A Strong Coffee

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Meal Planning 16th Jan

 As I mentioned last week, I have set myself a little challenge to try and keep the shopping bill to around £100 a week. With three hungry growing boys in the house this is a bit of a challenge but last week, I was pretty much on track. I will have gone slightly over it this week as I decided to shop in The Spicery sale. I got some of their kits for Christmas and I decided that a lot of the time I can make a really delicious curry using the kits, rather than spend out on a takeaway. We also got a date night subscription for Christmas and this too is fantastic. If you want to try them out you can use my referral code LOUISE-104132 which will give you 10% off your first order over £20 and would give me £5 into my account.

Our date night in Corfu kit

Anyway, I digress, but as you will see from this weeks meal plan I am once again using The Spicery kits. It may be a risk with the tagine as I have no idea if the boys will like it. Worst case, they have a microwave pizza instead.

Talking of pizzas, the homemade ones last week worked really well and will be appearing again soon!

So what are we eating this week?

Sunday: Roast chicken with pigs in blankets

Monday: Chicken Fajitas 

Tuesday: Filled pasta with pesto and garlic dough balls (guess whats on offer in Tesco at the moment.)

Wednesday: Duck salad

Thursday: Chilli Jacket potatoes

Friday: Methi Chicken using a kit from The Spicery.

Saturday: Lamb tagine using a mix from The Spicery

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Meal Planning 9th Jan

I don't know about you, but our food bills have soared recently. With a combination of the effects of COVID on the shopping bill and 3 boys with huge appetites has made the food bill astronomical. I have therefore decided to get back to meal planning. My theory is that I will only buy what we need for a few weeks. Use up what is in the freezer, and when I have a bit of extra time, I will do some batch cooking and freeze that. Last week I made 2 cottage pies at once. One for dinner and one for a few weeks time. I bulked out the meat with some grated courgette and carrot. The boys didn't even notice.

So here are the meals I am planning for this week

Sunday: Roast beef and all the trimmings

Monday: Chicken or beefburgers from the freezer

Tuesday: Salmon with pak choi and noddles

Wednesday: Sausage and mash

Thursday: Courgette fritters for lunch,   homemade pizza for tea

 Friday: Beef stew with puff pastry

Saturday: My husband and I are having a date night kit from The Spicery and the boys can have my cheats sweet and sour chicken.

Do you meal plan? Have you found your shopping bill soar? What tips do you have?

Thursday, 16 December 2021

[Ad] The #Upsidedown Challenge Review

Everyone loves a good game that all the family can get involved with over the festive season and the #upsidedown challenge ticks a lot of my boxes on this.

The idea is that you try and complete simple challenges whilst using upside down glasses. 
No.This game is aimed at ages 7+. Personally I think 10+ would be more appropriate. My 10 year old really loved having a quick game with me but we had to adapt it to make it work. For example, below is my elephant, drawn using the glasses.

Hmmmm not much like an elephant! 

We decided that we would have the card visible with the pictures you could choose from so that we stood a chance of guessing whilst the sand went down. The instructions suggest this for younger players. For us it was all players, and we still had trouble guessing.I’m a glasses wearer and this did cause me an issue as you can’t wear the goggles over glasses. Maybe that’s why I was so bad! Or at least that will be my excuse.Personally for my family, we needed to practice with the glasses to enable us to enjoy the game. It is simply too hard to do straight out of the box.It can however be adapted to suit a number of players. Is as long or short as you want to make it. (Any game that is short and sweet is good with me.)With a little bit of practice it it is a game that all the family can play. We will get this out at Christmas and New Year along with some other family favourites. There are only a small number of cards so it’s not something I can see us playing numerous times. However, I guess we could make up some of our own challenges. You can purchase The #upsidedown challenge from Amazon.

Have you played this game? What did you think? 

We were given the game for the purpose of this review and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

May-Thurner Syndrome

I had never heard of May-Thurner Syndrome until August this year. I was an active, reasonably fit, 45 year old Mum. So, when I couldn't walk one day, my world was turned upside down.

