Monday, 31 October 2011

Spooky Games at Granny's House!

Happy Halloween! :)

I took the children round to my Mum's house after school this afternoon for some Halloween fun! We had lots of treats...

Halloween chocolate, cupcakes that I made last week, and pumpkin pies from yesterday:

Plus some pumpkin seeds that I roasted in a Worcester sauce mix:

And games...

Apple bobbing:

Doughnuts on a string:

and feeling through green "worms" to find pumpkin seeds (each pumpkin seed = a chocolate for Izzy!):

Mum made a new, even darker green, batch of spaghetti for the children to eat for dinner. Spaghetti + water + green food colouring...

+ pesto + peas = Halloween dinner!

Izzy was initially put off by the appearance...

but luckily agreed to eat it after Mum tasted it first. Toby on the other hand loved it no matter what it looked like...

the boy does love his pasta!

Rather than end this post with slightly grim photos (sorry if you were reading this whilst trying to eat!), I'll leave you with a few of the cuter photos from the afternoon...

My little sister was our photographer as she didn't want to be in any photos!

Izzy had such a great time. She especially loved it when trick or treaters came round - she went running to the front door with a tin full of chocolates! We had two groups come round while we at my Mum's house, then another two groups when we got back to ours, and then a final two just as I was about to take Izzy to be - lucky timing! Liam & I took the pumpkin inside once the kids were in bed - trick or treaters are pretty good around here and only knock if you have a lit pumpkin out...well either that or we haven't heard them as our doorbell needs fixing!

Have you done anything for Halloween this year? And would you eat bright green spaghetti??!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunday Family Lunch - cottage pie and lots of desserts!

My Mum invited us all round to her house for lunch today. Between us, my sisters and one sister's partner, my Mum, her partner, and her partner's daughter (Clare) and husband, there were 11 of us! It was a bit of a squeeze to get us all sat down to eat, but it was nice to catch up for everyone.

My Mum decided to make cottage pie, so I made a meat-free version for Clare and I. I based it on my previous lentil cottage pie recipe, but added a punnet of finely chopped mushrooms to the mix and made it stock based (well boiling water and lots and lots of vegan Worcester sauce!) instead of tomato based.

This was really tasty. Which is a good thing, as I have loads of leftovers for Liam and I to eat tomorrow. The children will be eating something slightly *spookier* as I'll show you in my next post!

My Mum had also made 3 different desserts for lunch! Apple crumble (I just had the leftovers of Izzy's but it was really good):

Triple chocolate brownies (nice, but very very rich - dare I say it, a bit too rich for me even!):

And the cutest little pumpkin pies:

I ate half a chocolate brownie and half a pumpkin pie...

and then went back for several more pieces of pumpkin pie, yum! After begging Mum to add pumpkin pie to her list of desserts, I was a bit worried when she said she'd decided to make individual ones. I'm not the biggest fan of pastry and individual pies = more pastry, less filling. However, luckily, when she'd got the pastry out of the freezer, she hadn't realised it was puff pastry not shortcrust! It worked really well, a great alternative for non-pastry lovers! :)

After everyone else had left, Mum and I went upstairs to try on the dress I bought yesterday. I have decided to take it back - I knew the lining on the bottom half of the dress was tight, but when I tried (unsuccessfully!) to sit down, I realised that actually the whole of the bottom half of the dress was much too tight for me! There would've been no point buying the next size up as this dress was already slightly too big on the top half - not the right shape dress for me. Instead I tried on a dress that my Mum already owned. I think it works, and it's saved me some money which is always welcome!! What do you think?

This dress is certainly a lot more comfy (read: loose!) and with the green bag and scarf, I think it looks more like a complete outfit. Obviously my hair will be looking less voluminous on Friday - I tied my hair up this morning when wet, and my sister made me take it out for this photo so it was rather wild!!

How have your weekends been? Best thing you've eaten/done? I can't believe schools start back tomorrow - this half term has gone by so quickly! Izzy is looking forward to seeing her teacher and all her friends though, I'll just have to make sure we all wrap up warm for the walk to school in the morning!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

New Dress + Lunch at Giraffe

This afternoon we went shopping in Exeter with (mainly) one mission in mind - a new dress for me to wear to Liam's graduation ceremony!

