Next Kids Spring and Summer range

I was recently invited along to the Next head office, with some other fantastic bloggers, to have a look at the spring/summer 2014 range of kids clothes. I have to say, both myself and Sophie were very impressed and I am looking forward to these clothes being available in stores so we can stock up ready for our holidays this year (I might have mentioned we have a few!). We loved the bright colours and pretty dresses and Sophie definitely has her eye on a few items. What do you think? I do love having a little girl sometimes!!

Next spring summer 2014

I was paid travel expenses and received a voucher and goody bag as a thank you for attending this event, however I wasn’t asked to write this post

How to spice up frozen meals

Frozen meals are always handy. At the end of a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is spend a couple more hectic hours in the kitchen. When faced with the thought of preparing a meal from scratch with the inevitable clean up after, that casserole in the freezer looks very tempting. While frozen dinners can certainly be delicious and nutritious, sometimes they can lack that little extra something.

You don’t have to resign yourself to bland meals though. With a few quick extras, you could be enjoying a tasty dinner for the family in minutes! Read on to discover some delicious ways to spice up your frozen dinner and make each meal time unique.

Serve up with a classic

Perfect with everything from lasagne to some spicy vegetable chilli, French fries are perhaps the ultimate quick and easy side dish, that will satisfy everyone. Try McCain French fries for something warm and tasty, straight from the oven. You can put these in while you prepare your meal, and have them both ready in time to satisfy those hungry bellies.

Add a touch of greenery

If French fries aren’t your thing, then a quick and easy green salad will add some fresh flavour to your plate. Salads are super quick to whip up. And you can go as complex or as simple as you like. Mixed leaves, tossed in a light dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some light seasoning, are delicious with a pasta meal. For extra texture, add crunchy croutons, some grated Parmesan cheese and mayo.

Delicious veggies

If you want to make sure you get a few of your 5 a day with your frozen meal, then roasted vegetables or a crispy stir-fry are perfect with virtually anything. For those of you who are cooking up their frozen dinner in the oven, a quick multi-tasking tip is to stash in an extra tray of vegetables alongside your frozen dish. Drizzle with olive oil, herbs and seasoning and cook through, to enjoy at dinner time. You can opt for something traditional, maybe carrots, potatoes and parsnips which are delicious with a beef casserole. Or you could add some Mediterranean flavour by using peppers and onions.

Mix up the flavours

Just because your frozen meal is pretty much ‘ready to eat’ (barring the frozen part), it doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with flavours. Dishes like stews, casseroles and hot pots can be easily transformed with some extra herbs and seasoning. Give a dish an Indian flavour by making up a basic gravy of sautéed onions, tomatoes, chilli powder and cumin seeds, before mixing in to your frozen meal. Allow to cook through completely and finish off with a handful of fresh coriander leaves, and serve over a bed of Basmati rice, or with a warm, fluffy naan bread.

So there are a few suggestions for spicing up your frozen meals. Quick, frozen meals don’t have to be boring! Get creative today

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A white feather…..

white feather

It was just a moment, a fleeting moment, but it was lovely nonetheless and after today it was exactly what I needed. It made me feel calm and at peace, which is a stark contrast to the rest of the day.

You may have read earlier in the week about Sophie and her tantrums - well today we hit a new level of tantruming, after being asked to pick up her toys – which is actually normally a favourite pastime of hers, I’ve never known a toddler so tidy, she went into an epic meltdown which culminated in her throwing up all over the carpet – this of course only escalated the situation as now, not only was it about not wanting to do as she was told, it was also the fact she had been sick. I took her upstairs and cuddled her and told her I loved her and the whole time I felt like a complete failure. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a parent.

She then insisted on a nap, and while she napped I cried.

I think her decision to cut out daytime naps is a big contributor to the problem, by late afternoon she is tired and grumpy and the usual distractions just don’t work, but she is insisting she doesn’t want to nap, and me forcing the subject also results in a tantrum, it’s a no win situation.

I went out into the garden this evening to fetch the washing in while Michael was bathing her. It’s so lovely and peaceful and I started thinking. Its times like this that I really miss my Mum, be it on the end of the phone, to tell me this is what having a toddler is like. To tell me I’m not the first parent whose child has reduced them to tears. To even tell me I was the child who reduced her mother to tears. Or to be here, to come and give me a break for an hour, to have a cup of tea and tell me that I’m not the worst mother in the world after all. Its been 3 years since she died, and I had never realised how lonely bringing up a child could be.

