Thursday, 22 May 2014

Perfectly reasonable and ordinary

I realised something today, which is probably completely obvious to everyone else, and while I kind of knew it, I hadn't actually been confronted with it before in quite that way.

Confused yet?

This is me, this morning, having despatched various children to various schools complete with sunscreen and pencils and lunch boxes.

I was sat at home, drinking a cup of tea before I got on with watching the TV cleaning the bathroom, and my phone went.  I didn't recognise the number but it was local, so I was relatively sure I hadn't won the Nigerian lottery or inherited another Portuguese villa (honestly, the number of my relatives that die and leave me property and/or huge amounts of money in bank accounts abroad!).

Picked the phone up (as you do) and said 'hello?' (as you do), in that slightly confused way when you're thinking it can't possibly be for me, they must have rung me by accident.  Or maybe I've been injured in an accident that wasn't my fault...

Hi, is that Noah's mum?

I sucked air into my suddenly deflated lungs,
waiting for what was coming next, 
then realised I hadn't answered the 
question...Yes I said slowly and
deliberately as I exhaled

Noah James' mum?

Yes! I called as I tried to hold the
 phone to my ear and get up
 off the sofa (it's really very
squishy, and tries to eat you)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

alphabet boy - for those that know Smiler

A for amazing, for the affection that beams from your smile, your eyes, your everything
B for bravery, big brother, books, and belief in our words, trusting us to tell you the truth
C for character, curiosity, and closing all the doors (even those we wanted open...) and car trucks - your favourite thing to spot on the road
D for dude, and determination - defying the expectations of so many of those doctors of yours
E for enthusiasm, eagerness, entertaining, and extraordinary - every day is extraordinary with you
F for funny, for friends, food and family - all at the same time is even better!
G for giggling, genuine and generous - loving to share, to see others smile
H for humour, and hugs - holding on to us so tight you are forever imprinted on our hearts, on our lives
I for so much of you - individual, independant, and incredible
J for joker, jumpers and jam - on your toast for breakfast, then on your face for the next hour or two
K for kindness, and kitchens to cook in, as fond of making as you are of eating
L for laughter, the love of your siblings, and you as a litmus test, separating out the types of people
M for mischief, memories and making a difference
N for normal, for natter, for nosey -  and for noise
O for optimistic, only you, truly one of a kind
P for personality, so developed a self, but certainly not the most patient of people!
Q for quality of life - something you show us all the time, delighting in the simplest of pleasures
R for resilience, for raindrops falling on your head, and for you turning pages, reading books to yourself
S for siblings that love you, surprises and smiles
T for trust, letting us tickle your sensitive feet and spot that brightest twinkle in your eye
U for unique, for upset - holding a hand or stroking another's hair if they're upset
V for  volume - making noise is a favourite past time, singing along to the radio, 'louder, louder'
W for water, for the tidal wave as you twist and slide in the bath
X for kisses - a kiss good morning, a kiss goodnight, a kiss better, a kiss to say thank you, a kiss to say I love you
Y for young man, leaving childhood behind you
Z for catching those z's, snuggled on my lap, leaning your head against me as I feel your heart beat

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is my people who know Smiler alphabet.  Last year I wrote a people who don't know Smiler one, about what they see when they look at my gorgeous son - we definitely have the best view!

Monday, 19 May 2014

square peg, round hole special needs link up

This weekly link up provides a regular opportunity to showcase those favourite posts from small scale blogs which touch on the day to day reality of living with a child or young person with special needs.

 Any (non sponsored) post on any subject can be linked up - new or not - maybe you'd like to share a favourite photo of your child; a parenting tactic that you've found helpful; a family day out; or something you've really struggled with.  Perhaps you'd like to tell us about a great cake you baked last week; a news article that wound you up; the new zumba teacher you doubt you're ever going to be able to keep up with.  The idea is that anyone who writes about special needs can join in, even if the post you link up doesn't relate directly to that topic.

