Monday, 17 September 2012

Tots 100

I've just signed up to Tots 100.  I'm getting quickly addicted this blogging and they were always the site I read most when I was just a lurker...

TOTS 100 - UK Parent Blogs

If you're looking for something interesting to read then I throughly recommend heading over there and giving them a go.

Big Fair Bake

Madz is off school ill today.  Nothing too serious, but enough to make her tearful and miserable.  So I took the excuse I've been waiting for to get my cooking helper into the kitchen to make Chocolate Cake!.  Afterall, when you're feeling low, nothing is better than cake, especially when it's chocolate.  As if I needed another incentive, there is this rather great challenge on Tots 100 and Foodie 100 to bake using fair trade ingredients.  I always try to use Fair Trade when I can so here is our favourite chocolate cake receipe as my attempt at their competition.

225g plain FAIRTRADE  chocolate
175g unsalted butter (softened)
225g caster sugar  - FAIRTRADE
4tbsp plain flour
6 eggs separated
for the topping
225g plain fairtrade chocolate - I use the spices and orange oil co-op chocolate for this just to add that touch of something special.
225g double cream

pre-heat oven to 180 c/ gas mark 4

melt the chocolate (microwave or good old pyrex over a saucepan of boiling water)
mix in the butter and stir until melted
lightly beat the egg yolks and add these together with the flour and sugar to your chocolate mixture
whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold them into the mixture slowly
cook for 35 minutes.

If you insert a skewer and cake feels a bit moist inside still don't worry.  This is one of those cakes that firms up as it cools.

When you are ready to top, mix the chocolate and cream together. Using a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, until the cream and chocolate are all mixed.  Allow it to cool slightly before spreading generously over the cake. 
Pop in the fridge to finish cooling off and then enjoy.

If you manage to have any of this left on day two, then 30 seconds in the microwave, gives you a second go at a really moist hot chocolate sponge... delicious with custard or cream.

As you can see the baking did the trick, no tears anymore just smiles..
If you want to find out more about fair trade then all the information you need is here . If you want to find  Tots 100 and Foodies 100 then click on their  names..  It's always inspiring to read their sites for new ideas and information.

Maggie one year on....

Maggie the puppy is no longer a puppy.  On saturday she had her first birthday and she celebrated in style with three circuits of the park and a play date with her sister Trixi.

It's hard to remember not having her in the house any more.  I've forgotten what it was like to be able to find my shoes, without looking in all her hiding places.  I've forgotten what it was like to wake up to my alarm clock in the morning, rather than wet soggy kisses and a paw in my face.  I've even forgotten what it was like to think "ooh it's raining perhaps I won't go out this evening to the park". 
Maggie was bought for Madz, after much cajoling and begging we relented to her incessant demands for a dog.  All thoughts of getting a nice older dog from a rescue centre had to be shelved due to T's ashtma, so a puppy of a limited type of breed was the order of the day.  Shih-Tzu's we'd had before, our last dog, Dougal, lived until he was nearly into his 20s and was a wonderful companion and friend, so a shih-tzu it was.
Madz was going to train her, walk her every day, feed her, groom her and play with her.  Well so far we've achieved one of out 5 -playing with her, incase you hadn't guessed.  So all credit to her for effort. Actually that is a small lie, I have to give her credit for teaching her to sit and beg... recall and walking to heel weren't deemed important enough to be taught by Madz
I know I know... kids will say anything and promise anything when they want something.  The cold hard reality is always different and we knew it going in, although we hoped. 
Now we wouldn't be without her.  So what if I (or Mr W) have to walk her, the excercise is certainly good for us.  She's small enough that not walking to heel is a blessing as I trip over her tiny body if she's too close.  I find it quite theraputic to sit there at night brushing her hair and feeding her is a breeze as we refuse to use wet dog food so her science diet stuff is always in the bowl ready.
I think she's been good for Madz.  She was getting bullied a bit at school and this has given her a best friend and confidente.  Someone who loves her, just because she's her person.   The joy on her face when the kids return from school, gives me a warm feeling every day and rather selfishly the fact that she includes me in her raptures even though I've only been gone ten minutes to pick them up, is rather nice.
I love her company whilst the children are at school.  Her bed is next to my feet under the computer desk and I can hear her gently snoring as she dreams away the day until her mate gets home.
   Maggie and Trixi on the beach... sandy cars are nothing new, after all I've got children.

She's stopped me getting broody for another child, as I have a whole new baby to play with and she is genuinely the most loving soppy excuse for a dog that you will ever meet. My only problem now is that Madz and I quite like the idea of her having puppys.  Not for profit or anything like that, I know so many asthmatic children that would love a dog, who's parents whilst being able to afford to care for one, couldn't manage the £400 + to buy one of this breed, that I thought it might be nice to place some puppys in their hands... I just have to persuade Mr W that it's a good idea... sleepless nights and newborns anyone?!

Eating out with kids.. I think I've cracked it..

