Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Foodie Pen Pals July 2012

I took part in Foodie Pen Pals again this month, and was sent a parcel by Kay from Kay Tea's Cakes and she sent me a beautifully wrapped parcel...

...full of some really interesting foods that I couldn't wait to try...

Liam took the sour cream & habanero crispy bites to work and really enjoyed them, although he was surprised by how spicy they were!! He loves crunchy snacks so they were perfect for him, and he was excited to benefit (aka be allowed to try!!!) from one of my parcels for once! I'm looking forward to using this tempura mix...

Kay recommended making tempura avocado which sounds amazing and I also want to try to recreate the tempura asparagus I ate in Barcelona and also in London, so good!

Kay also sent me some cute milk chocolates which are individually wrapped, so perfect for putting in bags/lunchboxes...

as well as silicone chocolate moulds (top left corner) which Izzy is looking forward to using with me, and also some noodles and spicy plantain chips.

Thanks again Kay for sending me lots of unique products to try! :)


I sent a parcel to Lisa, who doesn't have a blog yet. I took some photos before I sent the parcel, and Lisa emailed me with her kind thoughts on the parcel, so I'll let her speak for herself....

This was my first month taking part in the Foodie penpal scheme and I was very excited to see what my first food parcel would bring! I'd exchanged a couple of emails with Lucy after we were paired up and told her about my passion for sweet treats, especially fudge! After spending almost the last 12 months on a pretty strict diet trying to shift "the baby weight" I figured I deserved a treat, so by the time my parcel arrived I was salivating with anticipation!!

The parcel contained 3 different types of fudge, all of which were delicious! The honeycomb flavour was sweet, crunchy and very moreish and the lemon meringue was sharp, zingy and just heavenly. However, (despite my initial scepticism) my favourite had to be the sea salt special edition flavour, the proceeds of which, Lucy's note explained, went to support the local lifeboats. As if you'd need any excuse to indulge!
I've tried sea salt chocolates before but this was something else - at first all you could taste was the creamy, crumbly sweet fudge, but then WHAM! A big hit of tangy salt at the end almost knocked my socks off. Suffice to say that bag was polished off before the sun went down!!
My little boy also seized the opportunity to sample his first ever taste of fudge and it was a big hit! He has definitely inherited mummy's sweet tooth!

Lisa sent me some photos to share with you of her little boy enjoying the fudge, so cute! :)

As well as fudge Lucy also sent some tasty looking Florentines (which - as much as it pains me to share - will be making an appearance when we have friends over to dinner on Saturday evening) and a token 'nod' towards healthy eating in the form of some vanilla munchy seeds (unusual and very satisfying!) and a fruit and nut mix.

All in all my first food parcel was fantastic, and I have definitely now got the bug!! Massive thanks to Lucy for creating such a thoughtful and delicious parcel - I only hope my recipient enjoyed her parcel as much as I did!
If you'd like to join in with Foodie Pen Pals, fill in the form on Carol Anne's blog by August 3rd. I'm already looking forward to the spreadsheet being sent out on August 5th to find out who my next matches are!
Thanks to Kay and Lisa for making this month a(nother) enjoyable one, and thanks as always to Carol Anne for organising us all!

Friday, 27 July 2012

First Week of Summer

My kitchen currently looks like this...

Icing sugar gets everywhere!!

...so obviously the sensible thing to do is write a blog post, haha, sorry Liam!! ;-)

I can't believe we are already coming to the end of the first week of the summer holidays, and what a gloriously sunny week it has been. We've settled into a nice routine of doing something in the mornings (park, picnic, beach etc) and then coming home in the afternoon. Toby then has a nap, Izzy either has a nap or does some colouring inside, and I sunbathe in the garden. It is way too hot for the little ones to be outside 12-3, but the same rules clearly don't apply to me...I love the sun so am making the most of it while it's still here!

Today as slightly different as we met up with friends at 11.30am and went to the local woodland/river area for a picnic. I took too much food, as usual...