  The link will open on Monday mornings, you can add a post right through to Friday lunchtime, and every four weeks a post from all those entered will be chosen to win a small prize and - once I've worked out how to do it - a shiny new badge to put on their blog!

The usual link up requests apply - please visit other linked up posts, and let the writers know you were there by leaving a comment, and please let your twitter followers know when you've linked up by using #SquarePeg

(cross your fingers for me...)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

positive pic of the week

First time joining Tracy of Tantrums and Glitter in her lovely Positive Pic of the Week Linky, and I'm sharing this photo of Noah, smiling!  It's not that he doesn't smile - he smiles all the time.  Just not usually in my direction.  I'd like to think we've been getting on a bit better the last week or two, but how accurate that is - who knows.

But, photographic proof - Noah.  Smiling.  At me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Friday, 16 May 2014

Word of the Week

It's Friday - time to think about that word, and join up to TheReadingResidence linky.  So, which word describes my week - of all those words out there, which to choose?  I'm going to go for ::


sunshine (ˈsʌnˌʃaɪn)
1. (Astronomy) the light received directly from the sun
2. the warmth from the sun
3. a sunny area
4. a light-hearted or ironic term of address

ˈsunˌshiny adj
(Sourced here)

Sunshine just seems to make everything better - you know?  I got a new garden chair in the week, and I love it.  My beautiful irises are flowering.  Our guinea pig made a break for freedom and is currently living free-range in the garden.  
Sunshine.  It's all good.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Reading Residence

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Photo Gallery 186 : up close and personal

Probably not what the lovely Tara of the sticky fingers blog meant with the prompt, but it works in my mind!

This is a flower in my back garden - nigella, aka love-in-the-mist.

It hasn't flowered yet, but you can see that it's right on the brink of bursting into the light.  There are a few different colours of the flowers - some a pinky shade, and some white too, but the blue is my favourite.  It's only at this point, so close to opening, that you can see what colour the flower will be.

One of the clearest and most precious memories that I have of my maternal grandfather is walking with him up and down the path in his garden, with him bending down and showing me his favourite plants.  There were hazel trees, strawberries, rhubarb, blackcurrents, apple trees, gooseberry bushes, a pear tree, canes with baby bean or pea plants just beginning to twirl around - all basking in the attention of my Papa's green fingers.  It was beautiful, and as I spotted butterflies swirling around he named them for me.  

Very much a part of the 'Dig For Victory' generation, Papa also made his own wine, and syrup flavoured with elderflower, rhubarb or rosehip.  Everything he planted had a use - or almost all.

Coming to the end of the path, having followed the looping path around the garden and back towards the house again, Papa grew quiet.  He knelt next to a riot of fluffy green foliage and delicate blue flowers.  
'These' he told me, 'were your grandmothers favourite flower.  She said I could plant whatever I wanted in the rest of the garden as long as I made sure she had daffodils in spring and sweet peas through the summer, but most importantly of all, love-in-the-mist somewhere she could see from the kitchen.'

Papa died when I was twelve, but every year that I've had a garden (or a chunky pot by the front door!), I've had love-in-the-mist.

So, a close up of a flower that is intertwined with a slew of personal memories - happy ones.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

the birds and the bees

{TW for 2 x non explicit mentions of CSA}

I was writing a few days ago about parenting and how many of us make the same mistakes as our parents, and I got thinking about those cringing awkward conversations about sex and adolescence where neither you nor your parent wanted to be in the room...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For the family I grew up in, the simplist acknowledgment of physical changes was to be avoided at all costs, never mind any real two way communication to do with puberty / sex / relationships.  This meant that from the age of nine, I always sat with my shoulders hunched over, hiding my developing body, because I knew it was something to be ashamed of, embarrassed by - those were the messages I had learnt.  A visible manifestation of my gender, something that labelled me as female, which in my mind also marked me as vulnerable.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Still, I knew nothing about adolescence until it bit me on the bum (for want of a different phase!) when my first period began.  
At school.  
And I thought that I was dying. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Budget Stirfry

Just wanted to share my very yummy (bargain based) tea this evening ::
Mange tout 2p
Fresh egg noodles 30p (two packs for 60p)
Three green peppers 21p
Spring onions 5p
Sesame seeds, Chinese five spice powder and homemade sweet chilli sauce {from my cupboard}

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Slice the peppers, chop the mange tout and spring onion.

