Mama OWL Blog: February 2013

Goodbye Leg Casts - #R2BC

Thursday, 28 February 2013

After last week's shitter of a week I am very pleased to report that I have something to be very cheerful about, and that after three months, L is now CAST FREE!

L began his serial leg casting for his tight hamstrings in November 2012. He was fitted with half leg plaster casts on both legs and had them changed weekly, with the angle of his feet being adjusted by his physiotherapist at each appointment to gradually stretch them to the correct position. He was SO brave throughout this process and although it was uncomfortable and painful for him, and it meant missing out on his swimming lessons for a while, he endured it with hardly any complaint (although we did have to google ways to ease itching under the plaster casts after a few sleepless nights) and was thrilled when he was able to have them removed just before Christmas.

He was then fitted for 'night casts' which, as the name suggests, are plaster casts that he wore at night. Before bed, he would do his leg stretches on the stairs and then the Mister or I would strap his legs into the casts for the night. In the morning we'd undo them and he'd do his stretches again before getting on with his day. We have done this every night since the end of December and at his appointment on Monday, which was originally to have new casts fitted as the others were getting a bit snug on my growing boy, the physio was satisfied enough with his progress and told us that he doesn't need any more for the present time and so he is now cast free!

His gait has hugely improved and he is able to walk more flat-footed, although he is still experiencing pain in his hips which has worsened, I would imagine, because he is using different muscles for walking now. The physio has advised us to keep an eye on that and take him to be checked over again if it continues or gets worse. There is still the possibility of more casts (night or full time) in the future but for right now, he is enjoying his freedom from them! We have another appointment for Orthotics (shoes) coming up at the beginning of April and he will continue to do his stretches twice a day.

serial leg casting
I am so proud of him for dealing with it as well as he has and tolerating the plaster casts. With his Autism he is all too aware of his differences, and often says that he wishes he was "normal". I told him that there is no such thing as normal, and even if there was, who would want to be normal anyway? It's much more fun to be unique, and I certainly wouldn't want him any other way.

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week?
Don't forget that Seasider in the City Clare is linky-sitting #R2BC for Mich until Easter, pop over to visit, link up and join in the blog hop.

#50Books2013 - February Round-Up

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Well that's February over and done with, how did you all do for #50Books2013? As I suspected, I lost some momentum and only managed two books in February, and I am currently on book 10 for the year.

Remember, if you're not blogging along with us then feel free to tweet along using the hashtag #50Books2013 so we can keep up with you that way. We've had a couple of new additions to our little blog-along too - Chocolate Orange Fudge and White feathers and so much more, thanks for joining in. It's not too late, just link up on the monthly round-up and/or tweet with us, we'd love to have you!

I delved into the paranormal world of the southern gothic Beautiful Creatures this month, and am currently on book two of the Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. Sarah from UDSF has shared her February reads, including some of the fabulous Jennifer Worth's work. Sophie has been Ignoring Life, One Book At A Time as well as dealing with chickenpox and uni essay deadlines so kudos for fitting in time to read anything at all.

Rock 'n roll mum Miss Cisco has been dabbling in e-books this month, like me she is a fan of the REAL paperback (and also enjoys sniffing the pages - see, not weird) but has picked up its electronic counterpart to in order to read The Little Book of Motherventing, and Lucy from Little Super Sparks has blogged her views on Scott Westerfeld's futuristic YA series after reading Extras.

Emma has shared some of her favourite books in Emma's Little World, I too can read a favourite book over & over so I share her enthusiasm for a really good story that can be enjoyed again. Bubbablue & Me's Emma has reviewed this month's reading list including Yann Martel's Life of Pi, and Jo from Ojo's World has told us all about her 20p Kindle bargain, The 100 year old man that climbed out of a window and disappeared.

Have you written a book review for #50Books2013 or have a title that you would like to recommend? Join in with the linky below and share it with us. If you'd like to be included in the March round-up please be sure to email me your links by March 26th. Thank you, and thanks for joining in and taking part in the challenge.

Pet Cremation Services in Wiltshire

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

the best care for your pet
Now that we have welcomed Florence (or Flo as she is more often called, that and 'naughty puppy!') into our home, I really understand how a pet is more than just a dog or cat, but a real member of the family. Flo's a real little character, and has managed to outsmart us and sneak past the "puppy excluder" (rolled up towel behind the stairgate) at the bottom of the stairs during the night so she can come up & get on to our bed. For the last two mornings in a row we have found her curled up at our feet, she's settled in to our hectic family life well and is loved to bits by us all.

