Tag Archives: Family

Meal Planning Monday: Shaking off the January Blues

It’s the end of January and I’m shattered. If it were just me, I’d happily exist on a diet of things on toast; but the boys need a proper meal on the table and I need to eat a bit better too. January is about as down in the doldrums as it gets. There’s not a great deal of seasonal veg about and the dark evenings lend themselves to stodgy comfort food dishes. We love a hearty stew as much as the next family, but we’re all starting to crave slightly lighter meals.

I don’t write a meal plan every week, because I don’t do a shop every week. I do a big online shop about every 2-3 weeks and plan 12 meals or so for the next fortnight. The meals are not fixed to specific days, I just cook what I fancy depending on what needs using up and how much time I have to cook. I’ll make quick meals like pasta on days when dinner time needs a speedy turnaround. We almost always eat at the table and I like to cook a nice family dinner a few times a week so we can sit, chat and take our time over it all.

My big shop will arrive on Monday evening and I’m more excited than I should be that my empty fridge will be full again. I’ve spent a smidge over £100 on my shop and it should be enough for 12 meals. I’m blogging a weekly recipe post (each Friday, keep an eye out as some of them are really, really lovely). In my shop this week I’ve also bought baking things for six new and original recipe blog posts. I’d say 12 meals and six bakes for around £100 makes me a slightly smug but very frugal shopper!

This coming week feels like a bit of a lazy one for me. Most of what I’ve planned are meals which are quick to prep and cook; or things I can throw in a slow cooker and forget about.

Meal Planning Monday: Shaking off the January Blues

Saturday night is Dad cooks night and he’s promised us his signature dish – the Full English (sausages, beans, egg, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast). It might not be the healthiest meal, but he does make an effort to cook things without fat and loads up our plates with the healthier veg.

I think veg is going to be a real focus for me over the next few weeks. Whatever meal I’m serving, I’ll make sure there’s a big pile of fresh veg to go with it. I’m really craving a fresh, zingy salad with lots of herbs too. I’m so done with boiled carrots right now.

If you’re looking for meal planning inspiration, check out my 55 family meals your kids will actually eat!
Hijacked By Twins

Meal Planning Monday: New Year, New Menu?

Christmas Day 2017 was a really lovely day. We all got nice presents and we all had a really good Christmas dinner. I’d cooked enough so there would be leftovers aplenty for the next few lazy days and I was feeling quite content with myself. Then I got flu and spent the next 10 days in bed. I’m still a bit wobbly and woozy; but worse still, my fridge is festering with the Christmas leftovers we didn’t get to eat. My job later this morning is to clear out the fridge and prepare it to be filled with normal food once again.

Tomorrow morning our first food shop of the year will be delivered and I can’t wait. I feel like I’ve had too long away from the kitchen and I’m ready to start cooking nice things for my family again. Admittedly I’m still not feeling 100%, so what I do cook will hopefully be a balance between really quick and easy and something tasty but full of good healthy stuff to build us all up again.

Here’s what is on our menu this week…

Meal Planning Monday: New Year, New Menu?

I’m so excited about getting back in the kitchen, I dread to think what the boys have been feeding themselves on while I’ve been in my sick-bed.

I’m a big fan of meal planning, having a menu can save me so much time and money. There’s something really comforting about knowing what our evening meals will be for the week and that I’ve done all the shopping I need to do to prepare those meals. If I’m thinking ahead I’ll try to make extra to eat another day, or for lunch the next day or maybe even freeze for a rainy day in the future.

One thing I have done which has really helped me is to create a list of 55 family meals my family will always eat. If you’re meal planning and you need some inspiration, it’s definitely worth having a look through my list. Each time I sit down to meal plan my list is always close to hand.

What’s on your menu this week?

Win a festive baking bundle from Sweetpea Pantry

Christmas is coming and there’s nothing nicer at this time of year than the smell of home baking wafting from the kitchen. I recently reviewed some of the lovely baking mix boxes from Sweetpea Pantry. They were a hit and I’ve put a few of their brilliant boxes aside to for quick bakes with the boy this Christmas.

Sweetpea Pantry have put together a fantastic festive baking bundle which you could win in time to do some great bakes this Christmas.

