Tuesday 9 July 2013

Batch cooking meets

I'm a fairly new blogger and just finding my way around. Since before the "age of Pinterest" I sat in awe of all the bloggers I ever came across. How did they DO this stuff they wrote about AND still find the time to write about it? I "met" people in various places on the internet, some passed through my life with good advice and wonderful ideas. And some became personal friends whom I have been blessed to hold dear even years after those meetings.

So I'm starting to understand now that the best of most of those blogs started as a way to keep in touch with a small(ish) group of like minded people and they became what they became. I realised that in at least some of those blogs, the photo's that seemed to come from the pages of some glossy home magazine were often staged. Most photo's were taken "for when they were needed" and often were never intended for a blog.

Enter my pink polkadot kitchen table cloth.

 And that seems to me, the perfect picture to bring you to the title of this post. Its a really grainy picture taken with my phone before I realised how to use that tablecloth to its full potential and you probably get an idea of the chaos from which I am slowly unraveling myself. But this was an old habit that started a new (although borrowed) idea. 

We have a Makro card, so I buy all of our meat in large batches, then bring them home and repackage them into portions that we use on a daily basis. What you see on my table here is about 6 weeks worth of meals...if I make them "meat heavy". I'm now firmly in the habit of freezing any leftovers for Friday "take out" night, but I'd love to batch cook (once a month cooking).I've done a few, but they are HARD work.

I've done a lot of reading on the subject, looking for recipes that would suit our family. On my "travels" around Pinterest, I found Jill and Cathy from The Curriculum Corner and their post about "meal sharing" titled Tastefully yours with Tiffany. It really excited me, I've done our annual cookie swap party for a few years now, this really wasnt much different!It has so much potential. Why do those of us who batch cook do it? To get ahead so that grub can simply be pulled out of the freezer and done. Most of us who have young kids face this every day.We spend all day running them around to playgroups and keeping them busy and occupied, and then 17:30 hits and we head into the kitchen to find a toddler attached to each ankle demanding boob, or haribos or (insert your toddlers favourite "me please" here.) And suddenly supper becomes fish fingers and chips (haven't we had that twice already this week?)

This is an ideal solution! You have a bunch of girls decide what they want to see in their freezers, send someone shopping on behalf of everyone. Then you drop the kids to school (those who go) and head over to my house with your slow cooker/steamer/breadmaker (and leftover toddlers). We plug in all the kitchen appliances and get to work, all the while we've created a "mini playgroup" and the kids get on with each other, and if they have a need then there are enough hands to be cooking and fixing kids (and having a good old catchup ourselves.)

Now as I said earlier I've met a lot of my friends on the internet, which means that we dont all live on the same block.This kind of thing is only really going to work with a lot of planning to agree on the things we cook together. There's no point in doing it, if we aren't all going to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
At first I suggested that we all do some of our own research into what recipes appeal and then get together one day to "thrash out the details". But the longer I think about it, the easier I think that makes it to procrastinate. So I thought some more and it came to me...the idea came from Pinterest so why not keep it there?

See, I told you I'm starting to learn how to use my tablecloth:) That's a carrot and coriander burger by the way.

And that is how we've ended up here. I've created a Pinterest board called Batch cooking meets, and invited the ladies involved to pin their "research" there, where comments can be made to help the planning process.

So if you've found us in your roaming, pop over and have a look. Maybe you'll be inspired.
If you have had an invitation from me to contribute, then get over there and start Pinning so that we can get on to the real fun!

Tuesday 11 June 2013

The Seventh Doctor

When the doctor turned 6 last year, he wanted a dalek cake. I was terrified of the carving job it presented and decided to go with the "easier" tardis. I ended up printing edible images and sticking them to a rectangular tower. It was well received, but I was disappointed.

This year he was still asking for a dalek. But he was also asking for a tablet (so that he could watch Doctor Who whenever he wanted). We couldnt stretch to both a party and a tablet, so he had to make a decision.

Now I don't think I've said before, but the Doctor has found himself a companion. She's been around for a good while now and we've teased him about having a little girlfriend but he's always corrected us and reminded us that they share "playdates", which are not the same as dates....which are romantic and yucky.

