Saturday, 23 July 2016

A Small Guide for Starting Year 7 - Thank You Verulam School!

Jasper has his last day in Year 7 at Verulam school tomorrow (St Albans).  I cannot believe how quickly this academic year has gone, all the anxieties and worries of last September seem lightyears ago!   He's made new mates, experienced new sports, pushed his boundaries (and then some) and has come through happy and smiling.  
First day of "big" school!

He didn't do so well in his end of term exams (according to him - personally versus his targets he did pretty well), but the fact that he wants to do better has to be a good thing.   After all "the goal is excellence"!

I thought I'd write a few notes to attempt to reassure other parents about to embark on this new adventure with their sons, and hopefully offer a few tips to help you all through.

Firstly, I can absolutely vouch for the fact that the school knows "boys", knows how to educate them, direct them and push them, but overall make their school days a great experience - yes I know it's early days, and those darn hormones will play a part over the years, but let's focus on the here and now.

ALSO, if you have any problems or queries or questions along the way, the staff are brilliant at responding, be it the front of house staff or the teachers themselves, I cannot fault their attention to detail and personal touch in response, very reassuring in itself!

AND find that FB page for your year group, this has been invaluable to us all am sure, and we've also made new friends along with way, a bit like the NCT but for the older ones, a group of parents experiencing the same obstacles and helping each other over them)!

You will be given a detailed list of the uniform and equipment required.   Some of the uniform is optional, for instance the jumper.  It seems that some years embrace the jumper, but others don't.  In my opinion I wouldn't invest in the jumper until your son says he wants one.  In September it's not usually too cold anyhow, it may save you some money if he doesn't want one, but you can always get
Summer Shirt
at a later date if he does.

The tie will have coloured stripes to match their house!  So make sure you know which house they are in before you get the tie.  I'd advise getting a spare just cos (no explanation required)!

The tracksuit is also optional, Jasper has made use of his, but I know lots who haven't used theirs, so again see how you get on.

The Summer Shirt is very cool, means they don't have to wear a blazer or tie, but they have to wait until the Summer term to be invited to wear it!

Blazer Buttons - the blazers are great quality, but we did lose the buttons several times over.  It appears however that Stevensons will give you spares, and even offer to sew them back on for you! Great service!

Uniform Sale - the school PTA runs a uniform sale, a great way to pick up uniform and/or spares!

Pastoral Care
They have the most amazing Matron at Verulam, so patient and so lovely, if your son feels ill or out of sorts she will look after him no problem, so nurturing, it's very reassuring to know she is there (she rocks)!

Packing the Backpack
I found using a concertina file invaluable, with his timetable stuck on the front.  In the early days I would help pack his bag the night before (you either help them swim or let them sink, I opted for the former).  The file contains labels for all his lessons, and he can pack his bag from there accordingly.   Saves them lugging every single book around every day - which I believe happens.

We also put a file for homework at the back, and another for projects, to be moved into the subject file when completed.  Can you tell I used to be a PA :)

Book Care
In our day we used to cover our books in wallpaper, these days you can get plastic covers from Rymans, worth doing to keep the books in good order, Jasper narrowly escaped a C for the state of one of his books.

Lake District Trip
Have to add a special note with regard to the Lake District trip.  It was so professionally executed and the boys had a wonderful time.  Many memories made.  I am updating this in September and am still hearing anecdotes!   There is quite a long list of "stuff needed" but they are able to let you borrow some items, and why not contact a previous year group who've already had to purchase a lot of the items already!  I know I'd be happy to share waterproofs etc.!

If I can think of anything else I'll add it onto her, but that's all I can think of for now!

Hope you all have a great experience too, take care all, and enjoy the Summer!
Annie x

Friday, 22 July 2016

Gravity Force Launches in St Albans - Discount Codes AND a chance to WIN Free tickets!

I’ve teamed up with Gravity Force to give you the chance to win FOUR free jump sessions at the brand new St Albans trampoline park

·         Gravity Force is the leading provider of trampoline parks in the UK
·         St Albans park opens 17th August (near Dunelm Mill)
·         Pre bookings available now - 50% off if booked before Sunday 24/7 (see     
        details below) 25% discount after Sunday through to 16th August.

      When I showed this to the kids, and told them we will be popping along, I was officially "the" best mummy in the world, course it didn't last long (I ruined their tea apparently), but hey!

I've teamed up with Gravity Force to offer you the chance to win four free jump sessions at their St Albans site, which opens 17th August.  

There is something for everyone at Gravity Force. “Gravity Jump” is the core session and gives you access to all the park’s facilities. “Gravity Tots” kids’ class is suitable for toddlers from walking age up to five-years-old, along with any parents or guardians. “Gravity Fit” provides a high intensity, low impact structured fitness class that burns fat whilst building, toning and defining muscle. Children can also host their birthday parties at the trampoline park.

Gravity Force is the ultimate UK trampoline park. Whether you’re a freestyle pro looking to showcase an insane routine on the Tumble Tracks or an average Joe looking to get stuck into a game of trampoline dodgeball there really is something for everyone.

There will be 50% off Gravity Jump, Gravity Tots, Gravity Fit, and birthday parties, if booked by Sunday 24th July, by using the respective codes – ‘JUMP1’, ‘TOTS1’, ‘FIT1’, ‘PARTY1’. To book and find out more about the sessions available visit or call 0845 498 9049.