Win a festive baking bundle from Sweetpea Pantry

The festive baking bundle you could win includes a set of star cutters and these brilliant baking mixes –
  • Chocolate Giggles Biscuit Mix
  • Ginger Giggles Biscuit Mix
  • Playful Pizza Dough Mix
  • Super Oat Flapjack Mix
  • Grainy-Brainy Pancake Mix
  • Super-Duper Brownie Mix
  • Scrumptious Carrot Cupcake Mix

These Sweetpea Pantry baking mixes are available from Ocado, Sainsburys, Booths, Marks & Spencer and a range of other retailers. Each mix costs £2.75 and they’re delicious, family friendly mixes with a healthy and nutritious twist.

For more information about Sweetpea pantry, visit their website.

Win a festive baking bundle from Sweetpea Pantry

Win a festive baking bundle from Sweetpea Pantry

To be in with a chance to win a festive baking bundle from Sweetpea Pantry, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a a festive baking bundle from Sweetpea Pantry.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 10th December 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
11. Your email address may be passed on to the promoter for marketing purposes, you may unsubscribe at any time.
12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Sweetpea Pantry – Do their boxed baking mixes work?

Boxed baking mixes are really handy to have in the cupboard for a baking emergency. This week we’ve been putting some of the Sweetpea Pantry range of baking mixes to the test.

In the days before I became I parent I wasn’t known for my baking. I was pretty shoddy at it and used to rely a lot on boxed baking mixes which weren’t that great. Once I became a Mum and it somehow became expected of me to morph into some kind of Nigella creature, I taught myself how to bake. But I still keep a boxed baking mix or two in my cupboard for emergencies.

The Sweetpea Pantry mixes are a little bit different to your standard range of sponge buns with Ninja Turtle decorations. They have a range of sweet and savory mixes which have a healthy twist, more of which later. Many of the mixes are gluten-free and have free-from options; for example their Super-Duper Brownie Mix contains flaxseed and teff, has no added sugar and is gluten-free! They say they are 100% natural, 100% honest and 100% fun!

Sweetpea Pantry - Do their boxed baking mixes work?

Sweetpea Pantry - Do their boxed baking mixes work?

The Sweetpea Pantry range includes mixes for cakes, pizza dough, pancakes, flapjacks and biscuits. They’re made with whole grains and nutritious ingredients for delicious, easy and healthy home baking. We were sent a selection of the mixes to try and I was impressed.

The first box we tried were the Super-Duper Brownies. I’m not usually much of a fan of brownies. I don’t really like chocolate cakes and desserts (yes I know I’m weird) but these were the right balance of not too sweet, not too stodgy but with enough brownie goo to please the crowd.

They were so easy to make and all I needed to add was some butter and honey. There is a list of suggested options so you can tailor your bake to meet your requirements, so if you’re vegan you can swap the butter for coconut oil for example. They took ten minutes to make and 12 minutes to prep and 3 minutes to eat the lot.

Sweetpea Pantry - Do their boxed baking mixes work?

In the interests of having a sweet and savory balance, we also tried the Playful Pizza Dough Mix. This contains chia and flax seeds and is vegan, vegetarian, dairy free and contains no added sugar. All I needed to add was a little olive oil and water, plus a bit of flour when I was rolling the dough out.

I followed the instructions on the box, left it to prove and then rolled the dough out to make four different pizzas to feed four fairly fussy people. Here is my pizza, cheese, tomato, chilli and egg. It actually worked really well and I loved the pizza base which was crisp and held the toppings well. We all really enjoyed the flavour of the base, which had a lovely slightly nutty flavour.

Sweetpea Pantry - Do their boxed baking mixes work?

We loved the pizza dough, it was so easy to use. I tend to use a pizza dough mix rather than a bought base these days as they tend to be lighter. I liked the crisp, slightly nutty base and I’ll be buying more to keep in stock for our family pizza and TV nights.

The Sweetpea Pantry baking mixes are available from Ocado, Sainsburys, Booths, Marks & Spencer and a range of other retailers. Each mix costs £2.75 and from what I can tell, they’re delicious, family friendly mixes with a healthy and nutritious twist.

For more information about Sweetpea pantry, visit their website.

Note: I was sent a selection of mixes for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Meal Planning Monday – Costly Convenience Foods

This week, despite being organised and strict with my spending, I’ve still ordered over £100 worth of food for us. Our house is currently the house of the plague, so I’ve planned a few convenience food meals to make mealtimes a bit easier this week. That’s almost certainly helped bump up the cost of mealtimes.

