Books, Bakes and my Babes

Well, its been an awfully long time since you last saw a post from me, but I think life has just been happening.  I have been beavering away trying to get through my Forest School portfolio (with A LOT of moral boosting texts from my fellow FS pals Abs, Jen and Ruth!), plodding my way through my reading challenge, new bakes, and there have been some challenges to deal with in the holidays with regards to the children’s behaviour.

BOOKS:

So far I am on track with my reading challenge.  My target for 2018 is 25 books, and I am 60% of the way through so far with about 4 months to go.  I’ve tried to branch out and read some new authors, but my favourite picks so far are:

Gail Honeyman: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I got this to see if it lived up to the hype.  It was slow to start for me as it didn’t grab me, in part because its not my usual style, but it was a fabulous read and you really feel like you are part of the story. A definite must read.

Jo Watson: Love to Hate You, Burning Moon and After the Rain. If you’ve never read Jo Watson before, they are all romance novels which are lighthearted but addictive to read.  I’d say they are relatively short as I whizzed through them, but I think I am also a fast reader.

Louise Pentland: Wilde Like Me and Wilde About the Girl. Bookworm and Theatre Mouse kindly sent me Wilde Like Me, I started this after my Spanish adult holiday (although I took a mid book break, something I don’t usually do!). What a lovely read. It took about 4/5 chapters to get into it, however once I got into it, I really enjoyed it and I was thinking about when I’d next be able to able sit down and read it! And lucky for me, no sooner had I finished it, the sequel Wilde About the Girl was released, which is beautifully written account of a turbulent year in the life of Robin Wilde; a tale of heartache, romance, family life, and happiness all rolled into one.

Whilst I may have read already read 17 books this year, I STILL have a huge (and still growing) ‘to be read‘ (TBR) pile which includes:

Terry Hayes – I Am Pilgrim; I have heard great things from this book, but I am daunted at starting it because of its length.

Jojo Moyes – Still Me; I LOVED the two previous books in this trilogy, and I watched the film after reading them, so I have high hopes for this one.

Ruth Hogan – The Keeper of Lost Things; I’ve heard good things about this book and despite hoping my ever faithful bookish friends (Hayley From Home and Bookworm and Theatre Mouse) have read it, they have not. The synopsis tells me that it is a ‘charming, clever and quietly moving debut novel of endless possibilities and joyous discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us’. It’s sounds a little off the track of my usual reads but I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons from my usual traditional romance stories and favourite others. It’s on my list, so watch this space.

I’m currently reading Paige Toon – Five Years From Now as my blogger friend ‘Mummy Matters‘ suggested her as an author I might like. I’m enjoying it so far although it has quite long chapters which isn’t a problem but I have a weird OCD about not finishing a chapter. I keep track of which books I’ve read and my TBR reads on Goodreads if you fancy following me on there.

BAKES:

Like all parents, by day five of the school holidays I had already been asked for a snack 3,947 times and it was getting tedious to say the least. I knew I had to up my game as all the snacks I was giving them were full of sugar and expensive. It was then that I discovered ‘My Fussy Eater‘ on Facebook. And I haven’t looked back. Ciara’s recipes are just delicious, I originally bought the book after seeing her wonderful yoghurt bark flash up on my Facebook feed and boy it has not disappointed so far. I am a passionate believer of homemade sweet treats (and I’m in no way saying you can’t buy shop bought as I do that too for convenience!) but I know exactly what goes into a cake baked by me, no preservatives, just simple ingredients. It is great to see that Ciara’s sweet recipes are mostly healthy as they are made with coconut oil and/or peanut butter but there is butter in them too. Whilst cooking some of her recipes I discovered a new peanut butter and just how unhealthy the peanut butter we were using really was. I now cook solely with FUEL peanut butter as it contains no added sugar and no palm oil (which is great for the environment). I have also been trying to think about being environmentally with our lives and I really want to try being plastic free but I need to research a bit more before I jump in. I have seen an amazing company called ‘Global Wake Cup‘. They produce some fantastic reusable cups and bottles as well as backpacks produced from paper and best of all: 10% of all profits go to the Marine Conservation Society.

