I am moving – please follow me ……

Well, the last six months have been amazing!!  and I’ve finally taken the plunge and am moving to a self hosted website – steep learning curve, lots of hair pulling and a bit of swearing last night, but it’s there.  It’s still got some rough edges and some things I need to sort out so please bear with me – advice and comments will be much appreciated – there, not here!

I would really love you to keep following my journey with Monkey, we have lots planned – loads of reviews to post, trips out, work with the RSPB and I’ve just discovered the Earth Trust – sound interesting?  Then please follow me at over …….

http://www.over40andamumtoone.com

I hope to see you there soon, and I really appreciate your support :)

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The Charcoal Challenge

We were recently given £50.00 by Money Supermarket.com to host a Barbecue as part of their Charcoal Challenge competition.

Shock horror – but we don’t actually own a BBQ!  We have a very small patio and limited space, so have never invested in our own piece of kit.  So the first thing to buy were a couple of disposable BBQ’s.  I’d used these before years ago so thought they’d be great for our first family BBQ.

Monkey was very excited about the whole idea and as a special treat we got his bubble machine out – he loved it when the bubbles soared into the sky along with the smoke from our BBQ.  I also bought him a bubble wand for him to have fun with whilst I cooked.  I could have got a lot more budget bargains on the meat front if we’d had a bigger party, but as this was our very first family BBQ I used the money to buy better quality burgers etc.

So we were all ready for our first family BBQ, the sun was out and I decided to make my own coleslaw.

I’m sure you can buy it cheaper, but I love to mix up my own whenever possible – grated carrot, white cabbage, spring onions and some mayonnaise (sometimes I add a bit of apple too).

We’ve been growing our own vegetables and I had a lot of rocket, so that was a great start for a healthy salad to go with our burgers, kebabs and lamb steaks.

I added avocado, onions, radish, cucumber, peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes and some croutons to the rocket leaves.

I’d bought some wooden skewers and decided to make some chicken kebabs, (next time I’ll marinate the chicken in something overnight for added flavour), I added some cherry tomatoes and red and yellow peppers.

I lit the two disposable BBQ’s, waited until the coals turned grey and we were off.

I’d sliced some mozzarella and tomatoes to go with the burgers ….

I also made use of some Fresh Gourmet crispy onions to top the burgers off.  They tasted wonderful.  As did the kebabs and minted lamb steaks.

I’d had a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge and decided that the chef had definately done enough to deserve a glass, Daddy P was on lemonade as he had to work last night, and Monkey had an Innocent Apple and Raspberry juice too.

For pudding, I scored down three bananas and pushed a Cadbury’s flake bar inside, covered in tin foil and placed on the BBQ for 20 minutes – divine (even for a not so keen on chocolate person as myself!).

www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com BBQ baked banana with chocolate flake

http://www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com BBQ baked banana with chocolate flake

I asked Monkey if he had enjoyed his first BBQ – Mummy it was delicious – that made my day :)

We ended the afternoon with lots of bubbles ….

We all really enjoyed our first family BBQ, and will be having another one very soon.  My top tip would be to prepare everything in advance and make sure the kids are entertained while they wait for everything to cook.

disclaimer:  we were sent £50 to spend on our family BBQ for this post

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#Magic Moments – a sleeping Monkey

My Magic Moment for this week is a nightly moment, a moment I treasure and one I would love to capture in a photograph but I’m always to worried about disturbing the moment.

Monkey is very good at going to bed, we brush his teeth, have a wash or bath and he picks his bedtime stories (there are always at least 2 books each night) and then I tell him his Monkey Story, give him and teddy a kiss goodnight and leave him to drift off to sleep.

He likes me to leave his door ajar, so I normally leave him for half hour and then pop upstairs and shut his door, before Brewster sets up came for the night.

