Mama OWL Blog: August 2015

Meal Plan Monday 310815

Monday, 31 August 2015

Meal Plan 310815
Monday 31st
Pasta Bake
Tuesday 1st
It's my birthday today, so it'll be birthday cake for dessert - dinner is undecided
Wednesday 2nd September Burgers & Chips with salad
Thursday 3rd
Friday 4th
Sausage & Mash
Saturday 5th
Chicken skewers & rice
Sunday 6th

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
* = Breakfast for dinner (egg, bacon, etc)

What E Wore | A Half Term Holiday

Thursday, 27 August 2015

We have already been lucky enough to escape for a week to Corsica with Mark Warner Holidays this Summer, and it has really whet our appetite for our whole family break to Lakitira, Kos in the October half term - we are counting down the days!

I have been buying little bits and pieces for our holiday for E as she has had a bit of a growth spurt this Summer and needs a wardrobe top-up, especially of things suitable for an Autumn sunshine getaway. My favourite stores are H&M and Pumpkin Patch for kids clothes at the moment and I have taken full advantage of recent sales and offers.

My first holiday purchases were from Pumpkin Patch earlier in the year. I bought a long sleeved Hibiscus pattern Rash set in 'bubblegum' for the bargain price of £11.78, these gorgeous red striped board shorts for £5 and a funky pair of round sunglasses for £3.

My next purchase was more recently in another of their fab sales, where I picked up a Daisy print playsuit for £9, a pretty bunting print dress also for £9, a deep violet border flower print skort for £5, a cute pair of mid length white shorts for £5, and two lovely peplum tank tops - one in white, one in lime sorbet - for only £3 each. I bought all of these items in age 6 so with any luck they will still fit E well into next Spring/Summer.

With sun safety being a paramount concern, I bought E a Rash Vest by No Fear for the bargain price of £5.25 from Sports Direct. The children will need to have t-shirts that cover their shoulders as part of their childcare essentials for the MW holiday clubs so I've bought one for each of them, E loves hers as it's her favourite colour - pink!

Meal Plan Monday 240815

Monday, 24 August 2015

Meal Plan 240815
Monday 24th
Toad in the hole with chips and mixed vegetables
Tuesday 25th
H has requested brinner* this evening
Wednesday 26th August Cottage Pie
Thursday 27th
It's the Mr's birthday & he has requested Chicken New York with salad and baked potatoes - birthday cake for dessert!
Friday 28th
Spaghetti (Courgetti) Bolognese
Saturday 29th
We're out at a BBQ this evening
Sunday 30th
We're out at a family fun day today and then I am out this evening, so the Mr & kids are fending for themselves

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
* = Breakfast for dinner (egg, bacon, etc)

Double Chocolate Chip Banana Bread | Recipe

Friday, 21 August 2015

I may have overdone the fruit purchases this week and so the bananas had gone a little black and spotty, which meant that the children wouldn't eat them. There's only one thing to do with overripe bananas and that is - turn them into a delicious banana bread.

Having a rummage through my baking cupboard we found some milk chocolate chips and a bar of white chocolate and the kids decided to turn it in to an extra tasty double chocolate chip banana bread to enjoy after their dinner that night (or equally great to accompany an afternoon cuppa). This is what we did, and how we did it.

  • 12oz Self Raising Flour
  • 3 medium (7-8") Bananas, mashed
  • 6oz Butter/Marg, softened
  • 6oz Sugar
  • 3 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp Milk
  • 50g Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 50g White Chocolate, broken into chunks  (+ extra for drizzling)

  • Preheat the oven to 190c.
  • Add the sugar and butter to the bowl and combine.
  • Add the mashed bananas and milk to the mixture.
  • Alternate adding the flour and eggs to the mixture.
  • Carefully fold in the milk chocolate chips and white chocolate chunks.
  • Pour into your prepared loaf tin (mine is 5x9 & 3" deep, and we used a greaseproof liner to make it easier to remove) and place in the oven.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then cover with tin foil to prevent the top of the loaf burning.
  • Return to the oven and bake for a further 35 minutes, your loaf is ready when a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool before melting your white chocolate and drizzling it over the top of your banana bread.

Note: You may need to adjust cooking times to suit your oven.

{Summer Bucket List} Celebrate Birthdays - L turns 12 | #ShepSummer

Thursday, 20 August 2015

I don't think there has been anyone more excited about a birthday than L. He has been been reminding me hourly for weeks, because you know it's not like I was there that day or anything... As one of the youngest in his year he has been waiting impatiently to turn 12 as he watched all of his friends celebrate their birthdays in turn throughout the school year, and yesterday his day arrived. I knew he was going to be up early, and having anticipated this I hid his birthday presents around the house & gave him clues with which to locate them which kept him busy for an extra 5 minutes. At 6am he was up, and he woke H too which he was particularly thrilled about, & off he went to search.