Anyway, I digress; so far, the children have been enjoying her sweet treats, in particular her: chocolate chip granola bars, cranberry cookies, chocolate chip energy bites, raspberry twists, and oaty biscuits. My husband and I have also been enjoying her savoury meals and my favourites are currently the apple, carrot and chicken balls, pesto salmon and chicken and mango burgers, although sadly the children haven’t been fans of these yet, but I won’t give up that easily!

Left to right: TL – cranberry cookie and chocolate chip energy bite. TR – carrot, apple and chicken balls. BL – strawberry quinoa bars. BR – yoghurt bark.

MY BABES:

I can safely say it’s been a tiring and challenging yet fulfilling summer holiday with the children. We appear to have reached a few milestones with L as not only has she potty trained, she also given up the dummy. Now both of these weren’t without their teething problems; the potty training seemed to go on for such a long time despite L being a really quick learner. She grasped the concept of going for a wee really quickly, however using the potty / toilet for a poo was a different story. It wasn’t until around 7-8 weeks after initially potty training did she grasp the concept. In that time, there were quite a pants thrown away and a lot of “FML” muttered under my breath when I was once again dealing with a poo in her pants. Thankfully, in the last 2-3 weeks she’s come on leaps and bounds and has been nailing it; hoorah! And the dummy, well I somewhat foolishly chose the hottest night of the decade to give that one up, but 6 weeks in and she hasn’t asked for it since about day six or seven. It has however made her night wakings that bit harder to deal with resulting in one tired Mummy.

Whilst his sister has been hitting some developmental milestones, H has been testing my patience somewhat. It often appears that he and his peers develop a universal non listening function the second the summer holidays begin and at times it has felt like a long and exhausted summer ‘break’. I often feel guilty for wishing the time away, but it has felt stressful and consuming quite a bit of the time. I have actively tried not to take them out on big days to lots of new places as I think it gets too much for both myself and the children so I tried to stick to a rule of a day out, a day in rule. For my day out rule, I think we only visited two brand new places and all the rest are frequent haunts of ours.

I think part of the problem is that all they hear is my voice ALL DAY, so I guess I can become a little overbearing and the same is definitely said for both H and L.

This September sees H begin reception and whilst I don’t feel upset in the grand scheme of things, I feel shocked that it seems to have come round really quickly. Last week, we attended his graduation ceremony for nursery and it is all so real now as I held the past 3 years of H’s nursery life in a folder.

It’s September next week and that will see me only looking after one child on my days off. It will be so strange just having L at home with me, and I think that’s what I’m most sad about. Whilst I am (almost) ready for summer to be over and our routine to be restored, I don’t want to miss anymore days with my little H. Some days he still seems so young where as other days he is totally ready; I think it will be a steep learning curve for him as he is such an active boy and really yearns to be outside so I’m a little anxious for September. I’m sure he will take it all in his stride though.

We are one!

Well I can’t actually believe that I started this ‘bit of fun’ almost a whole year ago! I’m still enjoying having a go at blogging, but I would really like to up my game for 2018.  Yes I know we are now (almost) in February, but here are some aims and desires for the blog for 2018. I would really love to:

  1. Increase my followers on Instagram to 200.
  2. Blog at least once a fortnight.
  3. Post twice a week on the Facebook / Instagram pages.
  4. Apply to become a QBlogger.
  5. Increase my followers on Facebook to 150.

This year I want to take more photos of us a family and I’m hoping to take part in the #meandmineproject each month (reminder to do it tonight!).  The ‘Me and Mine Project‘ is an incentive to do more family portraits, on the last day of each month you publish a family photo.  This is the one thing we are rubbish at, they’re always just of the children!  I have started to keep track of my reading challenge a bit more by using the hashtag #awooereads2018.  I really surprised myself last year with the number of books I read and I’m enjoying trying some new ones so far this year.  The fitness challenge is still going well-ish, so I am hopeful I will keep this one going for the year and when the nights start getting a bit lighter, it will be easier to motivate myself to get out running in the evenings!

