Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Climbing Cousins

I often 'forget' this because my dad is so modest, but my dad is some thing of an AMAZING climber. Amazing as in: writes books, in books, featured in climbing magazines, known in the climbing world etc. In fact, he, his brother, and his brother in law are all fantastic and renowned in the climbing world! Judging by these photos of Ben and his cousins (Ollie and Ted), there's some talented fresh blood in the family too! 

Bless them, they looked shattered after the lesson. They had a wonderful time at Climb Newcastle, the kids classes are really high-energy and engaging. Despite Ollie living in London, the two get on like a house on fire whenever they're together. Ben doesn't get to see them as often as he likes but, as with all of my cousins when I was younger, as soon as they see each other it's like they've never been apart. 

{Enjoying a bubble bath}

{Painting at the kitchen table in their PJs}

It was lovely that Ollie and Ben were able to see so much of each other this half-term, he's already looking forward to the next time.x

Saturday, 25 February 2012

If you go down in the woods today...

This weekend, we're staying at Steve's parents (they're in Barcelona) and pretending we live here! Being here, combined with no T.V (see earlier post), is just the most relaxing thing ever.

Today, after lunch in a lovely cafe, we went on a beautiful walk and, despite the cold, we were just dazzled by spring bursting through:

{The cafe was so cute, they gave you a timer so you knew when your tea was brewed to perfection!}

{Carpet of snowdrops}

{Any twig/ stick/ branch immediately becomes a sword in Ben's hands}

{Meeting the pigs}

{Preston Clock Tower in Alnwick- can you spot Ben?}

{Autumn leaves and spring flowers sharing the grass}

{Cuddle in a corn filed}

{Such a beautiful day it almost looks fake!}

{Mushrooms growing on a stump}

Mmmm, I've noticed from doing this blog that on every walk I wear the same mismatching coat, hat and scarf! I do have others but these are the toastiest! 

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. Rx

Thursday Through the Keyhole- a tad late! (Living Room)

So, I'm aware I was a bit naughty and missed last week (I'm blaming the hectic half-term) and I'm late this week too-sorry. This week I'm sharing a little peak at the living room:
{A combination of old and new: Ben's castle he made in year one next to the typewriter my dad gave me for my 16th. I find 'tat' comes and goes from my home but sentimental pieces are guaranteed a place forever}

{A pile of ceramic coasters next to a beautiful wooden panel I bought in Greece}

{One of Ben's early paintings, he made quite a lot of these which we gave as gifts. The books in the shelving unit are organised by colour but Murakami has his own section as I adore his books}

{The living room is a mixture of modern and traditional and I thought this light fitted well with both. I bought it after seeing viewing  Stella McCartney's Lucky Spot at Belsay Hall so perhaps that influenced me. Oh, and let's pretend there's not a bulb out!}

{Steve's vinyl and some boards games. We encourage Ben to keep to a 'three toys downstairs at a time' rule but we always have some board games at the ready}

{Thought I'd include these bad boys as they're the one thing I've ever brought home that Steve despises! It's a testament to true love that, despite this, they currently take pride of place on the mantel place!}

Other rooms still to go: bathroom , kitchen, Ben's room, garden, spare room, passage. Phew! 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Choc full of yum.

Home-made chocolate- yum! I saw this idea on a blog about two months ago but I'm afraid to say I have no idea which one it was (I would hate for someone to read this and think I tried to pinch the credit). I know it seems to be a bit of a theme with anything I make but... this is really simple!
You Need:
1.Chocolate(I like a good quality organic one but buy one that suits your own taste)
2. Topping of your choice (I like sea salt, macadamias and cranberries) 
Note: sea salt works great with any topping. Other ideas that work are caramel/ fudge chunks, small chunks of white chocolate, any type of nut, crushed cinder toffee etc.
To Make:
1. Fill a pan full of boiling water. On top, place a heat-proof bowl- the key is to ensure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, even when boiling.
2. Snap up chocolate and pop it in the bowl.
3. When the chocolate is all melted into liquid, it's done. You may need to stir it to get rid of lumps.
4. Use baking paper to line any sort of dish/ tray with sides. Pour the chocolate in and spread thinly with a spatula.
5. While chocolate is still gooey (Mmmmm) add the topping so it sets in the chocolate.
6. Pop it in the fridge to set. Once it is hard, remove and peel off the baking paper. You should be left with a slab of chocolate.
7. I prefer to snap it into chunks. I pop it in a plastic bag that I get from Hobbycraft but I'm sure you can get something similar from most baking/craft shops.
Tie a pretty bow and viola! Yummy 'homemade' chocolate. Enjoy.x

