Monday, 15 September 2014

Old School New School - Remix Part 3

So, you're embracing the changes around here in my Virtual Rhiality and I'm embracing the changes in my real Rhiality.....

New school is upon us. My little boy started on Wednesday 3rd with a later start and then it was early starts on Thursday and Friday. We got over the weekend and school began in earnest last week.

The uniform was purchased, the labels were sewn in (yes, even the socks), new things washed and ironed - yes, this was a shock to me to but I am now a person who irons!!! - Confession, I actually had to go and buy an iron and ironing board for this! No longer will clothes be "steamed" in the shower.  See, I am a proper mum!

The day before school started there was a picnic in the park behind the school for all the reception children. This was such a great opportunity for the children to meet and play freely and parents to mingle.

Uniform ready, bags packed. We headed off for the first day. We live just a little too far away to walk all the way to school but I'm keen to walk as much as possible so we drive part way (don't worry, I drive a hybrid so it's allowed yes?!) then we walk for about 15 mins - at the boy's pace.

The walk is delightful, we cross over railway bridges and spot trains - if you wave they even toot you!
We bump into loads of nursery chums en route to their respective new schools and get to feel bright and ready for the day ahead. All in all a lovey way to get to school and it totally doesn't feel London-y (you know I have no real love for London so this pleases me!)

Old School 
In case you hadn't guessed from the uniform this new school we're going to is old school in lots of ways. The headmaster or senior member of staff available shakes each child's hand on arrival at school which is super.
The reception area of the school is pretty well self-contained which minimises the scariness of it all.

My boy went into the classroom with no tears or grumbles and was greeted joyously by the friends he had made at the picnic the day before - perfect.
His teacher and teaching assistants are lovely too so Mummy and Daddy are feeling safe as well!

I know there will be wobbles along the way but so far so good, half a week, the return after the weekend, a full week and now into week 2 and we're still all enjoying things.

On a personal note - walking so many miles per week is going to be sooooo good for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 Now  we've all settled into the newness normal service will be resumed around here....with a few exciting things in the offing.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

So here's what you missed on....ME. Remix part 2

Ooh a Glee reference, well I'm getting more up to date I guess!

View from our balcony on arrival

The summer has gone by so quickly! It started with our holiday just a couple of days after little N finished his last day ever at nursery (you know - the safe, warm place where all his friends are!). We headed off to our apartment in Mallorca for 12 days.

Daddy's new waterproof chuckable camera is cool

good for learning - looks like a pro

Gin is massive in Spain
Plane on the way home

in-sea cuddles
We weren't sure we were going to be able to go right up until the last minute because I'd been suffering from a medical thing - you don't wana know - so if I just say "women's troubles" will you all agree to look embarrassed like an old, male geography teacher, overt your eyes and stutter whilst telling me I can go to see the school nurse????

Coolio, thanks for that.

So we did get to Spain and it was loverly. The boy had a wonderful time, we caught up with friends, embraced the siesta and stayed up late with good food and wine. My boy was very brave in the sea and his swimming improved loads. It was brilliant to be the three of us together non-stop for nothing but fun!

Back at home it was time for my operation.


A short stay in hospital and huge thanks to my London-based siblings for rallying round and looking after the boy (who coped very well with the upheaval). Things didn't quite go to plan and so it was a few weeks before all the tubes and pipes were taken out of me so I could actually move around with ease and get on with normality. My husband is the absolute best - he took care of me, the boy, the house, food, cooking and his work with expert skill and lots of support for me when I was feeling pretty low.

The healing is still happening but not quite in a textbook fashion so there's a chance I'll need further intervention - boo hiss!!!

Anyway - there you have it - probably everything you missed. All in all a mixed bag but my boy had fun which was the main thing.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Summertime - Remix Part 1

This is the remix yo:

Here it is a groove slightly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm
Just a little something to break from the monotony........

Although in Rhiality it's more like:

Summer's gone, days spent with the grass and sun.....

(How about that? DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith and The Boo Radleys - wow, I am up to date huh?)

There's a new look round here and I hope you like it. It's all thanks to the lovely design talents of Helen over at Ellie Illustrates who was very patient with me!

A virtual me!

It marks a big new beginning for us - the start of school for my little boy and everything that goes with it..... "free" time during the day =
more time for that pesky housework / reviving this blog / making the stock and restocking my shop (both physical and virtual) / the day job (well it's the closest I'll get to a day job for the next few years of school) - freelance writing.

