Monday, 30 December 2013

Meal Planning Monday: Last one of 2013

Cor blimey it's been absolutely ages since I was here. Yes, I've been menu planning along in the background but I've been keeping a bit quiet in terms of blogging so you haven't got to know! Plus my 'try something new' experiment died a death. For 2014 I'm lowering the bar and just have a few premises to work from - cooking 'proper' food as much as possible, trying new things, cooking food adults want to eat and hopefully kids want to as well, and trying not to get hung up about food. Guessing that's as ambitious in its own right!

Meat Free Monday ~ Wholewheat pasta with pesto and salad. When we get back from the panto. Woop woop!

Tuesday ~ New Year's Steaky & Kidney Pie cooked by my other half (his other seasonal contribution has been turkey risotto). 

Wednesday ~ New Year's Day buffet at the inlaws. Looking forward to Pops' lush gammon.

Thursday ~ Spaghetti Carbonara

Fishy Friday ~ Teriyaki Salmon & accompaniments (including the Santa rice cracker noodles our friends sent from Japan!)

Saturday ~ Chicken tortilla wraps/quesadillas

Sunday ~ Another pie - for Epiphany! Last of the leftover turkey in this one I think, and some ham.

Baking plans ~ At a minimum after the overdose of Christmas sweet treats. Although I do have bananas in the freezer to make a 'healthy' breakfast loaf before we go back to school.

Lunches ~ Going to try to think more about lunches too in 2014 as FabDad often joins us for his lunch break. This week I've got soup to make from leftovers - spiced parsnip, butternut squash & potato and stilton. That should stock up the freezer!

Join Mrs M at home to be inspired by and inspire other foodies!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Quick Takes: The Cup Half Full edition

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 151)


I don't know whether it's Advent, my medication, prayer, or simply the joy of the Christmas preparations, but I'm looking on the bright side a whole lot more these days. For example: I've been up early with 2 little kids, but I've got fruit bread in the oven. (And I was organised to soak fruit overnight in tea before bed to allow this to happen.) AND I'm blogging, kinda! Woop woop!


I usually have a thankful attitude to life in general, to be honest, it's just the pressures of parenting (and needing sleep) get in the way. In fact at dinner the other night, 2ndSister was talking about her plans to open a tea and coffee shop with me later in life. I suggested we call it 'The Cup Half Full.' And that my husband, who recently became a member of CAMRA, and is slightly more of a pessimist/realist, could open a micropub next door called 'The Glass Half Empty' :-)


And face it, who could be miserable when the spirit of St Nicholas reminds us he still knows where he lives and will be coming on Christmas Eve with more goodies?

                 (I know, our instructions are so polite!)


Things could be stressful what with Christmas shows and so on. 2ndSister rode on the school float as an angel in the local Christmas Carnival and hated it (smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.) 1stSister has given up her one-line speaking part in the school play due to fear. 3rdSister wants to be Mary rather than an angel at her pre-school show, and is not happy about it. Thank goodness for 4thSister and her constant beams, rampant appetite, her, um, early mornings and crawling skills...uh oh!

Having said this, I'm trying to do things that are therapeutic (pickling, baking, playing with the littles) and avoid things that put the pressure on. A friend brought round a basket of hyacinths for me today. I may have missed our Churches Together Advent Reflection but with a wing and a prayer I'll make it to early morning prayer tomorrow morning, AND get out to one of my favourite places ever in the afternoon!

Chatsworth House. Better than Downton. I promise.


I take it back, I think it's all because of Advent - it's definitely a week of hope, and some surprises. I've cut back a lot on our traditions this year, but I'm fine with that. I'll swap Jesse Tree scripture that they already know for sisters choosing to read advent books together anyday. Sisters have been asking to colour in  and write Christmas cards and spontaneously bursting into Christmas song. And yesterday I found out that their after-school Cheerleading squad (which I was initially a little dubious about) got them spelling out words using their whole bodies and 1stSister's chose to spell out J-E-S-U-S!


Obviously, it might be considered pressure at this wonderful but still fragile time to invite my mother and father in law, sister and brother in law and their 2 children for Christmas lunch, but I've decided that, although only some of us are gamers, this will save the day:

Christmas 2013: Xmas dinner in a tin launched by Game
Anyone else joining us this year?

* with thanks to Jen Fulwiler @ for hosting - head over there now and read a whole load of other Quick Takes!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Nothing Profound....

I haven't posted for AGES, it seems (almost two months! not that long really....)

Not only have I had nothing profound to say, I just haven't felt like sharing. I've posted a few images of my latest foodie successes on Facebook, and tweeted how much I enjoyed our family All Saints/Halloween evening. But I haven't felt like blogging.

This kind of mirrors what's happening in life. Nothing profound! Just growing the 4Sisters (now aged 9, 7, 3 and 7 months), nurturing my marriage, home and family, taking care of our collective health, making time for spiritual space, seeing a few close friends, trying to experience nature. Nothing profound, nothing much. And yet, simultaneously - everything.

