Saturday, 31 December 2011

Wishing you a Happy New Year!


Goodbye 2011. 


How was your year? Mine was good, I can't complain. It was a full and busy year. 

I made some superb new friends and rediscovered my social life. Joined a book club. Started volunteering at school. Found a new role at work (still not entirely happy but needs must). Went on a fab holiday to Florida. Went to London for the Royal Wedding. Made the most of the summer and sunshine that we had with endless trips to the beach. BBQs and paddling pool in the garden in APRIL. Summer dresses in the park in OCTOBER!  Trips to see Take That and The Killers and a great night at Last Night of the Proms at Hyde Park. A visit to Buckingham Palace to see that dress. Easter, Halloween and Christmas parties. Trips to Cadbury World, Drayton Manor & Thomas Land. Eating out at nice restaurants like Bank in Birmingham with complimentary bottles of Prosecco. Disney On Ice. Instigating "date night" with lovely girlfriends and watching great films like Horrible Bosses, Bridesmaids, Crazy Stupid Love and Breaking Dawn at the cinema each month. Eating more Chinese food than I can manage at Camden Market. Watching my children settle in, make friends, enjoy and flourish at school.

It was a good year.

If 2012 is going to be as full and entertaining, bring it on!

Happy New Year my dear friends, see you on the other side.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 30 December 2011

Product Review: We Sing: UK Hits


I was recently sent a copy of We Sing UK Hits to try out. For those who don't know me, this is TOTALLY up my street. I am a closet singing fan. I say closet, because I am what you would call...rubbish at singing.  I shall not pretend otherwise and it doesn't take away my enjoyment of games like this at all one little bit, which is unfortunate for my family and friends really.

Nordic Games has a range of "We Sing" games for the Wii including We Sing, We Sing Robbie Williams, We Sing Encore (which I desperately want!) and We Sing Rock (which on the back of me having this one, my friend has just bought for herself!). You can buy the games with or without the microphone, handy if you already have one as you can pay less for just the game which is really good value. 



We Sing UK Hits is a great game for all the family or as I found out, a great game to play with a group of girly friends as there is a party mode which includes We Sing, Versus, Group Battle, Pass the Mic, First to X, Marathon, Blind and Expert. There's a Jukebox mode where you can cue up your favourite tracks and a karaoke mode if you want the artists singing removed. One of the things I like about this game is that you are singing along with the actual artist and original video, not a copycat version.


There are player statistics, customisable interfaces and - oh the horror - you can even replay your singing back, although why on earth you would want to do that is beyond me. One word of advice, forget that this even exists. I know you think you sound like Beyonce but trust me, you probably don't. The features go on and on making this a superb value for money game. You can even choose which singer you want to be if there's more artists than one, a feature that I really like.



The tracks featured are varied, you can click here to see the list of what's featured in the game. There are 40 of them ranging from Elton to Tinchy, Adele to Bucks Fizz so basically there is something for everyone. The songs are rated as to how difficult they are and points are scored if you hit the right notes, with extra points being awarded for hitting notes that are extra-tricky. There were a couple of songs that I didn't really know but it didn't take me long to get to grips with them. My personal favourites are "Making Your Mind Up", "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Never Gonna Give You Up".  


In summary, it's a great fun game that anyone can join in with but is best enjoyed in a party atmosphere. It's good value and has a great retail price, coming in at under £20 from most major retailers.  For maximum enjoyment - leave your inhibitions at the door!


love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Gratin of Sprouts


My sprout-hating husband balked at the idea of a sprout gratin but I have made this dish for two years in a row now and my father-in-law is evangelical about them. High praise indeed! 

It might sound yucky but these have been a massive success in our house and there is never any left in the dish by the end of the meal.  The recipe is by Sophie Grigson and honestly, I think everyone should try it. I can't imagine Christmas without it. Clearly I'd make it more often but I'm only allowed to bring sprouts into the house once a year...

The recipe here serves 8 but I usually halve it as it only needs to feed 3 adults and 2 children.