We naturally pointed it out as a given that he could invite the companion for birthday dinner and our traditional chocolate fountain, and that I would make a cake for him to take to school...a "proper cake" of his choice (yes, even the doctor is a cake snob). I felt given the situation, I owed it to him to at least attempt the Dalek-and so I set about researching what I needed to know and do. After a very successful playdate at our house with The Companion, her kid brother (around the same age as The Princess) and their mum (mums need playdates too you know), I stepped out and asked if we could change our original birthday celebration from the Thursday (his *actual* birthday) to the Friday and extend it to a sleepover. It turned out that worked well for them too as they could have used a babysitter for her for Saturday so we arranged to keep her as late as we could without infringing on a second days bedtime routine for either family.

It crept up on me so quickly, but at least I knew what I was doing. One PIN that stuck with me was this one titled:  20 ways to fill your childs love tank on their birthday from The House of Hendrix. I dipped into her bag of tricks and took out just a few of the many that looked like such fun. I didn't find the time to decorate as I wanted, but I decided not to beat myself up about it. I sufficed with upside down balloons and supermarket foil banners (Gasp!)

I popped into Lakeland on the Tuesday for some more sugarpaste. I thought we had all his gifts (his tablet, a pack of pontefract cakes, a tardis money box and a "where's the doctor" book), but The Master noticed something on a bottom shelf near where I was looking for a Tomato knife to carve the cake with.

I didn't see what it was at first but he was so excited about finding this thing from which "the doctor has to drink his tea Mummy". He had found a Dalek mug, complete with 3D accents. He was so proud of his find that he insisted on carrying it himself, all the way around the shop, all the home and all the way upstairs to where he planned to hide it. And now every time he sees the doctor with it he reminds him that he bought it for him for his birthday.

I got up slightly earlier in the morning on the day to giftwrap his lunch

When I asked after school if he liked it, he said yes, but had expected to find some "new food" inside it. On further investigation it came out that he has discovered he likes the little packets of mini chocolate chip cookies I get for him in the Asda cafe's new kiddi meal boxes.

The first gift he opened was the mug, so that we could have our morning tea whilst he opened his other gifts.

And reveal his cake


I had lots of fun adding "birthday graffiti"  to the car before picking him up from school

And I had some lovely responses. I left it up until Saturday since Lordbob took them bowling and he couldnt work out why they were so determined to use the car when he wanted to do the 5 minute walk. 

We had a lovely week end with the kids and the weather cooperated for the most part....

They loved the chocolate fountain, as always. And were a real bunch of kids come bed time. We didnt insist that they go up to bed until about 10pm, and then we listened to them sneaking around for about an hour before The Companion came down and asked for a drink. After another hour they came down together to ask "weren't they supposed to have a midnight feast at a sleepover, so Lordbob sent them back upstairs with a packet of crisps and some haribo's each.

So thank you to The Companion for joining us, we loved having you and hope to share many more special occasions with you. And Happy Birthday Doctor, we are truly blessed to have you in our lives. We love you lots. 

Tuesday 2 April 2013

The Easter post...Home made chocolate becomes Home made memories.

I dont have an excuse. Im useless. But I will get better, I promise. I dont remember if I mentioned surgery before, but that's mostly where Ive been. Most of the rest of the time, you might have found me in the kitchen.

Last year, I had a go at making easter eggs. The result? Epic fail! I used chocolate that contained vegetable fat, and my thermometer was SO not fit for purpose. So this year I decided to try again. I have a Makro card and they do 2.5kg's of Callebaut for around £14. So I picked up a few bags of that. I had heard good things about Lakelands Thermospatula and as it was on offer for around £10, I thought Id give it ago.

The research I did this year put me in mind to use the microwave and the seeding method. It seemed like the best option for me timewise with 6 little legs running about. I could probably do another post to include a step by step of sorts, but I dont want to stray too far tonight.

In my haste to see the kids faces, I must confess I didnt take any really decent photo's...so here is a quicky that I took with my moble. I used a plastic jelly mould for these two:

Now at this point, I must tell you how easter works in our house. The Doctor is the only kid who really "gets" what it is about. And although both The Master and the Princess have experienced Easter, they have not really participated. Because of this, in previous years we were able to get away with a few eggs tucked behind the curtains.

