Wednesday 31 July 2013

1stFone giveaway

We recently reviewed the 1stFone and now they have kindly offered to give one away to one of my readers along with one month's free airtime, all together worth up to almost £90. We think 1stFone's are great, and our review is here.

1stFone have recently introduced the 'Image Phone', which is even more accessible to very young children and also to anyone who is unable to use a standard mobile phone. It still only takes moments to create your own design and upload your chosen images.
It arrives ready to use and pre-programmed with the telephone numbers of your choosing and your accompanying photographs, so that all the user needs to do is press the correct button and it will ring the person shown.

For your chance to win your very own 1stFone your choosing and a month of free airtime please enter using the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UK entrants only please. The prize is a 1stFone your choosing and a month of free airtime - after which you can choose from any of these Payment Plans. The prize will be supplied by 1stFone directly. Once the competition ends the winner will be selected randomly from all entries by Rafflecopter. The winner will be informed by e-mail within 48 hours. If the winner does not respond within 5 days then I reserve the right to instruct Rafflecopter to choose another winner.If the winner does not fulfil the entry then I reserve the right to choose another (e.g if you enter by following on Twitter, but have unfollowed before the end of the competition). The competition will close at midnight on Wednesday 28th August 2013.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Meningitis Day 20 ~ The Birthday Present

He didn't get any better. In fact he got a bit hotter and I had to wake him up overnight and make him take paracetamol and get out from under the duvet. He cooled down a lot straightaway and that's the only thing that stopped me from getting dressed and taking him to A&E.

He was clearly ill and it was a horribly reminiscent time. I can't begin to count the number of times I checked his temperature. I think I'm obsessed.

At 9am we were in with the Doctor and he'd ruled out any recurrence of Meningitis and confirmed Tonsilitis and throat infection. He also confirmed that my partner is likely to catch anything going and really suffer with it. He was a lovely Doctor actually. He referred to my partner's 4-5 hour afternoon naps as 'dedication' and he waited an extra few seconds to raise his eyebrows when my partner said he only wanted another week's sick note for work.

We went home via the Chemist for a 4th course of antibiotics, some Athlete's foot cream, another bottle of Full Marks headlice treatment and cold sore cream. It's an eclectic mix, but that's life with 7 children.

When we got home the 3 girls were all still in bed. This is significant because it was Girl no.2's 14th birthday. She wasn't even aware we'd ever been out, and we had time to put together her present before she got up.

When my partner was seriously ill and delirious his daughter's birthday present never left his mind. He was seriously ill on IV antibiotics and yet he was demanding to be allowed out of bed cos he had an eBay finishing! He couldn't even stand up or see properly, there was no way he could have worked out numbers. It made me smile, and it made me cry a little bit. I had to go outside the hospital to get a phone signal and then bid on the present. I then had to go back out half an hour later and see how it ended. He really calmed down after I told him we'd won the auction.

The next day when I went back to the hospital he'd been dwelling on it overnight and was panicking about how we'd pick it up. It was too big to post and only a 20 minute drive away. So close, yet so far. When he was allowed out early he was only home on condition he acted as he would in hospital, and the pain in his head, back and neck meant a 40 minute drive was out of the question anyway.

When he got home he put his computer on straightaway and got the email address of the seller, asked for her number and gave it to me. At the time I thought, 'typical, straight on the laptop'. Now I look back, he switched it off and didn't use it for another 4 or 5 days. He didn't even read his Kindle much those first few days. It must have really hurt to get that phone number.

We went out early in the morning 7 days later and picked up the most fabulous present any 14 year old could ever have. It was hard driving because I could see him wincing with every pothole, but adrenaline really is an amazing thing. He dismantled it and passed it to me and I carried it out to our van. Van loaded we went home content and he slept until teatime.

And so this morning despite his all-over pain and swollen hands, and while his daughter slept, he reassembled her present in our living room. With maybe a bit of help and hindrance from the ones who were awake. And I'm pleased to say she's delighted with it.