After we brought her home I went about arranging her pet insurance, joining a Vet's practice and setting up her health care plan for vaccinations and health checks. We went out and bought her a bed, some food and toys and made sure our home was ready for her arrival, and I also thought about the future - although a long way off - and about what we would do if anything happened to her.

In Bradford on Avon is the wonderful Charlie's Parlour. Owned by Paul & Rob, Charlie's Parlour is the only APPCC approved Private Pet Cremation Service in Wiltshire. They guarantee the individual cremation of pets and companion animals and give your pet the dignified send off it deserves, because after all - pets are family too.

In the same way that you think about health care options for your pet, it is worth considering their end of life care and the arrangements that can be made following their passing, and also to know that you do not have to leave your beloved pet with the Veterinarian. Paul and Rob offer a wide range of services including collection of your pet from your home or Vet's practice for cremation, as well as life casting and commissioned sculptures of your pet, or sandblasted pebbles personalised with your pet's name to mark their final resting place.

pet cremation services in Wiltshire
Like Charlie's Parlour on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to read their touching stories and many customer testimonials. If the worst should happen, know that the very best of care is available for your pet in death as it was in life, and send them off with the dignity they deserve.

** Disclaimer: I have received no payment for this post and it has not been sponsored. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the services provided by Charlie's Parlour following my own research as a pet owner.

Packed Lunch Snacks

Monday, 25 February 2013

healthy snacks for school packed lunches
A recent on-line survey of 250 school, health and youth staff working with children in England by The Children's Food Trust suggest that many kids are going without enough to eat during the school day.

As household budgets feel the squeeze, teachers say they are noticing the difference in children's packed lunches with kids bringing in cupboard items or leftovers like cold chips from the previous night or even just a packet of biscuits.

BEAR nibbles have come up with the brilliant fruit Yo Yos, which are made from 100% fruit with no added sugar or preservatives - exactly as nature intended and 1 Yo Yo = 1 of your 5 a day.
Perfect for a packed lunch snack, they are available in 20g packs & multi packs and come in lots of yummy flavours - mango, apple, pineapple, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry.

collectible fact cards
Now included in each pack of Yo Yos is a BEAR fact card, there are 100 to collect so your kids can take them to school to swap and share with their friends. Collect 10 codes for a free special collector’s box complete with some nice stickers to decorate it with, with rewards for collectors who reach 25, 50 & 75 cards.

You can also use fruit Yo Yos in your home baking, this flapjack fingers recipe from BEAR is quick & simple and would make great healthy, home-made snacks for lunch boxes. If flapjacks aren't your thing, maybe try their recipes for muffins, 'shortbears' or scones.

Fruit Yo Yos are a big hit in my house, and the kids were delighted to have these included in their lunches last week on their return to school after half term. The strawberry ones are a definite favourite, especially with teen who kept all of that flavour to herself to take to school to snack on.

For more information and recipes visit or follow them on twitter @follow_the_bear.

Do your children take a packed lunch to school? What are your top tips for a healthy & budget-friendly packed lunch?

** Disclaimer: BEAR sent samples of their fruit Yo Yos to my family for a no-obligation trial. I have received no payment for this post and it has not been sponsored. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 25 February 2013

Monday 25th February - Chicken & chips

Tuesday 26th February - Spaghetti Bolognese

Wednesday 27th February - Brinner*

Thursday 28th February - Curry

Friday 1st March - Enchiladas

Saturday 2nd March - Takeaway night

Sunday 3rd March - Roast beef

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner

Family Movie Review - Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Friday, 22 February 2013

Last but not least for our family movie recommendations today we have Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012).

I had actually forgotten that I pre-ordered this so I was quite pleased when it dropped through the letterbox and took away the question of what movie we were watching that night! A & J had already watched this in 3D at the cinema but they were keen to watch it again, they had enjoyed it that much.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted follows our friends Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo (along with King Julien, Maurice, Mort, the monkeys and of course the penguins) as they make their way across Europe in another madcap adventure that they hope will take them back home to Central Park Zoo in New York City.

Featuring the original voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer and Andy Richter, it also includes the talents of Jessica Chastain, Frances McDormand and Martin Short, who is the voice of brilliant new character, performing Italian sealion Stefano.

Their story continues as they join a travelling circus in a bid to cross Europe without being noticed, with the French Captain of Animal Control in hot pursuit.

