Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How to save a life...

WOW, what a fabulous and inspirational weekend we have had.  

We had the privilege of attending the British Transplant Games in Medway, Kent in support of Crummy Hubby who was participating.  In 2005, after a period on dialysis Crummy Hubby had a kidney transplant.  His kidney was donated by his Maw, and I am pleased to say that 7 years and two children later it is still going strong!  Coming from sporty families the British Transplant Games is something Crummy Hubby and I wanted to get involved with, and we’ve met so many inspirational people along the way.

The Transplant Games started in Portsmouth in 1978, as a way of encouraging transplant patients to keep fit and healthy, while raising awareness of the importance of Organ Donation.   They are open to both children and adults, with all the major transplant centers around the UK represented by a team of athletes.  It has to be said, the biggest and most supported teams come from GOSH (Great Ormond St), and Evelina  Children’s Hospital (Guys and St Thomas’).  It is truly heart-warming to see these children taking part in sporting events and living their lives to the full!
This year Crummy Hubby took part in 6 events – the Badminton Doubles, 400m, Discus, Shot Putt, Ball Throw and the 4x100m relay.  He received a Bronze Medal in the Discus and a Silver Medal in the Ball Throw.   The Portsmouth Team did well this year:

Gold x 10
Silver x 10
Bronze x 2

What is truly amazing though, is that all of these athletes have had life-saving, major surgery in the form of an organ transplant; and not only that they are committed to keeping themselves fit and healthy in honour of the gift that their donor has given them.  The Games are not only for the athletes, but also for the donor families.  People who, in  the face of a great personal tragedy, decided to give the gift of life by agreeing to donate their loved ones organs.  It must be incredibly moving for them to see the huge difference organ transplants make to individuals.  This year , it was also great to get some local news coverage… Not quite wall to wall coverage on BBC 3 with Claire Balding commentating but it’s a step in the right direction!

At the 2012 Games, many of the athletes (Crummy Hubby included!) will have been hoping to get selected to represent Great Britain at the World Transplant Games, to be held in Durban, South Africa in 2013.  I’ll keep you posted….

The next British Transplant Games will be held in Sheffield from the 15-18 August 2013.

As I previously mentioned, the purpose of the Transplant Games is twofold… not only to encourage transplant patients to keep fit and healthy, but also to raise awareness of organ donation.  Organ donation is a subject that is close to my heart (as you can well imagine), and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you all to look into signing the NHS Organ Donation Register. I have seen first hand the difference receiving a transplant can make to someone’s quality of life, and each and every one of the 600 athletes who took part in the Games over the weekend is testament to that.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The great weekly food shop....

Inspired by many discussions amongst my Mummy friends, all along the line of “My weekly food shop is out of control!” and by Anna’s fabulous post here.

While I am not as frugal as Anna,  (OMG how does she do it!) I recognise that our weekly shop is indeed “out of control” and the bill is FAR bigger than it needs to be!

So I decided to take control….

I have taken inventory of my pantry and my freezer, and made a “stock-list”  this means I only shop for what we NEED and not what I think we need (4 bottles of HP sauce anyone?)  This also means I can meal-plan taking into account what we already HAVE.

I do a monthly meal plan – I KNOW this is boring, and I KNOW we all need a bit of spontanaeity now and again for nights when only take-out will do or romantic meals out with Crummy Hubby (HA!), but I have found that where plans change I just freeze the meal for that day, or move it around with no issue..

Now, here are a few caveats…. Crummy Hubby and I both work,  and we choose to spend some of our disposable income on “treats” such a nice cuts of steak, a few bottles of wine and a wee bit of food shopping in M&S each week!  Also I am following the Slimming World plan, and fresh fruit, salad and vegetables are more expensive than junk food (go figure!), but also because we do eat a lot of fresh food I still need to do a weekly shop.  Armed with my monthly meal plan, I buy meat in bulk to take advantage of multibuy offers, and also yellow-sticker offers (where food is right on its sell-by and I can shove it straight in the freezer!).

I also shop at Sainsbury’s and M&S simply because I find that the fresh fruit and veg keeps longer from these stores.    With Sainsbury’s Brand Match, and M&S new Simply range, they really aren’t more expensive than Tesco or Asda as legend would have it.