Maybe she'll never appreciate the effort it took, or maybe she will, but this image is one that seemed massively unimportant to me on several occasions when I had far more to worry about, but it was what my partner was using for focus. This picture has a real story, and that's why I'm linking it with Charlie Dove's brand new linky over on the PODcast blog "What's the Story".....

All of my posts relating to my partners Meningitis, from before we knew what was actually wrong, can be found here.

The Wooden Toy Shop ~ Guest Post

Stand Clear of the Doors Please – A Trip along the Wooden Train Line

As the summer break stretches out before us and families begin to pack for their summer hols, little boys and girls are getting more and more excited about long train journeys to unknown and far flung destinations where new discoveries and hours of fun await. Parents who want to prepare their kids for a potentially draining trip on a busy train may find it useful to use toys to ‘rehearse’ the journey. Children, on the other hand, need no such excuse to play with one of the lovely wooden train sets at

Families planning a city break during the holidays will appreciate the John Crane City of London Train Set which is filled with buildings and monuments that will be very familiar to grownups, but could easily be quite daunting for children. This wooden toy is an excellent way to prepare the kids for the hustle and bustle and sights and sounds of the big city. While this particular train set features London landmarks such as the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, the buildings and vehicles can easily serve to illustrate what the children can expect to experience in any big city.

Keeping children occupied on busy trains is often a challenge, so why not use your train set to prepare some games to play on the journey? The Bigjigs Town and Country Train Set is perfect for families travelling out of town to the countryside. Lay your train set out and then make a list of the things you might see from the train. The kids can spend the journey trying ticking off each item you have written down: level crossings; bridges; rural stations; village churches; boats on canals and rivers; emergency services vehicles; forests; and even cars of different colours.

Whether you are lucky enough to be holidaying this year or if you are staycationing, a wooden train set will always be a popular and useful addition to your children’s toy collection. Train sets offer so many wonderful possibilities for children to enjoy and on a practical level, they can always be enhanced with presents of all shapes, sizes and price ranges come birthdays and Christmas.

Family members and friends often struggle to find the right presents for children, but if they know your little boy or girl has a train set that he or she cherishes, they can always add something special like a new engine, a spectacular bridge or viaduct, a tunnel, a station or even simply a new pack of wooden train track. It’s surprising how easily children take to assembling track and creating new configurations. As well as helping them develop and improve hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills, train sets are wonderfully imaginative toys that inspire adventures and can help them improve their language skills if you take the time to ask where the train is going, who is travelling, where it will stop on the way and how many carriages the engine is pulling. You may have to help out with the buffet car though. Young train drivers can’t do everything you know!

I was given a toy voucher in return for this guest post

Sunday 28 July 2013

Meningitis Day 18 ~ how ill is ill?

Apparently having Meningitis doesn't actually protect you from catching everything else.

After a very long week with slow recovery that would be almost impossible to measure if I wasn't writing it all down, my partner definitely took a step back. We've had 2 days where he hasn't wanted to come and sit with the kids, his head has been bad and he's felt far more unwell. It broke last night and when we went to bed his temperature was high.

By 2am he was up to 38.2 and I'd promised myself when he left hospital that if it went over 38 I was taking him back. He said he felt okay, his neck wasn't actually stiff, he just felt ill and his throat was very sore with huge swollen glands. I made him get out from under the duvet and have Paracetamol and by 2.20am he was back down to 37.4 and I agreed to stop worrying so much and see how things were in the morning.

I really did revisit the terror for a few moments, and my Google was on overdrive. I know that Septicaemia can show up for a couple of weeks after Meningitis, and although I keep telling myself he should be okay because he had 3 different antibiotics in hospital, you cant stop worrying. I spent a broken night testing his temperature every time I woke, and thankfully it was high, but okay.

This morning he was bundled in the duvet saying he's cold, still hot and with a very sore throat. A quick look and he clearly has a throat infection. A throat infection, that's all, nothing so special I hope.