This movie is hilarious, with beautiful colourful animation & fun songs, and the new characters are fantastic, I just wish I had made it to the cinema to see it in 3D myself because I bet it would have been amazing. I think this is definitely the best Madagascar movie to date, and we all really loved it. Thoroughly entertaining and well worth a watch, you'll be singing Afro Circus forever more.

** Disclaimer - this is an honest and personal movie review that was paid for out of my own pocket and has not been endorsed by any agency for promotional purposes.

Family Movie Review - Hotel Transylvania

Friday, 22 February 2013

The second of our family movie recommendations today, we bought Hotel Transylvania (2012) on DVD for J's birthday at the beginning of the month. J is a big Adam Sandler fan, & as he is the voice of Dracula it was the perfect choice. Also featuring the voice talents of Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, David Spade, CeeLo Green, Selena Gomez and Molly Shannon, this is a good fun family movie that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages.

This animated movie is about single Dad Dracula who builds a monster holiday resort hidden away from humans in order to raise his daughter, Mavis. To celebrate her 118th birthday, Dracula throws a big party and invites all of the resort regulars but inadvertently reveals the hotel to a passing backpacker, 21-year-old Jonathan. Dracula then has to hide Jonathan's identity and get him out of the hotel before anyone realises he's not a monster!

Lots of laughs & some memorable quotes with all the silliness you'd expect from a movie featuring Adam Sandler (animated or otherwise), it has been a big hit with the Owlets and they've nearly worn the DVD out from watching it so many times. One to enjoy again and again, a big thumbs up from us.

** Disclaimer - this is an honest and personal movie review that was paid for out of my own pocket and has not been endorsed by any agency for promotional purposes.

Family Movie Review - ParaNorman

Friday, 22 February 2013

As it's Friday, I have lined up three posts to share with you today reviewing movies that we have watched recently. We're big on our Friday family movie nights at Chez Owl. We drag all of our duvets downstairs and line the floor with them, and then we get comfy and snuggle up together. So here are our recommendations to help you choose some great films to watch together as a family.

ParaNorman (2012) is an animated film about a boy who can see the dead, and who must battle zombies, ghosts, school bullies & the grown-ups to save his town from a curse cast on them centuries ago by a witch.

Featuring the voice talents of Jeff Garlin, Leslie Mann, Anna Kendrick and Casey Affleck with Kodi Smit-McPhee as Norman, this is a hilarious film that had my kids laughing uproariously throughout. Lots of action & adventure with some mild peril (a handful of scenes that younger or more sensitive kids may find a little unsettling), this is definitely one we'll be enjoying again.

A (14) says that this movie is 'hilarious, perfect for a Halloween movie night' and L (9) says 'very funny and a little bit creepy sometimes too'. A few adult-intended jokes here and there, and overall a very funny film, great for older children, teens & tweens (though E did enjoy up it until she crashed out on Daddy) and one that we will be buying on DVD to enjoy again.

** Disclaimer - this is an honest and personal movie review that was paid for out of my own pocket and has not been endorsed by any agency for promotional purposes.

#R2BC - Reasons to be Cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Honestly... I have just had a really horrible week and I am struggling to think of any reason to be cheerful right now.

So instead, I am sharing some pictures, to remind myself more than anything else. These are my reasons to be cheerful.

#TheGallery : Boys

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

In the interest of fairness & equality, this week's theme for #TheGallery is BOYS. Last week I shared the first picture I ever took of my two beautiful daughters meeting for the very first time, and this week I am sharing a favourite picture of my three handsome sons together.

This photograph was taken at our annual Father's Day barbecue last Summer. The three of them had all been jumping about on the bouncy castle, running around playing football & bouncing on the trampoline and I caught them together in a quiet moment, having some drinks. They were having such a good time and it was a really lovely day that has given us lots of lovely family memories, and so this is one I would like to share with you.

My sons as boys, brothers & best friends. I can't wait to meet the men they will grow to become and hope that they maintain their strong bond forever.

When children with disabilities are unlawfully excluded from school

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

It reached a stage where I would get home from the school & nursery run, then sit at the table and wait for the call that would inevitably come within an hour or so of him being at school... 'He's done this', 'He's said that', 'You need to come and get him'.

In 2009 when L was six, his diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder was still in the early stages. We were attending many appointments with several specialists and seeing his Paediatrician regularly. In the past nine years I have literally lost count of the specialists I have taken him to see, appointments must now run in to the hundreds.

