Diet and nutrition, Uncategorized

Chopped Salads… 

I try my very hardest to eat healthy and cleanly as much as I can, of course it’s more difficult when you are out or busy but on the whole we eat a good healthy diet… this is a difficult thing to do when you have a large family of picky eaters.  Getting my two youngest children to eat well is a challenge, I believe in never forcing them to eat, but I do try and encourage them to try something, sometimes they love it, like Florrie with fresh peas at the farm when we were picking them,  she took one taste and loved them, but when I was spiralizing the carrots she asked to taste them and hated them straight away, the face she pulled was quite funny.  I have discovered recently that their best meal of the day is breakfast, they love fresh eggs fried with coconut oil every morning, and now we get freshly laid eggs from our neighbor next door, they are delicious, they love strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and watermelon, they love smoothies and homemade pancakes, Jamie Oliver’s one cup recipe, so simple and quick, they will eat these until the cows come home, they are also delicious when you swap the flour out for a gluten free flour too. I try most days to make breakfast their most important meal of the day as they eat really well, then I feel there  is not so much pressure for the rest of the day as I know they have eaten one good meal that day.


Lunch is another meal I kind of miss with,  it’s usually just me I’m making lunch for, my babies are happy to graze after a large breakfast, I kind of always fail for myself.  I make fresh salads for Paul and Mabel, but I always forget myself… I’ve come up with a new plan, Salad lunch prep for the week, I will make enough basic salad for a week, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and scallions,  a tip I have just learnt is to line your containers with kitchen roll paper to absorb the moisture, then daily using leftovers from dinner change each salad up daily, today we will be having a lemon rosemary roasted chicken, I’m having shrimp, with a kale Cesar salad and tortilla wraps, so I’ll shred some chicken, or add shrimp and add it to the salad and bake a couple of wraps to crisp them up to add to the salad… I’m hoping this will keep me on track instead of snacking with my children.  

I have recently discovered I absolutely love chopped salad, we have had it before a few years ago, recipes from Jamie Oliver again, but I really hadn’t thought about chopping every salad we have until I visited a new salad place that has just opened in a local town, in Chopt you pick your salad then they ask if you want it chopped up, Kale Cesar salad with tofu totally chopped up and it was totally delicious.  I thought I’d try it out on my family… huge success, they prefer their salad ingredients chopped up, but as you can imagine chopping 8 salads is very time consuming, each person likes certain things in their salads, so I’ve been tossing salad ingredients into separate bowls then emptying the bowls onto a board and finely chopping them… until last night when I came up with the genius idea of the food processor, you can start with the harder veggies like carrot and broccoli, pulse them a couple of times then add the rest of the salad ingredients, it worked perfectly, and it was a lot quicker, you just have to clean up the food processor bowl and blade, but not too bad.  So my chopped salads have been a huge success, my family are enjoying them so much they are saying they do not need the carbs along with their protein just the salad it’s so filling… My only problem now is how much Salad veggies I am getting through, but at least everyone is eating their greens, well except for one extremely picky eater, who likes everything as plain as it can be.


I’ll leave you on a sweet note… I was visiting friends for lunch yesterday, I usually take desert with us, but I’ve been in search for healthier sweet treats, some I’ve made have been ok, but just not quite right, yesterday I came across this recipe for Lemon coconut muffins, they were healthier because the sugar was very low, and could easily be swapped out for honey, or some other healthy substitute, they contained coconut oil and yogurt, I think they would even be good with gluten free flour instead of all purpose flour… they were a huge success both at lunch and at home, but be warned if you try these at home, the batter is extremely thick, she does say that on the recipe, but I was surprised at just how thick it was, I added a little more coconut milk just to loosen it a little… but despite that they will definitely be something I will be making again and again.


Photographic diary, Uncategorized

Really my camera is totally awesome and I never knew it!

Having made the decision to take my camera off of automatic mode I knew I had to get to grips with how the camera actually worked, everyone said the photos would improve and I would never want to go back, but I just couldn’t get my head around exactly what settings were for what.

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I decided photography blogs and you tube should be my first port of call… I found an excellent video on you tube that explained all of those buttons and dials, that I had just ignored for so long… I suddenly could see what each button was called and exactly what it did, I watched it several times with my camera in my hand going through each button and dial as the guy in the video explained what it was and what it did.

Next I found some excellent photography for beginners blogs, I read, and reread them, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, I wrote notes and found cheat sheets on Pinterest… next I gave myself exercises to understand how each aspect of the exposure triangle worked with each other… when you reduce the ISO the shutter speed needs to be increased, and when you increase the ISO in darker situations you need to decrease the shutter speed, what I did not realize was that changing the aperture, F-stop would then affect both the ISO and shutter speed too… so much to think about.