So this year when I started making chocolates, The Doctor asked if they were all for us and how it worked and who is the Easter Bunny...(he was okay with the Easter story on his own...just didnt get the bunny.) I explained that the bunny visits on Saturday night, to create the easter egg hunt. Because he has to think so hard about where to hide them and what clues to leave, we do not hold him responsible for supplying them. So Mum and Dad supply them and the Easter Bunny hides them. Curiousity satisfied.

We had a lovely day on Sunday. They woke up to three little boxes with some little chicks and masks, with some instructions regarding the days activities.They had 3 hunts. The first when they woke up, the bunny had littered the floor in the house and the garden with packets of Haribo's for a start-so off out in the garden they went in their pj's and mismatched slippers.

Later in the morning, when they had tired of counting Haribo's-I started them on the puzzle hunt. I printed two copies of this Easter story from iMom. I cut out the pictures on one and placed them in plastic eggs, which the Easter Bunny hid. It was a hit with The Master, and he impressed me with how quickly he was able to match the pieces. Once he found where it needed to be, I let him stick it down with some blu-tac. Once we had all the pieces, we sat down together and read the story.

After Dinner, we set them off on the "Big" hunt, which involved solving the clues hidden inside the plastic eggs. The Doctor did most of the work with the help of Lordbob. And they were over the moon when they found the basket (One of Mummy's very big plastic mixing bowls) filled with their choccies and wrapped in cellophane. Each one took a turn to drag it around the kitchen in an overenthusiastic attempt to find an implement that would help them break into their treasure box.
The Doctor was especially pleased to discover a Dalek just for him, and The Master was super thrilled with his "Dinohaur", and The Princess's face was a perfect fit into bunnies bum;)

Saturday 9 March 2013

On the road to recovery

I know, so soon into my "recreation" and I disappeared. Im sorry, but I do have a sick note Miss.
I had my gallbladder removed. I have suffered with gallstones since I was pregnant with MasterPolkadot.
Because I was pregnant for more time than not after that, the doctors kept telling me it was indigestion and sending me home.
After Princess was born, I started getting more intense attacks more often. It finally came to a head last month when I started showing signs of infection and so to cut a (very) long story short, I was admitted to hospital and FINALLY got into theatre and had it taken out.

Whilst I was in, Lordbob did a fabulous job back at the palace, and Princess is now sleeping in her cot upstairs, and through the night. I am struggling a bit because the two of us were sleeping in the lounge and she was breastfeeding on demand. Now she seems to wander over once or twice during the day and give me a little poke...but I think she knows she's only doing it for me.

Master is being particularly cute over my incisions. He insists on having a plaster for his tummy every time he sees me change the dressings-followed by a huge ceremony of "betters kisses", an inquiry into the necessity of summoning a doctor and an explanation of why the doctor did this to mummy to help her get better.

And then there's the Doctor, as usual-he wants to know how the stones got there in the first place. To help him understand, we're going to make some sugar crystals this week end. Do you remember the ones you did at school where you made up a sugar syrup, then hung a piece of string from a pencil over the glass.
He's also being very cool about his first "date". He has made friends with a girl in his class, who is having her birthday this month. When asked what she wanted to do, she said she would like the Doctor to go bowling with her-just him, and a meal after.

I have decided that now that I am well again, I want to make a proper effort to make more cakes.
Last weekend I made a rainbow cake. I didnt cover it as I was rather sore by the time Id got through cooking 6 different cakes, so I took a photo of just a slice...

And I took some photo's of the princess "helping me". I gave her a bucket with some flour in it....

Im thinking of making a small cake for the Doctor to give to his little friend when they go bowling.

Thursday 31 January 2013

Doctor Polkadot's Perfect Attendance award

On Monday, The Doctor arrived home lugging this HUGE art set. I'm very grateful that his taxi driver takes a huge interest in his life, as she made sure to establish what it was about. He had been called up on stage during assembly, to accept a prize for perfect attendance for the second term in a row. He was so pleased and couldn't wait to have a look inside.

