Cupcakes

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are such a simple delight. This straightforward recipe is so cheap and easy to do. The best part is that cupcakes are delicious served either with a basic frosting or used as a base taste and jazzed up with extra flavours. Be as crazy as you like!

You Will Need

6oz/170g butter

6oz/170g caster sugar

3 eggs

6oz/170g self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla essence (for vanilla)

1oz cocoa powder (for chocolate cupcakes)

Method

Beat the sugar and butter together until pale (I use a stand mixer however an electric hand whisk would also be suitable)

Add the eggs and whisk again (careful not to curdle the mix). Once you have a smooth mixture add the flour and vanilla essence or cocoa powder (whichever you’re using) and whisk again.

Place muffin cases into a muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the cases.

Bake in the oven on Gas mark 5/190C for 10-15 minutes (or until springy and golden)

Allow to cool.

Decorate however you like and enjoy.

Other Ideas

Once your cupcakes are cooled, try filling the centre with your favourite jam. Simply cut a hole from the centre, fill with a tsp jam and replace the cut-out piece. Frost over the top and enjoy the flavours of the delicious filling.

These cupcakes are a great base for any flavour of frosting.

With vanilla cupcakes you might try lemon frosting with a curd filling or a white chocolate frosting with a raspberry jam filling.

For chocolate cupcakes you can add chocolate frosting. You can jazz it up even more with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a pretzel.

You may also wish to vary the cupcake flavour altogether. To make a Bakewell flavoured cupcake, substitute the vanilla flavouring for almond, fill with a cherry jam and decorate with white icing and a glace cherry.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

This is by far one of the easiest and cheapest soups to make. It matches my formula of minimal input for maximum output perfectly. A classic dish that has always and will forever remain a firm favourite in our house. Enjoy on a cold blustery day with warm bread and butter. Bliss!

You Will Need

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped (I prefer to use 1 tsp garlic granules)

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer to use chicken stock for extra flavour)

700g white potato, peeled and diced

2 leeks, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Method

Over a medium heat, lightly fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.

Add the potatoes and the leeks, lightly season and simmer until the potatoes are soft. (this should be approximately 25-30 minutes)

Once the potatoes are soft, blend the mix until smooth.

Serve and enjoy!

Other Ideas

For a creamier soup you could blend some cream into the mix or for those who prefer a creamy flavour but are counting the calories (as I often am) you can blend through some fat free fromage frais. Be sure if you’re re-heating you do so gently, being careful not to bring the soup to the boil.

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

I love soup season. This soup, with it’s seasonal veg, warms my very soul. ‘It is absolutely yum’ (the Master of Mischief, age 4) and when served up with warm and buttery crusty bread it is always a hit with the kiddies. Even my husband (Mr ‘I’m not bloody eating that’ gave it a thumbs up) Enjoy!

You Will Need

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (I prefer to use 1 tbsp of garlic granules)

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp tomato puree

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and diced

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

600ml chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you want, I prefer to use chicken)

1 can coconut milk

Chilli flakes to garnish, if preferred

Method

Over a medium heat, start by cooking the onion for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and oregano and continue to fry for a few seconds while stirring.

Add the tomato puree, butternut squash and sweet potato chunks and fry for a further 2 minutes.

After this, add the stock and bring the whole pot to the boil.

Reduce to a medium heat and simmer until the butternut squash and sweet potato are cooked. (I usually give it 30 minutes; you may wish to leave it longer or less depending on the size of your chunks)

I also like to give it a stir halfway through.

Once the squash and sweet potato are cooked, add the coconut milk and simmer again for a few minutes.

Using a hand blender (or food processor) whizz the soup until smooth.

Serve with a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a side of warm crusty bread.

Other Ideas

I love the flavours of this soup. I serve it with a sprinkle of chilli flakes to add a dash of heat, but not too much, as I usually serve it up for the kids. If you wanted to add extra kick you could add a deseeded and chopped red chilli at the same time you add the garlic and herbs. If you’re really brave, bung a second one in there.

If you want to bulk up the soup and add some extra hidden veggies (its all getting blended so why not eh?) you could add things such as mushrooms, peppers, carrots and celery with the onions to create a veggie base for the soup.

How We Got School Ready

How We Got School Ready

Today, the Master of Mischief started school. He left the house this morning bursting with excitement. With his book bag and lunch box in hand, he walked into the school playground no trouble at all. I ugly cried in the car for a solid 5 minutes afterwards. This is the last first day of school we will ever have. It has been what feels like a long time coming, yet also I can’t escape the feeling that this moment has arrived all too soon.
Over the past few months, a large amount of my time, effort and budget has gone into ticking everything off the school starter ‘kit list’. As well as worrying about the uniform shopping, I’ve also done as much as I can to make sure that the Master of Mischief was what they would deem ‘school ready’.

