A Strong Coffee

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Middle Man Turns 8

The Monday of half term saw middle man turn 8. We happened to be in Center Parcs to celebrate my husbands 40th which was great news as it meant at the beginning of the break middle man could do the mini jet skis with little man and at the end of the break aqua jetting with his older brother. He also managed to convince me that he needed pancakes for lunch! There is no doubt that at the age of 8, middle man has me wrapped around his little finger. So much so I broke my no soft toy rule and got him a soft toy pug.

We had already celebrated with his friends with a gaming party. I had been reluctant to have such a party but it turned out to be really good and all the children played nicely together. If only my boys would all the time!

So what can I tell you about middle man at the age of  8? Well he is as crazy as ever. A born entertainer. He is learning magic and goes to LAMDA. I can never quite work out how he lerans his lines as he never practices. I think he may have a photographic memory.

He is obsessed with you tube and would like to start his own channel. He loves Dan TDM and as a result also loves pugs! But the apple of his eye is the same little girl as it has been for the last two years. This year he was touched that she gave him a packet of love hearts as school broke up for half term. He had a plan. We would deliver her a gift too. But he knows that Valentine's are meant to be a surprise. He would deliver his gift secretly. He would wear a disguise. I mean, who would even double take at these two Scots walking their dogs?

Middle man you make me smile every day. May the next year be a good one.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Shopping For A Work Wardrobe On A Budget

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

Shopping For A Work Wardrobe On A Budget using a capsule wardrobe that will transition from winter to spring

Do you know one of the biggest problems I have had about starting back at work after an 8 year career break?  Some might say that they struggled with lack of confidence. Some may say that they feel the "Mum guilt" when they can't make the daytime school assemblies of their children. Me? I have struggled with nothing smart to wear.

Pink layered shell top from Tu with clapse detail

I have spent 8 years in jeans and jumpers. Generally dark colours. I stopped wearing white when the boys were babies as I could guarantee the colour caused them to vomit ( or worse have a poo explosion) on me. I know it’s so glamorous being a Mum isn’t it?

So when I returned to work I had a few jumpers a couple of skirts and a pair of trousers. Even I am fed up of wearing the same clothes over and over again. Working in a science lab at school, I learnt many years ago that there is no point spending a fortune on work clothes. No one wants to accidentally splash acid on their new designer gear.

This Thursday, I headed to my local Sainsbury’s to see what they had on offer in terms of work wear. My idea was to buy a few items that could be teamed up with my existing wardrobe to look different. As Gok Wan would say, some capsule pieces. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of smart clothes on offer on Sainsbury’s. When I say on offer, not only do I mean what they sold but there was a whopping 25% discount too.

Tu clothing at Sainsbury's

After lots of time in the changing room I came out with 4 pieces. A pink sleeveless blouse, perfect for the summer, but equally good for spring teamed with a black cardigan. A white blouse that could be dressed differently with scarves or necklaces.A bright fan print scarf that I think goes equally well with both blouses.And last but not least a blue skirt that I found in the sale rack. It was such a bargain at £3.20 I couldn’t not buy it.

So here are my purchases styled with some my existing wardrobe. At the moment it is too cold to wear the pink shell top by itself so I have paired it with the scarf and a black cardigan. Come the summer it will be worn by itself. I particularly like the clasp fastening.

Pink layeredd top and fan scarf from Tu

The white striped ruched sleeve blouse, originally £16 was reduced to £12. It is a loose fit and the detail on the arms makes it stand out.

ruched sleeve top from Tu

It looks good with a chunky black necklace, but again can be teamed up with the fan print scarf and my bargain blue skirt.

rushed top, fan scarf and blue skirt from Tu

I know that lots of people like to internet shop, but when it comes to clothes shopping it just isn't for me. I like to go and try clothes on  before I buy them. Having such affordable clothes in Sainsbury's is perfect and I shall certainly be browsing for some more pieces soon when I next need to go and get some bread and milk. Have you tried a capsule wardrobe before? Where do you shop for work clothes?

Family Fever

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Meal Planning Monday 19th February

Excuse my absence last week as it was half term and meal planning went a bit astray. We spent a fun packed weekend at Centre Parcs and also had the most amazing Big Cat Experience at Paradise Wildlife park, all in celebration of my husbands 40th. Posts on these are all to come, but as I am still so impressed with myself for finally having the courage to feed this rather beautiful creature, I am going to share a quick picture now.

feeding a white tiger at Paradise Wildlife Park

So what are our plans for this week when it comes to food?

Monday: This is the actual day that my husband turns 40 so he is having the day off work and we are off to The Hinds Head in Bray for lunch. I am thinking the boys can have something out of the freezer for tea as I doubt my husband and I will want to eat much.

Tuesday: Roast chicken and vegetables. The chicken was on offer in Tesco so it seemed a good idea.

Wednesday: Homemade quiche. Ever since I tried a delicious one that my work colleague made, i have been wanting to make my own quiche. I will be using wraps instead of pastry as it is much lighter.

Thursday: Pork Stroganoff

Friday: Some kind of curry - probably chicken and lentils.

Saturday: Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. We will have this a day early as middle man is at a party.

Sunday: Taco quesadillas

Hijacked By Twins

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Rubik's 2x2 Review And Giveaway

We are big fans of Rubik's puzzles in this house and have just had a new addition to the family: A Rubik's 2x2.

rubiks 2x2

Having tried out the Rubik's Junior and finally finding a Rubik's puzzle I can complete without cheating, I was excited by the Rubik's 2x2. I mean it is only small, it must be easy right? Louise, read the sticker on the box! No it is not easy. It is small, but with 3764160 combinations, I have yet to manage to complete it.