I love looking at my little boy in dreamtime.  Fast asleep, arms tightly wrapped around his beloved teddy, sometimes curled up tightly in a ball, sometimes spread out on top of his duvet, sometimes legs hanging out all over the place, sometimes upside down.  I could stare at him for hours like that.  So peaceful and quiet, so still.

I look at him and wonder where his mind has taken him, what adventures he is having in dreamland.

A sleeping Monkey – my Magic Moment

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Fresh Gourmet – a new take on croutons and toppings

fresh gourmetI’m always one to try something new, although I’m certainly no Masterchef in the making!  I received a parcel a couple of weeks ago with some products from Fresh Gourmet – the number one brand of croutons and toppings in the USA, who are now launching in the UK.

I’ve only really ever used croutons with soup, and didn’t really fancy that idea with the weather we’ve been having lately, so I thought we’d try the Ciabatta Croutons with Basil Pesto first. I’d baked some salmon and added the croutons to a crispy side salad.

www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com Ciabatta Croutons - Basil Pesto

http://www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com Ciabatta Croutons – Basil Pesto

The croutons tasted wonderful, we all love pesto and basil and the flavours really come alive as you bite into the croutons.  They were a hit, and actually I quite like just munching them as a snack! I am longing to try them with a homemade tomato soup.

A few days later I decided to try the Cheese and Garlic Croutons and Lightly Salted Crispy Onions.

I baked some chicken thighs in the oven, which had been marinated in sweet chilli sauce, and added the croutons and crispy onions to the salad.

My Monkey son, aged 3 and half years particular loved the Cheese and Garlic croutons.  I think he’d have eaten the whole packet then and there.  They taste exactly as you would expect and as Monkey’s favourite thing ever is cheesy garlic bread you I just knew he’d like these.  I’m going to try them with a pasta bake next I think.  Think they’d taste really good with that kind of dish.

None of us were too keen on the onions, but we’re having a BBQ on Sunday so I’m going to try them again with a good old-fashioned burger and see what the taste team think then!

That just leaves the Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper Croutons for us to try, which I think we’ll probably have with an avocado salad to go with the BBQ on Sunday :)

disclaimer:  we were sent the products mentioned for the purpose of review, however our comments remain our own honest thoughts

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Photo of the week – Strawberry picking

We’ve been growing our own fruit and veg as you’ll all know, I needed to pick a photo of the week and decided on this one, taken of Monkey earlier this week, picking his own strawberries.

www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com Grow your own, pick your own

http://www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com Grow your own, pick your own

Linking up with Team Lloyd and Photo of the week.

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#CountryKids Fun in the Sun

We’ve spent most of our free time this week at home, in the garden, and specifically in the paddling pool!

So nice to finally get it out, pump it up and fill it with water, and on Monkey’s request, top it up with his ball pit balls.

Simple fun in the sun :)

Linking this post up to #Country Kids

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Any one for a curry tonight?

I don’t know about you but I love a good Indian curry, luckily Monkey seems to like them too.  Once a month some of my girl friends come over for the evening and we order an Indian delivery service – it’s my monthly treat, although I do cook my own curries too.

Always looking to try something new, I was rather pleased when these arrived on my doorstep recently!

www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com Sharwood's new Indian sauces

http://www.over40andamumtoone.wordpress.com Sharwood’s new Indian sauces

Sharwood’s launched 3 new Indian cooking sauces in April:

Vindaloo – a traditional fiery dish, blends tomatoes and onions with chillies for a spicy sauce that is not for the faint of heart.

Dopiaza – a dark, savoury curry characterised by spicy onions in a rich tomato base

Butter Chicken – a mild, creamy curry mixed with the perfect blend of spices

I thought we’d try Butter Chicken tonight, something I’ve never eaten before as I normally go for a medium strength curry.

I cut up some chicken, red and yellow peppers and mushrooms (I know, not very Indian, but I’m addicted to them) and cooked through in a pan on the hob for a few minutes with a drop of olive oil.

I then added the Butter Chicken sauce and simmered until the chicken was cooked through. Then served with steamed rice (we all love brown rice so I used that) and poppadums.

