20 facts about me….

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I was nominated by the rather lovely Naomi from Not A Perfect Parent to give 20 facts about me. It’s been a while since I did one of these…they’re so much fun. Here goes…

  1. I once met Robert Carlisle the actor in Heathrow airport. He signed an autograph somewhat brusquely and then buggered off with my pen. He was somewhat short. In height and in manner.
  2. I have a tattoo on my ankle that I had done when I was 18. It’s completely daft and I wish I’d waited until I was older to decide if I’d really wanted one or not.
  3. I used to be terrified of butterflies until a psychic told me the my were a special omen for me. Now I feel reassured and safe when I see one. (Which happens spookily at times when I really ask for one.)
  4. I. Love. Sushi. Ohmigod. If it wasn’t so expensive I’d live on the stuff. It’s discouraged when pregnant so I had my brother bring me some takeaway sushi to the hospital after I’d given birth. Oh, how posh of me.
  5. I donate blood as often as I can. I’ve a universal blood type so they like to see me coming.  Get on the phone and book an appointment to donate, you’ll feel like a good human being.
  6. One of my favourite lazy things to do is whack on a box set of something totally uncool like Dr Who or Lark Rise to Candleford and not talk to anyone (unusual for me, I know) it’s geeky but it’s mine.
  7. I once pretended to be my husband and applied online on his behalf for Masterchef. The producers called him to an interview in London but he refused to go!
  8. I love anything sparkly. I don’t care that I’m 34 and that’s it’s considered the domain of 8 year old girls. I’ll be dead someday. And yes, my headstone will have glitter on it.
  9. I drive like a man…not sure that isn’t a sexist thing to say but I’m quite an aggressive driver. When I’m alone in the car I take the odd chance and definitely speed too much.
  10. I love musicals. Why can’t a person randomly burst into song in the middle of a day’s work? I do it frequently as my workmates will testify. And anyone who doesn’t like musicals hasn’t got a soul.
  11. I recite Cate Blanchett’s opening monologue along with her at the start of the Lord of the Rings. Word for word. Every time. If someone talks to me during it I will hold my hand up and keep going regardless.
  12. My favourite part of the day is getting in my car and going home, knowing I’m going to see two little happy, sticky faces at the window and get a massive cuddle from my little ones and hearing about their adventures that day.
  13. I really miss going on stage and doing shows. When the kids are bigger I can’t wait to get back to it. By God do I miss the backstage parties, too!
  14. I will pretty much eat ANYTHING except I don’t like the taste of ginger, which was horrendous when I was pregnant and had nausea because it was the only thing that made me feel better. It was torturous having to eat and drink ginger flavoured things.
  15. I cry at anything and everything, but hardly ever in front of people. Those who don’t know me well enough sometimes think I’m quite thick skinned, because I’m loud and a bit bossy (well, a lot bossy) but actually I’m a real softie.
  16. My guilty TV pleasure is watching ‘Hoarders – Buried Alive’ because it makes me feel better about my own cleaning routines!
  17. I’ve written a children’s story book. It might never see the light of day, or the desk of a real publisher. But at least I’ve written it down!
  18. I’m regarded in my family as being a terrible cook. I don’t know where this myth has come from, it’s just that everyone else thinks they are better at cooking, and quite frankly, I’d rather sit on my bum watching Strictly with a glass of wine while they slave at the coal face to make me a juicy fillet steak.
  19. I played the double bass in a youth concert orchestra for nearly 10 years. I never practiced enough or took it seriously and it’s a big regret – because I was told constantly by my tutors that I had ability and promise. I doubt I could even remember to play a note now.
  20. I categorically, completely and totally HATE smoking. Everything about it makes me want to vomit, and I make no secret of this – what’s to like? It drains your finances, makes you smell, people get aggressive when they can’t have one and it rules their lives. Oh, and not to mention the tiny fact that it KILLS THEM. Sorry for the mini-rant, just had to get that one in there!

Thanks for reading!