Back in those early days, every day was a rollercoaster of emotions for L and myself. You didn't know if it was going to be a good or bad day, if he was even going to want to go in never mind the battle of actually getting him there. When you think about it, who can blame him? Who would want to go somewhere where they are very clearly not wanted?

I attended countless meetings with teachers and senior staff trying to help L, trying to put things in place to support his learning. One or two were supportive & did try to help, the rest (and most senior) just cast aspersions on my parenting and no progress was made in securing an IEP for him in the entire time he was a pupil there, because as they stated in a letter that I have, they wanted a formal diagnosis for him before they would consider anything. The SENCo - unfortunately for us - left to go on Maternity leave but didn't return after accepting a new position elsewhere, & I never once saw the new SENCo before I eventually withdrew L & J from the school.

L was branded naughty & disruptive. I was told that the parents of a child that L wanted to be friends with didn't want him around their child & L was seriously, as I live and breathe, called a 'stalker' by a senior staff member to my face. A six year old boy, with Autism, called a stalker for simply wanting a friend. L has a social communication disorder, he finds it hard to understand friendships & relationships. He was then prevented from playing with the other children at break time, he was made to play elsewhere - alone - after the other children had been asked first where they wanted to play before eventually just being made to sit in reception at break times.

I was told that L was violent and aggressive, and that his episodes of lashing out were not acceptable and he was a constant risk to the other children. Yes, I accept & admit that L had episodes of aggression and did on occasion lash out, and this is of course absolutely not acceptable under any circumstances, but 9 times out of 10 he would react violently only when provoked or surprised.
L is very sensitive to loud noises & a 'busy' atmosphere and would react if he was startled, which is to be expected in a playground of excitable children burning off some energy, and so this should have been observed more carefully & the negative behaviours could have been avoided. This would have meant in the first instance no distress for him, and also no injury to anyone else.
I suggested this, and they told me that this was impossible and they simply didn't have the staff to supervise him. They did however appear to have the staff to keep him ostracised from the other children.

He was not allowed to attend a trip to a local farm because the staff thought it would be far too dangerous and they didn't have anyone to supervise him. As it was local, I offered to attend with him, even arranging my own transport, but I was told no. I simply had to keep him home that day, he was not allowed to go under any circumstances.

Eventually, they started telling me that I had to collect him every single lunchtime and either take him home or sit with him in school away from the other children. At the time I was pregnant and suffering with SPD, walking an extra two round trips was very painful for me. Sometimes I was in that much pain I was unable to make the trip back to the school with him. My husband and parents were all at work and I had nobody to do it for me. As it was Winter it was of course very cold, and I had to bring a toddler out with me at the same time which negatively affected his health. They also started making J come with us too, he was soon being treated in the same manner as L. It started off with him being moved away from the other kids to eat his lunch, and eventually they just started sending him home as well.

L used to say things like he was better off dead, that he wanted to kill himself because he didn't have any friends and he was so unhappy at school. The day I removed both L and J from school, I arrived at lunchtime to find L & J sitting in reception outside the hall where the Christmas party was in full swing, kids running in and out wearing their party hats and enjoying their meal while L & J were made to sit and watch. As soon as I arrived and saw this, I took my sons and emptied their lockers and pegs and took them home for good.

At the time, I did not realise that the informal exclusions at break times and lunch times were illegal. I was led to believe that it was in the best interests of L and the other children that they were kept separate. However after doing some research I discovered that their treatment of my son was unlawful and discriminatory.

As stated in the Exclusion from Schools - Information for Parents/Carers leaflet I received on one of the two occasions where L was excluded formally;

“If a head teacher is satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, a pupil has committed a disciplinary offence and needs to be removed from the school site for that reason, formal exclusion is the only legal method of removal.

Informal and unofficial exclusions are illegal regardless of whether they are done with the agreement of parents and carers.

… If pupils are sent home in response to a breach of discipline, even for short periods of time, this must be recorded as an exclusion.

In every instance where a pupil is sent home for disciplinary reasons, head teachers should formally record and specify the length of the exclusion (for reporting purposes thus should be recorded as a half day, whole day, or lunchtime).”

According to guidelines, lunchtime exclusion is deemed to be the equivalent of half a school day in England and any exclusion for an indefinite period (including lunchtimes) is unlawful and that if my children were to have a lunchtime exclusion, the head teacher should send a letter home confirming this, and stating the number of lunchtimes my children will be excluded.