In this post, I share some of the activities and things we have been doing to practice school skills and nurture independence in everyday tasks. By sharing a few tips and tricks that we’ve used with the Master of Mischief I hope that you too can get your children school-ready.

Dressing and Undressing
This is something that we have been encouraging my son to do since he was old enough to try. Unfortunately (for me) my son is both lazy and an amateur comic. In the mornings and at bedtime, we usually get some version of “I don’t know how to do it” followed by him trying to put pants on his head. This is something he finds utterly hilarious. The only thing that has helped us through this is encouragement and an abundance of patience. While the Master of Mischief sits and wails that he doesn’t know how to put socks on (when he does) I simply reiterate that he should try. After a few attempts of me telling him to have a go, he usually succeeds, and all is well once more.


For younger children, shoelaces can be tricky. I prefer to buy Velcro fastening shoes for ease. However, I do try to make time for shoelace practice. There is a range of tools available; however, a practice shoe is easy to make from cardboard.
Motivating your child to dress and undress independently will help them so much when it comes to changing for PE, removing jumpers in hot weather and putting aprons on for painting (not that they ever use that particular skill).
Another thing that your child might need to practice is getting their coat on and off independently. All reception children are given access to an outdoor area, having the ability to get their coat on themselves will mean they can get straight to playing without having to ask an adult for help.
Another aspect of developing this skill, particularly if your morning schedule is a busy one is practising getting up and dressed for a particular time. In the week before starting school, I made sure the children were up, breakfasted and dressed for 8.30 am. Please don’t think I’m like a drill sergeant marching the landing with a whistle and clipboard shouting for my troops to be front and centre. It’s not like that. I simply wake them up earlier to ease them into their new routine. This has been beneficial for both them and me as it prepares us all for the shift in routine. Once the new school year starts again, we will be well seasoned in our early morning routine which will (hopefully) prevent the dragging of heels when we need to be up and out.

Lunchtime Practice
Whether you’ve decided to opt for hot school dinners or are sending your child with a packed lunch, it is always a good idea to practice using a knife, fork, and spoon. The more confident they are, the easier it will be for them to eat their dinner. If you’ve decided on packed lunches, you might want to encourage your child to practice opening their packets and containers. Depending on how nice your school’s lunchtime staff are will depend on how much help your child will get. We will all remember that one troll-like dinner lady that was zero help at all when you couldn’t open your damn yoghurt pot!


With all of my children, I have found it beneficial to see how long it takes them to eat their dinner independently. I don’t sit and time them on a stopwatch! As I said, I’m not a drill sergeant. I merely make a mental note of how long they sit and eat for. I also make a note of how much they eat. This kind of information is useful to pass onto the school, so they know what kind of portion to give your child. It’s also good for you to know how much to pack in their lunch. Too much might mean your child misses out on after lunch playtime and too little might mean they are hungry or irritable when they finish school. Nobody wants that!

Names, Letters and Words
I don’t think for a second that teachers expect children to start school having read Homer’s Odyssey, reciting the Latin alphabet, and counting to 100 in French. I believe the Master of Mischief will be taught what he needs to learn at school. Still, for a teacher to build a child’s knowledge, it can’t hurt to have a basic foundation to build on.

We’ve spent a lot of time encouraging the Master of Mischief to read and write his name, recognise the letters in it. This has also helped him practice his pencil grip. Once at school, his vocabulary will grow rapidly. To prepare for this, we encouraged him to learn new words. While out walking we collected items which we then talked about at home. This was a great way to introduce describing words.
Sharing songs, poems and stories is another great way that we encouraged him to recognise sounds and patterns in words. Repeated storytelling seems to have fostered a strong interest in books. This is always a good thing.
You’ll be surprised how quickly reception children start learning to read.

Counting
As before, I don’t think any teacher expects a child to march through the door on their first day chanting the 9 times table. Nonetheless, being able to count verbally up to 10 or even 20 is a tremendous benefit to a child.
This is something that we’ve managed to teach the Master of Mischief without even designing to do so. Counting throughout the day with our children is so easy to do. For example, how many cars drive past while you’re walking to the shop, how many lampposts you see on your way into town, how many stairs are in your house, how many windows, how many doors and so on. The possibilities of things to count are practically limitless.
One activity that we did actively do to help with counting (and colour) was graphing.

I made a chart on large floor paper and labelled the sections with colours. I then asked the Master of Mischief to find as many items around the house with the colours. We sectioned them on the chart and then counted how many of each colour we had. I then got him to practice writing the numbers on a separate sheet of paper.


Another way to set a foundation for mathematic skills is to try ordering numbers. One resource for this that has been invaluable for us is a simple deck of playing cards. There are so many ways that you can promote mathematics skills with a deck of cards. Number ordering, shape sorting, adding and counting to name a few.