To follow on the linky, I’d like to tag:

Rachel at Coffee, Cake, Kids

Wendy at Castaway With Dreams

Madeleine at This Glorious Life

Karen at The Next Best Thing To Mummy

Vanessa at A Happy Healthy Mummy

 

It’s time for the #FloraLunchbox Challenge

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When the new term starts, many parents get the shock of realising that they now have to start preparing lunches. Everyone wants to make sure that thier children have enough fuel in thier little tummies to keep them active and concentrating throughout thier day of learning and fun. And to us, in this house, it’s all brand spanking new. Before now, I’d only ever had to pack a quick sandwich for my two when they went to the childminder. Now that Amelia has started school, well, the penny has dropped that I’ve got to be prepared.

There are so many rules now for lunches in school. Both put forward by school and self-inflicted ones. We were given a list practically on the first day of what is permitted in the lunch box and what isn’t. Kiwis and nuts aren’t allowed (I’m assuming someone is allergic) and certain fromage frais yoghurts aren’t allowed due to high sugar content. That’s grand. I can cope with that – I just have to make sure that I can pack things she will enjoy.

lunchbox-packHandily enough, Flora have begun the #FloraLunchbox Challenge, and it is all about packing delicious and healthy lunchboxes. Flora has created a meal planner to help you put together tasty and nutritious lunchbox combinations, and they want to hear about your lunchbox ideas and challenges! A Flora-commissioned University of Leeds study recently revealed that only 1.6% of children in England receive a packed lunch that meets the nutritional standards set for school meals, with just 17% of lunches containing any kind of vegetables or salad. (Shocking, right?) Flora wants to change that!

 

So, what is going to be our regular lunchbox routine? I’m a plan ahead type of gal…I literally get panicky sweats if I realise I haven’t organised things ahead of time. So as much as possible I’m going to have any fruit or vegetables pre-chopped and put in containers in the fridge, so I can quickly put my hand on them and assemble them in the lunch box.

I’m going to use the Flora Lunchbox Guide to help me include a mixture of a main, a snack and a fruit and veg from all the relevant food groups. This way, she will hopefully feel that she has an element of choice about what she is eating, while at the same time learning about healthy food. She loves cucumber, hummous, carrot sticks, so thankfully they are easy options. I’m hoping to introduce, olives, new types of cheese and cooked meats – not just crumbed ham!!

I fear the only real struggle I will have when getting to grips with this is the time factor. I don’t want it to become a ridiculously time consuming process. I mean, its a child’s lunch box, I’m not a personal trainer and chef, prepping her for a competition with special meals. It needs to be quick and easy to prepare. There are a couple of really tasty recipes with the #Floralunchbox challenge, I know Amelia with especially like the Moroccan Couscous Salad recipe. It’s really simple and quick to make.

Yes, I’ve got to get organised. I’ve got to build this into my current routine and make sure I’m prepared to have her lunchbox stacked with lots of tasty nibbles, and the ideas from Flora will certainly help. The bottom line is that Flora’s study shows, like I said that only 1.6% of children receive a packed lunch that meets nutritional standards set for school meals? I’m going to do my bit to improve that statistic.

This week, Amelia starts full time hours in school – we’ve tried out the Chicken TikkaWrapflora-wrap which she really likes, so I think this will be her first proper lunch. Watch this space for some more child-friendly lunchbox ideas, I’m definitely going to be getting some inspiration from Flora!

 

 

 

“This post is an entry for the #FloraLunchbox Linky Challenge, sponsored by Flora. Check out their lunch planner and recipe ideas here <http://www.flora.com/article/category/1104207/healthy-kids >

Parenting badges…have you earned yours?

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So I finally earned that elusive badge.

The one all parents secretly yearn to achieve yet are repulsed by. I changed a child’s dirty nappy without them waking up.

You might not think that is a very big deal, but in the land of parentdom, it’s HUGE. Suddenly, things that we would have been disgusted by before having kids instantly become the height of success in the minefield of parenting.

I was SO proud of myself. My son is a notoriously bad sleeper so the fact that he didn’t wake up was like a double award for me.