He opened up his cards (his favourite was the pug factory one from his brothers and sisters) and loved all of his new things. He had a string of visitors throughout the day who came to bring him cards and gifts and then in the afternoon he went with his Aunt & cousins to go and watch new Adam Sandler movie Pixels, which was their present to him. He chose KFC as his birthday meal which they had at lunchtime as A had to work in the evening, and we celebrated with an Alien/Monster Eyeball cake, vanilla sponge with marbled 'alien skin' & filled with vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam. We absolutely were not allowed to sing happy birthday to him. So of course, we did. We'll be taking him on a day out in lieu of a party but this means waiting for a day that the Mister isn't working at the moment, right now L is more than happy keeping himself occupied with his new games. Happy Birthday to our brilliant, hilarious, wonderful L.

In the Actifry | Caveman Chilli Recipe

Thursday, 20 August 2015

One of our favourite family recipes is the delicious and simple Caveman Chili by Civilized Caveman Cooking. We have had it with cauliflower rice but prefer to serve it with brown rice - filling comfort food at it's best, and home-made and healthy to boot.

George's recipe is easy to follow and great for preparing ahead and leaving in the slow cooker ready to enjoy at the end of a busy day, but I wanted to give it a try in my Tefal Actifry (a gift from my parents) as an experiment, and I was delighted with the results. Quick & easy and ready in roughly half an hour, no pot watching or stirring required.

  • 750g Minced Beef
  • 1 tsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Peppers, chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • Pinch of Crushed Chillies
  • 240 ml Kallo Chicken Stock

  • Add the oil, peppers, onions & garlic to the Actifry and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add the minced beef and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • Carefully drain off the excess fat.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Serve with brown rice (or any rice/quinoa of your choosing, or perhaps a baked sweet/potato).

It's as simple as that. I realise that the pictures aren't going to win any foodie blogger photo awards but who cares - the chilli tastes amazing. Enjoy.

{Summer Bucket List} Flying with a child with Autism | #ShepSummer

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

In June we took our youngest three children abroad on a plane for the very first time. We drove to mainland France last year visiting Paris before heading to a villa down south, but this time we flew with Mark Warner Holidays on their British Airways chartered flight to the beautiful Mediterranean island of Corsica for a week's holiday.

They were all understandably very anxious about this new experience, having never even seen a plane up close before never mind travelling in one. The staff at check-in were understanding on explaining that we were travelling with a child with Autism and we were allowed to board the plane first with L to get him settled in his seat. L took a few moments to inspect the seat and the compartments overhead before sitting down and strapping himself in. We had to adjust his seatbelt for him because he kept insisting on doing it up tightly so he didn't fall out, this of course required explaining to him that this wouldn't happen and we would be sat right next to him the whole time.

Take off went smoothly, we managed to distract H & E by encouraging them to look out of the windows as we ascended. L has an intense dislike of loud noises and is very sensitive to sensory stimulus, he put his head down on his lap and covered his ears with his hands to calm himself. During the flight and after L was satisfied that undoing his seatbelt was completely safe while he was allowed to do so, he was keen to get up and walk alone to the toilet and back again which he did a few times during our two hour flight. I am fairly certain that he didn't actually use the facilities, he was rather more interested in looking around the plane to familiarise himself with his surroundings and 'needing to use the bathroom' was a good ruse as he knew we wouldn't refuse him.

With it being such a short flight, the boys kept themselves entertained by looking out of the windows at the stunning views below and chattering excitedly to each other and their Dad. I brought along some of E's favourite dolls and books to keep her busy, and she was happy to sit and read and play. The in-flight meals and drink options were great but the kids for some reason decided that they didn't want them, and on such a short flight it didn't matter but when we travel to Kos in October I will pick up some extra snacks on our way through to the gate just in case. L has particular tastes, again they are a part of his sensory issues, so with a four hour flight we will need to be prepared.

Landing was another unsettling time for L who again calmed himself by covering his ears and resting his head on his knees. He was given the space to do this and reassurance from his Dad who was sitting next to him. The landing itself was very smooth and L was eager to get off the plane as soon as he was able. Baggage claim in Corsica was very loud and busy so I kept L, H & E off to one side with our hand luggage while the Mister collected our bags from the conveyor belt. I'll be grateful to have A & J with us next time to help their Dad with the bags so I can keep L and the younger two children out of the way, as it can be quite a chaotic and loud environment in any airport.

