Friday, 31 October 2014

What we're reading | the Halloween edition

I love to switch the books we're reading according to the season. Obviously the Christmas selection is going to be the biggest (it's ok to start reading them in November, right?), but we've collected a few real gems for other holidays throughout the year.

I'm a big fan of a creepy family movie and a bag of trick or treat goodies to help you get into the Halloween spirit, but you can't beat curling up at bedtime with a blanket, lights dimmed and a spooky book. Even better, turn the lights out and read by torch light.

We have a couple of great Halloween books already but I picked up a few new ones to add to the collection this year. 

Ayden is really getting into books now and will come up to me with one of his stories and climb onto my lap to read it. He was excited to see this new addition to his collection.

We're big fans of the BabyLit series - we have a few and Ayden loves them all. Dracula is a 'counting primer', introducing little ones to numbers using the basis of the Dracula story. 

This one is not really a typical Halloween book, but it is a bit icky and odd so that qualifies it for me.

Great for little ones that like to ask 'why?', 'The Holes in Your Nose' is all about… well, the holes in your nose! And what's up them to be more precise. Cue much giggling when we got to the bogey page!

A true Halloween classic and one I remember from my childhood. This pop-up book was first published 25 years ago and is still as spooky and appealing as ever. Reading it for the first time with my children, it was exactly as I had remembered it - the octopus in the sink and the ghost under the stairs. It brought the memories flooding back. Brilliant.

What are you reading to your little ones this Halloween?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Happy birthday Spiderboy ♡

My first baby turned eight this weekend. And what a wonderful eight year old he is. We had the best weekend celebrating. Birthday morning waffles, presents, hot dogs for tea, birthday cake, a trip to see TMNT at the cinema (which was awesome!) and an "epic" birthday party. I think its safe to say my little man had a great weekend :)

I got the idea to start birthday interviews from a lovely mama I follow on Instagram. She used to write a blog which I loved to read and I thought her idea of interviewing each child on their birthday was lovely. So I've totally pinched it! It'll be great to look back on and see how they've changed each year. 

So here's Dylan's first birthday interview, at age 8:

How old are you? I'm eight. Does that mean I'm nearly a teenager? (No!)
What is your favourite colour? Red. Like Spiderman
What is your favourite animal? A shark 
What is your favourite book? My Minecraft handbook
What is your favourite TV show? The Amazing World of Gumball
What is your favourite movie? Amazing Spiderman 2
What is your favourite song? Anything by the Foo Fighters
What is your favourite food? Spaghetti Bolognese
What is your favourite drink? Apple juice
What is your favourite breakfast food? Pancakes and makle syrup (he means maple ;) )
What is your favourite snack? Cake
What is your favourite outfit? My new black Spiderman costume. It's awesome!
What is your favourite game? Amazing Spiderman 2 on PS3 (I'm sensing a theme…)
What is your favourite toy? My baby monkey
Who is your best friend? Jonah
What is your favourite thing to do? Ride my bike and play on my PS3
What was your favourite holiday? Holiday Village in Majorca
What do you take to bed with you at night? Baby monkey
Where is your favourite place to go? Disneyland Paris
What is your favourite restaurant? Frankie and Bennie's
What makes you happy? Having time with you guys (♡)
What makes you sad? When people say I'm not good at something (cue in depth questioning from me as to who has dared tell him he isn't good at something!)
What do you want to be when you grow up? A superhero
What did you do on your birthday? We went to see the Turtles movie, which was awesome! Then its my party tomorrow - we're going climbing and to Pizza Hut after, to smash pizza like the Hulk!

Happy birthday little man! You're my whole world.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Disney dreaming

Image - Pinterest
It's fair to say I'm a big kid. If I could live in Disneyland (any one, I'm not fussy) I absolutely would. Failing that, the Disney Store would do…

With a trip to Disneyland Paris coming up in two weeks (two weeks people!), the beanies and I have been excitedly planning, researching and just generally winding ourselves up into a Disney stupor. 

We went to Disneyland Paris two years ago so have a fair idea of what we particularly liked and want to make sure we do again; but we've never been at Halloween so there are a few extra things we don't want to miss. 