It got me thinking how many seemingly silly and slightly disgusting yet strangely skilled tasks we find ourselves performing as parents of little ones. Like the time I fished a poo out of the bath. Tick for the ‘Fish a floater’ badge. The time I literally just held a child and voluntarily allowed them to vomit. On me. Twice. All hail the ‘Got boaked-on’ badge. Or the time I deftly held a child out vertically and the vomit missed me. There was my ‘you’ll never get the stain (or smell) out of the carpet’ badge. And there are countless others.

vomit-badge

Some not quite as disgusting, you’ll be pleased to hear. There’s the ‘piggy back’ badge, the ‘play doh’ badge and the ‘lego’ badge, all very pleasant badges to earn. The ‘just got them to giggle their little socks of badge’ is one I’m genuinely proud of – especially with the additional ‘Gave them the hiccups’ bonus badge.

There’s also some tricky ones, like the ‘got them to eat a teeny mouthful of broccoli’ badge sometimes swiftly followed by the ‘got broccoli spat out on my jeans’ badge. I’m also quite proud of my badge for ‘creeping out of the bedroom like a silent ninja’ badge at bed time.

Anyone out there received the ‘can’t believe I just said that to a doctor’ badge?

I did very recently. “Yes doctor, he and his sister thought it would be funny to pull a pink wooly bobble hat down on his eyes and run full pelt, giggling manically, into a wall. Yes I was there. He was just too fast for me.”

Don’t tell my husband but I’ve also been awarded the ‘I like the way you read stories better than daddy’ badge. But its okay because he won the ‘tickle them until they squeal’ badge ages ago.

I’m not fun enough for that one!

I genuinely think there should be a version of the scouts for parents so we can actually have meetings and receive our badges with pride and get a little round of applause.

Oh, and there should be wine.

How else could we get our ‘never drank this much until I had kids’ badge?

Dib dib.

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Why I’m babysitting my weight loss…

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Everyone who knows me knows I’m constantly trying to slim down and get healthy. It’s become almost automatic for people to enquire as to the status of my weight loss almost like it’s my third child. How are the kids? They say. Quickly followed by; still at the ‘aul Slimming World malarkey?

And I answer that the kids are great and yes. Yes I am still dieting. And I’m not offended at all. Maybe I should be, some people might be but I don’t think it’s a shameful thing to say that you’re following a healthy eating regime and it isn’t shameful to admit that you sometimes…occasionally..(alright!) quite often fall off the wagon.

wp-image-1644968541jpg.jpgWhen you’re a teacher, the summer often feels like a free-for-all. Like you’ve been given an invisible licence to eat, drink and be merry.  Rather like Christmas, but more with barbecues and less with turkey and gravy.  Although boozing does seem to feature heavily in both!

All teachers know the secret joy of a Sunday night tipple when there’s no school to get up for. It’s a small but important thrill.

This summer, unlike previous years, I HAVEN’T jumped off the wagon the moment school ended and sprinted straight into KFC. (Although to be fair that’s probably the only time you’d see me run anywhere.) I’ll admit, my weight loss has somewhat stalled but I’ve kind of done it on purpose. *Cue the gasps*

But its okay. Because I know I will kick back into gear in September and I’ve managed to get to grips with the right way to eat and the right way to treat. See what I did there…? Well, at least I make myself laugh.

I’m enjoying the summer. I’m enjoying eating out with the family but choosing the better option in the menu. I’m cooking slimming world friendly meals from scratch but not at the weekends.wp-image-1053743508jpg.jpg

I made a lovely Jamie Oliver recipe recently that I adapted to make into a slimming world one and it was gorgeous. I will share it soon. I’m eating healthily but having treats when I really really want one. I’m not losing weight but I’m not gaining it either. Once I get to my target weight this kind of set up will do me nicely, thank you very much.

Because I will let you in on a little secret. I get it now. I finally get it. ‘Not following the plan’ or ‘being off the wagon’ doesn’t actually mean ‘go ahead and eat a whole pizza followed by dessert then a family size bag of crisps‘. Plus the slice of bread and peanut butter. And the leftover curry. And the cheese. And four chocolate digestives. (That’s an edited version.)