What did we think?  The sauce was lovely and creamy with a hint of cardamom.  I was concerned that it would be too mild for me, but actually I was pleasantly surprised.  It was very easy to use so great if you want a quick fix meal after a busy day.  Daddy P likes mild curries so it got a thumbs up from him.  What did Monkey think ??

He loved it – so we’ll definately be eating Sharwood’s Butter Chicken again.

I look forward to trying out the Dopiaza sauce soon as that sounds just my sort of thing.  I am passing the Vindaloo to a friend to try out, who is far braver than me – I know my limits!

The three sauces mentioned are available in all major supermarkets and have an RRP of £1.69 (2013 price).

disclaimer:  we were sent the sauces for the purpose of review, our comments though, remain our own honest thoughts.

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Sunshine and Snowballs / Goodnight Little One – Book Buddies Review for Parragon Books

We are thrilled to be a part of the Book Buddies team working with Parragon Books.

Yes, I think you all know by now that Monkey and I have a slight obsession for books, I’m seriously thinking that our spare room is going to have to become Monkey’s own personal library – but I can’t think of anything better to be surrounded by than good, quality books.

This bring me nicely on to our first delivery of two wonderful books from Parragon Books – firstly Sunshine and Snowballs written by Margaret Wise Brown and cleverly illustrated by Charlotte Cooke.

Through the wonderfully illustrated 32 pages of this paperback you follow two young children, a boy and a girl, on their journey through the seasons. My Monkey 3 and half year old son was captivated from the very first page.

We talk about the season a lot already as we grow our own vegetables and are keen nature watchers, so this book was great for building on our experiences and having discussions following on from the simple story text and great drawings.

As we read through the seasons, we saw the changes in weather and also followed the animals – for example in summer we could see lots of insects enjoying the warm weather with the children.

The illustrations really bring this book to life – Monkey hasn’t really seen any lightning yet, but this book showed him what to expect ……

We both enjoyed reading this book, the text is so descriptive but short and simple, so great for younger children. Priced at £5.99 (2013 price) I would say that this is great value for money and would certainly recommend.

We had great expectations for our second book, as we’d enjoyed the first so much.  I’d deliberately saved it for bedtime ….

….. Goodnight Little One is written by Margaret Wise Brown (I am now a big fan) and illustrated by Rebecca Elliott.

This 32 page paperback book shows us a variety of animals as they settle down to sleep for the night.  The rhyming text is simple but effective and the softly painted illustrations give you a warm, comforting feeling.  I love this book, there is something quite magical about it.  It is the perfect book to read at bedtime.

Monkey sat patiently in bed while I read the story and we talked about each animal in turn, where they lived and the noises they make as we followed them on their journey to the land of Nod.

I’m a sucker for great illustrations, these really work so well, with the beautifully written story.  Priced at £5.99 (2013 price) I would also recommend this book and am now off in search of other books by this author!

 

disclaimer:  we were sent these books for the purpose of review, our comments however, remain our own honest thoughts

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RSPB – Giving Nature a Home

RSPB - Giving Nature a Home

RSPB – Giving Nature a Home

I am so thrilled that Monkey and I are going to be working with the RSPB on an ongoing basis, talking about their campaigns and sharing some of their ideas on things we can all do to bring nature into our gardens and balconies.

By now any reader of my blog will know I have an interest in nature, thanks in a large part to my Dad who has recently been given the title of Guru Gramps during our Caterpillar diary posts here.

When we were young we had a large aviary in our garden housing 2 beautiful Macaws, we also had Mynah Birds, an African Grey Parrot and a Cockatoo (he loved my little shiny red shoes and used to chase me around the garden – I wasn’t so keen on him!).  Anyway, my appreciation of birds began at an early age. Now I’m doing my best to share my love of nature with my Monkey son.  I’m no expert, I don’t pretend to be, so this is a learning process for me too.