I've spent hours looking on websites this morning and the information out there is stunningly lacking. I have no idea if we should be worried or concerned. I'm assuming what he's been through has left him more susceptible to infections and we need to jump on it. He says he just feels like he has a throat infection, along with his headache and tiredness, but I know his joints are stiff and he's uncomfortable and I'll be keeping a close eye on him and his temperature every step of today.

He's really upset that he's poorly again,  he just wants to be better and this feels like a kick in the teeth. He's really concerned about having to go back to hospital or the walk-in centre (it's Sunday), but I will take him if he gets too hot or ill.

Yet again I'm left in the position of being so incredibly grateful that he isn't a child. He can explain himself, he knows what a throat infection feels like and he knows what Meningitis feels like. He has the ability to describe in detail. He takes his tablets when I tell him to, and he goes back to sleep if I wake him.

One of the major things this has proven to us is that there is no doubt that he cannot return to work on Monday. I'm not glad he has a throat infection, but I'm really pleased I didn't have to argue that point with him and be brutally blunt and point out all his inabilities, or even worse let him set himself up for failure and have him crushed by it...

We're at the Doctors tomorrow....if not before...

Revisit to #KidsGrowWild

You may remember back at the beginning of June we planted some seeds, and I promised an update....

Did the eggshells work? Did they stop the little blighter slugs from eating all of our plants?

Well, erm.........not really. We don't really have anything growing there, there are a few tiny plants, but I'm not certain that any of them are from seeds we planted at all! We also have some grass, which I keep pulling out, but it's definitely attempting to revert to lawn...

However, all is not lost. If you've seen the post then you'll know we also planted quite a lot of seeds in a plastic container we had saved from inside a Lego advent calendar. These have fared far better. They were due to be planted out 2 weeks ago, but events meant we didn't get around to it, and the recent glorious sunshine and my ability to at least notice them when I'm out hanging washing and give them some water has given us this....

We have several flower buds and in a couple of days we'll have flowers, so I really don't want to disturb them now. It looks like our table will have a pretty impressive centrepiece for the rest of the Summer....

Saturday 27 July 2013

Ben 10 Omniverse game on PS3

Zavvi, the online low price retailer of games, Blu Ray's, DVD's and much more, have sent us a copy of Ben 10: Omniverse from their extensive range of PS3 games. I would have got this review finished much sooner had my partner not become ill, but finally I've had a chance to actually sit down and have a play myself!

The gameplay is fairly standard. If you play 1st person 'action-brawler' platformers then it'll be intuitive and familiar. R1 is the action button, as it often is nowadays, but held along with Circle, Square and Triangle to perform specific 'fighting' moves e.g. to throw your elemental ball or weapon use R1 and Triangle. To use each character's 'special move' you press R2 and Circle. 

Ben 10: Omniverse is rated as suitable for young people aged 12 and over, which is because it contains some 'possibly frightening scenes', but if your child is used to watching Ben10 and not easily scared by fictitious alien enemies then you'll probably be okay a little younger.

The game is linear, following a loose storyline whereby 16 year old Ben's companion Rook is accidentally sent back in time to work with an 11 year old Ben to stop the evil villain Malware from destroying the Earth. Along the way you fight countless bad guys in increasingly difficult battles, while you gain abilities and unlock extra characters from the Omnitrix.

During play you basically stroll from area to area, defeating the enemies and then moving on a few yards and doing it again, every now and again you get a more tricky enemy, equivalent to a level boss.

Whenever you die you only have a 3 second respawn, and that lack of punishment makes this game really easy to play without frustration. 

As this is Ben 10 you get to transform into Ben's alter-ego's (instantly and at will most of the time), and take advantage of their special powers and abilities. Rather than the original 10 aliens, you can in fact play as any of 13, plus Ben, and of course Rook. 

One of the nicest features about this game is the 2 player co-op. One of you plays as Ben and his alter-egos, and the other is Rook with his variety of weapons. Because the game is so familiar and intuitive it's really easy to pick up. I've just spent a few hours playing with both my 15 year old and my 4 year old. Neither frustrated me too much, and nor did I annoy them as far as I know!