20160802_123551It means eat fresh, sensible food. It means don’t lie to yourself that you’re going to lose weight this way, but if you want to enjoy a holiday or a break from work or a family event then it’s okay. Just don’t go overboard.

I’ve two weeks left of the summer. I’m going to enjoy them. So I’m going to keep babysitting my weight loss. After all, 1st 5lbs isn’t a bad bit of progress – I’m almost halfway there!

Over and out. 🙂

Summer Crochet how I love thee…

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Sometimes I put my crochet projects in a bag and literally look at them each day as I busy myself about the house and have that longing feeling – my fingers itch to get to work on them. And usually by the time my little monsters have been tucked up in bed, I’m simply too tired to even pick up my hook – which makes me a little sad and a tad guilty. Especially when I have projects piling up.

But the joy of being a teacher is that summer time means its a little easier to get time to crochet and I have several projects on the go at the moment.

Rainbow dashI’m currently working on my very first graphghan. Graphghan, I hear you say? Yes. Weird word. But words like that pop up so frequently in crochet you become used to it. Basically its an afghan (large blanket) which is crocheted using a graph of an image. Think cross stitch block pattern. There are some amazing patterns online that you can buy in various places and I decided to do one for Amelia as her baby blanket is too little now. I tried to find the link to the Etsy seller page that I bought it from but it doesn’t seem to be there anymore. There are other versions but not the seller I bought it from so if I find it I will add it in. Of course it had to be  My Little Pony pattern and I’m currently up to my eyeballs in rainbow dash coloured yarn and trying (and often failing) to get my head around how many squares to count for each set of stitches.

Maths is NOT my strong point.

I’ve already learned some good lessons about what NOT to do when making an graphghan and I will hopefully write a little blog post on this once I finish the damn thing. It’s turning out to be absolutely huge. At least that means it will do her until she is an awkward teenager and will be too embarrassed to have a My Little Pony blanket.🙂

Another quick project was the old faithful Repeat Crafter Me owl hat. This has been such a quick go-to pattern and very easy to follow. A friend of mine just had her second baby boy, so I made one for him and a bigger one for his older brother. They were also good for using up left over yarn in a range of pretty blue/grey colours.

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It was a friend’s 30th birthday recently and I got her a gorgeous bottle of champagne – yes20160728_170252 the real stuff – was quite tempted to keep it for myself but I resisted! I didn’t have a bottle gift bag so I decided to crochet a little flower for round the neck so she would remember the gift long after the bubbles had been popped.

I’m also waiting to start making a blanket from scraps of yarn for the relaxation room in my school and another project staring at me from the corner of my room is the Attic24 Cupcake Stripe Blanket which I’ve bought the yarn and pattern for as I’m making it for a friend’s baby due in the winter. I’d really better get started – on all these projects!

I never knew a fun hobby could be so stressful…

Oh wait, yes I did – I did musical theatre for years!

I will update soon on my progress as long as my hands don’t fall off while I’m making this mammoth blanket.

Happy hooking!😉

The Charm of Carlingford

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So it’s been quiet on my little blog page recently. No real reason, just life getting in the way….from work to exam marking to holidays and trying (and currently failing) to potty train a toddler, time just passes by so fast. But I’m back and want to share about our recent family holiday. Every year, we pick a place on our little Emerald Isle and pack ourselves off with our extended family and enjoy a week of rest and fun. Ireland has so many wonderful places to offer families, and I’m not sold on karting the kids on flights to sunnier climes until they are old enough to really appreciate it so for now,  holidays close to home are fine by us.