But then I don’t believe my Mum has ever really left me, and I don’t believe she ever really will. I asked her tonight to let me know she was still there, and when I turned round, washing in my hand, there was a single, bright, white feather – a sign of angels – in the grass – thanks Mum, I needed you today xx

Plan UK’s Give up to Give Back Campaign #GiveUp2GiveBack

I have to admit that I often look around me and what I have and feel incredibly lucky, my life now is a million miles away from my upbringing. I feel really proud to be able to offer Sophie so many opportunities that I never had. Yet even as a child from a very low-income family I always had a roof over my head, warm clothes, clean water, and education and a hot meal each day. Those things at least were taken for granted, even if my clothes were from a charity shop and my Mum would sometimes go without meals if we were having a tight week. Its pretty hard to imagine not having those things – they are essential right?

All the above mentioned things might be essential, but it doesn’t mean that everyone has them. Its pretty impossible to believe that in the 21st century, there are people in underdeveloped countries that don’t even have clean water – in fact the only water they do have, is dirty and diseased and could kill them. It’s a million miles away from the way I grew up, yet I was considered unlucky to have had the childhood I did.

Even though I appreciate the life I have now, there are still things I take for granted, which I know I shouldn’t really, but I do it all the same. I think nothing of calling in at the shop and picking up a few non-essential items, and although we do have a rough budget each week for shopping, it’s not really an issue if we do go over. If something in the house breaks, we are luckily in a position where it can be replaced, without it being a huge problem. If we are out and about we can call in and buy a drink without giving it a second thought.

Give up to give back

give up to give back

The above are just a few examples of money we spend on non essentials and Care UK are challenging people to give up some of these luxuries in aid to sponsor a child, and this is exactly what I have done. At £15 per month to sponsor a child, that’s just one less trip to the shop each week, which actually isn’t a problem at all. There are lots of things you could give up. Maybe make your own packed lunch each day, rather than buying it while you are at work, or skip the coffee shop once or twice per week. Could you walk or cycle to work rather than taking the car or bus? I am sure you can think of loads of ways of saving such a small amount, ways that will either be beneficial to you, or you won’t notice at all!

 This post is bought to you in collaboration with Care UK. For more details and to sponsor a child through the Give up to Give Back Campaign, visit the website.

Where has my lovely toddler gone?

Butter wouldn't melt?!

Butter wouldn’t melt?!

We’ve all heard about the terrible twos, but a few people have mentioned that age three is worse, and I am beginning to think they are spot on! At almost 3, Sophie went to bed one night, her usual lovely self. Sometime in the night she made a pact with the Devil, to make Mummy’s life hell, to push me to my limits and try every shred of patience I have. I’m not sure what is in it for her, but by her wicked laugh when shes on one, I would have to say its something pretty good – I am thinking a lifetime supply of chocolate would have been a good bargaining tool with her, and right now she is on track to get it!

Sometimes I still see my lovely sweet little girl, and other times its like she is possessed, she has totally stopped listening to anything myself or her Dad say, she runs off at every opportunity possible, and I am the Mum left screaming at my child as she runs towards the road – the Mum I never thought I would be. But this is what she has reduced me to!

This weekend I have had tonsillitis, and am still feeling really ill. Shes bought me water and given me cuddles, then to turn round and refuse to get off the table and literally scream the house down when I tell her it is time for bed. I am seeing a side to her that I really didn’t know existed. And when me or her Dad tell her off, she laughs! Dinner time has become a nightmare, take pasta for instance, once a firm favourite, it is now refused at all times, she screams as if she is being poisoned and claims it hurts to eat, yet will happily munch on pretty much anything else. We finally managed to convince her to eat some tonight, to which she said – yummy, I like it – yes we know you do darling, you always have done!!!

I am currently thinking a padded cell would be a nice change of scenery, I would have my meals cooked for me, rather then spending hours cooking for it to be pushed away amidst claims that she doesn’t like it. I could maybe even eat my meals in peace, without someone having to try everything on my plate, to make sure it isn’t any better than theirs. I might even manage a sleep without being woken by snoring – its looking like a pretty promising option isn’t it?

Mondays Parenting Pin it Party #47

All you need is love and cake

Welcome to this weeks Parenting Pin it Party. Its the start of the Easter school holidays for some of you, we however have another week before we break up here. On Friday Sophie’s preschool are hosting an Easter Egg hunt, which should be good fun – this week will see me boiling eggs ready to be decorating and making cakes to fuel all that Easter Egg hunting!

So I thought to coincide with the holidays I would pick a couple of posts from last weeks Pin it Party with some ideas on how to keep the kids entertained this Easter! I really struggled to choose just 2, as yet again it was a bust week for the pin it party. I finally decided on these 2.

I loved these Easter Skittle from Let Kids be Kids, especially as they are suitable for a wide age range – I think Sophie would love these and they can be played with indoors or out (if our weather ever allows!)

Easter-skittles

I also really liked this gardening idea from Red Peffer, a great excuse to get out in the garden!

quality street gardening Well done to this weeks featured pinners! Get in touch and I will send over your featured pinner badge