In the same way as the Lego games you can drop out and in as the 2nd player instantly, and if you drop out then Rook will continue supporting Ben without your assistance.

There are all the familiar bad guys who hang around waiting for you, or spawn and respawn at certain  points and you are led throughout the game by green circles of light which take you to the next area you must study. Sometimes objects are 'hidden' and you need to play as a specific Ben10 alias to find or use them. 

One of the other features that makes this game ideal for a younger or less experienced player is that it gives you tips and hints throughout. After you have wandered around an area a little too long you will hear Ben give a clue as to who or what might be useful, and that clue is also written on the screen.

I really love that this game has tongue in cheek comments throughout. It doesn't take itself too seriously and has witty moments and amusing one-liners. It's something for the grown ups....

I think this is a good game, I've enjoyed playing it with two of my boys and one of the girls is playing it now. It's very straightforward, but still requires a little thinking through. It's not going to challenge or excite a very experienced gamer, but it is an excellent distraction. The use of multiple characters who can be accessed instantly is a mechanic that I enjoy, and I know that in my experience it works very well for younger players and offers a lot more than a choice of several 'weapons'.
First released in November 2012, Ben10: Omniverse on PS3 has a recommended retail price of £29.99 and is currently available from Zavvi for £23.98 with free UK delivery.

We were sent a copy of the game to review

1stFone ~ the phone designed for children aged 4-9

When I had the opportunity to test 1stFone I initially couldn't see why I would, and then I thought of all the weekends we spend out and about at shows, all the campsites we stay on and the mega busy shopping centres we visit. I remembered that a few years ago we had 4 little people aged 6-8 and we bought them a cheap phone to use in an emergency. We used that phone for years until it leapt out of a young man's pocket and was carried away into the Atlantic Ocean to live a life of adventure.

Like it or not, this is the modern world and we have become used to being able to contact our family at any time. We write our phone numbers on children's wristbands and forearms when we go to festivals and theme parks in case they get lost, and we lament every time someone doesn't immediately answer because their phone is 'on silent'.

1stFone is aimed at children aged 4-9 and is so much better than buying your younger children a cheap phone because you can only ring the pre-set numbers (you can choose 4,6,8 or 12 numbers). There is no internet or Facebook to accidentally (on purpose) log into, and there are no games or distractions, it doesn't even have a screen. Your children would have a devil of a job using all of the credit without you knowing all about it. This is very much not a toy, it's a phone. 

Ordering your 1stFone is incredibly simple and quick. Firstly you choose a theme and then a colour. My 4 year old chose skulls as he's a bit keen on pirates and dead things at the moment. He chose a blue background because it's his favourite colour. Next you decide how many numbers you would like pre-programmed into the phone, and therefore how many buttons you will need. We went with 8, as it allows us to put our own numbers and those of the 5 teenagers, plus 'home'.
My boys have been playing Reading Eggs online and I know that even my 3 year old can easily recognise 'M'. My 4 year old is beginning to learn a few words, so Tom, Mum, Dad are already recognisable to him, and he can work out enough letters already to decipher the others.

1stFone have just added the option to choose photographs instead of words, and will soon introduce a braille version, so it really is incredibly accessible for a huge majority of the population, and not just young children. There are a huge array of different designs, so it makes an ideal phone for an older, less tech savvy member of your family or anyone who would find it difficult to use one of today's massively complicated mobile phones.

1stFone costs from only £40 (mine would cost approx £56) and arrives ready to use. Because the battery doesn't have to power tons of apps it will last for a few days switched on and little used, making it more useful on a week long camping trip than any other phone in my household. 

This phone is incredibly small and light, around 40g (which is the same as a 'grab bag' of crisps) and comes complete with a matching lanyard so that your child can wear it around their neck if they wish. It really isn't any weight at all, even the youngest child would barely notice it, and I like that the lanyard has 'snatch apart' clasps so that it shouldn't be able to strangle your child.  

It is also really tough, and because it has no screen, far less likely to get broken than a standard phone in general use by a child. Despite the light weight it really does feel very solid, and I wasn't scared of letting my children hold it, or wear it while they ran about.