Gratin of Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients 

900g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
20g butter
4tsp sunflower oil
150g bacon lardons (or cubed pancetta)
20g flaked almonds 
400ml double cream
2.5 tsp lemon juice
5.5 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6.  Place the trimmed sprouts into a saucepan of simmering water and cook for around 4-5minutes until the sprouts are almost cooked. Drain thoroughly and leave to cool slightly before cutting the sprouts in half.

Place the butter and oil into a large frying pan. Over a medium heat, saute the bacon lardons and almonds for around 4 minutes until they are lightly browned.  Add the halved sprouts and saute for a further 3 minutes, stirring all the time,

Add the cream and bring to the boil. Keep on the boil for around 3 minutes, until the cream has reduced to a rich sauce. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and transfer to an ovenproof dish.  Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together and sprinkle evenly over the top of the sprout mixture.

Place in the oven and bake for around 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and you can see the cream boiling and bubbling. Remove from the oven and serve from the grain dish - taking care not to burn your fingers, that dish will be hot!

There, a sprout dish I think most people will love!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

What Santa brought me...

Anyone else ready to pack up the decorations now the big day has been and gone or is it just me?

I thought I'd do the annual "here's-what-I-got-for-Christmas" post. As with most years, I had no idea what I wanted so what I got was a mixed-bag of things that I asked for.  I always have to present Mr M with a list, although he does go off-list and has some creative license. For instance, if I ask for pyjamas, he can pick whatever he likes. He normally does pretty good and this year was no exception.

As with every Christmas I received an assortment of books, which means I really need to ramp up my reading as I've let it slip recently.






Random huh. Yes, I am a Disney geek and have already devoured that last book. Am presently reading Our Queen and thoroughly enjoying it.  Naturally I also received cookbooks, only two on my list this year,



Will cook tons from the Jamie book I am sure and the mini cakes was to go with this beauty;

A Wilton mini loaf pan! In addition I also received lots of cupcakes cases and some sprinkles.

As already mentioned, Mr M bought me PJs. It's a Christmas tradition. This year he chose these Cyberjammies from House of Fraser, which are lovely and soft. Only snag is House of Fraser left the security tag on, what a pain! Need to retrieve the receipt from Mr M's desk at work in the new year and get the tag removed.


Other pressies included the following;






My favourite film of the year, a gorgeous FCUK eye and lip palette, oven gloves as I am always losing mine, some marshmallows that apparently my 5 year old wouldn't leave in John Lewis and some a Whittards hot chocolate selection - yum! I also got lots of Body Shop smellies, slippers, a new make-up bag from Accessorize, my own weight in chocolate (Ferrero Rocher, Malteasers, Minstrels, Milk Tray), a set of lip glosses, some nice notepads and pens from Paperchase and lots of Amazon vouchers to spend at my leisure.

I was well and truly spoilt and very happy with my presents this year!

So tell me, what did the big guy bring you this year? If you've done a blog post, leave me the link and I'll check it out!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 26 December 2011

Meal Planning Monday (26th December 2011)

So who has meal planned today? Yeah. I thought as much!

Let's face it, there's not many of us that is going to manage a successful meal plan this week is there? And if you do? Well done!

I've got to be honest I didn't even realise it was Monday until about 5 minutes ago. I've been convinced it's Tuesday today. The Christmas holidays always screws my internal clock/calendar up.

As it's Christmas I'm giving you all the week off! Hurrah! Go forth and fill ye face with cheese, leftover turkey, mince pies and more cheese. Meal plan, schmeal plan. 

I'll be back with a vengeance next week for the first meal planning of 2012 - and I mean big stylee. It's time for tightening our belts in the M household, both financially and physically!

Enjoy the rest of Christmas.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

(PS if you REALLY want to do a meal plan, today of all days, feel free - the Linky is below. Leave me a note and I'll come and ridicule you).

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Calling all movie fans...

...I need your help. 