Last month the RSPB launched the Giving Nature a Home campaign to raise awareness of the housing crisis faced by the UK’s threatened wildlife.

Giving Nature a Home will urge the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces.

The RSPB are hoping that this campaign will encourage us to create a million new home for nature – you can find out more about how you can help here with the Giving Nature a Home Starter Guide- it’s free!

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines.  Gardens provide a valuable lifeline for species like Starlings, Toads, Hedgehogs and Butterflies, which are struggling to find homes in the wider countryside.

I know myself, that I don’t see half the number of butterflies in my garden, that I saw growing up, the varieties of birds are definately dropping when I do the annual birdwatch.

So, you might ask – what are Monkey and I doing to give nature a home?  Well, firstly, we installed an Insect Hotel a while back (still waiting for our first guests) and we’re going to be making a Beetle Bucket over the school holidays, hopefully a mini-pond (got to work on Daddy P on that one) and will also be making some bird cake and a recycled bird feeder to entice our feathered friends to have a snack in our garden.

So, join in with the Giving Nature a Home campaign, and join us on our journey too over the coming weeks and months.

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Jump Up and Join In – Reading, Music, Singing and soon to be an App

Earlier this week Monkey and I were invited to London by Egmont to meet Carrie and David Grant, and to hear about Jump Up and Join In – otherwise known as #juji.

JUJI

Based on six energetic picture books, JUJI is about making music, jumping up and joining in.

I was rather excited about this invitation on a number of levels – firstly, I am passionate about books, so to actually go to a book publisher’s was like walking into heaven, secondly I can remember David being in Linx and I have some of his 7″ singles (I was very good though and didn’t do the groupie thing and ask him to sign them!), thirdly, I love the idea of getting children interested in music, real music, from an early age and finally, I am trying to be less of a techno dinosaur and was looking forward to Monkey and I learning about the juji App which is being launched on Monday 15th July 2013.

When Carrie and David started talking about the juji concept (aimed at 4-8 year olds), it was so obvious that they both have a passion for music (obviously with their careers) but that they were also passionate about bringing real music to younger children.

The juji series of books is a great way of introducing children to music in a variety of ways – through reading the book itself, through listening to the accompanying CD, through making an instrument (easy to follow instructions are in each book), right through to the new App which will they previewed for us, which, as I said earlier, will be released on Monday for Apple applications (more to follow soon, hopefully).  I was hooked from the start, and Monkey loved the book that they read through – Lion’s Speedy Sauce.

The preview of the JUJI App was Monkey and I’s first experience of App’s (I know – how old am I!), I avoided letting him anywhere near computer games, he’s 3 and half years old, I’m not interested in him learning how to zapp bananas to win treasure chests!  But, I know who Carrie and David Grant are, I know what they’ve done in the past and I love the idea that this App is actually going to teach him something constructive, whilst he’s having fun.  I was very interested to see how Monkey reacted to it all.

The App, very clearly follows the storybook, in this case Lion is learning to play the Bongo’s at different speeds – you can join in, and win star’s for your performance, you can record yourself singing (this is optional) and then capture a photo of yourself, choice an outfit and join Carrie and David singing the catchy song.

It’s very simple (great for me!) so easy for younger children to pick up, Monkey loved picking different outfits and hairstyles (wasn’t so keen on having his photo taken) and I was impressed by how quickly he grasped what needed to be done.

I’m really looking forward to trying this App out at home soon and will let you all know how we both get on.

We were very kindly given a copy of the juji book and CD – Elephant’s Birthday Bells which I will review separately (but I do have to say I was really chuffed to find that David and Carrie had both signed our copy – still a groupie, sorry, can’t be helped!).

We have a lovely afternoon, we both learnt something new and are looking forward to sharing more about the JUJI series with you.  For now, you can like the JUJI Facebook page here.

Thanks to Egmont for our invitation, and to Carrie and David Grant for sharing their passion for music and learning with young children.

Posted in Family life, Out and About, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments