Meal planning!

I often post stories over on instagram whilst I am in the kitchen cooking and baking. People often reply asking where I get my recipes from and how I meal plan. Answering these kinds of questions inspired me to pen this post.

Our family at the moment is myself and my husband and our four children ages 7,5,3 & 1. We all sit down together at meal times and eat the same thing. Making different meals is not something I have ever done. Our children might not always eat everything they are served, but I encourage them to all at least try a bite of everything. One loves broccoli and another can’t stand it, one loves spice and another is not so keen.

I also have my groceries delivered weekly from Tesco. I purchased the delivery saver pass using my club card points and have done that every year. This means that there is no extra cost to me for having my shopping delivered right to my kitchen table. I cannot explain how big a game changer this has been for us!

So what do you do? Where do you start?

I start by logging onto the Tesco grocery app and making sure I have my normal slot booked. Then check out what is on offer for the upcoming week. I add anything I think sounds good to my basket. I also check the cupboards so see what we have in.

The next part is my favourite, I have a bit of a “thing” for recipe books… and have built up a decent collection.. I don’t need them all but Marie Kondo they ALL spark joy! I choose a few books and look up what they offer. IMG_0917.JPG

(Side note – this is about half of my books..) But you don’t actually need any recipe books, the internet is FULL of millions of recipes. Just search what ingredients you have and away you go!

I work best with a pencil and paper, writing a proper list of my intended meals and what other ingredients I need to order to make them happen.

I don’t buy everything from Tesco, a local shop gets deliveries from the butcher most week days and deliveries of fresh fish twice a week, I like to have fish at least once a week.

Once I have my list of meals I can put it in order of what day I plan to have what, this has to have some level of fluidity as plans change. I go and finish up my online order and pin the meal plan to the fridge.

Typical week 

Sunday: Roast chicken with potatoes and vegetables
Monday: Chicken and bacon pasta bake
Tuesday: Baked breaded haddock, potatoes, broccoli and peas.
Wednesday: Spaghetti bolognese
Thursday: Tacos (using left over bolognese with added black beans)
Friday: Prawn curry
Saturday: Home made Chinese night – sweet and sour chicken, beef chow mein

Extra tips:
If your recipe calls for half of something, decide if the other half can be used in another recipe that week or if you can freeze it. Plan around your left overs. By doing this you will minimise food waste and save time and money. If you have children who are unsure about vegetables, don’t stress yourself out. You can try and hide them in sauces, or you can cut them up bigger and ask them to take a bite.
If you know which fresh ingredients have the shortest shelf life, have them at the beginning of the week so they are in their best condition. Meat can be frozen and defrosted so don’t worry so much about that.

I hope this has been useful! Let me know what your tips are for family meal planning.

Hazel Ann x

 

Tots Bots Easyfit Star

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Around 7  years ago when my first child was a baby, a friend I had made online asked if I wanted to try a reusable nappy she really loved.  I had been using old school terry  nappies, and I really loved those, but this was called an “all in one” nappy. When I got my hands on it I knew it was going to be a game changer. That nappy was a Tots Bots Easyfit. (Back then they were on “version 2” which was one of the best they made. Version 3 was a flop, version 4 was ok..) But then came the “star” which launched in March 2016 when my third child was in nappies. This is my review of the Easyfit Star nappy, after using them every day for the last 3 years.

So let’s have a look at an easyfit star. This one is called Rainbeau and features the popular Grims rainbow design. This is an all in one nappy – meaning that there is a waterproof outside and an attached absorbent inside. The waterproof part is made of PUL which is very durable, the absorbent inner is a super thirsty bamboo tongue which you tuck into the pocket at the back. The leg cuffs are elasticated and the front fastens using velcro tabs and a long landing strip. There are also poppers on the front for adjusting the rise of the nappy, so it can fit from a small baby to a ready to potty train toddler.

 

Bamboo is a natural fibre, it takes up to 10 washes to reach its peak absorbency. You are advised therefore to pre wash it a few times, I admit I never do this. I am always far too excited to get the nappy on the bum!

The nappy truly lives up to its name, it is so easy to fit onto the baby. If you are transitioning from disposables to cloth nappies, this nappy will already make sense with its velcro fastening. Judging when to change the rise poppers will become apparent when your baby has grown and the nappy starts to not be long enough, the poppers don’t tend to come undone in the wash either so you don’t have to fiddle around with them until you need to.

