Wednesday 28 March 2012

Greek Pork Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce with a spicy twist!

We are flying back to Crete in 2 days but I had the urge to cook some Greek dishes myself - crazy really, I'll be eating them for a week, but hey!   I have adapted a couple of recipes to suit, and added chilli flakes to give it a spicy kick, otherwise Greek food can be fairly bland and over-oregano'd!

Ingredients - meatballs
500g pork mince
3 slice white bread into breadcrumbs
1 medium egg
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic gloves, chopped
Flour - enough for covering the meatballs, plain or SR!
Half a level tsp died oregano
Half a level tsp ground cumin
Half a level tsp chilli flakes
2 tbs of olive oil

Prep Method
Ready for chilling
Apart from the flour and olive oil, combine all the ingredients with your hands, then form into meatballs to your choice of size, I did them around a thumb width across.  Then roll in flour, put on a plate (or 2) and chill in the fridge for half an hour!

Ingredients - Tomato Sauce
1 medium onion
400g of chopped tomatoes - can or carton
150ml pork or vegetable stock
2 tbs of tomato puree
1 bay leaf

Method, combination
Pre-heat slow cooker to high.

Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and fry the meatballs turning them frequently to seal - you may need to do in 2 batches!
Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and place to one side.

For the sauce, add the onions into the pan and gently fry until soft.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and stock then turn the heat up slightly and cook for a minute or so until the sauce boils.

Add the tomato sauce to the slow cooker, then gently add the meatballs so they don't fall apart.   Turn the slow cooker down to low and cook for 7 hours or so.

Serve with a green salad and crusty bread!

Annie x

Sunday 25 March 2012

Direct Debit's - The Big Break Campaign

Giving a special someone a break by nominating them to win £1,000 is part of The Big Break campaign from Direct Debit . As well as putting someone forward for that £1,000 prize, if you sign up to pay your bills by
Direct Debit with a participating biller, you will also be in with a chance of winning your very own Big Break, to the tune of £10,000.  Personally I pay most of my bills by direct debit, so this is hardly a chore :)

At the same time, you’ll also trigger a donation to charity – either to the biller’s own nominated charity or to Marie Curie Cancer Care. This is what I believe is called a win/win!

For my nomination I am putting forward The Brave Bailey Campaign.  This is to help raise money to pay for urgent treatment for 12 year old cancer sufferer Bailey, who needs medical help from Germany or the USA!

There will be one winner a month between now and October. The judges will be looking for nominations to reflect some of the following attributes:

    * Willingness to help others / always putting the needs of others first
    * Striving to overcome unusual adversity
    * Needing support in order to pursue a career or other significant
      personal endeavour
    * Consistently working for the greater good of the community
    * Working tirelessly for a charitable, not-for-profit or other worthy

Give it a go, who will you be nominating...............................

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Punjabi Kidney Bean Curry

Some time ago Chris decided to instigate Meat Free Monday, its a great idea and means I get to play around with all sorts of veggies and pulses.   I'm over my lentil stage and am entering  my kidney bean peak!  Last night - yes it was a Tuesday, so I slipped a day, I tampered with a Kidney Bean curry!   The picture doesn't do it justice but it was fantastic.   Of course you could just cook it as a side dish?  WARNING: Kidney beans need a 24hour soaking!

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
250g dried kidney beans, soaked for 24 hours!
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 onions chopped
3 garlic bulbs chopped
1 tbs fresh ginger, or cheater which I used!
250g fresh tomatoes chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 green chilli, chopped
1 tbs amchoor or Amchur, otherwise known as Mango Powder, I found it in a local shop for 89p
Plain yoghurt and coriander to garnish

Drain the kidney beans and boil in a saucepan with 1.5litres of water.  Boil for around 2 hours until tender, then remove from the heat.

Fry the onions in the oil until soft, then add the garlic and ginger and stir.  Then add the tomatoes, coriander, cayenne, cumin and chilli.  Stir and cook on medium for 5 minutes.  Add the cooked beans and as much liquid as you would like.  I prefer mine less stewy to be honest, but to your liking!  Add the amchoor, stir, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Serve hot, with crusty bread or naan, topped with a dollop of plain yoghurt and coriander. 