This year, my only stipulation about where we went was that it wasn’t more than two hours drive away because last year our drive was about 5 hours and Adam did not manage the lengthy journey well….he just refused to nap and wailed the whole way. We opted for Carlingford in County Louth, just over an hour’s drive from Belfast but it genuinely feels like you’re ‘getting away’. It’s a little gem of a medieval village with lots of accommodation, interesting restaurants and of course some great pubs. There’s plenty for little ones too with outdoor pursuit centre, fairy cave tours, a local swimming pool, play park and it isn’t too far a drive from lots of other great attractions.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never been to Carlingford, I’d definitely recommend it. The accommodation we chose was called The Anchorage. A listed building, one time owned by the church and apparently the Bishops’ ‘summer residence’ this house was perfect for us. Great sized rooms, a garden for the kids to play in, and literally a one minute walk from the centre of the village. Oh, and the best thing….? A Jacuzzi bath. *sighs*

 

Other highlights of our week in Carlingford was getting a pass to the Four Seasons Hotel pool – when the weather typically did the usual Irish Weather antics – we took the kids off to the pool and they just loved it. The G Man and I were given a night off – the excitement was almost too much – and we booked a meal in a gorgeous restaurant called Magees Bistro, where we enjoyed some wine, beautiful food and a fantastic atmosphere. We forced ourselves to NOT talk about the kids. We didn’t last long, of course. We also enjoyed a gorgeous lunch in the famous PJ O’Hares – of course it was a half pint of the black stuff and some locally caught mussels for me. Delicious.

 

What is great about Carlingford is how close it is to so many other areas and attractions in Ireland. We took ourselves off to the well-known Tayto Park – people in the rest of the UK reading this will genuinely probably think its something crazy from Peppa Pig – but yes, we do have a theme park that is based on a brand of crisps (Tayto) and yes, the branding Carlingford 6and images are a man with a potato head. I’ll stop now. Only the Irish, eh? But we had an absolute ball there. The kids enjoyed the rides (there are many to choose from for all ages), ate candyfloss, visited the circus (Adam was actually spellbound) and even trekked round the zoo. We were there all day and didn’t even see everything. I will warn people in advance that it is pricier than I thought it would be. We paid in advance for our family ticket to physically get in the door, but had no idea that once you’re in, you then have to buy tokens or a wristband to pay for some (most of) the rides that aren’t included in your entrance fee. It was expensive but I think most people would say it was worth it.

Another gorgeous place within a 20 minute drive is the Ring of Gullion, and Slieve Gullion Park. We met up with Granny and Granda who drove down from Belfast with our niece, and we spent the day walking round the Giant’s Lair and seeing the little fairy houses. The kids enjoyed ice cream and playing in the outdoor adventure play park. It’s definitely worth a visit – and it’s free!

 

Two other restaurants worth mentioning in Carlingford are The Wildwood Café (a healthful whole food cafe with amazing views) and an Indian called The Sitar. The whole family visited The Wildwood Café for lunch and the food was absolutely gorgeous – really Carlingford 2wholesome but with great flavour and no guilt about calorific content in your meal! And on the other side of the coin (calorie-wise) was the Sitar, so nice that we ate there twice, and it really was one of the tastiest Indian meals I’ve ever had.

Other highlights of the village include lots of historic plaques and buildings, and as you amble around you can read up on various details of the village, as well as checking out King John’s Castle, built by Hugh De Lacy – and King John was said to have stayed there in 1210AD. We had an amazing view of it from our house.

But the best part of all, of course, was making memories there with our two little ones – they just soaked up every experience, each moment of laughter and second of fun – whether it was being entertained by trapeze artists in the glamour of the circus tent, or just playing chalk games and hopscotch with Mummy and Daddy in the garden. They loved it all.

Roll on next year. Carlingford – I think you’ll see us again.

Brewer’s Fayre – A Family Favourite for Spring

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Now that Easter weekend is over and we’ve all probably stuffed our faces with chocolate, roast dinners, or in our case, BBQ’d lamb; you get to that stage where the kids are still off school or nursery and the week is stretching ahead with lots of possibilities. I don’t know about you, but I always try to fill my time off work with different family experiences and days out with the kids so that we can really enjoy each other’s company and it usually includes a nice lunch or dinner somewhere.

Eating out as a family can be a pricey affair, but going to somewhere like Brewer’s Fayre in Carrickfergus is quite kind to the purse strings, as it offers fantastic value for money. Yes, we do go into Belfast city centre with the kids, but sometimes it is nice to go somewhere different but relatively nearby – and Carrick is a perfect choice for us. Plus, its free parking!

