And so it continues...

How utterly brilliant is this weather!  I hear people complaining about the heat and want to stop them in their tracks, wasn't it just last month we were deluged in rain and more rain??  Let's just enjoy it while we can, I am learning to live for today even though I sometimes falter I am trying to get in the groove of not saving things for a rainy day.

My second baby Miss TC is a summer baby, born right smack bang in the middle of summer, I remember the days after her birth being warm and light and easy, that's what summer means to me, easy, relaxed living.  Eating lighter, being outdoors in the warmth of the sun, being outdoors in the cool of the evening night eating alfresco.  The cold makes me tense, snow, unless I have ski's attached to my feet, makes me want to hibernate.  I'm sure in another life I must have lived in the sun as I love it so much. 

I know my grass is going steadily browner, except for the bit under the apple tree which gets the dappled shade

a haircut needed this week!
and we have a hosepipe and paddling pool filling ban  and I have started getting bitten by little meany munching things but even though its only May, I still treat this as summer, just in case this is all we get this year!

A few things that are so great when the sun shines:

Eating icecream, anytime, any place, anywhere!

Seeing the diamond twinkly sparkle dancing on the sea

Long, light days and evenings spent in the fresh air

The aroma of BBQ's wafting from the gardens and of course...

Wearing sparkly flip flops!

Are you enjoying this heatwave??


FREE Jubilee Party Pack

We are having a street party here on June 4th, I'm baking loads for the communal table but so far have only managed to get a few cupcake cases, union jack flags and some union jack bunting (already on our trees)!

I keep having to remind myself how soon the party is!   So how pleased was I today when I received an email from Zena-Marie at The Fabulous Mom's Guide with these lovely offerings.

photo credit: The Fabulous Mom's Guide

photo credit:  The Fabulous Mom's Guide

There is much, much more, the pack comes in 5 separate printable PDF files so it is easy to print off just the pieces you need.  Just subscribe to her blog and you can download the Jubilee Party Pack for Free! 


Let's Do Lunch

The glorious weather continues hooray! but it does make my appetite wane a little.  All I wanted today was something light, fresh & filling enough to see me through the afternoon. 

A lovely light lunch of Cherry Tomatoes, Radishes, Cucumber, Avocado, lightly sprinkled with golden linseeds and drizzled with extra virgin Olive oil, accompanied by a glass of Sassy Water straight from the fridge.

Whats in your lunch box?

10 Things I Love

1.  Feeling my toddler girl putting her hand in mine, that soft little hand makes my heart melt a little each time she does it.  I hope she wants to hold my hand for many years to come.  I'll always be there to hold hers when she needs me.

2.  Sleeping in.  Every now and then I get a very rare but very welcome lie in and by that I mean 9 am but I'll take it!

3.  The aroma of coffee and freshly baked croissants from the local French Patisserie Valerie on Saturday mornings, preferably eaten in the fresh air, basking in the sunshine.  Make mine an extra shot skinny latte!  Then taking home a couple of cakes, you have to see these cakes to believe them, they are spectacular.

4.  Watching TC running to see the ducks and geese at the local pond and them legging it fast!  Its a joy to see her having fun in the fresh air.  

ha! here I come!
5.  Taking time to watch the sun set, there's something about dusk that just unwinds me and seeing the sun set is something I never take for granted, another day lived, bring on the next ......

6.  The smell of bleach as I enter the kitchen, this means whilst I've been out Mr J has been swabbing the deck aka the kitchen.  We joke about starting a good girl board when TC is older and how we should start one for him, his reward being beer!

7.  Watching my babies sleep, listening to them breathing softly in sleep.  To have this chance again with no. 2 brings back all the precious memories of watching no.1 snoozing, its all in the room upstairs in my head, safely tucked away, the memories just keep on popping out, making me smile and sometimes a few tears.  Listen when they say it all goes so fast .......

8.  My garden... I really enjoy gardening and on any given sunny, warm day I could potter around, digging, potting, planting seeds, watching the bumble bees, butterflies and the rare sighting of a dragonfly or sit and  close my eyes and bathe in the warmth of the summer sun.  

9.  Books, the pile of books I have yet to read grows each day or seems to.   I read every day, even if it is on the loo!

and 10.  Snuggling up to TC at the end of the day, reading her a story, she still feels warm from her bath, she smells so wonderful all cosy in her pyjama's.  She has a sigh that she does when she is ready to slip into peaceful slumber.   Utterly.priceless.