Of course you caught the bit about his taxi driver, so you're wondering how this is a big deal? Im going to tell you.But before I do, Im going to add a spoiler alert of sorts...I'm about to talk about my illness. Now I know that it's been said that you want to hear about me-not how my illness affects me. The thing is, my illness kinda is me.It affects me every day, and by the end of this post you'll see how it affects all of the residents here at Polkadot Palace.

The Doctor is in year two now, and he started at this school in the last term of year one. We were worried, because when we moved into the area, this school was not on our list of preferences. We'd never heard of it.
He started reception in another borough, two weeks after The Master was born. At the time we lived barely half a mile away from school, but it was up a very steep hill and although it had a bus running-we could never get on it as it was always too full to get the buggy on. I couldnt knock it down on my own because i have cerebral palsy, and so most days we sat and waited for another, and another, until eventually we were late and I had to take him in via the office to sign a red card.

A number of times I tried to walk the hill and it always ended in an ambulance having to come and get me because I had collapsed. The short of it was that after liaising with my local councelor, an MP, and various bigwigs at TFL,I still could get help getting on the bus so I gave up and got my drivers licence and traded my mobility component of my DLA for a Motability car.

Whilst trying to use TFL, we took a lot of abuse from both drivers and passengers. Once, a little old lady left bruises on his arm when she grabbed him and told him he shouldnt be here because "disabled people like your mummy shouldnt be allowed to have children". When we had days like this, he refused to get on the bus and so he missed school. He also missed school when I couldnt walk.

So when we moved to the new school and it was about two miles away from home-I was concerned. Not so much as before, because now I drive. But about planning my time and all that went with getting him in and out with two babies. From the start, the school was brilliant. I was told straight away that I could park in the teachers car park-and so I left the babies in the car to walk him to class and pick him up. Only a few weeks in, I was told that because of the distance I was told that we could apply for school transport. A few weeks after that, he was collected by a taxi for the first time-and since then, he hasn't missed a single day.

And that is why it was a huge deal.

Just as an extra, Ive not been able to sleep tonight, so I laminated his certificate and made him a book to add all of his certificates and bits to....

I really am loving my binder.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

When did binding become so much fun?

On Sunday,I mentioned that I was working on some binders to help me become a more efficient home maker. I've long aspired to Marla Cilley's flylady  programme, but my ability to keep up went out the window two children, three bedrooms and one bathroom ago. That's how much my family has grown since I "found" Flylady.

Along with the programme comes her concept of the control journal-it's a brilliant idea and I do have my lever arch file (I even have her "office in a bag" bag which was given to me as a gift by a friend who had never heard of Flylady). Its cumbersome though, and I cant seem to make it "fit" my whole family.

Im blessed with one of those husbands who realises really random things (like laminators and binders) please me very much,so its rare for him to say no to me. He is however, also known to set conditions for me (and I am known to fall for them every time) but he was easy this time. He said that if I kept the living room in order, with kids in the way...and finished the filing I started before Christmas,I could have a comb binder. You understand of course, that I doubt he would ever stand his ground-but he knows I cannot stand to not meet a challenge.

My plan is to keep a series of smaller binders in a tote (including one for each child with their own themed calendar) so I started with a meal planner.

I used the Apple Pickin' sampler page from "A-Manda creation" for the cover along with the free Aged-Dots Alphabets from Granny Enchanted and then I used a page from the sampler as the back for the inside. I printed each week across two pages formatted to landscape. Ive never found planners that I felt had sufficient space to note your whole meal, and it frustrates me that people seem to only plan the evening meal.

Ive also been "on" weight watchers and I always lose interest, because I can never plan every meal and outline the propoints cost for each, so I've added a small column after each meal for Propoints.
This is what the result was....

While I was binding it, the boys were watching Sqiggle it on Ceebeebies. In the 5 minutes that it had been on, I was interrupted four times.Once by each boy to ask for a piece of paper and then again by each of them to ask for a pencil. Just as an aside for my South African family-Do you remember ZET? Squiggleit is a big fluffy doll like creature who teaches the kids how to draw like ZET was.Now if you aren't a South African and you ever hear one talk about ZET-you have a mental picture:)

So I put a few sheets of printing paper under my guillotine and then bound them between two sheets of cardstock and a clear acetate cover. I pasted on the "pad cover", which you can find on the ceebeebies website, and then I bound them. The boys have taken such pride in them and just like that, Im not throwing away what feels like hundreds of half drawn on sheets each night. The smudges are where their names were printed on them.