I found they fit well from around 10lbs, the leg elastics on a new one will contain nearly any poonami your baby throws at you! And bamboo is so absorbent that even a heavy wetting toddler will last a few hours without wet patches. Another great thing about the nappy being bamboo is that it dose not compress in the way that microfibre, for example, does. So long naps in the sling or pushchair won’t result in leaks. Getting started with cloth nappies can be intimidating, I really do think that this nappy is an excellent example of a well thought out, tried and tested design.

 

This is my little squidger Henrie modelling some easy fit nappies at around 4 months old.  He was on the smallest set of poppers and weighed around 15lbs.

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My daughter Agnes modelling an easy fit star when she was 15 months and weighed around 24lbs. This was a Joules print which I adored.

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My nappy shelf back in 2016 featured a mixture of easy fit v4 and stars along with a few other brands. I have now collected more stars and phased out the v4s.

Washing and drying your Easyfit nappies is also *easy*. Take the nappy off the baby and fold over the velcro laundry tabs. I store my dirty nappies in a dry bucket and then transfer the to the machine when I am ready to do a wash. The long tongue always agitates itself out in the wash so you don’t have to pull it out before. I use non bio detergent and a 60C wash. I then line dry and finish off on a cool tumble. You can tumble dry straight from the washing machine.

By boosting your easyfit star with something like a double bamboo booster, you might get it to work as a night nappy, if you don’t have a heart wetting baby.

So how have they faired over the years?

Absorbency has not depleted, the PUL has stayed in really good condition. My only negative I have is the leg elastics, which have relaxed a lot. If using for one child this is not really an issue as they are always growing and the need for the elastics to be super tight isn’t there. However if you plan to use them for subsequent babies or resell them after, it is a bit of a let down. I am not sure if Tots Bots have any plans to do anything about this. This was not something that was as big an issue with the previous versions for me.

So where do you buy these nappies from?  I have purchased from various places and I also have an affiliate link for Fill Your Pants which gives you a 10% discount. The Nappy Lady  and Tots Bots direct are also websites I have used. There are lots of retailers offering different things.

I hope this review has been helpful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments. Thank you for reading!

Hazel Ann x

I will leave you with this cute video of Henrie scrambling around on my bed in his nappy.

Miracle drug … called exercise

I talked last week about how I was feeling emotionally one year on from having Henrie.

I wanted to document my physical progress too, I have been really enjoying exercising again, and the physical results always spur you on to keep going. Feeling strong physically gives a great mental boost I find.

Ok, so here I was last March with my 4 week old Henrie bear, how tiny and squishy was he! Again when he was 8 weeks old at our nephews wedding.  And then me now, a year on and feeling stronger and fitter. Not worrying about how much I weigh or anything like that, for me the real “prize” is having my mental health back and feeling strong.

My Jazzercise teacher is so lovely, and she is so talented! I go to her class which is only a few minutes away from me, for an hour, twice a week. I always look forward to class as it is my “me” time, dancing away my blues and sweating out my frustrations is the best therapy! On a Monday I also go to a class which I helped set up with my friend Jenny (who is one of those humans who seems to spin so many plates at once and always smiles!) It is called Boogie Beenies, you bring your baby in a sling and then boogie away to a whole mixture of music for 45 minutes while following Jenny’s direction. I am always on hand for any sling safety or comfort info. It is SO much fun!

Baby boy has been an absolute diamond since he arrived. Looking at the photos from his birthday weekend I am just in awe of how much he has grown, that I am still breast feeding this little monkey and my body didn’t “fail”, it has worked hard and over come so much.
Mammas give yourselves a pat on the back today when you look at your little humans. Because you have done an incredible thing growing them, whether we are talking in your belly, after you fostered or adopted them, helping them become big little people.

I am going to sign off now because as usual I am getting emotional and I like to ramble when that happens!

See you next time, thank you so much for reading!

Hazel Ann Xx

One year on

A year ago today I was having a brilliant day with my yoga teacher and a photographer, on a beach in winter, taking photos of a pregnancy yoga sequence. Little Henrie hanging out inside my belly. IMG_4136That’s me, feeling like a real warrior with my bare feet in the sand and my big bump.

I chose this as the way I wanted to remember the end of my pregnancy. What followed in the next few days was not what I had imagined. Talking about it and being as honest as I can, I hope that other people can identify and maybe not feel so alone.

Tuesday last, I was at the nurse having a smear test (if yours is due – go book it NOW!). We couldn’t believe it had been nearly a year since I had spent all that time going back and fore to the health centre trying to get my c section wound to heal. She asked me if I was now fully recovered,  when I answered I really believed that “Yes! I am doing great”. In that moment I whole heartedly felt like I was “healed”. The negative thoughts that at times had threatened to swallow me at different points felt so far away. Physically I am feeling really well, enjoying exercising and my life is full of the things I enjoy.