I could write many more things about cheesey toddler grins, wonderful bear hugs from no.1 child, the many ups and downs of life with a child and the many, many rewards of being a parent - 10 things, who could choose, just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Sassy Water

I drink a lot of water, about 1.5 - 2 litres a day.  Most of my friends are aghast at this and ask how I manage to fit it all in a day :))  Others say how boring water is to drink.  I really like it, simple as that!  Getting Mr J & TC to drink water is not that easy, TC is getting her fill most days but Mr J still needs a bit of encouragement!   We're all "supposed" to be drinking 8 glasses a day but I never know how big the glass is supposed to be, so I'll just stick with my intake.

So Sassy water.  I came across it several months ago but its been around for a while now.  I keep meaning to try it, I always have the ingredients in the fridge apart from the fresh mint leaves which I will try to get for my next batch, so there really is no excuse. 

Sassy water is so named after Cynthia Sass, the co-author of The Flat Belly Diet.  It is said to help maintain a flat belly, helping to flush impurities out of your system and helping to shed the extra pounds around the tummy area (hallelujah to that!)

To make, take:

1 large glass jug (mine has cocktail recipes etched all over it, very apt!!)
2 litres of water - we have a filter plumbed into our kitchen supply but I'm using mineral water.
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 medium sized cucumber - sliced thinly
1 medium sized lemon - sliced thinly
a few fresh mint leaves, if you have them

Ginger is to boost metabolism and helps calm your tummy (who can forget morning sickness, bleuch, I drank ginger tea then)

Cucumber is a natural diuretic and is said to help the body release excess stored water.

Lemon is a digestive aid and liver cleanser.

Put all the ingredients into the glass jug, refrigerate overnight to let the flavours infuse.  In the morning, strain the contents through a sieve and drink throughout the day.  I'm not sure I'll manage the whole jug, I like my plain, unflavoured water but I'm giving it a go!

Very refreshing and hopefully whittling down the tum-tum.  And as we have been promised a scorching week this week, a touch of ice might be added but sadly no vodka!



Sunday Morning Muffins

Decided to use up a couple of very ripe bananas this morning, they really were only fit for baking by this stage.  TC usually hands me back bananas, she really hasn't taken to them but maybe in a mini muffin?

This really is an experimental batch, hence the plain white wrappers, I used oats as well as flour, 1 egg, butter, vanilla extract, buttermilk - which I love in baking - and only 30g of light brown sugar.   

Once all the wet ingredients were beaten together and merged with the dry ingredients (don't overmix, muffins needs minimal mixing or you will get rock cakes!) I popped a couple of blueberries into each muffin case (again lovely in cakes!) then baked for 20 minutes.

Also used some of the batter to make some mini muffins for TC (blueberries were too large to pop in this time) and she actually ate a whole one (doesn't she know there's bananas in them??)

Not bad, they are quite plain, mainly for TC's sake but were made with ingredients from the cupboard and best of all I know what's in them.  Next time I will use a bit of honey in them too for a little extra sweetness, I've not tried baking with honey yet and maybe more fruit for extra juiciness :)

Happy Sunday!


Finally, some sun...

The sun had his hat on this weekend, hip hip hip hooray!  I know we needed the rain and very pleased I was to see it and our local ponds are lovely and full again, but it was so good to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin again.

I spent a lot of time in the garden battling back the over growth that should have been sorted in April, I used to do all the gardening myself but now I've enlisted the help of R & A who do all the grunt work, which saves my back for all the other stuff.  I do love my garden, the soil must be good here as everything I plant grows like crazy!

beautiful blue borage out in force

A few years ago the boys from next door must have chucked a conker over because I can find no other way it could have found its way into the garden and it managed to germinate and now we have a mini horse chestnut tree. 

I want to leave it there but I suspect I will be encouraged to move it soon because my baby conker tree will one day be a little beauty like this one at the pond's edge.

I like to plant tree seeds and have a few on the go, sadly my baby oak didn't make it through the winter so I'm on the hunt for acorns this year, not many oak trees to be found here.

I must find a place for all the potted plants this year, I have Hazel the hazel tree, Maggie the magnolia, Willow the .. well you get the idea and Sid Sycamore!!  Some will stay here but I need to find good homes for Willow & Sid.

This morning the sun has deserted us again and its starting to cloud over and rain, nice while it lasted, hope to see you again soon Mr Sunshine.

Super Chocolately Chocolate Brownies

This brownie recipe is very dense in chocolatey taste and texture, I can only eat a tiny square at a time as its so rich and gooey, but so moist, which equals so fabulous and yummy!  So very hard to resist!

First of all I want to thank The Food Network for my super gorgeous KitchenAid, I entered a competition last year, never thinking I could win one and I've been in love with it ever since, its a great piece of kitchen kit!

So mixer, spatula, measuring spoons at the ready, let's bake!
First, pre-heat your oven to 180°C or if like me you have a fan oven  - 160°C.

1.  Ingredients:  butter, light brown sugar, 2 large eggs, plain flour, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, dark chocolate min. 70%.