I also found that because Sainsbury’s (and other leading supermarkets) have become a bit of  a one stop shop for everything from clothes to household with a bit of food throw in, I was often buying other things at the same time as my weekly shop.  Things like Wellies for the kids, a sneaky top for me, Lego Olympic figures, photo frames, childrens birthday presents, magazines, papers etc etc.  Now I haven’t stopped picking up these items, I simply deduct them from my total at the end, to get the true value of my food shop.  Suddenly it doesn’t seem so scary when you work out that the £200 bill from Sainsbury’s included, school uniform items, 3 birthday cards, a birthday pressie, a new top for me,  and clothes for the Wilburbeast!

I have now gotten my weekly food shop into the realms of between £80-£100 a week, some weeks it’s a bit more, others less. This is fine for us, considering I take a packed lunch to work and we rarely have take out (Slimming World again!), so our “extra” spend on food over the week is nothing (apart from a top-up shop to get bananas or bread)!  I am always dubious of these people that say they can spend £20 a week to feed a family of four, but then it transpires they have 3 take-aways a week and do a top-up shop of another £40, and they get their lunches at work!

All that considered; here are my tips for reining in that spending:

  • Meal-Plan
  • Take advantage of multi-buy offers (meat 3 for £10 etc) but ONLY if they fit with your plans, and you have room to freeze/store them or you will use them before they go bad.
  • Down-brand – if you normally buy a brand-name, try the shop’s own brand.  If you normally buy own-brand, try the value range.  9 times out of 10 you won’t notice the difference, and if you do – you can always switch back.
  • Only buy baby-wipes if they are on offer
  • Shop with a LIST and stick to it!
  • Shop WITHOUT the kids! (or failing that ignore their pleas for things you don’t want or need, and you know they don’t either!)
  • Home-cooking – great if you are doing Slimming World, and making your own lasagne/Spag Bol/Chilli etc is far more satisfying and nutritious and cheaper than buying a ready meal.
  • Buy fruit and veg loose, rather than pre-packed, you can choose the quality and quantity and it’s usually cheaper.
  • Buy meat (steak, chicken breasts) from the deli counter – it’s usually cheaper.
  • When doing a top-up shop, get in and out of the supermarket like a ninja!  Only buy what you came for! Failing that send your hubby/other half!
  • When shops like Tesco give vouchers such as spend £40 and get £5 off – that £5 is like free money – as LONG as you only spend the £40 (ish).  I usually take advantage of these by buying nappies, cleaning products and other non-perishables that I would have bought ANYWAY, but now I get the £5 off.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Keep on Running....

In 2011, on July 24th, when The Wilburbeast was only 10 weeks old, I took part in the Race For Life.   My running partner, Helen, and I completed the 5k run in 38 minutes.  I was 8 and a half minutes off my personal best time of 29 minutes and 30 seconds.  Not bad for someone who had only given birth 10 weeks previously and only started running again 4 weeks before (once I’d gotten the all clear from the Dr that notihng was going to drop off/out!)

This year, on July 22nd, Helen, Emily and I took to the seafront in Portsmouth again… running the 5k Race For Life.  This time however, we’d been running regularly every weekend, covering at least 3 miles at a time.  We crossed the line after 33 minutes, knocking an impressive 5 minutes off our previous time.

Next year, we’re entering the 10k!

In the past, I’d taken up running, but it always petered out after a few months.  I ran my 5k PB the year I got married, when I was going to the gym 3 times a week and running (incentivised by losing weight for my wedding day).  Now I’ve had children, I don’t have the time or the energy to go to the gym as well as go running….  In fact Helen and I only manage one run a week or roughly 4 – 4.5 miles.  That’s enough for me to be able to run comfortable 10 minute miles, and feel the tone in my legs.  Ideally I’d like to run more, but I do lots of other exercise (cycling, walking, chasing, lifting etc) thanks to the kids.

There are many reasons I run, and these are reasons I think other people should consider running too:

  • It’s cheaper than gym membership!  Well it IS… and all you need is a good sports bra, some good trainers (if you are local to me try Alexandra Sports in Portsmouth for advice and fitting), a tshirt and some leggings/shorts – oh and the great outdoors!

  • Anyone can do it!  It’s easy to run, and it doesn’t matter how fast (or not) you go… you’re still lapping everyone else on the sofa!