I recently signed up for a Love Film account and have currently been enjoying my 3 discs a month as Mr M and I have now instigated "Love Film Friday/Saturday" or whatever day of the week the disc happens to land on the doormat. The only snag is I've exhausted my 3 discs this month and now have to wait until my credits kick in again. I went for the lowest subscription but think I might have to up it!

I love films as you might well know but I'm struggling with inspiration of what to add to my list. It's for both of us to watch so has to be a good mix and not just the Robert Pattinson back catalogue (which clearly I already own anyhow) and we'll pretty much watch anything. So far recently we've watched Shutter Island (loved this), The Social Network (enjoyed this), The Hangover (laughed my socks off), Marley and Me (awwwww), What Happens in Vegas (liked this a lot) and The Proposal (also liked!). So quite a mixed bag.

This is where you guys come in. I want you to recommend films for me to watch - any genre, any actors, from any time. There's lots of films from the 80's and 90's I've not seen (like Top Gun. Nobody ever believes me when I say that.). Help me populate my list!

On the subject of films, I had a nice surprise from Warner Bros the other day - a big sack full of DVDs including a set of Scooby Doo DVDs in a Mystery Machine holder!



The kids can have the DVDs, but the lovely sack is all mine! It's all polka dotty inside and has jingle bells on it. I've pretended to be Santa on more than one occasion. Ahem. We've already watched Happy Feet - the kids loved that and my daughter was quite enamoured with the live action Scooby Doo film. 

There's lots there to keep them occupied over the Christmas holidays which means children films do not need to be on my Love Film list.  So come on, hit me with your favourite films that I may not have seen! I promise to report back and let you know what I thought of it.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Another Nasi Goreng


As this is the third recipe for Nasi Goreng that appears on my blog, clearly I enjoy making and eating it. I picked this recipe up off the BBC Good Food website to make alongside the prawn cakes I served up a few weeks ago.  I'm not sure why I didn't just use my original recipe because I didn't like this one as much. That's not to say there was anything wrong with it, it was very pleasant indeed but different and nobody likes change do they?

Anyhow, in the interests of sharing and because everybody's tastes are different I thought I'd blog the recipe anyhow. So here it is! This amount serves 2-3 people as a side.

Nasi Goreng

Ingredients

olive oil for frying
2 eggs, beaten
2 red chillies, deseeded and shredded
4 shallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
125g cooked basmati rice. (If using ready-cooked, you need 250g)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce (although I used more taste)
2 tbsp chilli sauce
1/4 cucumber, cut into skinny batons
sesame oil

Method

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok and pour in half of the beaten egg to make a thin omelette. When cooked, slide out and put to one side. Repeat with the remainder of the beaten egg. Roll both omelettes up and slice into ribbons.

Heat another tbsp of oil and cook half the chilli, the shallots, garlic, carrot and mushrooms for 4 mins.  Add the cooked rice and cook for another 2 mins. 

Mix the brown sugar with the soy and chilli sauce until it is dissolved. Stir through the rice.

Pile onto a serving fish and top with the omelette ribbons, sliced cucumber and remaining chilli. Drizzle with sesame oil.

Two things to note; firstly if you are using ready-cooked rice, use a 250g packet. Secondly, I think I added way more soy sauce so check the taste and add more if you feel it needs it.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 19 December 2011

Meal Planning Monday (19th December 2011)


Yes, yes. I DO realise that Monday is very nearly over but I have been an incredibly busy bunny today and am finally sitting down with a glass of wine to relax. (We'll ignore the fact I spent an hour playing on Castleville on Facebook earlier this evening...). I've just been making letters to the children from Santa, it seemed a good idea at the time, and also one from the tooth fairy who will imminently be dropping by the M household.

