Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Mint Choc Chip Ice cream - no churn! No ice cream maker, no problem!

Ok, so it's April 2020 and we are in self isolation enduring this awful experience that is Covid-19.  Normally I'd be getting excited about going to Crete, but flights have been cancelled, and we are just doing our best to stay safe, and save the NHS! 

With that in mind, the one thing about Crete that I find frustrating, is the lack of mint choc chip ice cream.  You can get all sorts of exotic flavours, and delicious as they maybe, I can't remember how many times I thought I'd spotted it, only to be told it's pistachio.   So, with time on our hands, we set about trying to make our own, without owning an ice cream maker (it's on the list).  AND we nailed it, thumbs up from my sous chef Scarlett.

500ml double (whipping) cream
397g can Condensed milk
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (dependent on taste, Scarlett wants to put more in next time)
3 drops green food colouring - optional, again Scarlett would have preferred more
100g choc chips (minimum), or bash up your favourite bar

Whip up the cream until it forms soft peaks (we used the food mixer)
In a separate bowl combine the rest of the ingredients.
Take time to fold in the cream to the other ingredients, this will ensure that it remains light and the choc chips won't all fall to the bottom during freezing.
Freeze, for at least 6 hours.

Annie x

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Soda Bread (by hand)

It's March 2020, and we are currently in isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Hopefully there'll be a time in the not too distant future that I can look back on this, and appreciate our new normal's, and new connections to the outside world (drama Queen...moi haha)!

In the meantime, I thought I'd try my hand at making soda bread.  Coming from Irish stock, I grew up with mum making this, so, whilst I have the ingredients to hand, why not.   Have to say I was very impressed with myself.   

Back in the day our family owned Morton Flour Mill, but that's for another day...

350g wholemeal flour (I had strong wholemeal flour in the pantry, aka baking cupboard)
1tsp salt
1tsp bircarbonate of soda
About 280ml buttermilk (if you haven't got buttermilk, you can use same amount and add a tbs of white wine vinegar, stir and rest for around 5 mins, creates the same effect).

1.  Preheat the oven to 220 electric/200 fan
2.  Mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly.
3.  Tip in enough of the buttermilk to combine, and stir until the ingredients came together as a dough.   (You may not need all of the buttermilk, mine was quite wet, but still baked well).
4.  Place the ball of dough on a floured baking tray, and make a big cross on the dough, almost through to the bottom, helps the centre of the bread cook properly.
5.  Bake for 30mins.

Best served warm, I served it with a lovely soup for lunch.

Annie x

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Bogota with Kids (yes Colombia) - family travels

It was certainly a long haul flying to Colombia, we flew Turkish Airlines, via Istanbul, and arrived early in the morning, tired, hungry and as a consequence a little grumpy.

I make a point of never judging a country by it's capital, and certainly not after just getting off the plane.  The same way you can't judge England on arrival in London, or France by visiting Paris.

not quite embracing our
The taxi journey to our accommodation was unremarkable, with no spectacular sights along route, but then why should there be?   This is a country living in the shadows of the infamous drug barons, and cartels, and picking up the pieces after being finally clear of the drug lords, who had "allegedly" been pushed over the border into Mexico (or at least that was what we were told)!!!!!!

Our accommodation wasn't ready for us yet, so we set off looking for some breakfast.   We had in mind some eggs and bread etc. so with tomales as the offering - huge, unrecognisable, and a tad greasy, am sure we all looked a bit crestfallen.  Queue the the owner trying to cheer us up, making us wear quirky hats to take pictures and "smile", we must have looked like a right family of miseries!

Thankfully, after settling into our accommodation, and chilling for a bit, we wandered into the centre of Bogota, which was just at the end of the road we were staying in.  Immediately we got a sense of the City itself, vibrant, bohemian, edgy and arty, with a mix of normality running through it.  There happened to be a festival happening that Saturday too (or so we thought), which was vibrant and noisy, with great street artists, including "snake man" and a Michael Jackson tribute.   Turns out this was normal weekend entertainment in Bogota, so the sense of excitement began to grow as we realised what an amazing adventure lay ahead of us.