This restaurant is a favourite of ours because it is so child-friendly. It’s spacious and has fantastic views of the historic Carrickfergus Castle and the harbour. I was invited along recently to sample their taster menu – a sneaky peak of thier new Spring Menu that is now available in the restaurant. We were made to feel very welcome by the friendly staff, as we always are when we are there – and were invited to partake of a complimentary glass of wine to begin our meal – well, why not? (Please God, I hope my Slimming World leader isn’t reading this! It was the start of a slippery slope!)

Crispy Potato Dippers Peri Peri Sauce and chicken wings

Then the food arrived – they gave us lots of ‘mini’ versions of the starters, mains and desserts – it was a great way to see what each dish was like and all of them were very very tasty. First, we had chicken wings with peri peri sauce – very spicy (which is just to my taste) and the batter was crispy and the chicken was really tender. We also had the red pepper and feta quiche which was gorgeous – as well as crispy potato skins with bacon and chili – right up my street.

 

Onto the mains – a cheese and mushroom burger was offered, as well as chilli beef with nacho crisps and fluffy, white rice – this was probably my favourite dish of them all – really smoky flavour and just the right amount of heat. We also had the chicken schnitzel which was incredibly tender and had a lovely breadcrumbed coating.

Finally – the dessert. I’m not normally a dessert person (stop laughing.) Seriously – I’m a starter, main and about 16 side orders type of gal. But these desserts (mini though they were) were tasty as hell. There was banoffee pie and chocolate cake. A. Maze. Ing. The sort of dessert you really kind of dream about. Soooooo chocolately – it was worth it.

Dessert

All in all the food was fantastic and so many choices on offer for all tastes and ages. I can’t wait to bring the kids back again…and to order a full plate of the chilli beef – it’s okay on Slimming World….right?

 

Easter Fun at Hillsborough Castle

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Did you know that Hillsborough Castle do event days for the family? No? Neither did I. This Easter, families are welcome to come and share fun and experiences together at this special venue, and the very talented Young At Art were there today, helping the little ones build cardboard castles, design sailing boats and generally keeping the Easter Sunday fun vibe going.

So this morning, after a typical Easter breakfast of, yes you guessed it – chocolate…we got ourselves together and headed off to Hillsborough. It’s such a gorgeous village, the sort of place I’d love to live (if I had the money!) and it always feels full of history and memories, so it was already a treat to bring the kids along for the first time.

First up was the castle building workshop. An absolutely great idea and a real chance for the kids to be creative. Amelia set to work designing her ‘Cookie Castle’ (a girl after my own heart) and we drew on bricks, windows, cut out a door and added ‘turrets’ to the top – with the occasional involvement from the wee man; he preferred to rip things apart and hide inside other children’s castles. He loved the mischief and freedom of it.

After this, we headed to the cafe and chill out area where Amelia designed her sailboat and crafted it out of sticks, elastics and corks (simple but effective, and definitely easy for all ages and abilities) and we had a quick snack and the G Man enjoyed an ENORMOUS scone as I glowered in envy and wondered how many calories were in it. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and they made a lovely cup of tea – much needed as the weather was on the nippy side!

Then we headed off for a bit of exploration. The grounds are absolutetly beautiful and have been developed since the 1780s. I’ve been to many parks, historic houses and grand gardens and the 98 acres at Hillsborough are some of the most special I’ve seen. They have a unique charm, an almost magical feel – lots of nooks and crannys and various out-of-the-way places where (if the weather was good) you’d happily spread out a picnic blanket and while away the hours. We are most definitely going back with that in mind over the summer.

croquet

There were also some creative little touches to make the walk fun for the kids including lawn games like croquet, and a giant snakes and ladders game also. What I really liked (maybe its the drama queen in me) was the charming picture frame set up at the fountain with a selection of hats, props, crowns and so forth for people to wear and pose for a picture; it really gave the experience an other-worldly Alice in Wonderland type atmosphere.

black and white parasol

After our walk we headed back to collect Amelia’s boat to join some other families for the epic finale – the boat race. Oxford and Cambridge wouldn’t be in it. The kids just loved dropping thier creations into the water and shouted with delight as they made thier way along the little stream…and guess whose boat came second? She was so chuffed.

