Grow Your Own

For years now we’ve been very keen on growing our own fruit and vegetables in our garden. We always have mixed success, sometimes we get gluts of produce and sometimes it fails. Success is usually weather dependant and it’s fair to say we’ve had a real mixed bag of weather these last few years.

In our old house we only really had a patio so everything we grew was in pots. We didn’t feel particularly limited by this and successfully grew tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes and lots and lots of herbs. If you grow your own food it tastes all the better because you’ve invested a bit of time and love in the process. We moved to our new home nearly three years ago and project number one in the garden was a vegetable bed.

We were approached by the lovely people at Debt Free Direct who have given us a grow your own challenge to see if it’ll help save us some money. They gave us £75 to spend at Wilko to get the ball rolling. £75 at Wilko goes a very long way, here’s what we bought…

grow your ownTomato grow bags
Tomato support cages
Westland grow bags
Greek oregano seeds 
Miracle grow compost 
Pumpkin rocket F1
Wilko 4 tier mini greenhouse
Courgette Defender F1
Courgette (round) seeds
Gardeners delight tomato seeds 
Tomato plant feed 

grow your ownOrdering from the website was really easy and all of my order arrived safely a few days later. I am honestly super-impressed with the quality of everything, particularly the greenhouse which is a sturdy construction and a pretty essential piece of kit to help your plants survive and thrive the changeable spring (and let’s face it, summer) weather.

We can’t wait to get sowing the seeds. This year we’re going to get the boy involved so he can feel invested in the process and hopefully enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of his labour.

Do follow our progress as I’ll be blogging our grow your own updates along the way, and I’d love to hear any of your top gardening tips for vegetable success!

Disclaimer: Debt Free Direct gave us £75 to spend on our grow your own project. All of my opinions are my own and my reviews as always are honest.

 

A walk around Abney Hall

At the weekend we took the boy for a walk around Abney Hall. I’ve lived a few minutes away from Abney Hall all my life and spent many, many happy hours there as a child.

We used to love pond dipping, playing in the steam and chasing around in the woodland. Slightly morbid me, used to enjoy visiting the pet cemetery, where the beloved family pets of the halls previous residents are buried.

The hall has a grand history and is perhaps most famous for its connection to Agatha Christie who visited relatives there on a number of occasions and wrote several stories during her time at Abney Hall.

We went this weekend because we’d heard that a sinkhole had opened up in the pond and it had entirely drained away.

Abney Hall

The sinkhole which appeared in March

When we visited at the weekend it looked like the pond had been repaired and had started to fill again with rainwater.

Abney Hall

The pond at the weekend, it looked full and healthy

We had a lovely wander around the park, the boy loved pointing at the ducks on the pond and splashing in muddy puddles. I love the building itself, it’s really quite gothic and the gargoyles are beautifully spooky.

Abney Hall

The hall is having some work done

Architecture is lost on the very young who much prefer crossing the stream and splashing as they go.

Abney Hall

Fording the stream – he was really excited by this!

As well as a game of pooh-sticks!

Abney Hall

Pooh-sticks… I lost

It’s a beautiful place to visit and we intend to take him back quite regularly, I’m keen to see the slow unveiling of the newly repaired hall and I imagine he’s excited about more epic pooh-sticks battles.

Abney Hall is near Cheadle, Cheshire and is free to visit and enjoy.

Yu! Fruit Snacks – Yummy Review

Last week Yu! sent me some of their fruity snacks to sample and review. I’m not overly fond of fruit but I know (I know, don’t nag) that fruit is a really important part of a healthy diet, and counts towards your five (or is it seven) a day. The boy loves fruit and will happily devour a punnet of strawberries in a sitting, which is great, but it’s handy to have little snack packs for trips out and lunch boxes and such like.

Yu! sent me…
Yoghurt covered strawberry pieces
Yoghurt covered raspberry pieces
Strawberry fruit chews
Raspberry fruit chews
Cherry fruit chews
Blueberry fruit chews
Mango fruit chews

Yu

Despite my fruit aversion I love cherries and raspberries, so it took all of my willpower not to dive straight in before I could take a picture.

The fruit chews are made from concentrated fruit pieces which contain 7.2 times their own weight in real fruit. Each 24g pack is one of your five (or seven) a day and has no added sugar. They were a real fruity surprise. They’re a bit like jelly sweets, so you can pass them off as a sweet treat instead of the healthy snack they are.

Both the boy and myself shared each pack, I really enjoyed the mango, strawberry and blueberry flavours, but they were all good.