It took my boys moments to learn how to use the phone, it's very intuitive and straightforward. I let them have a good look at it and then we went to test. 

First time using the 1stFone to call someone ~ very proud!
My son is 4 and took to this phone incredibly quickly. It really did only take one demonstration. We went out all afternoon and he wore his phone and treated it with respect. He was really proud when I asked him to ring his 13 year old sister to tell her where to meet and he made his first genuine phone call and did it right first time with no prompting. 

I love that this phone is practically useless to anyone other than your child. I can get in touch with 1stFone and amend the pre-programmed numbers, but no-one else can. It doesn't have any value to anyone else, and so hopefully would never make your child a target for theft.

Although I would draw the line at children under 10 having a phone of their own for pleasure, entertainment and calling their mates, I obviously agree with letting them have one to ring me. I do worry that my 2 younger children often think they are capable of a lot that they see our teenagers get up to, when in fact they are not. It would be all too easy to misplace one of our boys and if they were holding a phone then they could explain to me where they were and I could go and find them. Of course the 1stFone isn't only useful in emergencies, it's also super handy for giving your slightly older child a bit of extra independence. For ringing to tell them it's teatime and they should come home, or so that they can ring and ask to come home later or explain why they'll be late.

I think this is an especially great thing for children who's parents don't live together. It means they can always contact the other parent and pass on those vital messages like 'Megan has fallen out with Lauren' or 'did you wash my P.E.kit?' without having to rely on asking adults for phones or numbers. They can give you a call if they need to talk to you, and no-one needs to give them any kind of permission or help. I like that. 

1stFone offer various payment options which start at around £5 a month average PAYG or £70 for a yearly contract with 50 minutes of calls a month included. When my 1 month free trial ends we'll be moving our phone over to PAYG and I envisage that over the next few years it will become increasingly useful and valued. I hope that we will never need it for an emergency, but while we have it, we have a little extra security - and I shouldn't have to yell across a campsite that tea is ready!


We were sent a 1stFone to review

Friday 26 July 2013

Keep calm and BLOG ON!

That seems to be the mantra by which I'm living at the moment, so it was very apt that after my hellish 11 days I actually managed to go to Blog On in Manchester!

The kids and Euan all fared very well while I was gone, I arrived home around 6pm to find peace and quiet and pretty much everyone staring at screens, and Euan sleeping peacefully. My house was a complete bombsite and everyone was starving hungry waiting for their tea, but I got my day off, and it really was a day off. For those hours I relinquished most of my responsibility and managed to relax and enjoy myself. It was a very welcome break.

I got a lift down with Sim from SimsLife (and her Dad - thank you!), so we were there bright and early around 9.30am. People were already arriving and somehow I ended up ticking people off and handing out badges. I loved it because I hadn't met very many bloggers, and it gave me a chance to get to know who people were, and at least say 'Hiya' to some of my favourites. I even nicked a few badges people left behind (I'm not a stalker - honest). I loved that everyone drew their own - it really showed personality, and nerves! I won't tell you who spelt their own name wrong....

We were given an introduction by Laura from Tired Mummy Of Two, who is the main organiser of this event and clearly did a cracking job.We were treated to a great presentation about photography by John Arnold, which I found amazingly useful, absolutely tons of tips and hints. We were set a challenge to take a photo using lines to draw the eye and rule of thirds. My entry was the next photo below, which I'm still gutted didn't even get a mention in the round up!

Session 1 on Building Relationships arrived very quickly and it was hosted by a familiar face, Dan from Push On, along with Cat from Yellow Days blog and Liz from Cambridge Mummy blog.

It was great to hear about all the errors people make talking to PR's and get plenty of advice about what other bloggers think is fair treatment.

Then it was lunchtime with beverages and food-a-plenty, including the fabulous cake - which was demolished and was also very nice.

 Laithwaites were also there.....sampled here by Heather from Not From Lapland

Session 2 after lunch was on Beautiful Blogging and was hosted by two of my personal favourite bloggers, for whom  have a huge amount of respect - Annie Mammasaurus and Helen from Actually Mummy.