When I sit down and plan our meals for the next week or so, I also write a shopping list. This makes me feel really organised. When I shop online I tend to use MySupermarket because I feel like to helps me to shop in a more pocket friendly way. If I need tinned tomatoes and I’m not fussed about the brand; then I can easily find the cheapest or what’s on offer. I feel like a super savvy shopper when I do this.

You’d think with me being very careful about what I buy it would mean I had a fairly modest shopping bill. Not so, somehow I’ve just spent £100 on about 9 days worth of food for three people; not including the dog. Admittedly this week I’ve bought more convenience foods than normal, because I’ve got a chest infection and I’m feeling quite poorly. I don’t have the energy or inclination to stand in the kitchen cooking from scratch every night.

Despite this, I think I’ve put together a fairly wholesome menu for the next seven days. What do you think?

Meal Planning Monday - Costly Convenience Foods

Admittedly I’ve bought in the kofta, meatballs, pie and burgers, but the rest will be cooked from scratch. I’ve tried to offset some of the convenience aspect by adding healthier sides and not beating myself up about it.

I’m veggie and I know I need to eat to get well but my appetite isn’t great at the moment. Where the boys are eating meat I’ve planned a veggie substitute. I’ve treated myself to a Linda McCartney pie for on Friday and I’ll have chopped up Quorn sausage instead of meatballs. Incidentally the Quorn meatballs are the best in the business, but sadly not yet available from Morrisons.

So that’s our menu for the week. It’s not exactly adventurous, but it should be fairly easy to prepare and keep us going until we’re all at the other side of the various bugs we’ve got.

What do you think of our menu?

Meal Planning Monday w/c 16th October 2017

Although I meal plan every single week, I rarely blog about meal planning. I thought I’d share what we’re having for dinner this week at Casa HodgePodgeDays. Our evenings are busy; husband runs, the boy has after school things and homework. Plus I am often finishing off work or going out to things.

Dinner needs to be quick, easy, fairly well-balanced and tasty enough for us all to eat without complaint. It usually falls to me to prepare and serve dinner. I’m trying to persuade my husband to cook once a week for us. I’ve told him it doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to be tasty and not something I’ve had to think about or prepare.

To his (sort of) credit, he did go out and buy the ingredients for hot dogs for last Saturday night, he just never got round to actually cooking them, which I ended up doing. The dream would be to have someone do meal prep and delivery every night, but my fairy godmother hasn’t come up trumps with that yet.

Meal Planning Monday – What’s on our menu this week…

Meal Planning Monday w/c 16th October 2017

It’s all pretty simple fayre this week. It’s meals like beef stew or sweet and sour pork which can sit bubbling away gently in the slow cooker for the afternoon. Or quick to cook meals like spaghetti or risotto which I can have on the table in half an hour.

I am a hider of veg, so every meal will contain several vegetables finely chopped or grated into them. Pretty much anything which goes in the slow cooker ends up with a carrot or two finely grated into the sauce. Once it cooks the carrot disappears like magic. Vegetable magic!

I’m also a veggie, so where meat is mentioned, eg pork, then I portion off some sauce before the meat goes in and add a substitute; maybe tofu, paneer, quorn or just my favourite chunky veg. Sometimes we all eat the veggie alternative, quorn meatballs are brilliant and we have them a lot!

The menu is a little potato heavy. I’ll mix things up with sweet potato mash, or pile extra veg onto their plates and put fewer chips on there. What do you think of my menu?

Is meal planning something you would like to read more about on my blog? Let me know in the comments box if you think I should do this more often. Thanks for reading!

This week: Things to be thankful for

So far 2017 has been a bit like wading through custard. I’m still firmly in the grief stage and it’s showing no signs of shifting. I’m trying my best to shake it off and move forward by being kind to myself and focusing on being a good mum and a good wife. The last week, for various reasons has been especially hard. 

When you’re not feeling great it is often a good excuse to make a list of the people you love and who love you, or the good things in your life. In that spirit, I’ve decided to list the things to be thankful for from the last seven days. Because although it’s been hard, there have been an awful lot of good things and positive things in our lives.

Old Friends. When my husband found himself in a sticky situation this week, some of his oldest and best friends stepped up to help him. I am thankful for their care and compassion when he needed it.

Internet Friends. I have a small group of exceptionally wonderful friends who I met online but who have turned into the best friends a girl could have. This week they all noticed my dark mood and came to the rescue with love, laughter and a listening ear.