Delicious :)
Annie x

Monday 19 March 2012

Smart shopping for ethnic ingredients!

Standard spice section
This is an unsponsored post by a frugal shopper!
Clearly better value from the ethnic section

As you are probably aware I shop at Sainsburys a lot, and I also cook Indian food a lot.  I usually carry most spices but when out of Garam Masala recently, I just happened to find the following, just an aisle apart.

In the normal spice aisle, the uniform 42g jar was £1.19, however in the next aisle you could buy 100g for 96p!   Slightly better value than the 42g charge which would cost £2.80 per 100g!  The colours are different so I would also like to hazard a guess that the Rajah brand is more authentic?  I have since found the same for cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks.  I understand some have spice racks that the jars fit into, but personally I'm all for the frugal- or maybe you could use them as refills?

Have just checked on their online shopping by the way, and they only suggest the jars and not the Rajah brand as an alternative!

Just checked what else they have to offer - all 100g :)

Annie x

Sunday 18 March 2012

Fatherhood Meme

As it's Mothers Day we've been sharing our thoughts on Motherhood, thought I'd ask Chris to answer the same questions on Fatherhood!  In the meantime, any other fathers want to join in?

Describe fatherhood in three words
Blessed, responsibility, challenging

Does your experience differ from your father’s? How?
The gender roles are blurred compared to my parents generation. Today men are expected to do everything that a woman does, barring breast feeding.

What’s the hardest thing about being a dad?
Trying to make sure I do the right thing by them and tough love. Being a dad isn't tough, it's a privilege a number of men don't experience.

What’s the best thing?
My kids

How has it changed you?
Made me think of my kids needs before me.

What do you hope for your children?
Health, happiness & confidence

What do you fear for them?
Over population, lack of one to one direct contact because of social media and anything that can harm them.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Seeing how these little people develop and the joy of sharing my life with them.

Motherhood Meme

I was tagged by @zooarchaeologis on her fab blog Being A Mummy and have been asked to answer a few questions about motherhood!  So here goes.........
Describe motherhood in three words
Challenging, emotional, rewarding

Does your experience differ from your mother’s? How?
Cue Hovis music!   Growing up we were acutely aware that we didn't have very much money, and I particularly remember how expensive clothes and shoes were!  I used to make my school skirts with my Grandmother, and there was much knitting and sewing going on.  Today of course clothes are relatively cheap, and picking up bits here and there isn't a big deal!   We used to live near an industrial estate too, and the Heinz factory used to sell unlabelled tins for pennies.  Used to be a laugh guessing what was for dinner, when soup would turn out to be peaches haha!   Food today can be expensive, and is going up in line with the fuel costs needed to move it around, but I am extremely frugal and will shop around for a bargain.  My freezer is full of said bargains, and we really ought to get through them!  We didn't go without really to be honest, but I know my mother was very good at saving every penny she could so that we didn't miss out on school trips etc.   Mum also had 3 jobs to do, she worked very hard and never complained!  A burst ulcer was a bit of a wake up though!  As a working mum now, we are doing OK, and I try hard to let my kids have as much fun as they can.  Particularly for Jasper who is in school!  Being made to sit down for hours at a time is unnatural for a boy, so as much outdoors play is good for him.  On that note however I remember an outing to the zoo would have been a huuuuuuuuge deal, and we really would sing "we're all going to the zoo tomorrow" - nowadays my kids get to go so often it isn't the thrill it was for us.   We'll go to Willows Farm and they would instantly ask for a treat - in my day the going itself would have been the treat!

What’s the hardest thing about being a mum?
Getting some me time.  As I write this I am alone in the house, no radio, no TV, just the clicky-clacky of false nails on the keyboard - BLISS!  My husband has taken the kids to his mums to deliver his Mothers Day cards and flowers!  He really couldn't understand why I didn't want to come, and drove off baffled.  For me this is heavenly and I am positively loving Mothers Day - alone!