I have two very fussy eaters in my children.  They don't like to sit at the table for long, so any food that looks like it may take more than a minimum of effort to eat, ie: isn't finger food, portable or a packet of crisps, gets moaned about and eaten begrudingly.  This weekend the sun was shining and we thought, Hey, lets go out to eat... but there was our problem. 

We had visions of bored kids, fights over the menu choices and both me and Mr W, going without dessert in our desire to leave as soon as possible.  Que a brain wave and a visit to Captain Jaspers on the Barbican in Plymouth.

You need to be ever so slightly mad to eat here, and judging by the queues every day then most of Plymouth must be bonkers.

This is not your normal eaterie. For one it's a glorified shed, decorated in a very eclectic style of shipwreck and nostalgia. There are no toilets, no where indoors to sit and eat, they only serve burgers, hotdogs, and giant baguettes. If you're lucky you can get a bench outside, next to the rubbish bins and the scavenging seagulls, where if the wind is in the right direction you can eat to the accompanying smell of the fishing industry taking place right next to you.

I obviously have a severe death wish as these burgers are a heart attack in a bun just waiting to wrap their greasy claws around my arteries, but they are so delicious, you just have to do it.
Don't go expecting anything fancy, napkins (an absolute necessity here) are in the form of torn off kitchen roll suspended on a string above the counter, mugs of tea are sloshed at you over the counter and the service amounts to being handed a raffle ticket and told to wait for your number to be called! But if you're looking for lime milkshake together with bacon, pineapple, cheese and curried coleslaw burgers, this is the place to come. Show me any pregnant woman that wouldn't kill to visit here.

The kids devoured their food, perhaps it helped that it was the obligatory, hold in your hand and stuff it in your mouth quickly food they prefer. But I didn't have to cook it so I didn't mind that it wasn't savoured.  Nor was I bothering to count in one of their five a day, this was a treat.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

#kodakavengers linky

Never one to shy away from making my children look silly, I couldn't help but be excited when I stumbled upon this linky from Britmums

Britmums blog is here...

I had to have a go at downloading the masks from here, especially as I have a Kodak printer myself which saves money in printing cost and thought it would be fun, getting the kids to showcase their acting talents in a variety of superhero poses.  Thankfully the world doesn't rely on these kids to save it otherwise we really would be doomed.

Not quite Iron Man, more like wavy hand woman, but she tried...

She refused to rip her shirt open, which was probably a good idea on her part... but not really getting in the spirit of things...

I think the less said about his shield the better and I'm not even getting into the stupid grin, cus the mask was tickling his face.  He's nearly a grown up - does he not realise the seriousness of this photo session?
I couldn't take any more photos after this
1) it wasn't fair on the neighbours all the laughing and giggles at night outside in the garden
2) It wasn't fair on my sides which were aching as I laughed at their attempts to be all super hero y.
Thank you BritMums for this: you gave me a really fun evening's entertainment while I tried to make my entry for the #kodakavengers Linky Challenge. It may not win, but I loved the fun of doing this one.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

and so it starts...

Well with summer coming to an end and thoughts of winter looming, I once again start thinking of that christmas LBD with dread.  Each year autumn is my own special time of denial and partial starvation followed by bouts of "just one won't hurt" recriminations as I indulge in one packet rather than one odd biscuit.

My dieting habits are dreadful.. a little bit of weightwatchers, a touch of slimming world, the odd calorie count here and there and lots of salad, leave me feeling deprived and depressed.  I know that really I should eat healthily, not snack between meals and eat less calories than my body burns, sitting at my pc all day.  I should add in gently increasing amounts of excercise and aim for a diet that I can follow all the time, not just vigoursly for a few days until I slip and give up in a pitiful pile of self loathing.

but... and there are always lots of buts... it's harder to cook a diet meal for me and separate ones again for hubby and the children.  I tend to fancy what they are having so nibble on it as I cook it.  I have no self control when it comes to portion size if I'm hungry and as I tend to be a starver, I am always hungry when I'm on a diet.  It's also easier to just tell myself that actually I'll start the diet tomorrow instead....

So with all these buts and all this knowledge at my disposal, I've done an internet scan to find a good diet.  I'm sorely tempted by the Jenny Craig method.  Seems like a do-able (note I didn't say easy) option for me.  They supply me with someone to keep me on track kind of like my own Jimmy Cricket, once a week. All the food that I need, so I don't feel like I have to alter the families meals to suit mine, and a plan!  It sounds expensive, but I have a feeling that it isn't going to work out any more expensive than my weekly "diet" food shop and if I feel better about myself then it will be worth it.

Tomorrow (here I go with tomorrow again!) I intend to call them up and enquire, they even answer your questions, so I think I may start with a nice simple..."how do I keep going when chocolate seems to be the only answer?" or alternatively and one that I'd really like to know is " if I slip up, (which I am bound to do) how do I stop that being the end, can I have allowable slips or the odd glass of wine without feeling like a diet murderer?"

Jenny Craig are running a competition on their blog and hope to answer some questions from our musings so hopefully they will see my rather pathetic excuses and give me some impetus.  You can see the competition here  .  I will report back how I do, hopefully you will be seeing a lot less of me in the future.