My son. He’s not feeling very well, but despite having an excellent excuse to be a grump, he has been full of smiles and love. He’s played, he’s snuggled, we’ve read together and he’s reminded me that the most important things in life are the people close to you who love you. He is my biggest fan and I am his.

This week: things to be thankful for

My husband. Despite having a horrendous week himself, he made the effort to take me out on a date even though he wasn’t in the mood to go out. We went to see Logan, not the most cheerful film ever, but we enjoyed escaping reality for a few hours and a bit of Hugh Jackman in a vest did nothing to hurt my mood.

Facebook. I have fallen out of love with Facebook for the time being. I’m just not feeling it, but I popped on this morning and the first thing I saw was a four year old video of my son cooing and dribbling and being adorable. It was very, very nice to be reminded of our little chubby cheeked baby who is now a strapping six year old.

New Phone! Yesterday my new phone arrived. I’ve been struggling for two years with a phone which wouldn’t support Facebook or Instagram. It was so bad it didn’t have a camera you could take a selfie with. My new phone is not top of the range, it’s a Samsung J5 2016 but it works and I can access and use the things I need to do my job as a blogger. It’s a really, really big deal to me. My friends are delighted they can now communicate with me in more than one way.

Seaside and Fresh Air. Last weekend I went to the Gin Festival in Blackpool with my best friend. We sat and ate those hot sugary doughnuts you can only get at the seaside. We talked a lot and knocked back a respectable amount of good gin. The next day he sent me an MP3 of a song he’d written about our trip to Blackpool. So I uploaded it to YouTube. You have to listen carefully as his voice is a bit quiet, but I think it’s hilarious. Bob is one of the best people I’ve ever known.

Hope. I’m thankful for hope. I’ve got good things to look forward to with fun people. I’ve got a holiday, a flying visit to Cornwall, I’ve got the Just So Festival to get excited about. I’m going for a spa weekend with some good friends. Plus we’ve got lots of family adventures to plot and scheme.

It’s not all darkness. It can sometimes feel that way but it isn’t. Writing down a list of things to be thankful for every so often can help bring the light and the good into focus, and that’s never a bad thing.

What are your things to be thankful for?

Review: National Geographic Animal Jam Toys

A brand new range of toys from the makers of the popular kids app – Animal Jam has recently been launched, you might have seen the adverts for Animal Jam on TV already. If you’ve not heard of Animal Jam yet, then be prepared to know everything about it by Christmas!

Animal Jam is the number one online social game for kids and it was created in association with National Geographic. The app is free to play and has over 45 million registered users around the world – three million of them  in the UK.

Created in partnership with National Geographic, Animal Jam combines role playing and anthropology to make an exciting educational game for kids. Players can collect fun facts in their journey books, learn about animal conservation and talk to real scientists.

Animal Jam

These toys will be instantly recognisable for fans of the app.  Animal Jam has been brought to life with this brand new collection of toys. They are collectable and all come with exclusive codes to unlock  content and other special  features  inside the online game.

We were sent a selection of the collectable toys to try out, here’s a little run down of what we tried and what we liked…

The Animal Jam Adopt a Pet (Series 1)

These are little pets which come with their own kennel (or dens as they are known in Animal Jam). Each kennel is home to a collectable pet and two accessories. You can customize your pet with accessories and stack the kennels to display your pets. There are 96 of these to collect and they cost just £2.49 which makes it a great pocket money treat. The boy really loved his kennel and out of everything he enjoyed playing with this tiny toy the most. A hit!

Animal Jam

ANIMAL JAM – Friends with Pet

The Friends with Pet costs £4.99, you get a 3 inch figure, a 1 inch friend and three interchangeable accessories. I think this is a great value set, it looks like it should cost more than it does and it would make a great party present for a little Animal Jam fan. We got the Posh Raccoon and Pet Kitty and they are very sweet.

ANIMAL JAM – Light Up Friends with Ring

Another great party present is the Light Up Friends with Ring. These are collectable 3” animal figures and have secret patterns, two interchangeable accessories and a light-up ring. These sets cost £7.99, we were sent the Lucky Lynx and the real hit for the small boy was the light up ring. 

ANIMAL JAM Plush characters

These cute plushes cost £7.99 and are 7 inches tall. There are several plush characters to choose from – Panda, Koala, Bunny & Monkey. We were sent the purple Koala and he is  super-soft and very huggable.