I don't know if it was because Helen immediately realised who I was and asked about my partner and then told Annie who jumped up and gave me a big hug, or if I'm just a div, but I didn't take any pictures!

We were given loads of useful information about how to make your blog look more attractive, and get the best from photo tags and headers and loads more. We were also treated to some gorgeous fudge with a red heart through the centre that had been hand-made by Helen herself.

That session over and we had time to mingle again and buy raffle and tombola tickets. A sample of vodka and delicious mixers from the Sodastream table and a walk past the Swizzles Matlow table to catch a breath of that special sweetie shop smell. We also managed to catch an impromptu photography session in the stairwell....

A Mummy Too photographing Mammasaurus and Actually Mummy

My 3rd session was Law & Lies, which was hosted by Rahul Titus, Tanya Mummy Barrow and Emily A Mummy Too.

This was fascinating, as there has been so much talk about disclosure recently that it was really good to hear people thrash it out and get a clear idea of exactly what is, and what is not, acceptable and legal.

After the session there was more time to clean out the Tombola and sample another wine before the speeches. John chose his winning photo and Laura didn't cry - even when Pippa Red Rose Mummy and Sim gave her a present (Spa Day!) from all of us bloggers to say 'thank you' for organising.

Then it was out into the big hall again for the raffle in aid of CLIC Sargent. I did very well. I have a huge pile of stuff from the tombola, and in the raffle I managed to win a family ticket to the Little Fun Fest, along with t-shirts (which are exactly the right sizes for my partner, little boys and me - how weird!) and a mug. It'll be a brilliant day out, I'm well chuffed.

As we left we picked up our goody bags. They weighed a ton. We have so many sweets that it'll take my lot a month to try them all and my partner is delighted with another bottle for his Sodastream. I'll post later about everything in the bags because the list is humngous.

Needless to say, I had a great day. I really did. I didn't cry, and I didn't spend all day fretting about how it was going at home. I actually had a day to be me, with no-one clinging to my skirt or fighting with their siblings, or demanding I go and talk to them while they had a wee. I got to dress up and spend the day talking to people who don't need a 3000 word explanation about 'what you do on the internet'. It was great.....when's the next one?

This photo was taken by the fabulously multi-talented A Mummy Too ~ Emily
I'm NOT the tall gorgeous one on the left

A MASSIVE Thank You to MOSI ~ The Museum Of Science And Industry ~ for allowing us the use of such a fantastic venue, and for all of the brands and sponsors for making it possible.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Frozen Foods Challenge ~ Curry Pasties

We have a big family, there are usually 7 or 8 for tea each day and we get through a lot of food. I have a very limited budget per head and I want my family to eat healthy food which is good for them and tasty.

I travel to different Supermarkets to take advantage of special offers and when I do I want to make the most of it. I buy in bulk when available and appropriate to save money and I freeze some for later. I hate waste and freeze leftovers, if I have veg or anything that might run out of date I will prepare and freeze it, making soups and sauces ready to save time later on. I love my freezer, I really do. Up until the point that I got a big American Fridge Freezer I actually had a small fridge freezer and 2 chest freezers, now I have 1 chest freezer which is usually filled to the gunnels with all kinds of delicious stuff.

I was challenged by Cool Cookery to look at the contents of my freezer and create a delicious meal for my family. I can do this.....easy.

I looked in the freezer, and I could have just made this....

I could even have gone for this.....

But it would be cheating, surely? It makes an excellent tea in a hurry once in a while, but I don't feel meets a proper challenge.

I've chosen to make Curry Pasties. I was going to make a curry with naan, but after I'd started I spotted the frozen pastry in the freezer and changed my mind! I had all day for the pastry to defrost, and 'hand food' is often easier and more suitable in hot weather. This is not the first time I've blogged a 'pie', I hope I don't get a reputation!

I already have frozen prepared onion based curry sauce because the onions take a while to soften, so I often make double the amount and freeze half for next time. I hope it isn't cheating to use my own sauce!

