My Summer Bucket List

As summer is right around the corner, I thought it was about time that I made a list of things I would like to do before it’s over.

As my eldest, Gning, is now in full-time school, my summer falls in line with his.  He breaks up for the summer holidays on 21 July, and he goes back on 4 September.

That gives me a little over 6 whole weeks to try to mark everything off on my bucket list…  I have the final week of the holidays off work, so the list I have made below has to either fit around my usual working times, and then take advantage of having the week off to complete the list.

I’m going to revisit this post in September, to see exactly what I managed to accomplish, and what is still outstanding.  I think this could be a rather interesting experiment!  So, without further ado, here is my Summer Bucket List of 30 things to complete within my son’s 6 weeks holidays.

  1. Have a bonfire
  2. Attend an outdoor concert
  3. Watch the waves
  4. Lie in the grass
  5. Go to a funfair / amusement park
  6. Have an ice cream at the beach
  7. Have a picnic
  8. Make a summer soundtrack
  9. Have a water balloon / water pistol fight
  10. Have a BBQ
  11. Go camping
  12. Take more pictures
  13. Finish a book
  14. Make homemade salsa
  15. Play frisbee
  16. Visit a water park
  17. Visit a heritage garden
  18. Go on a day trip
  19. Make ice pops
  20. Wear flowers in my hair for a day
  21. Feed the ducks
  22. Walk up a hill with the boys
  23. Buy a helium balloon, tie a message to it, and let it go
  24. Swim outdoors! (Bear in mind that I live in the north west of England…)
  25. Draw on the driveway with chalks
  26. Finger paint a summer picture
  27. Have fish & chips at the beach
  28. Visit a park we’ve never been to before
  29. Watch a family film together – snacks incl. popcorn essential
  30. Spend more time with the boys!

Thumbprint Biscuits

This is such a simple recipe, and perfect for kiddies to make.  Try your hand at this frugal, and exceedingly yummy recipe.  All in all, I think it cost approximately 45p to make 12 biscuits…

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Ingredients

50g butter – softened
75g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cap vanilla essence
100g plain flour
Jam / Nutella / Lemon Curd
Method
 
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line your baking tray with greaseproof paper.
2. Using the back of a large, wooden spoon, cream the butter in a large bowl, then add the sugar. Continue to cream together.
3. Add the egg yolk, and vanilla essence, and continue stirring with the wooden spoon.
4. Add the flour, part by part, and combine thoroughly. When it becomes difficult to mix, get your hands in there to form a dough ball.
5. “Pinch an inch”, and roll in to ball shapes. Place on the lined baking tray.
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6. Use your thumb, and press down in the middle of each ball, creating a well.
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7. Add a teaspoon full of your jam (or Nutella / lemon curd), ensuring that the mixture doesn’t overflow too much.
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8. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
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9. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the baking tray for approximately 5 minutes or so, before placing them on a cooling wire rack.
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10. Enjoy!!

First day of school

Today is Gning’s first day of “real” school.

Today he starts the Reception class.

He’s been in the nursery in the school for the past fifteen months or so, but this is different.  It means he’s growing up, and I don’t know if I’m quite ready for it yet.  He’s still my baby.  Yes, I have Donut, who is my baby (age 1), but Gning…  He’s my miracle baby, and he always will be.

Here’s a poem I found online…

Dear Teacher

I know you’re rather busy
First day back, there’s just no time
A whole new class of little ones
And this one here is mine

I’m sure you have things covered
And have done this lots before
But my boy is very little
He is still only four

In his uniform this morning
He looked so tall and steady
But now beside your great big school
I’m not quite sure he’s ready

Do you help them eat their lunch?
Are you quick to soothe their fears?
And if he falls and hurts his knee
Will someone dry his tears?

And what if no-one plays with him?
What if someone’s mean?
What if two kids have a fight
And he’s caught in between?