A little oil in the wok, hob on high, throw in the veg - stir!

After a couple of minutes add the noodles - keep stirring!

Add the chilli sauce and five spice powder and then what next I wonder?  Oh yes - stir!

After a couple of minutes chuck in a handful (ish) of sesame seeds.  Stir for another minute or two.

Tip into a bowl, and grab a fork.

Dig in.

88p for five of us

That's less than 18p a serving.

And that is why
I love the Asda reduced fruit and veg section!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

why my children are on the Organ Donor Register

According to the NHS Organ Donation website there are currently 6979 individuals awaiting a transplant.

Six thousand nine hundred and seventy nine people.

I'm on the Organ Donor Register, as is Mr Manley.  And, perhaps more controversially, so are Noah and Petal.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After giving birth I was very clear in my mind that if we lost our baby in circumstances that meant their organs could - potentially - save the life of another baby or young child, I absolutely wanted that to happen.  Both Noah and Petal were on the Organ Donor Register within a couple of weeks of their birth.

I would like to think that knowing my child's organs had been donated would bring some level of solace.  A recognition of something positive coming out of something so utterly heartbreaking.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sunday, 11 May 2014

square peg, round hole

This weekly link up provides a regular opportunity to showcase those favourite posts from small scale blogs which touch on the day to day reality of living with a child or young person with special needs.

 Any (non sponsored) post on any subject can be linked up - new or not - maybe you'd like to share a favourite photo of your child; a parenting tactic that you've found helpful; a family day out; or something you've really struggled with.  Perhaps you'd like to tell us about a great cake you baked last week; a news article that wound you up; the new zumba teacher you doubt you're ever going to be able to keep up with.  The idea is that anyone who writes about special needs can join in, even if the post you link up doesn't relate directly to that topic.

  The link will open on Monday mornings, you can add a post right through to Friday lunchtime, and every four weeks a post from all those entered will be chosen to win a small prize and - once I've worked out how to do it - a shiny new badge to put on their blog!

The usual link up requests apply - please visit other linked up posts, and let the writers know you were there by leaving a comment, and please let your twitter followers know when you've linked up by using #SquarePeg

(cross your fingers for me...)

silent sunday


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Saturday, 10 May 2014

square pegs :: a special needs link up

This is a new one for me, so I expect complete forgiveness and understanding when it all goes wrong, okay?

There are lots of families out there whose day to day life includes a square peg that simply does not fit in the round holes of the world we live in.  Parenting is hard enough, but these square pegs take it a whole step further.  We have to become physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, nurses, behavioural experts, teachers, occupational therapists, nutritionists, medical experts, and advocates.  

I've read some amazing posts lately, written from the heart by parents who are so much more, and whose ability to take excellent care of their child with special needs as well as juggling everything else astounds me.

From a twitter conversation with some of the bloggers who wrote these lovely posts (you know who you are!) and we realised that however wonderfully written they are it can be difficult to compete with the (also amazing) established blogs when it comes to blog awards.  Such is life. 

Through this twitter conversation the idea came up of hosting our own awards - for those small scale blogs which touch on the reality of living with a child with special needs, as well as all kinds of other things.  Rather than making it a one off award I want to create an opportunity to showcase those favourite blog posts on a more regular basis, so we can share in the ups and downs of life with a child who does things differently.  Any (non sponsored) post can be linked up - maybe you'd like to share a favourite photo of your child; a parenting tactic that you've found helpful; something you've really struggled with.  Perhaps you'd like to share the story of a family day out, or tell us about your child or their condition.