Sharing and Turn-Taking
This is something that I was quite concerned about with the Master of Mischief. My girls are very close in age so have always had to share. My son, being younger and the only boy, has a range of items that are his and his alone. He also, unintentionally, gets more one to one attention at home. This is particularly true while the girls are playing with their friends. When it comes to sharing and taking turns, he can be a bit of a ‘give it to me gremlin’. He also HATES to lose. Something attributed to his dad, with whom I have had many an argument over games of Frozen Frustration and Ludo. (He cheats, I don’t, it’s now on the internet so it’s true. End of!)
One way to overcome this is through socialising children, which during the COVID-19 lockdown has been near on impossible to do (and at times illegal).
It has been a relief to have multiple children, having three at home has helped immensely throughout lockdown. Although tough at times, I think it would’ve been even harder dealing with one bored child. I don’t take my ability to say ‘go and play with your sister’ for granted. To those dealing with one child through this pandemic, I see you. You are warriors!
One thing we have done to practice turn-taking and sharing has been Sunday afternoon games sessions. Every Sunday through the lockdown we have brought out the board games to play together as a family. I invested in several age-appropriate games for the Master of Mischief including a variety of Orchard Toys games.


When we started with our newly appointed tradition, he was very demanding and would get quite worked up waiting for his turn. Through patience and practice, he is now a polite and easy-going gamer. The improvement in him has been great to see. I suppose like many things in life it was simply a case of ‘practice makes perfect’.

Sit, Listen and Do
As well as sharing and taking turns, children need to be able to sit and listen to teachers and each other. Carpet time, storytime and assemblies will be new experiences for school starters. Listening to spoken instructions and shifting the attention from what they are doing to what the teacher is saying will be a big skill to master. Practising this before starting school can only be beneficial.
Something we’ve done with the Master of Mischief to practice listening has been going on ‘noisy walks’.
This kind of walk is where we listen to all the noises we can hear while we are walking. As we go, I make a note of the sounds we have heard and at home, we will recall the noises and talk about our journey. It’s quite fun to do.
Another way we’ve practised sitting and listening has been through reading. Something I have done with the Master of Mischief has been sitting him on a chair opposite me while I read a story. Having him sat away from the book has meant he has to listen to what I’m saying to follow the story. (obviously, I show him the pictures at the end of each page, I’m not that mean)
One more thing that is beneficial to practice, as well as listening to instructions, is following them. To encourage this we have played games like ‘Simon Says’. It’s a terrific way to practice instruction following. The better your child gets at the game the more challenging you can make it.

These are just some ways that we have prepared the Master of Mischief for school. I hope that your preparations have gone well. Sending your child to school for the first time is a big deal. Well done to all the parents who have navigated what has been a truly crazy year so far. We did it!
I also want to wish good luck to all the new school starters that are joining or rejoining classes post-pandemic. You’ve got this!

Until next time
Hannah
XO

Chores for Children

Chores for Children

Let’s talk about chores for children.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the jobs that my children do at home. Honestly, her reaction was what you’d expect if I’d told her I had sent them to a Victorian England workhouse.

In defence of myself, I explained that I want my children to understand responsibility. The significance of working together as a household to look after our home and the importance of keeping the place tidy. I also want them to know the value of their belongings and how looking after your things is crucial, whether you are 4, 44 or 104.

She didn’t seem convinced. Some mothers are happy to do everything for their children and while I’m sure she now thinks I’m a modern-day Miss Hannigan, I stand by my decision to give my children chores.

Now, please don’t think my children spend their days in rags, scrubbing the floor until it “shines like the top of the Chrysler Building”. My husband and I do most of the jobs around the house, and when I say me and my husband, I mean my husband. That bloke gets gold in all cleaning events. 10s across the board. He’s ex-army, so cleaning is as natural to him as breathing. Everything from dishes to ironing is done to an exceptional standard. That said, we are a household of five. We have three children, a house, and I’m doing a degree. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything for everyone at home. Which is why my children are asked to chip in.

To teach and promote a bit of independence and responsibility, the kids have a few simple things that we ask them to do to help out. Jobs such as, feed the cat, put your washing away, make your bed. They are straightforward, five-minute things they are perfectly capable of doing that make a huge impact. It means there is one less job for me ( or husband) to worry about and honestly, my children love that they are an important part of our unit.

After my conversation with the child chore hater, I asked my eldest daughter if she thought it was unfair that she had to do things like put her washing away. She replied with the best answer I could have ever hoped for. She said “No, why would it be unfair, they’re my clothes, why shouldn’t I put them away.” Her response filled me with pride (and reassurance that she didn’t feel like a 21st Century Cinderella). When I looked further into it, there is so much information online about how great it is to get children involved with household chores.

