Baking for After-School Snacks

My children always come out of school wanting a snack and in order to try and avoid some of the post-school ‘let it all out’ meltdowns, I arrive at the school gate well prepared. It used to be a small cake or biscuit or a small chocolate biscuity bar thing, bought with  the weekly shop. 

 About eighteen months ago I had been noticing that whenever I baked, the children would still choose the shop bought treat, if they could. This coincided with a news story regarding the trans fats in snacks and how they make everything taste yummy and a penny dropped. This, together with the extra sugar in shop bought treats was why they were choosing them over my efforts and so I made a commitment that I would no longer buy biscuits and cakes, I would make everything instead.

At first this seemed like a commitment I wouldn’t keep. Where would I find the time? However, with both the boys in school and Lady Mck now at an age where we could make it into a activity to do together, I found that baking a couple of times a week soon became quite normal. I told the children it would be home made treats or nothing and they’ve become quite used to it. I also found the added bonus of eating less of them myself. When I know I will have to be the one to restock the tin, it makes it much easier to limit myself to just one. I posted about this on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and loads of you asked what kind of things I make, so I thought I would give you a run down here.


A couple of things to start with. I find it’s a good idea to keep some unsalted butter out of the fridge, so that it is soft enough for baking, although I do have some ideas that use melted butter for emergencies. I would recommend a couple of books as well. The two I use most for this small, bite size baking are Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake book and the classic How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella. Finally, I like to keep portion sizes quite small. These treats are just enough to satisfy hunger kids after school and keep the car peaceful for five minutes.

Sinckerdoodles

These are our absolute favourite bake. They are a small biscuity/cake thing, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, to give a doughnut type flavour. They don’t have a huge amount of sugar and are just the right size for a small snack. My children would probably be happy if I made these or their sister snack, Chocodoodles every week. I use Nigella’s recipe, but there are many more on-line. My tip is to use a tupperware when coating them in the sugar and roll them around by shaking the box. Much less messy.

Flapjacks

These are great if the store cupboard is a little bare and you’ve forgotten to get any butter out of the fridge. They take about 10 minutes to mix up. However, they are packed with sugar and so I cut them up really small. I’ve tried loads of flapjack recipes and have found this River Cottage one to be the best. It still needed some experimentation to get the perfect tin, oven temperature and timings, but now I have, they are a firm favourite.

Chocolate fork biscuits

These are also in the Nigella book I mentioned earlier. They are basically, butter, sugar, flour and cocoa powder. The recipe makes loads and they last a week in the tin….well, they get eaten before that, but they would last a week.
Heather’s Oat Biscuits

My friend Heather lent me this recipe and so they will always be known as Heather’s Oat Biscuits. These are quite similar to flapjacks, but with the addition of an egg and flour they become lovely chewy biscuits. I’ve reduced the sugar in the recipe and got no complaints. These also use melted butter, so are great if you’ve forgotten soft butter.

Cakey Buns

I don’t so these very often, but they use margarine, straight from the fridge and everything is just bunged in a bowl, so they’re super easy. I tend to avoid things with icing and you only get 12 out of this recipe, which doesn’t last long in our house.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

My friend Sarah says she has the recipe for the best Lemon Cake ever. I’m not so sure about that, maybe we should have a bake off one day. For after school snacks I bake the ingredients for a loaf tin, in an square cake tin and then cut into small rectangles. This makes it last longer, as you can get at least 18 portions out of it.


Scones

I love scones. They aren’t packed with sugar and just need a little smear of butter and jam. Again, I use a small cutter and they are then the perfect size for a little treat.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ll be honest I still haven’t perfected these. Sometimes they are amazing, sometimes quite average. I also think they’re a bit sweet, so I am still tweaking. However, I like that you can make the dough into a log, wrap it in cling film and take out and slice before baking. They’re great to make double quantities and keep some back.


So, these are just a few ideas for your weekly baking. I’ve added some links here, but you’ll also find ideas over at my Pinterest Board After School Snacks. I’d love to hear which ones are popular in your house and how you get on with the no shop bought treat challenge.