Having done our homework before travelling, we already had an idea of what to see whilst here.   We had booked the Street Food safari from home.    We found out details of the Graffiti tour, bicycle tours, and how to get to the other attractions on offer.   There is certainly lots to do in Bogota, and thankfully we were flying back here before flying home, so didn't need to try and cover it all in our first part of the holiday.

Day 2 - Montserrate Bogota Funicular
A great day out, with a breathtaking funicular, amazing views across Bogota at 3.127 m.a.s.l.  Wonderful stations of the cross on the way around, then some more amazing street food, and a market full of colourful souvenirs to buy.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.




The ever present "coca" tea that we came across in Peru, apparently is helpful if you suffer from altitude sickness.
Our first time eating the street food, I had the corn on the cob above, the kernals were so big, and so meaty, quite unlike any corn I'd eaten before.
So much to enjoy on this day out, views, history, food, shopping, and the breathtaking ride itself.
A must see.

Day 3 - The Street Food Safari
One of the top recommended trips in Colombia is a street food tour - or food safari as we booked.  It would make sense to do this early on too as when we arrived the first morning from the airport looking for breakfast, we were surprised to be offered such hearty food - akin to a winters Tea - as opposed to the tea and toast we are used to.

Chris found our host Loon from the uk (link from the title), and we were booked to meet him on our 3rd morning.  We met at 9am beside a mall - we got a cab there, using our Uber account - best way to get around if you don't want to attempt the busses.

We walked around the corner to a buzzing outdoor flower market.  Loon explained that after coffee, flowers were Colombia's largest export.  Mainly to the USA.  The flowers looked awesome (as you can see), but it turns out the trend is to dye or spray them these bright colours, dashing my hopes of some awesome hybrid.

Anyhow, onto the food. We walked through an indoor market full of little cafes, all full of Colombians eating their breakfast.  The smells were incredible, and Loom explained that a lot of these workers start very early in the morning, and their jobs are highly labour intensive, so they are ready for their soups and tomales.  The soup idea reminded me of the pho in Vietnam.  The age old phrase of "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper" is the principle here, and translates into Spanish too!

So for our breakfast, we were presented with fresh nectarine juice, tomales and catfish soup, with a homemade salsa on the side.  The tomales was made with chicken and pork, including a few bones and fat for flavouring, with corn and rice, wrapped in plantain leaves.  It tasted good, but even better when we added some salsa - the fresh chilli, lime and coriander coming through beautifully.  A much better experience of the dish than when presented to us on the first morning.

We ate fruits we'd never heard of, and Loon was so knowledgeable, the whole combination of walking through the streets to each experience was fabulous.  It was also all so local, so we could come back again off our own backs.   I mean who would want to miss trying the "big bottomed ants"!!!!

happy days

drinks and cake to finish off a perfect day

Day 4 - Botero Museum

What a find this was, I'm not normally one for art, but wow this was amazing, even the kids loved it.  Botero is a Colombian national treasure, born in Medellin, and we spent hours here.  His style is kinda fat things, that's from a simpleton's point of view, but what's not to love about a fat horse!  This museum also houses art by Renoir, Toulouse Leutrec, Leger and Monet - possibly other famous artists, but these were the ones I had heard of.


Day 5 - Walking Graffiti Tour

We have a copy of this in
our living room at home.
We met in the centre of Bogota, having seen stickers all over the City advertising this walking Grafitti tour, and thought it would be perfect for the kids too.   The tour is free, with a suggested donation at the end, and it was well worth it. 
he guide was chatty and engaging, and told us all about the artists, some of whom travel around the world making their mark.  He also told us about the little stickers and "marks" you see, what they mean, and what to look out for as we wander around ourselves,   A wonderful day, yet again,
I can't believe we did so much, looking back, but the smile on my face whilst writing this, and looking through pictures, my face is actually starting to ache, and we didn't even know what was yet to look ahead to.

never knew what these apparent "random"
stickers meant.
This was on the side of a hotel.