On a trip out I took both bags of the yoghurt covered strawberry and raspberry pieces. I’m a bit of a devil for a chocolate covered raisin and these had the same addictive qualities. Yoghurty and fruity, they don’t taste like a healthy snack. Generously coated with a lovely fruity hit hidden inside. We all loved them and devoured them in one sitting.

The calorie count isn’t prohibitive either, with the fruit chews at around 86 calories a pack and the yoghurt coated pieces around 120. I don’t think that’s too bad. Especially if you can pass actual fruit off as sweeties.

The boy loved them and to be fair so did we. We’ll be stocking up on these little snack-sized packs for our holiday. They’re perfect portion sized packs, they feel much naughtier than they are and he (we) can’t get enough of them.

You can buy them online from Yu! But I believe they are also available in Tescos.

Disclaimer: Yu! Sent me the samples for free for review, but I always review honestly and these were scrummy.

My Sunday Photo 13/4/14

silent sunday

OneDad3Girls

 

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I’m kids TV intolerant

When I was pregnant I had grand ideas that we’d not watch kids TV. I’d seen it and couldn’t see the appeal, but I was 34 and I’m guessing I wasn’t particularly their target audience.

When the boy arrived we watched a lot of Top Gear, Homes Under the Hammer and assorted daytime TV shows, but I was aware this wouldn’t appeal to him for long. Slowly, ever so slowly I incorporated a bit of Cbeebies into our TV schedule. There are some great, fairly educational shows, he enjoyed them and they were something we’d watch and talk about together.

As he’s grown older he’s watched it a bit more, mainly when he’s with his grandparents, they are less mobile and less able to run around with him or sit on the floor for hours playing trains. It’s also pretty handy for when he needs a bit of downtime in the afternoon, his napping days are pretty much over now he’s three.

We still enjoy watching some programmes together, but there are some that I cannot bear, and judging by similar reactions on twitter to some shows, I’m not alone. Shows on my hate-list include…

Justin’s House
Carrie & David’s Pop Shop
Tree Fu Tom
Swashbuckle
Balamory
The Lingo Show
Grandpa in my Pocket
Mister Maker
64 Zoo Lane

He loves them, it must be the bright colours and all that nonsense, but he’s glued to the screen. I can either sit there silently cracking up, or more productively I leave the room for the duration and do something useful, like tidy the kitchen, fold some clothes, or stare longingly at a gin bottle and pray for a power cut.

Increasingly, I’m finding that even the shows we used to enjoy together I have no patience for any more. It’s a fact. After three years I am kids TV intolerant.

Have I missed any? What shows make your blood boil?

kids tv

Our Visit to Wythenshawe Community Farm

Ever since our visit in March to Reddish Vale Farm we’ve had nothing but plaintiff requests from the boy to “go see the andimals”. It’s impossible to refuse such a delightful request, so off we trotted to Wythenshawe Community Farm for an adventure.

We’ve been a few times before because it is so close to home and it’s free. It is tiny but they’ve packed the place with animals, and at this time of year we were desperate to see the baby lambs.

Wythenshawe Community Farm

It is a small community farm, but they’ve managed to pack in sheep, goats, pigs, cows, horses, chickens, ducks and a rather handsome peacock.

Clearly his favourites were once again “the piggins” there were three huge pigs having a snooze in a big-pig-pile. He kept on going back to have a look at them. I suspect it might break his heart when he finds out what sausages are made out of.

We managed to be there during feeding time which was lovely. They even brought out one of the orphan baby lambs and bottle fed it. Little Bobby (in the picture above) was adorable and so soft and placid. There were few children about by that time, but they all got to give him a gentle stroke.

Wythenshawe Community Farm

I love this picture of the cows at feeding time, all quietly lined up, heads down, munching away. I couldn’t resist taking this snap.

We’ll be going again in a few weeks, they’ll be bringing the lambs out properly then and we can’t wait to see them. He does love going to the farm and seeing the andimals.

For more information about Wythenshawe Community Farm visit their website here

You know you’re a parent when…

Fifteen ways you know you’re a parent… can you think of any more?