I almost participated in a Ward Visitor training course at the local hospital trust, but decided to spend more time with the children instead. Maybe in 2014. I'm also still due to be commissioned as Lay Minister in pastoral care at my home church, and start my duties there. There's a meeting about that in November. I'm doing work for the company my husband and I set up, and to be honest pastoral care doesn't have an 'off' switch, but mainly, I'm doing the humdrum, humbling & sometimes humiliating work of a mother.

Nothing to write home about.

Nothing really to blog about.

But largely joyful, hard work. Which I thought was worth an update. I may stop blogging altogether if I remain uninspired, or I may pop back here on a more regular basis.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Well, I'm surviving the summer break and even ended up baking 3 cakes with 2ndSister at the end of last week. Still not getting around to making anything new, but I'm sure once Autumn and that back-to-school feeling hits I'll get inspired.....

Meat Free Monday ~ Veggie pizzas

Tuesday ~ Chinese chicken with noodles (got pak choi and mushrooms for this - it got bumped from the other week for some reason)

Wednesday ~ Beef meatballs in a tomato and chilli sauce served with pasta

Thursday ~ Chicken dinner or salad (depending on the weather)

Fishy Friday ~ Salmon or scampi with chips, depending on how much I feel like cooking!

Saturday ~ Probably a meal out somewhere

Sunday ~ Undecided

Baking plans ~ Still none, I have enough lemons for a lemon drizzle but after today's cinnamon toast/eggy bread and Friday's baking shenanigans, we're out of eggs! I may get persuaded into melting moments and banana and pecan breakfast loaf as the week unfolds, however.....

Join Mrs M at home to be inspired by and inspire other foodies!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Meal Planning Monday: 12 August

OK, it's official, these school holidays are officially sapping my strength blogging time! By the time I remember I have something to post, someone's playing computer games or doing their blog! And is it just me with four girls on growth spurts, but EVERYONE seems to be hungry ALL THE TIME, so I could really care less about food. Yes, you can tell it's over halfway through the holidays....still loving the down time, but ready for some personal space :-)

Meat Free Monday ~ Wholewheat fusilli pasta with vegetable sauce (cherry tomatoes & courgette)

Tuesday ~ Chicken cacciatore with courgettes in the sauce (leftover vegbox ingredient, can you tell?)

Wednesday ~ Leftover gammon with chips, egg, pineapple, plum tomatoes and HP sauce nom nom nom

Thursday ~ Chicken salad with a crusty loaf

Fishy Friday ~ Fish gratin and fries

Saturday ~ Wraps

Sunday ~ Mixed grill

Baking plans ~ I'm so over baking at the moment. Again, it's the lost impetus of the holidays...we're having guests over at the weekend and I've ORDERED cake and scones from Tesco rather than bake! Maybe it's the weather - the girls had great fun decorating gingerbread men in a kit we picked up from the supermarket today though :-)

Join Mrs M at home to be inspired by and inspire other foodies!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Meal Planning Monday 5 August

oops, after being early last week I nearly forgot again this week - that's the summer holidays for you! I took 1st & 2ndSister swimming and for pizza today, having dropped the other two off at childcare facilities, and I am exhausted and feel like all those other people who rush around doing activities with their kids and barely have time to put dinner on the table. Thank goodness I was organised with a load of easy Greek food to put together! have a good week everyone xx

Meat Free Monday ~ Greek meze with falafel, pitta, tzatiki, feta & red onion salad followed by Greek yogurt.

Tuesday ~ Pasta with pesto, chicken and baby courgettes

Wednesday ~ Fish gratin & fries

Thursday ~ Chicken and veg in Chinese sauce served with noodles

Fishy Friday ~ Fishfingers, chips and peas

Saturday ~ Chicken drumsticks, fries and corn on the cob

Sunday ~ Baked gammon with all the trimmings (or salad if it's red hot again)

Baking plans ~ Hmm...we are really busy this week with soft play, cousins playdate and 1stSister's friend coming here so I'm not sure what we might fit in....

Join Mrs M at home to be inspired by and inspire other foodies!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Rate a Park # 8

White Post Farm Park Playpark

3 Sisters indoor sledging
Now I don't even think I have any pictures of the playpark at our nearest Farm Park, White Post Farm Centre, unless I find some on FabDad's phone in the next few days. This is really annoying because it is a fantastic playpark that keeps them occupied for hours! And when you consider that we paid just £40 for a family of six to see an animal show, lots of animals, milking, and we got to feed animals including a baby goat with a bottle of milk, the kids enjoyed the indoor sledging, the soft play area, the reptile room and the mini-golf course - AND there is a fantastic playpark (and go-karts!) - add to this a picnic lunch and a visit to McDonalds on the way home and 3rdSister's 3rd birthday was very perfect indeed for all of us. We're so blessed.

Goat feeding with FabDad

Anyway - they rate this playpark very highly, it suits all 3 big sisters (aged 8.5, 7 and newly 3) with slides, climbing things, obstacle course, trampolines and pirate ship.

Did I mention we all had an icecream too?

Admittedly we paid extra for face painting and paint a pot but even they were good value (£2 and £3.50 respectively...)