Due to the festive season, meal planning is still a bit awry. Tonight was warm ciabatta with cranberry sauce and some of the worst brie I have ever had the misfortune to happen across (Thanks for nothing Co-op). Tomorrow is some kind of freezer roulette and Wednesday Mr M is on a client schmooze night out so I will mainly be eating Pringles. Thursday we've planned a chippy tea and Friday is my work Christmas party. And then what? It's only flippin' Christmas Eve! I think you might have to wait until next week (erm Boxing Day anyone? Yeah, sure...) until I share next weekends culinary delights!

How about you? Is this week destined to be a meal planning write-off?  Let me know below!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 16 December 2011

Now That's What I Call Christmas Hymns #1


There's been a bit of a meme going around recently (which rather rudely I have not been tagged in...) where people are talking about their favourite Christmas song. Most of these that I have seen have been pop songs and the like so just to be different I am sharing my favourite Christmas hymns with you. 

It's not that I am overly religious (well I am a bit, I mean you can take the girl out of the Catholic school but you can't take the Catholic school out of the girl) but I do *heart* Christmas hymns and carols massively. Every year I drag my family out on a cold wintry December evening to the carol service at the church where we got married, to sing about 16 carols in a row whilst hearing about the birth of Jesus in between songs. It takes forever and the kids and Mr M are usually freezing and bored rigid but it's become a tradition and one that we won't be changing, because I luffs it.

My first and most favourite carol/hymn whatever you would call it is one I have loved from the first time I heard it, which rather shamefully was in Home Alone many years ago when I was a child. Look, I never professed to be cultured.  (Clearly not as I'm also a fan of the South Park version).


So many people have sang and recorded this song it was hard to pick one, and whilst I think the Katherine Jenkins & Aled Jones performance is a good one (despite the fact she makes me twitch a little,) this version is perfect. Just perfect. This song brings a tear to my eye whenever I hear it.

If I had to pick a second favourite it would most definitely be one that reminds me of my own childhood. I obviously love Away In A Manger which is a beautiful one and seeing my own children sing it now in church and at school tends to make me a bit emotional but O Come All Ye Faithful is one I love wailing singing to every year, I love that bit where the men sing, then the women and then everyone together. I'm easily pleased.


There are of course others I love like In The Bleak Midwinter and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. It's often considered a bit "dark but it remains one of my favourites all my life, like the solemness and Victiorian-ness of it. (I made that word up I think).

I'm already looking forward to sticking on the carols whilst I cook on Christmas Eve and settling down to watch Songs of Praise at Christmas. Old before my time? Never!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I *heart* sequins

I'm a bit of a magpie, especially when it comes to a bit of glitz and it really is the season for that isn't it? Are sequins even allowed outside of December? 

At the grand old age of 32, last week I purchased sequin leggings. I realise that sequins + leggings + 32 year old thighs are not really things that should go together but lets say its part of my mid-life crisis, my thrisis, if you will. I plan to wear my new sequin leggings tomorrow night, when I shall be acting like a complete squealing fan-girl at a gig in Birmingham.  I think this is what they mean by growing old disgracefully.

Anyhow, it being almost Christmas and all, means that I have several party nights planned in the next few weeks and more than enough occasions to warrant some serious sequin-age. Unfortunately I'm carrying a bit of *cough* winter weight *splutter* right now so whilst I want to be wearing this...



... it's just not going to be happening. Plus, I'm ample in the boob department right now and I think that would just make me look a bit slutty. Sometimes I'd love to be flat-chested!

I really like this one shoulder dress from Red Herring at Debenhams (£38.00), but again, aforementioned bosom means I need to wear a strapless bra and no doubt spend all night readjusting it.

This Ozlem sequin dress from French Connection is near damn perfect, if I had the figure (and the wallet for it) It's £140.00 and comes in black and gunmetal - I've posted the gunmetal as it shows better on the photo. I love this dress. I wish I owned it. Sigh.

Actually French Connection have some corkers, as they also have the Sam Sequins Cowl Dress in Rust Red (reduced in price to £160.00) 


If I had more money I'd buy the sophisticated Kamille from Reiss but at £225.00 it's way over budget and as it seems sold out in most sizes, highly unlikely I'll be snapping it up in a sale!