We met up with my sister for lunch first though. It was so busy in Exeter, but we managed to grab at table outside at Giraffe which was where I'd wanted to eat anyway. Luckily they had heaters outside so it wasn't too cold. I ordered a Farmers Market Vegetable Burrito. The description for this was "roasted squash & vegetables with pinto beans, feta & herby rice wrapped in a soft tortilla topped with adobe sauce, jack cheese, tomato salsa & crumbled feta." I was a bit worried about the pinto beans (I really can't stand the texture of any beans) but couldn't resist ordering it anyway. It came with an avocado salad which made it even more irresistible!

This was amazing! Seriously one of the best meals out I've had in a while. The pinto beans blended in with the rest of the mix and it was all super yummy. No flavour stood out in particular, it was just all really good. I've only ever been to Giraffe for cocktails and dessert (after having the main part of dinner elsewhere) or for coffee before...but I'll definitely be going back for proper meals again! They do some quite nice childrens' meals too - Izzy had focaccia pizza fingers which came with fries and apple wedges - weirdly the apple wedges were what made her choose the meal, but the rest of it was tasty too!

After lunch, we took Toby to get his feet measured (still the same size) and then started the dress-hunt. We started off by looking in Debenhams and, with my sister's help, found 4 dresses to try on. Two were way too short, one was too frumpy looking with a high neckline, but one was just right. (Sorry - Izzy is obsessed with Goldilocks at the moment, I can't help it!)

Looking at this photo has made me unsure about the dress, nightmare, but my sister and I both liked it in the shop. What do you think? I plan to wear it with black tights as well as those boots. I don't particularly want to have to buy new shoes as I have large horrible-to-shop-for feet, and those boots are really comfy which is always a plus. After Liam's graduation ceremony there is a 15 minute procession through town, and then we'll be walking back into town for lunch, so I really don't want to wear uncomfortable heels!

As we didn't have to traipse around any more shops (I hate clothes shopping, especially with young children - not a fun experience!) we instead went to Debenhams cafe as Izzy had been wanting an "afternoon snack" pretty much since we finished lunch! I had a skinny latte and shared this cranberry and white chocolate cookie with Toby...

He was getting a bit tired by this stage - I'm sure he didn't mean to frown at the camera quite so much!

After this we went home - via Waitrose - to enjoy feta and caramelised onion pizza. No photo as my sister's camera hates the evening (lack of) light. I'm sure you've seen it before anyway - it's our favourite pizza! Each time we toy with the idea of getting one feta & caramelised onion pizza and one different flavour, but in the end we always get two the same - none of the other options sound as appealing!

This post has turned out to be quite short (by my standards anyway) but that is how I like my clothes shopping trips to be - we literally went into 4 shops (Boots for Liam's hair wax, Clarks to not get Toby shoes, Next to not find me boots, and Debenhams) and had 2 stops for food - short but sweet! On the other hand I wish my food shopping trips could be longer. When I was stood at the till at Waitrose - having just bought pizzas, satsumas, sweets to give out to trick & treaters, and a magazine - I saw that the person behind me had bought new-to-me Greek yoghurt, nice apple juice, raspberries etc etc - I wish I had time to browse the aisles but it never seems to happen! Oh well, I'm saving money - that's what I'll keep telling myself!!

Which do you prefer - food shopping or clothes shopping? And what do you think of the dress I bought? Honest opinions please - it's (just about) not too late for me to change my mind!! Or any suggestions to improve upon this dress - do you think I should wear a belt with it or leave it as is? It is this dress on the Debenhams' website if that helps. Thanks! :)

Halloween Fun at Crealy

Yesterday we made it to Crealy! I'm so glad we changed our plans on Thursday - yesterday's blue sky made a great change from grey:

We got there just in time for the fancy dress competition, which Izzy didn't win - maybe we should have gone on rainy Thursday when it was no doubt quieter - less competition!! ;-D I think all the children in fancy dress got (or were meant to get) a small prize upon entering the park anyway. The girl who let us through didn't give us anything - no prize, no raffle ticket to play trick or treat, no leaflet to tell us times etc - but luckily Izzy didn't realise she was missing out on a prize so all was ok. We picked up an information leaflet from the help desk...

and went to play Trick or Treat. Luckily all the staff running it let Izzy play even without a ticket - I would not have wanted to have had to deal with a sweet-deprived child (!!) As it was, 3 'stations' giving out sweets...

equals one very happy Izzy! :)

After trick or treating, we had lunch, went to the 'spooky games' (Izzy liked the dancing game, but decided not to put her hands in the snotty slime!!), and then went to play in Little Land. These houses are the perfect size for Toby!