Me and Mine {February 2017}

February is quick, right? I mean, I know I’m not just imagining it, but it is only a few days shorter than the other months and yet, seems to whizz by in a blur. This is always the case when a school holiday falls in a month, I think. It makes time so funny. You have the wind down week, when it feels as though we are limping towards the holiday, the holiday itself and then the first week back, when it feels that we’ve forgotten our routine and it’s all a bit of struggle.

We were all ill, basically for most, if not all of the month. Just a horrible niggling cold that would not budge. My children are pretty awesome when they are ill, they kind of battle on and really just get on with it, but still it often involves disturbed sleep and plenty of grumpiness. Mini Mck is the most stoical and for the last week of term, he really did look like a pale husk of himself. I even offered him a day off, but he does love school.

I feel like I properly started work in February. I got my child care ducks in a row, found a routine and really got stuck in. I am doing some work for a yarn company! If you are a regular reader, you will know what am absolute thrill that is for me and I am absolutely LOVING it. I never imagined my tentative return to the workplace would be such a great fit and so exciting. I am very lucky.

We packed so much into half-term, without doing much at all and those are my favourite kinds of break. I hate the feeling of going back to the routine and thinking we have wasted our precious time. We decorated with the children at home, which was a first and went surprisingly well. You can see more of that on my Instagram feed. Dan worked a day, while I took the boys to the forest and had a great day with them. I worked a day and left the childcare to Dan, which was nice for everyone and then we spent the rest of the week doing fun stuff. A pyjama day, Lego Batman, lunch out, some time for Dan  and I to do stuff we wanted, while the other amused the kids and lots of playing.


Last month’s photos were a great start to the Me and Mine project. Everyone behaved and I managed to have make up on. This month, they are actually much more us. Messy hair, messy allotment, wellies, no make up, children removing their shoes and refusing to sit still, or pulling a ‘hilarious’ face. However, I love them. They were taken on a beautiful morning at the allotment, right at the beginning of the month. Our first bonfire of the year. You know what they say. The family who burns stuff together, stays together. Probably.

My Dad loves a bonfire. He simply could not resist the opportunity to join us, despite the fact that he’d returned from two months in Spain just the night before. I love the shots of him and Mini Mck running the fire. MM is now at an age where is is real help at the allotment, when he wants to be, of course. Watching him chop sticks and throw stuff on was ace, with much vocal guidance from Grandad, of course. Dan was busy cutting raspberry canes and dismantelling a rundown metal and glass greenhouse, the little ones dug holes and me? Honestly, I didn’t do much except chuck some stuff on the fire and take photos, but I don’t think anyone noticed.



This last shot was really the only sensible one of the whole lot, but that’s the thing with kids, you get one chance and it last about thirty seconds. I like to think it adds an extra challenge to the photography side of things.

This post is linked up with the Me and Mine project – hosted by Dear Beautiful, Bump to Baby, Capture By Lucy, Let’s Talk Mommy, Mummy Daddy Me, Our Life As We See It and Tigerlilly Quinn – where you take a photograph a month of your family all together.

emilyandmore reads….and more {January}

A strange thing has happened over the last year. My brain has shifted and once again made space for things. I feel as though my baby brain has lasted for eight years and as my littlest shifted from baby to toddler I suddenly found that I have the urge to read and watch films that are more than fluff, to immerse myself in challenging listening, reading and watching and to learn new skills or pick up old ones. That is perhaps a blog post in itself, a theme of which I am sure I will return. 

For now I wanted to start recording what I am actually reading, partly because I found myself  not being able to remember a book I read last year and had LOVED. Some of my favourite bloggers already write about what they are reading. Try Laura, Sarah and Hayley for some great reading ideas. I also thought that because I just don’t have time to re-read the stuff I love, but want to tell you about them, I am going to choose ‘One from the shelf’ as well as my current reads. 

