoroughly recommend you borrow this from the library or buy a copy.

Monday 18 July 2011

Days Out: A Blog Roundup

As some people are off school already and the rest of us are looking at the end of the week with either fear or excitement (how many weeks of holidays!!!) I thought I would look over my blog and do a round up of posts I have written about days out.

Cumbrian Fun

Since moving here just under 12 months ago we have done some lovely things so here are some of them:

South East Fun

To go with these I also had a blogpost about Perpetual Picnics which are a great low cost way of keeping everyone happy on a family day out.

If you have any good days out posts then please add them to the linky at the bottom!

Saturday 16 July 2011

Saturday Recipe Swap: Healthy Pancakes

Like many parents I'm always keen on finding healthy and quick recipes to get my kids to eat. This is especially true during the school holidays when they are forever hungry! So I'm asking for you to join in and share your quick and easy family recipes...

Here is mine for pancakes:

  • Choose a cup, mug or beaker of required size
  • Half fill cup with plain flour
  • Top up the cup with wholemeal flour almost to top
  • Tip flour into mixing bowl
  • Fill cup to top with skimmed milk (or semi if for under 5s)
  • Tip milk into flour
  • Crack an egg into bowl
  • MIx until smooth batter
  • Heat a large frying pan after spraying with low calorie cooking spray
  • When pan is hot spoon in as many pancakes as will fit:

    • Whilst they are cooking slice up some fruit and prepare any other toppings

    • Flip pancakes once they are cooked on the underside
    • When second side has cooked serve up and add your choice of toppings

    For a less healthy option as a special treat you could serve with cream or ice cream.

    So what recipes would you like to share with me? Get your thinking caps on and please join my blog hop!

    recipes I've been tweeted

    @LakesSingleMum Bagel Pizza, Tomato puree, thin layer of Sacla Sundried Tomato Pesto, Grated cheddar, Cook under grill, quick and yummy.

    Friday 15 July 2011

    Friday review: Haba Ball Track Sounds Starter Set

    Sponsored Post

    When I was told that the second batch of toys for my family to review as part of the Haba Mums Club I was really excited as to what it would be. My children and I had loved the previous lot of toys and were hoping that these would give as much pleasure. I have to say that my 4 year old son's facial expression when he saw the ball track box gave me a good idea of how much he was going to enjoy it.

    The Ball Track Sounds Starter Set is part of Haba's wooden building blocks and ball track sets range. It can stand alone as a toy or be used in conjunction with other sets. With an RRP of £81.99 it's not the cheapest toy on the market but it looked and felt really high quality.

    With my son we had an experiment to see how we could use the different parts to make music with the marbles. As he is only 4 he needed quite a bit of help to work some of it out but I'm sure that over time he will become quite adept. He did manage to incorporate one of our little wooden stools into a run to make it more exciting. The fact that the marbles "played" the musical instruments added to the fun:

    A xylophone and drum effect

    We enjoyed working together to problem solve getting the marbles to run effectively and to make the most noise! It was a good educational experience as he had to choose different sized blocks to raise the runs to the required height.

    My daughter at 7 was keener to have a go without any adult assistance. I persuaded her to first try and copy the picture on the box as I thought they wouldn't have photographed a run that didn't work. My theory proved correct and the children had great fun running the marbles  down the run:

    My daughter then went on to experiment more and try her own variations to see what she could do:

    She was happy for quite some time experimenting with various combinations some more successful than others. As a starter pack there are a limited number of combinations but a variety of pieces such as a mini tunnels and differing lengths of slide. I can see that having additional sets of wooden blocks would make this a much more versatile toy. There are certainly plenty of tempting additional sets that are available on the Haba web site. If you got this set for your 3-4 year old it would be a good investment for the future plus you would have plenty of chances to add to it when money allowed.

    Thursday 14 July 2011

    Reasons to be Cheerful XVII (#R2BC)

    Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

    On the whole a much more cheerful week so here's the things that have made me smile in the past 7 days:

    1) A Wonderful Weekend

    The friends who did the most to help me move out of my old home to come up north were up in Kendal staying with my parents. We had a great weekend showing them around Kendal, having a BBQ and going to the #CumbriaTwitnic. It was a very relaxed weekend with friends old and new. The fact the sun shone for almost the whole time was an added bonus.

    Windermere from Fell Foot Park on Sunday

    2) The Fells

    See Tuesday's post where I got a chance to actually get out and enjoy the marvels on offer on my doorstep.

    Grasmere from Loughrigg Fell

    3) My Son's Nursery Leaver's Report

    My son is leaving nursery next Wednesday and yesterday I was given his final report. I am one proud mummy after reading the lovely things his teacher had to say about him:
    • very confident and motivated
    • hugely creative and develops some fabulous play
    • His imagination is a joy to observe
    • has a superb general knowledge and wide extensive vocabulary
    • has a wonderful knowledge of songs and rhymes

    The best bit has to be "you have been a super member of the class and we will all miss you". I think it could be quite emotional when he has his last visit next week.

    Wednesday 13 July 2011

    #TheGallery: Travel

    Tara has asked us to put up our Travel photographs this week. At this point I wish I had scanned in one of my major holidays from pre-digital days.... instead here is a selection of my more recent and more mundane travel pics:

    My son travelling Spiderman style - not!
    Travelling slowly on the Lancaster Canal

    Travelling on 4 wheels and 1 foot
    Heading off for their first ever foreign holiday
    Think I took the scope a bit loosely this week! Click on top logo for more exciting entries...

    Tuesday 12 July 2011

    Wainwright bagging (2): Loughrigg Fell

    Today my mum invited me to join her on a walk up Loughrigg Fell so she could check out part of the route for a Ramblers walk tomorrow. It was a fine Cumbrian day for a bit of fell walking using the Wainwright book as a guide to follow along with the Ordnance Survey map. There are so many little and large paths across the fell it is very easy to take the wrong one and in the book Wainwright warns of the dangers of mists on this fell. 

    On this occasion we took all the right routes and had our first fab views from the cairn on the secondary summit. Even though it was midweek there were plenty of people coming up the fell from various directions as its accesible from plenty of paths. Coming up from Rydal like us is one of the gentlest routes and as we climbed we had many glimpses of places such as Windermere from a height:

    Then we had a little boggy walk and a scramble up to the final top. It was amazing to see so many of the Lakes fells from the top. All of them much higher than the 1099ft of Loughrigg and a challenge for future days. My mum snapped me with the trig point just to prove that I had actually made it:

    trig points hide a multitude of sins!

    The descent down to Grasmere was mostly stone steps that had been created to mend the path. This actually made it a slightly less comfortable path to walk on and is apparently very slippery after rain. The reason for coming down this way became clear as we got close enough to admire the waters of Grasmere from above:

    Just above the lake we chose to take the mid height path which took us through the abandoned quarry and let us see in the caves that were created by the quarrying of slate in the past. As Wainwright said you could fit the whole population of Ambleside inside the cave, even if some would be rather wet:

    It was then a simple stroll back to the car park after our little meander up the fell. This was my second Wainwright as far as I know so I only have a couple of hundred to go!