We had a wonderful break away and the children had great fun making new friends and taking part in lots of watersports and other fun activities at the Mark Warner childcare clubs. On our way back to London we were unable to board the plane early which L found a little more difficult and unfortunately he had decided to wear a shirt with metal buttons which set off the metal detector and meant he had to be patted down. We were stood right next to him and his face was a mixture of embarrassment, amusement and utter horror but he handled it very well and didn't get upset. Note to self - double check what he is wearing before we fly... Best to try & avoid that next time!

Every person with Autism is different, and will have different needs, and difficulties. We found that talking about the airport and flying with L ahead of time, explaining to him how things work in the airport as we passed through each section, and allowing him space and time to familiarise and calm himself as needed were effective in making it a pleasant experience for him. L dislikes the unknown and anything that interferes with his routine, and so keeping him fully informed and reassured at all times was key in making his first air travel experience a positive one. We plan to load up his Kindle Fire with movies so he can put his earphones in and just tune out on our next flight.

Next stop, Greece!

Round My Way - Timbrell's Yard, Bradford on Avon

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

I live in one of the most beautiful towns in the United Kingdom. Just ask The Sunday Times, they think so too. I don't just live here either - I'm from here, this is my hometown. I was born and raised here, as were my parents before me. I am a true Bradfordian (there don't seem to be that many of us left here these days, sadly) and in the 30-odd years I have been resident I have watched it change and grow in many ways.

As a kid I spent a lot of my time at the local swimming pool with my sisters and friends, where we would while away the weekend and then get a 20p Mars Bar on our way home. We'd often wander along down to Barton Farm and jump fully clothed off the foot bridge into the river (I do not recommend this...) and play in the park until the light started to fade and we had to get back for dinner. The walk back took us along the riverside, where a pub by the same name stood. As the years went by it became run down, & as a young teen I would frequent the pool table with my chums, nursing our cokes and having a few games of darts while other friends worked collecting glasses.

Eventually it closed down, and all that was left was a shell of a building. Derelict, neglected and frankly, an eyesore. But this year, new life was breathed into this beautiful Grade II listed building and Timbrell's Yard opened it's doors after an impressive refurbishment, boasting 14 en-suite rooms and spacious restaurant and bar.

Every Saturday after E's swimming lesson we stop in for her freshly baked croissant and I treat myself to their fantastic Mozzo coffee, when the sun is shining we make the most of Timbrell's outdoor courtyard seating and sit and enjoy the view over the River Avon and the grounds of Holy Trinity church - where my parents were married - just beyond.

Having heard so many glowing reviews of the food served in their restaurant, I took the opportunity to book a table for an evening meal when I went out with my sisters to celebrate a birthday recently. To reserve a table you can call, pop in or book online using the OpenTable service on the Timbrell's Yard website. I definitely recommend booking ahead to avoid disappointment because it is a very popular local venue, and rightly so.

The menu is extensive with an impressive selection of vegetarian and gluten free options. I chose the 300g Chargrilled Flat Iron Steak with pickled shallots, dressed rocket and hand cut chips which was £16.50 and nothing short of utterly divine. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, we ordered dessert. We all decided on the salt caramel and chocolate tart with Ivy House cream and honeycomb, and we were all in agreement that it was absolutely the best dessert we have ever tasted. Out of this world.

The restaurant staff were courteous and helpful and made our dining experience a pleasant one. While I don't usually have condiments with meals any more and didn't notice their absence, my sisters did have to ask for some instead of them being offered when the meals were served which I think would have been preferable to them but to be honest that was our only, and completely inconsequential, niggle. I have already booked a table for myself and my husband for our birthdays in a couple of weeks' time.

I have visited the bar with my husband on more than one occasion and we've enjoyed a quiet drink in the cosy candlelit ambiance - I was especially delighted to discover that they serve my favourite Sipsmith Gin and Fever Tree Tonic. The bar staff are friendly and offer service with a smile & service time is minimal even on the busiest evening. The bar is kept clear and tidy and the atmosphere is warm and inviting with a country pub feel in contemporary surroundings with its mix of quirky and vintage decor.

Timbrell's Yard often welcome guests such as the Meantime Brewing Co and Bath Ales who visit with free samples (yes, you read that correctly - free beer) and information about their real ales and craft beers. To keep up to date with all of the latest news, offers and upcoming events, follow Timbrell's Yard on Twitter and Facebook.

I plan to share posts about my favourite places and local businesses in my 'Round My Way' series, I hope you will enjoy them and maybe even pay the area a visit.