The box contains the best thing - egg mayo sandwiches, my favourite! I was only planning to eat the sandwiches, strawberries and water, but Izzy, Toby and Izzy's friend polished off most of the strawberries between them - I think I got 2! - so I ended up eating a few coconut biscuits instead! I never used to take things like crisps, biscuits etc to picnics but I found that everyone who we met would have these things so then Izzy would spend the whole time looking longingly at them. Today however my friend had just brought sandwiches and crisps with her, but we were happy to share the rest of our stuff! Those My-5 fruit shoot things are a new-to-me find and seem to just be fruit juice and water (?) which I'm ok with as an occasional treat. Toby used to have a fruit shoot whenever we went to Costa (whoops, not great ingredients!) but then they changed the recipe and he seems to be allergic to something - got the full on shakes and head jitters :( - so these were a good alternative that made him think he was having his old favourites!

Anyway, parental self-guilt over, we had a fantastic time today. We met up with my friend, her 13 year old daughter and her 5 year old son (who goes to school with Izzy). It was great having a teenager with us as she took the two 5 year olds (making the most of being able to call Izzy that until her birthday next Wednesday!!!) into the river...something Liam and I would never have done! At first they just dipped their feet in, but then they ended up stripping off to their pants (the 13 year old had a bikini on anyway) and getting soaking wet, such fun!! Toby does not like swimming/the sea/rivers so he just stood a bit away from the edge watching them, which suited me to be honest as whilst I trusted the 13 year old to watch Izzy, if Toby had been in the river too I would also have had to get in, and I much preferred chatting with my friend!

Yesterday, we went to the sea front for ice cream with Mum...

And then I took the children onto the beach. Izzy absolutely loved the sea and spent the whole time up to her knees in it (I wouldn't let her go in any deeper without me!), whereas this was the one and only time that Toby voluntarily got his feet wet - the rest of the time he & I sat close to the water's edge "chucking" stones in!

We have also been to the play park several times, as well as quite a bit of time spent in the garden. This weather makes it so much easier to avoid hearing the children (well, Izzy) saying "I'm bored...!" as there are so many places we can walk to when it's not raining!

I have also been eating more salads...

and bowls of yoghurt...

I made the most of Julian Grave's closing down 50% sale to stock up on a few goodies...

but when I opened the pack of chocolate covered pretzels yesterday, I then ended up eating the whole bag in one go rather than the few sprinkled on yoghurt that I'd planned, whoops! Liam and I are going to the cinema tomorrow night so I'm going to take a bag of chocolate popcorn with me to save some money - cinema snacks are such rip-offs!

Tonight I am off to the Body Pump class I first went to last week - looking forward to it! And then we have a busy day planned tomorrow (*hint* that first picture was a result of early birthday cake making!) so I'll be back after the weekend to tell you all about it.

Have a great weekend everyone! I've now got 20 minutes to clean up the kitchen before my Mum arrives to look after the kids, eek!! ;-)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

WIAW - Hot Weather, Cold Food

Hello! Happy What I Ate Wednesday! :)

I don't know about you, but I can't even think about eating hot food in this gorgeous weather. So this is the cold food edition of WIAW, my meals from Monday - the first day of the summer holidays, whoop whoop!

We started with a nice relaxed morning, and a delicious smoothie for breakfast. Izzy requested a fruity smoothie, so this one had banana, frozen strawberries, frozen raspberries, almond milk and a little agave. Topped with a coconut butter "shell", my first time eating coconut butter this way - so fun!

Eaten outside in the sunshine, the garden at the new house is perfect for this.

Lunch was also eaten outside, a salad of leftovers from the weekend - salad & coleslaw mix topped with a big blob of caramelised onion houmous. And water - luckily my body is naturally wanting to drink loads more water in this weather - so important.

Mid-afternoon I dug into my Wholefoods stash for a bag of popchips...

These were quite nice, but not my favourite. But to be fair, I'm not a big crisp person anyway. I also had an unpictured nectarine before lunch and some fresh pineapple after the popchips, summer = fresh fruit!

I tried to think of something that I wanted to cook for dinner, but in the end my salad cravings won again. This time topped with a nectarine, the last of the Pie d'Angloys cheese, and a drizzle of agave nectar...

