Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Quick sticky chicken recipe


If you’re after a quick and tasty Chinese takeaway alternative this recipe is just the ticket! Although some fussier children might be put off by the pak choi, the chicken and rice should be enjoyed by most. 

You could add peas to the rice if you like, skip out the chilli if your children only enjoy mild flavours, or try a different side vegetable.

Sticky chicken dinner


Ingredients: 
·         5tbsp hoisin sauce
·         1tbsp each soy sauce and sunflower oil
·         2 garlic cloves, crushed
·         1tbsp grated root ginger
·         4 skinless free-range chicken breasts
·         200g (7oz) basmati rice
·         1 free-range egg, beaten and seasoned
·         handful coriander leaves, chopped
·         2 spring onions, finely sliced
·         1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
·         Pack of pak choi

1.Mix the hoisin, soy, garlic oil and ginger in a bowl, and leave teh chicken to marinate in it for about 20 minutes, before putting in the oven at 200c or 180c fan, 400F gas 6 on a foil lined baking tray.
2. Meanwhile you can be preparing the rice and pak choi. Steam the pak choi as it is for about 5-10 minutes, or stir fry for around 2 minutes. You could cut it in half to cook more quickly.
3.Heat a small pan with oil, and fry a beaten egg. Cook on both sides then cut into strips.
4.Boil your rice as normal. When cooked, add the sliced spring onions, chilli, coriander and your fried egg strips.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Re-decorating Jack’s bedroom


Anyone with a teenager will know how much of their time is spent in their bedroom – it’s an age when kids start needing their own space, and value having a nicely decorated bedroom of their own.

It’s time to re-decorate Jack’s room, and of course it’s important to consider the way he wants it to look as he will be the one spending the most time in it. However, it is still a room in mine and Tim’s house, and we want it to fit with our tastes and the d├ęcor of our home.

Generally, teenagers will be happy to get a new look for their room since leaving childhood behind, and will want something that reflects their current interests. We have discussed our initial ideas with Jack, and he seemed pretty hell-bent on a dark colour scheme. We really aren't keen on this, and feel he would want the walls re-painted again pretty swiftly.

Teenage boy's bedroom design


I decided to find some great pictures on-line of rooms that I like which I think Jack would to. Luckily we all like the room pictured and are going to take some inspiration from it. Whilst there are some darker areas, they don't overwhelm the room and the main colour is white.

However, this has resulted in a new contentious issue – Jack loves the sofa (above), but we don’t want to spend that quantity of money on his room re-decoration. Teenagers! At least we have him off the idea of brown walls though.

If handled in the right way, re-decorating a bedroom together can be a good opportunity to bond and spend some quality time with your teenager.

Has your teenager’s room re-decoration gone smoothly? How did you handle any conflict? 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Busy mums: my guide to being practical but looking great



It can be really difficult to adjust to a changing style once you become a mum. Once upon a time I wore heels everyday with my smart, sharp work wear wardrobe, but now said heels are reserved for meals out and special occasions only!

Pretty flat shoes


As a mother you are constantly rushing round so need to make comfortable wardrobe choices, and perhaps don’t have the figure you once did since going through childbirth. These are my pointers for developing a chic mummy style:


Colour choices:

Whilst white jeans might not be a sensible option anymore, this is no excuse for choosing dowdy colours. Even a simple t-shirt will make you stand out more if you choose it in a flattering colour for your skin tone.


Tunics/ shirtdresses:

There is no need to wear jeans every day – certain dress styles can be comfortable, practical and stylish to. A simple shirtdress can be smartened up with heels for the evening, or worn with flats in the day, and the style suits most body types. A tunic-style dress or top is flattering for those with a mummy tummy.

Shoes: 

You might not be able to wear your heels all the time, but that needn't mean settling for scruffy trainers. Try pretty ballet pumps in summer and stylish ankle boots in Winter - both options look great paired with jeans or a dress and tights.


Jewellery:

Putting some earrings in or a bracelet on takes seconds, but will help make your outfit look carefully put together.