You’re right, I have to leave now
It’s time for him to go
I’m sure he’ll learn so much from you
Things that I don’t know

Yes, I’m sure they settle quickly
That he’s fine now without me
I know he has to go to school
It’s just so fast, you see

It seems like just a blink ago
I first held him in my arms
It’s been my job to love, to teach
To keep him safe from harm

So, when I wave goodbye in a moment
And he turns to walk inside
Forgive me if I crumple
Into tears of loss and pride

I know as I give him one more kiss
And watch him walk away
That he’ll never again be wholly mine
As he was before today.

From a scared parent…
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And here’s the reply I found…

Dear Parent,

I understand that you are scared
to wave your child goodbye
and leave him in a teacher’s hands
don’t worry if you cry!

I’m used to weeping parents
It’s hard to leave I know.
But it’s time to share him (just a bit)
To help him learn and grow.

Let me reassure you
That I’ll give your child my best
I’ll wipe his tears, soothe his fears
And change his dirty vest!

If your darling child is full of cold
I’ll blow their nose all day
Just like you, I’ll care for them
In a special way.

I’ll treat him like I would my own
I’ll catch him from a fall and
If there is ANY problem
I’ll be sure to tell you all.

It’s true he’ll grow to love us
They’ll talk of school a lot
It doesn’t mean they hate you
And that you should lose the plot!

I’ll tell you a secret..
That when your child is here
They talk to me as much of you
Of this please have no fear.

You’ll always be their mother
Whilst teachers come and go
To them you are their number one
This I truly know.

Soon you’ll see some changes
In your little girl or boy
They’ll become more independent
And to see this, it’s a joy!

I’ll teach them all I have to give
To share, climb and to write
But to you they safely will return
To tuck them in at night.

With love from a teacher…

20 ways kids make Christmas magical

It’s easy for Christmas BC (Before Children) to feel more about our hangovers and expanding waistlines (not to mention our overdrafts) than any real festive spirit. Then you have a child and all that changes. Not since you were a nipper, anxiously listening out for Father Christmas in your PJs, have you felt so infused with joy and enchantment.

Here are 20 ways that Christmas becomes magical when you’re a parent …

1. It used to drive you bonkers that Christmas started pretty much in October (oh, yes it did…) but now you can’t wait for the shops to bust out the Christmas lights and to hear Noddy Holder’s dulcet tones. Ooh, and the advent calendars, and the ads and the Christmas lists…  How many times have you rewritten yours?

2. Nothing can prepare you for the heart-melting sweetness of watching your little one in their very first Christmas nativity or school play, whether they have a starring role or not (it’s Gning’s first Nativity on 7 December).  Don’t forget your tissues!

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3. Kids make it OK to sport clashing decorations and an OTT Christmas tree.  In fact, the more of mash-up of colours and styles of baubles, the better.

4. It’s FINALLY acceptable to buy chocolate decorations again. Just remember to leave a few for the kids, eh?

5. Their Christmas list to Santa reads like a stock-taking sheet of ToysRUs and Smyths combined.  But it’s the ‘and I’ve been soooo good’ line that really makes you smile.

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6. Thank goodness this year you’ve got a good excuse for the misshapen mince pies.  All your toddler’s own work, yes?

7. You love channelling your inner-storyteller with stories of Father Christmas and seeing your children’s eyes widen with delight.

8. Creating your very own traditions is something you’ll share for a lifetime.  Maybe you write a Christmas poem together, or put on a little festive play for the grandparents?  Or leave one more present in the garden to be discovered – “Oh look!  Santa must have dropped it!”

9. Leaving a glass or milk (or something stronger) for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolph, never loses it’s charm.  And neither does…

10. …drinking that something stronger on Christmas Eve, when the wee ones are safely asleep.

11. Nothing beats that amazing feeling of satisfaction on Christmas Eve when everything is wrapped and ready for the next day.  Savour the scene – because the next day it’s carnage!  Hope your recycling bins are empty…

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12. Not to encourage your inner bah, humbug, but it’s a great time of year to dodge any tedious social engagements: honestly, babysitters are so unreliable…

13. Family films are no longer an indulgence, they’re mandatory.  From the Muppet’s Christmas Carol to Home Alone, it’s the perfect season to snuggle up on the sofa.