Just before taking the kids to a waterpark I had a slight twinge in my back. I thought nothing of it and carried on. We had such a fun time. Fast forward a few days and my back was getting worse. I believed I might have sciatica. I took it easy but kept moving.
Wednesday morning came and my husband was off to work at the office for the first time in weeks. I said I thought my back was bad and I was not sure if I could walk. He kissed me, said he would get some painkillers on the way home and I rolled over to get more sleep.Later that morning I tried to get up. I couldn’t walk properly. My left leg was really heavy. I shouted my eldest to tell him my concerns and he replied with “I’m not surprised as it’s swollen and a funny colour.”

I called the doctor and husband turned back home.I found myself with a next day appointment at a DVT clinic and on blood thinners as a precaution I wasn’t too worried as I still thought I had hurt my back and there was no reason for me to have DVT.It was at the DVT clinic that the nurse first mentioned May Thurner Syndrome. Her friend had had it and she told me not to worry. I had an ultrasound and the DVT clinic said I was ok. No clot. Just a sluggish vein at the top of my leg. But my D Dimer levels were high so I was told to come back in a week. (The D dimer level is an indicator to blood clotting.)  I was a bit annoyed. My walking was getting better and this just meant I had to cancel my trip to the spa with my sister. Which thanks to the pandemic was a year overdue.Anyway, I came off the thinners, started moving better and decided to head off to my father in laws for the weekend. I mean, it wasn’t a problem as I didn’t have DVT.We were meant to visit the sea side. I visited A and E. My leg had swelled, parts of me were blue. They poked me and said you need to go to a DVT clinic.So full circle I was back on thinners and after many phone calls and an out of hours doctors call I went back to the DVT clinic as planned.I already knew what was wrong with me. Or at least hoped. I felt the nurse on the previous visit was right when she suspected May Thurner syndrome. It had been dismissed by the ultrasound lady as I wasn’t pregnant. However, Dr Google was leading me down this route.I explained this to the ultrasound guy. “God Forbid it’s May Thurners” he replied. Then he found the clot in my thigh. “God forbid it goes all the way up here” he said going towards my belly button. His face said it all. I hobbled back to the DVT clinic trying not to cry.It was then full steam ahead. MRI within an hour. (Not the nicest procedure when you are 1 claustrophonic and 2. anxious. Breath in, breath out and hold your breath. It was a long 15 minutes of scanning.The doctor then came to see me with the news I already knew. I had May Thurner syndrome. I would have been born with it. My vein has been squashed between my vertebrae and artery in my pelvis. This had done damage to it and then caused the clot. I could stay on thinners forever or I could undergo an operation where the clot is removed and stent put in. With the latter the idea was that I may be able to come off thinners in the future and post thrombotic syndrome may be less. It wasn’t something they had much data on to show it was better. The decision needed to be made quickly as it’s only successful before the 2 week mark of clot formation.I changed my thinners and later emailed to say I would go ahead with the operation.It was then time to do a PCR and self isolate with the family until the day of the operation.The first procedure was to insert a catheter via my knee up through the clot. This would then allow thinner into the clot and dissolve it. I had to lay on my stomach while they did this and was awake. It was uncomfortable. I could hear him say that there was even clot in my calf by now. When done I needed to lay down for 24hrs attached to Flowtron boots that squeezed each calf every 15 seconds. I came out in pain. In my back. The Dr found this odd but said I could have IV paracetamol. Thankfully it did the trick. I was in the HMU and got very little sleep that night.

The next day it was time to see if the drugs had worked. There was no guarantee as I was borderline 2 weeks. Thankfully it had. Two stents were inserted to open up the damaged vein. I had loads of drugs and gas and air and was sent back to the ward to have the tiny cut squeezed for 15 minutes to help with the clotting.I am pleased to say that my leg is no longer swollen and I have no post thrombotic syndrome. I am currently on blood thinners with regular blood tests. It is hoped that I will be able to come off these in 6 months time. There is no guarantee and it may be for life. Either way, I feel lucky that I have come this far. Waking up one day and not being able to walk is scary. Not knowing if you may be in chronic pain for the rest of your life is too. It has been a warning of how life can change overnight and has made me realise that you shouldn't put things off as you never know whats round the corner. Ski trip 2023 here we come!