What’s the best thing?
The hugs, the I love yous, sometimes just the thank yous, and of course their reaction to the tiniest of surprises.  I also enjoy the rare moment when the two of them are getting along and playing nicely together.  As Scarlett is getting older these moments are becoming more of a regular occurrence, thank the Lord!  Also, watching them swimming, or in their school plays, their little proud faces.  And running round a playground, wrapped up warm on a bitterly cold day, oblivious to the weather, justing squealing with delight. I heard this week that kids laugh ten times more than adults do, quite right too!

How has it changed you?
My focus has shifted I guess?   Being a true Capricorn, my goat climbing to reach impossible mountain tops has relaxed a little.  I am still aware they are there waiting to be climbed, but I've given myself some time off - I may be on my own with that, but hey you asked!

What do you hope for your children?
I know its a cliche but just that they are happy.  I of course want them to have ambition and I know there will be trials and tribulations along the way, but I hope that they are strong and know when to appreciate life!  I also hope they make a pile of money and spoil their mother endlessly *jokes* ish ;)

What do you fear for them?
I am afraid of them being hurt, and yes like above I know it will happen!  My mother used to say "when you hurt I bleed" and I now know what she meant.    When either of my children are hurt or are suffering, I too feel their pain.  We are going through issues at the school at them moment, and I am fighting hard not to breakdown in front of them!  Still, as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - sorry another of my mother's messages in my head!  (That was a ho hum moment)!

What makes it all worthwhile?
The "huggy and a kissy" request from Scarlett at nursery drop off time, and the fact that Jasper still wants a kiss before school - though not in front of his friends - obviously!  I will take these all day long, for as long as they are requested!  Lifting them out of the bath wrapped in a towel is also a nice cuddle moment - OK am starting to miss them now, that wasn't supposed to happen!

Right, now to hear some other views from @mediocre_mum @southportlush - get your blog out girl! @ChelseaMamma and @MummyBarrow - if you want to ladies!

And thanks for reading!
Annie x

Saturday 17 March 2012

Some Poems, pronounced poyems

My Irish Granny used to teach me poetry, I have tried to google them to find who wrote them but cannot find them to date!  Pretty sure Granny didn't write them, but will do my best to credit!  From the words "minds" the brush, translates as remembers by the way!

So here's to Lilly Magee :)

I Fear He Minds The Brush
I'm mother's only daugher, that's what I am
She says that I can't marry any man
I'm courting one at present, but mother doesn't know,
His Christian name I'll tell you, his Christian name is Joe

One day as we were walking, mother passed us by
The way she looked at poor Joe, with vengeance in her eye
She asked him what he wanted and Joe began to blush
Before he'd time to answer, she nailed him with her brush!

Since that day we parted
Joe never visits me
Although he's fraid of mother, he was very fond of me
And when he passes by our door he does it in a rush
And never looks behind him, I fear he minds the brush!

Pride Comes Before a Fall
There was a very small cat with a very large bow
He thought himself pretty, so stuck up you know
He danced round the room like a big furry ball
his nose in the air, no manners at all

One day whilst dancing, he gave no more cares
He tripped on his bow and fell down the stairs
His mother was sorry, but what could she do
Pride comes before a fall, we all know that's true

St Patricks Day - Yes I'm Plastic and Proud!

I was born in Paddington in West London, and some would consider this to make me a little bit Irish anyway!  I also did Irish Dancing with ringlets *shudders*  However my mum and dad were from Northern Ireland, my Grandmother was french and Great Grandparents German.  Bit of a liquorice allsort, and yes I'll admit I'm English, but I do also consider myself a genuine PLASTIC PADDY!  Is it such a crime to celebrate St Patrick's Day with my mother!  I don't like Guinness however, so block me!

This is a nice child-friendly site with the history of St Patrick, who died on 17th March 461 AD.

Am going off to find some nice recipes for dinner *does a slip jig* :)

Thursday 15 March 2012


This statement is taken from the Department of Education's advice on bullying!

What is Bullying?
Bullying is behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally. Bullying can take many forms (for instance, cyber-bullying via text messages or the internet), and is often motivated by prejudice against particular groups, for example on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or because a child is adopted or has caring responsibilities. It might be motivated by actual differences between children, or perceived differences. Stopping violence and ensuring immediate physical safety is obviously a school’s first priority but emotional bullying can be more damaging than physical; teachers and schools have to make their own judgements about each specific case.

