Monday, 30 July 2012

Mixed Fish Pie - easier than I thought!

One of my childrens favourite meals is fish pie but I tend to buy a ready made version rather than make it myself.  Last week I thought I would make it from scratch and it was easier than I thought.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

400g white fish fillet
400g smoked haddock
300g prawns
(NB I bought a mixed fish pack of fresh fish containing haddock,cod, salmon and prawns from my local supermarket and added extra prawns for ease)
600ml full fat milk
1 onion (chopped)
4 eggs
100g butter
50g plain flour
1 large bag (approx 1kg) of potatoes (peeled and cut into small chunks)
50g cheese (grated)
Fresh parsley (finely chopped)

Step 1)
Pre heat the oven to 200c or gas mark 6. Poach the fish by placing in a large frying pan and adding approx 500 ml of your 600ml of full fat milk. Add the chopped onion and bring to just before the boil when there are a few bubbles starting to rise in the milk but before it is bubbling fast.

Reduce the heat and allow the fish to simmer in the milk for approx 7 - 8 minutes then remove the fish and place the remaining milk from the frying pan into a jug to cool down (this will be needed again in step 3).  Once the fish is cooled gently break or 'flake' the fish into large pieces and place into an ovenproof baking dish.

Step 2
Hardboil the eggs by placing into a pan of boiling water ( best in a 'rolling heat' when the bubbles are rapidly forming in the water.  This will take approx 5 minutes to hard boil the eggs then remove from the pan and allow to cool (you can also place the boiled eggs into a pan of cold water to cool quicker) Once cooled sliced the eggs.  Place the sliced egg over the top of the fish in the baking dish and sprinkly finely chopped parsley over the top)

Step 3 (The sauce)
This is the part I thought would be tricky but was surprisingly easy. Melt half the butter (50g) in a saucepan, add the flour and cook gently over a moderate heat for 1 minute.  The mix will be quite sticky and in my opinion was reminiscent of damp dough.  Remove the mix from the heat and gradually add in the milk left over from poaching the fish.  Mix until the sauce forms a smooth paste then return to the heat and heat for about 5 minutes or until the sauce is thicken enough in consistency to cover the back of a spoon. Pour the sauce over the fish mixture in the baking dish.

Step 4)
Place the fish mix into the pre-heated oven. Whilst this is baking boil the peeled and chunked potatoes rapidly for approx 20 minutes or until soft enough to place a knife easily through the potato.  Drain and mash using the remaining butter and the remaining 100 ml of milk not used in step 1.  Remove the fish pie mix from the oven and taken care not to burn yourself top the mix with the mashed potato using a fork to fluff the top.  Cover with the grated cheese and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

This was absolutely delicious and as mentioned so much easier than I thought to make. No more pre made fish pie for us!

fish pie, recipe, easy, ingredients, step by step, family meals, fish

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Silent Sunday

Plum Taste Adventures - our thoughts

Plum new Taste Adventures Mediterranean Paella and salmon

As Little Man is now 21 months old I don't really buy much baby or toddler food anymore but find it handy to keep one or two in the cupboard for days when we are eating something that he can't or wont eat. I find it difficult to find food that is chunky enough for a toddler and struggle even more to find one that does not contain meat.  

Little Man eats fish so I was happy to try a sample of the new Plum Taste Adventures range (the only one in the new range that is fish and not meat based sadly) Mediterranean Paella with salmon contains organic ingredients and is classified as Stage 3 - from 10 months of age according to the box.

I have to say I was put off as soon as I opened the sealed lid to heat it as stuck to the lid and the bottom of the container when emptied was a quite greasy orange staining.  I appreciate this is probably quite normal and to be expected in food that is made for a longer shelf life in an ambient atmosphere but it reminded me of the oil from some pasta sauce jars.  I have seen this before in baby foods and so made sure I gave the food a good stir before heating.

The food smelt nice when heated and yes I did try some to see if it tasted nice as well (oh come on I can't be the only one that has done this!) and it was surprisingly appetising when I tasted it.  I could taste the salmon but it wasn't at all overpowering and the whole recipe had a 'fresh' taste to it rather than a strong fish taste.

Little Man was eager to try his new taste adventure and didn't seem at all fazed by the new flavours.  He finished the whole meal and seemed more than happy. The consistency of the meal was chunky and I did feel well described as from a feeding age of 10 months but in my opinion the portion size was not really big enough for a hungry toddler. There is a Stage 4 range that is designed for toddlers in the Plum range. This in mind I would keep one in the cupboard for when I needed an alternative to the meal we are eating as a family.

As the Taste Adventures is the newest in the Plum range I was really disappointed to find that it is the only fish based recipe and that there are no vegetarian recipes in the Taste Adventures range.  I feel that this is missing a huge opportunity and when there are so many vegetarian meals in the younger stages of weaning it seems strange not to continue this onto the older range stages.

Little Man enjoyed the meal but I was off put by the orange 'staining' in the pot and lid and sad no vegetarian meals in the Taste Adventures range.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Dear Ikea - whats happened?

Dear Ikea,

I recently visited one of your stores.  I haven't been in a long time but was passing and the whim took me.  I have always loved the fact that the meals are well priced and offer children sized meals at reduced prices.  Food is good and usually enjoyed by the whole family.

So whats happened Ikea?  Where are your childrens meals?  Meals cheaper with a Ikea Family card - come on I have so many 'reward' cards in my purse I can barely close it.  I was really disappointed that I could no longer buy a childrens sized meal of fish, chips and peas and had to buy (and pay) adult prices.

As Little Man does not eat meat (but does eat fish) I looked at the childrens menu with dismay.  Then I spied the organic pancakes with spinach and cheese only to find the wording underneath of made with animal rennet or words to that effect - argh!  There was free babyfood on offer if I spent over a certain amount but it was pouches designed really for smaller babies rather than toddlers.

So with our tummies rumbling I ended up buying 2 adult fish and chips for the older children (which was too big a portion to be honest) and scraping the peas off their plates into a bowl for Little Man along with some of their fish. His highchair may say Family Friendly but I didn't feel that was the case.

Whats happened to child meals and great prices without having to carry a Ikea Family Card?  The only bonus was that the drinks now have free refills.  No longer will Ikea be a food option for non-meat eating children that parents don't want to carry yet another reward card in the chance they may visit your stores - huff!


A non-card carrying parent with hungry children.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Next Mummy Blogger event - AW12 collection

Next launches their new Autumn/Winter 2012 collection

I recently was asked to attend the Next Autumn/Winter 2012 collection Mummy Blogger event and have a first hand look at what will be in Next stores for the forthcoming season.

The AW12 collection has some items featuring bang on trends such as the Rookie range with its gingham shirts and chinos in a sumptuous autumnal colours of burgundy, yellow and orange  that is the Varsity retro look that is so popular right now.  I know at the last Next event I moaned a little (ok a lot) about the fact that older boys clothes were not as colorful as the  younger boys range but this year that is so different and the colour is evident throughout the age ranges which really pleased me.

The Explorer and Little Explorer range gives boys aged 3 - 16 years clothes that are inspired by the great outdoors. I loved the Aztec motifs and the knitwear was chunky and you see just how warm it will keep the little ones when this sudden warm spell breaks. 

The Little Explorer range had some rather stylish quilted jackets and flannel shirts so you can layer up, keep warm and still look cute.

AW12, collection, clothes, childrens clothes, Next, Autumn/winter 2012, next bloggers event

For girls there were some gorgeous zebra and horse prints in the Arthouse story range that I would love to see for us 'grown up girls'. In both monochrome and luscious ochre tones these pieces I am sure will be very much the 'in look' this Autumn/Winter.

The Wild Bunch which features the 'kooky' look I love with easy to wear vintage look denim that can be mixed with knitted jumpers and long sleeved tops. My Daughter fell in love with the corded longer lengths boots shown in the photos below (As well as Burgandy they also comes in blue I am told).  I really like the mix and match look that allows you to combine and define your own style.  Having a teenager I know having an up to date look that I also find practical can be hard sometimes but I know there are so many items in The Wild Bunch that we both agree on (makes shopping for and with a teenager so much easier!)

I also learned that the Next childrens range goes right up to age 16 but that not many stores stock further than age 12 so it is well worth buying online for older childrens sizes.

AW12, collection, clothes, childrens clothes, Next, Autumn/winter 2012, next bloggers event

The event itself was, as always, a fantastic.  Not only did I get to see the collection first hand but was also treated to some relaxing pampering of my own with a manicure, threading and a massage.  The children were thoroughly entertained with a bouncy castle and childrens entertainment all day.

AW12, collection, clothes, childrens clothes, Next, Autumn/winter 2012, next bloggers event

Next kindly supplied us with a giftcard so we could buy our favourite outfit from the AW12 collection to wear to the event.  There was a lovely photographer there to take the childrens photos in their outfits, which in Little Mans case, wasn't the easiest task. 

Thomas the Tank Engine saved the day and kept him still for his photo shoot. So tough being the centre of attention!!

AW12, collection, clothes, childrens clothes, Next, Autumn/winter 2012, next bloggers event

We had a fantastic day and my sincere thanks go to Next for inviting us.