So here it is - the square peg link up, for those of us who do not find the world to be a perfect fit.  The idea is that anyone who writes about special needs can join in, even if the post they link doesn't relate directly to that topic.  The link will open on Mondays, you can add a post right through to Saturday, and every four weeks we'll pick a favourite post from all those which have been entered (if you'd like to help me choose the winner then let me know!).  The post chosen will win a small prize, and (once I've worked out how to do it) a shiny new badge to put on their blog!  

It would be great if you could spread the word on twitter or Facebook, or drop an email to someone you think might like to join in - my nightmare right now is that not a single person will link up, so please don't let it come true!

I'll publish the first square peg post on Monday, so I hope to see you then.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Word of the Week

While it kinda feels like my word of this week should be the name of a supermarket beginning with the letter M, I refuse, and instead I'm going with :: 


luck   (lŭk)
1. The chance happening of fortunate or adverse events; fortune: They met one day out of pure luck.
2. Good fortune or prosperity; success: We wish you luck.
3. One's personal fate or lot: It was just my luck to win a trip I couldn't take.
intr.v. luckedluck·inglucks Informal
To gain success or something desirable by chance: lucked into a good apartment; lucked out in finding that rare book.
as luck would have it
As it turned out; as it happened: As luck would have it, it rained the day of the picnic.
in luck
Enjoying success; fortunate.
out of luck
Lacking good fortune.
press/push (one's) luck
To risk one's good fortune, often by acting overconfidently.
try (one's) luck
To attempt something without knowing if one will be successful.

[Middle English lucke, from Middle Dutch luc, short for gheluc.

I've always felt a bit torn in believing in luck..or maybe fate.  There are so many coincidences that, looking back on my life, could have so easily turned out very differently.  For example, I did my a-levels in one of those years when loads and loads of papers had to be remarked.  Three of my four grades were increased when re-marked, but of course that didn't help for uni - I was in clearing with an A and 3B's!  This meant I didn't go where I had expected to go, and instead ended up in Bristol.  My friends and I happened to share a table at a club with a group of guys - and Mr Manley was one of them.  Smiler is a fluke in every sense of the word - he beat odds of one to seven billion.
But last weekend we experienced that loss of control over what was going on around us that makes me want to believe that somehow someone was orchestrating our fate, and it was all going to be okay.  
Very badly.  
And it really hit me that something so utterly unimportant as a breeze in his face or a hiccup could actually take him away from us.  
But not this time.  
So - luck.
Is it bad luck that made him choke, and good luck that got him going again?  Or is it all just undifferentiated luck, and it's just your perspective that personifies luck, making it good or bad, saint or sinner, left or right...
Maybe it's all just luck.

it's been stew...

This started off as experimental cooking, and has been refined over the past year or so.  It is usually seven bean stew, but this less preparation version is six bean stew instead, for reasons I will explain another day!  It began as ordinary straightforward bolognese sauce, leftovers had kidney beans and some mild chilli powder added to make a child-friendly not too spicy chilli, which then turned into vegetarian chilli, then morphed into bean stew.

Every time we have this someone always makes the bean stew joke :
mum, what's for tea?
Bean stew.
If it's been stew, what is it going to be today?

I know.  Hysterical, aren't they!?

 It doesn't need stacks of complicated ingredients, it's easy to make, you can keep the leftovers in the fridge and reheat them in the microwave, it taste great with rice or tortilla wraps or on a baked potato or just on its own, you can switch any beans out that you don't like, put more in of your favourites, make it spicier or less spicy according to your tastes - a win-win-win-win-win, don't you think?!