There was also the right number of people around, not too heaving but lots of kids having super fun, don't let that stop you from paying a visit to White Post Farm, Nottinghamshire, England if you're in the area though :-) There's also a farm shop (so I got some of my favourite Normandy cheese and FabDad picked up some real ales.)
4thSister loved the day too!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Rate a Park #7

Spider Park, Mansfield, Notts

 This relatively new park won plaudits when it was opened for being some kind of amazingly designed park specifically suited towards the kids of today.  All the girls enjoyed it and rated it highly.

It did have a wide range of play equipment including swings, things to climb, toddler-friendly items and a 'Witch's Hat' which is something you don't get everywhere. The only thing missing was a large, long slide and my only other complaint was that the roundabout would not turn. At all! And not just because of me being a weakling! But still, probably our most successful park so far.

I knew it was a good park because I sat for 15 minutes and fed the baby while all 3 looked after themselves. (It was an enclosed park, which is partly why I chose it at feeding time.) It brought out the sisterhood in them as they looked after each other. There was also much hilarity at snack time when 3rdSister found a crisp in her packet nearly as big as her head!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Rate a Park #6

Our Nearest Park (still a short drive away!)

The girls were desperate to go to this park on Monday even after parks 4 and 5, simply because we passed it when buying an anniversary gift for my parents (it's next to a local shop.) I thought we'd had enough parks that day, and planned to go here today instead as I knew the weather would be fine.

Fantastically, the Sisters' cousins were back from their Spanish holiday so Nephew (age 3) and Niece (age 18 months) and their Dad decided to join us and good fun was had by all. The park was quite busy due to the good weather, FabDad and FunUncle came along too, the kids had ice lollies and as much hot fun as we could manage on a hot English sunny day in August.

I don't know whether it was because of the heat, but 2ndSister gave it 5 out of 10 and 1stSister just 4 out of 10, even though there was plenty for them to do. I think the best thing was a chance to hang out with their cousins, we are so lucky they live locally! I regularly take 3rd and 4thSister to this park of a morning, and it was lovely for Rebecca to join the big ones (4thSister just went to sleep beneath her parasol, as she often does at this time of the afternoon.)

We've been quite lucky with the weather so far this holidays. Yesterday I knew it would be rainy so we baked a couple of things and just hung around the house. They were ready to get out today. Hopefully we can manage another park tomorrow. Then it's 3rdSister's 3rd birthday on Saturday followed by White Post Farm on Sunday, which, you've guessed it, has a playpark for us to rate!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Rate a Park #4 and #5

This is a fairly new playpark on the Forest Recreation ground in the city of Nottingham, where the Goose Fair is held every October.

It has some interesting pirate-themed equipment, which was okay for 1st & 2ndSister to climb on but would probably be better for under-7s.

We rarely visit this part of Nottingham, but managed to combine a trip to Hyson Green and the New Art Exchange gallery & Bombay Sweet Centre for some Indian delicacies AND squeeze in a couple of parks! (not before the British rain came though - can you see the clouds gathering?)

2ndSister enjoyed the pirate park (25 out of 10, apparently) but 1stSister was critical, giving it 2 out of 10 because it didn't even have a standard swingset. She was insistent that we go the park over at the other side of the recreation ground, which is old and worn but with swings and climbing frames which she loves.

There is also a new 'outdoor gym' bit for adults which the girls enjoyed climbing on. And they rated this old-fashioned park much more highly than the conceptual pirate area.

I have to say, though, the most fun was had on the walk back to the car, as even before we left the second park the heavens opened and heavy rain and hail fell upon us as we ran and laughed our way back to shelter. Luckily it wasn't long to get home for a change of clothes and a hot chocolate, and we didn't have 3rd & 4th Sister with us, or else we'd have been doomed! As it was, it was unique family fun that we squeezed into a packed few hours, just the big girls and I.

Meal Planning Monday 29 July

It seems like the week has flown by - I know I posted last week's entry late, but because it's the school holidays time is just zipping by, I know it! We're keeping things to a bare minimum, a few park trips, the library, hanging out, plenty of quiet time, a little Spanish learning ~ nothing too ambitious, I assure you, and most things with a baby girl on my hip! I'm not trying to cook new dishes at this time, we're still fairly much in survival mode, and I've been pestered to bake but it has been too hot for the oven as yet, although I foresee Melting Moment cookies in my future!

Meat Free Monday ~ Vegetable Curry with Saag Aloo, Basmati Rice, Plain & Peshwari Naan with vegetable samosas and Indian sweets purchased from a shop in Hyson Green, nearby to a new(ish) playpark which we may visit if the weather is fine, or if not just check in at the New Art Exchange gallery.

Tuesday ~ Chicken and chips (I'm roasting a whole organic chicken today to last as much of the week as it can)

Wednesday ~ Coq Au Vin with rice and garlic bread. This sounds really ambitious and it is a new thing for me, but it will be made with leftover cooked chicken, garlic, onion and mushrooms, cooked in red wine and chicken stock - exactly the same as last month's chicken chasseur which I made with white wine and was delish!

Thursday ~ Tortilla Wraps/Quesadillas - let's see if I can make that rubber chicken stretch three meals! If not I have onion and red pepper, refried beans, soured cream, salsa, guacamole and lettuce to accompany.