Honestly, sometimes finding a. the content, and b. the time to post can be difficult but I do enjoy it, but the most nerve racking part of it all is knowing people might not like what I have written.  I am by no means a ‘writer’, I have a basic B in GCSE English, so I am definitely not the most eloquent blogger around, and the suspect the grammar police would have afield day on my ramblings; BUT I am passionate about what I write and it comes from the heart.  This sounds very cheesy, but when I receive comments on the website, Facebook page or Instagram page, they really do make me smile.

So……..watch the Facebook page and follow us on Instagram for an amazing collaborative giveaway coming up in February………!!

New Year, New Me….

I don’t think I’ve ever made a new year’s resolution, so I don’t intend to start now; they feel a bit like I’m depriving myself something; BUT, I’ve decided to set myself some new year ‘challenges’. These challenges are for me and nobody else as to be quite honest, I’m quite happy with ‘me‘ right now. My mind is happy, we have a good life, I love my family and our time together.

I really enjoyed my (albeit slightly meagre) reading challenge last year so I’m going to do another one this year and I really want to get fitter similar to that of before I had my children, so I have THREE challenges this year:

1. READING – I set about trying to read 12 books last year and I surpassed that by eventually getting through 20 books. With that in mind, I’m aiming for 25 books this year which seems quite a tall order. I’m currently reading ‘Sue Perkins – Spectacles’ (sent to me by the lovely Hayley From Home), which is entertaining, but I think I prefer my romance novels and crime thrillers. My ‘to read’ list currently looks like this (in no particular order):

1. Eleanor Oliphant is Consistently Fine by Gail Honeyman

2. 16th Seduction by James Patterson

3. Cross the Line by James Patterson

4. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

5. Dummy by Matt Coyne (basically the make version of Sarah Turner aka the ‘Unmumsy Mum’)

6. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

7. The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett

8. The Girl Friend – Michelle Francis

9. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

2. FITNESS – spurred on my friends and family who are getting back into running, I want to get out more. I enjoy running and love to see progress, but I often find myself lacking motivation to get out in the evenings once my husband is home and the children are bathed and in bed. People often say I must be ‘fit’ because of my job (I’m a PE teacher) and yes my job is ‘active’ but I don’t do much running or training at work, I’m just on my feet a lot doing what I call pottering about and sometimes after being out in the rain all day, I don’t fancy going out running in the rain too. So, my fitness challenge for 2018 is to run a sub 50min 10k. In fact, the race is in 10 weeks so I haven’t got long to get my butt in gear but I’m hoping the fact that BOTH my sister and brother are running it will spur me on. We all seem to be horrendously competitive so the race is on (literally!). And after banking a run this evening with a meagre 5:46m per km, I definitely need to get the miles in!

3. RUNNING – similar to my reading challenge, I want to try and run a certain number of miles before we see in 2019 (jeepers, that seems so far in the future!). I think with working part time, looking after the children, keeping up playing my netball that 500 miles for the year is a reasonable target. It works out at just less than 10 miles a week which I think is more than enough for me and it will be quite the challenge! To help me track my miles, I’ve set about using my trusty bullet journal to count the miles. 

 

Wish me luck!!

Balancing, Books and Bakes

It seems apt in the run up to Christmas that I spend some time to share with you what we’ve been up to lately and what I’m planning for 2018. I set myself a reading challenge at the beginning of 2017 and I want to try a new challenge or challenges for 2018! I think being a little competitive, I prefer a challenge. I like the idea of a bigger reading challenge as well as a fitness challenge.  Do you have any challenges/targets you’d like to set for 2018?