Despite having asked for the lunchtime exclusions to be recorded officially and given to me in writing, at no time did I ever receive this, only a letter stating that in the school's opinion it was best for me to collect both L & J at lunchtimes without dates for these exclusions to begin or end. This was not the first time this happened, as I was also made to collect L from school during lunchtimes in July 2009.

I sent a formal letter of complaint to the school, the Education Welfare Officer at the LEA and the Chair of Governors at the school (which I also copied to the wonderful GP who helped & supported me throughout this difficult time) but I never received a reply from any of them. Only recently when I was contacted by the lovely ladies at Contact A Family, a charity for families with disabled children, have I been able to look back through the paperwork I have kept from that awful time because it caused a deep depression in both myself and more importantly, L. Even now three years on, L talks about it and about how sad it made him. It just breaks my heart that I didn't move him sooner, I don't think I will ever get rid of that guilt.

The day I removed L & J, I took them to meet the headmaster at another school that was recommended to me by a friend, and the boys started there in the following January. I am pleased to say that L has never been happier. At his current school L is settled, happy and in a caring & secure learning environment with staff who are sympathetic but firm in their approach and who have absolutely pulled out all of the stops to give my boy the best possible education which is exactly what he deserves. The negative behaviours are managed in such a way that most of the time they are avoided all together, otherwise they are dealt with swiftly & fairly and in a lawful & appropriate manner and they always have my full support.

I don't think I can ever thank them enough or express exactly how much they did for me and my family just by accepting my son for who he is and helping him find his way in a world he doesn't understand. My son is a wonderful little boy who deserves the very best of everything & if I have to stand up and shout for him then I will, and I will continue to do so until I am listened to, to ensure his needs are met just like everyone else's.

Our story was highlighted in this article Children with disabilities are unlawfully excluded from school in The Guardian yesterday, and the lovely Claire from A Boy with Asperger's (who also featured in the article under a different name) has appeared on Sky News Live & spoken about her experience on BBC Radio.

There must be consequences for schools found to be breaking these laws, ignorance of the rules is not an excuse. Unofficial & informal exclusions from school are UNLAWFUL and these incidents are damaging to the health & education of our children and their families.

This simply cannot continue, the schools need resources and training to enable them to deal with these situations correctly and within the law, every child has a right to an education and the help & support needs to be available to all parties before exclusion even becomes necessary.

Anyone concerned about any aspect of their disabled child's education should call Contact a Family's expert advisers on 0808 808 3555 and visit their website

10 easy kids fancy dress costume ideas for World Book Day

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

World Book Day logo
Now in its 16th year, World Book Day falls on March 7th 2013. WBD was started as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in over 100 countries around the world. WBD is a partnership of publishers, booksellers and interested parties who work together to promote books and reading for the enjoyment of all. A primary aim of World Book Day in the UK & Ireland is to encourage kids to explore the pleasures of books and reading by giving them the opportunity to have a book of their own.

So to mark the day, all school children are entitled to receive a World Book Day £1 Book Token (or equivalent €1.50 Book Token in Ireland) which can be exchanged for one of eight specially published World Book Day £1 Books, or is redeemable against any book or audio book of their choice costing £2.99 or more at a participating bookshop or book club. The World Book Day £1 Book Token will be valid from 25 February to 24 March 2013.

Last year I totally forgot about World Book Day until the very last minute, when I needed to scramble around throwing together costumes for my three boys out of what I had in the house.

Now, I know I am not the only person who is (a) forgetful (b) disorganised or (c) both and thought I would put together a few ideas  to help out other parents in need who need some last minute (or indeed just thrifty) ideas for easy fancy dress costumes for World Book Day that are no-sew and won't cost the Earth. Here are my quick & simple costume tips -

1. HORRID HENRY/MOODY MARGARET - blue & yellow stripe top (you could colour in a white t-shirt if you don't happen to have one in your child's wardrobe) with a pair of jeans and trainers, and a teddy (aka Mr Kill).
For Moody Margaret, you'll need a green skirt teamed with a green cardigan and a purple striped top with hair styled into a high ponytail.

World Book Day costume idea
2. FUNNY BONES - Recycle that Halloween costume and dress your child up as a Skeleton from Funny Bones. There is also a book called 'Where's My Mummy?', or a witch from 'Room on the Broom'... You can see where I am going with this. Check out your dressing up box and see what costumes you can reuse!