I plan to work on a shorter,simplified meal planner for the kids next. And then shopping lists after that.

Sunday 20 January 2013

How long can one small cupboard entertain 3 small(ish) children?

I know everyone in England is posting about snow...but I'll leave that one for another day. The day after my last post, I decided to get into the kitchen and try to restore some order. I got all of my bits out...bleach, marigolds, a dish brush and some steel wool and a microfibre cloth. I also opened the "plastic" cupboard for Master and Princess.

No, I hadn't thought that through and even yesterday I found a lid in the toy box attatched to a pair of toy handcuffs. But I got the dishes washed, dried and put away, and most of our tins are now housed in one cupboard.

The night before, a box of formula fell off the pantry shelf and most of the box ended up on a cookie tray that was lying on the floor (couldnt have planned it better myself) and before I got around to cleaning it up, Master Polkadot got hold of it, so I left him with it...

Master Polkadot "Drawing" in the formula powder
I should have thrown it out ages ago, as it's left over from Masters bottle drinking days and Princess never bothered with it.

I wont bore you with all the self explanatory commentary, but I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Doctor got home from school and they were still at it, so he joined them.

Im working on some binders to help me become more efficient as a home maker, in the hopes that I will find some time for myself.I hope you'll look out for them.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

For the first time, and the last time

I spent much of yesterday thinking about how to start posting again. And so I did what everyone does when they dont have an answer...I asked Facebook.

I have been the epitome of the prodigal blogger, speeding ahead and then running out of steam, and then falling off the wagon again.
So I posted my Facebook status that said : "As someone who knows me, if I were to blog...what would you want to read?
The first response was from Pippa D from A Mothers Ramblings who said this:  about you. Not just about cakes or about being a mum or how illness affects you but about you. That's just my personal nosey thingy anyway 
Another response was this:  could you not do it as a daily diary type thing, but not necessarily every day, when you do things or feel the need to add to it?
Later on, Lordbob Polkadot asked me why I started blogging in the first place and putting the three things together reminded me of what made me start. Doctor Polkadot (our 6 year old who is so named because he is "The biggest fan of Doctor Who in the world EVER, and even the universe") was just 1 when he and I boarded a plane in Johannesburg, South Africa. We were leaving a life behind to make a new one in London with Lordbob, and by golly that's just what we've done.

In a nutshell, we left behind Grannies and Grandads, Aunties,Uncles,Cousins and lots of friends that are our extended family,and we added Master Polkadot (our 2 year old who joined us after a number of heartbreaking years full of negative Clearblue's and a few miscarriages) and Princess Polkadot (our one year old who announced her presence amid cries of "I am not pregnant! I "dont" get  pregnant! And "I will MAKE this Doctor fix me and be done!" What's that phrase about famous last words?)

I started blogging so that we could write a letter to our loved ones around the world every day (Yes, I read some of Pippa's world too;) ) Because why wait for snail mail when there's an App for that;). Now I think I'll go back to the beginning and promise all our Grannies and Grandads, Aunties,Uncles,Cousins and lots of friends that are our extended family, that we will write everyday "To our world with love". Even if there's not much to say and all we have are "little snippets".

If you've stumbled upon us on your journeys around "T'internet", we'd love it if you'd stay. No particular topic, just lots of the regular (and not so regular) day to day occurrences that everyone's  Granny wants to know about. So pop your slippers on and come have a cup of hot chocolate with us.

I'll leave you with the last picture taken of Doctor and I with his Godmother just before we left ....

And here's the most recent family portait

Oh and just one last thing.If you are thinking of blogging, pop over and say Hi to Tenille . I got my lovely blog template from her (and it's just perfect for Polkadot Palace, right?)
I like pretty things and making something pretty makes me want to use it more, but "my creativity" is not very original.So I'm thankful that I only need to think about my letters, rather than spending too much time trying to make it look right;)