Monday, 29 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday - 29th February

Another week, another meal plan. Why is it so hard to stick to a plan? I honestly need a big hard kick up the backside. Last night I actually had a bag of tortilla chips and hummus for tea... Oh dear.

So with this in mind, lets try again.

Monday: Jacket Potatoes, I am going to pop them in the slow cooker in the morning. I have a load of salad bits to use up and some tuna.

Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Thighs with either rice or homemade chips (depending on how we feel)

Wednesday: Healthy Carbonara

Thursday: Lasagne and garlic bread (Zoe's favourite), I will make this in the morning during Zoe's nap as we have swimming lessons in the afternoon and usually don't get home until 4pm so won't have much time.

Friday: Bangers and Mash, we still have a few packs of Northumberland Sausage Co sausages left, proper comfort food.

POST BLOG POST NOTE: I scheduled this post on Sunday morning, hopeful for a great week... Woken up at 5am on Monday morning with some sort of food poisoning/vomiting bug... Something tells me this will be a rough week. :(


Sunday, 28 February 2016

Mother's Day Gift Guide

We are just 7 short days away from Mother's Day, and while I am not one for valentines or 'hallmark holidays' I do like the idea of showing Mums how much they are appreciated (as well as Dads on Fathers day). I always loved spending the day spoiling my Mum, making cards and breakfast in bed. I can't wait until Zoe is old enough to understand and participate.

I wanted to share a few Mothers Day gift ideas for anyone panic shopping this week... I have tried to focus on affordable things, as we are pretty strapped at the moment with the mounting cost of childcare etc...

1. Something Homemade - For me Mother's day isn't about big expensive gifts, its about a child appreciating their Mother. Thats why for me something homemade and heartfelt will always be the most cherished gift. Handprints, footprints, a childs artwork... All lovely and inexpensive. Or if you are not the craftiest of people (or can't deal with a 14 month old and paint without a complete meltdown) you could try something like Pottery Painting. Pots and Pancakes is a place in North Shields which offers pottery painting, as well as handprints and footprints you can treasure forever - I love this idea.

2. Mama Bracelet - This is something I have asked for, A Woody and Florence Mama Bracelet. I love how simple it is, it is inexpensive but really stylish and subtle. At only £3.95 its a nice idea for those on a budget.

3. Me-Time - It can be as simple as a solo trip to the local coffee shop, with free wifi and an endless supply of flat whites or a more indulgent spa package or trip to the hairdresser. A little time away can do wonders for the soul. I love the look of this package from The Garage Spa in Durham, its half a day so you can still have family time, but with a 25 minute treatment and 4 hours of spa access - it sounds like heaven.

4. The Mother Book Rather than another how-to guide or self-help type book, this is a series of posts/essays from various mothers. More of a show of solidarity to dip in and out of when you feel like you're alone in the crazy motherhood journey. I recommend teaming this with the next item on my list and a voucher for an hour long uninterrupted bubble bath.

5. Lush I am a huge Lush fan, nothing says relaxation for me like a long soak in a scalding hot bath filled with bubbles. My personal favourite is the Comforter Bubble Bar, which I can easily stretch to 3-4 baths. I personally wouldn't bother with the pre-made gift boxes, you always end up with a couple of things you never use. A bag full of bath bombs, bubble bars and a bottle of wine would be the perfect gift for me.

I hope this list gave you a few ideas, I'd love to hear how you guys celebrate mothers day.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

My 5 Make-up Essentials for tired Mums.

I am going to preface this post with the fact that I am definitely not a beauty blogger! Some days I don't even wear make up. Before having Zoe I wouldn't have dreamed of leaving the house without at least some mascara but being a Mum my priorities are a little different, some days all we do is pop to the supermarket or swing by the park, and who the hell cares? Am I right? Although on those days when you've had a terrible night of multiple wake-ups or your day has started pre-5am, I need a little help to look human.

So here are my top 5 products for turning you from Zombie-mum to somewhat normal...

BB Cream - I am prone to dry skin, especially on my forehead, so heavy foundations or powders tend to flake or just not sit right on my skin. Plus, I always feel so weighed down by it. I discovered the wonder of BB cream a few years back and haven't used anything else since, it is light and easy to apply, but gives great coverage too. I personally use Dream Pure by Maybelline, it is pretty cheap in the world of make-up but I prefer it to some of the more expensive brands I've tried and tend to splurge on other items.

Oh La Lift from Benefit - This is my magic wand for those days when your eye bags are suitcases and your injecting caffeine into your eyeballs before 7am. This delicate pink eye brightener goes under your eyes (I apply it on top of my BB Cream) and just erases signs of tiredness and dark circles. Its a miracle worker, trust me.