I received a giftcard and goody bag as well as a thoroughly good day out. I was not paid to write this post and the comments are my personal opinions on the Next Autumn Winter collection 2012.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Entertaining the children during school holidays on a budget

I don't need to tell you I'm sure that the school holidays are due to start for many of us at the end of this week.  6/7 weeks of lie ins, no having to make packed lunches or having to drive - yeah right!

In our house lie ins don't happen (Little Man sees to that) that the only time the older children want to lay in is on a school day!  So in order to see through the school holidays without breaking the bank I have put together a (sort of) plan of action of entertainment that helps keeps costs down.

Local library:
Many local libraries have craft or play sessions on during the holidays that are free or very good value for money.  I found a list of events for our library on our local Council website.

Money Saving Expert
For those of you not familiar with the Money Saving Expert website it is holds a wealth of information about saving money from vouchers to cheap days out.  There are some really good deals on cinema tickets over the holidays where some showings (check the website link above for details) are as cheap as £1.50 per ticket.  There are also details on Theme Park ticket deals.

Free Swimming sessions
British Gas are offering free swimming sessions for all.  The offer ends on the 30th August 2012 but well worth taking a look at the website for details of whats available at over 700 pools across the Country.

Nature trail
This one is weather dependent but with good weather promised this may come in handy.  I make a 'nature shopping list' of items to find or spot on a walk, a branch in a shape of a 'y', a feather etc.  Give each child a copy of the list and a pen to tick each item off as they find it.  Cheap and cheerful idea and the list keeps tiring legs motivated.

Arts and Crafts
I may not be an expert in this field but in a recent post about entertaining on a toddler on rainy days we tried potato printing, finger painting etc.  I great source of inspiration is Red Ted Arts blog for arty ideas and a section on free printables to use.  Invest in some crayons, coloured pencils, chalks and get stuck in with the children to create a masterpiece.

The local park
Most of us are lucky enough to have a local park somewhere near us.  Either the sort with swings or just a football pitch and some goals but either way a great FREE way to allow the children to burn off some energy.

So Wimbledon may be over but tennis is still a great way of having fun.  Tennis for Free is a website that has a searchable list for free tennis courts in the UK as well as a coaching finder for courses.

So there's a few to get started with and as I find more I will add them to the lists.  School holidays on a budget is possible and will be my goal til September for sure.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

LEGO® Batman™ 2: DC Super Heroes for XBox 360 - our thoughts

LEGO® Batman™ 2: DC Super Heroes sees the return of the duo, Batman & Robin, in the sequel to the best-selling LEGO® game of all time, which to date has sold 11m plus units worldwide. 

This time the Dynamic Duo join forces with other famous DC super heroes including Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern to stop the notorious villains Lex Luthor and The Joker from destroying Gotham City.   Batman fans of all ages will enjoy a new and original story filled with classic LEGO video game action and humour as players fight to put the bad guys back behind bars. 

The new Lego Batman game was highly anticipated in this house to after I had a preview of it when I attended the Warner Brothers Bloggers event.  We all love the Lego characters format and have quite a few previous game collaborations which have been played over and over.

video game, Batman, Lego, Xbox game, review, Batman 2, DC Super Heroes, Warner Brothers

Play alone or in co-op mode (perfect when you need a little helping hand with the game) the game is full of places to explore around Gotham City whilst you solve puzzles, battle the Batman Villains such as The Joker,  create and ride in the Batmobile and challenge new levels to reveal new suits for the duo to wear in their pursuit of good.  

With a real movie feel to the game, LEGO® Batman™ 2: DC Super Heroes soon has you engrossed.  The soundtrack is fabulous and the graphics superb.  We loved the whole concept of creating objects for use in the game using Lego blocks - genius!  In this new game the most noticeable difference to previous games is the addition of voices to the characters which really does add a new element.

Even though there is a battle element to the game play, the characters are Lego so it is not realistic violence as the characters pieces simply fall apart as any Lego creation would.  Parents and children will find a lot to like in this game and the co -op function means the game is accessible to any age player as Mum or Dad can jump in any help when the going gets tough.

video game, Batman, Lego, Xbox game, review, Batman 2, DC Super Heroes, Warner Brothers

We did get stuck on one mission for quite a considerable time and this did become a little frustrating.  A 'hint' button' that could be used, say 3 times in the game, would come in handy in my opinion as you can go round and round in circles for ages trying to solve a challenge (Or perhaps that is just my lack of game playing skills!). There are reasonably spaced check points for saving the game for another time.

Great family lego coin collecting fun!

Review disclosure

It's that damned email - again!

Every month the email that always gets me feeling a little down drops into my inbox.  It's my own fault for subscribing... it seemed harmless at the time.

You probable signed up for the same update yourself when you were pregnant or a new parent and at the time it was an exciting way to see what was happening to the life held safely within me.  Each week it would tell me how big my developing baby was, what it might be doing and how I should be feeling.  Comforting at times the email has now become one that fills me with sadness.