Instead I have left it to big man to solve. He is now a whizz at the regular Rubik's cube.

"It's all to do with algorithms Mummy."

"Ummmm ok" I say whilst googling what algorithm means. It took him 3 weeks to be taught by his friend and you tube on how to solve a Rubik's cube no matter how it has been muddled.

He has managed to solve the 2x2 but hasn't yet worked out how to do it reliably. However, I am sure he will work it out soon. I am hoping he will them teach me so that I can finally say I have completed a Rubik's cube.

I did think that the boys may not be as interested in this cube as they have the bigger one, but that is not the case. Big man sees it as a new challenge and little man lives in hope that he might be able to solve this smaller version.

I am excited to be able to offer one of my readers the chance to win a Rubik's 2x2 cube for themselves. Just complete the gleam entry below. Good Luck!

Rubik's 2x2

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

A Super Mario Cake For Middle Man's Gaming Party

This weekend saw the start of middle man's 8th Birthday celebrations. He had a fantastic gaming party from Pop Up Arcade so I decided to make him a Mario cake.

I am sure he would have liked a Minecraft one, but I have already made a surprise inside one for big man as well as a Minecraft birthday cake one. I was originally cursing myself for throwing out an old Happy Meal Mario figure, but then I found a Mario Pez dispenser and had an idea. As I just had the head, I decided I would stick it into the middle of the cake and it would look like he was coming out of one of those green drain pipes.

Time is scarce these days so I made the cake as easily as possible. I made a basic sponge using 8oz self raising flour, 8oz caster sugar, 8oz butter and 4 eggs. I split this between 3 round cake tins and added greaseproof paper to the top as well as bottom so they would rise evenly.

Once cooled, Betty Crocker came to the rescue with her chocolate fudge frosting. I sandwiches the layers together and spread frosting around the sides and top. This then went into the fridge to cool so that I could smooth it and add blue icing over the cake.

To make all the details of the cake, I used coloured icing pre prepared with CMC. To make the drainpipe stand up I used an ice cream cone to attach the icing to.

Finally I added some chocolate gold coins to the back of the cake using toothpicks.

Pin it for later:

super mario birthday cake using a Pez dispenser

Monday, 5 February 2018

Meal Planning Monday: Feb 4th 2018

I can hardly believe that it is half term for us next week. I am pleased it is though. This rubbish weather and dark afternoons has been tough going and I am looking for a more relaxed week.

This weekend saw middle man's gaming party. It was a huge hit and he was buzzing all evening. I have decided that you can't win with party teas and there are always kids that don't like what you feed them. I have spent hours making sandwiches before and been left with thousands. This time it was pizzas and nuggets and they still didn't seem to eat much. It could be the case though that not all children eat as much as my boys do. We also now have loads of ice cream to eat as the party over ran and we ended up just giving them cake.

super mario birthday cake

I have run out of ideas and energy this week when it comes to meal planning and am mainly going for easy dinners.

Monday: Scrambled egg an chorizo bagel

Tuesday: Pork and apple burgers

Wednesday: Prawn, garlic and lemon ciabatta

Thursday: Filled pasta and sauce

Friday: Microwave curries

Saturday: Steak and wedges. (I will be going to Lidl to get the steaks as they are so much better than Tesco.)

Sunday: Eating out

What do you have planned to eat this week?

Hijacked By Twins

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

A Private Chef At Home: La Belle Assiette Review

Last week we were lucky enough to experience a dinner party at home with the lovely chef Libby May from La Belle Assiette. 

The company are UK wide and source a chef to come and cook for you in your own home, or venue of your choosing. Think hen night weekend in a cottage or a surprise for your parents at their house. Menus start at £39 per person for 6 people for a temptation menu and go up to a Michelin star experience for £89 per person. Our menu would have been priced at £59 per person.

butternut squash shots

This was Libby's first "validation" meal for La Belle Assiette but she has a wealth of experience and was classically trained at Tante Marie Culinary academy. On booking, Libby called and we had a chat about the menu. When I say chat, I mainly said I haven't got a clue about this sort of thing. Libby was totally professional and suggested a couple of ideas and advised I should check with my guests about whether they liked seafood and if they had any allergies. I did this and then over e mail she came up with a delightful menu.

On the day of the dinner party, Libby arrived early with everything she needed to make our menu. Until a few days before, I hadn't really considered how it may be awkward having someone come into my house to cook. What if I didn't like them? Or my cooker wasn't good enough? I needn't have worried. Libby was friendly and professional and everything was like clockwork.

dinner party at home

On the evening we had an issue with our friends babysitter not turning up. Libby took it in her stride and made the canapes for the rest of us whilst we were waiting and when our friend arrived later, another set on canapes arrived. They all tasted fantastic and the butternut squash soup shot was a favourite of mine.

Our starter was goats cheese and the roasted beetroot was delicious.

Before the party, big man joked that we were having duck two ways. He started reciting the Fawlty Towers duck surprise sketch. Luckily there was nothing Basil Fawlty like about this meal.

Finally to finish we had orange blossom posset. It was a perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Whilst we chatted and enjoyed dessert, Libby packed away and cleaned up. Amazing!

Libby was a fantastic chef and it was a delight to have her cook for us. I would certainly recommend La Belle Assiette to people who are looking for a special meal for a special occasion.

All photos are courtesy of La Belle Assiette.

Family Fever