Also, we've been a bit naughty and booked to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. We took advantage of a great discount and half board offer so it would have been rude not to. Honestly it would have ;)

The beanies don't know this bit. I plan to tell them when we arrive. I know they'll be very excited to stay in the 'Pink Hotel'.

So here it is. Our list of Disney mouseke-dos:

✩ Go Disney villain hunting - we're excited to see the park decorated for Halloween and it'll be great to spot some of the villains. Maleficent is high on the list of must-sees for my beasties.

✩ I have a seven year old little man who will be ridiculously excited to meet Spiderman at Walt Disney Studios. He wasn't there when we visited last time, so this is a major bonus for him.

✩ Ratatouille: The Adventure is another new addition that we're excited to explore. The ride looks great and my husband is looking forward to sampling the steak at Bistro Chez Remy.

✩ My naughty husband cruelly tricked me into going on the Tower of Terror on my own (!) on our last visit. "You'll love it", he said. "It's really good fun. You won't be scared I promise." Evil, evil man. I was bloody petrified. And had nobody with me to cling on to. This time, the kids are bigger and both are feeling brave enough to give it a go. I'm not convinced they should, even though there were lots of little ones on it last time. They are determined though and have been watching videos of it on Youtube. Bloody hell, I'm terrified just thinking about it.

✩ We're huge Nightmare Before Christmas fans and it'll be great to meet Jack Skellington and Sally. Better get watching the DVD before we go I think.

✩ With two brothers, Meryn spends a lot of her time surrounded by Marvel characters, Minecraft and cars. She's a huge princess fan though and I know she'll love having dinner with them at Auberge de Cendrillon. Not sure how her big brother will feel about it… hopefully dinner at the Buffallo Bill show the following night will make up for it.

✩ We were lucky enough to see the Disney Dreams show a few times and its was truly magical. One of my favourite memories of our trip was standing back a bit and watching Dylan and Meryn (dressed as Buzz Lightyear and Rapunzel) get completely lost in the magic of it all. Disney Dreams is still running and I can't wait to see it again.

What are your Disney must-sees?

Monday, 6 October 2014

♡ Little bits #8 ♡

The last week has been lovely. Lots of family time together and exciting things coming up. Not just 'the C word' (yes, I do start getting excited about that in October, and I'm not sorry about it). We have two birthdays, Halloween and a trip to Disneyland Paris to come before that. I can't bear it!

1. We've been enjoying lots of walks in the autumn sunshine for the last few weeks. I say we; Ayden is usually out for the count within five minutes. A walk along the seafront is like magic. If I'm feeling a bit meh, it works wonders to perk up my mood.
2. I'm quite proud of my party invitation design skills this week. Dylan thinks they are "epic", so that's good enough for me.
3. Loving fruit, yogurt and granola for breakfast most mornings. Thinking of making my own granola for a change though. I'm thinking cinnamon, pecans, brown sugar…. yes!
4. Seriously… could he get any cuter!?

1. This guy floated by on the weekend to tell the kids that we're off to Disneyland Paris in a couple of weeks. I decided to keep it a secret until the number of days to count down is a bit more manageable for little people. Didn't fancy counting down the sleeps from 137. Needless to say, they are extremely excited. But not as excited as me ;)
2. Holy crap, its a box! Hours of fun, right there. 
3. Dinner took a little too long for this weeny one… zzzzzz
4. First things first, it's this gorgeous little man's eighth birthday next week so I've got some serious planning/shopping/spoiling to do.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

♡ Little bits #7 ♡

Its feeling pretty autumnal around here right now. Hooray! Its nearly cheese and port season. Anyone else think about cheese and port all year long and count down the weeks until its socially acceptable to have it for dinner? No? Just me? 

Well, in case you're wondering, there's only 8 weeks to go :))

1. Yep. I shopped. In fairness I bought very little. And nothing at all for myself. So that makes it ok, yes? The best thing I picked up was this superhero mask hoodie for Ayden from Baby Zara. Its the kind of thing I know he'll live in and he looks bloody gorgeous in it too.
2. Practising my Elsa braiding. Hmmm not quite there yet, but a good effort I thought. Its not often my little princess will sit still long enough for me to do something like this. She must have been feeling poorly or something!
3. Playing in his big brother's bedroom. And very happy about it he is too. 
4. No explanation required.