Highbeam - This is a highlighter from Benefit, which is pearly pink so works well for my pale skintone (they do other tones too), I apply it to the apples of my cheeks and up my cheekbone slightly, also to my brow arch. I find it just lightens my face and makes me look all youthful and dewy. I team it with Benefit's Dandelion blush- they work well together.

L'Oreal Super Liner - I am a huge fan of a winged eye, a nice black flick at the corner which makes you feel a little more put together. I have quite small eyes so find this look helps balance them out a bit. However, I always struggled with traditional brush liners so this style is almost like a felt tip pen! Foolproof. This one is especially thick so even the tiredest most bleary eyed mama can rock it.

Red lips - I am a huge fan of red lips, you look instantly cool and bad ass in my opinion. Although, I have never really got on with traditional lipsticks. I find them waxy or I spend my entire day rubbing my lips together and it wears off! I then discovered the wonder of a lip stain pen, much like the eyeliner it is pretty much a felt tip pen for your face. It can dry your lips out a little so I either buy the double ended kind which has a lip balm, or just pop a bit of Vaseline on top.

The bonus of some of these products is that they won't break the bank. I know benefit can be expensive but when your only buying one or two products it evens out. I'd love to hear your tips on avoiding looking like a Mom-bie (zombie)!


Monday, 22 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday - 22nd Feb

First of, sorry for the lack of action on the blog this week. My new job has begun and while its still early days I can tell it's the right fit for me. We also had some visitors last week. My Auntie Hilary stopped by for a night, to audition alongside Paul for Pointless! I am really hoping they get on the show, as Paul's pointless knowledge is unreal, plus Zoe is a HUGE pointless fan, and I would love to see her little face seeing her Daddy on the TV. (for those reading outside of the UK, Pointless is a gameshow in the UK).

We also had a lovely day with my Bump Buddy Lisa and her little boy Brogan. Back when I was early in my pregnancy I joined a website called Baby Centre, it was really a place to freak out over every little detail and chat to others in the same boat. We were randomly paired as bump buddies as we were due on the same day, but it is actually ridiculous how much I have in common with Lisa, aside from having our children 4 days apart. We both lost parents, we are the same age, we have older siblings, we have similar interests and opinions and she is basically an amazing person who got me through a lot in the last two years.

Sadly she lives 130 miles away, so we don't get to see each other as much as I'd like, but she came up for the day on the train and we had a blast. I love seeing our little people interact and I'm hoping their friendship will blossom as they grow.

Anyway, on with the meal plan. I have been a bit lax again the last few weeks, using new jobs as an excuse, but I need to be a bit more in control and plan!

Monday: Croque Monsieur - my attempt at making toasties sound exciting! Monday is a busy night for us, with both of us getting in late and having to get Zoe to bed, leaves little time for meal prep, so ham and cheese toasties are perfect!

Tuesday: BABY FREE NIGHT! We haven't decided if we'll eat out or order in, but date night is happening.

Wednesday: Bangers and Mash - Still making our way through our huge stash of Northumberland Sausage Company sausages.

Thursday: Salmon Egg Fried Rice - We all love this, and have it at least once a week. I change up the ingredients depending what we have to hand in terms of veggies.

Friday: Homemade Korma with rice and naan - I have never made a homemade curry before, so definitely something new for us. It will need to be mild for Zoe but we arent huge spice-lovers.

I am imagining quite a full on week this week, with getting to grips with work and a few social plans, but having this in writing has helped me feel in control for sure.

As always, head over to Mrs M's linky to see everyone else's plans for the week.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sunday Moment - 21st February

1. I started a brand new job on Monday, I was lucky enough to find a part time promotion within the university I work for, working on an exciting project. This photo was taken at the campus coffee shop at 8am, I was 2 hours early but luckily my lovely friend David met me and calmed me down. Hilariously I met my co workers and we went for coffee, so I spent most of my first morning in a coffee shop. Although, I may need to find a new local coffee place as the loyalty scheme at the university one is ridiculous (you can't get large or syrup on your 10th free cup!).

2. I finished my working week at 1pm on Wednesday and went to meet my Sister, Auntie Hilary and Zoe at a local cafe/restaurant called The Garden Kitchen. It is one of my favourite places for coffee, their flat white game is strong. I was really impressed with their kids meals too. We ordered Zoe a Teddy Bears Picnic (4.95) which included a sandwich (with lovely fresh thick bread), pom bears, fresh fruit salad (loads!) and a drink. It came on a tiny wooden picnic bench and was just really impressive compared to some of the kids meals you come across.

3. It has been Half Term this week in Newcastle, it is a time I absolutely dread. As I don't have school aged children it doesn't really mean anything to me, except that all of the fun things we usually do are suddenly full of big kids and twice the price! We managed to avoid most of the madness but on Friday I braved a Local Soft play (Ace Playce in Killingworth) and was pleasantly surprised. While it was busy, they had a strict two hour policy in place and kept the numbers under control. They had a little disco and bubble machine, which Zoe LOVED! She didn't even glance at the soft play frames, instead she danced and chased bubbles for two hours!