There was so much detail given, but I don't want to give too much away either, but I love the fact that artists respect each other, and would not dream of going over another artist's work. 

The lady with the butterfly in her mouth, that was apparently due to this grattifi artists' boyfriend went off with another grafitti artist known for her butterflies. you can work the rest out!

We were able to get ice creams for the kids during it, just nipping into a shop, and still keeping up.  All ages were covered, and you get the bonus (again) of walking round the streets and getting to know more of the City at the same time.

Suffice to say we saw a lot of Bogota, and got the most out of it.  I've only really skimmed the surface, there was also a Gold museum, big bottomed ants to eat, a lot of fried food (not liked so much), tried my first Subway, amazing buildings, colours, and the Pope was due to visit so you could buy various paraphanalia!   We came back again towards the end of our trip,  So will update again with the cycling tour that Chris and the kids did.

But from here we said goodbye to Bogota, and looked forward to our next Colombian adventure.  Watch this space......
Annie x

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Travelling COLOMBIA with Kids - Yes South America, NOT Columbia!

I still see it being spelt Columbia
on maps

With news that Colombia was safer to travel to now, we grabbed at the chance to experience tourism here in its infancy, and cannot recommend highly enough.
It was 2017, and we were travelling as a  well travelled family of 4 - Chris, myself, Jasper (13) and Scarlett (9).   We booked the flights in January, with plans to travel for just over 3 weeks in August 2017. 
We made up our own itinerary, then booked our accommodation and internal flights etc. from the UK, whilst leaving us some wriggle room if we wanted to change the itinerary en route.
In the words of the kids Best.Trip.Ever!!!!

Our Itinerary was:
Bogota, bus to
Villa De Leyva, ancient sites and Terracotta House
Pereira, coffee country, how could you not!, bus to
Medellin, incl. Nutibara Hill, Penol, mountain climb and zip wire! Guatape
San Andres, boat to
Providensia, boat to
San Andres, flight back to

I'll blog about each of the destinations we went to separately, to save you hauling through all of the places we visited, but will start with some basic, and hopefully, useful information.

Currency: The local currency is Colombian Pesos, which you won't be able to get before you go.  A lot of things may be priced in US$ but we took some and weren't able to spend them (same happened in Peru so should have guessed that, but didn't want to chance it).   It is also a tad confusing as the Peso sign is very similar to the Dollar sign!

At the time of travel (August 2017) 1US$ was around 3000 Pesos, and we got 1.290 $ to the £!   Clear as mud, maybe not but you can do the sums when you go.

Cash Machines and Debit Cards: We used cash machines - cajero automatic - without a problem. They generally max the amount you can take out daily, minimum 600,000 most we saw was 780,000. There was sometimes a charge on top of around 4000 pesos, but at around £1 not too bothered, and made sense to take out the most we could each time.
We used our debit cards in the Supermarkets (Exito was a major supermarket in a few of the areas), and in some restaurants no problem, but check first at some of the more local restaurants in the more rural areas.

Toilets: Toilets - BaƱos - there is often a charge to use the toilets, around 1000 pesos, and they will often give you a small supply of toilet paper each time, or you will find them on a roll inside - so make sure you are sorted for supply before you go into the actual toilets. Having said that, they were all very clean, no complaints there.

Altitude Sickness - we didn't look into this before we went, but we did meet 1 man in Bogota who was suffering with it.  Though we all had a mild "thick head" for a few days, not uncomfortable, in hindsight might well have experienced a bit, but we all managed to get by.
There is coca leaf tea available, which was also widely available in Peru, and you can google yourself as to what it may or may not contain?