Fishy Friday ~ Cheesy mixed fish bake (haddock, smoked haddock, salmon) with fries & garden peas

Saturday ~ Pizza night. 3rdSister has her 3rd birthday party this afternoon so I don't want to be thinking about food.

Sunday ~ Outing and picnic at White Post Farm, for Rebecca's birthday treat, followed by McDonalds :-)

Inspire and be inspired by other bloggers by visiting over at Mrs M's!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rate a Park - Entry #3

Sisters 1 and 3 have a distinctive bond. Sophie, at 8, is maternal towards Rebecca, although she can quickly become frustrated with her. They don't spend much time playing one-on-one, but because 2ndSister came home from a sleepover with her friend, exited the car and dramatically puked on the pavement, we kept her at home with the baby and me, giving the other two chance to hang out.

These photos are of the ramps for the skateboarders. This park is just a walk through the woods from our old house, so we went extensively when the eldest two were small. It's much better for younger children, though - lots for them to do, and only the skate ramps for older kids.

I didn't ask them to rate the park as there was a special event going on which we hadn't counted on, with races, food and drink (which would have been lovely had FabDad not ventured out without his wallet....) and 1stSister didn't want to come home. She thought it was much better fun than her favourite thing, computer time, and would rate the experience highly but the standard park equipment less so. The photos don't show how hot it was....a quick park trip was extended as long as possible before they came home for refreshment!

3rdSister turns three years old in a week and is getting taller, slimmer and more eloquent by the day. She is still exceptionally cute in her behaviour and mannerisms, and reaches screaming volume quickly if she thinks she isn't being heard, lest we think she's growing up too fast. She's recently become very loving with 4thSister who until now she was happy to ignore, hoping she would go away, probably, so she could stay the baby.

There's also a traditional climbing frame, a couple of slides and a roundabout here, plus a big playing field for ball games or general running around. I have lovely memories of tramping through the woods, sometimes with a baby in the carrier on my husband's shoulders, taking little girls to the park. Every November they have Bonfire Night here too, with a big bonfire and organised fireworks. A part of our past, then, but just a five-minute drive away for us to still enjoy.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Rate a Park - Entry # 2

OK, it might seem we're blasting through these but while the weather is fine, we will. 

The park I chose today is in a small village a short drive from us, which we used to visit often when 1st and 2ndSister were tiny because it's that little bit different. It's enclosed, there's space to run around, the odd tree to climb and a few different bits of playground equipment including a roundabout you pedal round. 3rdSister took to it like a duck to water, the girls made friends with two other girls playing there and 4thSister just sat and beamed in the sunshine then had her nap on the drive home.

Happy summer holidays, and 4thSister is 4 months old today, has 2 teeth, lots of chuckles, and is determined to roll over sometime soon!

I don't think it's going to be easy to rate the parks we visit somehow - 2ndSister gave the park 25 out of 10, whereas 1stSister was unimpressed by the equipment she loved when she was smaller, but scored the 'cute' little girls they played with 9 out of 10 for company. 

They all enjoyed themselves thoroughly for an hour. Which was great considering 2ndSister had been so loud ALL DAY in the house and 1stSister lost it completely before we left over having no appropriate park shoes (ALL MY FAULT, apparently!)

Oh lovely leafy rural England....I love you when it is sunny but not too hot, and we can get out and about in the school holidays!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Rate a Park - Entry # 1

OK, so I'm blatantly stealing the idea from one of my favourite blogs/families ever, at My Child I Love You ~ or, perhaps you could say I was inspired, as I often am by Lindsay's posts about her family. I don't think there are as many parks round here as there are in Lincoln, USA, but as the most we'll be doing this summer is getting out to a playpark or two in the afternoon if the weather's nice, I thought I'd make a project of it. The plan is to visit our usual park haunts and also explore some new ones and revisit some we've long forgotten, take some photos and give the park a score out of ten. Simple. Ha! Let's see how long I keep it going for!

Entry # 1: Horse and Groom Beer Garden playpark

 I waited in with the girls all day until FabDad came home with the 'new' car. We've been without a 7-seater for a while, which has proven tricky but just about manageable, and now have a big secondhand Kia Sedona as our family car. The girls had asked to go the pub at the weekend and it didn't fit in with what we were doing, so it seemed a good idea, on the first day of the school holidays, for me to testdrive the Kia to the nearby village which has a lovely pub with a beer garden. The girls love to have a drink and some crisps and a sweet snack out of the machine, it's a real treat for them!

There isn't that much for the girls to play on, but there's space and some trees to climb and they basically make their own fun. I also ended up running round in a race and did some swing pushing. 4thSister was very obliging by falling asleep in her pram at her usual naptime while we sat in the sunshine. It's been either unbearably hot for me here or not fit to leave the house because of the rain, so it was really pleasant.

I honestly think it's best when the girls are left together to make their own fun. It's an interesting dynamic this holidays with an 8, 7 and almost-3 year old. They tend to need time doing their own thing, a little input from me, and in between coming up with their own ideas of games and silliness. It's noisy chaos, with the odd screaming match, but I could be having a worse six weeks :-)

(And how did the park rate? I would have to say 5/10....1stSister gave it zero because of the lack of play equipment and 2ndSister gave it ten because she had fun!)