So, you know - sitting around drinking tea with my feet up like us stay at home mums do right?!

I'd love to know what you think of my new look - make sure to let me know if you likey....drop a comment down below, holla at me on Twitter or nosey around my pics on Instagram.  I am on Google plus but who the hell knows how that works - it's the neediest of all social media always asking you to "share" with it and keep it in the loop (circle) but whatevs - I'm over you Google plus, it's not me - it's you!

More catching up to come soon and lots of exciting projects and collaborations over the next few months so I'm glad to be back and sorry for neglecting my virtual peeps but you know, life happens!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Swinton Insurance Shadow Skills Challenge

So, I'm really excited to share this mini-challenge with you.

The good people at Swinton Insurance have recently released a new TV ad featuring Britain's Got Talent winners, Attraction. At this point I must confess to not knowing who they were until now since I don't watch the show but having investigated - what they do is really rather lovely.

In conjunction with this, Swinton sent me a shadow puppet theatre kit free of charge which I have been able to keep. My boy and I were so excited to receive the kit and we were absolutely blown away when it arrived. I've never seen anything like this - it's beautiful quality and just such a gorgeous toy to capture the imagination of children. That's exactly what happened.....N was so taken with the mini theatre that he is now putting on daily performances. We always used to make shadow animals on the bedroom wall at night time but this is somewhat more impressive as you can see!

The main kit contains a piece of linen with the theatre scene printed upon it, and a selection on puppets. They are skilfully cut out of thick, black card and mounted on mini dowels to hold and place them. On the back of the clothe there are a couple of slots where you could place a scenery piece and then have your hands free to move the characters around.

I have my lovely husband to thank for these pictures since I was busy behind the scenes with the director.

N chose the set of puppets which came with the fabric and also the 'fairytale' set. Daddy very much enjoyed listening to our story and N really got into the swing of things - he was so excited he spent a lot of time running out front to see the beautiful shadows for himself.

Gorgeous packaging

So neatly put together 
The forest scenes and castle or village on a hill pieces set the scene beautifully and we have the very familiar characters; the witch, the fairy, the dragon, the king, the princess, the donkey and the knight and a funny little man. The other kit was a circus one including ring master, acrobats and performers, and the perfect scenery. The third set is Paris - the Eiffel tower, a jazz musician, the perfect scenery for a delightful Parisian adventure.

Our story saw the princess captured by the mean witch and rescued by the knight at the King's request. The fairy provides a little magical help and even the dragon turns to the good side to help out. Donkey and the Knight save the princess, the witch is forgiven and the little man marries the young couple in front of the castle. 

That is not the end of our story however because the princess decides that she would rather become a vet and help all the animals in the forest because sitting on a throne is a bit boring - so that's exactly what she does while her husband, the knight works as head of security at the castle. Bonus points to my boy for his feminist slant on a fairy story I think!

This was so much fun and I'm not sure where you could buy such a kit but I urge you to investigate since this is one of those toys which gets the whole family on board- a proper, old-fashioned game to enjoy, a different story every time and hours of fun for years to come I would imagine.

Thanks Swinton Insurance!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Summer salads - healthy and tasty

Hello you lovely lot. The sun is shining today and I'm feeling all summery - the floaty maxi skirts are out (not quite ready for totally bare legs yet!!!) and the sandals are on!

If you follow me on Instagram then you will know that we recently purchased a second hand barbecue for a great price and since then my husband has full on barbecue fever!! My little boy, who is doing very well at trying new foods, is now requesting that all his food be barbecued - so much so that his devoted daddy was even barbecuing potato waffles in the rain recently - he's a keeper :)

Now, I love food (as you may have realised) but it has to be said that I'm not the biggest fan of red meat which can often overtake a good barbecue so I've been busy making lots of salads to accompany this and by default I'm managing to get my meat-loving husband to eat some more veggies (this is more difficult than with my four year old!) I thought you might like to see some of the recipes. I promise simple preparation and yummy, quick results - if Alex will eat them then they must be tasty! These are all easy and you can really chuck in whatever veg you have to hand - a great way to use up bits and bobs too.

First up is a classic, Beetroot and Feta salad.