Getting around - we used a combination of busses, boats and planes, very easy to book, though Chris speaks Spanish which obviously helped, but the local people are so lovely and welcoming, and desperate for tourism.
Accommodation was booked from the UK, using Booking.com, which gives you some flexibiliy of course,  I'll detail where we stayed on each post.

Ask away if you plan similar and have any questions or concerns.

Otherwise, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sausage and Egg Bagel, home style, kids favourite

Ever find yourself stuck in a rut when it comes to the kids tea, my own end up with pasta, sausages, fish fingers and chicken on a loop, interspersed with the odd inspiration of a home-made pie or fish pie etc., but as a busy working mum, it's often hard to find inspiration.

Tonight I had a rare moment of inspiration, I deconstructed a sausage and egg "mcmuffin., actually, I de-skinned a few sausages and went from there, but I have to say the outcome was "awesome"!

pack of 8 sausages
free range eggs

Cut the skin of the sausages and remove the sausage meat, I made the patties out of 2 sausages per pattie.

Fried in a little oil, and when near, fried the egg too. 

Toasted the bagel, and combine.

Happy kids, happy mummy!

Annie x

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Rockit - Wow! #gamechanger

I've been childminding for 14 years now, and many a day I've been rocking a little one off to sleep and dreaming of inventing "something" to make me my millions.  Never occurred to me to invent something to rock the buggy for me, but so glad someone did, and I wish them all the best, because this is sheer genius!

I first saw it on This Morning when they were reviewing baby products, due to the impending new Royal baby due to William and Kate.   It caught my eye straight away (forgive the dodgy video), ordered it from Amazon - John Lewis had sold out at that point, and having used it successfully since, am declaring it a game changer!

For less than £40 it helps get a little one off to sleep whilst letting you deal with other ones hand free.  You are still there next to them, but better equipped to deal with other necessities.

Meh, I'll go write that award winning book instead ha (another daydream), but well done to The Rockit team, I'll be praising this from the rooftops.

I would say that I do like kids to settle themselves, which is easier when the kids are older, but when they are younger, in my instance 9 months old, it's absolute genius!

Just Wow!
Annie x

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

National Citizen Service (NCS) Goverment Programme for 16-17 year old's (Year 11's)

I've a soon to be 14 year old, my first born and therefore my pioneer.   You can't help reflect on your own teenage years, and much has been said about how many worries there are around for children in general these days, and the additional pressures modern life throws at them.

I've been made aware of the National Citizen Service - NCS Government programme for 16 and 17 year old's, and hopefully this will still be around when Jasper hits that milestone, as it sounds exciting, fulfilling and enabling.

Their aim is bring together young people from differing backgrounds, for a 3-4 week programme, in the school holidays.  It will include a variety of outdoor team-building exercises, a residential to join in and learn "life skills", a community-based social action project, and an end of programme celebration event.   

NCS is also amazing value for money. The whole experience, including food, accommodation and travel costs is just £50 and bursaries are available on a case by case basis. Support is also provided for young people with additional needs.
Currently places are still available for this Summer, for details of how to book or register your interest, click here  No matter what other commitments you may have planned for the Summer, registering your interest will ensure they can be offered a spot at a time that suits.

Through the experience NCS help the participants to become better individuals and in turn better citizens.

In a nutshell, the programme:
Puts young people through a series of challenging activities to take them out of their comfort zones and develop their strength of character
Provides a progressive journey that hands over more responsibility to young people as the programme progresses and develops leadership skills necessary to succeed in the workplace
Enables young people to connect with their communities through social action. 

To date: 
Almost 400,000 young people have taken part
More than seven million hours of community action have been completed
For every £1 spent, NCS’  2016 summer programme delivered between £1.15 and £2.42 of benefits back to society

Further ways to contact NCS:
Facebook: @NCS
Twitter: @NCS
Instagram: @NCSyes

What's not to love, I can already here the "I'm bored" ringing out in my ears, on this programme they certainly won't be.

Thanks for reading