Thursday, 14 October 2021

[Ad] Mechanics Gravity Loops And Turns Review

Mechanics Gravity Loops And Turns

With Christmas around the corner, I am always looking for something that my boys will enjoy. Now that they are getting older, there is less that interests them toy wise. It tends to be expensive gadgets and computer games. My youngest, however, who is nearly 10, still enjoys some toy sets so I agreed to review he Mechanics Gravity Loops and Turns set from Geomag to see if he would be interested in this range of STEM toys.I also agreed to this review as I am a science teacher and I like playing with magnets. As soon as the kit arrived I asked my youngest if he liked the look of it and would like to build it. Much to my disappointment he said yes, and I was left to watch him make up the set.

Pieces included in Mechanics Gravity Loops And Turns

When it comes to science and STEM sets I find that they are really variable. This however, is one I would really recommend and my soon to be 10 year old loves it. It look him a while to work out how the pieces fitted together and I did need to help him a little. However, I was soon told that I was no longer needed and only called back when he had something “really exciting” to show me. This set is aged at 8+ which I think is about right.

Making up the Mechanics Gravity Loops And Turns set

What attracted me to the set was the fact that it had a magnetic cannon and a 360 degree loop. As it turns out it is these two features that my son enjoys too. The instruction booklet explains how to make different features in the set. Most pieces click together easily, although my son has managed to break one of the blue pieces.

As it is an interactive set, I have made this short video so that you can see how it all works together.

The set can be used by itself and also in conjunction with other sets in the series such as the vertical motor.

From an environmental point of view, I am pleased to write that the set is made from 74% recycled plastic.

If you are looking for something different to buy your tween this Christmas, then I think this set is a good introduction to the GEOMAG STEM sets and we have really enjoyed it.

We were given this set in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Trying A New Craft: Fused Glass Kits

I have always been a bit of a crafty person and my latest love is fused glass. It all started with a beautiful birthday gift from my parents.

I loved it so much that I thought I would look up the seller, and then saw these “make your own sun catchers”

You can choose not to have the hook added which I did so that it could be a coaster instead.

I started with the garden suncatcher from Berry Winter designs. It turns out that this is an easier kit. You are sent everything you need to make a sun catcher. Basically all you need to do is glue the pieces into place. Then package it back up and send it back to be fired. A few days later and this arrived.

I was so pleased with it, I decided to buy another one with some left over birthday money. This one is a harder kit in my opinion. Mainly as the pieces are smaller and in requires more waiting time for bits to dry. Not great for someone like me who is impatient!

And here is the finished design. (It looks different as unfortunately Royal Main smashed up my first attempt, but Berry sorted this out for me and I had a second go.)

Having looked through Etsy, I think my next fused glass project will be some Christmas decorations. Yes I know I am a little early but now school is back, Christmas will be with us before we know it!

Have you tried fused glass? What crafts do you enjoy?

Friday, 6 August 2021

Go Boat Kingston Review (Gifted)

If you are stuck for ideas on things to do on your staycation, then a trip on a Go Boat in Kingston or London is a great family day out.

With our summer staycation in full swing, yesterday we took an hours drive to Kingston upon Thames to have a self drive boat ride courtesy of Go Boat.

We booked the three hour trip as we wanted to make sure we had enough time to travel to Hampton court and back. (It is around 60 minutes there and you could do it in 2 hours.)

Booking in was simple. The desk is by Kingston bridge, so we parked at the Bentalls centre and walked there. We had to fill in some waiver details and then Rosie showed us where we needed to be positioned on the river as we headed to Hampton court and back. Generally you have to drive on the right but sometimes at the islands this changed. Having the board with pictures on really helped.

We then had a quick “how to use the boat” talk before we headed off. Luckily, steering the boat wasn’t too hard. The only confusing thing was that if you wanted to go right you turned left and vice versa. Yes, we may have gone in circles a few times at the start. However, it wasn't hard to get the hang of, but you can't take let your concentration lapse as it is really easy to go off course and rowers can come from nowhere. The Go Boats only travel at 4 miles an hour and you give way to everything else on the river. 

The boys were all able to have a go under our supervision and I was really Impressed by them. They generally grasped the controls better than me!

Go boats all have a picnic table so we made sure to bring one along to enjoy on our journey.

On the way I found a few houses I would like to buy.

We had a lovely time on the boat and I would certainly recommend it as a staycation activity. They also have boats in London, so you can boat down Regent's canal and see Little Venice.

Have you tried self drive boating? Did you enjoy it?

You can check out Go Boat on their website and if you follow them on Facebook there are often some midweek offers you can take advantage of.

We were provided with the trip in return for an honest review.