Over the weekend some things happened which brought back the memories of those days, the black days, and I was sort of plunged back into the well. I had to go and lie down at one point because I could feel a panic attack starting to rise up.

So I guess the point here is that, no, I am not actually as “over it” as I thought. While I am excited about celebrating a whole year of Henrie, there is a shadow.  I feel like I am banging a drum and no one really cares a lot of the time. What happened to me is no where near what happens to some people. That kind of thoughts are not helpful either though, just because your experience isn’t “as bad” , doesn’t mean it can’t affect you. Doesn’t mean that you are not “allowed” to find it hard to deal with.

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My focus is that it is ok to not be ok about it. Even when I thought I was ok. Speaking to a friend the other week, we were saying how becoming a mother changes you, and that the experience you have in labour and delivery changes you. Talking about that, being open and honest is needed. Pretending it is always lovely and perfect doesn’t stop other people from having a difficult time, physically, mentally. Your health comprises of both of those things. Look after yourself, whoever you are. You are important.

Hazel Ann x

A few favourite recipes

Hello and welcome back again.

This post  is about a few of my favourite recipes  we have made over the last month.

First up we decided to buy less chicken fillets and instead buy whole chickens or chicken drumsticks as they are so much better value for money, and we find they are more tasty. Only drawback is they take longer to cook.

This roast chicken was a recipe from Kirstie’s Real Kitchen.

I really love lemon with a roast chicken.

We had boiled carrots, mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli to accompany this juicy chicken.

 

 

 

 

Now this was a good recipe! A pot roasted chicken from Annabel Karmel’s latest book.

We were going to a birthday party on a Sunday afternoon, we only had an hour from getting in from church to when we needed to leave again.

This did not take long to prep, and then went into the oven and was waiting for us when we arrived home. Everything is in the pot so no need to start boiling potatoes either. img_6975.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is a chicken tray bake from the Hairy Dieters book which I bought a few years ago. It tasted lovely, there is paprika and oregano on the meat, but the potatoes were NOT cooked at the end of the cooking time. Paul fried his off in a pan, I just ate them anyway! But we put the rest of it back into the oven… and then found it again 4 days later! Oops!

The over on the right is a chicken stir fry with satay sauce, the recipe for which is from Fearne Cotton’s first recipe book. Its very quick to make, and is great as a dipping sauce and used for chicken or prawns.

I like to marinate the chicken breast in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, chilli and lemongrass before I cook it. I used a bag of stir fry mix and added a red pepper and some egg noodles. The satay sauce I then heated and added over the top for anyone who wanted.

So this was the main event on Christmas Day! Mrs Turkey, she was  delicious. We had 5 adults, 3 children and a baby to  feed. My Mam bought this turkey breast joint from her local  butcher. Then it was my job to cook it. I did this on Christmas Eve as I didn’t want to be really stressed on  Christmas Day with everything else. My sister in law gave me her stuffing recipe which is pork sausage,  breadcrumbs, oatmeal, onions and dried apricots. I sliced into the breast, put in the stuffing and then used these cocktail sticks to hold it back together. Covered the top in bacon and tied with string –  note: I need to buy proper kitchen string! I seasoned it and then basted it regularly during cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

Not to blow my own trumpet too much, but it tasted so good and stayed moist for the rest of the time we used it as left overs.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it even really Christmas if you didn’t have turkey curry?

This one was garlic, ginger and onions fried, stir in curry powder. Then I added a tin of tomatoes and seasoned. I would have added chilli too but  I wanted the children to eat it without moaning!

A table spoon of mango chutney and handful of chopped dried apricots, add the turkey and heat through. I then added natural  yogurt. Served with some rice and naan breads (which I did not make myself!)The week before the Christmas holidays were due to start, a horrible sickness bug struck down a few communities around us. We decided to keep our children off school for the last few days. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do but the night before we kept them off one of them was up and down all night with a horrible cough too. We enjoyed our three extra days of Christmas holidays and watched films, baked ginger bread men and made a chocolate Santa’s sleigh using lots of chocolate biscuits!

I hope these ideas have been a bit of inspiration for you.

Thank you again for reading!

 

Hazel Ann Xx

Meet the family

Welcome back!

I have been retrieving things I have written over the past years and starting to pen other things which have been floating around in my mind.

I thought it would probably be more sensible to introduce myself and our family.