Below is a list of some age-appropriate chores that you could allow and encourage your children to do.

Children aged 3-5

  • Tidying toys away: It usually helps if they have a large box to put their toys into. You can even make a game out of picking up toys by counting each one, or if you have more than one child, see who can pick the most up.
  • Making their bed: Encourage your child to pull up their covers and tidy the bed. You may need to help younger children with straightening the duvet.
  • Cutlery sorting: Getting your child to put knives, forks and spoons into the correct compartment of the ‘cutlery drawer’ is an easy sorting activity as well as a big help. I always supervise when doing this and remove anything sharp or weapon-like.  
  • Sock pairing: This is another great sorting activity that will help your child with matching and pairing. It’s also a great starter chore that your youngster can do alongside you while you’re sorting laundry.
  • Plant watering: A great activity in the summer to keep the plants fed. The Master of Mischief has loved watering the plants in the evening. Especially as they have grown so much. It’s been a great way to visually teach him about looking after things.

Children aged 7-9

  • Setting the table for dinner: This is something that Little Fairy is an expert at. You can also encourage them to make drinks to go with dinner. (I’d avoid anything hot or alcoholic)
  • Take out rubbish: I usually ask my girls to take bits of recycling out to the bin on their way out to play.
  • Putting washing away: Everyone is responsible for making sure their clothes get put away properly.
  • Make their breakfast: I’m not talking a full English or continental, but my girls can make themselves a bowl of cereal or a slice of toast. Life Skills!
  • Feed a pet: We have a cat; at 9 years old, we have recently entrusted my eldest to make sure the cat gets fed. The cat food is ring pull so there aren’t any major mechanics involved. The cat’s still alive, so it’s going well so far.  

For children aged 10+

  • Set an alarm: Taking responsibility for making sure they are up on time is a great skill to teach your child.
  • Keep the bedroom tidy: This means no toys or dirty washing on the floor, beds made and curtains OPEN!
  • Help with cooking: Depending on how trusting you are you can ask your child to help prepare dinner or allow them to cook a basic meal. Teaching them recipes will also set them up for adulting in later life.
  • Washing up: If you don’t have a dishwasher, you do now. I joke. Seriously though, at this age, you can allow and encourage your child to clean after dinner dishes or wash up their breakfast pots.

I probably don’t have to state the obvious, but I’m going to, my children don’t do all the things listed here, these are simply ideas.

Are there any chores that your children do that I haven’t listed? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

Hannah XO

Dates with My Daughters on A Budget

Dates with My Daughters on A Budget

The bond between mother and daughter is something unique. For me and my girls, the bond runs deep and strong. It’s like I have created two small besties. I’m not talking a ‘Weird Science’ set up, but since the moment I had them, I have given everything to make sure they are loved, cared for and that I bring a smile to their faces every chance I get. Having them in my (very) early twenties, we were a household full of girls for a very long time. Bringing the smiles was easy. It was fabulous, even though they were young, we would spend our afternoons cuddled up in our pink blanket dens, watching Disney movies and throwing glitter around like we were actual fairies. I wore wings a lot!
After meeting my husband and having our son, the girls had to readjust to having boys in our house of girls. With a new baby, we had fewer den building days, the glitter was put away and my attention shifted. The smiles were still there but I would be lying if I said that the change in dynamic was a breeze. There were plenty of bumps along the way. We endured through them all and looking back, all the bumps, that seemed like roadblocks at the time, are irrelevant now. I couldn’t imagine not having our chaotic little family unit. The girls are wonderful big sisters, and my husband is a fantastic dad to our beautiful blended family.
Despite the fact I couldn’t live without them, a new dynamic is still a juggling act. My son is the youngest and by far the most demanding of my children. With a ridiculous amount of energy, he has two settings. 1 and 11. There is no in-between. I’m proud of my daughters and their acceptance that mummy has to give attention to the Master of Mischief because he is younger and still learning. However, my mum guilt is given a little boost every time I have to split myself, meaning that the girls are left to play together (without me).
It is wonderful that they have each other, with only 16 months between them, they are more like friends than sisters (long may that continue). I do think it is important though, that I plan to give them uninterrupted ‘mummy time’. I usually aim to plan to do something together once a week. This is usually a little bit of cooking or baking, doing face masks, watching a movie, or heading out together for a walk, just the three of us.
Once every couple of months (budget allowing) I plan a girls day out. This is usually in the form of a shopping trip. We leave the lads at home, grab some lunch, browse through the shops and enjoy well-deserved girl time. I always budget to give each of them a bit of spending money which allows them to splurge on friendship bracelets and fluffy notepads, which they never wear or ever write in. However, this is a different story for a different time. Our retail therapy days are always fun and are a way in which we keep the bond between us strong.
Budgeting plays a large part in what we can do though. As a low-income family, I don’t always have the money to keep the kids flush with fluffy notepads. The juggle is a struggle.
When I started this blog page, I wanted to share with others, ideas and things that I do with what little money I have left after the bills are paid. Below is a list of ideas for dates with your daughters that won’t break the bank.