Curry Pasties

Onion-based curry sauce

Well chop one very large onion, or two smaller ones and soften in a pan with plenty enough water to cover the onions. Once the onion is soft add your chosen curry spices and stir over the heat for a minute or two to release the flavours, but don't allow the mix to dry out or burn. Remove from the heat and give it a whizz with a blender - if it's too dry just add a little more water, it should be gloopy (that's a technical Chef term).

Curry Spices

Take any combination of the spices below that suits you and you'll probably find you're making a named curry that already exists as a local dish somewhere in the world. Experiment with fresh, dried, ground and seeds. Food should be interesting....even a little too interesting occasionally.

Chilli - essential. Less or more depending on taste
Cumin - essential. Adds warmth and depth
Coriander - a lot of people do not like fresh Coriander, so it pays to be conservative unless you know your guests. Ground Coriander isn't so risky.
Turmeric - I generally add slightly less Turmeric than Chilli and Cumin because it can give a bitter taste if you use too much.
Mustard Seed - works especially well with 'meaty' curries and adds hotness.
Fenugreek - this actually smells and tastes like...erm....curry. If your curry doesn't taste 'curry' enough for you, add a little of this, but don't rely on it too heavily as it gives a bland and unexciting flavour and would make a poor dish.

Ginger - goes very well with garlic.
Garam Masala - a mix of spices that works well added a bit later on during cooking.

Rogan Josh style curries might also have things like paprika, garlic, black pepper, cardomom and cloves and tomatoes.
Balti might have cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, black onion seeds and star anise.
Tandoori might have garlic and cardamom, plus yogurt to give the creamy sauce.

Making the curry 

If you are using meat please ensure it's well cooked and follow the instructions. We're using frozen Quorn, so I don't have to worry quite so much as it requires no pre-heating or cooking. It isn't necessary to use any meat or meat-replacement, you can make a purely veg curry too.

Take the same quantity of spices that you chose earlier and fry very gently in oil or butter for a minute or two until you start to fill the kitchen with delicious smells. Add your meat or meat substitute, and fresh sliced onion (okay, I cheated - but you can use frozen if you have it) and stir well to coat in the spices. Be careful not to burn your spices, but let the food cook for a few moments.

Add whatever frozen veg you wish, today I'm using broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. Pour on your onion-based curry sauce and stir well. Cook over a low heat.

Peas, carrots, sliced or diced peppers, sweet potato, butternut squash, mushrooms and pretty much any veg will work. Because we're putting it into a curry anyway now is the time to bring out any interesting mis-shapes and tip all of the broken crumbs out of the bottom of the bag.

Let your curry cook until the veg still has bite and then reduce the liquid by removing the lid and stirring as it cooks. You don't want too much liquid or your pasty will be soggy.

Making the pasty

Defrost your pastry and roll out into rough circles around 6-8 inches in diameter. Place a heap of curry towards one side, fold over and 'glue' the edges with water. Cut off all the extra bits, wipe over with egg yolk or milk, prick a few holes in the top and cook at 200 degrees for around 20 minutes.

Voila.....a delicious and nutritious meal from the freezer....

I was given a voucher to provide the ingredients for this recipe

Meningitis Day 14 ~ Movies and Memory

Two weeks in, and it seems like months have really does.

I feel like we turned a corner on Day 12. My partner had spent most of the previous 2 days in bed sleeping, and was pretty shattered whenever he was awake, but then 2 days ago he had a lie in until after 8.30am and could spend time with the little boys (the teenagers are all in bed until 11am if we let them now that they've broken up) We were really strict about him going back to bed straight after lunch. He slept for about 4 hours and then was awake all evening and fine to watch a movie with us. It is the first time I've felt like he's properly back, and after feeling we'd reached an impasse over the previous few days, it's such a huge relief.