3. HARRY & HIS BUCKET FULL OF DINOSAURS - Red and/or yellow top, jeans, trainers (Harry wears red converse style) with a blue plastic bucket full of dinosaurs!

4. MR MEN - A blue t-shirt with some jeans or blue trousers/leggings, finished off with some bandages wrapped round in a haphazard fashion and you have Mr Bump.

5. OLIVER TWIST - Some too small or three quarter length black trousers or shorts, a plain white school shirt and a black waistcoat or old jacket and you have Oliver Twist. A baker boy hat if you happen to have one handy will finish off the look, and an old steel or wooden bowl.

6. WHERE'S WALLY/WHERE'S WANDA - A red & white striped top (again, you can always colour in or even paint a plain white one), with some blue jeans or a blue skirt & red/white stripe leggings or tights. A thick pair of black glasses (just pop the lenses out of a 3D pair from the cinema if you have a pair or two hanging about) and a red/white beanie hat finishes off the look, as would a wooden walking cane (not entirely sure about the practicality of that prop but it's an idea!).

7. DEMENTOR - This one could not be more simple, some old black cloth draped over your child with eye & breathing holes cut out and raggedy edges, maybe a skeleton costume underneath, and you have a Dementor straight out of the Harry Potter books.

8. PRINCESS - Somewhat generic, but a world of possibilities from Cinderella to the Princess & the Pea, or simply as one of the 12 Dancing Princesses. A perfectly legitimate costume idea, and not a lot of effort required if you happen to have one in your child's dressing up box.

9. GREEK GOD/GODDESS - Do you have some white sheets and a safety pin? Good! Drape them around your child, and maybe fashion a headdress out of something from the garden or with some florist wire & artificial flowers/greenery, with sandals to finish it off (sorry, I know it's cold). Or perhaps along the same lines, you could use an old white pillow case with some arm holes & a head hole cut out, with a belt tied around the waist for an Egyptian King, or Cleopatra.

10. PIRATE - Again, we're delving into the realms of the generic, but you can't beat a good old fashioned pirate costume. Lots of us have them in fancy dress box, if not then an old black or red t-shirt tied around the head like a bandana (if you don't happen to have an old handkerchief or actual bandana that you could use) with some too-small or rolled up black trousers (school trousers, possibly) and a white or striped t-shirt with a drawn-on eye patch, and a goatee if you fancy it to complete the look.

I hope that this list has given someone in need some inspiration, if you have any easy costume ideas to add to this list please leave a comment and share your tips!

Books 8-9 #50Books2013

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

For more information & how to join in with #50Books2013 click the link or the tab up the top ^ there are no rules on how to take part - just a love of reading, and maybe tweet & blog along with the rest of us.

Just an FYI - I do not go into detail about the plots of the books as I would hate to spoil them for anyone who wants to read them, so I will keep mostly to sharing my opinion on them with possibly a brief outline, rather than describing what happens, for the benefit of others.

Book 8 - A Very Accidental Love Story by Claudia Carroll

Overall this was an okay light read, but it was rather far-fetched & quite predictable with a smattering of inconsistencies that I did find a bit annoying after a while. This is about a high-powered business woman who has a baby by sperm donor, and then tracks down the father after her extraordinarily loquacious toddler asks about him. I bought it as it was on offer on Kobo books, and admittedly I probably wouldn't have bought it otherwise. Not terrible, but a bit waffly, and probably best kept for a holiday read.

Book 9 - Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

After seeing the trailer for the Beautiful Creatures movie I have been compelled to read the books (I simply must read the books before seeing the movies, it's my rule). I finished the first of the books in the Caster Chronicles series in a couple of days, reading whenever I had a spare moment, and really enjoyed it. A clever Southern gothic style story with a new & interesting take on the paranormal genre, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them (and then watching the film!).

Heart Meringues

Monday, 18 February 2013

Easy Heart shaped Meringue recipe
We're not really 'big' on Valentine's Day but we do like to mark the occasion in a small way. In 2011 I made us all a big box of chocolate & vanilla Valentine's cupcakes, topped with vanilla buttercream & chocolate ganache finished off with rice paper & handmade fondant toppers.
Last year we made some Sweetheart Shortbread, and this year the Mister bought me a rose and made us dinner, and I gave him a card and made these heart-shaped meringues for dessert.