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I found an excellent guy on you tube who has created these fantastic short videos using his real life to explain everything from lighting to shutter speed and everything inbetween. Moose Winans sang to me, his videos are short fun and speak my language when it comes to photography, I love to sit watching his videos and they seemed to explain this complicated world of a DSLR camera to me.

This changed the way I set my camera, suddenly I began to understand a little bit more, I start with a setting of ISO 400 shutter speed of 320 and f-stop of 1.8, then I adjust it from there depending on whether I am inside or outside, if the light is good, if there is shade, I always change my ISO first, more of less depending on how much light I have I set my white balance to the type of situation I am in and then I look at shutter speed, moving it up or down until my white balance meter is set to either 0, just above + or just below -.

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Once I gathered a little knowledge it was time to get a new lens, I wanted one with a lower F-stop than the two lenses I had, I wanted to take portrait photos both indoors and outside, I looked at both 35mm and 50mm, in the end I chose the 35mm, just because I like to take a lot of photos indoors, but I am now looking to invest in the 50mm too, just because I want something with a longer exposure for outside and I am now looking at the lens with a lower f-stop of 1.4.

I also decided it was time to switch from the basic photo editing software on our Mac computers and iPads, I looked at lightroom and photoshop, lightroom seemed easier to use, but photoshop although more difficult to learn could do much more creative effects that I would eventually like to do, so I found the monthly $9.99 deal for both online by reading blogs written about both lightroom and photoshop… after a little research I signed up and I am loving it.  There is so much advice online about settings for different types of filters you want to create, the list is endless and in lightroom it is so simple to achieve a look you require.

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I have endless amounts to learn in all areas of photography, everyday I take my camera out and snap away changing the settings and experimenting with it, I then go onto lightroom and I am trying to learn how to change the photo for different filters, the above vintage setting is one of my favorites. I may have slightly over used it recently, but with my newly acquired skills I think I am allowed a little creativity over use.  I am tending to set the camera for a lighter setting, some might think it looks a little over exposed but I am loving the new lighter effect of the photos, I hadn’t realized quite how dark the photos looked on the auto setting of the camera… one of the bonus’ of setting your camera to manual you get to choose the settings exactly the way you want your photo to look.

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I had read so many times that once you switch you camera off of Auto and start to really learn your camera in Manual mode you would never want to go back… As someone who has recently made the switch I don’t think I will ever go back, sometimes I second think my settings and panic a little, but usually I have made the right choice, so I should have more faith in myself…  everything I read was completely true… I have thought about doing this for a very long time, but always doubted myself, the Manual setting is so much more fun and you have complete control instead of relying on your camera guessing the type of photo you want… if I can do it, you can do it to… it wasn’t as difficult as I first thought and every day gets a little bit easier.

Uncategorized

It’s been a while…

Real life just gets in the way sometimes… I’ve been so busy recently, one day just looks like all the others, wake up, breakfast, chores, homeschooling, lunch, more chores, errands to run, dinner, bedtime for my little ones, a well earned glass of wine, an hour of tv then finally bed… wake up and do it all over again.  I was so in need of a vacation…


Now traveling to the U.K. can be viewed in two ways… one it’s not really a vacation because you are constantly busy seeing different people or you can just take a huge step back and enjoy it for what it is, a huge break from normal life, a chance to revisit places you remember in your past, see new things and just enjoy the company of your family and friends that you just don’t see that often anymore, and this was exactly how my vacation went down over Spring break.


After 36 hours of no sleep and a 6 hour plane journey, I woke up in our hotel room in Kingston upon Thames on our second morning in England at 5am, Paul made us both coffee and we both just sat there in the quietness of the morning looking out at fantastic view as the sun came up over London… I felt finally refreshed to have had 7 hours of sleep, my babies were still asleep in our bed, still on US time I think and my three big babies were still asleep a few dorms away from us… I quickly went over the day before, arriving at Heathrow seeing my parents and my brother waiting patiently for us to come through with our luggage, then sitting dozy drinking coffee, collecting our rental car then heading to my brothers house for a while and seeing his family… wow we even fitted in a visit to our old house even though we were so tired, day one of a busy vacation.