I wrote a post about my son's experiences at school before, but Chris asked that I take it down, I now wish I hadn't as there have been all sorts of repurcussions!

Monday 12th March 2012
The "bully's" father threatened "I'll make bad things happen to you" to me, on the school premises, in front of mothers with young children! Hideous moment, but you know what, it showed him in his true colours.
We have a meeting with the Head next Wednesday - yes is being taken "that" seriously?????????????

Tuesday 13th March 2012
The father tried to stand in my personal space in the nursery playground in a clear attempt to goad me into a reaction.  I didn't. However once he left the nursery I burst into tears in the nursery cloakroom.  I had to pretend to Scarlett that I'd hurt my knee.

Friday 16th March 2012
Jasper broke down in tears this morning because he doesn't want to hurt people.   This boy is asking them to hurt people or he'll hurt them badly.  Jasper was told to hurt his sister and the other children in our house.  I asked if he'd told the teacher and he said that he hadn't because he thought it better to try and ignore the boy, and didn't want to get told off for blaming?  I can see the confusion :(

I also found out this morning that a mother removed a boy from the school because in Year 1 this boy led him off through a fence off of the school grounds, and took him back to his house!

He also came into the school with £300 in fake £20 notes and was giving them out to the class.

Wednesday 21st March 2012
Met with the Head Teacher and the "SENCO".  It was very long and very centred on Jasper's alleged failings and problems, as opposed to the reason we were there.  It is clear I'm going to have to make a paper trail from now on, as there is nothing on record for the goings on of the last 4 years.

My perception of the event with the father was also questioned by the SENCO, even though it happened in front of lots of witnesses, including the Headmaster???????

I requested an Ed Psycholologist to be called in and the school nurse to be advised of Jasper's anxieties.

Thursday 22nd March 2012
Now the Head has written that Jasper walks and runs funny and "I would be surprised if there isn't a physical problem".  Oh great, so we go in regarding Jasper being bullied but now it appears they want to label him as having physical and emotional and whatever other problems?  Sounds like deflection to me!

Whilst I am happy to support any "findings" and accept any extra support, I do not want the initial problems clouded and the paper trail has started!

24th April 2012
Today I found a note in Jasper's bookpack saying "I hate you and your famelly from......"  Don't know whether to laugh or cry?  I believe I got to it before Jasper saw, and was so grateful child in question signed it!

I wrote to the Head attaching a copy, outlining that this clears up any perception of what Jasper was saying and I trust you will inform the child's father!

No answer to the letter, but I heard child's father was indeed informed, and for a while we had peace!

To be fair to the child's father, had he been kept informed along the way I bet he would have dealt with it, but this we'll never know as convinced the school were scared of dealing with the issue!

Tuesday 12th June 2012
Met the Ed Psyche at the school, along with the SENCO and Jasper's class teacher.  It was clear that Jasper does have anxieties, but otherwise he is just a normal little boy!   We all agreed that his current teacher was fantastic and has been so good for Jasper, and she will be passing on this information to his next form teacher.    They will look at him again in a year.

Nothing much wrong with him then other that what could be expected?

BREAKING  Our current head expelled a Year 6 boy 2 days before the end of school and his retirement. The child in question stabbed another child with a pencil drawing blood.   This particular child hurt so many other children over the years I just despair................

I seriously considered removing Jasper from this school, but with the appointment of a new Head Teacher, locality and Scarlett to consider, I decided to keep him there and see how we go.

September 13th 2012
Head Teacher told me about an incident between Jasper and the other child, probably a bit of handbags, but was at pains to try and let her know about the previous 5 years!

I would say, however, she seems on it, and I am very impressed so far!  No sweeping under the carpet, dealing direct and nipping in the bud - here's hoping............

October 2012
Another girl had been taken out of school and we were told it was for her own family's safety.  The girl in question never spoke to me anway - presumably because she was friends with this boy in question's father.  People were gossiping, as it was news I guess, and I regret passing on a story to someone who I think has done a little stirring.

19th October 2012
The girl I think is stirring the situation told me the girl who left the area heard I was talking about her and her or her boyfriend will "smash my face in next time they saw me, whether I had kids with me or not"  Nice!  After much deliberating, and bursting into tears in Sainsburys, I decided to go to the police.