So… I amHazel Ann, Christian, wife, mother to four. I have a lot of different interests, I often struggle to feel like I “fit in” with different groups. I run a sling library with my friend Louise , serve as chair person of a voluntary organisation promoting cloth nappies, enjoy jazzercise and getting outside. I love clothes and beauty and spend a lot (too much) time on Instagram.

My husband is an engineer, and crofter. The croft is something he was brought up with and he is so passionate about it. Self sufficiency is a long term goal of his.  He is a private person, has no social media outlets! He’s got a really good eye for photography. He is a very good egg. (Sorry for that vom fest of sop!)

Then there are our four children! Basically the reason I breathe. They are loud, loving, wild… free range. Living where we do, in the middle of no where, they have a lot of freedom to roam. They do also watch TV and beg me to go on YouTube. I won’t pretend to be some kind of amazing mother who can survive without a bit of TV babysitting while I get things done. Maybe those mothers exist somewhere but not in my house..

Add in all of our animals – a cat, a dog, some hens, a few cows and then the oooooodles of sheep.

I started this blog a long time ago and then neglected it. I find it very therapeutic to turn my brain soup into words and then save them away. Anyone reading this I hope some of my rambles make you smile, feel less alone and give you an insight into what our little life is like.

Down, up and down again

I have always been a “planner”. I like to know what is happening when, I like to be in control as much as possible. I can go with the flow so long as that is what I have planned. 

Throw in motherhood. Genuinely I had imagined being someone who was ruled by routine, however I turned out not to be quite what I foresaw and my version of routine was going to the same things every week rather than my actual baby being on a “schedule”.

I found something in motherhood that clicked and gave me confidence rather than take it away. Prior to being a Mam I guess I was not really confident in much, I am one of those people who doesn’t always naturally fit in anywhere. There was a moment while I was at university that I stopped caring about what people thought of me, didn’t overthink to as crazy a degree, I guess you could call it a turning point. I felt clearer and it was freeing not to constantly try to guess what other people were thinking of me all the time. Then a few years later, becoming a Mam I was happy just fitting in with my own family. My husband, baby and I were “us”, and belonging there was more important than belonging anywhere else.

When my first two children were baby and toddler, other mothers would make comments to me about how together I always seemed, which is really hilarious as I am not a “together” kind of person in my own eyes. I liked being out and about, meeting people, talking to other parents, getting involved in things. I would get nervous before I went somewhere new, but the draw of it was always enough to get me out of my house and then out of the car and into whatever it was. And that must have seemed “together”. It did not always feel like that, spending the whole drive talking myself in and out of it.

After our third child was born I was much more governed by nursery runs, and so my exploring of new things lessened. We were in a routine, with the same activities from week to week, this is what suits me and how I thrive best.

While pregnant with our fourth child I never really imagined life being hugely different. I was “experienced” now, wasn’t I? People would ask how many children I had and when I pointed at my belly and said this was number 4, I got lots of different reactions. In my head I knew what was coming. Turns out I was pretty wrong about a lot of it..

There is a debate that I have in my head often about what terms to use to describe how I have felt over the last 10 months. Have I had post natal depression? Have I just been dealing with harder circumstances?

I posted about Henrie’s birth before, about how we had an “elective c section” – that I didn’t want.  Looking back, it seems like it took me a long time to come to terms, in my mind, with what happened. My body basically refused to accept what had happened too and took months to heal. That was not a good start. For a person who loves to be out and about being confined to barracks was hard.

Being negative is not something I enjoy, so while I don’t want this to be really doom and gloom, the truth is that a lot of the last months have felt like that. It has felt like a big black storm cloud has just been following me around.

Last week I hosted our second fourth trimester group, we had a play therapist visiting and she was talking about mindfulness for parents. I really enjoyed her talk, so much of what she was saying resonated with me. I was able to talk about how I have felt since Henrie was born without becoming really emotional, seeing it as a period which I have moved out of rather than being stuck in.

I want to talk more about all of this because I feel like it is so helpful for processing. Birth trauma is something which I am learning more and more about all the time. I want to leave this link here for anyone who is feeling like they want to get help after having a baby and everything not feeling rosy.

A bumpy ride, that is how to describe how it’s been. At the moment things feel almost normal, but now I have learned that could change tomorrow. The good days well out number the bad ones which is great. Bad days are still a thing, and they are no fun for anyone. I love that I have friends who I can just say “I am having a rubbish day” and not worry that they are judging me or think they need to say something magic to make it better. It does get better, it might take a while, but there is always hope.

Hazel-Ann x