Monday, 31 August 2015

Santa Maria Fajita challenge - yummy !

We love eating different foods at home and I do have a roster of meals that I make to encourage everyone to try new tastes and a range of ingredients and fresh vegetables. One of the favourite meals is our take on Mexican food and I have to admit that I buy a lot of Santa Maria products that make it really easy to prepare a quick and tasty meal for everyone. I keep sachets of the fajita and taco mixes and always have tortillas which can also double up as wraps.

When I make fajitas I use quorn and fresh vegetables. usually mushrooms and peppers. I also often sneak in a spoon of marmite to jazz up the taste a bit - it works really well. We also like all the paraphernalia that goes with fajitas like jalapeƱos and delicious dips. It's a real treat to try food from different places.

It seems we're not alone in enjoying a variety of flavours as Brits are now eating dinner from up to six different countries during the week. According to research commissioned by Santa Maria:

  • Two thirds of Brits said they find worldly cuisine more flavoursome than traditional British dishes
  • More than three quarters of Brits felt they are more adventurous in their food choices than their parents ever were
  • 40% of those polled said foreign dishes like stir fry, curries and fajitas were actually easier to get right than traditional meals
  • Spaghetti, lasagne and chilli con carne rank 1-3 of the nation’s favourite food imports 

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Santa Maria sent us yummy products to make fajitas with.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Bank holiday fun for all the family

Big boy went to stay with Nani-mummy - dressed as Iron Man (of course).

Baby boy played football with Daddy's brother 

Me and Hubbie went to watch bands at our favourite festival 'Edge of the Sea' in Brighton.

Hope you're enjoying the long weekend too :)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Without rain there would be no muddy puddles

It's the last full week of the summer holidays and I had plans for days out this week. Then the weather decided to scupper me by deciding to rain. No, not rain, it has been pretty torrential actually.

Not being the kind of family that is put off by such paltry problems we haven't let this stop us from a) going out or b) having fun.

Baby boy had such fun at the park running in and out of this big puddle - he even left the swings and slides early to make time to splash around. 

Big Boy wore wellies this morning for our visit to town and was absolutely delighted when we had this exchange:
Me: "Aren't you going to jump in the puddles ?"
Big Boy: "Really Mummy ?"
Me: "Well yes, what's the point of wellies if you aren't going to get them wet ?"
Big Boy: "Yay !!"

So while I hope we do get some sun before the term begins again we're making the most of what we have.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Full steam ahead on the Watercress line

The beautiful steam train

You may have noticed that I've been blogging less frequently since the summer holidays began. I've mostly been spending time with the boys and taking them out on trips and to the park. I don't feel guilty about it because Baby Boy has really grown in confidence and Big Boy is really growing into the role of big brother. 

My boys on the railway bridge

We rode on Cheltenham

We've wanted to take the boys on the Watercress Line for a while now and a few months back I ordered some Tesco Days Out vouchers which can be used to pay for the tickets. We finally got round to going today and it was an early start for all of us. Not least as I got up to pack a picnic lunch for everyone. My boys are always hungry so I can't risk leaving home without plenty to eat. 

Pretty platform flowers
4 footed friends welcome

We decided to pick up the train at Alton and just about made it for the first train at 10.50. They were running a steam and a diesel service today so we decided the earlier we started the more journey we would get to make. A ticket gives you unlimited travel all day and we really did make the most of it as we rode the steam train twice and then the diesel too with a break for lunch at Alresford in the middle. There is a lovely cafe at most of the stops and old posters for products like Capstan cigarettes and Rinso soap. 

Watching the fireman
Checking out the fire buckets

The staff are very knowledgable and answer all the passengers' questions very patiently. It was amazing to ride through the countryside in an old style carriage - which Big Boy remarked looked like the one from Harry Potter and we were told they used one from this line for filming. All of the boys loved riding the trains - yes even Hubbie - and it was worth going to. I'd recommend a day out on the Watercress Line and I'm hoping we can book to go on a dining car next time. 

Toot toot
Tired Daddy

This post is being shared as part of the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill. 

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Home grown pudding anyone ?

How do you like them apples ?

It's Bake Off night which means my annual Kitchenaid craving is in full force and I'm thinking about what to bake pretty much all the time. In my waking moments I'm concocting grand plans for cakes, biscuits and muffins and in my sleeping moments... well I'm pretty much doing the same.

At the weekend I gave all the boys the important job of harvesting the first apples from our trees in the garden. When we moved to this house we were told that the trees grew cooking apples and sure enough the following autumn we had a glut of apples and it was crumbles, cakes and all manner of apple based cuisine for months. We only get apples every two years and with this being an apple year I was very excited when they started to appear.

A small sample of our first harvest of the year

Last year I discovered that we also have quince growing in our garden so I made quince jelly. We also have blackberries, but some overzealous pruning left us with a paltry amount of them last year. This year I've been a bit more judicious and as a result the ratio of apples to blackberries is far more promising.

