Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas to you!

It's Christmas Eve.

The presents have been wrapped, the tree has been decorated and the food has been bought and is ready to be cooked tomorrow.  

That means that the only thing left to do is to wish you a very Merry Christmas for our very own red-nosed greyhound.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Featured: How to be a cool mum - without embarrassing your kids

This is a guest post

No one wants to admit it, but being cool is something that most mums aspire to. Unfortunately, it’s a very fine line to tread: if you seem like you’re trying too hard, it could end up backfiring and turn you into an embarrassing spectacle rather than a suave and charming role model.

Luckily, being cool isn’t rocket science. You just have to be yourself, try not to try too hard and follow a few of these tips.

Keep your distance
Savoir Peplum Leather JacketYou might think that making suggestive comments about handsome celebs will make you seem like ‘one of the girls’, but it’s more likely to leave your children red faced. One crucial step to becoming a cool mum is acknowledging that gap between yourself and your children, no matter how grown up they are.

Become a dedicated follower of fashion
In your quest to become cool, spare a thought for poor dad. One survey has revealed that most teenagers are embarrassed by their fathers. Bad fashion sense is one of the main reasons, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap. Although you shouldn’t dress too young for your age, it’s worth throwing in a few stylish pieces: try an on-trend leather jacket or some Ugg boots. Pay attention to this season’s trends - even if you wouldn't wear them, throwing this knowledge into a casual conversation is sure to impress.

Forget about Facebook
It doesn’t matter how cool you are, adding your child on Facebook is a sure-fire way to embarrass them. Telling them off for swearing, posting their baby photos and sharing your own observations will probably leave your kids exasperated. Give them their own cyberspace and pick your battles.

One of the coolest things you can do as a parent is to listen to and respect your children. They should feel like they can come to you with any problem, without being judged or shouted at. Take their opinions into consideration when it comes to quality time, too: listen to their recommendations for venues to visit and you’ll soon find that they look forward to spending time with you.

The Ultimate Christmas Eve for Kids and Families - featured post

This is a featured post 

It’s not until you have children yourself that you remember just how special Christmas Eve can be. You may be transported back to your time as a child yourself, sitting around the Christmas tree watching a festive movie with your parents, or baking gingerbread men to decorate with icing and sweets. Whatever you may have done as a child, when your own children come along, it’s time to dig out those traditions once again, or make your own. After all, the excitement of Christmas doesn’t start on Christmas morning – there’s plenty of room for festive family fun before then, too!

Here are some ideas to make Christmas Eve as special as possible so that, when it comes to bedtime, your children are thoroughly excited and ready for the morning to come!

Make some Reindeer Food
After all, they get peckish too and it’s only Rudolph that ever usually gets a look in! Make a sachet of reindeer food with your little ones that they could sprinkle in the back garden ready for when the reindeers arrive. A mix of edible glitter and oats usually makes a wholesome, yet twinkly, treat.

Laugh and Learn Dance and Play PuppyChristmas Eve Gifts
Many families choose to incorporate gift giving into their Christmas Eve routine. A package that includes some new festive pyjamas, a Christmas movie or festive book and some snuggly slippers, would be perfect. Alternatively, you could let the children open one gift from beneath the tree just before they go to bed – something cuteand cuddly like the Dance & Play Puppy that they could take to bed with them, or something practical like a warming dressing gown would go down a storm.

Christmas Eve Movie Marathon
The kids have broken up from school and, unless you’ve had some decent snowfall, the weather outside isn’t delightful. Instead, create some fun indoors with a festive movie marathon. Let your kids choose a couple of favourite films, wrap yourselves up in a snuggly blanket and settle down to enjoy some films that will help to get you all into the spirit of things.

Make Festive Snacks
Whether you’re watching festive movies or not, you’re bound to need some snacks to keep the energy up! Festive popcorn with a sprinkling of cinnamon, or some homemade gingerbread that can be decorated by the youngsters, usually go down a treat.

Christmas Eve is all about fun as a family – make the most out of the festive period and remember that the excitement doesn’t all have to be just on the one day!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Recipe: Chicken, bean and chorizo stew

I'm always looking for new recipes to tempt my girls, especially The Teenager who has a list as long as your arm of the foods she won't eat. Tall Daughter is more adventurous, but trying to find something all three of us will eat is a challenge. So I was intrigued when Oven Pride invited me to take part in a recipe challenge and to try and cook up a storm in the kitchen. By coincidence, my kitchen often looks like a tornado has passed through by the time I've finished cooking.

So I've gone all Nigella again (no, stop it!) and improvised on a recipe sent to me by the lovely Oven Pride people, along with a kit containing everything I needed to get cooking including a gorgeous red casserole dish.

The dish was delivered by Royal Mail while I was at work, so the postman very kindly left a note to say he'd left the parcel behind the garden gate. Unfortunately, the garden gate was locked so he hurled the parcel - containing the cast iron dish - over the 6ft high gate. I found the dented  box on the other side, but due to some sterling packaging the dish was completely safe inside. I'm seriously considering recommending him for the shot-put in the 2016 Olympics.

Anyway, I had the dish and the recipe so all I needed to do was crack on with it.

Chicken, bean and chorizo stew
Serves 3-4
4 chicken breasts, thighs or legs as you prefer
can of cannelini beans, drained
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
100g chorizo, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp paprika
200ml vegetable stock
sea salt and pepper to season
dried mixed herbs

Prepare all the veg before you start cooking, it just makes it easier to bung them all in the pot in one go.

Put a tbsp olive oil in a pan or casserole dish. Cook the onions in the oil for 3-4 minutes, then add the crushed garlic, chorizo and paprika. Cook for a further 2 mins, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomato puree, carrot, peppers and potatoes and stir into the flavoured oil. Add the stock, beans and chopped tomatoes.

At this point you can either keep the pot bubbling on the hob, or transfer it to the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes.  Rub the chicken breast with oil and season, place into a roasting tin and roast for 30 mins. Once the chicken is cooked I cut it into smaller pieces and put them into the stew for the last 10 minutes, but next time I might just cook them in the stew from the beginning so they pick up more of the lovely spicy chorizo flavour.

Check the stew from time to time, add a little more stock if needed but not too much - you want it to be quite thick.

Dish up the bean stew, pop the chicken breast on top and serve. Simples.

Of course, after all this cooking the oven and hob could do with a clean. Don't judge me, but I have an aversion to cleaning the oven. Luckily for me, my brother (who shares a house with us) came home from sea this week and he actually likes cleaning the oven. He's a bit of a clean freak, and he even has all the tins in his food cupboard facing the same way. Weird. And seeing as it hasn't been cleaned since the last time he was home *cough* I've left a very subtle hint for him in the kitchen. He won't be able to resist.

Disclosure: I was supplied with a recipe kit and cleaning products for this post by Oven Pride, but all words and opinions are mine, all mine.