Argh, too many pretty dresses and way too little time and of course, even less money. Am I alone in my love? Will you be bedecking yourself in sequins this month?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 12 December 2011

Meal Planning Monday (12th December 2011)

After my extremely hectic week of erm, eating nothing but takeaways or dining out I was hoping this week might be a little more healthy. As it turns out, it's not. December is just mad. Tonight I am eating out with a friend and our children, tomorrow I shall cook something (wahey!), then I'm eating out not one, not two but THREE more nights this week.

FOUR nights of eating out is just ker-razy isn't it? Serves me right for having a social life!  I'm actually missing planning and cooking now but don't worry after this week I should be in full swing again and let's face it, there's plenty of cooking to be done very soon!

This doesn't mean I'm not actually cooking - whilst we're not eating meals properly at the moment I am doing some advance cooking for Christmas and will be making sausage rolls, mince pies, alternative Christmas cake, stuffing etc in the next week or so.

Join the Linky and let me know what you're cooking up this week!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cranberry Chutney


Really I should have told you about this recipe a month ago, as the chutney needs about a month before it's ready to eat but well, I didn't and I'm telling you now.

I decided to make something festive the other week and decided on cranberry chutney so that we could eat it with leftover turkey on Boxing Day.  

Chutney is something I enjoy making, I find it very therapeutic and unlike jam, it doesn't need to reach a setting point so it's not too technical! Whilst I normally find chopping fruits and vegetables a bit of a chore for dinner, I kind of like it when making a chutney.

This is a sweet, tangy chutney and I can't wait to try it. It made quite a lot so I'll no doubt be handing people a jar as they leave our house over Christmas.

Cranberry Chutney

Ingredients

2 onions
2 large garlic cloves
600ml white malt vinegar
500g cranberries
250g cooking apples
250g pitted prunes
1 large orange
1 small red chilli
1 tsp sea salt
250g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp mixed peel

Method

Start by peeling and chopping the onions and garlic. Place them in a small pan with 150ml of white malt vinegar. Cook the onions and garlic until they are soft.

Wash the cranberries, chop the prunes and finely chop the chilli. Peel, core and chop the apples. Grate the rind from the orange and squeeze out the juice. Put all these ingredients into a large pan with the salt, the rest of the vinegar and the onion and garlic mixture. Cook gently until soft.

Stir in the brown sugar until it has dissolved and add the chopped mixed peel. Bring to the boil and boil until thick.

Pot in sterilised jam jars, seal and label.  Keep for around one month before using.

Can't wait to try this in a couple of weeks. Will report back!

love & kisses
Mrs Mx

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Product Review: Zumba Fitness 2

As you might have seen, earlier this year I reviewed Zumba Fitness for the Wii. You may also be aware that there is a new game out, Zumba Fitness 2 which I have sent to review. (A copy of which I recently gave away on the blog). 

I think I have mentioned, several times before, that I am a big fan of dance and fitness games for the Wii. For me, this is what the Wii was made for and I think they add a new dimension to fitness in the home being far more interactive than the usual fitness DVDs. 

The original Zumba Fitness game is the number one fitness title of 2011, selling more than 4 million copies worldwide, with over 1 million of those in the UK. Zumba Fitness 2 builds on the success of the original game and has enhanced the experiences with brand new routines, hit music, customization features and 24 dance styles.


There are 32 new routines in favourite styles like Salsa and Reggaeton and also some new styles like Pasadoble and Ragga (the new Bollywood is one of my favourites!) with extremely contagious music tracks. As with the first game, in the box is a holster belt to securely hold your Wii remote whilst you dance your little socks off.

As I mentioned on my first review, I can be slightly uncoordinated and found it hard to follow the routines at first. With Zumba Fitness 2 I have found it a bit easier although the pace seems a bit faster and more upbeat - which is not a problem at all, makes for a really great, fun workout. I can't lie and say that it's so much fun that I forget I am exercising, because it completely wears me out - but it's for fitness so that's to be expected! What is also instantly noticeable with this version is the graphics, they have definitely improved since the first game.  