I cannot get up the stairs to the police station in town, no idea how disabled people access the building, but I googled community safety, I was directed to the the council offices.   Cut a long story short, they said it was a police matter and let me use one of their rooms to phone them.  I told the police I wanted it logged, (case ref 201) in case anything happened to me, and they said that they would go and say something if I wanted them too.   Since I had bumped into the housing people at County offices, they also opened a file on this matter,  though again I asked them not to intervene unless anything else happened!

I came out of County offices and there, sat on a bench, was said lady with her boyfriend.  I walked on and nothing was said.

22nd October 2012
On my way home from school, with all the children there, and 2 other mothers and their children, the boy's father asked me if I'd been talking about his son again as the son told his father I had whispered stupid about him - which of course isn't true!  I was then accused of all sorts of things, which weren't  true, and was accused of assuming what he is like by the way he looks???   Again, not true.  He was shouting in my face, but yet again I kept my voice low and just let him know that I could hear him!    Without going into details he said that someone came to him this weekend and told him what I was saying about the girl who left and someone has certainly been doing some exaggerating.

Unfortunately I have no right of reply..............The other mother's said they would email the school about what they had witnessed, but I asked them to let me sleep on it.

We have since had tears from Scarlett and a very worried and pacing Jasper.

Jasper has now just told me that the boy called Jasper a  c*ck and pushed him into the skipping ropes, he apparently got caught and told off for bullying him.  Am wondering whether this calculating boy then made up a story that I called him stupid, in case he got into trouble...........

I despair!

23rd October 2012
I phoned the Head and made an appointment to see her this afternoon.  To my utter surprise the father had been in to see her first thing and explained that he might have been a bit over the top, but still wanted her to
check whether I had called his stupid, which of course I hadn't!

When I went to pick Jasper up the child in question told me I needed to go and see the head, I explained that I already had but was very confused.  Can only summise that she had seen him and she'd told him she would be speaking to me?

This evening Jasper told me that after the boy came back from the Head's office, he whispered to him "I told her were getting on really well now".  After calling him a c*ck yesterday, this boy is just priceless, having got away with murder for 5 years, he just has to smile sweetly to the teachers, say its all OK and it all moves on.

I had a sleepless night last night reliving what has been going on.  In the old regime when we complained about bullying, instead of doing anything and believing him they actually got the SENCO in!   This SENCO I will have to face in a few years when she will be teaching Scarlett.

For the record, they never did speak to the school nurse as promised, I had to force the matter via the local health centre!

November 2012
New term and child in question already "accidentally" smashed another boy's head into a table.  The boys have learnt that they can't tell on him, whether it be loyalty or being scared - Jasper is certainly scared this boy will hurt him - yet again I - yeah you know despair...............

End of the month and I had a Halleluluah moment, apparently the bully told Jasper "if you want to be in my gang you have to step on everybody's toes", Jasper replied "I don't want to be in your gang *does a little dance.

Whilst I am very upset all this has happened I am so happy that Jasper has reached this point, and has the confidence to stand up to him.   I told his teacher, being at pains not to tell the bully off, just to let her know, I love her, she said that Jasper gave the "right answer".   I am finally feeling better about the whole thing!

10th December 2012
So the child in question kicked Jasper today.  To be fair the Head was on it, and came to see me personally to say that said child will have a consequence.  I was also informed that this child's father, the one who verbally abused me twice, is receiving help with his anger issues!!!!   Really having to bite my blogging tongue here!

Luckily, it was Ancient Greek day and Jasper was so excited by all that he'd experienced that he didn't seem that bothered, happy with that - well as happy as you can be!!!!

Annie x

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Celebrity names that are also sentences - just for fun!

Jeremy Irons

This morning's homework on Absolute Radio, set by Christian O'Connell, was asking for celebrity names that are also sentences, below are some of them that came up, just brilliant!  Any more that you could think of?
Jeremy Irons
Tyra Banks
Lynn Faulds Wood
Britney Spears
Victoria Wood
Peter Purves
Keeley Hawes
Ed Burns