Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween


Today, Mini had her first experience of trick or treating, and boy, did she have fun!  The evening did not start so well as, whilst creating a beautiful autumn picture, Mini looked sad and, upon questioning, revealed that she was upset that it was Halloween and yet her friends had not come to see her.  In actuality, we were not expecting them.  Mini's Halloween party is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon but she had seen all of the pumpkins, skeletons and other assorted decorations outside and assumed that partying was imminent.

Fortunately, when faced with the opportunity to dress up as a beautiful pumpkin and walk the streets collecting chocolate, Mini managed to smile again.  There was a slight wobble when she thought that her outfit was a dress (unacceptable, to Mini) but I managed to allay her fears by pairing it with burnt orange trousers thereby turning it into a "top".

When finally outside, Mini was so "incited", as she says, and was literally hopping up and down outside people's doors.  I had to laugh, as did everyone who opened the door to this tiny toddler pumpkin with her blonde hair and Converse trainers.  She was just so cute.  Not in the least bit scary, and not caring, just having a great time, giggling away.  And every time a door was answered and she was given a treat, she would walk away grinning as though it was the last thing she had expected.  Every time, she would show me the contents of her pumpkin bucket and exclaim, "I love that lady for giving me a chocolate; lucky, lucky me," with wide-eyed wonder and heartfelt gratitude.

Yes, she was spoilt by our neighbours, but she just loved dressing up and getting involved and I am very proud of her for being brave enough to knock on doors all by herself, in the dark, with hairy spiders hanging from various places.  I couldn't have done it tonight, let alone when I was two.

Although I don't have to worry about being scared of spiders because, "I will good after you, Mummy; I am not at all scared of spiders."

(Yes, she does think it's "good after" and not "look after".  Gorgeous, isn't it?)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cooking - An Inexact Science

One of my "25 Things to do Before I'm 25" goals was to cook a new recipe every week.  Another was to cook more with Mini.  Today, I combined the two. 

To be fair, I did adopt a rather lazy approach to the "new recipe" goal by simply slightly adapting a favourite, but it has worked rather well.

Mini and I made chocolate cinnamon muffins using the following recipe:-

150g self-raising flour, sifted
150g caster sugar
150g margarine
75g Whittards Luxury hot chocolate
75g Whittards Luxury cinnamon hot chocolate
2 eggs
1tbsp water

Now, I know you're supposed to use cocoa rather than drinking chocolate but this really works...and it was all we had in the house.

Here is the method we employed:-

Step One - put all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until it looks yummy.



Step Two - allow toddler to test that it definitely is yummy.
 


Step Three - Fill cake cases with the mixture.  If you can't find a proper muffin tray (I couldn't), then a baking tray will be fine.  You may, however, not be able to fit an even number of cases on to the tray.

Step Four - Set oven to 190 and wait for it to heat up (if you're like me, you too will have forgotten
to do this at the right time).  After five minutes or so, get impatient and pop muffins in anyway.  Leave to bake for around 15 minutes, or until they look edible.  Remove from oven.

Step Five - Admire. 



They really are very yummy.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Suncliff Hotel, Bournemouth

Last weekend, James and I spent the night in Bournemouth.  It was a last-minute decision as we had planned to go camping but decided not to trust the increasingly windy weather.
I found the Suncliff Hotel whilst searching cheap places to stay on www.booking.com.  The offer was irresistible.  For £39, we could stay in a room with a sea view, have full use of the leisure facilities and even enjoy a cooked breakfast.  I was sold.

We arrived on a Sunday, when many people were leaving, and got to our room around 3pm.  It was clean and well-equipped with double-aspect sea views, a four-poster bed and a flat-screen TV.  Excellent.

The location is fantastic, being a mere 5 minute walk from the beautiful sandy beaches of Bournemouth and Boscombe and only 15 minutes from the town centre, with its brilliant array of shops and lovely gardens.

Having wandered round town and taken in the delights of the Russell-Coates Museum, we returned to the hotel around 7pm and headed down to the leisure suite.  Being a Sunday evening, we had it to ourselves and quickly found the bubbling hot tub.  Next up was the sauna, which was a first for both of us, and finally the pool, which we had to ourselves for almost an hour before a couple of friendly honeymooners joined us.  Everything was very clean, the water was warm, and the fact that it was so quiet was the icing on the cake.