Although maybe not so much for Liam...!

As there was so many Halloween things to do at Crealy yesterday, we didn't go on any of the rides that we normally go on. We did, however, still find time for a bit of soft play...

and a visit to the animals...

Izzy adored this baby goat - she spent ages stroking it until the bigger goats started getting closer and scared her off!!

One of the main aims of yesterday's Crealy trip was to pick up a pumpkin. We decided to carve it at home as it needed a good wash first, plus Toby was getting a bit past it. So once we got home, Izzy and Liam got to work...

Izzy did a great job of saving me the seeds, so I'm going to try roasting them later on. Here's hoping I don't burn them after all her work - you can tell she enjoyed it really (!!)

And the finished (very heavy!) pumpkin? A bat on one side...

and a spooky face on the other...

Well done Izzy and Liam! :)

Izzy loves going to Crealy - we have year memberships so, when we don't get tempted by the all you can eat Italian buffet remember to take packed lunches, it doesn't work out too expensive. We did have to bribe Izzy with some sweets from the shop yesterday so that she didn't get too upset about not carving the pumpkin there though!!

Today we are off into Exeter to try to find me an outfit for Liam's graduation - any suggestions?? I'm thinking maybe a winter dress to go with the knee high (flat) black boots I already own? I am so clueless when it comes to fashion, but I'm hoping if I wear the boots in then people in the shops will be able to help me out!! We also need to buy Toby some new shoes - he kept falling over yesterday so I'm guessing his feet have finally grown.

What are you all up to this weekend? Any nice plans?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Rainy Day {Halloween} Activities

The weather has been terrible here today! We'd planned to go to Crealy, but when we woke up this morning and saw/heard that the rain was pouring down, and had been all night, we quickly changed our plans!

Liam has been off work yesterday, today and tomorrow as it is half term and he had quite a few days of holiday to use up before the end of the year. It was good to have him around to help out with the rainy day activities! This morning he and Izzy did Halloween craft from her newest magazine.

Izzy had great fun and we now have lots of Halloween decorations!

We stopped mid-morning to snack on Samoa Bars. Mine didn't turn out quite as prettily as Averie's - more brown and spread out, I'm thinking my pan was too big - and I couldn't get a good photo of them for the life of me (I miss my camera!!), but they tasted delicious!

Averie's Caramel Apple Bars are still my favourite, but these make a nice change - sweet and chocolatey with a hint of coconut.

After eating it was time for more playing...

And then lunch - fried egg and Linda McCartney sausage sandwich, mmm!

This afternoon it was my time to have fun with Izzy with some baking - Halloween baking!

We made two batches of cupcakes - one vanilla, and one chocolate mint:

For the vanilla cupcakes, Izzy iced them with a simple icing glace icing...

and then I added cocoa powder to the remaining icing and piped/dragged it to make cobwebs:

These worked quite well, but the white icing set quicker than I could put the chocolate icing on so the webs didn't drag as much as I would have liked. I'm sure if you were icing the cakes yourself you wouldn't have that problem though - 5 year-olds take longer to knife white icing on than adults do!

Despite the fun that Izzy had making and icing the cakes, her favourite bit always comes afterwards - eating leftover icing!

For the chocolate-mint cakes (after the children's bath time, hence the clothes change) I made green peppermint flavoured butter icing...

Which I piped onto the cakes, and then Izzy topped with 'pumpkin' wrapped chocolates...

Ta da!

Before we changed our plans this morning because of the weather, I'd been planning to make these cupcakes on Saturday. I just hope we've still got some left by the time Monday comes around!!

Are you doing anything this weekend/on Monday to celebrate Halloween? Last year, I took Izzy trick or treating with some of her friends, but I've decided against doing that this year. Instead we will just go round to my Mum's and do apple bobbing, hands in green spaghetti etc. She'll have just as much fun, and it means Toby can join in too. Also, tomorrow we will go to Crealy and carve a pumpkin - that's the thing she's been looking forward to most this half term! The weather is meant to be better tomorrow, fingers crossed!
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