Movie Nights


Who doesn’t love a good movie night? From big-name blockbusters to the straight to TV films they show on channel 5 in an afternoon. I adore films. Sharing flicks with my girls is such a special thing for me. Growing up, both my parents worked shifts, so we were never a ‘sit down together for dinner’ type family. Movies were our thing. Both my mum and dad would share their favourite films and directors with me. With my mum, it would be the chick flicks. Legally Blonde, You’ve Got Mail, Dirty Dancing, Sleepless in Seattle and the rest. When it was movie night with my dad, it would be the best action or cult classics with the likes of Jaws, The Lost Boys, The Usual Suspects, Die Hard and The Untouchables. With the latter still being a firm favourite today. I had stacks of VHS (yes, I’m now that old) and for the ones we didn’t own, we would have a weekly trip to Global Video! This was pre-Netflix DVD posting, which was pre-Netflix streaming.
I’ll bet some of you younger readers might not know that before Netflix was built into your Smart TV, they were a DVD postal service. You had to wait 3 days to get your chosen film, so think before you next complain about your 3 minute buffering time!
Movie night is a cheap and easy thing to do on a rainy afternoon. To some, sticking a film on is just ‘something to do’ but when you share a film from your own childhood it becomes so much more than that.
If you’re willing, you can also splash a little cash on some movie extras. I usually set myself a budget of £5. Whatever treats we do have, I put them onto one large platter (this negates the dreaded packet crinkling through the film).

Walking and Talking


This is a completely free activity that you can enjoy with your child from birth to any age. When my children were babies, I loved walking out with them in the pram. The fresh air and the sounds around them were like a knockout drug. They would sleep for hours after. As they got older, we enjoyed exploring the local woods armed with backpacks filled with water bottles and biscuits. Walking is a therapeutic tool that is great for clearing the mind and getting a bit of exercise into your routine. If I’m honest, it’s something I wish I did more often.
Taking a walk and spending some quality time with your daughter is a great way to bond. I recently went walking with my eldest daughter and we talked about everything, from her feelings about lockdown to what her favourite character on Once Upon A Time was. When we set off she seemed sad, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, yet after walking, talking, laughing and breathing in some (smelly) country air, she skipped home like a completely different kid.

Make Overs!


In our house, with three girls, pampering and makeovers are a regular occurrence. Places like Poundland, B&M and Home Bargains have some great (and cheap) makeup products. Most supermarkets also sell them (if you’re happy to pay a few quid extra). Hair, make-up, music and laughs are always a good combination. This kind of activity is great for mother-daughter bonding and special moments.
Trying out a new hairstyle with my girls or letting them do my make up is something that they always enjoy. It rarely costs us anything and always results in giggling. Usually, because I end up looking like the lovechild of an Estee Lauder saleswoman and Pennywise. Although they are getting better with age, I don’t think either of my girls has a future in the make up industry. Special effects, maybe, but I’d predict some serious Ofcom complaints if my two were allowed to do the makeup of the Good Morning Britain hosts.


Baking and Cooking


Baking is something that I love to do with or without the kids. In the interest of bonding though, it’s usually best to involve them. I have a range of ‘fake baking’ recipes listed on the site, however, there is something special about baking from scratch and sharing a recipe with your daughter. I remember my own mum teaching me how to make a cake from a recipe her mum (my nana) had given her.
Even if you’re not a confident or keen baker, you can pick up a pre-prepared cake and biscuit mixes from most supermarkets. They are usually very reasonably priced as well, so you don’t have to break the bank to share an afternoon of baking with your child.


It can be tricky for busy parents to allow for an afternoon of baking or certainly, baking from scratch. If using a pre-prepped mix is better for you then do that. Your child won’t care whether your cake comes from a generations-old recipe or a 99p supermarket mix. Cake is cake. The time you give them though, that is what they will remember.
Another excellent bonding activity for mothers and daughters is cooking. Sharing a recipe for your favourite food or teaching your daughter how to make a simple meal is a wonderful thing to do. I can remember teaching my daughter to make a basic Bolognese. She did everything from ingredients prep, to making the sauce and serving the whole thing up. She was so proud of herself and what she had made. It was a lovely afternoon that we shared. There is a range of easy and cheap to make dinner recipes that you can share with your children here. Click the link below.