*Melt half of the chocolate over a bain marie, when melted take off the heat & set aside to cool a little*

2.  Cream butter for a couple of minutes, add sugar & vanilla extract, beat together until light and fluffy.

3.  Add the eggs (whisk first if you wish) and mix in, if the mixture starts to curdle add a tablespoon of the flour. 

4.  Sift the cocoa powder and flour into the bowl and stir in until combined.

5.  Pour in melted chocolate and stir in.

 6.  Chop  the rest of the chocolate into chunks (however you like them, I chopped each chunk in half) & stir in.

 7.  Pour into 8" (20cm) greased tin or mould (I used a silicone mould for the first time and prefer my tin, if using a tin line with baking paper then it will be easy to lift out of the tin).

8.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

9.  Leave to cool, if you have no patience like me go out :)  This recipe makes 16 mini brownies - perfect with a cup of coffee or a 9 larger ones.


Vidal Sassoon

So very sad to read last night about the passing of Vidal Sassoon.  Only a short while ago I watched a lovely documentary about his life, absolutely fascinating, his autobiography is in my book pile waiting for its turn to be read, I think it will jump the queue now.

His haircuts brought an architectural design to haircuts in the late '50s and early '60s, he went through this method in the documentary, amazing stuff!  He developed a look that freed women from the stiff, sprayed styles and hair in beehives and thankfully the need for women to wear hair curlers to bed (something I never did, I thankfully missed that trend!)

As a young teenager I had my hair cut and blowdried at one of his central London salons many times, none of us could afford to sit in the stylists chairs very often but being a hair model gave us all fabulous, glossy hairstyles The passport picture of my 16 year old self sports a Vidal Sasson stylist bob cut (paid for!), I went straight to the photo booth from the salon to capture it in time.

Vidal Sasson - hair genius, style icon, father, grandfather, legend ... Au revoir.


Moving Forward

Its been a fraught few days here with a viral bug and lots of sleeping and cuddles with Toddler Chick - (as she is now affectionately known, it was time to move her forward from Baby Chick).  I always find these "moving forward" times particularly hard, the putting away of speedily outgrown babygro's to wearing pyjamas, the moving onto solids, the speed at which they get up and starting pelting around when once they were completely reliant on us, etc and the things we will never do again because she is growing up in what seems like a speeded up film.   Life is one long moving forward process, you can't stop or slow it down, its going on with or without you.  Its like that quote:

“Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back” - Harvey Mackay

Older Mums blog post recently about saying bon voyage to mummys milk (even writing that gave me a lump in my throat) made me think of motherhood the first time round when I shed silent happy & sad tears (the ones that just spill out & roll down your face without prompting) through some of the milestones.  I love seeing TC grow and learn, its just all going a little too fast!  This time round I find myself comparing experiences from then and now, times and some of the advice given out may have changed but a lot of things do seem to remain the same, I just know what and who to listen to this time!

I flicked through my photos of TC from the day of her birth to the present day, I take photos and videos of her almost daily, little snippets in time, I could look them all day and those of my firstborn too, but when you flick through them in order you really see just how much they change and so quickly.  I wish I could relive that first year again and again, some people will be thinking "are you kidding me??" no, I love that newborn phase, I know its the hardest part, the constant feeding, the lack of sleep, the lack of time to shower or eat!  But that time is so precious and over in a flash, makes me want to have another (I want to see Mr J fall off his chair when he reads this haha!).

TC has come through the other side of her bug today, bug begone I say, after 3 days of virtual non-eating, she ate breakfast this morning of fresh fruit and porridge, mummy is happy again, the instinct to feed our babies is a strong one - I am slightly bleary eyed but seeing TC running around & playing again is fabulous!

a lovely sight, an empty bowl!

French Kids Eat Everything

Caught a programme this morning that featured a piece about how French kids eat everything and how it's done.  I am always interested in reading/seeing new ways with nutrition and food in general but as I have a small child who is not fussy per se but treats food with suspicion and has to pick it up, grimace, put the tip of her tongue on the new food then decide whether she will actually try it or not.  Her tried and tested favourites always go straight down the hatch but I really want her to expand her tastes more.

So when I saw the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon which documents how she "moved to France and cured picky eating and banned snacking and discovered 10 simple rules to raising happy, healthy children", I was intrigued to hear more.

From the overview I understand where she is coming from.  The French don't start their babies off  with bland rice cereal (which can bung a baby up nicely!) but soups and pureed vegetables.  An Italian friend of mine did just this with her 2 children, starting them both off with minestrone soup and I have to say I started TC on a similar path so she is well used to some vegetables.  But where this book differs is that she advocates vegetables that I would never have thought of for a baby like chicory.  It's all about educating their palates so that when they get to that picky eating phase (where we are now) they won't stay as picky for as long, basically because you've introduced such a great variety for them to taste, the pickiness won't become a habit e.g. refusing everything new and untested!