Handbag:

A large handbag with lots of useful compartments will be essential to you when taking your kids out for the day. Luckily there are plenty of stylish ones available on the high street.


Perfecting a 5-minute make-up routine:

You can look polished in a short amount of time if you perfect a clever make-up routine. Choose hard-wearing products, and spend a bit of extra money to buy a few key essentials that really work. A great tinted moisturiser, touch of blusher and flattering lipstick are quick to apply but freshen up a tired face.


Beautiful hair:

You might not have the time to blow-dry your hair every morning, but this needn’t mean it has to look a mess. Get a hair-cut that requires less maintenance, and choose hair products that can be put in the hair and left to dry naturally. 


Dry hair shampoo will be your best friend, and can freshen up your hair before you put it in a quick up-do. Using styling tools less frequently will mean your hair is shinier and undamaged. What a bonus!



It’s easier for me now my children are a little older, but when I first became a mother these are the key approaches to style that I took, and I have been developing a fuss-free approach to fashion ever since. Have you got any more great tips for busy mummys?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Video Games: Do you know what your teenager is playing?



Courtesy of Shutterstock, FireFish45 photostream

Jack went to his friend’s house after school last night, where he told me he was playing the latest ‘Call of Duty’ game. This is one I have heard one of my friends mention before as she is unhappy about her son playing it, so I took a look into what the game involved online.

I found that ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II’ is a very violent first-person shooter game, involving intense torture scenes, strong language and drug references. The player takes part in graphic combat, with a lot of intense, gory parts. The game seems to glorify military conflict, and while the player is mostly cast in the role of the good guy, they also take on the villains’ role in a couple of scenes, giving them the opportunity to do evil.

While I appreciate that this isa game and something that Jack and his friends don’t take seriously  (as Jack keeps pointing out to me with a lot of eye rolling!), I can’t help but feel that this is not a subject matter that should be taken lightly and played by children.

When Jack’s friends are allowed to play the game by their parents however, it makes it difficult for me to say no. Naturally, he wants the game for his up-coming birthday, and keeps nagging me for it. He can play it at his friend’s house without me knowing, so I have to wonder whether there is any point in me fighting with him over him having his own copy.

How have you dealt with your children’s interest in violent video games? Is it something you worry about, or do you think that there is no point stressing over what is essentially ‘just a game’? Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Our long weekend in Dartmoor


We came back from our little holiday in Dartmoor on Sunday night, having had a lovely time! There’s some really great days out for families around Dartmoor, and apart from a bit of rain the weather really wasn't too bad. Tim took the Friday off work, so it was a nice break for him, and a chance for the family to spend some quality time together.

We love Devon and have spent some wonderful holidays there. Here is our pick of days out around the Dartmoor area:

Pennywell Farm

This is a great day out for small children especially, and we used to take Jack a lot when he was younger. There are various farmyard animals to feed, Lucy is a fan of the miniature pigs in particular! There’s a little railway, bouncy castle, go-carts and bowling. If you go during the school holidays there’s entertainers and activities on as well, so plenty to keep your kids occupied for the day. The farm is near Buckfastleigh. You should be able to find their website for directions.

Lucy stroking goats at a petting zoo

South Devon Railway

Most kids enjoy the novelty of travelling on a steam train, and even Jack can muster up a bit of excitement for this one.
The line goes through some really scenic countryside. We usually stop at Buckfastleigh for a picnic, and there’s a play area there for Lucy, and a museum to look around.
We have a little walk along the river as well when we’re there in better weather. There is a Buckfast butterfly farm near the train station in Buckfastleigh which we have enjoyed in the past. There was no dragging jack there this time though!

South Devon steam train


Tavistock Music and Arts Festival

Unfortunately we came home a few days before it started this year, but have been in the past and there is all sorts going on – creative writing workshops, theatre productions, film and folk evenings. It’s a shame we missed out this year, but it's worth checking out if you’re in the area any time in the next six weeks.