This was fantastic - cheese & fruit is always a winner, and I adored the extra sweetness from the agave. I'm not normally such a salad eater, but I think it's more laziness than anything else - chopping salad veggies always seems like such a chore. I'd bought a couple of bags of mixed salad for my friend coming at the weekend, which made these salads extra easy, but I really must make the effort to have salads more often - so delicious.

Once Liam got home from work I went to the gym for a body pump class. This was my 3rd time trying out the new release. The previous Monday had been a bit rubbish as the instructor hadn't really known the routine - kept missing moves, referring back to the booklet etc. Then on Friday I went to Body Pump at a different gym, with a different instructor and it was fantastic! The instructor had so much energy, it was contagious. I upped my weights on all the tracks but didn't really feel it, her enthusiasm carried us all through. Then this Monday was back to the regular instructor, but better than the previous week. I kept my weights at the higher level and felt it a bit tougher than Friday but not too bad - still a really enjoyable class. I've decided to try to fit both Body Pump sessions into my week as often as possible. The Monday one suits me best as it is later and more local, but the Friday one is such a great class that I want to make the effort to get to it whenever I can. I also go to spinning on Tuesday which I've been really enjoying lately, and will go to Boot Camp on Thursdays on the days I can't make the Friday Body Pump - I only go to 3 evening classes a week otherwise it's a bit harsh on Liam always having to do the bedtime routine etc as soon as he gets in from work!

Phew, that can be the "fitness" part of today's WIAW post! I've been enjoying all my exercise a lot more lately which is great, but I do definitely prefer weights to cardio - one of the main plus points of spinning is that the 45 minute class flies by so quickly...I'm always surprised when the instructor starts getting us to stretch at the end of the class.

Anyway, back to Monday. After Body Pump I came home and ate a Happy Kitchen pecan brownie, but seemingly was too tired to take a photo. By the time I got home it was 9.30pm so I didn't really feel like having "proper" food, and these brownies are divine - so rich and chocolatey.

Do the things you eat tend to "match" the weather, ie cold foods in hot weather, warm foods when it's cold, or do you stick with the same sort of meals year round? I know a lot of people still eat salads in the winter, but I always find that I crave warm stodgy comfort foods when it's cold. Hot weather though, and I fancy lots of salad, fresh fruit and iced coffee! :)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sunny Weekend - Picnics and Parks

We have sunshine! :-D About time too!

We have made the most of the sun this weekend with lots of time spent in the garden, as well as a trip to the local woodland area (which was under water just 2 weeks ago!)

for a picnic...

Egg mayo sandwiches, pineapple and leftover cookies

and Izzy (trying to!) learn to to ride her bike...

They yesterday one of my teacher friends came to visit and we went into town for ice cream...

and a trip to the play park...

Hi Sarah! :)
Notice there are no children in this photo...Liam = big kid!! ;)
He likes to use Izzy as his excuse when possible though!

I have also been eating lots of summery foods. A delicious chocolate peanut smoothie in the garden one morning (just almond milk, peanut flour, cocoa powder, stevia and ice - we were out of bananas!)

and also lots of omelettes. I finally got round to buying a pan small enough to make omelettes in. The first day I was a bit overenthusiastic with my fillings - lots of stinky cheese and strawberries - it still tasted delicious but looked a bit of a mess!

The next time I just filled the omelette with some grated cheddar, then served it with strawberries and cucumber on the side...much neater!

Yum, looking at these photos, I think I'm going to go and make myself an omelette for lunch now! I also have an almost 6 year old nagging me that she's hungry, haha, I am loving the summer holidays so far (I didn't properly wake up until 9am this morning...bliss!!) but I will have to adjust to a slightly different routine with Izzy home. With Toby, he is very much a grazer so I don't need to worry about when we eat "lunch" as he has been snacking on fruit, yoghurt, toast etc all morning anyway. Whereas Izzy is used to having lunch at a set time at school each day so wants to stick to that!

