Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tagliatelle in a creamy mushroom and courgette sauce

Since James was returned to me in a new, vegetarian form, I have been trying to modify my meal-planning.  I rarely buy meat at all any more.  Between the veggie and the non-eater, the reasons not to suddenly outweigh any reason to.  Yet vegetarian cooking baffles me, somewhat.  I don't get fully-formed recipes jumping out at me.  When it comes to planning dinner, I immediately entertain a dozen variations of pasta bake, and then I'm stumped.  Every other idea contains some kind of meat.  But this has to stop.  Vegetarian food doesn't have to be boring, does it?

I went shopping today, bought vegetables and meditated on it . A mushroom sauce sounded interesting; a welcome change from tomato at least.  Then I added courgette to the mushroom idea and resorted to Google.  The recipes I found all contained pasta so I decided upon tagliatelle but with a proper sauce.

To make this dish, I used six small bundles of tagliatelle, one garlic clove, chopped, two medium courgettes, grated, 2/3 of a packet of button mushrooms, quartered, black pepper, chives, butter, flour, milk and a handful of grated cheese.

Frankly, when I started cooking this evening, I had no real idea what dinner would become.  It could have easily ended badly.  I began by frying the mushrooms, garlic and courgette in olive oil until soft and golden then added a scoop of butter and a large spoonful of flour.  Once combined, I added milk.  At this point, I had a feeling it could go either way.  I wasn't following a recipe nor making a sauce the way I had been taught; just using instinct.  Thankfully, it seemed to go well.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how much milk I used, just that I stopped pouring when it looked right.  Finally, I added the pepper and chives before sprinkling over the cheese and leaving to thicken for 2-3 minutes.  Meanwhile, I cooked the tagliatelle as per the packet instructions and stirred it into the sauce before serving.

I received vegetarian compliments.

Link up your recipe of the week

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Four years and (almost) eight months

Today, at the park, I saw a glimpse of the person my daughter is becoming.  A brave girl so filled with tenacity.  At the zip line, she insisted on having no help.  Usually, either James or I are enlisted to assist, in some way.  But not today.  Today, she decided that four is big enough to be independent on the zip line.  I stood there still, in case she needed anything; hoping she would need my help.  But she didn't.  She, somehow, managed it by herself.  My very small four year old did it; with determination and a huge grin, she did it.

My baby is growing up so quickly.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Yourte de la Tellarie, Le Theil Bocage, Calvados

Monday 8th July

The journey was not a promising start.  Aboard a brand new Peugeot (our hire car), we hit a rock at the foot of a cliff and punctured a tire, resulting in compulsory wheel-change in the middle of a strange, hot village. Brief interlude over, we made the short journey to Le Theil Bocage and were met by our French-speaking host who said not a lot, simply showed us to the yurt and briefly explained a couple of points, like how the roof opens.  We are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by flowers and wildlife.  It is hot and there is no noise, that is what I have discovered so far.  Not even the sound of breeze ruffling leaves; nothing.  There is a pond, inhabited by what Jasmine resolutely (and certainly incorrectly) believes to be a family of capybara.  This is not the camp-site I had expected, merely a solitary tipi and our yurt, in the grounds of our host's farmhouse.  The tipi is currently empty so the outdoor kitchen and shower block are entirely for us.  It is perfection - we could not have hoped for a place more beautiful.

Tuesday 9th July

Saint-Lo today, with its ancient city walls and bustling shops.  We eventually found what we had visited for - the centre aquatique, which did not disappoint.  The children loved the slides and the rapids; we all enjoyed swimming in the outdoor pool.  A lovely day and, of course, meltingly hot.

Wednesday 10th July

We do not want to leave this place.

Thursday 11th July

Today, we made our way to Parc zoo de Jurques, which is not far away at all.  The children had a lovely time seeing all the animals and playing in the park.  Oh, and eating ice cream, of course.  The heat is inescapable but the sunshine makes it worthwhile.