Meal Planning Monday (on Wednesday!) 22 July

Yes, I know it's Wednesday, but I've been on an unplanned blogging hiatus and I need to get back on track! Hopefully things are back on an even keel now, especially since I'm now at home with four girls for 6 weeks...I probably won't feel much like cooking, and we will sneak in some extra baking, and I will try and be motivated to continue planning and posting menus :-)

Meat Free Monday ~ Ploughmans salad with French cheeses

Tuesday ~ Roast chicken and chips (plus peas and gravy - it was a rainy night!)

Wednesday ~ Farfalle pasta in chargrilled vegetable sauce

Thursday ~ Chicken salad

Fishy Friday ~ Fishfingers chips and peas

Saturday ~ Tapas with Spanish meats and cheeses

Sunday ~ Sausage, mash, yorkies and broccoli

Baking plans ~ a banana and pecan breakfast loaf, at least...

Join Mrs M at home to be inspired by and inspire other foodies!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Meal Planning Monday: 24 June

For any of you following my ongoing post-partum saga, I've actually been fine this week but I was so busy doing a workout and getting things sorted that I forgot to post last Monday! Ironic as Mrs M added me to the Meal Planning Twitter List this week too. And actually I've been a bit behind on meal planning and food ordering in general, possibly because I've been venturing out of the house a little bit more (church service with the baby while 3rdSister was at preschool, playparks) - trying to find a balance as ever! Last week's big success was the (I make it with smoked) salmon and broccoli pasta bake. It was almost a disaster as I did a cream cheese sauce rather than proper mascarpone and it tasted disgusting - but luckily the park I took 3rd and 4th Sister to for their morning outing is next to a Tesco Express and as they didn't have any 'fresh' cheese sauce I just picked up milk and made the dish with cheddar I had at home, and my husband and I enjoyed it. (Obviously 'adventurous' 1st Sister wouldn't touch it because of the broccoli and moaned because she got plain pasta instead - lucky she got anything! - but wonderfully, Fussy 2nd Sister tried and claimed to enjoy a strip of raw smoked salmon that I served separately. Her palate is getting more adventurous - she didn't freak out when I put tuna steak on the same plate as her fries last Friday, and she made herself a chicken sandwich, which is the first time in ages she's mixed anything with bread apart from cucumber. Anyway, enough of this - to the week ahead!)

Meat Free Monday ~ Pasta in tomato and basil sauce, possibly served with doughballs and garlic butter.

Tuesday ~ Chicken in Chinese sauce with pak choi, water chestnuts and red pepper served with boiled rice and prawn crackers.

Wednesday ~ Pasta in pesto sauce with a little chicken stirred through (making this rubber chicken stretch 3 meals - I'm off out for a curry with the girls from my lay ministry training!)

Thursday ~ Chicken salad with crusty bread

Fishy Friday ~ Fishfingers, chips and peas

Saturday ~ Oven baked sausage rolls (new from Birds Eye) with salad (and maybe is Saturday!)

Sunday ~ Roast chicken dinner, or perhaps salad again, depending on the weather - it's the end of the month, so I've run out of food and money, but thankfully have a chicken available!

Baking plans ~ A lemon drizzle and a couple of breakfast loaves as I've now got 8 frozen bananas in the freezer for this purpose! Running low on eggs but the fruit will keep, as long as I have something baked for when 3rdSister's godmother visits on Friday :-)

Join Mrs M at home to be inspired by and inspire other foodies!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Being Remembered...

It's been a tricky last couple of weeks for us as a family and me as a mother. Despite all my best intentions, and a relatively easy half term holiday, things ended up going pear shaped. I struggled to put many of my plans into action, was struggling inside my head, then was physically ill for over a week. Things were tough.

I feel that things have improved 1000% since then. I've been to a couple of exercise classes, come off the prescribed medication, stopped panicking about the baby not following a routine. Whatever happened, it gave me the kickstart I needed to begin to relax about mothering the 4Sisters. (I have to get past all this before I can even think about how to be a wife, sadly!) Ironically, though, because I felt so out of it, even reading scripture daily on my phone seemed hugely difficult. All the plans I made for prayer and so on fell by the wayside.

I was lying awake in the wee hours last night and asked Jesus out loud to 'Remember Me.' And then I almost felt a flood of shame, and laughed. Because He always remembers. God knitted us in the womb and knows the number of hairs on our heads. He searched for me, a lost sheep, for years without ever quitting and is beside me every day, whether I choose to recognise that or not. Just because I'm not participating in communal worship, lighting my candles, or skipping past All Things Bright and Beautiful on my hymns playlist, I'm always on his infinite heart. Even if I feel that he's not on mine.

Because in all fairness, I don't think I could be doing it without the support of God. I spoke to someone yesterday (in a conversation which to me strengthened my response to my calling, and which I really should journal!) about how in our worst of times, we tend to reject God, or our faith gets shaky, or we get angry with Him, just when His support is most crucial.