Monday, 20 February 2012

Bye Bye Black Box

So, you're probably familiar with this black box that (probably) sits in the corner of your room. We're giving it up for Lent!

We've been talking about it since January, we usually give up chocolate/ sweets for Lent, but as I've already cut right back on those, we needed something new.

I have a bit of a love/ hate relationship with it, even when I could buy a much larger TV for the same price, I opted to buy this more modest size; in fact, if I had my way, I would hide it away in a discreet TV cabinet so I wouldn't have to see it when it's not in use. 

We thought about giving up the internet too but realised that it just isn't practical with work/ on-line banking etc. To ensure we don't just fill our time on-line we've capped internet use to three hours per week and Ben to one hour (to play on the computer e.g 'Little Big Planet' and 'Lego Star Wars'.

So, until Easter Sunday, we'll be finding other ways to entertain ourselves on an evening! Ideally I'd love to try some simple crafts that are reasonably easy and not too expensive. Ideas anybody?x

Pancake Monday (and a low fat/ no flour batter recipe)

Yes, I know, it should be pancake Tuesday but tomorrow we're at the theatre and so won't have a chance to make them, Ben didn't want to miss it so we brought it forward by a day. Check out my fabulous flipping action!

{The real deal-with fresh raspberries and syrup}

(Low fat imitator}

Firstly, I should mention that US/ Canadian pancakes are different to the English version (we call your pancakes 'dropped scones'). If you fancy attempting the low fat version of English pancakes, see below:

Low fat/ flour free pancakes:
You need:
1. Two eggs
2. 2 tablespoons of vanilla essence or extract
3. 4 tablespoons of sweetener
4. Fry Light (or similar one-cal spray)
5. Topping- I used raspberries and fat-free creme-fraiche mixed with roughly one teaspoon of sweetener per 3 table spoons of creme-fraiche

To make:
1. Separate the yolks and the whites into two different bowls
2.Add sweetener to the white and whisk as if making a meringue, I used an electric whisk, until it forms peaks.
3. Add vanilla essence/ extract to yolks and fold mixture gently into egg whites.
4. Using Fry Light (or similar), spray and then add half of mixture. As it has a foamy texture, you may need to spread it out a little in the frying pan.
6.Turn (with spatula) once it has began to lightly brown (see note at bottom). 
7. Serve with desired topping

Note: the 'batter' is actually more like a foam and it does not flip! I used a spatula to turn it. Also, my second one worked much better, this is similar to English 'dropped scones' where you are encouraged to chuck the first batch as it works better once the pan has some mixture on bottom. Finally, these aren't tasty enough (at least, not for me) to eat alone but tasted great with a tasty topping. I'll be cooking these again as a low-fat treat.

Happy Pancake Day for tomorrow everybody. xxx

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunday Summary

The last weekend of the holiday (sad times) but at least it was a lovely weekend (good times). 

Yesterday, I met with a whole heap of my lovely cousins and their kids and we went to explore Wallington Hall- link!
{Beautiful grounds- we managed an hour before our feet were numb and we retreated to the cafe!}

{Steve took this photos moments before Ben fell off- no bones were broken and snuggles were sufficient to heal the pain of dented pride and a nasty shock}

{One of the wonderful rooms inside the hall itself}

{They literally have a whole room of the most stunning dolls houses I have ever seen}

{Each house had a unique interior}

Saturday evening we slobbed about and managed to squeeze in an episode of 'The Wire' and yes, I'm aware we're a few years behind everybody else!