Saturday 13th July

Donville les bains, 2km east of Granville.  One of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  Today, I caught the sun.  It sounds spiritual - catching the sun, harnessing its energy then releasing it back into the ether.  In actuality, I am red as a tomato.  When the sand became too hot to stand on, we left the beach and headed down the coast to Avranches where the children danced and we drank mango Pago juice in Le Royal; something that is fast becoming a family tradition.  We scaled the heights of the castle and marvelled at the view, which spanned the bay of Mont St Michel.  I like Avranches, a lot.  It has been bright all day today, until after 11pm when the sun faded and other stars came out in its place; millions of them.  I could really stay here for a very long time.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Silent Sunday

Sofas made for snuggling

Few things appeal to me more than cuddling up on the sofa with my husband, watching something (or, more frequently, not much at all) on the television.  It is my favourite way to relax and enjoy the quiet time between the children's bedtime and our own.  It doesn't particularly matter what we talk about, if we talk at all, nor what we watch on TV; it doesn't matter whether we read or just be.  What is crucially important, however, is the choice of sofa.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a sofa.  Price is often a top priority, as is comfort and, of course, style.  For great savings and sale items, click  After value for money, my main consideration is space - I adore large sofa cushions; the bigger, the better.  Recently, I have favoured the corner sofa for space and comfort, finally purchasing one at the end of last year.  Ours is not your regular corner sofa in that it is more rounded, but it meets our current needs.

If we had a bigger lounge, I would definitely be after a sofa similar to the one pictured below.  I love the huge cushions and can imagine snuggling up with hubby and our two little ones every evening.  The colour is practical for a young family and the price, at less than £500, is an absolute bargain.
                            Madrid Beautiful Italian Designer Fabric Corner Sofa - Black Or Brown
Another item on my wishlist is this, ever so aptly named, cuddle sofa.  I am not sure if my husband would be so keen as it would be difficult to have much personal space, but I can imagine it being wonderfully cosy. 

Cuddle Swivel Chair - Black N Grey or Brown N Beige - Available With Any Sofa In Any Colour

For more information on these sofas and many, many more, browse online at

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Things to do in Normandy with children

Normandy is a place both James and I have visited before, several times.  Recently, however, we took the children for the first time.  Two glorious weeks in rural France.  What could be nicer?  Not a lot, actually.  What struck us all was the quiet and, also, the space.  There is just so much of it.  Wide, open, country spaces, huge vistas and vast seascapes.  Adventures to be had round every corner.  We went out daily and rarely returned home before evening.  It was light until after 10pm every night, and when the sun went down, the camp fire came out.
We had found our own little piece of heaven.  Granted, the weather we enjoyed was exceptional - hot and sunny by day, bright and cloudless by night - but even in rain, I am sure it would be beautiful

So, where is a good place to stay with children?  We looked at campsites and considered (briefly) hotels.  Eventually, we stumbled upon a real gem.  Yourte de la Tellarie is situated in the heart of Calvados, lower Normandy, and offers unbelievable peace and tranquillity.  We chose to stay in their yurt, though there is also the option of a tipi or a beautiful gite.  The facilities were impeccable - a brand-new shower block and outdoor kitchen containing everything you need to enjoy a self-catering break. 
And for those among you who may not be too keen on the whole shower thing, worry not; there are sinks aplenty!
Honestly, we couldn't have picked a better place to spend time as a family.  The children were spoilt for choice - football, badminton, ping pong and endless exploring were on the daily agenda.  Watching the pair of them don binoculars and wield torches before heading off to trek through the large maze of meadowland and fruit and vegetable patches was a complete joy.  I could have stayed there, happily.  For keeps.
Not only was there plenty of space to play in the grounds of "my beautiful round house" (so-called by Sonny), but we also had many options on our doorstep; Avranches, Le Mont Saint Michel, Caen, Bayeux and Cherbourg were all no more than an hour away, by car.
One of our very favourite days out took place in the picture-perfect seaside town of Donville les Bains, 2km east of Granville on the Cotentin coast.  With hot golden sand and cool, clear water, it really was a treat for a family more recently used to the sharp pebbles of Worthing's coastline.
On the way home, we stopped at Avranches - a firm favourite with both James and myself.  We climbed to the top of the castle and drank Pago juice at Le Royal.  Both must-do activities!
Another fun day was had at Parc zoo de Jurques, a mere 15 minutes from where we stayed.  The children ran wild in the play area and loved seeing all of the animals.
Jurques is noticeably cheaper than other zoos (particularly the fairly nearby Parc Cerza) and while it offers good value for money, is not especially well-equipped.  There was plenty for the children to do, though you would struggle to make it an all-day event, even with lunch thrown in.  Highlights included feeding birds in the aviary and goats in the petting zoo and watching the penguins have their lunch.
If history is your bag, a day in Caen is a must.  Be wary of the ring road (Périphérique) though - it is entirely possible to spend three hours trying to head south away from the city only to find yourselves arriving, completely unexpectedly, in Bayeux.
Thankfully, we had seen enough of Caen to appreciate its beauty before it led us in circles (quite literally).
Sonny's holiday highlight was almost certainly our visit to the Chemin de fer in Clecy.  His face was a picture as we entered the building full of working miniature trains chuffing round their miniature villages.  With a train ride and bouncy castle thrown in, he was a very happy little man.