Meal Plan Monday 170815

Monday, 17 August 2015

Meal Plan 170815
Monday 17th
Jacket Potatoes with salad for the Mr & kids, Brinner* for me
Tuesday 18th
Courgetti Bolognese
Wednesday 19th August It's L's birthday and he has asked for KFC, with birthday cake for dessert
Thursday 20th
Macaroni cheese with bacon and broccoli
Friday 21st
Burgers and sweet potato chips with salad
Saturday 22nd
Sunday 23rd
Roast Chicken

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
* = Breakfast for dinner (egg, bacon, etc)

Bath Rugby 150th Anniversary Family Festival

Saturday, 15 August 2015

On Saturday 8th August Bath Rugby held a family festival of rugby at The Rec to celebrate their 150th anniversary. The weather this Summer hasn't exactly been favourable but luckily the sun came out and it was a beautiful day in Bath for some family fun at the rugby ground.

H, E & I all hopped on the bus into Bath after E's swimming lesson, getting off just after Pulteney Bridge and strolled around the outside of the Parade Gardens enjoying the sunshine, before wandering along the river to The Rec. We were greeted by a plethora of food stands as well as a few inflatable activities for the kids to enjoy such as a giant tractor from Tractor Ted, and a bungee run which H absolutely loved and was also very good at, managing to reach the end on each of his three attempts.

We unfortunately missed out on tickets (£12.50) for their sold-out kicking and passing clinics with the Bath Rugby players, but H was able to take part in a tag rugby game with a couple of the players and then sat and listened intently to the Q&A after the game. He was too shy to ask his question but afterwards went up and asked them how to become a professional rugby player. They told him to train hard and always do his best, so will be applying that to the new U10s season when it starts in a few weeks' time.

There were several Q&A sessions going on in 'The Swift Half' throughout the day on nutrition, strength and conditioning and the Academy as well as one with Head Coach Mike Ford, and lots of the players as well as Junior Membership Club leader Maximus were walking around The Rec signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, old and young. They were all very friendly and H was absolutely in his element, he has several signatures on his rugby ball from the likes of Stuart Hooper, Nathan Catt and Jeff Williams to name but a few and was delighted to have his photo taken with them, I could barely keep up with him as he took off running as soon as he spotted a player!

We also missed out on the changing room tour as they were fully booked by the time we got to the stand (H was gutted bless him - it was of course all my fault somehow) but I took him along to the Canterbury Roadshow where they had a mock changing room set up, & he got to write a reason why he loves rugby on their wall and take part in their interactive experiences to test his skills & show he was #CommittedToTheGame! The roadshow will be making 14 stops across England, Wales and Ireland, travelling to Leicester, Belfast, Galway, Cork, Dublin, Twickenham, Cardiff, Newham & Manchester, before finishing in Trafalgar Square, London.

We had a really fun afternoon despite the ticket disappointments, and H said his favourite part of the day was meeting the players. He is really looking forward to going along to The Rec and watching a few matches next season and showing his support to our local team. He says that one day he hopes that he will be be the one playing for Bath.

Summer Days

{Summer Bucket List} Make The Most Of It | #ShepSummer

Friday, 14 August 2015


We have reached the halfway point of the Summer holidays - the weeks seem to be speeding past at an alarming rate and I am desperately clinging on to each day in a bid to make them last that little bit longer. This Summer has the possibility of being our last with our eldest child at home before she heads off into the big wide world of independence and university student life next year, and so spending time together as a family, making memories, and just enjoying each others company is so important to us right now. She will be off before we know it, and our lives will change forever.

This Summer has so far been full of future planning, and looking ahead. We are all very much looking forward to our family holiday in October because it could potentially be our last for a while as A plans to spend some time travelling between her studies at university. She's been working hard and saving to make her dreams a reality, and so all of us going away together as our family of seven will be less likely. She will be eighteen next year, an adult, she wants to see the world on her own terms and find her own path.

In June/July the Mister and I took our youngest three children away to Corsica, and gave A her first taste of independence. Leaving her at home (with our twenty-year-old niece, while J stayed with grandparents) we trusted A to take care of the dogs and house, feed and clean up after herself, and get herself to school and back every day as well as be on time for work. Let me just say - I think that leaving home and living in halls next year will be a rather steep learning curve. I'm just pleased she didn't burn the house down...

A is E's only sister, and this next year will potentially be their last one living together. I want them to spend as much time together as possible, to strengthen their bond and so that E remembers as much of having her sister at home as she can. With E being as young as she is, I do worry that these memories will fade. I'll always remember our Summers in the garden, with them all racing around flinging water at each other and sitting on blankets enjoying a picnic together, or hazy days at the beach burying their Dad in sand and holding each others hands to jump over the waves. These beautiful moments are imprinted on my soul & I hope that they will remember them always, too.