We decided to not go too far on our first full day, we shopped, had lunch in Carluccios, my choice and then visited the beautiful Hampton Court Palace… later we strolled along the riverside in Kingston and ate a very cheeky Nandos for dinner, Jordan’s choice. Good Friday began our carpool karaoke journey of the vacation, 5 children and some iPhone music in a car… we played the sound track to Moana switched it up a bit and sang all the words in time together, maybe not that much in time or really that tuneful, but right then our family car journeys began to be a lot more fun and a lot more musical.  We headed to Brighton, one of my favorite seaside towns to visit in the U.K., it did not disappoint, despite the crowds of people, we strolled along the arches, visited the pavilion and the Lanes, ate fish and chips and had a quick very windy visit on the pier, before heading back to the car and stopping for an ice cream.  Our trip back to Kingston took far less time than our journey to Brighton as we didn’t get lost, the story of our vacation, driving in the wrong direction, despite having a GPS, we arrived at our hotel 10 minutes before our lovely friends messaged to say they were in the lobby, a quick freshen up, organize of the children with money for food and pjs, then Paul and I headed out for a lovely evening by the river, no children with us, just us and old friends ready to catch up on a years worth of gossip.


I won’t bore you with all the details of our vacation, we spent a very full three days in London, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, we met up with my brother and two of his children on Saturday, and my parents on all three days… we walked and walked, chatted, rode red London buses, took lots of photographs, ate lots of yummy food and drank a few glasses of wine and prosecco along the way… by far my most favorite place to eat was the food festival along the south bank near Waterloo Station, the choice and quality of the food was amazing, from gourmet burgers, fresh made crepes to chicken biryani, everything was freshly made and was absolutely delicious, I had a pesto mozzarella gluten free wrap, I watched them make it from scratch from the freshest ingredients and it was superb, all washed down with plastic flute of prosecco.  I think the highlight of our three days in London has to be the Sky Gardens in fenchurch street, the weather was beautiful, up on the 35th floor we looked out over a magnificent London glistening in the slightly clouded sunshine, we had eaten in a small sandwich shop opposite the walkie talkie building, as it’s known, the food in there was phenomenally fresh and full of flavor so once we were in the Skygarden we ordered prosecco and just sat there enjoying the view… totally well worth booking and it didn’t cost anything until we decided to order a drink… thank you to my friend Diane for telling us all about this wonderful place.  Paul had a much needed few hours with old work friends, he was a little tipsy to say the least when he arrived back at our hotel, Florrie was a little worried about him finding his way home, but he managed ok without us nad much to mine  and Jordan’s surprise he joined us in the hotel bar for another beer… oh Paul you are just so funny sometimes.

The rest of our trip was spent visiting with family and friends, whilst most of us watched a local soccer/football game I met up with my Mum and a close friend and her daughter for cocktails, food and a lot of chatting, later in the day we ate Indian food at my brother house, we shopped a little bit more, we saw Pauls family, I drank prosecco and had a much needed chat with my close friend again (girl stuff) Fish and chips again was a must, we met old school friends in a local pub near my Mum, that was such a nice last evening despite the M3 being closed on our way back to the hotel and the long diversion back to our hotel… finally we just breathed in our old life for just a few hours before we had to fly home… it was a busy 10 days but in all truthfulness I wouldn’t change a moment, we laughed, we sang songs in the car together as a family, very loudly I might add, we chatted to family and friends, we all got on so well, but next time we go on vacation I do not want to pack a coat, I want to pack a book and some sun cream and sit and relax in the sunshine by the water, of course prosecco may feature a little bit again but I just want to relax.

Uncategorized

Baking…

I love to bake, I love making sweet treats for my family… but with a new oven to deal with it’s been difficult getting those cakes to rise and stay risen, so finally yesterday I googled the reason that cakes keep sinking in the middle, one of the causes could be the oven is too hot, the cake cooks from the outside in, so the cake is cooked and browned outside but the middle is not so it sinks… makes perfect sense, so I’m thinking a little experimentation is in order. 

With three Birthdays this month I needed to enlist my little bakers help, the first one was  this weekend, so we set about a nice easy Victoria Sponge recipe from Mary Berry, an easy mix all ingredients go in, mix together then divide equally into two 8 inch baking tins, bake at 350f for 25 minutes… both cakes looked good in the oven they rose nicely then just before they were due to come out they both sank in the middle… REALLY, I couldn’t believe it.  I sent Blu out for more eggs and started again.

I decided to switch recipes, this time a Victoria sandwich recipe from Jamie Oliver, his cake was a little more in ingredient weight and dial up the heat on the oven to 375f… this time the butter and sugar were beat together then the eggs added one by one, finally a gentle mixing in of the dry ingredients… once again both cakes looked good in the oven but just as the timer went off both cakes sunk in the middle… REALLY again!


Time to get GOOGLE working for me… ‘why are my cakes sinking in the middle?’