14. Talking of which, make your brood hot chocolate with marshmallows. And have one yourself.

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15. Place your bets on what time Christmas Day officially starts.  And yes, it feels magical even though it’s 5am.

16. As you watch them open their pressies, you remember the fizzy feeling of thrill and excitement you had as a child.  And seeing the joy your children bring to their grandparents is priceless.

17. Eating together as a family is something to take time over and savour.  Who cares if the potatoes are a tiny bit burnt, or the sprouts a bit hard?  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated.

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18. Snow is what dreams are made of when you’re five.  And snow at Christmas…  Cue delirious children and giggling parents!

19. The pleasure of tumbling back into a warm and cosy house after a good old stomp outside brings the colour to everyone’s cheeks.

20. Knowing at the close of Christmas day that the hard work is over for another year – and despite the odd flurry of tears and tantrums – they’ve had a pretty wonderful day.  Well done, you.  Only 365 days to go…

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Homemade Toad in the Hole

Ooo, you’re in for a treat today, stalkers.  Today I’m making a ‘Toad in the Hole’ from scratch…  No cheating here!  I have even made the batter from scratch today 🙂

If you’re curious as to what a “Toad in the Hole” is, simply keep scrolling…  Or, you can always Google for pictures.  No, it’s not an actual frog in a hole…  It’s pork sausages baked inside a Yorkshire pudding.  And it’s so easy and cheap to make…  It’s also a family favourite.

Ingredients

8 pork link sausages

Oil (vegetable, olive, sunflower…  The choice is yours)

100g plain flour

1 egg

150ml water

150ml milk (full fat / whole milk is best)

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 220C (200C for fan assisted).
  • If required, separate your sausages, and line in the base of an oven proof dish, ensuring enough of a gap in between each sausage.
  • Drizzle about a tablespoon of oil over the sausages.

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  • Place in to the oven for about 20 minutes or so, until the sausages have started to brown.
  • Now it’s time to make the batter!  Sieve the flour in to a mixing bowl, and make a ‘well’ in the middle.
  • Crack the egg in to the well, and mix lightly.
  • Add the milk and water slowly to the flour mixture, stirring constantly.  I put the water and milk in to a jug, and poured in to the flour mix whilst using an electric whisk.  The mixture should be of a creamy texture when it’s all combined.

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  • When the sausages are cooked, quickly pour the flour mixture over the top of the sausages, and return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes.

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  • The batter mix should be a lovely golden brown colour when done.

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  • Serve one its’ own or with a yummy gravy.  Enjoy x

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Slow Cooker Sausage Casserole – Pic Heavy

More of a winter-warmer type recipe (but today has been relatively cold, hence this being our dinner tonight) this yummy casserole warms the cockles of your heart, and right through to your stomach.  This is a fab recipe for the whole family (my 3 year old loves it), and I think it all only cost me around £2.50 to make!!

Ingredients:

1 pack sausages (I used Richmonds’ 16 thin sausages)

1/2 onion – diced thinly

1 tin peeled, plum tomatoes

1 tin baked beans (I used Branston)

1 or 2 drops of Tabasco sauce

Method:

1.  Lightly fry your sausages in your choice of oil / fat, until they appear to be a nice browny colour.  Ensure to turn them every now and again.

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2.  When the sausages are nicely cooked, remove from the pan, and dry on a paper towel (to absorb as much grease as possible).  Leave the remaining oil in the pan.

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3.  Lightly fry your diced onion in the fat / oil that is still in the frying pan.

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4.  Turn the heat down on the frying pan, and chop your sausages up in to ‘bite size’ pieces.

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5.  Place the peeled, plum tomatoes in to your ceramic pot of the slow cooker.  Strain the onions from the oil, and add to the tomato mix, and add one or two drops of Tabasco sauce.  Using a hand blender, blend until the mixture becomes smooth.

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6.  Once smooth, add the sausages and the tin of baked beans (don’t bother to strain away the tomato sauce in the beans), and stir thoroughly to ensure the sausage ‘bites’ are all covered in the tomato mixture.

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7.  Put your ceramic dish inside the slow cooker, and add the lid.  Turn your slow cooker to ‘high’, and leave to cook for 4 hours.