My first book in January was Marian Keyes The Mystery of Mercy Close. I haven’t read Marian Keyes for years, so have lots of catching up to do. She is so funny and gets the detail of life perfectly captured. Just for the record I hate the term ‘Chick Lit’ and just won’t be using it here. It suggests a book is somehow less than that written for men. If a book has romance, humour and is about human relationships, it doesn’t mean it is any less well written, just because there may be some pink on the cover. This book is a perfect example of this. It was much darker than I expected, covering depression and suicide, but in no way was it a difficult read. It stayed with me after I’d finished it. Gallows humour at it’s best 

My second book in January and I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to have finished two books in one month, was Rainbow Rowell  Attachments. I first read Rainbow Rowell last year with Fangirl, which by the way was the book I loved, so when I saw this in the library I snatched it up. It took me a while to settle into this book, much of it is written as a series of emails, but as I got through the book it really started to get under my skin. Lots of things resonated with me and I loved that, for me, the main character was Lincoln, a man and I loved following his journey. Utterly romantic in a Brief Encounter/Sleepless in Seattle way. By the end I couldn’t put it down. 

‘One from the shelf’ this month is Persausion by Jane Austen. I am a complete Austen fan and find her books totally re-readable. This one is perhaps less well known and has sneaked up on me as a bit of a favourite. Anne Elliot is my favourite Austen heroine, being less full of her than Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Wodehouse. I would always urge anyone who hasn’t read Austen to give her a try. Her books are so readable and the humour in them is lovely. 

Incidentally, I thought I’d include other culture recommendations in this post and my latest find on Netflix is another Austen classic Amongst all the new ‘must see’ binge watch box sets, you will find the BBC adaption of Emma, another Jane Austen classic. This one has Jonny Lee Miller as the hero and it was all the press around T2 Trainspotting that made me remember it. It is the perfect thing for a February evening when you have a nasty cold, as I have had this week. 

Do you have any book recommendations for me? At two a month, I’m going to need a ‘to read’ list. What’s been staying with you recently?

Some treats for your ears……and your eyes

Hello friends! I hope you are well. As a little thank you for all the positive and supportive messages I received after my last post, I thought I would round up some of my favourite popular culture recommendations for you to enjoy.  I have perfect podcasts, radio, TV and film to brighten up a miserable January. Escape Brexit, Trump and the fact that the Gilmore Girls revival was a huge disappointment and immerse yourself in this little lot.

Podcast, radio, TV and film recommendations for a dreary January
I am going to start with something that I know I’ve recommended before, but it is being repeated from the beginning on Radio 4 extra and I have been re-listening. It turns out that Cabin Pressure is as funny on a second listen as it was the first time. A radio sitcom based in a small charter airline, run by mostly useless staff, Cabin Pressure still makes me laugh out loud. I actually thing it’s  irrelevant what it’s about, the actors are Stephanie Cole, Roger Allum (he of Sarah and duck fame, as well as many other great dramas – I love him!) John Finnemore, who also writes it and is fabulous and the brilliant, pre-fame, Benedict Cumberbatch and they are just a brilliant ensemble. Comedy is such a subjective thing and people often turn their noses up at radio comedy, but I urge you to give this a try. 

Eight years ago I was just starting my maternity leave. Due to lots of owed holiday I had a lovely, long maternity leave before Mini Mck arrived and I clearly remember sitting in my armchair, cosy and warm, on a dark January day, watching Barack Obama’s Inauguration. I cried happy tears and rested my hands on my swollen belly, with a sense of hope. *sigh* Such a contrast to the emotion I feel about the upcoming inauguration ceremony and I know that many of you feel the same. So, I was delighted to stumble upon Malcom Gladwell talking about Trump’s victory and what it means for the future this week. It’s only fifteen minutes long and if you feel as I do, please listen. It is unerringly positive and hopeful, in a way that makes sense and that I haven’t heard from anyone else. 

Finally for your listening pleasure I am going to give another mention to Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s film review podcast. I love listening to their wittering and even though I rarely go to the cinema I love hearing about what is out there. I’ve recently joined my WI’s film club. An outing to the cinema once a month for those of us who like films, but don’t always get to go or have people to go with. It’s been lovely to be able to make good suggestions for what we see and to be able to get back to the cinema. 

Speaking of which. Have you been to see La La Land? PLEASE do. I went last night and it was such a treat. Sublime sprang to my mind in the first fifteen minutes. There were some bits that I want to change, but that has not taken away from the fact that I still loved it. An absolutely perfect way to spend a couple of hours, especially when the news is never-endingly depressing. Think Singin’ in the Rain with a modern twist and a lovely chemistry between the two leads. I really hope it wins big at the Oscars, rather than the usual epics that take themselves far too seriously. La la loved it! 

