A Strong Coffee

Monday, 13 November 2017

Birthdays, Batch Cooking And Meal Planning

I have decided that after last weeks good news, over the next few weeks, I need to organise myself and get back into the swing of meal planning. I find that it helps in many ways. It cuts costs as you use up what you have in the cupboards. I also find it helpful so I know who in the family is around and when. I think family logistics are only going to get worse the older the boys get. This weekend is going to be left blank as it is little mans Birthday. Yes, my baby turns 6! I thought I had got away without the need to bake a cake, but it appears he now wants me to copy one he has seen in the shops.....

So here is this weeks meal plan:

Monday: The boys are going to karate at 6pm so something quick, easy and not to heavy like cheese and ham omlette.

Tuesday: My husband is away so only cooking for 4. Chicken, potatoes and spinach in a garlic and lightly curried dish. I will make this on Monday and just re heat. My boys love fried potatoes and the chicken and spinach will make it into a meal rather than a side dish.

Fried Potatoes

Wednesday: My husband is away so only need food for 4. Pasta. The boys love it and it is quick and easy.

Thursday: Meat and potato pie. As part of my batch cooking efforts last week, I have a frozen beef and potato stew. I will cook this with puff pastry and frozen veg.

Friday: Take Away! A treat for two reasons. Firstly I will have made it through my first week as a TA. Secondly, it is little mans early Birthday treat. He loves sweet and sour chicken so it will be Chinese.

Saturday: No plans as it is little man's Birthday and it will depend on what we decide to do in the day.

Sunday: Party food for tea, and something quick and easy for lunch as it is little man's gymnastics party.

Hijacked By Twins

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Not Going Back To Work

Well I guess it’s time that I came clean and announced that I am not going back to work. Today,  I have spent the day at a Mumsnet conference that has really made me see things clearly.

I was planning to write a post about my decision to return to work. That would give the impression that I don’t currently work. Devalue the hard work that I have put into blogging and social media over the last 5 years. I am fed up with telling people that I work, but because I am self employed, they just don’t count it as real work. Saying I am going back to work gives the wrong impression. I am guessing that if you are reading this, you know that I work hard and that I have done so for several years now. I am registered as self employed and my blog is my job.  I have no intentions that this will change. So to say I am returning to work would be wrong. I am just taking on some more, somewhat different, work.

My blog is my hobby turned job and I love it. The only problem I have is that my husband works away a lot. Whilst many online friends have become real life friends, meeting up in school hours is difficult to say the least. I need something else to keep my brain ticking over, and so have decided to take on a part time role as a teaching assistant.

It gives me back a little of my old life, whilst enabling me to continue with my blog and look after my boys. I’ll be honest, at the moment it all seems too good to be true. Come next Friday I may well be wondering what on Earth I was thinking. However, I am hoping it will give me the balance I need. Interaction with others when my Husband is working away. For the first time in a long time I feel excited. I am hoping that I will have two jobs that I love and most importantly be around for my boys at the same time. I guess it will take some time to adjust. I am already planning a post on batch cooking! But now, after eight years, I feel it is time for me “not” to return to work.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Teenage Dreams, Phone Chargers And Big Macs

When I was 16 years old I really wanted to go on the school ski trip. That meant getting a part-time job. I worked in the local diner at a bowling alley. My friend worked at McDonalds. She made it sound really good. She took part in their training programme and I distinctly remember us testing her on the type of onions in a cheeseburger. (Dehydrated onions if you are interested.) She always talked about what a good team she worked with and it sounded a lovely place to work. 

Fast forward 25 years and my dream of working in McDonalds came true last week. Well maybe the term working is an over exaggeration. I did, with a bit of help, make my own Big Mac. I think my smile says it all. 

making a big mac

I had been invited to my local branch to see the changes that McDonalds are rolling out. You may have already come across the self service ordering points. I have to admit that I had assumed they were to cut staff costs, but it is all there to make the customer experience better. Lets face it, as a Mum I have been known to be standing at the counter with 3 shopping bags trying to find out what drink big man wants whilst he has run off to get some ketchup and little man has wandered out of my sight. The idea is that with the new ordering system you can take your time and choose what you want and how you want it. You even have the option of choosing an area to sit and they will bring your food to you. I wont lie, I was extremely dubious of this the first time we did this in the rather packed Skegness restaurant this summer, but it worked. It was so easy and meant the children and my parents were able to sit down whilst I ordered. There is even an app you can get your order ready on and scan as you walk in store too! 

new style kiosk at McDonalds

If you are like me, you will order a burger and then pick out the gherkins. I mean there is no point in saying no gherkins as it will take twice as long for your food, right? 


The way they prepare the burgers has changed, meaning you can order the burger the way you want it and it will take the same time as normal. Clever!