But that support is always there - it's just our perception of it that shifts. We are always remembered, we are always on His mind, which is humbling when you think of everything else crucially important in the universe which is also His responsibility. We each matter to Him, more than we can love our own child.

It's mind-blowing.

We're not just remembered. We're prioritised.

We're comforted. We're helped.

And we're brought home, when we eventually realise that Jesus was walking right beside us all along, helping us stand and get through the days. Together with medicine, exercise, food, family, friends and all the other kinds of assistance we can find in life if we're lucky, we're spiritually bound to a get-well-soon system that is always there for us, if we choose to recognise it and let it help us.

We may feel abandoned by everyone, including God. But the reality is, He never forgets us.

Let yourself be remembered.....

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. (Psalm 139)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10: 30-31.)

Monday, 10 June 2013

Meal Planning Monday 10 June

Well it's been a bit of a couple of weeks here at Cooking Towers - things got a bit crrrrazy with life so I took some prescription medication to slow things down and had a ridiculous adverse reaction including loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting! So suffice to say food has not been number on thing on my mind and I didn't post last Monday. Just trying to get back on top of things - got prescribed some anti-sickness drugs which I found out too late made me drowsy, so my brain is still a bit wonky! Once again, however, it makes me defend the humble menu plan, as there was always food on the table even if I didn't feel like eating it and the planned chicken & ham pie became chicken & chips because there's always leeway in my planning process. Thankfully. If you're still with me, here's this week's plan:

Meat Free Monday: Butternut squash soup with farmhouse loaf and slabs of cheese

Tuesday: Chicken Chasseur - if I'm up to trying this new recipe!

Wednesday: Spag Bol

Thursday: Chicken and Chips

Friday: Smoked Mackerel Salad

Saturday: Frozen Pizzas

Sunday: Have to have a think......when I feel up to it!

Edited to add: we are having a Mixed Grill on Sunday, with pork steak, sirloin steak, sausage, oven chips, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes, and peas. And cheesecake for dessert. Because it's Father's Day!

Join up with others at Mrs M's....

Monday, 27 May 2013

Meal Planning Monday: 27 May

I can't believe we are almost in June! The weeks are whizzing by, 4thSister is becoming easier to care for and I am thinking about my new dishes again. Not feeling very inspired about what to introduce new next, to be honest, but this is why I dip into other people's menus for a nosey! I'm also struggling to concentrate on simple things, so remembering ideas I've had and things I've cooked is not happening. Cooking and baking is one of the activities keeping me going through the difficult post-partum time I'm having this time round - so therapeutic. I made rhubarb crumble and rhubarb crumble cake as we've had veg box rhubarb and another big load from my amazing friend Mary's allotment = such happiness!

Meat Free Monday ~ Pasta with courgettes and leeks in pesto sauce

Tuesday ~ Chinese Chicken (with pak choi, courgettes and spring onions from the veg box) 

Wednesday ~ Sausage, oven chips, beans, maybe egg (using up freezer stuff, end of the month!)

Thursday ~ Roast chicken salad

Fishy Friday ~ Frozen fish in batter, oven chips and mushy peas

Saturday ~ Wraps with chicken, cheese, guacamole, salsa & soured cream

Sunday ~ Gammon in Coca Cola from the freezer (leftovers served with new potatoes, cumberland sauce and other trimmings

Inspire and be inspired by other bloggers by visiting over at Mrs M's!

Catching up on the New Dishes

I've fallen woefully behind on the new dishes. So much so that I'm going to have to count new sweet, baked goods to get to 13 by the end of the June! I'll write about those separately but here are the last new dinners I tried - Nigella's cola baked gammon, and Abel & Cole's Aubergine Not-Meat Meatballs, along with 'Brinner' and a different way to cook lamb.


Braising it in Coca-Cola gave the gammon a moistness and an extra sweetness, I think, although I couldn't taste a huge amount of difference really from it being cooked in stock with a bay leaf, as usual. I think the texture was key, though, soft and moist, as I said and it was definitely yummy. I can't remember who mentioned it, but someone in the blogosphere has tried this with Lilt (pineapple/grapefruit carbonated drink) so I might do that next time, as we do like pineapple with our gammon!


Technically, Brinner isn't a dish per se, but so many people have been serving Breakfast for Dinner on their blogs that I decided to try it. First can I said it felt VERY weird! Although I guess it is basically a traditional English 'high tea'...but I served sausages, egg, beans, tomatoes and toast with hash browns, which gave it an American breakfast feel. So very yummy...but it freaked the kids out slightly to be having this sort of meal in the evening. Also, 3rdSister (my fussy eater) was unhappy as she's not keen on many of these foods - she requested a 'dippy' (soft boiled) or fried egg with hers next time, though, and we may try it again.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder

Again, not technically a new recipe as I'm sure I've done this in the slow cooker before. But I added a glass of wine, lamb stock, garlic, red onion and rosemary to the crockpot, and just stuck the lamb in on low for 8 hours, which I've never previously done without browning it. The result was fantastic - beautiful lamb that just fell succulently apart and tasted fantastic, and made a beautiful Sunday dinner. The only problem was that the rogan josh saag I made with the leftovers and was so overjoyed about consisted of beautifully disintegrated and soft pieces of lamb, which didn't curry in the traditional way, and tasted of a lamb dinner more than an Indian dish to my discerning husband. Next time, I'll use these types of leftovers in a shepherds pie (topped with leeks and cheese a la Delia, of course, and served with redcurrant jelly) as that texture would suit beautifully. I've often wanted to do cottage or shepherds pie like we used to do in the 20th century after a roast dinner, but don't have a mincer. Cooking slow cooked lamb in a sauce would work beautifully, I think (I'll keep you posted!)