A couple of weeks ago I happened to catch the last ten minutes of The World’s Most Extrodinary Houses and immediately though how much my eldest would love it. He has a bit of a thing for houses and his last google search is often Mansions or something similar. He is very creative, but also has a real flair for maths. I think he’d quite like to be an architect really. It has become our favourite family viewing on a Saturday Afternoon. Both the boys are transfixed and it is perfect if you like to be nosy in other people’s houses. This week’s episode is Coastal Houses, but you can still find the first tow on iplayer. 

So, there you have some lovely things to immerse yourself in on a dreary January evening. There’s only one that you have to leave the house for and I promise you that one will be worth getting wrapped up warm for. 

The one where I put some baggage down.

Sometimes realisations happen gradually, over many months and sometimes they hit you so hard that you gasp for breath and can’t believe you’ve never seen it before. Last week I wrote on Facebook, that I think it’s time to start thinking about a job and immediately lots of lovely friends had ideas and comments about how I have many skills and things I could do. It was such a boost, but I didn’t really believe it and the next day, while driving with Lady Mck I realised why.

I was thinking about why it was that I felt so unable to do a any kind of job, even though I used to have a big, stressful, well-paid job, that I had been good at and then it hit me. So very, very hard that I physically say up straight and took a sharp breath. Immediately, tears sprang to my eyes. It was quite the extreme reaction. I realised that whilst I did have a big, stressful and well-paid job that I was good at, it was one that ended badly and it became so clear that it wasn’t because of anything I had done.

I worked in a big, corporate organisation where people were no more than a list of figures on a page and my immediate boss was frankly a sexist dinosaur. The only women he had any time for in his team, were the ones who fluttered their eyelashes, wore short skirts and tight tops. The ones who cried when they were short staffed and above all didnt ruffle any male feathers. I wasn’t one of those. I was outspoken, I had opinions. I would challenge and I was clever. I was good and he knew it and he didn’t like it. Of course there were also men in the team like that, but he didn’t have the same rancour for them. They could banter, talk football. He could relate to them. As you know if you read this blog my journey to have children had some bumps in the road and these were treated with absolute contempt by this person.

And so, I finished my first career feeling that I was terrible at the job I had been really good at, that I had nothing to offer and so I packed up and moved on to my next role as a mum, which I have loved. But now, I have started to think about what is next for me and I realise that this work related baggage hasn’t gone away. I have carried it around, locked in a little suitcase for eight years. I will never have the chance to go back and tell this person or this organisation what they did to me, what they stole from me. That time is gone.

img_1251
Photo from unsplash.com

I always feel that a blog post should hold some wisdom for the reader. Something from my experience that may help a person reading it and I’m not sure this one does. This one could just be for me. Except to say that, when we realise we have been carrying this ‘thing’ around. When we actually open that suitcase and look inside, we can start to be honest. We can start to realise that what we thought was true, isn’t true. The reality is that I had a really successful career. I got every promotion I ever went for. I finished in the job I had always wanted. My performance was always good enough to achieve bonuses and pay rises and when I was signed off work, due to mental illness, my sexist boss was conveniently and swiftly moved to a new non-people management job, which is how these types of companies deal with difficult situations and speaks volumes.

Now, I have to continue to look into that suitcase. I have to dig deep and remember what I really can do. It is time to start thinking about what comes next for me and that should be exciting and challenging and possibly a little petrifying, but it shouldn’t be coloured by a bad experience that I could do nothing about.

As it turns out, that facebook status has sparked a conversation with a friend that could lead to work and I am excited and scared in equal measure. You see, everyone sees a version of us that we may not recognise. How we feel about ourselves can often depend of who we listen to. I am going to choose to listen to those who see me now, who know me, who value me and there is none of that in that long carried suitcase.

2016 – A retrospective

As regular blog posts go, this is about as good as it gets here. My annual round up of our year is now in it’s third year and it changes as the children do. Less big milestones and more little things that are rites of passage in childhood.  So, as we tucked into our fish & chips a couple of evenings ago, I got the rest of the family to remember some of their highlights. 