One criticism that I came close to making concerned parks and play areas, or lack thereof.  However, upon closer inspection, we discovered a number of small but beautifully preserved play parks, none more lovely than that located in the centre of the large Jardin Public in Cherbourg.  Off the tourist trail, it was frequented by locals and offered the children wonderful opportunities to communicate with children who spoke not a word of English.  As well as the play park, the Jardin Public contains a small petting zoo, plentiful gardens and ponds full of baby turtles.

We had a wonderful time in Normandy, with so many things to see and do:

 And, if all else fails, there are always girls to chat up on the ferry home...



Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Said Sonny to Mary

Vire, France; approaching 35 degrees.  We sought solace in the town's church with its picturesque history and cool shade.  It quickly became apparent that Sonny had never been inside a church before.  He looked around in confused awe.  Jasmine, who has recently become quite the Catholic, took his hand and showed him Mary.  The lit candles caught his attention first and he swept up to them, attempting to extinguish them with blustery breaths.  Jasmine caught his hand and told him to stop.

"Don't blow out other people's wishes!"

They stopped together at the foot of Mary's statue, dwarfed and in its shadow.  Jasmine said a prayer then stood aside for Sonny to take his turn.  At first he was reticent and shy, but Jasmine reassured him that he just had to ask Mary to look after his favourite people, that was all.

"Hello Mary," he said, then waited.  "Jasmine," he said after a moment, "she isn't talking to me!"

"It's ok," Jasmine replied.  "She will still definitely be listening to you.  Carry on."

"Mary," Sonny continued, "please look after Thomas and all his friends.  Percy, James, Henry, Gordon, Rosie, Emily, 'Arry and Burt, Mavis and all the Diesels. Thank you."

He went to walk away then stopped and turned to face Mary once more.

"Oh, and a happy birthday to you," he said.

Linking up with Magic Moments 5/8/13

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Looking forward, do you hear church bells?
See flowers, white dress and dark suit;
Feel gold rings on warm hands?

Do you see the rose-skinned babe,
Asleep in your olive arms;
The darkest of blue in her eyes?

Does the Magic Bus loom large on the horizon,
Its wheels eager to throw dust in our wake;
Setting us forward on to shimmering new paths?

Can you feel the happiness of forever;
The strength in our hearts to say:
"Together", whatever may come our way?

Looking forward, do you hear church bells?

Monday, 1 July 2013

A new routine

As has been previously mentioned (once or twice!), Jasmine starts school in September.  Not only is this an emotional wrench, but it will mark the beginning of a whole new routine for our family.

For the first 20 months of Jasmine's life, we relished family days out.  Midweek, term time, was our family time and these days will stay with me forever.  I often look back on the time we got stuck in the car park of a pub in East Sussex with such fond memories!

By the time Sonny arrived in the latter half of 2010, the routine was shifting towards a more structured week with the addition of clubs, classes and nursery sessions.  Free time began to be limited and we had far fewer family days out.  This is one regret of mine, though I do see that the children have learnt a lot from the clubs that they participate in.

However, now we have a lovely long summer stretching before us and it is time to redress the balance!  Our first adventures will take place in la belle France where we will be holidaying for two glorious weeks.  We are also lucky to live in Worthing for the sole reason that it is easy to get to so many other places, so the rest of the summer can be spent exploring closer to home.  We are a brief train ride from both Brighton and Chichester and just over an hour away from London and Portsmouth. 

The children and I have talked about the farms and attractions that we would like to revisit and also about places we have never been too.  Jasmine has expressed an interest in visiting "Legoland, Thomas Land and Thailand" though I am unsure how likely the last two destinations will be!  Hopefully, we will make it to the science museum and tick a few more places off the endless "to visit" list.  I have bought the children a scrapbook so that they can document our daily adventures with photographs, drawings and any tickets and assorted memorabilia we may accrue.

Then, when September arrives, we will have many memories to look back on and smile over and will be able to appreciate our new routine.  School, nursery and clubs will fill our week days, but the weekend and holidays will be ours, for adventures aplenty.  Despite being sad that Jasmine is about to begin her school days, I am excited that our weekends will gain a more meaningful shape.  They will be our family days, days to explore and to cherish, days for camping, walking, cycling and seeing together.

As Jasmine said last week, "I can't wait until Daddy buys a van and takes me to see all the things I haven't seen before."

Neither can I, Jazzy, neither can I.