  • It gives me some ME time! Running doesn’t have to be a solo activity, but when I run alone I feel at peace with myself and all the stress of the day melts away.  I’ve done some of my best thinking during a run!

  • It gives me a chance to catch up with friends!  Running with a friend is a great motivator.  Not only do you keep each other going, but the incentive of arranging to meet someone also gets me out of bed early on a Sunday!

  • It’s great for supporting my weight-loss goals! Regular exercise, in my case running, means I can still indulge in a few treats now and again!  If I skip the treats and up the exercise I can see the difference on the scales, and in the way my clothes fit.  The more you exercise, the more weight you lose in the long run (!), because you will tone up, creating more muscle which burns more calories.

  • Entering running events is a great confidence boost!  It keeps me motivated and gives me a goal to work towards.  I’ve entered the Great South 5K on 27th October ; and I hope to break the 30min barrier.  Miss Bags also loves coming to watch me run…. It’s a great family time – especially as Crummy Hubby is running the Great South Run on the 28th (yep, all 10 miles of it!)

So, looking towards the 10k…  I’ve found a training plan and we’ll be there in 2013!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Everything to the weight of two eggs....

Now that Miss Bags is a wee bit older, she is showing a great interest in cooking in general, but especially Home Baking.  Now while I have my recipe collection (a wee binder stuffed full of hand written notes and magazine cuttings) to pass on to her, I thought I’d preserve a few of the recipes here for posterity.

When I was a wee girl, my Nanny taught me to make fairy cakes.  She came from good Welsh farming stock, so food played a huge part in family life and celebrations.  I remember Nanny being a great cook (not fancy schmanzy stuff – but good honest home-cooking).  My favourite story about Nanny and food (apart from the eating competitions at Christmas!) is one my Dad fondly recounts.  He had gone to Nanny’s house for Christmas, with my Mum.  As Nanny was his mother-in-law he wanted to make a good impression.  Christmas at Nanny’s involved a LOT of food! (eating competitions?!) So, after tucking into a HUGE plate of Christmas dinner, turkey with all the trimmings,…. There was then tea – which consisted of sandwiches Christmas cake, mince pies and well – tea!  Phew – Dad was stuffed and was only too pleased that he thought the eating was over…… THEN Nanny rolled out supper – salads, cold meats, pickles and  pile of bread, not to mention blancmange, jelly and MORE CAKE!  To this day, my Dad looks every so slightly green about the gills as he describes just how FULL he was, but how he felt he had to keep eating in order to be polite!!  That’s what I remember about Nanny’s house too  - plentiful food; and she was always packing you off home with leftovers (not really leftovers – more like the products of over-catering!) and trying to get you to eat “just one more” slice of bread/cake/sandwich!  Anyone who has ever come over for food at my house also knows that I am also a culprit of serious over-catering!  I wonder where I get that from!

Anyway – back to those fairy cakes…

The way Nanny taught me, and this is the way I still make them today, is measure your ingredients – “Everything to the weight of two eggs”  Now this is easier if you have one of those retro kitchen scales where you put the weights (in this case your eggs) on one side, and measure your other ingredients on the other.  I don’t have scales like that, so I weigh my eggs first and then measure out Self-Raising flour, butter and caster sugar, each to the same quantity as the weight of the two eggs.


2 eggs (at room temperature)
Self-Raising Flour (to the weight of 2 eggs)
Butter/Stork (to the weight of 2 eggs – if using butter you will find it easier if this is at room temperature)
Caster Sugar (to the weight of 2 eggs)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Essence (optional)

Makes – approx 12 fairy cakes – it depends how big your eggs and paper cases are!


1/ Preheat your oven to 180/160 fan/ Gas Mark 4.
2/ Line a baking tray with cupcake cases.
3/ In a large mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until well mixed and pale.  (Nanny used to do this with a wooden spoon – I use my trusty Dualit Hand Mixer – this is probably why 1950’s housewives were thinner than us!)
4/ Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk gently.
5/ Add your eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, mixing well (again, I use my hand mixer).  If the mixture begins to curdle add a spoonful of the flour to prevent this.
6/ Sift together your flour and baking powder and gently fold into the eggs, sugar and butter mix, using a METAL SPOON.
7/ Add your vanilla essence if using, and mix well.
8/ Once your ingredients are mixed – divide the mixture between approximately 12 paper cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and springy to the touch.
9/ Remove from oven, and leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely before storing or icing.