I used this meringue recipe from BBC Good Food as it was quick & simple, and it produced some delicious results. The meringues were crispy on the outside with a perfect chewy inside and we all thoroughly enjoyed them. I piped ours into heart shapes for Valentine's Day, but you can drop them into circles and serve two sandwiched together with some whipped cream, or pipe them into any shape you like.


4 large egg whites at room temperature
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar

  • Preheat your oven to 110c/fan 100c/GM 1/4 and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  • Add your egg whites to your (large, clean and NOT plastic) mixing bowl and beat them on a medium speed until the mixture is cloud-like & stands in soft peaks when lifted.
  • Increase the speed on your mixer and add the caster sugar one tablespoon at a time with a 3-4 second gap between each spoonful. Don't over beat the mixture, when it is done it should be thick & glossy.
  • Sift a third of the icing sugar over the mixture and then carefully fold it in with a metal or rubber spoon or spatula. Repeat this with the remaining two thirds of icing sugar until thoroughly combined, do not over mix. It will be soft and billowy at this stage.
  • Scoop up a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and drop them on to your baking trays, or pipe them into your desired shapes.
  • Bake your meringues for 1 1⁄2-1 3⁄4 hours (fan) or 1 1⁄4 hours (conventional/gas), until they sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a light coffee colour. Leave them to cool on the trays, they will now keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for a month.
Easy Heart shaped Meringue recipe

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 18 February 2013

Monday 18th February - Baked Cannelloni

Tuesday 19th February - Cauliflower cheese with chicken & bacon

Wednesday 20th February - Brinner

Thursday 21st February - Ham, egg & chips

Friday 22nd February - Enchiladas

Saturday 23rd February - Ploughmans

Sunday 24th February - Honey roast gammon

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner

#CountryKids with @CoombeMill

Saturday, 16 February 2013

We have enjoyed a couple of really beautiful days weather-wise this half term, yesterday being one of them.

We spent the day at my parents house and E & H made the most of the warm sunshine playing outside in the playground and on the bikes & coupe car!

#R2BC - Reasons to be Cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Mich is taking a blogging break and #R2BC is being taken care of by the lovely Clare at Seasider in the City while she is 'away', so be sure to pop across and link up.

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week?

My reason is quite simply that I am having a really lovely week. It's been relaxed, no rushing around, no hassles, no worries... Just calm. We've had our pancakes, we've watched movies and played some games, we've sat around in our PJs doing absolutely nothing, I've seen my fabulous BFF a couple of times (I don't manage it nearly enough)... It's been good, and I have enjoyed it.

I've managed to get some more reading in for #50Books2013, and as I was not particularly enjoying The Scarlet Letter I am taking a break from it and reading Beautiful Creatures, which has just been turned into a movie. A wants to go and see it, but we both want to read the books first. So far so good, I am thoroughly engrossed in the story of Ethan & Lena and am just over half way through the first book of the Caster Chronicles. I have downloaded all four to my Kobo & plan to whip straight through.

With it being Valentine's Day today we'll make a special dessert or two to enjoy as a family after dinner tonight, and maybe we'll watch a movie together. Tomorrow is my niece's birthday and her celebratory meal was shuffled from Wednesday to Friday, so we've had to rejig our plans & routine a little. But, it'll be a good evening and I'm looking forward to the Mexican buffet being put on by my sister, & having some cake!

I hope everyone has had a good week!

#TheGallery : Girls

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tara at Sticky Fingers has chosen 'Girls' as this week's theme for #TheGallery. I immediately knew the perfect photo...

I snapped this photo quickly on my mobile phone the day that A met E, the day after E's birth. After three little brothers, A had been so desperate for a baby sister.

We came home late at night after some begging to the night staff on the ward, there had been mec present when E was delivered and she had to stay for 12 hour obs, which meant that it was midnight before we could be discharged. The lovely midwife took pity on me as I was dying to get home to be with the children and she signed us off so the Mister could take us home.

The kids were all tucked up in bed asleep when we got home so they had no idea we were there until A came in to our bedroom and found E snoozing in her moses basket in the middle of the bed early in the morning. I woke up to A sitting at the foot of the basket sobbing happy tears at seeing her new sister for the very first time. A had to leave to catch the bus for school, but I handed E over to her and took a quick pic before she left.

The first picture of my two girls together, the first of many, and one of my favourites.

The Best Pancakes Ever

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Fluffy American style Pancake Recipe
We're big fans of pancakes in this house, and while it doesn't have to be pancake day for us to enjoy them it does give us an extra excuse to serve them up for dessert.