Not Meat Meatballs

These weren't really a success, although I loved the idea. Again, it wasn't taste but texture that was key here. The taste was fine, although I really overdid the lemon juice - I could just eat plain grilled aubergine for days mind you and not complain. I think as well as it being much too lemony, the juice made the balls too wet, as I had to add extra breadcrumbs, and three of them still completely disintegrated.

My other problem was this recipe was its healthfulness - yes, made up of aubergine and onions but I fried these to begin with, in quite a lot of olive oil, and then the balls required shallow frying in oil until they were golden, and again, I could see a LOT of oil being soaked up. Mediterranean, yes, but I need to keep my fat content down due to gallstones and this isn't normally a way I would cook things. In the future I might grill the aubergine to lessen the amount of oil used, perhaps, although I am not planning to make these again...

....mainly because of the amount of faff involved in preparation & cooking. We didn't have them on the day I planned, as the day went mad and I didn't get any dinner cooking time. But I managed to make them for lunch one day last week to serve with leftover pesto pasta. And they were okay. Brown by the time I reheated them in the oven. I did miss them steeping in a tomato and basil sauce, like beef or pork meatballs - I would have loved to have lightly fried them and then finish them off in the slow cooker, but I know they would have fallen apart completely and not necessarily have cooked through properly. So, not a total disaster, but not something that will become part of our family repertoire. I will stick to aubergine parmigiana as a favourite from now on!

 My cakes have been much more successful - I'll post about them soon!

Leaving Home Without the Baby

Now, this isn't a post about how I left the house and forgot to take the baby, like my Great Aunty allegedly did with my little cousin when they went on holiday one time.

It's about the first time I left the house without my 8-week old baby, while she slept and FabDad was around to look after her.

It's been a long time in happening - I've been tending to 4thSister's needs pretty much exclusively, while he looks after the rest as much as he can!

I was hoping to take off for a run (well, a lollop) around the block but I've been full of cold, so that will have to wait. I did manage to pop to the local shop, however, for a quick impromptu 15 minute trip. (Emphasis on the word impromptu, mine.)

It felt weird - alien, like having a little bit of respite, wanting to hurry back, but appreciating the time free of responsibility. But that's not really the point.

I've been bitten a few times, out in the garden I think, by unidentifiable creatures. While FabDad was out I'd slathered a big white patch of Sudocrem on one side of my face where the latest bite was. When he saw me, he asked if I'd been applying suncream, as it understandably looked like I'd put something on and forgot to rub it in. I assured him I did it on purpose - after all, it wasn't like I was planning to leave the house anytime soon, right? Oops! You can get what's coming next!

This crazy mother whipped up her keys, phone and purse, popped to the shop, saw a few people who managed NOT to give me funny looks, and took a basket of bread, eggs, meat, wine and vodka pops to the counter. I mean, I'd probably have got away with it if I didn't have a load of booze at the checkout. (Which was gifts for people, I swear!) As it was, I probably looked like some bonkers alcoholic managing to make it out to the corner shop for supplies, forgetting I had a white splodge on half of my face in my drunkenness.

Rather than some new mother leaving the house without her baby for the first time.......sigh......

Monday, 20 May 2013

Meal Planning Monday: 20 May

I'd like to first start by recounting that yesterday I slow-cooked a very good value shoulder of lamb via Abel and Cole, in wine, stock, rosemary, onion and garlic for 8 hours on low, and it made a very good Sunday dinner! (I was in two minds as to not do the full trimmings, and serve new potatoes, homemade coleslaw and salad, as the weather was warm, but glad I stuck to the original plan.) And there is such a lot of lamb that tomorrow I will be doing a lamb rogan josh (& saag) which will make 2 meals, one to freeze, one to eat with this week. So I am very pleased with that one! Like the organic chicken that makes two meals and sandwiches, we pay extra for high animal welfare standards, but try to get as much bang for as buck as possible.

Speaking of animal welfare, it is currently National Vegetarian Week (and here I am banging on about lamb - sigh....) I did used to be vegetarian, vegan in fact, and now do ensure that the food we buy adheres to strict animal welfare standards (hence Abel and Cole as a supplier) but aside from a Meat Free Monday and a Fishy Friday, our meat consumption remains fairly high. If I'd been more on the ball I'd have implemented more veggie meals this it is, we're trying something new, Aubergine 'Meat'Balls - wish me luck!