  1. Your bed is inexplicably full of Cheerios.
  2. You go to work with sudocrem on your trousers and when people point it out you say it’s bum cream, they recoil in horror and you have to point out it’s not your bum cream. This does not dispel the horror.
  3. Hot drinks are something you enjoyed in the past, a time long, long ago.
  4. You always have a biscuit and a used tissue in your pocket for emergencies.
  5. You stop using expensive face cream and use baby lotion instead.
  6. Boy toddlers leave puddles in the bathroom, so you’re always wearing at least one damp sock that smells a bit funny.
  7. You don’t need an alarm clock anymore. At 6am someone always wanders in, throws a toy car at your head and demands a snack. Now.
  8. You eat something involving pesto at least three times a week.
  9. In the shower you sing “Wind the Bobbin Up” instead of the indie classics from your youth.
  10. Getting everyone ready and leaving the house, having brushed your hair and ensuring everyone has shoes on in under an hour is an Olympian feat.
  11. The remote control has been through the washing machine twice and you still can’t find it.
  12. You spend 42% of your time winding toilet paper back onto the roll.
  13. Your car is full of raisins and you think the hamster might be nesting in there somewhere.
  14. Approximately 10 minutes after a successful bedtime you’re so exhausted you decide to turn in for the night. It’s 8.15pm.
  15. Your idea of tidying up is kicking all the toys out of the way to form a narrow path across the room.

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Pork & Chorizo Kebabs with Harissa Mustard Recipe

maille mustardThis is a lovely, easy recipe I’ve created for the Maille Culinary Challenge. I had to come up with a recipe which used at least one Maille product, I picked Maille Mustard with white wine, lemon and Harissa. On its own it’s a lovely mustard but I used it in three, yes three different ways in this recipe.

It’s a quick and pretty easy mid-week meal. It went down an absolute storm. Here’s how I did it. It makes around 8 good sized kebabs, enough for 4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

  • 500g of minced pork
  • 4 large Spanish style chorizo pork sausages from our local butcher, skin removed
  • A bunch of coriander
  • 2 dessert spoons of Maille Mustard with white wine, lemon and Harissa
  • One bag of salad leaves of your choosing
  • One tortilla wrap per kebab

For the salad dressing:

  • 4 teaspoons of Maille Mustard with white wine, lemon and Harissa
  • 2 teaspoon of honey
  • 4 dessert spoons of cider vinegar
  • 12 dessert spoons of olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Method:

photo 2 (1)Whizz up half of your bunch of coriander in a food processor, add two dessert spoons of Maille Mustard with white wine, lemon and Harissa, your pork mince and the chorizo sausage and whizz some more until it’s all blended but not smooth, you still want some chunky bits. Then form into sausage shapes around your kebab sticks. They should look like this:

Put on a non-stick baking tray and cook in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes at 220˚ turning regularly.

In the meantime make your salad dressing. Use a clean jar and add all the salad dressing ingredients listed above. Put the lid on the jar and give it a good shake until it’s all mixed together. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you need to. Just before serving toss your salad leaves in the dressing. Chop the remaining coriander.

To serve take a warmed tortilla wrap, spread thinly with some Maille Mustard with white wine, lemon and Harissa and top with your dressed salad leaves, drizzling any remaining salad dressing on them. Put your cooked kebabs on top, scatter with some chopped coriander, roll your wrap and enjoy.

photo (11)

The kebabs were a big hit with the harissa mustard adding an additional layer of flavour to the dish. I loved it in the salad dressing too and I virtually licked the jar clean.

You can find out more about Maille and their range of gourmet mustards and other accompaniments on their website. Wish me luck with the Maille Culinary Challenge!

My Blog Redesign

My blog has been self hosted since November 2013 and for a little while now I’ve had a nagging feeling that I needed to do something with the look of it. Sort a proper logo and header out, brand me up a little bit. Do something which said a little bit more about me rather than just some generic swirly things.

I was lucky enough to bump into Feb25 on Twitter and when I mentioned I needed to pull my finger out and get it sorted they offered their expertise. They’ve re-branded bloggers before and they’re fond of HodgePodgeDays, I had a good feeling about it all, so we set to work.

From my point of view it was easy-peasy. They wanted some background on me and what makes me tick, so I showed them this blog post all about me and I listed my interests, which are…

  • Mother
  • Tweeter
  • Blogger
  • Music lover

They went away and created a logo, I was blown away by how much they’d captured me. I showed it to some friends who loved it too. It was clearly a winner. They supplied me with a banner, a logo for social media use and a favicon, everything a blog redesign needs. All I needed to do was upload them and I had a brand new, unique, beautiful look.

blog redesign

It really was the most simple process. I started off having absolutely no clue what I wanted. They got a feel for me and came up with some suggestions. They’re happy to tweak and tweak until things are just right and for me, this is just right.

They were an absolute dream to work with and the turn around was really quick. I can’t recommend them enough. If you’d like to find out more about Feb25 and what they can do for you, check out their website or find them on Twitter and tweet them, they’re lovely. I promise!

What do you think of my new look? I’d love to know.

My Sunday Photo 6/4/14

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