Do you have your meals at the same time each day or do you just eat whenever you feel like it? Have you all spent lots of lovely time in the sunshine this weekend? Liam and I discovered that, whilst we have 3 (!!) new bottles of factor 50 suncream, we don't have any slightly lower ones for the adults - after all the rain we've had recently we haven't really needed it, but after this weekend we both have slightly pink shoulders, whoops, so need to get down to Boots today I think. I'm so careful with slathering the children in suncream regularly, but I need to take more care of myself too!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Who Put The Cookies In The Cookie Jar?

Ok, not quite the right words, but that's what Izzy & I did last night!

As usual, I had left things until the last minute and hadn't anticipated quite how long it would take to fill 7 jars with brownie/cookie mix, and label them etc...but we got there in the end!! Izzy helped me with the first 2 and then I finished them off once Izzy was in bed...finally finishing the last label just after midnight!!! I'm pleased with the final result though, luckily!

For Izzy's main teacher, we made a brownie mix in a jar - but using milk and white chocolate chips and no walnuts, and for the six teaching assistants we made chocolate chip cookie mix in a jar.

The jars themselves weren't actually too difficult to do (well, apart from the first jar which I turned into a "test batch" of cookies as I hadn't packed the layers tightly enough), but the labels took quite a long time. Luckily I have a graphic designer for a husband ;) so he made them for me and then I just had to write out the instructions...

Everyone seemed to really like them when we took them in this morning. Well, except perhaps the male teaching assistant. I hadn't wanted to single him out by getting him something different, and for all I'd known he might really like cooking. But after thanking me this morning, his next words were "so I just cook this like it is, I don't need to add anything?" and then he seemed a bit puzzled when I suggested an egg and some butter, haha, hopefully he has someone he can pass the jar onto to make cookies for him!!!

Izzy also spent the week making cards for her teacher and teaching assistants. I just bought her some packs of blank coloured cards and lots of stickers and then left her to it...

I especially loved all the messages she wrote inside...spelling mistakes make it cuter at this age right?!! Although I can't believe she's going to be 6 in less than 2 weeks, where on earth has that time gone?! I'm feeling old!!! ;)

I photoshopped the surname out of this one...she doesn't just call her teacher "Miss"!!

Izzy has been in the same class since she started school back in January 2010, so she has had the same teacher for the last 1.5 years. We've been so lucky that she has absolutely adored her teacher, and I think she has been the perfect person to help Izzy find her feet in school and grow some confidence. Although having said that, it was funny to see Izzy at the celebration evening on Wednesday - all the other children bounced up to the front of the room to shake hands with the head teacher no problem, whereas Izzy shuffled up nervously sucking the sleeve of her jumper, bless her, she's still my little girl!

Anyway, Izzy's teacher is going to work at a different site next year so Izzy won't see her very often. I was getting a bit tearful just talking to Izzy about it this morning so I imagine it's been quite an emotional day for them all today! We also bought her teacher a pretty scarf as Izzy wanted to give her a little something extra. No photo of the scarf, but I just love the wrapping paper...

Liam (aka the resident gift wrapper) thought I was slightly crazy when I asked him to try not to use the whole sheet of wrapping paper so I could save some. According to him it is not good wrapping paper at all as it is too thick and sellotape refuses to stick to the glittery butterflies. I still think it's pretty though!

Have you ever made or been given layered baking mixes in jars? Can you still remember your first teacher? I can't remember the name of my reception teacher, but I remember she was an older lady - I remember her curly grey hair and that she gave us all lots of cuddles! Izzy's teacher is much younger, but as she has a young daughter herself she is very good at being a second "Mum" as well as a teacher to them. I think at that age, when they are just starting school, that is quite a good thing - a bit of comfort to get them used to school routine, although she can also be strict when needed! As for the jar mixes...I really really hope they work! As I wrote, I did end up testing the cookies and they worked well, but the brownie mix is untested, eek! I'd be so embarrassed if they were a complete fail but hopefully, if that's the case, I'll never find out!!!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Week of Food...