I had to use one set of cakes and after I added strawberry buttercream, fresh chopped strawberries and grated chocolate it really didn’t look so bad… my little helpers did a fantastic job of adding ingredients, counting the eggs, mixing, chopping strawberries, making chocolate drizzled strawberries and most importantly eating all the strawberries before they had a chance of going in the cake, that was the best part of all of this… for now I see a lot of experimentation of cake temperatures in my new oven… Happy Baking 🎂

homeschooling, Uncategorized

It’s Fairy week at our homeschool.

Homeschooling is finally starting to feel like a way of life, I feel I’ve finally got into a good routine and have somewhat an understanding of how Florrie likes to learn, mostly though art and creativity, she is an imaginary child, she loves to create new paintings, glitter the world around us with stories straight from her imagination and most of all she inspires me every single day with who she is.

We start every week with a new theme, last week we learnt about penguins, I have to say this was not her favorite, but when I mentioned this weeks theme ‘fairies’ her imagination went into overdrive… my older daughter and her friends want to know how fairies can be educational, are they really too old as teenagers to understand all about imagination and how it inspires us to learn in so many ways, I was totally shocked by her statement I did not know really how to reply.

This week ends February and begins March, so although we are introducing new things my main focus is to review the things we covered over the past month… we have looked at the numbers 1 to 10, she can count them perfectly now, we have learnt to write each number and we have introduced some addition using our abacus, oh how I love the old ways like abacus and simple chalk boards.  In Math we have also looked at top middle and bottom, left to right, above and below and before and after.  The letters Ff to Ii have featured in everything we have done, we have learnt about rhyming words and began to build beginning middle and end stories with pictures and numbers.  Every Friday we look at sight words, matching words to pictures then using pictures to write the words.

Each week we have a theme as I have mentioned before, I try to keep our fun projects as near to the theme as I can.  Monday’s are art crafting day, we have made Valentine’s butterflies and necklaces, we have also made footprint penguins.  Tuesday is baking day, we have made heart shaped cookies, lemon cupcakes and good old fashioned English flapjack.  Wednesday is field trip day, so far we have visited our local zoo quite a few times, Thursday is my personal favorite Art Class day, we have made a heart tree using our arm and hand prints and newspaper hearts, we have coiled pipe cleaners into flowers and used wax crayons and water colors to create artwork.  Friday is my children’s favorite day, Experiments, we have exploded colors, seen how penguins keep dry and made ice cream in a bag with just ice and salt.

The month of March is an exciting one for us, we are kicking off a big Spring project with our theme of the week FAIRIES.  Over the coming weeks we will be incorporating the making of a fairy garden into our daily fun projects.  We started our week making a glittery painted fairy, or Pixie (for Tate) wand, to be used in our Friday Fairy experiment Fizzing Fairy potions.

For our baking day, today we have made Fairy Pretzel sparkling wands, we melted some white chocolate then dipped our pretzel rods into the white chocolate and sprinkled purple (our color of the week) sparkles onto them… viola edible Fairy and Pixie wands 😋

We are hoping to meet friends at the zoo again this week as long as the weather behaves and we are extra hopeful we will see the giraffes as they have been inside the last few times we have been.  Art day this week is all about the Fairy garden, I’ve been sourcing lots of fairy ideas from Pinterest, so we are starting this week with a painted wooden bird house that will become our fairy house in the garden… Florrie is very excited and has lots of ideas flowing for her little house 🏡

The rest of the month is organized like this…

Letters Jj to Ll, watching videos, reading, writing and sounds.

Continuing story building, word match and word webs.

Numbers 11 to 16, counting, writing, and simple addition.

Math fewer and more and looking at patterns, which we can incorporate into our Art class.

New sight words each week.

Colors and shapes will be added to each weeks learning activities.

Our themes for March are Camping, Mermaids, Spring and the weather.

Uncategorized

New Year… new food.

Meat eaters, vegetarians, gluten free or just plain picky eaters… I’ve devised a new way to plan a weekly menu for a large family there is every type of eater.


For a long, long time I’ve suffered to all the meat eaters in my family, I cook them the main meal every night, I cook the picky eaters a basic meal then when it comes to me, I just can’t be bothered, so I just grab anything that’s easy, usually it is not that healthy, I try but I just can’t cook 3 separate meals a night.  For anyone that knows me well, I love healthy eating, I make sure my family have healthy meals involving bone broth, lots of super grains and veggies, I even disguise the veggies in sauces and casseroles by pureeing them.  Well it’s time for change, I want to be inspired by food again, eat things I enjoy not just what the meat eaters in my family love, I hate beef in Guinness, I hate chicken noodle soup, or even chicken pot pie, it’s just not who I am… I love lots of healthy salads, eggs, lots of eggs, avocado toast and warm winter soups creamy and full of veggies, so I have devised a new strategy for menu planning for a large family of picky eaters, why I didn’t think of this sooner is beyond me. 