This morning he woke at 9.30am and went straight back to bed after lunch, and it's worked, we've had another good day and he's been with us all evening. He's so much happier, we're so much more of a family. It gives everyone a boost and has really cheered up his daughters, who were not really getting any chance to speak or spend time with him when he was in bed most of the day on and off, plus sleeping all evening before.

He still has head pain which is severe at times, and the stabbing feeling in his leg, but most of the other pain seems to have gone. He's no longer slurring at all and his concentration is starting to come back. He is still struggling a bit whenever anything starts to become complicated - multiple requests, remembering some words and being aware of what is going on around him all of the time are all examples that are beyond him right now, but that is definitely improving.

One of the most unpleasant sides to this is that, very understandably, he's been snappy and short-tempered, with a hatred of noise and symptoms akin to a hangover. Any shouting or screaming from the children and he's beside himself and looks in genuine pain. Car alarms in the distance and our teenagers playing music on their phones are noises he cannot tolerate, it tortures him (to be fair it drives me insane too, there's no bass, it sounds awful). Bright light also hurts, so sitting in the garden, resting and enjoying the sunshine isn't his idea of fun sadly.

One of the best things that's happened, which has removed a lot of my personal worry, is that his temperature has stabilised. He's almost the same temperature as me now, with no crazy fluctuation in spite of our glorious Summer. I've failed to mention before the breathlessness and shallow breathing which is very common in Meningitis and generally occurs if/when you develop Septicaemia. Today is so humid and muggy (mafting as my friends in Scarborough would say), he sounds like every breath is a real effort and the sound took me straight back to listening to him struggling in A&E. At the time I assumed it was due to the pain, I had no idea it was another symptom of it's own. I'm very glad I never put that one together as it would have truly terrified me to think he was struggling for breath too.

What bothers him the most is that everything can be a bit fuzzy. He can't really remember a lot of the smaller stuff that was happening when he was taken ill. He doesn't know exactly what he was up to at work, what we were planning at home and he can't remember most of his time in hospital. At the moment he still can't work things out like he could, if it requires effort or concentration it becomes too hard and he gets frustrated and has to give in. It's demoralising, and was beginning to get him down before the success with sleep management gave him a real boost. He is also obviously concerned about when each of his current symptoms will go, and if any will remain forever - although he's hoping the weight loss stays. He's visibly lost a lot of weight, he's around 28lbs lighter than he was before he took ill.

He is now hoping to start his staged return to work next week when this sick note runs out. It frustrates and stresses him knowing he's at home and work is piling up (he's the I.T. guy in a large company). I don't really know how useful he could be there, and frankly I'm not sure that (at this moment) he could manage any more than around 60 minutes sat at a desk or less if he is walking around. I can however appreciate that he wants to start to try and get 'back to normal' and for him work is an important part of that. I'm not keen for him to go back yet and I will be very quick to tell him this weekend if I think it's a ridiculous idea. I'm not going to knowingly allow him to jeopardise or stifle his recovery, not after all this!

Monday 22 July 2013

Nanny Fox ~ Orion Books ~ Review

Nanny Fox is an interesting little book by Georgie Adams and Selina Young.  It is subtitled 'The Fox Who Loved Chickens - Not To Eat - Just As Friends' and tells the story of Arnold, who becomes Nanny to 6 little chicks and protects them from the other foxes. It is in a way an unusual subject matter for a children's book, as it makes it very clear that the foxes wish to eat the chickens and the chicks, and doesn't patronise or condescend the reader.

I like this book, it's honest and mature and encourages your child to think about where food comes from, how animals get their food and ask questions and lead discussion on several levels. My 3 and 4 year old boys both really enjoyed it, and we have read it through several times now.

 The drawings are bright and full of personality, even the little chicks are all very distinct and different to each other, and on one page they have all hidden, which delights my boys as they try and count and find all 6.

Nanny Fox is published by Orion Books and available in hardback edition with a recommended retail price of £9.99. It is suitable for children aged around 3 and up as a bedtime story and has 32 pages. As your child gets older they will understand different aspects of the story and it will open up new ideas to them, so it is also suitable as an independent reading book for an older child.

I was sent a copy of the book to review