Hello! Have you all had lovely weekends? It's been a good one here - a bit of shopping, a bit of sunbathing and lots of food! As it took me so long to write up my London posts, I've got a bit of a back-log of food photos on my camera, so these are my food highlights from the last week, apologies if the post ends up being quite random!!

A week ago I got a sudden craving for "Sunday roast" - even though I have never cooked a roast in my life! Best part of roast is the yorkshire puddings anyway, and meat-free burgers rounded out the meal!

The maple "roast" carrots were practically raw, oops, but it was still good!

My current favourite smoothie = frozen banana, almond milk and spiced chai powder...simple but delicious :)

A few weeks ago, Izzy went through a phase of clinging on to me when we got to school in the mornings, and bursting into tears when I finally managed to leave the classroom. There was no reason for her tears, I think it just became habit. Luckily a simple smiley-face chart sorted things out...

She now has 3 weeks full of smiley faces, and we have watched Enchanted every day since we bought it last weekend (Patrick Dempsey, swoon!!!)...looking forward to her next "gift day" as it will be the summer holidays, yey, 5 mornings to go!!

This is our current fridge door, thanks to recent purchases...

We switched to organic milk a couple of months ago, but I have started using almond milk in my smoothies, porridge etc...just can't quite give up cows milk when it comes to hot drinks...any non-dairy milks that definitely don't have the curdle factor?? And water filter = last week's purchase - even though this house is only round the corner from our old house, the water is totally different and foamy/full of grit, so a water filter was a necessary purchase...boring but essential!

I have been loving the summer fruit lately - lots of berries and nectarines have been eaten in this house. Mainly as they are, but also strawberries & stinky cheese on toast...

and Rachel's vanilla yoghurt with raspberries and crumbled biscuits as a late night post-body pump snack...

I've also received some lovely things in the post. After seeing Tamzin's post about coconut manna, I googled it and came across Vit Shop's website...

It is just the same as coconut butter but a lot cheaper...great find, thanks for the heads up Tamzin!

I also received a surprise parcel from Maria...so sweet, this brightened up my Monday morning! :)

I had the chocolate peppermint Luna bar before spin on Tuesday...

Really tasty and I love the speckled back...

Thanks again Maria! :)

On Friday, I managed to persuade Toby to sit in his pushchair long enough to go into town (much harder than it should be at the moment!!) and we went down to the one-day French market that was happening near the seafront...

I came home with a box of expensive, but delicious, baklava...love it!

I tried to show some self-restraint by only having half a piece at a time to start with, but the whole box had somehow "disappeared" within 24 hours of buying them! ;)

I went into Exeter today with my Mum and sister. We had brunch at the same place we went to on my birthday. Mum and I shared the vegetarian cooked breakfast, same as last time, and also the french toast which came with fresh fruit, maple syrup and walnut yoghurt...both delicious!

We also did a bit of shopping. I managed to pick up some new flip flops and also some black trainers for normal day-to-day wear. I still need to buy some new gym trainers but all the sports shop stopped at women size 8, and I need more like a 9 in trainers, so I couldn't find any I liked - I had shoe envy for all the pretty purple ones so none of the men's ones seemed as appealing! Plus even the mens' trainers that were long enough for me were still too narrow, boo, I think I might need to order them online so that I can buy ones that are sized by width too. Big, wide, flat feet = shoe shopping nightmare!!

And finally, in this very random post, I tried some of the vegetarian marshmallows I bought in Wholefoods this evening. They're not as chewy as gelatine marshmallows, but they are light and fluffy, and melt in the mouth!

I've made sure to save some to have toasted, and possibly even make smores - whenever I see smore-like recipes pop on blogs I wish I had access to vegetarian marshmallows, so I should really make the most of it!

Any random highlights from your week/weekend to share? What is the best thing you've eaten lately? Despite not appearing in the above photos, one of the best things I've eaten is lots and lots of asparagus - I've got through about 3 bunches this week, roasted and then topped with either poached eggs or halloumi, delicious! This evening's dinner was also amazing - white & sweet potato wedges baked with smoked paprika and topped with fried eggs...unfortunately the eggs broke as I was serving up, so I didn't take any photos, but the taste was still fantastic!
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