The French apparently reduce the pressure on their children so there is no anxiety over eating - they tell their children that they will need to taste things 7 or 8 times to teach their palate to like them.

There is an emphasis on soups in general, which we love to make here at MLM towers, and combining certain combinations e.g. spinach and courgette to make them more palatable to the child.   Also, quick and easy to put together recipes with 4 ingredients (the simpler cooking is the better for me) combining the right tastes in the right ways.

French babies also do not snack, we don't have a morning snack but do have a small afternoon one (mainly to help the boredom factor if we are at the checkout, etc).   I see friends children constantly asking for crisps and sweets - so far TC hasn't shown any interest I think because its not available at our house, she'd probably do her taste test on a crisp and aim it across the room just like the other stuff she won't eat!  The non-snacking means they will be more hungry at the dinner table (we all knew that one).  I am a snacker and can be an emotional eater too so I'll be trying to follow the French way too of no rewards (for when I've had a trying day!), no bribes, food should never be a distraction (done that too!).  The French also like their children to taste everything on the plate, whether they eat it all or not, this I believe in too, my palate certainly expanded in my early adulthood, better still if achieved in childhood.

She spoke about the French school restaurants, the children don't bring in packed lunches but dine on 3 to 4 hot lunch courses with gourmet foods like mussels, fish, vegetables, etc.  I think I may go back to school in France from the sound of this.  About 10 years ago the French Government, schools & parents realised they had to do something about child nutrition, banning fast food and vending machines in schools, they tightened up regulations on school lunches and introduced taste training into the school cirriculum!  Jaime Oliver would be ecstatic if our schools here were doing the same, maybe some are, it has been a while since I got to sample school dinners.

Karen Le Billon doesn't seem to be  saying that we should all eat exactly like the French.  But some aspects of their approach to children's food might be useful for us to adapt into our way of eating.  It seems it's all about helping the child to be a more adventurous eater.   Food for thought....

I have ordered the book from The Book Depository where they also have an extra 10% off until 14th May (plus free p&p) with the code APMA12.  We will definitely be trying it  out with TC, the recipes sound very interesting, I think she can only benefit from it,  time will tell and I will be charting our course. 

Bon appetit!


Versatile Blogging Award

How lovely, my very first blogging award, huge thanks and apologies to Sharla from the House at Bluebird Lane, thanks for the award but so sorry I haven't written this post sooner, very honoured though that you read my blog as yours is simply divine.

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the blogger who has awarded you and link back to them.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 5 (here or there) other newly discovered blogs.

So here are 7 things about me, I'm not used to talking about myself so they may be a bit obscure!

1.  I am an avid seed saver, I love finding seed pods on plants and have had an endless fascination for them since I was a young child. I carry mini secateurs, gloves & plastic bags in my handbag!!
2.  I love camera's and photography and used to help my dad develop photos.  I see photo opp's everywhere, just need my camera velcro'd to me at all times!
3.  I was told by an Olympic medalist, when she saw me compete and win an 800m race at 13, that I could be an Olympic athlete one day if I kept up my training.  You have no idea what that meant to me at the time.
4.  I like reading autobiographies, especially from old Hollywood and my sporting heroes, past and present. 
5.  I eat seafood of one kind or another every day, I sometimes even eat salmon for breakfast.
6.  I am still in love with David Cassidy :)
7.  I was Made in Chelsea - literally!

Told you... obscure!

I'm nominating the following ladies.

Let the Sneezing Commence!

The pollen season has well and truly begun, back in March when we had our first taste of "summer" I started to feel like someone had shoved an Alka Seltzer up my nose.  Once the tree pollen starts to emerge from the buds of my cherry and apple trees and the countless trees in neighbouring gardens, my nose starts to twitch, then as soon as I wake up and enter the kitchen, wham!  the sneezing begins! 

Different types of pollen are released throughout the year from about March starting with the tree pollen, then we have the grasses and let's not forget the "weed" (I don't call them weeds, I have dandelions on my lawn amongst the daisies and very welcome they are too) pollen and this all goes on until around September.

The pollen count is pretty low at the moment due to the rain (I knew there was an upside to all this much needed rain apart from refilling the resevoirs! ) but still I'm sneezing and spluttering somewhat.  My nose is so twitchy that I'm having to wear those rather fetching nose strips at night, the postman thinks it highly amusing when I answer the door forgetting I still have it on!

Its not helped by this as I open the front bedroom curtains in the morning at the moment, but so worth it for the view -

 and this at the back, 

those glorious mellow yellow flowers are so very pretty but so very itchy on my nose!