I have been researching lots of vegetarian recipes, the kind I like to eat, then I plan a meat to compliment that dish, hopefully it is plain enough for those that are plain eaters, I then add a carbohydrate for those that want it and voila… basically one meal three ways.

This weeks menu plan… 

Sunday – lemon chicken for some, Salmon for others, baked potatoes for some, baked sweet potatoes for others and salad

Monday – Jamie Oliver’s aubergine daal served with rice and salad and roasted chicken

Tuesday – Jamie Oliver’s blue cheese and sweet potato frittata served with salad, sausages and bread for those that want it.

Wednesday – Jamie Oliver’s chopped salad with a pasta bake.

Thursday – Jamie Oliver’s baked squash with quinoa and meatballs for those that want it.

Friday is always cheat day… no cooking, pizza day!

I always try to buy as much organic foods as my budget will allow or I can get, I am planning on some homemade bread baking this week too, clean eating is not always as easy as it sounds especially if you eat out, but I try very hard to keep my shopping very healthy with a large proportion of my budget going to fruit and vegetables and organic meat.

And so you have it, a menu planned for a very large family, three ways, meat for the meat eaters, grains for the carbohydrate fans, basic and plain for the picky eaters and the perfect vegetarian meal as the core of the plan… simple and hopefully delicious.

Uncategorized

Resolutions for a mindful New Year

Resolutions are a difficult things to keep, we start each new year with things we want to change, things we want to achieve and just things that would make a little difference, but usually we don’t last very long and easily revert back to our old ways, so that is why I started earlier this year… 2016 is the last full year I will be in my forties, something I have struggled with enormously, but it has made me very critical of who I am and what I want to change in my life… I believe in peace, love and happiness, I believe you get what you give out, if you are a kind generous person, you will get those things back in return.

I began my journey of resolutions in my life with positivity, instead of being angry at everything and everyone I looked at the positives of what I had, my family, my home, who I am as a person… I let go of anger and replaced it with love, I began to decluttering my mind and my life of things that make me unhappy, it means that I have thrown away many years of possessions that I mindlessly purchased,  I have been  decluttering my home, I have a long way to go, but if I don’t love it, or use it, I toss it, well not literally, I recycle, I donate… I do not believe in trashing this world we live in, one mans trash is another mans treasure.


I have always been a person who believes in natural remedies before anything else, I discovered my love of essential oils a few years ago, I love to rub lavender oil into my babies feet, to boost their immunity, if I have an ache or just feel blue I rub my oils into my joints… I believe in a pure life, less chemicals more nature in all things. The same can be said for the food that we eat, now don’t get me wrong we eat junk food like anyone else, pizza fridays, chocolate Saturdays… but in general 95% of the time I believe we eat very cleanly, my grocery shopping is 45% fresh organic produce, I buy as much organic, natural meat as I can find and I look at ingredients in every product I buy, pasta is gluten free, rice is organic, I make a weekly batch of my own broth either bone or vegetarian and starting the first week of January I will be making a hidden ingredients pasta sauce in bulk ready for homemade pizzas and pasta dishes.

As for my home, I have looked at a new kitchen as a new start in decluttering my life, we boxed our kitchen up months ago, before Memorial Day, I tossed a lot of old broken things, and then I evaluated whether I would want them in my new kitchen… doing this felt so good I decided to carry on through everything, the funny thing is I tossed a lot of my old things and recently I have been buying someone else’s old things… #gotanaddictiontoantiques.  I found a life changing post on Pinterest for a cleaning routine in my home, I adapted it to suit my needs and implemented it, it works for me and has changed how I view my home, I get my babies to help and they love it.

For my family… I have always been a person to want to get out there and see things, I am homeschooling my babies right now and I love to visit new places, show them new things, so I plan to continue this incorporating field trips into their learning… hopefully we will be doing a snowy winters beach trip very soon, getting back to the zoo and visiting a local museum.  I love to take photos and I have started to learn far more about what my camera can do, that is something I plan to continue with too.

Yoga and Meditation have entered my life and I love them, I want to find more time to develop them in the coming year, to have a healthy mind, body and spirit, but none of these things are my Resolutions for the coming year, I just want to do them and enjoy them… I have one simple New Years Resolution this year, once a week when I buy my groceries I am going to buy a bunch of flowers for my home, I love flowers 🌺 they brighten everything around you, so I want to fill my family home with the beauty of nature.


Happy New Year to each and everyone of you 🌟