1. He loves playing with little wooden cakes. So adorable. No idea where he gets the cake obsession from though…
2. Autumn in a bowl. Seriously. I don't think I've made this since last autumn but its a regular in the repertoire once the weather gets a little colder. You can find the recipe here.
3. This little lady has well and truly mastered riding her bike without stabilisers now :) very proud mama
4. Cuddles with my little peanut ♡


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Comfort in a bowl

This may not look like the most exciting dinner but, let me tell you, Pasta e Ceci is one of the most comforting, tasty, autumnal and easy meals. And a real crowd pleaser. The whole family love it and it's a great one for younger children and toddlers too.

It's also one of those recipes you can add anything to, once you've made the base of the soup. I serve it to the little people as it is, but then add some dried chili flakes or torn up basil leaves and an extra drizzle of olive oil to ours afterwards.

So what is it? I think its a bit of a soup / pasta hybrid. You could certainly make it more soupy by adding extra stock or water, but I prefer to keep the consistency quite thick.

My sister gave me this recipe from one of her Jamie Oliver cook books years ago and I look forward to the weather getting a bit cooler so I can add it to the weekly meal plan again. Perfect with a glass of red and some garlic focaccia. 

2 x tins of chickpeas, drained
150g short pasta (preferably ditalini, but mini shells are a good alternative)

500ml chicken or vegetable stock (plus extra boiling water to adjust consistency to preference)
small onion, finely chopped
stick celery, finely chopped
sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus some for serving)
salt and freshly ground pepper
optional extras - parmesan cheese, chili flakes, torn basil leaves

In a medium, heavy-bottomed pan, cook the onion, celery and rosemary in the olive oil over low heat for about 5-10 minutes, until softened.

Add the chickpeas and stock and cook for a further 15 mins.

Remove half the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and set aside. Puree the remaining ingredients. I use a handheld 'zapper' to do this, but you could transfer to a blender and then return the pureed mixture to the pan.

Put the whole chickpeas back in the pan, along with the pasta. Let this bubble away, uncovered, for about another 15-20 mins until the pasta is cooked. At this point I tend to stand over it and add some additional hot water to get it to the consistency I like. I also stir frequently to stop the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve into bowls and add optional toppings as you wish.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

5 things I do while the baby naps

If I was a better human being the answer to this would be exercise, clean the kitchen, file a mountain of paperwork and make the phone calls I keep forgetting to make.

But here I am with an hour or so of 'free time' and, its fair to say, those things are not at the top of my list. So what do I typically get up to when the baby is napping?

1. Eat. Usually breakfast. Naughty I know, but its not often that I manage to grab anything to eat before he goes down at about 11:30am. I have a coffee first thing and that fills me up for a couple of hours. But by the time he's asleep I'm ravenous and food is the first thing on my mind. Usually something like scrambled egg on brown soda bread toast, porridge, or yogurt, fruit and granola. 

2. Neutralise the chaos. Post school run, the house usually resembles some form of battle zone. Pyjamas, books, bowls, bags, toys, felt tips, paper, toothbrushes…. crap, everywhere! Whatever I haven't already tidied away while Ayden 'helps' me, gets put away and I guess I do give the kitchen a quick clean at this point. Just a weeny one. 

3. Blog. Literally the only chance I get to sit down and blog. I'm working on a bit of a blogging plan at the moment to try and organise my posts. Hopefully this will help me to plan ahead and give me a schedule to work to. In an ideal world I would know exactly what I was planning to write about each day and I'd draft it early in the morning. That's the dream.

4. Online shopping - 50 minutes into nap time and I've spent £575! Ok, not really but it would be so much fun to actually click that buy button. I'm definitely a window shopper - I love planning outfits online, for me and the beanies. I very rarely actually buy anything, but its fun to look. At the moment I've added this to my basket about 12 times!

5. Watch Youtube videos. I could spend hours watching them. Most of the time I put them on in the background while I get on with something else - tidying up, prepping for dinner, blogging, reading other blog posts, folding washing. My current favourites are the Shaytards, Vivianna does makeup, Lily Pebbles and Hannah Maggs. Much better than daytime TV that's for sure. 

What do you get up to while the baby is napping?