Note:  This recipe makes plain, good, old fashioned fairy cakes, perfect for icing with glace icing and hundreds and thousands.  If you are feeling adventurous you can even whip up some flavoured buttercream and make butterfly cakes!

Enjoy! xx

Friday, 10 August 2012

Like Mother, Like Daughter

There are some things I don't mind being passed on from mother to daughter (and from her mum before that)...

Great skin
Fairy cake recipe
Shepherds pie recipe
Ability to draw slightly odd looking cats and swans

However I am slightly alarmed of late to discover I'm actually turning into my mother.....!  

I say:

If the wind changes- you'll stay like that!
You're all right - accompanied by much cuddling, back rubbing, disentangling and setting upright again of said child who has just fallen off deck/shut fingers in door etc (I'm a hard woman - this will graduate into no sympathy as they get older!)
Take your coat off, or you won't feel the benefit
Becaue I'm your mother - and I said so!
I also have a song for everything and can often be found humming a little hum!

I'm doing:
Stock taking and rotation of the contents of my freezer (ok comon sense maybe - but how terribly "mum"!)
Tutting in shop queues of more than 2 people (how DARE they shop at the same time as me!)

I've even developed completely random hatred for TV personalities, places and entire nations during this Olympics! (maybe hatred is too strong a word, intolerances then...)

Carol Kirkwood
Weymouth (ok, that WAS mum and not me - god only knows what Weymouth has done to her!)
Nations - especially those who beat us at the Olympics! (short lived and sour-grapes!)

I'm able to take a step back and laugh at myself (and my mum!)  especially when Crummy Hubby or my dad point out our ever increasing likeness - I can comfort myself with the fact that if I have to turn into someone's mother, I'm glad I'm turning into mine! Its amusing if nothing else!  I'm looking forward to when Miss Bags starts turning into me!

That's all folks!


Saturday, 4 August 2012

Update on the Bucket List

Ok, so Miss Bags starts Big School in 5 and a half weeks, and that kinda marks the end of the "summer" (although I'm hoping for an Indian Summer to make up for the sogginess of July!) so I thought I'd check in and update the bucket list!

Here's a taste of what we've done so far:

Jumping in Muddy Puddles! - well, that was easy with all the rain we had... Great fun!

Have a waterfight! - Girls against boys it was, poor Wilburbeast didn't stand a chance; neither did poor, unsuspecting Crummy Hubby when he arrived home from work!

Send postcards! Ok they took 4 weeks to arrive from Spain, not just a case of mañana, more like el proximo mes!

We went to the beach in Marbs (didn't see any of the cast of of TOWIE thankfully!) built sandcastles and had ice cream!

Swimming! All day everyday on holiday!

Paddle in the ocean - well I went in.. No one else deigned to join me!

Planespotting! At the airport (and every opportunity!) we dropped Nonna and Pops at the airport and saw lots, saw lots while we were waiting for our flight, and last weekend when we saw friends, Miss Bags and her pals shouted "PLANE!" (or "AERO") every time they saw or heard one!

We've done lots of gardening, without it our garden would be like something out of day of the triffids, thanks to all the rain!

Watch the Olympics - what can I say?! Wow! I am proud to be British! Go Team GB!!!! But I must confess to a teensy crush on Ryan Lochte and SERIOUS abs envy of Jessica Ennis! Miss Bags has been spellbound by the swimming (she's too young to appreciate Lochte and is more interested in going SuperFast!), the gymnastics and the cycling! I think those stabilisers will be coming off this Summer!

And we're taking lots of photos!!

Other memorable events, that were not on the Bucket List this summer (so far!) are:

Miss Bags "graduated" from Pre-School. (sob!)

Miss Bags and I went school uniform shopping! (sob again!)

The Wilburbeast started to walk! No stopping him now!

Miss Bags and The Wilburbeast gained a new cousin! Yay!

We went to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where great fun was had by all!

I finally got my cleaner, she's fab!

Signing off now, it's bath time, the Olympic Track Cycling is on, and there's more fun to be had tomorrow!

Hope you're all having a happy summer!