All in all, we had a fantastic day and we will most definitely be going back soon. The event is running into Easter Monday and Tuesday and you can get tickets here – there is going to be a larger selection of activites then too – storytelling and sing-a-longs etc – really worth going to if you need something to keep the little ones occupied this Easter holiday.

Thanks for a great day, Hillsborough Castle – we will most definitely be back soon!

 

**Our complimentary tickets were provided by Young At Art – all opinions are my own**

 

Easter Feasts with Lynas Food

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box and leaflets

Once again, I’m talking about food. So, sue me. We all know our lives revolve around it and I’m lucky enough to be married to a pretty decent cook (don’t tell him I said that) and it is also true that at certain times of the year, food plays an important role in different types of family gatherings and celebrations. Easter of course, being no exception.

Lynas food were kind enough to invite us back again recently to try out some of their Easter meat packs carefully and kindly put together by thier resident butcher. We had the pleasure of trying out some of their food before, which you can read about in this post. I saw the G Man’s eyes literally light up at the idea of getting his hands on an entire leg of lamb for our Easter Sunday dinner. Then he started talking about the fact that the weather ‘has been a bit warmer recently’ and before I knew it, yes, he was talking about barbequing said leg of lamb.

Yes, you heard me right. Barbecue.

First BBQ of the year. In March. Whatever keeps him happy. I just checked the weather forecast and let’s just say it isn’t looking great.

To be fair, we aren’t going to actually eat the BBQ outside, but he always uses any excuse to fire up his fancy BBQ (a 40th birthday present) and stand outside – regardless of the weather – with a pint in hand, carefully tending to the food.

So this Easter, thanks to Lynas Food Outlet we’ve decided on a lamb feast with a twist. We do enjoy a traditional roast, but just to liven things up we’re going to try a Moroccan flavour for our lamb – and I thought I’d share the recipe here, as I’m really looking forward to it. It’s also diet friendly as I’m watching the calories (again!) at the moment.

 

Lynas have some fantastic offers on at the moment in thier Belfast outlet on Montgomery Road. Everything from a 1.28kg box of frozen breaded chicken fillets for £4.95 to a HUGE 5kg bag of basmati rice for £6.95 can be bought in this great food outlet – it is definitely worth getting down thier for your Easter shop! Our leg of lamb costs £12.95 and its bloody well big (Only 50p per 100g)! The pork and leek sausages (again really great portions) are £3.05 for 1kg pack. Bargains, indeed. I’d recommend anyone who is getting organised for Easter Sunday Dinner to get down there, sharpish!

So, this is what we’re planning to have on Easter Sunday – I will make sure to instagram some delicious snaps – that’s if it stays long enough on my plate!

Moroccan Spiced Leg of Lamb with Cous Cous

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 (3lb) Leg of Lamb, butterflied and excess fat trimmed off

3oz chopped onion

tbsp grated lemon rind

4tbsp fresh lemon juice

3tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1.5 tsp of crushed red chilli flakes

1tsp ground coriander

1tsp ground cumin

tsp ground paprika

tsp ground ginger

tsp sea salt

For the Cous Cous

500g dry cous cous

Chicken Stock cube

juice of 1 lemon

Finely chopped mint and parsley

2 large sweet (loose skinned) mandarin oranges, peeled and chopped

Salt and black pepper

Method: Prepare the cous cous according to the packet instructions, using chicken stock as the liquid. Once prepared, squeeze in the lemon juice and season with black pepper and salt. Add the chopped mint and parsely into the couscous and then add in the mandarin segments. Mix gently and serve.

For the Lamb:

Method: Combine the marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend to make a smooth paste. Put the lamb in a large, resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press the air out and seal tightly. Turn the bag around a few times to distrubute the marinade. Refrigerate for at least an hour – although we tend to leave ours overnight for extra flavour.