  • Mini Mck got his first pair of lace up shoes
  • Lady Mck stopped wearing nappies in the day and is now totally toilet trained
  • I made myself an actual wearable crochet garment. Twice
  • Mckdad trained as a football coach
  • Nano starting learning to read, now that he is in Year 1 
  • We expanded our animal family with two kittens 
  • Our old cat hated us for at least six months of the year, due to aforementioned kittens (he’s ok now)
  • We saw the seals at Horsey Beach for the first time
  • Lady Mck spent her first night away from the rest of the family
  • Nano started after-school drama lessons
  • Mini Mck learnt to swim without any buoyancy aids
  • I finally mastered a flapjack recipe – it’s all in the size of tray and the timing
  • Nano went on his first sleepover to a friend’s house
  • Mini Mck went up three reading levels and is nearly a free reader
  • Nano joined the a school sing along group
  • Lady Mck started sleeping in a bed. No more cots in this house
  • I learnt how to make swiss meringue buttercream, which is a revelation
  • I volunteered at the best blogging conference in town
  • Lady Mck started gymnastics
  • Lady Mck learned how to do a forward roll
  • Mini Mck also learned how to do a forward roll
  • I was shortlised for a Mum’s Voice award and went to a fancy luncheon in London
  • We finally put Lady Mck’s bike seat on my bike and so all went out on a family bike ride
  • Mini Mck went climbing at a climbing centre for the first time
  • Mini Mck started learning French
  • Lady Mck learned to scoot
  • Nano finally mastered the fireman’s pole at our local park 
  • Lady Mck discovered pink and decided she loves it
  • Nano made his first grown up Lego set, with no help
  • Lady Mck swallowed a penny and therefore had her first (and second) x-ray
  • Nano started wearing glasses
  • Mckdad started wearing reading glasses
  • I started wearing reading glasses
  • Nano started wearing an eye patch for 3 hours a day
  • Lady Mck stabbed me in the eye with a fork (and still apologies for this every week) It was a big year for eyes
  • Mini Mck took part in a Ukelele concert
  • Nano started riding a pedal bike with stabilisers
  • We went on a punt down the river in Cambridge 
  • I lost over a stone in weight
  • Mabel became an expert mouser, before she was even a year old
  • Mini Mck learnt Suduko 
  • Mini Mck learnt how to tell the time
  • Nano went to his first musical. The Sound of Music
  • Lady Mck had her first ponytails, side bunches and topknots
  • I mastered the messy bun
  • Mckdad got an office – NO more piles of school books in the dining room (mostly)
  • I gave something up and it was a brilliant decision
  • I made marmalade for the first time


I love looking back on our year, but I’m always a little concerned that as the children get older, there will be less firsts. Mckdad and I noticed that ours were quite hard to think of and it made us both agree that we should do more to learn new things this year. It was a quiet year, but all in all, a good one. 

Happy New Year

Hello friends! I hope you’ve had a lovely festive time, however you choose to celebrate and for those of you that don’t love Christmas, I hope at least you’ve had some restful days in this in between, nothing happening week. 

I wanted to just pop in and share our plans for New Year. I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations. Always so busy and expensive to go out and since having children I struggle to make it to midnight, preferring instead to enjoy the early morning on January 1st, which frankly I’m going to get anyway, with three early rising small children in the house. The last time we had a grown up celebration was when we all de-camped to friends for a few days and I was pregnant with Lady Mck. I think the fact that I knew there would be no hangover and the shared parenting duties that you get when you team up with other adults, made the late night more bearable. Plus, some friends are worth the tiredness. 

However, the last couple of years we have started to build our own, child-friendly New Year Celebration and this year the children remembered and asked for it. We will collect Fish & Chips and eat by candlelight. Dan and I will open something bubbly, the kids will have lemonade from plastic champagne flutes and conversation will no doubt turn to all the things that have happened to our family this year. (Which I will totally harvest for a blogpost in the next few days!) I know that there will be plenty of opportunity for seeing in the New Year in the future, when we are less tired, but for now letting go of the pressure to stay up late and finding our own way of celebrating has been so liberating. 


So, whatever you are doing tonight, I wish you a very happy evening and hope you all have a fabulous 2017. I want to thank you for popping in to read my words this year, it really does mean so much that you give me some of your precious time. I know I am not the most reliable blogger and I hope to be more so next year. Have a good one!