#TheGallery 185 :: Faces

This was taken as part of a series of posts, but it's the differences between Noah and Petal that makes this photo for me.  Noah turned eleven last month, Petal will be ten in a couple of months time, so they are close in age, but very different in personality.  Petal has a slightly cheesy camera smile, but Noah is always the one pulling faces - as you can see!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Linking up with Sticky Fingers Blog

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday, 8 May 2014


Before you read this please be aware that you may find it distressing, and that Smiler is sat comfortably on my lap as I type.

He spluttered, and I glanced to check he was okay...but he wasn't.  Smiler looked up at me, eyes wide with panic, dropping the food he had in his hand as he desperately tried to suck in air.  I yanked him to his feet, pulling his back against me as I leaned over, forcing his body to bend.  I could still hear the choked wheezing sound, and stood to the side of him, thumping his back, trying to shift whatever was lodged in his throat, preventing him from drawing precious oxygen into his lungs.  He looked straight at me, panic in his eyes, his face grey, his lips purple, and I could feel him shaking.  I twisted behind him again, slapping his back, not even sure if I was doing the right thing, but unable to think of anything else to do.  Noah and Petal must have still been sat down behind me, and although I didn't raise my head I knew people were watching - probably openmouthed, but I needed Mr Manley to help hold Smiler up, as his legs were no longer able to bear his weight.  I slammed my hand flat against his back again, between his shoulder blades, knowing I was probably hurting him, leaving bruises, but doing nothing was not an option.  I looked at Mr Manley, and he looked back at me - what were we meant to do?  Should we phone for an ambulance?  But if either of us let go of Smiler the other would not be able to hold him up and keeping trying to dislodge whatever was obstructing his airway.  In a second we had both thought this through and realised we didn't dare.  I shifted so I could see Smilers face, as a strangled whistling sound emerged from his throat, and the skin around his lips turned a dusky blue.  His wide eyes, bulging and wild, meet mine one more time, then slowly rolled backwards into his head as he passed out.  His body went limp and strangely still, his head drooping forwards until his chin was touching his chest, his arms lax.  I told Mr Manley to phone for an ambulance now and whacked Smiler as hard as I could, realising there were tears in my eyes - was this it?  Were we going to lose him to a stupid piece of food?  I watched Mr Manley reluctantly let go of him with one hand, yanking his phone from his pocket.  As Smiler's torso lurched forwards I smacked him, my arm stinging from the contact, and he jerked forwards, and seemed to cough.  There was a long drawn out wheezing sound, and another cough, and as Smiler's head drew back, his eyes jerked around with no focus, like a butterfly fluttering around a flower garden.  One more gasping breath in and his feet scrambled to find the ground, as Mr Manley dropped his phone and took his weight, holding him upright as he continued desperately gulping air.  I glanced past Smiler to where Noah and Petal were sat, pale and wide eyed, staring as their big brother was gently lowered to the ground.  They appeared frozen in place, as unmoving as the concrete step on which they sat.  I suddenly realised I was shaking violently, my hands were tingling, as though the blood passing through them was fizzing.  I leaned down towards Smiler, shivering on the ground, and helped him sit up, his body shaking along with mine.  Mr Manley knelt down next to our son and wrapped his arms around him, as I stepped towards Noah and Petal, stretching my arms around them, holding their shivering bodies tight against my own.  Mr Manley and I looked at one another, realising how easily this fun family day out could have ended so differently, and looked back to Smiler, his face and neck blotchy from blood vessels, burst under the incredible pressure of his fight for air.  
A fight he had won.
This time.

time to make the pizza {MorrisonsMum}

A couple of years ago we were given a second hand bread maker.  It was kind of out of the blue, and I wasn't sure we'd use it much, but the kids switched to having toast instead, and sometimes as well as, cereal, and once Mr Manley got the hang of it he was churning out bagels and rolls and breadstiucks and all sorts - yum...  

