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

Friday, 2 March 2018

Scarlett's Debut on TV - London Live - cooking with Grace Foods

Not sure how long this link will last, but here is a look at Scarlett's TV debut, 14 minutes in.
Watch it here

If you watch closely, you even get to see Chris side on.
Nice work Scally x

Friday, 10 February 2017

Grenglish - Slow Cooker "Roast" Lamb with Tesco Cypriot New Potatoes, tomatoes, feta and tsatziki............Raki Optional!

With Spring loitering around the corner, and looking out at the drizzle on a lazy Sunday morning, thoughts turn to Summers spent hopping around Greek islands, and a recipe to capture all that is great about Greece, keeping it simple, but totally tasty......
Last year we went to Mykonos, Paros, Anti-Paros, Naxos, Tinos and Crete.....and yet so many more islands to explore.
Chris and I got engaged in Cyprus in 2001, it's a beautiful country, with an amazing though sad history. With two very different sides to the island, we only saw the South, where these Cypriot potatoes are grown, but would love to go back and experience the North Turkish side of the island.
Available in Tesco Stores Nationwide
So, to go with my Cyprus potatoes it had to be lamb, and it had to have oregano.   The potatoes had to be roasted with Paprika, and it had to be served with feta, tomatoes and home made tsatziki.  In Crete we've seen Lamb on the menu as Lamp regularly - this is because in the Greek alphabet there is no letter "b"!

I guess roast potatoes aren't particularly Greek, so using Cypriot potatoes roasted, kind of makes it Grenglish!   I was also going to use the more Cypriot Haloumi cheese, but it doesn't crumble as Feta does, so that's an experiment for another day.

Perfect Cypriot New Potato Roasties
1 pack Tesco Cypriot New Potatoes 750g
Olive Oil

Cut potatoes in half and par boil in a large saucepan for around 10 minutes.   When draining swirl them around so that they "bash up" a little, as this helps the roasting process.

Sprinkle with paprika and oregano, and move around to make sure covered (doesn't have to be precise).  Add a little salt - this helps to draw the moisture out and gets them to crisp up.

Pre heat the oil in a roasting pan until hot.  Add the potatoes and move the potatoes around to ensure covered in oil.  Roast for around 40 mins.

Slow Cooker "Roast Lamb"
Half leg of lamb -
bring to room temperature before cooking.
Rosemary (I have some in my garden)
Garlic - sliced, as much or as little as you want
Olive Oil
Seasoning: oregano, rosemary, white pepper

I have used the slow cooker regularly for roasts, and lamb works beautifully.  Make little slits in the lamb joint, and fill with sprigs of rosemary and slices of garlic.  Drizzle with olive oil and cover with seasoning.

Put into the slow cooker, and cook slow for 8-10 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the tsatziki.
1/2 a cucumber
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbs of good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
500g Greek Yoghurt - I use 0% fat
Snall bunch of fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp dried mint
squeeze of lemon

Peel and grate the cucumber, drain and combine with the rest of the ingredients.
Crete last Summer *sighs*

Serve the slow cooker lamb with the Cypriot New Potatoes, tomatoes with feta and oregano, together with fresh crusty bread, and maybe a glass of Raki if you like.  Memories of that blue sky and ocean.....beautiful!


Disclaimer, Tesco paid for the ingredients for this post.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Gravity Force St Albans, something for everyone...............

·         Gravity Force is the leading provider of trampoline parks in the UK

We were lucky enough to experience the St Albans launch back in August.  I'd never taken the kids to anything like this before, so needless to say they had an amazing time.  Whilst Scarlett basically bounded around the various trampolines, and launched herself into foam bricks, Jasper enjoyed the hoops and bouncing around with a ball in general.  I didn't partake myself, but was very tempted, am especially intrigued by the fitness classes!

Whilst the kids were jumping, I stayed comfortably upstairs with a cuppa.  Very bright and spacious with a well stocked cafe.   Am going back today with a good book, what's not to love!

If you would like to have a go yourself, they currently have a deal on Groupon at £7.50 instead of £10 for an hour session............... 

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.

To book and find out more about the sessions available either visit www.gravityforce.co.uk or call 0845 498 9049.

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 www.gravityforce.co.uk 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