Afternoon Tea


Afternoon tea is something we have done a lot more of through lockdown. Boredom has been rife and I have found that presenting sandwiches and sausage rolls on a cake stand has become something that can brighten even the drizzliest of afternoons.
It’s never anything fancy. I have found that I can get everything I need for around £5. I usually make sandwiches from what I have in. This can include anything from ham and egg to jam or cucumber. I usually add a cake slice, a punnet of strawberries, and some crackers with cheese or buttered fruit scones.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant; you can spend as much or as little as you like. If you do decide to do afternoon tea with your daughter though, make it an event. Plan ahead, pop on a pretty frock, make your sandwiches, whether that be with a fancy filling or just a spread of jam. Sit down together with a bit of music playing and enjoy your afternoon together as if you were sat in the window of Betty’s.
Although all of the above-listed things are what I have done with my daughters as a way to make sure that not all my attention goes to my (more demanding) son. Do not think that these ideas are only for mothers and daughters. I would encourage you to enjoy all of these things with any of your children.

Until next time…
Hannah XO

Vanilla Fossil Biscuits

Vanilla Fossil Biscuits

These delicious biscuits are great for baking with children. They require few ingredients and are extremely easy to do. This recipe has been used in my family for generations. One of the great things about the simplicity of these is that you can vary your shape and design for any occasion.

You Will Need

200g Margarine

150g Caster sugar

400g Plain flour

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla essence

Method

Mix together the margarine and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Rub in the flour until you have ‘breadcrumb’ texture.

Lightly whisk the eggs with the vanilla essence and add to the dry mixture. Mix together until you have a dough (the dough with be slightly sticky at first – or at least mine always is).

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and lightly knead. Roll the dough out to 1-2cm thickness.

Cut out whatever shapes you wish to use and place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment or baking paper. For a fossil effect, press small dinosaur and other toys into the biscuits to create prints in the dough.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 4/180c/160 fan for 15 minutes or until a pale golden brown colour.

Allow to cool and enjoy!

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to make fossil biscuits and instead chose to keep your pattern plain, here are a few ideas for you.

When not making fossil effect biscuits, we usually use icing made from icing sugar and water and top the biscuits with sprinkles.

You can add 100g of currents to the dry mix before adding the egg to make current biscuits.

You might want to try dipping the biscuits into chocolate for an even sweeter treat.

You could also experiment with different flavours in place of vanilla. For a zesty twist, try adding the rind of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 tsp lemon essence.

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Having just turned thirty, I have found that I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my twenties. There has been an abundance of highs and lows. Although they got off to a rocky start, my twenties have given me so much that I am grateful for. The decade of my twenties has gifted me three wonderful and spirited children, a loving husband, a settled home and has set me on a journey to gaining a degree in young children’s learning and development. The degree in particular was something I thought was well beyond my reach.

I started my twenties as a single pregnant girl, still living at home with her parents. I say girl because I was so young and clueless. I’d had so many plans, a job lined up in London, I was going to travel and see the world. I planned to live my life like they do in all of the movies where the young and naïve girl leaves her small town, struggles for a short while, then finds her flow, then finds love, then stands in the ocean, maybe has a trip to a vineyard and then gets a happily ever after with a tall and brooding fella with dark hair and a penthouse. It was going to be amazing. I was an absolute idiot because for a split second at the age of 19, I actually thought that it could happen! Fool!

When I found out I was pregnant my entire path changed. Everything that I thought I would do changed and in the space where the dream had been, was a tiny human who needed all of my time and attention. As I progressed through my early twenties, life threw me some serious curveballs. My self-esteem and confidence plummeted. All of my self-worth and self-belief was stripped from me through a long run of difficult times.

It wasn’t until I met my husband that things started to change for the better. I didn’t need to believe in myself because he believed in me. Over time and as our relationship blossomed, I regained so much of my old self and life changed again for the better. I have entered my thirties, happy & healthy with three beautiful children, a lovely home and a future that I thought was long gone.

Here are five bits of advice I would love to give my younger self.

Accept Your Body (it is amazing – even the chunky bits!)

So much of my twenties was spent dieting. Oh. My. Days. I tried every fad diet going, and for what!? To deny myself and be miserable. I would love to be able to tell my younger self that as long as you’re healthy it doesn’t matter what shape you are. My second and third pregnancies both resulted in C-Sections, so I have the infamous ‘tummy pouch’. I shed so many tears over my ‘disgusting belly’ when what I should have been focusing on was that my body had done what it was designed for. I have grown not one, not even two, but three humans! A younger me should have appreciated the magic of that a lot more. It is particularly important to teach our children that our worth is not tied to our weight.

Budget Better!