READING:

As I have already mentioned, I set myself a reading challenge for 2017, which was to read 12 books in 12 months.  Miraculously, I managed to hit the target and surpass it back in October, and I am current;y searching for book 18 to start. Despite having a large ‘to read’ pile and an uninspiring trip to the library this morning, I am still struggling to pick one. Naturally, suggestions are welcome! I have finished work for Christmas so I have a bit more time than usual to read, although the current 0530 starts from the children aren’t allowing much bedtime reading at the moment, Zzzzzz.  Here’s a list of my reads so far:

  1. Hurrah for Gin, Katie Kirby: a lighthearted book on the trials and tribulations of being a Mum.  I laughed out loud and really enjoyed this book.  If you’re after a giggle this Christmas, this could be a purchase for you, or wife/partner.
  2. Shopaholic to the Rescue, Sophie Kinsella: I’m a bit of a sucker for a Sophie Kinsella book and this one didn’t disappoint.  I’ve read all the books in the ‘Shopaholic’ series, and I would recommend you read them first as it sets the scene, although not essential.
  3. Hope to Die, James Patterson: Again I am an avid James Patterson reader, although I am way behind on the Women’s Murder Club series! I find the short and sweet chapters really easy to read and a fantastic help when I’m often forced to put down the book and pick back up another day.  Book three was a bit of struggle for me as it took a while to get through, in fact, I was already well into month four by the time I’d finished this.
  4. Scummy Mummies, Ellie Gibson & Helen Thorn: Yet another ‘Mum’ read, and again an easy read with yet more crazy tales from Motherhood.
  5. Cross Justice, James Patterson: Shock! Another JP book, similar to Book three, this one is part of the ‘Alex Cross’ collection which are wonderful.  They are up to the mid twenties and they’re all still amazing.  James Patterson really is a wonderful writer, well I think so anyway.
  6. A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness: My tutor group at school (yes I take reading advice from 15 year olds!) suggested this one, and my two lovely friends Hayley (hayleyfromhome) and Kat (bookwormandtheatremouse) seemed to agree that Patrick Ness was a good read. It was a lovely book, but I was not prepared AT ALL for the tearjerker ending! (a little prep if you decide to read it, although might have just ruined it!).
  7. The One Plus One, Jojo Moyes: A Jojo convert after reading this book.  A really lovely tale, and although I could see how it might end, the story was beautifully written with some twists and turns along the way.
  8. One With You, Sylvia Day: Similar to  the Christian Grey stories, this one wasn’t the best book, but I got through it.
  9. The Queen of Wishful Thinking, Milly Johnson: I’ve never read a Milly Johnson book before and I don’t know what drew me to this book in my Amazon order.  I think its the colourful front cover, I know the saying, never judge a book by its cover, but I am a sucker for brightly coloured front cover; they always seem a bit more appealing. I’m trying to do better and read the back before I discount them now.  This was a beautiful and eloquently written story, a romance novel if you will.  I do love a good ‘boy meets girl’ story.
  10. The First Time Mums’ Club, Lucie Wheeler: I grabbed this off the ‘new books’ shelf at the library and after failing to get on with a few books, this one grabbed me.  Was a fun story about becoming a Mum for the first time.  No motherhood tales in this one, but just a lovely story about making new friends during pregnancy.   I am super lucky to have such wonderful friends, and amazingly we all have children the same age!
  11. Sunshine at Wildflower Cottage, Milly Johnson: I seem to be a creature of habit and often try and read books by the same author.  This was such an easy and enjoyable read.  I’m getting to the point where I feel like I should probably branch out and read something a little more thought provoking, but honestly, I don;t know if my brain can manage it!
  12. Paris for One, Jojo Moyes: I was right when I said I was a Jojo convert! This was a really short story, in fact only 100 pages, so I felt a bit of a fraud calling it my 12th book.  I think there is another version of this book which has other short stories in, so it would be nice to read the others.
  13. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes: This book is so good, it is now a motion picture, which i dutifully watched yesterday in my mammoth 2.5hr present wrapping session.  If you’ve not read this, I can absolutely recommend it.  I think I preferred reading the book first and watching the film second.  It really is a moving story.
  14. After You, Jojo Moyes: I won’t lie, I preferred the first story to this one, but none the less it was still good.  An interesting read: a love story, a broken heart and a grieving heart all wrapped up into one book.
  15. Triple Threat, James Patterson: Although I have many more James Patterson books on my Kindle, I found this one on the book shelf in our church whilst attending Community Cafe. It’s actually three short stories in one book.  The first and third stories were really good, but the middle one freaked me out a little. James Patterson has a similar longer story called Zoo which also freaked me out, so I’m not sure why I continued, but I did.
  16. Almost a Bride, Jo Watson: Another find from the ‘New Book’ shelf at the library. I’ve never heard of Jo Watson and upon starting this story, I discovered she is a South African writer (the story is set in South Africa).  Heartbroken and jobless, Annie is having a bit of a dilemma so books a holiday with her girlfriends as rehab, and the story goes from there.
  17. Talk to Me, Jules Wake: After I said I was trying to be good and read the back before discounting a book.  Well I actually didn’t look at the front, it was the red spine that attracted me to this one.  It was until I got it home, did I see the front cover and I thought I’d picked up something a bit more sultry than I had anticipated.  But, it was a gorgeous romance novel instead about a girl being in love with someone she couldn’t have.