So this is dead easy:

  • Grab some vacuum packed, cooked beetroots (they usually come in a 3 or four pack), chop them into pieces which are roughly the same size - this makes them easier to eat one-handed with a fork when eating al fresco and you run out of chairs! A regular pack of feta cheese usually is about 200g so chop this roughly the same size as your beetroot (there is no exact science here!)
  • Finely chop a handful of flat leaf parsley and add to the dish
  • Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon (watch out for pips)
  • Pour over a good glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil  - (the Waitrose own Sicilian one is yummy!)
  • Pour over a slightly smaller glug of Balsamic Vinegar - make sure its the proper stuff from Modena (this is probably because I'm married to an Italian who is very fussy about these things but it does make a difference - don't worry though - you don't have to spend a fortune to get nice stuff)
  • TA-DA - you have a yummy salad. Give it a mix up but be careful not to break up the feta too much. Whack it in the fridge and it will keep for a couple of days.

Next up is: Squash, spinach and nuts: I love how the nuts give this great texture and I'm in love with the flavour of pumpkin seeds right now. This combination of foods is really good for you too!!

  • Get a medium sized butternut squash, pop it in a roasting tin as is and roast it in a pre-heated oven  (180C)  for about 50 minutes until it's soft inside when you stab it.
  • Once it is cool enough to handle chop it into chunks (a nice forkable size as above) and discard all the seeds and skin (you can eat it but I don't like it personally).
  • Set a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and then toast a handful of pine nuts and a handful of pumpkin seeds in it. Give them a couple of jiggles and keep going until the pine nuts have a slightly darker colour (try not to burn them!)
  • Turn the heat of the pan down and throw in some fresh spinach leaves, heat through until they are wilted but not disappeared and all too limp. 
  • Throw the butternut squash into the same pan and heat everything through together. 
  • Add a glug of that olive oil and season if you like with some black pepper. 
  • Eat warm or cold with a dash of Balsamic vinegar if you like and you can also add some Parmesan shavings as you serve it if you like. 
  • Again if you cover this in the fridge it will keep for a couple of days. 

Lastly, Mackerel layered chick pea salad. Dead easy again and a great way to get some oily fish into your diet plus the chickpeas are super too:

  • Buy some vacuum packed smoked, peppered mackerel fillets. (the peppered ones are much nicer - if you like pepper - if not then just buy the plain). The great thing about this is that it keeps for a while and there are no bones to worry about. 
  • Wash and chop all the salad ingredients to the same size chunks
  • Slice the lettuce leaves of your choice (much easier to eat when they are smallish) and lay at the bottom of your dish. I love Romain or Little Gem lettuce. You can include some fresh basil leaves here if you like or even some fresh spinach leaves too. 
  • Next add a layer of chopped red pepper - lovely sweetness and gorgeous colour. You can put orange and yellow in too - just use up whatever you have
  • Add a layer of chopped cucumber
  • Tinned chick peas are fabulous - super cheap, super tasty and super good for you! Strain them and wash them under the tap and drain again. Pour them into the dish as the next layer. 
  • Add a layer of chopped tomatoes. My favourite are baby plum tomatoes - such a yummy flavour - any will do though. (keeping the tomatoes and cucumbers at the top stops them from getting too squished and leaking all their juicy goodness)
  • Lastly add a layer of flaked mackerel fillet. 
  • I like to cover it and pop it in the fridge like this. Then when you dish it out make sure everyone has a bit from each layer. This looks really pretty served in a glass dish so you can see all the colours. 
  • I let people dress their own plate with olive oil as above and Balsamic to taste. 
Well that's it. I hope you like these simple salads. Like I said, chuck in whatever you have - that's how I came up with these in the first place, this is just the sort of simple, healthy food I love. Make sure to let me know if you try any of these or if you have any yummy salad recipes you'd like to share. Why not check out my Pinterest board filled with yummy summery food ideas. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

March/April 2014 Holidays in photos

Hello to all my lovely Virtual Buddies out there - you know who you are and I love you, there I said it. Now that's out of the way I thought I would share some photos from our little break. We broke up for the Easter holidays and headed to Wales for some fun and frolics by the sea. I'll keep the talking brief today and let the pics do the talking (mostly, this is me after all?!!)

Let me also just let you know that I have Guest Blogged for the lovely Vicki from Ellie Bear Babi for her fabulous feature about Stay at Home Mums - it's up tomorrow so please stop by and check it out xx

Lake beauty
Razor shell
On a tree trail we found and Indian tree :)

Dolgoch falls

Gorgeous cottage, gorgeous setting

He looks like such a city boy here!!
N drew family and friends

He drew a "Happy Octopus" in the sand

Winding roads, rain and solid stone beauty

A stroll on the beach in the water

Love these cottages with the hills and the rain

River walk

Lake reflections

A different lake, dramatic sky

City boy and Action Mummy

Up in the hills

Could have stayed here all day, so peaceful

Yep, I got Papped taking a Selfie!!