There are different modes of play and you can customise your experience  by making your own playlist in Full Class Mode or use the tutorial mode before you dive in head first. There's even a multiplayer mode if you feel like inviting your friends round for a workout!

All-in-all, Zumba Fitness 2 is hugely fun and is a fantastic improvement on the first game. When the festive period is over I'll definitely be using this as part of my New Year fitness regime.

Zumba Fitness 2 for the Wii is out now. To find out more about the game, please visit www.ZumbaFitnessgame.com

love & kisses 
Mrs M x

Friday, 9 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...


The tree is all trussed up, my living room looks like Santa's grotto and my waistline is getting thicker by the minute thanks to overeating mince pies with a dollop of extra thick cream. The festive season is well and truly approaching and I'm getting excited, how about you?

This week has seen me embark on The Great Christmas Tree Hunt of 2011. The past few years I've had a real tree, carefully chosen and cared for at home but after three years of paying £60 for a real tree that has shed most of its needles before Christmas Eve and then takes three days of hoovering to get them all out of the carpet, I decided that this year I would go back to artificial, and what a palaver that was. I never actually realised just how expensive Christmas trees were. Or how ugly and flimsy many of them are.  A search of John Lewis and Marks & Spencers was pretty fruitless (ones I wanted/liked were out of stock) and so the search went on to local garden centres (all ridiculously overpriced), Homebase (if I blew hard enough I could probably knock them over) and finally B&Q.  

I settled on a 6ft 6inch tree with "dewdrop" effect. The dewdrop effect made me itch a bit, it's a little out of my comfort zone but I figured I could live with it as the tree was actually quite bushy and reasonably priced at £60. I decided if I hated it, then next year I could get something different as it had only cost the same as a real tree would. I wrestled with the large box, got it home, tasked Mr M with putting it up and what happens? Of course. The wrong parts are in the box. Another 40-50 minute round trip to B&Q the next day and I am with fully-erected (*fnar) Christmas tree. I spent last night puzzling over the conundrum that is tinsel (to tinsel or not to tinsel that is the question), lametta (who knew it had a name!) and covering all 6ft 6 inches of tree in baubles. Lots of them.  I also reached the controversial decision of using coloured lights this year and so far, I'm not loving them, I'll be honest.


Anyway after the rigmarole that has been the Christmas tree and the incredibly hectic week that has seen two different Christmas plays x 2, plus a school trip with 180 3-5 year olds, I'm ready to move onto the next stage of Christmas. No, not the getting blissfully merry in front of repeats of Only Fools & Horses (kidding, I flippin' hate that programme) - planning the FOOD. Ah, one of my favourite parts of the holiday season. This evening will be spent poring over a stack of Christmas food magazines and my entire collection of Christmas cookbooks so I can formulate a plan of attack. Dessert (well one of them) is pretty much sorted thanks to a sordid and seedy exchange on a darkened street last week where I took possession of a Heston Blumenthal Christmas pudding from Waitrose. Lets hope that it's as good as it sounds and I don't regret not flogging it on Ebay!

The presents are wrapped, the cards are ready to send if I ever get round to buying stamps and the children have one week left at school which mainly consists of school trips and parties. All that's left is for me to get the Norovirus or Swine Flu and it truly will feel like Christmas!

How are your Christmas plans coming along?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Spicy Prawn Cakes


I made these spicy little prawn cakes one night after work when I was feeling a little adventurous. That's perhaps an overstatement really as they don't take much effort (cleaning the food processor is a bit of a chore though) and are really, stupidly so, easy to make.

The recipe from BBC Good Food appealed to me because it contained two of my favourite things - prawns and spice! I was a little dubious after pulping the prawns in the Magimix that they would ever resemble something cake-like however I was pleasantly surprised that the mush (that's the technical term) actually held together.