Talking of clever, the menu boards are now screens that change and show you the many options McDonalds have to offer.

front of McDonalds serving counter.

Behind the scenes in the kitchen, everything was like a well oiled machine. I had expected it to be loud and manic. It was organised, friendly and everyone worked as a team.

There are ipads to keep you (or the children) entertained and I had to ask what the black circles in the middle of the table did. A squeal of delight came out of my mouth when the manager told me they were phone chargers. As if I need any more convincing to pop to McDonalds to grab a quarter pounder with cheese when I'm on a shopping trip. 

phone chargers at McDonalds

I was also really impressed with how McDonalds get involved with community projects. They even litter pick around the restaurant 3 times a day. I think that is really good, if annoying that they actually need to do this. 

I had a lovely afternoon, seeing the changes that were being made. Keeping McDonalds up to date and always striving to make the experience better for the customer. Have you been to one of the new style restaurants yet? What did you like best? And probably the most important question of all, should I stick to my favourite quarter pounder and cheese meal or try a signature burger the next time I visit?

This is a sponsored post.

Family Fever

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Foodie Gift Ideas For The Person That Has Everything

I know that we have only just had Halloween.


The Christmas panic has well and truly hit! I like to get my Christmas shopping done by December so that I am not stuck in the mass crowds buying whatever I can just to get the Christmas shopping out of the way. However, next week I am starting a new job and the chance for a leisurely browse around the local shopping centre has gone right out of the window. Thank God for internet shopping!

If you are anything like me, you will get really stuck with gift ideas for the person that has everything. My sister, brother in law and husband are the top three people I struggle with buying presents for Christmas.

If you are looking for unique gifts this Christmas then UncommonGoods may have the answer. Never heard of them? Well they are a privately-owned retailer the was established in 1999 and headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. They endeavor to feature unique jewelry, designer d├ęcor, tabletop items, and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment without harm to animals or people. It always feels nicer giving a gift that's ethical doesn't it? Even better is that with every purchase you make, the company donates $1 to a non-profit of your choice.

I have been having a browse of their website, including inspiration for gifts for men. Personally when I am really stuck on present ideas, I go for the foodie option. My husband drinks beer, brother in law likes whiskey and my sister loves entertaining. So I figure that you can't really go wrong with a foodie gift.


So this is my little mood board of foodie gifts from UncommonGoods. Ok, the unicorn mug might well be for me!

What do you buy for the person that has everything? Have you started or finished your Christmas shop yet?

This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Autumn Walks And Scarecrow Hunts #NoDullDays

As the saying goes, "there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes." Well that is the saying that I go by. Little man seems to think that shorts are the perfect choice for any weather. I swear this boy has a built in heater or something. I do my usual mother thing and say that he needs a coat and usually end up carrying it around myself.

Whether it's rain or shine, I have come to learn that it is best for us all to get outside in the school holidays. There are just so many reasons for this. For a start there are no screens outside, just fresh air and nature. With most of us not getting enough vitamin D through the colder months, department of health experts are recommending taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D.

bassetts vitamins

With that in mind Bassetts have sent us their 3-6 years Multivitamins + Vitamin D & Calcium to give us a helping hand this winter. Little man was very excited as they were specially for him. The older two? Well they have asked me to buy the next level up. The vitamins cost £5.50 for a pack of 30 pastilles. Little man sees them as a treat as they are peach and apricot flavour. This means he reminds me he needs to take one a day.

So with Vitamin D ticked off our list thanks to Bassetts, we can focus on family fun and make the most of what the season has to offer.

With that in mind, we have been exploring the woods. Middle man has finally learnt to ride his bike and now he has got it, that is all he wants to do!

riding bikes in the woods

Little man has been set the challenge of gathering natural items for his homework, and a bit of leaf throwing had to be included!

leaf throwing

We have also made the most of the season with a scarecrow hunt too.

Our friends at Bassetts Vitamins have also created a fab code that you can use to get £2 off one pack of the NEW Bassetts 3-6 Yrs Multivitamins Peach & Apricot + Calcium 30s at Boots.com! All you need to do is sign in as normal, apply the code BASSMVS2 at the checkout and embrace #NoDullDays! You can only use the code once per transaction, and the code can only be redeemed on the first 5,000 valid claims until 23:59 on 12th November. *

How do you make the most of all that the season has to offer so there are never any dull moments?

*Subject to Boots T&C's.

Country Kids

This is a commissioned post.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

5 Tips For A Frightfully Good Time At Kidzania London

If you are off to Kidzania London soon, you are sure to have a frightfully good time. We have just come back from a fun filled day thanks to Snazaroo. It was our first visit and I was unusually disorganized. I put a shout out on Facebook and Twitter just before we left and got some great responses so thought I would put together my 5 top tips to ensure you have a good time if you are visiting soon.

shopping task at Kidzania
This mainly illustrates that Mummy internet shops and they weren't used to shopping from a list!