So, having collated and photographed the fruit I remembered I had some shortcrust pastry in the freezer and my mind began whirring with ideas. In the end I went for a very simple apple and blackberry pie with a pastry topping.

I made this ! 

It's clear my food photography is not quite up to scratch which is why I'm not a food blogger, but it did taste delicious :)

Then we ate this :)

I did also make some simple marmalade straws for Big Boy who is obsessed with Paddington at the moment. He's never shown any interest in marmalade but he did like these. I managed to even keep some for him to enjoy our daily showing of the Paddington movie tomorrow afternoon :)

Movie snack marmalade straws anyone ? 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A full day of family fun at the farm

Meeting the farm cat

Last week we took the boys to stay with Granny and Grandpa. We are so lucky they live near the New Forest so we take a 'staycation' every year where we use their home as a base and go on trips with the children during the day and have the option to go out in the evening with babysitting on hand. It's lovely :)

So this year we had two boys to entertain and one who hasn't done all the exciting things that are there so we had big plans. One of the days we decided to visit a farm that is just the other side of the New Forest and it turned out to be a lovely sunny day in what was an otherwise patchy week for weather. Of course our boys love farms with Big Boy being a fan of tractors and Baby Boy with his love of animals. Hubbie was delighted it took only 20 minutes from Granny's house and Grandma joined us for a day with her favourite boys. I packed a picnic for us all and spare 'farm shoes.' Something for everyone.

greedy goats

First up was the animal feeding and Baby Boy and Grandma helped feed baby goats. Up until now we've only had experience of feeding Rocky the goat at Coombe Mill. At Longdown Farm it's a very different proposition. While you queue you are handed bottles of milk (which Baby Boy thought were a snack for him !) and then you are led into the barn where you sit on hay bales. The goats are then unleashed and they charge forwards heading for the bottles. It's hilarious.

The animal handling was next and Big Boy decided he wasn't too keen on this as it was 'too smelly,' so he went off for a play with the digging equipment that they also have for children to play at driving. Baby Boy loved handling baby guinea pigs, chicks and brushing the goats. I really do think he's going to work with animals when he's older.

face painting

No day out with Big Boy is complete without face painting and while we were in the soft play barn he decided he wanted his face painted as Spiderman - of course. There was also a pre-school play barn for Baby Boy which was great as there were enough of us to enable the boys to play in different places. At one point me and Big Boy went off to play on the trampolines as it was very quiet in the play barn and we had a great time.

I can highly recommend Longdown Activity Farm if you are staying near the New Forest. They do a reasonably priced family ticket (£30) and kindly allowed us to count Granny as a child for the purposes of the ticket. They also have pony rides (£3.50) a picnic area and tractor rides. We spent all day there and would go back to try all the things we didn't get to do. Next week I'll tell you all about our trip to the Isle of Wight.

a rare photo of me and the boys

This post is being shared with the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill - our favourite family farm to holiday at. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

I think my cat is a criminal mastermind

Since Baby Boy came to live with us we've been talking to him constantly to encourage him to speak.  It's a tactic I used with Big Boy - I used to copy all the sounds he made until he did the same to me and started using actual words. Of course now he is articulate enough to use sarcasm and I wish I'd been a little more circumspect in my approach.

Baby Boy finds it so funny when I do this and he tries to catch me out with more and more sounds then an elaborate pattern of speech that eventually beats me. It is hilarious fun and I don't even notice I'm doing it any more. We were staying with the in-laws when I heard Baby Boy chuntering away upstairs and without thinking I repeated the gabble not realising that Father-in-law was standing behind me in the kitchen giving me a very odd look.

An unlikely partnership

Well, however strange it may seem there is method to my madness and it appears to be working. Baby Boy has gone from grunting, shouting, pointing at things (and a combination of all three) to making recognisable sounds. Some of them are pretty distinct like:

  • Standing at the top of the stairs waving at Hubbie as he leaves for work and saying "Bye bye Daddy." 
  • Whenever Big Boy annoys / pushes / hits him he shouts, "Mummy !!"
  • He is known in Waitrose now for waving and saying, "Baa Baa" to everyone - that is bye bye to anyone else.
  • When we go to our favourite park he calls out "Wack wack" at the ducks, geese and pigeons and his current favourite book is the Ladybird book of Ducks and Swans.

Talkng to the 'wack wacks'

  • Our holiday at Coombe Mill Family Farm gave him a whole new range of animal noises to practise including "Baaaaa" and "Oof Oof" which is now what we call sheep and dogs.
  • The best is that he's gone from chasing the cat screaming at high pitch to actually calling him by name. Ok it's almost his name, he calls out "Neeya" which is pretty close.

What we noticed while staying with Granny and Grandpa was that Baby Boy was calling out "Neeya" to their current feline resident Missy. So it's pretty clear that rather than realising that Neo is his name he thinks that's what he is.

So, he has Big Boy giving him biscuits on demand and Baby Boy renaming all cats after him.

Neo's plan for world domination is taking shape.

He looks like butter wouldn't melt doesn't he ?