I'm sure there are far more detailed recipes out there for making something like this, ones that don't use a curry paste but in the interests of making things quick and simple, I'm sticking with this. I don't always have the time to make a paste from scratch so I am in no way adverse to using a ready-made paste.

They were just the right amount of spicy and the taste and texture reminded my very much of thei fishcakes I have when I go to Thai restaurants - that would be the red Thai paste then (!) but they also had that pleasantly lovely rubbery texture. I was very pleased with them and will definitely consider serving them up as a canape at a party in the future.

Spicy Prawn Cakes

Ingredients

250g raw peeled prawns
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
small bunch coriander, chopped

Method

Pop the prawns into a food processor along with the curry paste and 2 tbsp of chopped coriander.  Blitz until you have a paste and then form into 8 cakes. (If you want to you could make this smaller or bigger, depending on use and preference).

Fry the prawn cakes for around 2-3 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.

See, told you it was simple. Couldn't really be more straightforward could it?

I served this with a Nasi Goreng dish. Not one of my previous ones, a new recipe I tried. It was nice but I still prefer others I have made more. I will however post the recipe up for this shortly.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

John Lewis "Guess The Gift" Competition

You must have all seen the much-talked about John Lewis Christmas advert by now? What did you think? I will admit that it brought a little tear to my eye. They do those adverts so well!

The good people at John Lewis have asked me to tell you about a competition they are currently running. The Guess The Gift competition has been running online since 11 November and ends on 8 December. It takes the form of 12 videos featuring children describing a John Lewis product. All you have to do to enter is simply "guess the gift" from a selection shown in a banner underneath the video and you can be in with the chance of winning the product described. If you don't win, you'll also be entered into another draw to win an iPad2 (I want one!!!).  You've got two days left to enter so hurry up!

In the meantime, they've also shared an outtakes video from the Guess The Gift competition.


John Lewis offers many gift ideas for Christmas, both online and in-store. From baby gifts to must-have pushchairs, it’s a one-stop shop for busy mums.

The boy falling off the chair at 0:40 had me in stitches. (What can I say I'm cruel and take pleasure in other peoples misfortunes!).

Don't forget to enter and good luck!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Please note, I received no form of payment for this blog post.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Meal Planning Monday (5th December 2011)

Late again! I know.

I could really do with my life slowing down a bit, or having a personal assistant might make it easier. Keeping house, socialising (it's a hard life), preparing for Christmas, work, volunteering at school and helping on school trips, discos and Christmas fayres...it's all taking it's toll.

This week is another busy week with my daugthers school plays taking place in the evening. I've also got two nights out this week so my plan looks a little bit like this

Eating out
Takeaway
Takeaway
Freezer roulette
Eating out

Taxing huh?

I'll be doing some planning tonight for the big event, I'm normally way more organised than this when it comes to the food but I've let it slip so tonight will be all about planning my Christmas cooking and I'll of course report back with what I come up with.

What are you cooking (or maybe just eating) this week? Join in the Linky below and tell me!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 2 December 2011

Orchard Toys Piggy in the Middle Review

I've mentioned before my love for Orchard Toys games, when I did a Lucky Ducky review earlier this year, so when I was offered the chance to pick another game to review I jumped at the chance.

I've always found Orchard Toys games and puzzles extremely good quality, education and most of all, great fun. They are games that I enjoy playing with my children and I often buy them as presents for other children too.

I'm currently trying to teach my five year old about money so I thought it might be good to opt for an educational game that would help with that. Piggy in the Middle looked like the ideal game. The game is aimed at children aged 5-10 and it is designed to be a fun game that helps children learn about money.  Players travel around the board earning and spending pocket money as they go.  The educational goals of this game are to develop money handling skills (and I do need some of those!) and encourage personal and social skills.