4. My Auntie Hilary popped by for a visit this week, she was only here for two days but we had such a lovely time, and I took my DSLR out for the day on Thursday and snapped these perfect photos! We were in starbucks waiting for her train home and the light was just beautiful. I love watching Zoe interact with people and this photo sums up how much they love each other.

5. Those of you who follow me on instagram may notice a bit of a drop in Zoe photos recently. The reason for this is that is is actually impossible to get her to stay still! I have so many blurry flashes of Zoe in my photo stream. When I do get her to sit still for 10 seconds she does this... Such a little lady.

6. My BBFL (Bump Buddy For Life) Lisa and her little boy Brogan came up to Newcastle on Thursday. We have been friends for nearly two years now and I love getting to spend time with someone who is my life line. She has helped me a lot through pregnancy and early motherhood, we both lost parents and felt a bit lost in becoming parents ourselves. I am already stalking The Train Line for cheap tickets to Doncaster!

That was my lovely week this week, I'd love to hear about yours. :)


Monday, 15 February 2016

Happy Love Day!

We've never been huge lovers of Valentine's day in our house, don't get me wrong, we are not heartless cynics who cry 'Hallmark holiday!' while avoiding anything remotely romantic out of spite. However, I do feel that waiting until 14th February to tell someone you love them is just ridiculous. I have always been fairly vocal with the 'L' word. Growing up my family always said I love you to each other daily, and the last few years have taught me that life is far too bloody short to pussy foot around!

Also, our anniversary is in early March, so we tend to save our pennies for then, plus you don't have to worry about everywhere being booked or charging more for set menus.

This year felt even more special and love filled, so rather than focusing on romantic love, we decided to declare it Love Day and spend it as a family, with the people I love most in the world. My little family of 3 is just wonderful. I thought I knew what love was before Zoe came into our world, but seeing her grow and turn into this awesome tiny person makes my heart grow more each day.

We took a lovely stroll down to the Quayside in Newcastle, where there is a fantastic market each Sunday morning. We drank coffee, ate bratwurst and crepes and took selfies in the snow! We bought a ridiculous number of sausages from the Northumberland Sausage Company (seriously good sausages!) and just enjoyed each others company. With Zoe being more mobile and independent now, we nipped into the Baltic art gallery as there is a fantastic play area on the 2nd floor for Zoe to run about in.

We got home just as Zoe fell asleep so popped her in her cot, where she napped for over 2 hours!! (SCORE!).

Just enough time for me to whip up a lovely Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle (pictured) which Paul has been begging me to make again since I made one for our lovely Neighbour a few weeks back as a thank you for coming to our childcare rescue. It turned out even better this time and the recipe is definitely being saved and made often. The wonderful Pet Lamb Girls are responsible for the recipe, they have a fantastic youtube channel and post a new recipe each Sunday. I am lucky enough to live near to their shop, so get to sample their wares often but for those less fortunate you can recreate them at home!

All in all I declare our first annual Love Day a fantastic success, and won't be waiting 364 days to do it again.


Monday, 8 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday - 8th February

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? The definition of madness isn't it? With that being said, even though we have not been sticking to meal plans much recently I feel better for having one. My main issue at the moment is either getting home from work and feeling too tired to set foot in the kitchen, or spending all day out and about with Zoe on adventures and then not having time to prepare something more than fish fingers and waffles.

I know, I know, excuses excuses. So this week I am thinking if I put a bit more thought into what we are doing and taking the time to plan and prep... We may actually stick to it! That being said we have a fairly busy week this week so convenience is the key this week.

Monday: Salmon Egg Fried Rice - An oldies but a quick goodie, I'll make enough for lunch leftovers.

Tuesday: Fish finger sandwiches - I am often home late on a Tuesday, so something quick but yummy is needed. Zoe eats at Nursery so its just me and Paul.

Wednesday: Bangers and Mash with green Veggies - I only work Wednesday mornings so will have time to peel potatoes and get my act together.

Thursday: I am off to the cinema to see Pride Prejudice and Zombies with my sister, but we are eating at home first so I am going to get some bolognese in the slow cooker in the morning and make a lasagne with salad and garlic bread.

Friday: I am off out for my work leaving do, so hopefully their will be lasagne leftover for Paul and I will knock up some pesto pasta or man n cheese for me and Zoe.

I have a good feeling about this week. We spent Sunday having a good old spring clean so I feel like we are starting with a clean slate. Wish me luck!

Oh and as always, check out everyone else's Meal Planning Monday posts over at Mrs M's Linky.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Sunday Moment - 7th February.