A BALANCING ACT:

I have had two children for over two years now (I know, still can’t believe it myself!), but I still struggle with the balancing act, and I’m not sure I will ever be happy! I currently work 3 days a week, and have 2 days with the children. Although H goes to pre-school in our village on both days that I am off.  I’ve really enjoyed the difference compared to last years 5 days, but I still find myself pining to fit more in or do more with the children.  It does make me wonder if I will ever be content with my work:life balance. I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a SAHM Mum, but then I wonder if I will pine for the adult conversation, solo toilet trips and the buzz of using my brain I suppose. But then I long for a slower pace of life, and I find myself constantly trying to think of new and exciting ways to entertain H and L, and would they still be happy if we’re at home more.   Do you have the right balance? 

TERRIBLE TWOS AND TESTING THREES:

I think we have turned a corner with H these past few weeks were he is beginning to understand a bit more and accept reasoning, but I find all of that goes out the window if he is tired.  Honestly, you just can’t get any sense from him if he is overtired. He has started accepting that he has to say sorry and learn why he shouldn’t have done the things he’s done and just in the last week or so, he has finally become more engaged with sitting and doing something a bit academic.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re at the MENSA or Nobel Prize winning stage yet, but this is a big leap forward.  He is now asking to draw, write his name and is enjoying doing some more thinking tasks.  I had been so worried about him not being able hold a pencil at school in September, let alone write his name, but I think I’m ok about it all now.

       

His younger sister on the other hand is something else.  I joke to my Mum that she is a lost cause! I’m not sure if she’s stubborn, strong minded or just the devil child sometimes! Mum also offers zero advice, and just laughs as apparently I was like this as a child.  We have got to the stage where she will say ‘Sorry’ now but she is still a little monkey.  We still share a bed every night, which as much as it annoys me, I do love having a quick cuddle and a squeeze of squidgy thighs

FITNESS:

Ever since the clocks changed back in October I have really struggled to ‘train’.  This week I managed two days by myself without the children and I went for a run on both days, but when I’m at work or at home with the children, I have zero motivation.  Once my husband is home, and I’ve finished bath/bed time, its 7pm by which time I’m usually starving and going for a run is the last thing on the mind.  Most people say I’m fit anyway because of my job. My job is obviously active, but I’m not actually improving my fitness.  I think I need to enter a race to set myself a target to hit or even just something to train for.  I will have to set myself a challenge for 2018; a race or a number of sessions/miles per month perhaps.  What are your fitness aspirations for 2018?