Following our swim, we popped upstairs to the bar for a couple of drinks, which we enjoyed on the terrace, with the sounds of the sea behind us.  Finally, we headed to our bed, which was ridiculously comfortable.

After a fantastic night's sleep, we woke for breakfast which was, simply, amazing.  A self-service full English plus toast, cereal, fruit, bread, jam, marmalade, ham, cheese, yogurt and three types of juice.  I had never seen so much food on offer and was very impressed with the selection, particularly considering the price of the room.  We filled up enough to last us until dinner time!

The staff were all very friendly and always greeted us with smiles, which made us feel very welcome.  The only negative aspect that I could come up with is the d├ęcor, which is rather dated.  But, really, who cares, when you get so much for your money, and in a gorgeous location to boot?

Very happy customers!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

25 Things To Do Before I'm 25

I turned 24 this month.  To me, this means one thing - this time next year I will be 25.

I will have been on the planet for a quarter of a century.

With this is mind, I quickly realised that there are still so many things I want to achieve, or simply to experience, and decided to challenge myself to fit 25 of them into the next 12 months.

Here is my list:

Write a novel - this has been on my to-do list since I was about 12 years old, and I aim to begin my novel on 1st November 2011, as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Read a new book every month - one a month may not sound like a lot, but when you have two children under the age of three, it is a real achievement to find the time to read anything at all!

Start learning to drive and pass my theory test - I have wanted to drive since I was 17 and never got round to it, but I think now is the right time.  If I don't do it soon, I may never!

Cook a new recipe once a week - I love to cook, but can get into the habit of cooking the same dishes over and over again so think that this challenge is an important one.  It will also (hopefully) expose my children to new and wonderful flavours and cultures.

Pass the next module on my degree course - therefore bringing me one step closer to my BA.

Visit Thorpe Park and go on everything - just because I never have.

Swim in the sea - I used to look forward to doing this every summer, but haven't for as long as I can remember, certainly not since having children.  It's about time I got back into it!

Visit Amsterdam - everyone should have a travel goal.  Mine is realistic for us at the moment - just about affordable if we're sensible.

Host a dinner party - a chance to try out my signature dishes on people I'm not related to.  Who wants to come?!

Take Sonny to Spain to see the grandparents he has not yet met - think this one is self-explanatory!

Play a game of crazy golf - nope, never done this, either.

Ride a quad bike or similar - for the fun of it, and because Jas would think I was awesome if I did it.

Visit Stonehenge - because it has always intrigued me.


Go to a greyhound race meeting (or whatever it's called) - again, something I've never done but always wanted to do.


Save money towards our wedding - so that I can finally be Mrs. Ellis.


See Lulworth Cove - to see if I can take a photo as good as those that I have seen.


Visit Lancing College - it's only round the corner, seems silly not to.


Take the children to Legoland - because seeing them that excited would make me happy...and because I've never been either.


Cook with Jas at least once a week - in the last few months, Jas has perfected her egg-cracking technique to the extent that she is now better at it than I am.  My aim is to introduce her to new techniques to expand her knowledge and love of cooking.


Take Sonny on a boat - I think he would enjoy this.


Eat at Interwok - because it sounds amazing and I've been meaning to go since it opened.


Pick a pumpkin from a farm and carve it - with Halloween approaching, this seems easily achievable.


Visit Harrods - never been!


Take the children to Hamleys at Christmas - I don't know who would be more excited by this - them or me!


Learn how to play chess - because I had lessons when I was 10 and have since forgotten what I learnt.  This annoys me.


So, with the goals outlined above, I'd better get on and start completing them.  I promise to blog about my progress!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

NaNoWriMo



National Novel Writing Month is an annual creative writing project in which participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of a new novel in one month.

Guess what I'm doing this November?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Day at the Beach - in OCTOBER

 


This was the scene on Littlehampton beach this afternoon.  Hundreds of people sunbathing, swimming in the sea, queuing for ice creams.  It was warmer than July, and much more beautiful.  Busy, bustling; summery, even though, technically, it is autumn.  The scent of sun cream was back in the air, along with battered fish and vinegar-soaked chips.  The childen played in sand.  There was no need for sleeves.  We ate al fresco - a picnic and a barbecue all in one day.  I wore flip flops and, later, went barefoot in the sand.  The sunlight picked out the children's blue eyes in photos, lit them like candles.  It was, without question, a day of perfection.

I am still struggling to believe it is October.