1. Zoe has this fantastic new camera face, which she pulls whenever you try to take a picture. I hope it last forever. She is also rocking her Fisherman Mac Raincoat from Marks and Spencer. The new summer collections are coming in and I for one am very excited by what I am seeing, as someone who isn't wild on girly pink and frills I am loving the bold colours and unusual prints.

2. I went through a phase when I became a Mum where I thought I needed to grow up and smarten up my style. I am slowly realising that I can be a kick ass Mum and keep my childish taste in clothes and jewellery. This Narhwal pin from Natale Draws Stuff is my latest addition and I love it!

3. We wore Red on Friday in support of British Heart Foundation. Dress like a mum (a fab blog btw) and amyrosewatts on Instagram declared it red lipstick day and asked everyone to post a red lipstick selfie to raise awareness, and encourage people to donate. I donated what I could, and feel that BHF is a cause close to my heart after we lost Mum to Cardio Myopathy. Head on over to the BHF website to donate if you can.

4. I am setting myself a little challenge, to start running again. The nights are getting lighter and I am feeling the urge to get out there and work on my fitness. I don't consider myself unfit as I do walk everywhere carrying a 24lb toddler but I used to love running so want to do something for me a few nights a week.

Hope you liked my little photo round-up of the week, I have been toying with the idea of a link/photo/round up post for a while, see you next Sunday. Have a good week!


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Slow Cooked Bolognese

I have had a slow cooker for at least 7 years now and aside from the odd beef stew I rarely use it. I love the idea of being super organised and preparing a meal the night before, and coming home to the smell of home cooked food but in reality I never actually get around to prepping anything and the stews I've made have always been a little hit and miss in terms of flavour.

My reasoning behind trying a slow cooked bolognese was Zoe, she loves spag bol and lasagne but when I cook it quickly in a pan the meat is still in fairly big chunks which she struggles to chew, so tends to just pick around it, which is such a waste. So, I decided to give the slow cooked a try to see if it would break down the meat a little more. Not only did it break down the meat, it intensified the flavours and made for something really tasty!

Also, I have a very fussy vegetable-avoiding man in the house, so I liked that I could sneak extra veggies and flavour in. He has issues around texture so the slow cooking process meant that everything was well incorporated and there were no pesky textures to content with.

500g beef mince (I use 5% lean)
500g carton of passata (you could also used tinned tomatoes if you prefer)
2 small onions, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
handful of mushrooms, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
glug of red wine

I blitzed my veggies using a stick blender, due to aforementioned texture issues but a fine dice will do if you don't mind a bit of texture.
I basically chucked all of the above into the slow cooker, I filled the pasatta carton half way with water and added that too, then popped it on low for 6 hours. For the final 30 minutes I turned the heat up to high and took the lid off to allow the sauce to thicken slightly.

I used my bolognese in a lasagne, which was hands down the best lasagne I have ever made! I will definitely be using this method again and I even have a few cartons in the freezer for last minute dinner emergencies.


Monday, 1 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday - 1st February

I feel like January was a trial month, and would very much like to start 2016 again. A month of illness and tiredness and just general moaning has got me begging for some much needed perspective and I just really want a do-over. I want to feel in control, I want to not be constantly staring at a pile of dishes and or laundry every day. I used to use weekends to catch up and do a big clean, leaving me feeling ready to start afresh on a Monday, but now I am furiously treading water trying to stay afloat.

I am possible being slightly over dramatic and need to chill out, but at this point I just feel like setting fire to the house and moving rather than catch up on some much needed spring cleaning.

Anyway, with that being said, lets try to claw back some of that control by planning some yummy meals;

Monday: Fish finger sandwiches - Monday is my busiest day of the week, and with Zoe eating at nursery we tend to stick to something simple and easy. I do have a roast chicken that needs cooking but I may do that as well, and use the meat tomorrow.

Tuesday: Roast chicken and tomato risotto - a family favourite and easy meal - which will have leftovers I can give to Zoe tomorrow.

Wednesday: Leftover risotto, or cheese toasties. There should be plenty of leftovers, but if we don't have enough or Paul takes his for his lunch we will have toasties.

Thursday: Bangers and mash with veggies - We get these really yummy caramelised onion sausages from Aldi which the whole family loves. Perfect winter warmer meal for when me and Zoe get back from Swimming lessons.

Friday: Slow cooked Spag Bol - I slow cooked some bolognese for the first time last week and it was a real game changer! Zoe wolfed it down, rather than just picking out the pasta and I shoved a load of hidden veggies in too. I might have to blog this recipe soon.

Lets see if we can stick to this one, its pretty low maintenance so heres hoping.

If you want to check out some more meal plans head to Mrs M's Linky.

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