There are lots of lovely tea shops to visit and nice walks to do in Dartmoor and the surrounding areas if you are looking for a relaxing time, rather than a lot of busy day trips. Past highlights have also included llama walking – a pretty funny day if your kids love animals!

We always find something new to do, we recommend it as a great family holiday. Has your family enjoyed many holidays in Devon? Are there any highlights you think I've missed?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Making long car journeys with your kids a little more bearable...

Do you find it hard to keep your children entertained on long car journeys? We have a long weekend in Devon planned for the end of the kids Easter holidays, but Lucy can find it difficult being cooped up in the car for so long.

A-Z of Animals Car Games

There are a number of ways we have found to keep the kids calm and quiet on long journeys – when Jack was younger we would bring books, as long as he didn’t get too car sick, or treat him to some sweets. Another great way to keep them engaged and their minds off the journey is with car games. 



Here is my pick of the best ones:


Animal A-Z 

This is a fun game for young children. Taking it in turns, each person must name an animal beginning with the last letter of the previous animal named. Make it harder by only allowing each animal to be named once.

We all Went Shopping 

This is a fun memory game that can get tricky after a little while. Everyone in the car can join in (except perhaps the driver!) The first person says an item they bought on an imaginary shopping trip, then the next person memorises this and adds an item of their own. 

The game continues like this, taking it in turns to add a further item each time whilst recounting the previous ones, until somebody gets the list wrong. At this point they are out of the game, and it continues until there is just one person left who remembers the whole list.

Hangman

I think we all know how to play this one! Hangman can be a useful game for the car – all you need is a scrap of paper and pen, and it can keep your kids busy for a while.

Arms and Legs 

This is a bit more of an unusual game. One side of car vs the other. Looking out of the window, your family counts the amount of arms and legs in pub names on their side of the road - for example ‘The Red Lion’ has four legs.
This is really for residential areas rather than motorways!


I hope that there’s some ideas here to make your next journey with kids a little less painful! Let me know if you have any suggestions of your own, or car games that are particularly popular with your kids.




Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Film Review: The Croods

Nicholas Cage and Emma Stone, The Croods premiere
Emma Stone & Nicholas Cage, The Croods premiere,
cinemafestival / Shutterstock.com


We decided to have a family trip to the cinema on Saturday. It’s often hard to find something that both Lucy and Jack want to do, but Jack agreed to go along to see ‘The Croods’, as Lucy was so excited about it, and Emma Stone is one of his favourite actresses.

The premise


The film’s heroine is Emma Stone’s character, feisty teenager Eep. Set in prehistoric times, the cave-man family includes over-protective father Grug (Nicholas cage), mother Ugga (Catherine Keener) and siblings: Thunk and Sandy.

Grug wants the family to spend most of their time in the safety of their cave, but Eep wants to explore the world. When she sneaks out one night, meets Guy (voiced by Ryan Reyolds) who warns her that the world as they know it is about to end. Guy helps the family flee to the mountains, while Grug protects them along the way. 

The film is an excellent lesson in the importance of family, and working together to overcome all challenges, despite any differences you may have. It shows the positives of change and experiencing adventures together, which are all nice messages for our children to see in a film.

Was it child-friendly?


The Croods is suitable for all the family, but Lucy did find some parts a little scary – I would suggest that a child under six or a particularly sensitive child may find some parts frightening. The film does deal with some pretty heavy themes – the threat of death and danger, and worries about the end of the world. But this is done in such a way that children won’t find it too upsetting, and the survival of the whole family of course results in a happy ending.

Was it any good?


The film is visually bold, but the storytelling is obvious and un-imaginative, which lets it down a little. However, it’s fast-paced and funny enough to make it enjoyable enough to accept these flaws, and young children especially won’t be so over-familiar with the style of storytelling.

Overall, the film was a fun and action-packed adventure, watchable for all of us. There were enough amusing moments to keep parents and older children entertained. It wasn’t breaking any new ground, but was an enjoyable enough way for us all to spend an afternoon together.

Have you and your family been to see The Croogs yet? Let me know what you think!