This October we will watch sunsets over the sea, we will laugh and play and swim, we will sit and enjoy delicious meals together, we will have fun. I will remember our last holiday with our children (while they all still are children!) as fondly as I remember our very first holiday as a family of seven. Laughter on the sand, frolicking in the sea, the warm end of Summer sun on our faces, and our hearts and spirits happy and content.

These moments are fleeting. Make the most of them.

Meal Plan Monday 100815

Monday, 10 August 2015

Meal Plan 100815
Monday 10th
Caveman Chilli with brown rice
Tuesday 11th
I'm out for the evening so the Mr & kids are having pizza & garlic bread and some breaded chicken goujons for E
Wednesday 12th
Ploughman's with bacon & broccoli frittata and salad
Thursday 13th
Aberdeen Angus burgers with (sweet potato) chips and mixed salad
Friday 14th
Home-made chicken korma
Saturday 15th
Ham, egg & chips
Sunday 16th

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
* = Breakfast for dinner (egg, bacon, etc)

{Summer Bucket List} Inside Out - Review | #ShepSummer

Friday, 7 August 2015

The kids and I love a visit to the cinema even though it's painfully expensive these days (£27 for a family ticket which comprises 1 adult & 3 children - excessive considering I bought 2 adult & 3 child tickets to the zoo for £25) and they were dying to see the new Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out so I booked our tickets online to ensure good seats anticipating a packed out Summer holiday cinema - I wasn't wrong - and off we went.

I bought the kids hot dogs & sweets to enjoy during the film, as well as using my O2 Priority Moments app to get them a free popcorn to share too & then we took our seats.

"After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school." - Inside Out (2015) IMDB

In all honesty I wasn't too sure what to expect, apart from seeing the TV trailers I hadn't heard or read much of anything about the movie or know details about the plot so I hadn't formed any opinions ahead of time. All I have to say about this movie is, if you haven't seen it yet - DO. And I highly recommend that you take some tissues with you.

My kids are at ages now where 11-year-old Riley's story and her feelings are all too familiar. It's that age. The minefield between childhood and adulthood, when the tweenager creeps in and you long for the days that they were happy laying on the floor lining up their toy cars or having dolly picnics in the living room with every single stuffed toy that they own. Those poignant 'lasts' that we don't really talk about.

I felt my heart wrench in several places during the film and after we met Bing Bong I was nearly beside myself. The movie is bright and colourful and hilariously funny - my kids were giggling all the way through. During the more sombre moments I could see them looking really thoughtfully at the screen, and hopefully seeing that everyone has feelings and it's okay to show them and actually, to feel them. I hope they learned from the movie that bottling things up doesn't help anyone, and that sharing their emotions is a normal, natural thing. By the end of the movie I had the biggest lump in my throat, I genuinely never expected a kids film could touch my heart as much as Inside Out did.

If you only take your children to see one film this Summer, make it this one.

Take her to the moon for me, Joy.

Summer Days

Weight & Inch Loss - Week 30 Update

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Here we are - seven months after starting over and taking better care of myself I have finally reached my target weight. In January I was unsure what my ultimate goal would be, but I had a vague goal in mind - I knew that I would know when I got there. And I have. It's here. I'm here - 25kg (55lb), 39 inches (99cm) and five whole dress sizes later.

Project 6 Pack are taking a break through August ready to relaunch in September with a new timetable and I'm excited to continue training with them. I've also started going to group training sessions at the gym with Laura once a week when I'm able and I am loving using the weights, I want to concentrate on toning more now - particularly my legs & I'd love a more rounded bum (never did I ever expect to hear myself say that...).

Now begins the new phase in my lifestyle change - maintenance. This is equally as hard as losing weight, if not more so - learning not to become complacent, to continue with my training and learning to balance what I'm eating with how much exercise I am doing. Losing the weight is one thing, but keeping it off and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fitness regime is another. I fully intend to continue my Project 6 Pack membership and I am looking forward to the next stage. You can't reach your goal and stop, and expect to stay the same - it takes commitment and dedication to maintain your weight and fitness levels. I don't want any of my previous bad habits to creep back in.

Happiness & contentment isn't a dress size or a number on the scales, but about how you feel about yourself. Losing the weight, improving my fitness and being able to walk into a shop & buy whatever I like and feel good wearing it has made all of the difference to my wellbeing. I am happier and more confident as well as healthier & fitter. It was my decision to overhaul my lifestyle, for ME, and it was easily the best decision I ever made.

Sim's Life#BloggingToJogging
Weigh, Lose or Stay - Laura's Lovely Blog
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