So many of my problems when I was younger came from poor financial decisions. I was young when I left home with my daughter. I hadn’t a clue about family budgets, how to organise my money and what I should be saving or where I should be buying things from. I suppose for most, this comes from experience. Sometimes we have to fail a few times to learn. I am by no means financially secure (even at 30) however, I have learnt so much about budgets. Every penny that comes into my bank is accounted for. I know what, when and exactly (to the penny) how much is going in and out of my account. I am a seriously savvy shopper and I make sure that any treats (big or small) are factored into our budget. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation or financial difficulty, seek help immediately. There are so many companies, apps and charities that can help with financial struggles and budgeting. The biggest thing that I learnt when I did finally reach out for help with my finances was that I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last to be in that situation. Remember that help is always available.

Enjoy Your Own Company

This is a big thing I wish I would have appreciated more while I was young. Before I met my husband, I lived for a long time as a single mum. I hated it. Once my children were in bed, I felt lost. My entire world revolved around them. I didn’t know how to be alone. If I could go back, I would tell myself that it is important to be able to be in your own company. I would have done some online courses, taken up a hobby, or just enjoyed the peace. After my husband and I began living together and then welcomed our son to the mix, all chances of alone time disappeared. I miss it. It’s true that you don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone. I would kill to get back all those nights I spent not knowing what to do with myself. I can’t even go to the toilet now without a small person tracking me down.

Aim Higher

At the age of 28 I took a huge leap and returned to education. I achieved a variety of things within the jobs that I’d had, however, every job I ever had was just that. A job. There was never any thrill or spark for what I was doing. After returning to education I had so much regret that I hadn’t done it sooner. My lack of confidence in my early twenties really held me back. For anyone feeling like they can’t do something, just do it! Aim high and if you miss, jump up and try again. If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to follow passion. I’m late to the game for this, it’s better late than never I suppose. They say that if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I could not agree more. I cannot wait to qualify and start my career as a teacher, I just wish I would have taken the leap sooner. It sounds corny to say that if I can do it anyone can. I will say it though, if I can do this (return to education and balance a five person household) ANYONE can do it! So aim high and don’t let anything or anyone hold you back.


Don’t Be Worried to Say No to People (be a bit selfish)

Does anyone else live with an incessant need to people please? All through my twenties, and I’m ashamed to say, ever so slightly now in my thirties, I have a really hard time saying no to people. So many times, I have found myself in situations, in places or doing things that I just don’t want to do. I always thought that saying no to somebody meant I was being selfish. It does not mean that at all! I cannot stress this enough. Over the years I have got better at indulging selfishness. When I say selfish, I don’t mean that I stomp around like a self-entitled, egocentric nitwit, who only does what she wants to do. No. What I mean is I don’t do things just to keep other people happy. An example is that in my people pleasing days, if I got invited out with friends, I would go out. Regardless of whether I wanted to, or could afford to, I went, because I didn’t want to let my friends down. Now, if I get invited out, I will ask myself whether I want to go and if I don’t or can’t I simply say, ‘no thanks, not this time’. It sounds like such a small factor, but it has made such a massive difference to me. My life is so much easier now I have stopped ‘people pleasing’. Honestly, it is not your job to keep the world happy. Focus on yourself and your own tribe and you will not go far wrong.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that my time machine is on the blink, I can’t go back and give myself all of this amazing advice. However, I can share it with all of you. Even if one person takes something away from my wistful musings, the past ten years and all the mistakes I made will stand for something. Although I didn’t get the world travels, feet in the ocean, vineyard finish to my story. I am ever so grateful for the struggles I have been dealt, because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am or as happy as I am now.  Life is a funny old thing.

Until next time….

Hannah XO

Chicken and Broccoli Rice

Chicken and Broccoli Rice

This is a really easy and delicious week night dinner recipe. It takes hardly any time to make so is great for those times you want something tasty but can’t be bothered cooking. I often serve mine with a splash of sweet chilli sauce. Delicious!

You Will Need

400g cooked chicken breast (diced) I use the frozen cooked chicken strips as these are cheap to buy and can be kept in the freezer. I find that this helps me to cut down on waste by only using what I need

300g dried long-grain rice

1 chicken stock cube

200g broccoli, cut into small florets

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garlic granules

1 tsp mixed herbs

Method

Cook the rice according to the packet instructions and drain.

In a separate pan, boil the broccoli (for 2-3 minutes) drain and set aside.

Over a medium heat, pan fry the chicken with the garlic and herbs in a large frying pan or wok (ensure chicken is cooked through). Add to this the finely chopped carrot and onion and continue to fry until softened. Once softened, add the broccoli.

Crumble the stock cube in with the chicken and vegetables and add a good splash of water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cooked rice to the chicken and vegetables and stir until they are thoroughly mixed.

Serve straight away either on its own, or with sweet chilli or soy sauce.