We have lots of different tastes and all of us have our favourite flavours and combinations.

My favourite is a couple of thick American-style pancakes, layered with whipped cream, maple syrup and caramelised bananas. I also enjoy them spiked with blueberries and topped with Greek yogurt. The Mister shares my taste and will have a stack of thick pancakes dripping in maple syrup.

H prefers his to be thin and crispy, the size of a dinner plate and drizzled with maple syrup. L is another thin & crispy pancake fan, he prefers to enjoy his with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a generous splodge of toffee sauce.

A is a girl after my own heart and likes her pancakes to be thick and fluffy, but dotted with white chocolate chips and a spread of lemon curd, with a swirl of squirty cream on top. E likes hers with a little dash of maple syrup & strawberries, although truth be told she'd just prefer to have the strawberries on their own.

J is a tween boy and therefore will happily have his pancakes covered in whatever he can find, I always make sure that we have a good selection of toppings available and he'll choose a different one for each pancake.

Pancake topping ideas
What are your favourite flavours and combinations? Maybe chocolate spread with sliced strawberries on top, or traditional lemon and sugar? Perhaps you have some weird & wonderful tastes?!

Do you have a favourite pancake recipe? My current favourite is Jamie Oliver's quick & easy 1 cup self raising flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 egg and a pinch of salt - though I do add a drop or two of vanilla essence to mine.

Get your frying pan nice & hot, add a knob of butter and then ladle in a scoop of batter for lovely thick pancakes.

We're having our pancakes for dessert after dinner tonight, I hope you all enjoy your pancakes today - whenever and however you have them!

Mexican Lasagne [#Recipe]

Monday, 11 February 2013

After seeing Lucy from Little Super Sparks mention Mexican Lasagne the other week I was intrigued, and simply had to give it a go myself. I googled some recipes to see if there was one I liked the look of, but unfortunately none were exactly what I was looking for so I decided to take elements of different recipes and throw them into one to make my own.

This recipe made a HUGE lasagne, enough to serve all of us, with leftovers for another day - handy when you have teenagers who descend on the kitchen like locusts after school.

Simple Mexican Lasagne Recipe

1.5kg minced beef
60g taco seasoning
400ml Water
3 corn tortillas
3 salad tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, chopped
215g spicy refried beans
500ml Creme Fraiche
150g sweetcorn
Cheddar cheese, grated


  • Fry off the chopped onion in a pan, then add the sweetcorn and refried beans and mix together, warming through.
  • In a separate pan, fry off the minced beef until it is browned, then add the taco seasoning and water. Mix it thoroughly, bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • While the mince is simmering, slice your salad tomatoes ready for layering into the lasagne.
  • When the mince is ready, add the onion, sweetcorn & beans mixture and combine.
  • In a large round oven dish, start layering your lasagne. I layered mine as follows - mince > tortilla > creme fraiche > tomatoes > cheese > tortilla > mince > tortilla > creme fraiche > cheese.
  • Preheat your oven to 200c (fan setting) and place your lasagne in the middle for approx 15-20 minutes, just to brown the cheese, being careful not to burn the creme fraiche.
  • Serve with a side salad, and enjoy.

Simple Mexican Lasagne Recipe

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 11 February 2013

Monday 11th February - Fisherman's Pie

Tuesday 12th February - Brinner, followed by PANCAKES!

Wednesday 13th February - Dinner out for my niece's birthday

Thursday 14th February - Chicken kiev with chunky chips and salad

Friday 15th February - Fajitas

Saturday 16th February - Lasagne

Sunday 17th February - Pork Chops

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner

#CountryKids with @CoombeMill

Saturday, 9 February 2013

It has been chilly but glorious on occasions this week, so E and I grabbed her balance bike & a bag of bread and ventured down town to the country park and to feed the ducks!

E took great delight in zipping along on her bike and is quickly getting the hang of balancing on it, we stopped off in the playground and she went on the swings and ran around as fast as her little legs would carry her through the mud and puddles. We wandered down by the bridge and she broke up slices of bread and threw them for the ducks (and the massive swan that made me rather nervous!) and all in all we had a really lovely morning together.

It was pretty chilly and E was shattered by the time we left to make our way home, so we jumped on the bus for a ride up the hill and then spent the afternoon snuggled under a blanket having our lunch and getting warmed up again. Days like that make me long for the Springtime!
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