1. Prebook parking. 

My friend suggested this, but as I read it 10 mins before we were leaving we didn't. The advantage of doing this is that it only costs £6 for the day rather than the £8 if you pay on arrival. You can do this by signing up to Smart Parking and pay before you arrive.

2. Go to the things you really want to do first.

This tip was from a lady I was talking to whilst waiting in a queue for the drum session. She had been before and suggested that activities like Firemen are really popular and best done early. Infact, when we go again (the boys are very vocal that we will go back!) I will book into the 9.30 slot. We had tickets for 10am which was good, but as the hours ticked by the queues did get longer as more people arrived. It is to be expected in such an attraction, especially at half term, but it was more pleasant earlier in the morning. Out of the activities my boys did, the courier and newsroom were the biggest hits.

3. If you see a short queue make the most of it!

I feel like we were really lucky in that as it was our first visit, the boys didn't mind what they did. This meant that if we walked past something with a short queue we did it. This enabled big and middle man to work in a newsroom and little man to play the drums. If they had had a fixed idea of what they wanted to do we could have spent half our time in a queue.

weather forcast at Kidzania

4. Get a spooky makeover at Snazaroo

Snazaroo offer face painting at Kidzania. Usually this will cost 15 Kidzos, however, this Halloween, it is free! As facepainting is often an added expense on a day out, its not something they would do often I would have been happy for them spending their Kidzos on it under normal circumstances (see tip 5!) Little man decided to be a vampire.

vampire face paints snazaroo

I was impressed with the face-painter who was really good and really quick! When I saw the queue I was worried it would take a long time but she advised it only takes her 3-4 mins a child.

Middle man was my little devil.

devil face painting Snazaroo

And big man wanted a witches nose added so was a goblin/wizard! The make up artist advised that it is less busy before 1pm.

goblin face paint snazaroo

Snazaroo are also running a chance to win some products and Kidzania tickets this Halloween. You can find the details here. Snazaroo want to see your made up monsters doing the Halloween dance in the KidZania Theatre. This was the last activity the boys did and I was really impressed with how well the group did at learning a dance in less than 20 mins. I think middle man really is born for the stage.

KidZania Theatre

5. Pay for activities rather than save your Kidzos.

Another tip from a friend and yet again, great advice. At Kidzania the children can earn money for doing jobs. At the end they can use the money they have earnt to buy something from the shop on the way out. However, some activities mean they have to pay money to take part. My friend suggested that the latter was the best way to use their Kidzos, as even if they work really hard for 4 hours they won't be able to cash it in for much more than a pencil or party bag style toy. Therefore if there is an activity they like the look of they may as well spend their Kidzos on that instead. My boys did this on the Cadbury's chocolate making which meant they got a small chocolate at the end too which made them smile. My boys came out with between 60 and 75 Kidzos. The cheapest thing to buy was a pencil at 45 Kidzos then there are a couple of things for 75. Lots of items are much more and children are encouraged to save their money and cash it in on another visit.

I will be writing a more in depth review of our day over on A Strong Coffee To Go in the near future, but if you are off there this half term, this will certainly help your day go smoothly. Enjoy!

We received complimentary tickets to KidZania but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Ghoulish Mess For Halloween

Life is passing me by at the moment and baking along with the bake off  just hasn't been happening. As I read somewhere that meringues were featuring on this weeks show (I may well be wrong though) I decided that I would make an Eton Mess for Halloween: A Ghoulish Mess.

A Goulish Mess For Halloween

Of course the meringues are also easy to serve up as they are without the cream and raspberries if that is easier for your party. If you prefer strawberries or fresh fruit then that works too. I also have some other easy ideas, including surprise inside Mummy cupcakes and Mummy gingerbread men.

ghost meringues

A Ghoulish Mess

To prepare the ghost meringuies:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 115g caster sugar
  • a small amount of chocolate to be melted

To make the rest of the mess:

  • small double cream
  • 1/2 a packet of frozen raspberries, defrosted
  1. Pre heat the oven to 100C
  2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff.
  3. Slowly add the caster sugar and whisk.
  4. Put the meringue mixture into an icing bag and cut off the end. Pipe ghost shapes onto grease proofed paper.
  5. Bake for an hour and allow to cool.
  6. Melt a couple of squares of chocolate in the microwave. 
  7. Add to a piping bag and cut a small hole. Pipe on eyes and a mouth.
  8. Whip the cream and mix in the raspberries. Place this on the bottom of a serving dish and add the ghosts on top.

What are your favourite Halloween treats?

Pin it for later:

an easy to make eton mess for a halloween party

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