BAKING:

Brownies: I’ve recently been experimenting with some new and slightly healthier recipes, which my work colleagues have been testing out, albeit sometimes begrudgingly! Perhaps the most popular of these new recipes was my dairy and sugar free Avocado Brownies. These have been a bit of trial and error really as the recipe uses coconut flour, after some research I discovered I could swap it out for a mixture of self-raising and plain flour as long as I added extra eggs to compensate as coconut flour is extraordinarily absorbent.  This is the recipe I followed (https://www.thehealthymaven.com/2015/08/healthy-avocado-brownies.html), but I had to adapt it slightly, so here are my ingredients:

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup ( used a mixture of golden syrup and honey because I had no maple syrup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup plain flour

Add the wet ingredients to a food mixer, ensuring you blend after each addition.  The recipe states that you should transfer to a bowl before adding the eggs, but I’m a little lazy so I just mixed it all in the blender and it turned out ok.  Pour the mixture into a greased dish, I used a square one, and bake for 20-25 mins.  If you prefer them slightly gooey, check them after 20 minutes, if you prefer them more well done, leave them for longer.  I have a measuring jug with cups on, but if you don’t, here is a conversion website: (http://www.tuscanrecipes.com/cooking-tips/dry-liquid-measures.html).

Breakfast Bites: I tried this last week, and they got a mixed review at work; well actually only 1.5 out of 6 liked/tried them, so not a raging success.  Although my biggest critic when it comes to cake (my little H) enjoyed them! These can be used as a cake snack or as a breakfast on the go. The Mango Coconut Bites were quite tasty, if a little out there (I have officially been nicknamed ‘Mrs Cropley’ by my neighbours!).  These were super easy to make, and the children enjoyed helping me, even though they bickered about who was mixing!

  • 40g raisins
  • 1 ripe banana (mashed)
  • 195g oats
  • 33g of desiccated coconut
  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 140g of frozen mango

Soak the raisins in boiling water. Add the coconut, oats, desiccated coconut and coconut milk to a large mixing bowl and combine. Now add the mango and stir, followed by the egg. Drain any remaining water off the raisins, and stir into the mixture. Pop into a tin and bake for 25-30mins at 190C. (https://www.healthylittlefoodies.com/coconut-mango-oat-breakfast-bites/)

Nutella Christmas Tree: Honestly, this isn’t healthy at all, but my word, it was soon good and easy to make.  Roll out a sheet of puff pastry, I then cut out a shape of a Christmas tree and used the cut off triangles as the top (you could use two separate sheets though).  Spread a good layer of nutella (or other chocolate based spread on the top and cover with the leftover triangles.  Cut slats all the way up both sides of the Christmas tree and then twist the ‘strands’ into a kind of plait.  Bake for about 20-25 mins, and then enjoy whilst warm.  I am planning this for Christmas Day breakfast! For a youtube tutorial, try this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7So4_MSdjpA.

 

What are your go to quick bakes or healthy treats? My secret santa bought me a Paul Hollywood cookbook for Christmas and the first recipe is for Churro’s which are high on my list of bakes over the festive period.

CHRISTMAS

I don’t think I could write this post without mentioning the ‘C’ word; I think I am ready.  I have bought and wrapped everything, we just have the small matter of building a play kitchen and dolls house, shall we wait until Christmas Eve…..? For children, Christmas is really all about the magic and of course the presents.  Our little H is just that bit older this year, and is beginning to get more excited, although I’m still not sure if he’s cottoned onto to everything yet, but he knows Father Christmas brings presents and he has to be on the good list, BUT, I really want to try and make it extra special for 2018.  I’m probably crazy for already looking to 2018 when most people still aren’t ready for Christmas 2017! But, I want to get H (and hopefully L) engaged into the meaning of Christmas a bit more.  We talk a lot about being on the good list or naughty list, but I want to get the children thinking about how important and special it is to spend time with our families.  My family live 150 miles away in the North West so we don’t get to see them that often, so it is always special when we see everyone as we’re not often together with my parents and siblings.  I have had a bit of an enlightening week were I am feeling very grateful indeed that we are able to share Christmas with my family and despite all the travelling and traffic, we are really very lucky. Some of us will be missing loved ones this Christmas, or not be able to all be together, so I am hoping to make next years’ festive period more about giving and family.  One of my old work colleagues has been telling me about the ‘Kindness Elves‘.  Although, not strictly just for Christmas, I really want to incorporate some of their ideas into our next Christmas, so I will researching that in the new year, but for now, I think we will go and pop some food donations into box in our Church.

Thanks for reading

C xxx