A weekend away, childfree!

As lovely as our little ones are, I can’t deny that they can be quite demanding, both physically and emotionally. My husband works mega hard and is away for bedtime most week nights so it can feel an uphill struggle getting all three kids ready for bed when they are often overtired and whiny. So, every few months or so we aim to spend a night or two away while the grandparents very kindly look after the kids, which makes it a mini holiday for them, too.

It’s good for our relationship, too. Due to Paul’s aforementioned long hours, we can end up feeling like the proverbial passing ships in the night at times, sometimes I am already asleep by the time he gets home if he has been driving a long way. When we make the effort to go away we speak properly and discuss things that really matter that there doesn’t seem to be time for day-to-day.

We stayed in a hotel in Hertfordshire on an all-inclusive package so had lunch soon after arriving and unpacking.  We were given a lovely, spacious executive room with a comfortable sofa and huge walk-in shower.

Then we drove to the small city of St Albans on the day we arrived. We had been there before and really like it. It is a historical city with lots of lovely old buildings, including a cathedral (see pic below). We enjoyed a drink at the traditional old pub pictured above. There are quite a lot of shops, a mixture of both chain stores to be found everywhere and one-off independent shops. We bought a few Christmas presents for people, including in one lovely gift shop called Raindrops on Roses which amazingly donates all its profits to a cancer charity. Whilst I was waiting to be served, an elderly lady was paying for her goods and I couldn’t help but overhear her conversation with the shopkeeper. She was saying how she was impressed by the charitable cause the shop supported and that she had bought several Christmas presents for her children, grand-children and great-grand-children, which she has quite a lot of because she was eighty-six! I noticed that she was impeccably well dressed, wore a string of pearls around her neck and her hair was neatly coiffed. I only hope I am like her at the same age, she was quite an inspiration.

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There seemed to be quite a lot of little alleyways with independent shops dotted around St Albans and we enjoyed exploring them, often ending up in a quaint little courtyard or park.

We parked the car at the top of a multi storey car park and enjoyed quite an impressive view of the cathedral and rest of the city from there.

That evening, back at the hotel, we enjoyed dinner as part of our all inclusive package. I went for a starter of mozzarella, tomato and basil salad, which always takes me back to my days of living in Italy as an au pair. Then for main I had wild mushroom risotto, mainly because I am a fan of mushrooms but Paul cannot stand them, so when we eat out is an ideal time for me to get my fix of them. We also imbibed in a few glasses of red wine as it was included in the deal and was a pleasantly drinkable one, too.

There were other tables with parents struggling to deal with tired, whiny children in the restaurant, which didn’t bother us at all, we were only thinking what a relief it was for us not to be in their shoes for a change! Of course, we spent a lot of the time talking about our own kids anyway, can’t seem to help it. It was so nice to have some time just the two of us, though.

Do you often go away for weekends, whether or not you have children? It often feels as though you have been away for more than just a night or two, I think.

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How to eat healthily in cold weather

How to eat healthily in cold weather

Recently I rejoined a slimming club in an effort to shift the weight I gained during my third (and definitely final!) pregnancy. My baby daughter turned one recently and I had hoped the weight would have all dropped off effortlessly by now, but no such luck. I’ve found it harder to motivate myself to lose it this time than with the other two, I think largely because the youngest one, though adorable, is not a great sleeper and insists on being fed at least twice during the night still. So I’m getting by on far less sleep than is ideal which makes me crave unhealthy food to combat the tiredness, but is a vicious circle really as the junk food only causes more energy slumps.

Fruit…frozen is cheaper

So…I’m trying to find things that I enjoy eating, that are healthy and take minimal effort to prepare. I was pleased to discover that Tesco stock a range of frozen fruit that as well as being cheaper than the fresh equivalent, save the hassle of preparing and reduce waste. There are all sorts of frozen fruit in the range: mango, watermelon, exotic fruit mix, all types of berries that you can think of. We get a weekly grocery delivery from Tesco (which I appreciate is such a luxury now that I have young children so don’t have to drag them around the supermarket).

The frozen pineapple chunks tasted lovely once defrosted, and I must admit that the prospect of tackling a whole fresh prickly pineapple tends to deter me so using frozen was a winner. I just ate them with some low fat yoghurt mixed in. I’ll definitely try the other fruits as well. Of course it involves remembering to take the frozen fruit out of the freezer to give it time to defrost (ice cold fruit is less than appealing on winter days!) so I try to get in the habit of doing this just before I go to bed at night.

In terms of lunches, I love soup in winter. I have a recipe from the Slimming World website that I’ve printed off to make Roasted Tomato and Basil soup. I haven’t had a chance to make it yet but it sounds divine. I’ve always found tomato and basil to be a perfect pairing and often enjoyed them with sliced mozzarella in a Caprese salad when I lived in Italy. Delicious. I’ll eat the soup with a slice of wholemeal bread.

In the winter, I find it hard to get excited about salads, unless I can make them to be ‘warm’ salads. Yesterday I made a salad with hot smoked salmon that I warmed up and it was delicious (see pic below). As well as the salmon, there were baby salad leaves, green peppers, tomatoes, sliced beetroot and pickled gherkins. I’d planned to add a dressing but in the end the vinegary liquid from the gherkins seemed enough so I didn’t bother. I’ll definitely make that salad again soon.

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How about you, do you have any favourite healthy yet tasty recipes to enjoy in the colder months? I would love to hear them.

Moving onto winter warming drinks…despite being English, one strange fact about me is that I’ve never enjoyed drinking tea (or even coffee). I’ve tried different types but couldn’t abide them. Recently though I discovered Twinings green teas infused with chocolate and coconut. The ingredients list suggests that the flavourings are mostly natural and green tea is supposedly healthier than black tea so I feel pleased that I’ve finally discovered a type of tea that I can enjoy, especially in colder weather.

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Jamie Oliver’s new ‘5 Ingredients’ book

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t really enjoy spending a long time in the kitchen to cook meals. Sure, I appreciate good food, but can’t help begrudge buying, preparing and cooking with a multitude of ingredients, only to have it be consumed and gone in about 10 minutes flat. With the only lasting reminder being a mountain of pots, pans and countless other gadgets to be washed up…maybe you feel the same?

In fact, just glancing at a recipe featuring a long list of ingredients stretching down the page is anathema to me. So when a friend mentioned this new recipe book called ‘5 Ingredients’, I had a feeling it would be a winner!

Jamie Oliver is renowned for creating tasty, simple recipes to please the whole family and I’ve enjoyed his other recipe books including ’30 Minute Meals’, but this new one has to be the best so far. True to his word, no recipe contains more than 5 ingredients. There are sections on Salads, Pasta, Chicken and Fish.

I’ve only had the book for a couple of weeks and haven’t had the chance to try out many of the recipes yet. The ‘Lemony Courgette Linguine’ was simple yet delicious with the distinctive flavours of mint and lemon (see pic below). Next on my list to try is Ham and Egg Noodles as this recipe looks a little similar to my Chinese takeaway favourite ‘Singapore Noodles’.

Have you got a copy of this book, too? If so, I’d love to hear recommendations of your tried and tested favourite recipes. Or perhaps you have a favourite recipe book of your own that you would like to share? I would love to hear from you 🙂

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