Animal Jam

Since we received these toys the small boy has suddenly seen Animal jam everywhere, we’ve downloaded the app and used the codes which came with the toys to unlock parts of the app. It’s fair to say that this had opened up a new line of interest for him, which is great.

The app is free and the accompanying toys are nicely priced, not too expensive and great for either pocket money (or stocking filler) treats, as well as being good options for birthday party presents for classmates etc. They are suitable for ages 5+ and would be a great little gift for any Animal Jam fan this Christmas.

We were sent these toys for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

40 – My 40th Birthday

Today is my 40th birthday and I feel weird. Lots of my friends have turned 40 this year, most have been dragged kicking and screaming into their fourth decade. I feel like it’s just crept up on me. I’ve been too busy dealing with everything which has happened to us this year that my 40th birthday has been the very furthest thing from my mind.

I woke up this morning and I was 40. In all honesty I feel no different to how I did yesterday. It’s just a number. I’ve got bigger things to worry about than numbers.

Right now I feel like I am overflowing with emotions. I miss my dad more than I have words to say, my boy is starting school today and I’m all emotional about that, he’s having an operation soon, I’m emotional about that too. I’m touched that I have great friends who spent some of their weekend with me partying the last days of my 30’s away.

I am conflicted and anxious about a million different things. But in the weeks since my dad’s death and through the summer holidays, I have been reminded of the two most important people in my life, Matthew and Ben. This weekend has shown me all the people who care about me, friends old and new, from near and far. I am very lucky.

I guess (and I know I’m rambling) that I’m struggling to give a meh about anything. I feel numb inside, I’m overwhelmed by life and the only way I can keep putting one foot in front of the other is to focus on Ben. I feel like in some situations I’m faking emotions and joyous reactions to pretend to the world that everything is fine and normal. I am faking it until I make it. I wonder how many people do that just to get through?

I’m fine and I will be fine. I’m just going through two things almost everyone in the world faces at some point or another, turning 40 and losing a parent. I would turn 40 a thousand times just to have an hour with my dad. 

Today I’m going to try and be in the here and now. I’m going to focus on Ben and Matthew and the special people in my life who love me and care for me. I’m going to smile for the camera, take a walk in the park, blow out the candles on my birthday cake and raise a glass to my dad, and to my Grandma who would have been 103 today.

I don’t fear 40, it’s just a number. I fear life and what it will challenge me with next.

40th Birthday

Did my husband lose respect for me after I gave birth?

I’ve always been the strong one, the one with the good career, fairly good salary and in many respects the wearer of the trousers. It was a role which suited me just fine, every ship needs a Captain and I wore the Captain’s hat with style and aplomb. That was until I swapped it for my Mummy hat and my husband had to help steer the ship himself.

I recently read an interesting article where a man talked about how his wife’s caesarean made her a total badass. I shared it with him and we talked a little about the traumatic birth of our son and his swift arrival via an emergency caesarean. It occurred to me that seeing me at my most vulnerable; naked and frightened, screaming for help, being cut open to have our child wrenched from my body made him see me in a different light. Did my husband lose respect for me after I gave birth?

I think before I became a Mum he saw me as strong, and I had been strong for us both, but now I had to be strong for our son first and us as a couple second. I was hormonal and weepy and I’d never been a Mum before, so everything was new and I was totally winging it, we were winging it together. I was also wrestling with undiagnosed PTSD which made me anxious, vulnerable and hyper vigilant. A storm was brewing inside me and I could no longer steer our ship effectively.

I wasn’t the high functioning girl in love with her career anymore. I was an exhausted first time mum, struggling physically and mentally. I’d made and nurtured our tiny perfect son but in the process I’d changed and I’d probably lost his respect.

He denies losing respect for me following the birth of our child, but what’s clear is that something has changed, there’s been a significant shift in our dynamic. I’m no longer able to play the role of leader and breadwinner, but instead fulfil the role of Mother and carer. To me they are equally important roles, but to others they are somehow lesser and not as deserving of respect and status.

I’d always thought that giving birth would give me a badge of honour worthy of respect. It’s a rite of passage which can be natural and beautiful, but equally it can be traumatic and bloody. Experiencing that and seeing me go through the birthing process should be worthy of respect, but it showed me up to be the vulnerable human that I am, and that changed things.

respect