Beautiful Redwood we stopped to chat to

Ruined castle up so high we were in the clouds

Going nowhere fast - which is the way it should be on holiday

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Superheroes Assemble!!

Calling all superheroes!!!  
My boy waiting patiently for his party

bunting and balloons
My gorgeous boy is growing up and last week was his fourth birthday. We celebrated by holding a superhero party in his honour - the theme was his choice and a jolly good one I think. I put my thinking cap on and came up with some pretty cool ideas (if I do say so myself!) and the day went off without a hitch  - perfect!

This was the first year where we had a celebration purely for his little friends, in the past we have had family get togethers but this year was full-on kids' party action. So the first thing on the list was of course invitations. Having designed some really cool ones it was of course sods law that our printer decided to break as I tried to print them which also scuppered my plans for some cool decorations. Thankfully there are so many awesome free printables all over the internet now meaning the possibilities are endless.

House decorated
We did manage to print some invitations from this handy site and our boy loved them! Guest list organised, invitations delivered and RSVPs received I set about planning the party games.

Firstly I decided to have on standby the old faithful musical statues only this would be musical superhero statues where everyone has to freeze in a superhero pose. Next I chose another twist on a classic party game with pin the spider on the spiderman...I used a posted from a magazine and drew some different spiders.

Finally I went super old school and bought loads of cans of silly string - FUN!! I bought a special gun attachment since little fingers weren't quite strong enough to press the nozzle on the can. I cut out some pictures of superhero villans from a selection of old editions of superhero comic magazines which my boy had - my nemesis, the broken printer, wouldn't stop me this time! (Maybe I'm getting too into this?!)

The children had sooooo much fun doing this - it was a total hit!

When I asked my boy what kind of cake he would like he asked for an Iron Man cake. Now, me being me, I couldn't just make any old simple Iron Man cake - no, I decided that I would make an Iron Man cake complete with light up Arc Reactor (chest light thing-y). Off to Amazon I went and found a cool, motion activated cupboard light which I though would be perfect for the job. After having a mini-panic (read Major panic!) that I had bitten off more than I could chew I was back on track and made a two-tier cake.

The top tier (mask) was a two layer vanilla sponge filled with buttercream and the base (chest) tier was a two-layer chocolate sponge again filled with buttercream. I hollowed out a section for the light and iced the bottom layer according to the old school Iron Man suit (from the comics and cartoons) then I inserted dowls into the top which would help to support the top tier. I decorated the top tier and positioned onto the base. Then I covered the joins and tidied the whole thing up. I was so happy that this came out as well as I had hoped - especially since, as usual, I was making it up as I go along! The children were thrilled I think the light definitely impressed - PHEW!

For the rest of the food I made Batman ham sandwiches and Thor hammer snacks - aka - cheddar blocks on mini breadsticks. There were also carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and hula hoops. I made cinnamon palmiers and Viennese fingers for the adults as well as meringue kisses as a gluten-free treat for a guest with Coeliac disease. 

Next came the subject of party bag/going home gifts/party favour type things.....again I had what I thought was a great idea - again, I had a mini-panic at the scale of what I was planning but after some soothing words and cups of tea from my lovely husband I was fine and it all worked out perfectly. 

I made each child their very own superhero cape, complete with their initial on the back - I was very happy with how these turned out. I bought some cheap and cheerful dress lining fabric from eBay in a selection of colours and set to work. The fasten at the neck with velcro. The children all looked so cute in them and I think it was a nice touch and something just a bit different. 
So, after lots of games and food, playing both inside and out, upstairs and down - it was time to say goodbye and let the clean up commence - oh yes and the drinking of gin!!!!

But wait, there's just one more thing. This party was held on the Sunday at our house and my boy's actual birthday was the Tuesday after and he was at nursery school that day which meant that he needed to take some treats in for all his other friends.....cue one more moment of mini panic when I remembered this on Monday afternoon and my boy requested a Captain America cake!!! I knew I was catering to up to 30 children and teachers so it seemed logical to go with one big cake and not lots of cupcakes - that way I couldn't get the numbers wrong and no one would miss out. So, here we go again - a double layer chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream cleverly disguised as Captain America's shield. They ate the lot so we can assume they all liked it! 

Thank goodness there's a whole year before his next birthday - oh, and thank goodness for the gin!!!!

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