"Dear Lou, your baby is now 21 months old" .... Yes I know!!  Please stop reminding me.  Every day I see how  Little Man is becoming a little boy, progressing from my newborn to a baby and now hurtling through toddler hood at a rate I would rather he didn't.

I don't want to hinder him, in fact I relish how he is learning and the things he is discovering but it is all going TOO FAST!  I love newborn babies (no I won't be having another so I can have another) I even love toddlers (the tantrum phase can be very hard don't get me wrong) but every time Boots Parenting Club or Pampers sends me my reminder email I always curse and delete it without reading any further than the your baby is now so and so months.  Stupid really as it would be so much easier to unsubscribe and save me the anguish each month but no I hit delete and go through it again the next month.

Don't get me wrong, Little Man is an absolute joy and I love the way he imitates us with his version of the word 'Thank you' when he gives us something or waves to every one of us when he is going to bed or how he tries to say 'Hello' when he wakes in the morning but I do miss the early days to.

So again next month (Dear Lou, your baby is now 22 months old...) I will probably go through the same feelings I do each month when the email arrives but hopefully this post will remind me to unsubscribe not just hit delete and scowl but just enjoy each day - no matter how many months old Little Man is, because every one has been a joy so far.

baby, toddler, growing, fast, toddler hood, joy, work, love, growing up
Guess what Little Man aged 21 months!

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Just a stroll in the park.....

Recently I was lucky enough to win a new pram from Easy Walker. Our limited edition Easy Walker Sky Keukenhof is one of just 10 in the world!

Our eye catching orange pram is named after the Keukenhof Park in Holland famous for its Spring bulb displays.

Even though the British weather has left a lot to be desired recently we have been out and about putting the Easy Walker Keukenhof through it's paces and I have to say I LOVE IT!  It is so easy to steer and has great maneuverability and even though it is a 3 wheeler pram it is incredibly light to carry.  It has an impressive suspension system so makes for a smooth ride for Little Man even when the terrain is a little rough.

Little Man certainly seemed comfortable and the seat is very roomy...

... and I know Little Man will have space to grow as his feet don't even touch the metal foot rest yet unlike his current pram.

There are so many extra well thought out features that I love about the Easy Walker pram such as the window in the hood so you can see your child with the hood fully up...

... and the built in mosquito net in the hood which came in handy when we visited the lake on our journeys.

I have to admit I had never heard of Easy Walker prams before I won this competition but I can now say I would definitely recommend them in the future.  A quality pram with great features (press stud fastening integral storage bag on the back of the pram, safety strap on the handle, raincover, pram hood that is easy to put up and down with one hand - I could go on and on!) that I am sure will last a very long time - perfect ingredients in any pram.

I have not been asked to write this review I just wanted to so I could share my thoughts on the Easy Walker Keukenhof edition pram.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Hands on science - Miniland Educational Crystals

Science is one of those subjects that can often be seen as boring or far from fun by many children.  Sometimes you have to see Science 'in action' to really understand it and that's where the Miniland Educational range comes in for us.

We have been trying out the Miniland Educational Crystals from DKL Toys at home recently and these are are thoughts on how we found the kit.

I love the fact that the kit itself comes in a metal storage tin (makes a great tin for storing all types of things!) and that full instructions are included, which although you have to search for the English version, are easy to read.

Following the instruction manual we started the 'kitchen science' crystal kit process after putting on the supplied safety goggles! The first step is to add the correct amount of crystal granules to the dish.... then measure in the warm water.... and stir until the crystals dissolve.

We stirred for ages to dissolve the crystals but didn't really get anywhere so kept stirring. NB Having looked at another review this seemed to be the case in their instance as well but found that adding more water made it easier to get the granules to dissolve.

The next step is to add some of the rocks to the bottom of the supplied lidded plastic tub, pour on the dissolved crystal granules water and then add the last of the remaining crystal granules on to the top of the rocks before popping on the lid and storing in a place away from heat and light changes - we used the kitchen windowsill as the light and temperature is quite consistent there. Then, as the instructions say, wait to see your crystal formations grow.

Sadly as yet, 2 days later. no change has really happened in the lidded tub and no crystals have formed as yet but I do believe this is purely down to the fact that we did not get the granules to dissolve properly at the start of the experiment (I found the review with the helpful advice about adding more water after we had finished all the instructions and used all the granules)

The kit gave us a good starting point to discuss the reasons crystals form and the science behind it all which is what after all the kit is designed to show.  I would like to try the experiment again knowing about the extra water to see what results we would have.

Miniland Educational Kits are available to buy from Play Merrily Toys

Review disclosure

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday