Wednesday 31 August 2011

Holiday in Germany, via Belgium 2011

Scally loving the train :)
We normally go to our Villa in Crete for the Summer, but this year we went earlier in May and decided to visit Germany instead.  A tad random, but Chris used to work with a guy who left his job to renovate a 16th Century house he'd bought in the Mosel Valley, which they turned into rental accommodation.  The promise of good wine and good company was too much to turn down!
I don't do boats, so we decided to take the Eurotunnel instead.  I love it, drive your car onto the train and 35 minutes later you're in France!
We'd booked 2 nights accommodation in Belgium to break the journey up, as we figured going direct to Germany would have been a nightmare with the children, and besides we had 10 days to play with.  We stayed in a little studio room on a farm.  The lady was lovely, and the food was good, but the room was a bit basic for the money.  However, location-wise it was excellent, and that afternoon we went to Breskins in Holland, and had a lot of fun watching the kids jumping off things from the lookout point!  Silly game really but got some cracking photos.  Breskins itself had a nice feel to it, but apart from that it was just a little seaside town, though too cold to enjoy the seaside!  Forgot to mention that it was freezing and I had packed for high Summer - silly me!  I did enjoy the fact that in one day we'd been in England, France, Belgium and Holland, blessing the Euro currency!  The next day we decided to go to Gent as so many people had said how lovely it was!  At first, driving around, we weren't so sure, but eventually we found the centre and was blown away by everything! We thought we might be there a couple of hours, but we stayed until 6pm and had a fabulous time!  First of all we took a boat trip, the sky looked iffy but the clever lady said they had umbrellas!  Indeed 10mins into the trip the heavens opened, and yes, thankfully they did have umbrellas.  It was a great tour, fun and informative.
Looking over the river
The old Brothel
Big Ben/Westminster
Steps from the Bell Tower
We found out that the Marriott used to be a brothel!  The two swans in their frontage - who normally mate for life - are deliberately not facing each other!  We also found out that two of the other buildings are modelled on Big Ben and Westminster Cathedral, the first is a little short of our own and hmmm on Westminster!  After a very reasonable lunch we went to investigate the castle, with its display of torture equipment, including a guillotine - with original blade!  All sorts of other nasties were a great attraction too  After that we went to a Bell Tower with a fab exhibition on how the bells are made - most extraordinary, and then up to see the bells in situ.   We chose to take the lift back down, but Chris took the 225 stairs route!
Ended 8-2 whoops!
Oh dear!
Lastly, as we had found an Irish bar earlier showing Sky Sports, Chris decided he would quite like to watch a bit of the Man Utd vs Arsenal game.   If you know what happened I think these pics say it all! That night we decided to go out for a nice meal.  The local restaurant, The Red Mouse, was about 20 mins walk away. We'd ordered silly for lunch on the first day, but being a bit better informed we had a successful 2nd go.  Chris had an amazing steak and I had some wonderful garlic Gambas - the kids enjoyed spaghetti and the wine and ales were good.  Along with the double rainbow we saw the evening ended better than I expected!
The next morning, after breakfast we began the 3 hour drive to Germany.  Between my iphone, loaded with Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Jasper's DSI, it all went swimmingly!  Apart from the row I had for being overcharged in the services, don't ask!  We eventually, finally arrived here and I was geniunely open-mouthed!  You can see from the website for Zur Alten Weinkelter why!  Will update further when I have time :)
Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Friday 26 August 2011

Herman Friendship Cake

This was new to me.  One of Chris's colleagues gave him a share of her Herman cake. Which is a German sourdough friendship cake. 
The idea is that you grow it and feed it as instructed, over a period of 10 days.  
Some days you just stir it and on others add sugar, flour and milk.
On the 10th day you bake one quarter of it, having first shared out portions with three other people!
I have to say I was sceptical, but Chris followed instructions, and the cake turned out to be pretty delicious!
Nurturing and feeding!

Finished Cake!

Magnetic/Blackboard Wall Paint - That's Magic!

Recently I visited my friends gazillion pound house in Gurney Court Road, NCT Capital of St Albans - IMHO, and one of the many things I lusted over, that was actually achievable, was her magnetic wall!  To me it's genius!
Since Jasper started in the school system we've had loads of letters and dates and basic "stuff".  We used to use a corkboard and hang stuff but to me it looked ugly!   Obviously not including the QPR Calendar in that statement!
The Magnetic/Blackboard paint was the obvious answer.   It goes on black, obviously, and you can keep it like that if you wish, but I like the idea of being more subtle and painted over.
I'm loving it!
The magnets we had didn't all work as were not strong enough, but I found these brightly coloured ones on the net for around £10 for 16!
I love it, and thought I'd share :)
Enjoy! x
Brightly coloured magnets!                   

Monday 22 August 2011

Lollibop 2011

I was lucky enough to win family tickets from @mediocre_mum blog to this years Lollibop event in Regents Park.  I have a 3yo girl and a 7yo boy, and as it is pitched as being a Festival for Under 10's it sounded perfect.
We made the day of it.  Drove as far as Shepherds Bush - which I know quite well of course - then took the train into Regents Park.  For my two the train ride is generally as exciting as the destination!
When we arrived we decided to have a walk around to get our bearings.  Everything the kids wanted to do appeared to have extremely long queues and to be honest we were mumbling about it being too busy and that Lolllibop were letting too many people in.   
Then, however, we discovered some places to play that the kids could walk right into.  The odd shaped inflatables, and a fantastic craft stand provided by Oxfam!
Scarlett really wanted her face painted, which was being sponsored by Littlebird and although the queue was huge, due to the number of artists they had on the stand, we were assured it wouldn't take very long.  Indeed it took 15 mins, during which Chris took Jasper off to make Lollibop badges.
We started to get a little hungry so we looked out for lunch.  The offer on display was out of this world and we really were spoilt for choice.  The kids had corn on the cob and we had the most delicious homemade burgers!  (Maybe should have eaten pre face painting but hey)!
We had to then make out way over to meet Ben and Holly, Scarlett was very excited, and Ben was giggling with Jasper which made him blush!  Later on we also saw Peppa and George Pig, with the same reaction.   Although it was a smallish meet and greet area the characters stayed out long enough for everyone to see and get some good pics!
Then we made our way over to the band stand to watch some of the shows.  It was being hosted by Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell who was a real hit with all the children.   We were lucky enough to catch the ZingZillas doing bangla dancing and also our favourite Rasta Mouse :)
From there we went on to scoring a few goals at the Spurs stand - Chris being a little too excited being an Arsenal fan - video here if can bear it, and then also watched a Gorilla show which was explaining the endangerment of the species and how recycling our phones can help them!  A clear message before letting the kids pet the (pretend shhhh) gorillas. 
We played hoopla, did some painting, made butterflies and watched more displays.   Before we knew it it was time to leave and the kids were buzzing about what they had experienced.
Jasper playing on the Hopperz
I'm glad we didn't end up walking around humfing about the queues, as although we didn't get to do everything we wanted, we didn't stop all day and had a great time.
Every day since the kids have been pining to go back, and I've had had trouble explaining it was a one off and its not there permanently.
What a fab day out, and cannot wait to go again next year!
Here are some more pics and videos to show the fun we had on the day, gotta love a Rasta Mouse :)
Annie x

On the Hopperz

Rasta Mouse yeah!

Rasta Mouse Yea

Scarecrow Festival - Flamstead 2011

Flamstead Scarecrow Festival 2011
The Scarecrow Festival in Flamstead started in 2002 as a means to raise money for the village.   We've been going for many years and the standard improves year on year.  This year was no exception, so thought I'd share some pics with you!   The kids love it, the food and ales (apparently)  are excellent and its a thoroughly good day out!  If you missed it this year I recommend you go next time, or to a local one to you?
Only Fools, clear winner for us!

Mr Men, close 2nd!

Seb Crow!
Cheryl Crow
Go Compare
Naughty Knights
Knight Nurse
Rebecca Brooks
Jasper on the train!
Little Steam Train Ride
Evicted Crow
Mr Grumpy Gooner!
Pretty Cemetary, made me smile!

Gotta love Boris on his bike

Thursday 18 August 2011

Chilli Con Carne, slow cooker, with Tortillas, Cheese, Peppers and Coriander

I have used lots of Chilli Recipes but wanted to jazz it up a bit :)
1 tbs sunflower oil
500g extra lean beef mince
1 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped finely
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp crushed dried chillies
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs plain flour
400g can chopped tomatoes
410g can of kidney beans, drained
150ml beef stock
100g tortilla chips
1/2 red pepper de-seeded and diced
chopped coriander
100 grated cheese to taste
Heat oil in frying pan and add the mince and onion and fry until mince is browned.
Stir in the garlic and herbs and cook for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the flour, then mix in the remaining ingredients.
Pour into the crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Stir, then arrange in a bowl and add the toppings, you could brown the cheese under the grill if you wanted, but I preferred cold against hot chilli :)
Annie x

Street Party for Wills and Kate 29th April 2011

With very precise and spectacular planning by lots in our 2 streets, we were able to put on and enjoy the most wonderful street party to celebrate the Royal Wedding!  Thought I'd put on some pics for prosperity :)