When you’re ready to cook, remove from the fridge and allow the lamb to stand at room temperature for at least 30 mins before placing on the bbq. Remove the lamb from the bag, letting the marinade cling to the lamb. Grill the lamb over direct high heat for about 6 minues with the lid closed as much as possible but turning once until it is browned on both sides. Then slide the lamb over onto indirect heat and cook with the lid closed to your own preferance (15-20 minutes for medium rare is a good guide).

Remove the lamb from the bbq and allow to rest for about 5 mins before carving. Cut it across the grain into thin diagonal slices. Serve immediately with the cous cous.

The kids have never had lamb before, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they like in on Easter Sunday. For breakfast on Easter Sunday, we’re hoping to prepare some lovely pork and leek sausages from Lynas Food. Getting the kids involved is a great idea, and we’re going to pass down the recipe for ‘Auntie Nanny’s Sausages’ to Amelia. My Mum said that her Auntie Nanny used to prepare sausages this way, and when my Mum cooks them even now, it brings all of us back to our childhood. For some reason, they’re just so tasty!

Auntie Nanny’s Sausages – simple but tasty!

sausages

Ingredients:

1 packet of sausages (ours were a lovely port and leek provided by Lynas)

1/2 cup of plain flour

Olive oil

Method: Put your flour on a plate with a generous sprinkling of black pepper and salt. One by one, roll each sausage in the flour mixture until they are evenly coated. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the sausages, sealing and browning them. Then turn the pan down and fry until fully cooked. The flour coating allows the sausages to crisp up and become really delicious. Serve with other cooked breakfast foods or in a sandwich smothered in red or brown sauce.

Yum.

Happy Easter Everyone!

 

 

 

Baby Rave at Belfast Children’s Festival

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I said to my Mum last week; “We’re off to a Baby Rave on Sunday.”

Her reply was; “What the hell is a baby rave when it’s at home, then?”

As I opened my mouth to answer her I realized I wasn’t quite sure. I knew it was going to involve music and dancing, but aside from that, I wasn’t any more clued up than she was. Once we got there, however, it soon became clear that it was going to be a really pleasant and memorable experience for the little ones and the adults too!

Young at Art have just finished another successful run of the Belfast Children’s Festival, and there was so much happening across the city, it was wonderful to see. We were invited along by the organizers last Sunday, which also happened to be Mother’s Day and also happened to be the G Man’s weekend off work – so I was well chuffed for all four of us to be going along together.

So you’re probably still wondering, what exactly is a Baby Rave? Some of you might have been to one before but I’m sure there are many people reading this post that are as uninformed as I was.

Well, we arrived at the MAC Theatre in the heart of Belfast and were greeted by loads of other Mums, Dads, Grannies, Granddads, babies and toddlers, all waiting for the experience to begin. Very shortly, we were brought into the main auditorium, where the seating had been pushed back and there was lots of free space for everyone. The lights were low, but there were a great many disco lights in bright colours, flashing on and off to the music. Coloured banners and streamers hung from the ceiling and lively pictures of dancers were projected on the walls.

 

Strewn around the floor were exercise balls, silk scarves and soft cushions, and lots of volunteers were dotted around the room, creating beautiful shapes with their floating fabric as they swirled it through the air. The kids could swirl the scarves to the music and bounce to their hearts were content on the yoga balls. The music was fantastic; of the Bollywood variety – the kids loved it, and not just mine; every little face was amazed at the lights, colour and melodies that swirled around the room. They even had one of those massive circus tent circles that they were waving up and down – the kids loved running under and crawling around below it. We lost Adam a few times (he’s such an imp) but we knew we were in a child friendly space so it was really freeing and relaxing for parents too.

The kids danced. I danced. Even the G Man danced – although he did tell me later (somewhat mortifyingly) that he had kind of been expecting trance music and a totally dark room with some teenagers in baseball caps. I despair.

If you missed the festival this year, don’t leave it too late next time – I’m most definitely taking part again next year and I hope experiences like this are always on offer in our city – so special and memorable for all involved. Thanks, Young at Art!