I found the game really tested my five year old's recently learned numeracy skills, as it involves some basic sums. The game is quick and simple to understand which is a must with my impatient children and they both loved the piggy bank in the middle! (I had to try and explain to my 4 year old that it was part of the game, and no he couldn't keep it in his bedroom.) It's probably still a little advanced for him as he's only really just being introduced to numeracy at school now but I'm sure over the next few years we will get a lot of use out of this game.  All-in-all, we found it to be a great, fun game and another one that I will definitely consider buying as a present for other children in my daughters class.

Piggy in the Middle is available from the Orchard Toys website and retails at £11.50.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Creamy Garlic Mushroom Spaghetti


Technically this should be called "....with prosciutto" because I strayed from the original recipe when I found a pack of prosciutto languishing in the bottom of the fridge.

I had earmarked this recipe as a quick, after work kind of tea as it looked simple and easy to throw together, and it was. It was also very tasty. It's the kind of meal where you can play around with the ingredients a bit - hence the prosciutto. I also used two types of mushrooms, instead of just button mushrooms as the recipe suggested, I added some chestnut mushrooms that I had left in the fridge from yesterdays dinner. It worked really well. The result was very tasty and satisfying and I'll definitely make it again.

The recipe below will serve 2 hungry people!

Creamy Garlic Mushroom Spaghetti

Ingredients

200g spaghetti
2tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
200g button mushrooms
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
pack of prosciutto (roughly 100g), chopped/ripped
200ml vegetable stock
200ml white wine
5 heaped tbsp reduced-fat creme fraiche

Method

In a large pan of boiling water, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions, drain and set aside.

Heat 2tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok. Fry the chopped onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes until soft and then add the mushrooms and prosciutto. Cook until the mushrooms have softened and are browning slightly.

Pour in the stock and wine, simmer until the sauce starts to reduce and thicken. Spoon in the creme fraiche and mix in the drained spaghetti. Heat through gently (do not boil) and serve immediately.

Couldn't really be simpler!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

'Tis the Season!

December 1st. Who would have thought it, where on earth has 2011 gone?! 

The start of the month has meant things have been taken to a whole other level today, we've reached fever pitch. The excitement is palpable. If I didn't know better I would say that things can't get much more intense, but well, we know it can and will don't we? 

At ages 4 and 5 my children are at a beautiful age for Christmas, they believe everything you say and they are just so excited. They're sucking up the Christmas stories this year and have been desperate for December 1st for weeks. It's all about the calenders you see, of which we have five. Yes, you read it write, five. Four of them belong to the kids!  Of course there is the obligatory chocolate ones - and what is wrong with chocolate before breakfast I ask you?! A rather fetching cardboard school nativity scene and then the nice people at Playmobil sent me this;

A Playmobil advent calender! What a marvelous idea, even Mr M was won over by this idea. 

As soon as the children set their eyes on it they could barely wait to open the little doors - which is why I waited until last night to show it to them, I'm not stupid. We had a few wobbles, because clearly there was one calender and two children but on the whole my children are extremely good sharers so once we had sorted out the correct order of proceedings (girl has odd days, boy has even...this was very political as he was adamant he wanted the "big" door ie 24 and she was quite happy that it meant she got first go at opening it) we were good to go.

As you can see, it's an advent calender, which we all know means you get to open one little door every day. With the Playmobil advent calenders you're building up a scene, adding little pieces each day. There is a cardboard scene inside the box which is simple to put together and from thereon in you just build it up until it eventually looks like this

The great thing about this compared to other advent calenders is that you get to play with these little toys forever, I know my children will get hours of fun out of this, although currently, Day 1, it looks like this


That post box looks a bit lonely doesn't it? I can't wait until tomorrow to see what we get, I'm slightly gutted that the children get all the fun of opening it! Having something like this to open everyday is really adding to the excitement and I would definitely recommend it.

There's a range of advent calenders including the post office - there's also dinosaurs and the knights tournament and the retail at £14.99 which I think is really reasonably priced. Playmobil is such good quality and practically indestructible as I have found several times when it's been embedded in the sole of my foot...

love & kisses
Mrs M x