Other Ideas

If you need a quicker mid-week dish, try using microwaveable golden vegetable rice. Simply prepare according to the packet instructions and add to the chicken and vegetables. You could even try other rice flavours.

If you want to sneak a few extra veggies into this, you could include a small tin of sweetcorn, some chopped mushrooms, or some chunks of courgette. Any extra veg you want to use can be added at the same time as the carrot and onion.

The Many Uses of Lego

The Many Uses of Lego

Lego has been around a very long time. You will be hard pressed to find a person who hasn’t at least heard of the dynamic and ever loved toy that is suited for adults and children alike. In our house, Lego is something that we all engage with. For my children, they spend hours building, breaking, and rebuilding whole worlds in which their imaginations are let loose. For me and my husband, we have unlocked a whole new vocabulary of words we spout when we stand on said Lego creations, which are often scattered all over our house. As hard as it may be to find a child who doesn’t love Lego, it would be harder to find an adult who hasn’t stood on Lego without swearing like a sailor. That said, you cannot deny the amazing possibilities that come with Lego. Although it can be expensive to buy large sets, there are some very reasonably priced packs that can be worked and re-worked into a variety of different things. In this post, I share a range of things that you and your children can do with Lego. All of the ideas given are things that me and my own children have enjoyed doing. I hope they inspire you to try new things with your Lego sets. 

Boat Making

This was a great activity, that usually turns competitive in our house. Through the summer, we filled a small paddling pool and had a competition to see who could build the best boat, we started using recycled junk, however this quickly turned into a Lego building activity. This is great for hot days and water play. HOWEVER, you do not need to wait for the sunshine to play boat building. One of our favourite ways to play is to tape some paper down onto the floor and draw a river. The kids build their Lego boats and use their imaginations to create stories on the river (sometimes all afternoon). The Master of Mischief usually brings in bad guys, dinosaurs and a whole host of other toys to play on his Lego boat river. Regardless of how or what your boat looks like, this is a great way to encourage imaginative play.

Bridge Building

This activity idea often ties in with our boat making, bridge making is an excellent STEM activity that gets your children thinking about ways to construct a sturdy bridge. Again, you can stick a sheet of paper down and draw your own river. You can colour it blue for water or get creative and colour it green for slime, or orange and red for lava. Encourage your children to think of creative things to build to get their toys safely to the other side. The Master of Mischief really enjoys this activity and he has come up with so many innovative ways to construct his bridges.

Ring Toss

This was a game that we built on a rainy afternoon while we were bored. After making it, we somehow ended up playing for almost an hour and a half. All three children got involved. One of the reasons I liked it so much was the sheer simplicity of it. It was a small tabletop version of the beloved garden game which took no time at all to put together. We used pipe cleaners to make the rings for tossing. You can buy a pack of pipe cleaners from most craft places or cheap shops with a craft section. I bought ours from Poundland. The game was great for promoting hand to eye co-ordination, fine and gross motor skills, patience, and turn taking. I often find that the simplest ideas are the most fun.

3 in a Row

Another tabletop game that you can create from Lego is three in a row. This game is more commonly known as noughts and crosses. I have found over the years that my children can fill a whole notebook playing this game. I wanted a version that used less paper, so here we are. All you need is a small base piece, some dividers, and two different colours of small square bricks. Both of the girls have loved playing this. It is another great way to promote cognitive development and turn taking.

Lego for Teaching Fractions

I am sure that within schools they have a vast range of classroom resources that they use when teaching. For us though, Lego has become an invaluable tool while we have been home schooling. The maths work that we were receiving for Little Fairy and Kiki was all based around fractions. Trying to explain the whole concept of fractions, equivalent fractions, how one fraction can be the same as another was becoming tricky (pizza and pie will only get you so far). Lego became a great way to visually present the different kinds of fractions as well as allow the girls to add and subtract fractions. The different sizes of the pieces and the colours made it so much easier to explain and visually represent.

Symmetry

This is an activity that I have used for all of my children. You can make your patterns as simple or complicated as you like based on the age and ability of your child. We have used a medium sized Lego base which I split down the middle. I then made a pattern on one side and gave the Master of Mischief the blocks to recreate the pattern on the opposite side. It was a great activity which gave him a hands on approach to learning symmetry. As your children get older, you can make the activity harden by creating a more intricate and complex design for them to copy. If like me you have two children close in age, ask them to create a pattern and then swap and see if they can complete each other’s design. Meanwhile, you can put your feet up with a nice hot beverage (maybe a biscuit) and relax knowing your children are playing nicely and learning while they do it. 

There are likely to be a million more uses for Lego, these are just a few that we have enjoyed. If you have any special uses for your Lego that I can use with my children, please do share them. We love building with Lego and I hope that these ideas can motivate you to think and build outside of the Lego box.

Until next time…

Hannah XO.