One lucky reader will win 4 free Jump sessions, entry is simple.........good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gravity Force has given us some free Jump session in return for this post, I might even give it a go myself, watch this space!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Levi Root's Caribbean Smokehouse, Westfield, Stratford

I grew up in West London, which boasts a thriving afro-Caribbean community.  Caribbean street food, including curry goat, was always widely available.  Travelling regularly to Shepherds Bush, to see my beloved QPR, means access to the same,   I love it, and often cook it myself

Levi Roots burst onto our TV screens on Dragons Den, and his Reggae Reggae sauce was backed by Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh.  You cannot say Reggae Reggae sauce without a smile on your face.  It was clear that Peter and Richard were as enthralled with Levi's enthusiasm and charisma, as well as his sauce, Sainsburys were quick to list the product, which has grown into a great range since - I had the fab crisps recently too

Today, we were invited to Levi Roots Caribbean Smokehouse, his new venture which is due to open on the 30th November in Westfield, Stratford.  We were met by very friendly staff, who directed us to our booth - gotta love a booth!   The interior is kinda beach-housey, with interesting decor, pictures and quotations on the walls, but the first thing that hits you is the beautiful smell coming from the open smokehouse kitchen, the reggae music playing and the total calmness and warm ambience.

We initially ordered some "popcaan" for nibbles - just beautiful. Would have had more but the kids inhaled them!!!!!

Regarding the kids, there is a fab, well thought out kids menu, which has hot dog, fish fingers etc., but also offers curry goat, great to see!

For starters, "street food",  we ordered the jerk mushrooms, bajan fish cakes and jerk chicken wings.   It was all fabulous, but I have to say the fish cakes were just outstanding, and nothing like anything I've had before - an absolute winner!   The kids ate all the chicken wings, fair praise indeed, and the mushrooms had a subtle flavour, with a slow heat coming through them.   Portion size was good, so excellent value for money.
For mains Chris had the lamb, I had the jerk chicken and the kids both had the short ribs.   They all came with 2 sides, so we had roti breads, rice and peas, sweet potato fries, slaw and a green salad.   The meat and sweet potatoes all came out together on one tray, which I thought was kinda sweet, with the other sides coming separately.  I would have liked to have seen a bigger portion of the chicken and lamb, but I have to say the ribs, breads, rice and sweet potato fries were huge portions! Way too much for us to finish, so again, as a meal, excellent value for money.

For desserts the kids had brownies with ice cream, Chris had the pecan and ginger brownie with ice cream and I ordered the rum and raisin brownie with ice cream for everyone to try.   I have to say, at this point of the meal it went very quiet as everyone tucked into their sweet treats.   Again, portion size was pretty large, hardly a complaint, but dare I say that they could afford to offer smaller portions and still have satisfied customers?

We didn't make the most of the drinks menu, which was pretty extensive, but I noted that the wine started at £15 per bottle, which is very good for a restaurant, or should I say #rastaurant!  There is also a good range of cocktails, smoothies, and of course Red Stripe!

We will certainly be back, as I'd like to try the one pot curries (including goat) and also the wraps which would make a fabulous lunch.   They also have burgers etc. to choose from, so something to please everyone's palate.

Good luck everyone, and thank you!
Annie x

Disclosure: Our food was complimentary

Friday, 13 November 2015

Slow Cooker Jamaican Curry Goat

I adapted another recipe to make it suitable for the slow cooker.  This is also fab using mutton, but if you can get goat it is so worth it.  I've found a supplier locally who does it (Madina General Store, Hatfield Road, St Albans) - what a find!  I only went in for some scotch bonnets and curry leaves!  (Wasn't able to source scotch bonnets or fresh curry leaves from either Morrisons or Sainsburys locally)??

1 large onion, chopped
10 garlic cloves, chopped
100g ginger, peeled and chopped
a little vegetable oil (I was the spray version)
2 scotch bonnet chillies chopped (I used a red and a yellow)
Small handful of curry leaves - more Asian than Caribbean but it works
3 sprigs of thyme
4 tbsp mild curry powder
750g mutton or goat (I used shoulder)
400g can chopped tomatoes
150ml lamb stock
400g can of beans of your choice, drained,I used pinto
juice of half a lemon
Small bunch of coriander, chopped, plus a little more to garnish

Pre-heat the slow cooker to low.

Blend the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor to form a paste.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion paste, frying for a couple of minutes.

Add the chillies, curry leaves, curry powder and meat and stir until browned.

Pour mixture into the slow cooker, add the tomatoes, stock and beans and stir.

Cook for 6-8 hours until the meat is moist and tender.

Add the lemon juice and coriander and serve with roti breads (if you can source them), or rice or salad of your choice.

Simply delicious, and Chris said it was my best curry ever!  Fine accolade indeed.

Annie x

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Interesting Experiment shifting schooling hours for teenagers!

I have a pre-teen, my goodness he's only 11, but my I've noticed a difference already.  The silence, or - if I'm lucky - the occasional murmur in the morning, show the signs that this boy is not ready for school first thing in the morning.  Having said that he does get himself up and dressed and fed (often force fed) in time, but it's not the tigger bounce in the morning of yesteryear!

So was very interested to watch on BBC the story of the school who have shifted the school time for teenagers to 1.30-7pm, and apparently making a whole lot of difference.   The hormone changes in the hypothalamus means that them getting up at 8am (say) is the equivalent of an adult getting up at 4.30am every morning.

It's too early to check exam results, but by all accounts making for happier kids all around! I love this kind of stuff, and will be monitoring.

Having said that, Jasper is doing very well, as he's a conscientious kid (for the teachers), but still one to keep an eye on.

You can watch for yourself here!

Would welcome feedback from real parents with real teenagers, I am just a fledgling right now ;)

Annie x

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Annie's Villa

After last year's adventures to Vietnam, we are just as excited this year to be going to our own Villa in Crete.  It's been a long time since we have been out in the Summer, and we are combining it with a week in Santorini, where we've never been.

Cannot wait!

We are always asked if we rent it out, and we do, details here!  (And yes I ought to do a course on positioning of pictures on blogger *adds to list*