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8.  The tomato mixture should now be bubbling away nicely, so give it a final stir before serving.  Enjoy x

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Away in a Manger

It’s been in the news a lot over the past couple of weeks, primarily in the UK.  I’m unsure if this actually affects the rest of the world, but I think it’s about time to spread the word.

Christmas.  It’s a celebration that occurs once a year, on 25 December.  We rejoice and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Granted, a lot of the religion has left Christmas now…

For most, it’s about giving and receiving presents.  Eating a massive meal, that normally makes you feel sick afterwards.  Spending a bit of time with family.  Watching bad TV…  I’m wondering.  Why have just one day for that?  I mean I regularly visit my parents.  We regularly eat a big meal together, and we sometimes give small gifts; “just because”.  Why should I do the same on Christmas Day?  Surely the day is meant for something more…

Oh wait.  It is.  Here’s that word again.  Religion.

Am I right in saying that religion is no longer a part of Christmas?  I’m sorry to say that I do believe, in most peoples’ celebrations, it has isn’t.

The UK is a multi-cultural set of countries.  We have so many races and religions here, that it’s impossible to list them all.  Like it or not, the United Kingdom is a Christian country.  Yes, I said it.  We’re CHRISTIAN.  That means that the governing religion is the Church of England.  The Queen (long may she reign) is the keeper of the throne until the true leader returns.  This being Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, and this is where I feel I am going to be attacked, the UK has had to throw away a lot of its’ Christian faith traditions due to the fear that we are insulting those of other faiths.  A lot of places are unable to even fly the Union Jack…  Now what that’s got to do with religion is beyond me.

For many years, there has been an amazing tradition in schools throughout the UK.  It’s a time of year that some parents dread, and some parents love.  It’s a chance for their child/ren to dress up, and take part in a play of the “Greatest Story Ever Told”.  The Nativity.

I never went to a church school.  I went to a “community” school; which meant that anyone from any faith was welcome.

I can remember in nursery (pre-school), I was always an angel.  I was never one of the main characters, but one of the angels that just sort of “floated” around in the background.  Mainly because they had run out of spaces in the play, but yet everyone in the nursery had to be in it.  I can remember the white dress…  I’m fairly sure it was made out of an old bed sheet.  My hair was loose around my shoulders, my thick NHS glasses covered a patch over my eye (sight problems), and I donned a “beautiful” halo, made out of tacky gold tinsel (did you get the sarcasm there?).  It was quite literally hell on earth.  I loved it.

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I’m immediately underneath the red arrow.

When I dropped my son off at nursery this morning, I asked one of the teachers there if they did any Christmas crafts; like making snowmen or angels out of empty toilet roll tubes, or even make Christmas cards…  The response I got was a blank look, and a simple “no”.  Granted, my son goes to a private nursery where I have to pay for him to be there, but surely because I am paying, they should do some form of request..?!  What shocked me most of all was the lack of Christmas decorations.  I enquired to their where-abouts too, to the response of “we’re not allowed to show any bias towards Christmas due to other faiths in the nursery that may not celebrate”.  I was disgusted.  Thankfully, I will be sending my son to a church school…  Surely they will do some form of Christmas crafts / Nativity there..?

Well.  Not necessarily.  This is where we have come full circle to the beginning of my post.  In the news recently, it’s been stated that 95% of schools throughout the UK are not performing the Nativity.  Instead, they are having a “Winter Festival”, or an “End of Year Concert”.  These performances will not have any form of religion what-so-ever, and will include the likes of the importance of recycling; aliens dancing with humans; and more…  No Christmas music either.  That’s not allowed.

The reason?  Because a certain faith has made a complaint that it offends them.

Can I repeat what I said earlier?  If you are going to move to a CHRISTIAN country, you should respect their rules and traditions.  Afterall, if a Christian moved to a country with a different faith, we would probably be shot if we said that some of their traditions offended us.

My conclusion?  We’re in the UK.  If you want to be classed as, and treated as a British citizen, then act like one.  The Nativity has been an important part of UK history since Christianity first came to the country.  Please.  Respect our rights.

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