Meat Free Monday - Aubergine Meatballs served with tomato and basil sauce and spaghetti

Tuesday - Lamb Rogan Saag Josh with brown basmati rice, plain & peshwari naan

Wednesday - Chicken and chips (unless I'm inspired to do a different chicken dish - it's going to be a long week of sewing for the Dance Show so I don't anticipate having any creative juices, perhaps you other meal planners will inspire me!)

Thursday - Chicken Salad

Friday - Fish in tomato and basil sauce served with fries (a Jools Oliver recipe I've used for years)

Saturday - Early pizza tea before the show

Sunday - Probably takeaway on the way back from the Dance Show (for those of you who think you have deja vu, yes I got mixed up last week and initially posted that it was the Dance Show Weekend then - but it's not till this week - thankfully, due to the amount of costume alterations I need to get sorted!)

Head on over to Mrs M's for more menus and inspiration today....

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A Pentecost preamble

The problem with awesome thing about my making a concerted effort to open up the channels of communication with God is that once it kickstarts, things start to happen at a scarily exponential rate. Combined with other efforts I'm making to reboot my lifestyle, prayer and other simple measures are already making my life more spirit filled. I feel God's nurture, even if I haven't let Jesus take me by the hand.

We celebrate Pentecost tomorrow.

Before I had any inkling of God's ministry for me, and taking 1st and 2ndSister to the Family Service on a Sunday morning was generally more struggle than spiritual, I set off for church with them in hand-picked outfits of red and yellow leggings. I don't think I even knew it was the Pentecost celebration, let alone what Pentecost was; I certainly had no idea of the significance of red and yellow symbolising the tongues of fire, and was astounded when we were handed red and yellow ribbons to wave during hymn singing, which matched the children's outfits visually, and (metaphorically) echoed their holy dancing in the aisle!

2008: Me & 1stSister age 3 in her red and yellow clobber
 (& apple, which I'm not reading symbolism into!)

The spirit was with me that day, breathing through my children. The church was filled with holiness, and I came away more fulfilled and refreshed than any other family service before (and possibly since!). I realised that I could take away so much even when trying to supervise little ones - God was there, if only I let Him be.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost again, and I've now got 3rd and 4thSister, aged 2 and a half and 7 weeks, to add into the mix. It isn't a family service, but I'll be with the two littlest in Sunday School, before taking all four to find a pew in church large enough to house us, source service and hymn books, and join in the full service prior to going up to the altar to receive the Eucharist and/or a blessing. Seriously? Re-entering church with the largest family there generally fills me with panic and dread. And this is with children who know church, generally behave and follow the service and appreciate what Holy Communion is. I often think I am crazy putting myself through this, and research easier options (for example last week, I left two children at home with their father, and enjoyed the entire full church service with my babe in arms before 2ndSister came for communion.)

But it's Pentecost. And on Pentecost anything can happen.

It's no coincidence that WordLive posted the passage from the book of Joel that I read today, about people becoming spirit-filled:
And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. (Joel 2:28.)
But I feel it's a God-incidence (although I despise that term!) that everything is coming together at a time when I need it most, and the passage went on to inspire me to blog.

Because I missed something out of my reboot Quick Takes yesterday - writing. The spirit inspires me to write, and when I write, I journey (further) with God, and it all makes sense.

What I actually sat down to blog about today, before all the preamble, was how much I loved the Joel passage. Did I mention how much I like the Old Testament in general? There are treasures to be found within, although it can seem scary. Today my thoughts have been lingering over the following:
Even on my servant, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:29) (My emphasis.)
Because, and I know it's a 'historico-cultural' thingy, but I have huge issues with Paul's attitude to women and the early church. And the word from Joel reminded me that God is inclusive. And I need to feel this inclusion right now, as I struggle in this earthly existence, and need regular holy inspiration.

We celebrate Pentecost tomorrow.

Wikipedia told 2ndSister and I yesterday that in Italy, rose petals used to be dropped from the ceilings of churches to symbolise the tongues of fire. In France, trumpets used to be sounded to represent the noise of the wind/breath of the spirit. I see Pentecost in less showy terms. The spirit sneaks up on me when I least expect it (but should perhaps most expect it) - without noise or obviousness, but there nevertheless.

In our twice monthly Pram Service for under-5s we use a wonderful little book called 'Teddy Horsley and the Windy Day'. In it, Teddy sees the wind doing lots of things - blowing washing on the line, shaking leaves from trees, and so on - and he cannot see it, but he knows it is there. Later, he goes to church, and experiences the Holy Spirit - he cannot see it, but he knows it is there.

We celebrate Pentecost tomorrow, and we'll remember how the spirit descended on the disciples. It was a pretty visceral experience for them, and some people may have this jaw-dropping moment. I know taking my red and yellow littles to church was a profound moment in my spiritual journey, and that nothing may ever come close to the surprises of that day. But the spirit also becomes apparent in less visible ways that we just need to tune into, and be open to - whether it's in lifestyle changes, life-changing decisions, everyday routine life or how to help others. We just need to be ready, on Pentecost and every other day, to recognise the Spirit, and embrace her (it/him).....

(And all written without any mention of that stuff about Pentecost being the church's birthday too!)