Today was lovely, I tackled a pile of marking in the morning meaning I felt rather virtuous all afternoon. We went to meet Ben's friend from school and while the boys and dad's painted at The Games Workshop, my lovely friend Urszula, her gorgeous daughter Gabi and I went for a coffee and a chat. After, we hit the sales at the Metrocentre. She bought some beautiful shorts for Gabi in the Zara sale and I was as pleased as punch with my own purchases:

I felt like a total dork in this photo but couldn't resist sharing my Zara coat (from £70 to £17 in the sale, I realise it's just a grim silhouette in the photo but in the flesh it's a lovely grey felt- type material) and this cute Mango denim skirt (not sure of the original price but it was reduced to £4)- I heart bargains! I wasn't totally selfish in my purchases, I bought Ben this boy's aftershave:
{How cute?}

I bought Ben a bottle of this last year from a Zara in Spain but it's the first time I've seen it in an English Zara. The scent is very light and Ben has nearly used his last bottle; he feels so grown-up spraying it for a night out for dinner or the theatre. I have to admit, there are times I spray it because the smells reminds me of him, does that make me a daft mammy?

Happy Sunday everyone, fingers crossed the week ahead treats us all well!xxx

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday Feeling

What a perfect Friday evening. We all went to Santana's-link! to celebrate my dad's birthday. My headache had gone and I was back in the house by 8:30 to snuggle on the sofa! My dad has a wilder social life than me, he'll still be drinking real ales in the pub at this point!
{Me and the birthday boy- looking great for 61!}

{Even his crazy self-cut fringe is growing on me!}

{Simon and Kim making a lobster heart}

{Ben with his pudding- before he decided he preferred mine and I had to swap}

{Ben and the lobster sharing a kiss}

{Ben's poor grandma probably assumed he was doing a sweet smile for this photo!}

We're off to bed soon, me to read and Steve to mess around on the computer. A really relaxing evening; now I just have to come to terms with the fact that the week off is over and from tomorrow it's just a normal weekend. Where does the time go? x

Feed my family Friday: Soup-er easy

Chant it like a mantra: 'this is easy, this is easy'. Yes, it really is becoming the theme of anything vaguely home-made that I do- I'm all about the simplicity!

Pea and Mint Soup:
1. Full of taste
2. Tastes better second day
3. Few ingredients (most are store cupboard)
4. VERY low fat
1. Rubbish if you don't like pea... or mint!

You need:
1. Salt and pepper to flavour
2. 600g Frozen peas
3. 4 tablespoons mint (I used fresh)
4. 3 tablespoons basil (I used dried)
5. Stock (I used a mix of veg and chicken but either will do)
6. 5 Shallots (I'm sure onions would work too)
7. Fat-free natural yogurt or creme- fraiche
NOTE: this recipe lends itself to variation: I've put more/ less peas/ basil/ shallots etc in and generally it makes no difference!

To make it:
1. Chop everything except peas and yogurt/ creme-fraiche and pop it in a pan.
2. Pour over about 1.2 pints of stock made with boiling water and boil for ten minutes.
3. Add frozen peas and cook for another five minutes.
4. Turn off the heat. Using a hand blender, er, well, blend it!
5. You're done! Now wasn't that easy? Serve up with a nice dollop of yogurt/ creme-fraiche (note- I keep this on the table as it's great to add more as you go). If you're feeling fancy pants, add a mint leaf to garnish.
A hit with the whole family and whole thing completed in twenty minutes. 

For more ideas, check out the blog where this started here-link! Today is a yummy looking sauce.

Tonight we're off out for dinner (it's the first night we were all free to celebrate my dad's birthday). I have a banging headache so have been lying in a dark room for the past two hours, it doesn't appear to be shifting so I've just had aload of painkillers and am hoping it goes before I need to get ready for the meal. Fingers crossed and Happy Friday folks! xxx