One of the most often used settings is pizza - easy, cheap, and, since you can put whatever you want on it, you know it will taste great.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

time for a pyjama party {MorrisonsMum}

Every so often we have pyjama parties at home.  Everyone in their PJs, dressing gown, slippers or fluffy socks - it's the rules!  (Except that poor Mr Manley has to get dressed and take Eli for a walk, and then get undressed again!)  Petal stumbles in, ladened down with her pillow and blankets, and starts arranging her nest on the floor.  Noah tries out all the chairs, seeing which one is the most comfortable today and has the best eyeline to the TV.  Smiler dithers, standing in front of the DVDs, trying to decide whether he's in the mood for the Lorax or Madagascar, Rise of the Guardians or Kung Foo Panda.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

time to light the barbeque {MorrisonsMum}

Who would have thought it - a bank holiday weekend full of sunshine, and a new barbecue full of food thanks to Morrisons and BritMums!
Couldn't have avoided having a barbecue really, the kids were wound up tight as clockwork teeth, and chattered like them too!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, a Morrisons sourced barbecue - what was that like?

Apparently we're odd (!) - we've pretty much always had vegetarian burgers and sausages for barbecues, even before Petal became a vegetarian - mainly because then there's no worries about the not being cooked through properly.  When we did have meat it all ended up a bit dry and sometimes more charcoal than chargrilled - not particularly appetising!  The Morrisons brand veggie sausages and burgers were frozen (handy to keep a spare bag of each in the freezer for an unanticipated-sunny-barbecue-day!) and cooked well on the barbecue - didn't fall apart the way our brand (think Beetles wives) burgers did last year.

We made burger rolls, hot dog rolls and garlic bread using the bread maker, but of course had to use the brand name strong white flour as Morrisons either don't make their own or didn't stock at the store we went to.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bristol Food Connections Festival

One of the best things about living in a city as diverse and vibrant as Bristol is the random events that you get to see - waterslide down Park Street anyone?

But that wasn't our destination this weekend.  We were heading for the Bristol Food Connections Festival.  You know how sometimes you hear about something and you take a chance and go, knowing that it might be great or it might be a complete let down?  Well, it was like that.

And it turned out to be a great day!

When we headed to the children's area first, and surprised to find it looking a bit sparce - actually, that's not accurate.  There was only one tent, run by Goodies.  I'm not knocking the stand, the staff there were lovely, and they had a bunch of activities on through the day - I think it might be worth the organisers looking carefully at what they want to achieve with the mix of stall holders, but I'll explain another day!  Meanwhile, in the Goodies area...fruit squash, colouring, seed planting, story telling and a wish tree.  I loved the wish tree - *whispers* I would actually like to have one of my very own...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We crossed our fingers and continued through Millennium Square, where there were lots and lots of food stalls, but the fountains had been turned off - still trying to give this Festival the benefit of the doubt, and carried on to Lloyd's Amphitheatre...

...where there was loads of things going on!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The first tent we came to was run by @Bristol - the science museum in central Bristol.  Very child friendly, very interactive - the staff were lovely, explaining to the kids (and the adults!) what was happening and why.  It turns out they had brought along some of their next set of exhibits - kind of like real-world testing!  You could grind some grain and take home the flour; pop corn with energy you generated yourself; learn about healthy food choices - so much to do!

One exhibit was focused on milk, which was a big hit - you could actually milk the cow.  It wasn't real milk, or a real cow for that matter, but Noah and Petal loved it!  Though he ruled out a cow, Mr Manley has now decided that our dream house (you know, the house you'll live in when you win the lottery) will have to have enough 'land'(!) to keep a goat, and possibly a few pigs.  Don't ask me.  We don't even buy lottery tickets.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Monday, 5 May 2014

enjoying the sunshine with #CountryKids

An entire sunshiney day with no TV, no computers, no distractions from one another...

...a tiny paddling pool, a swing in need of repair, my new garden chair...

...a robot arm toy, some veg for kebabs, a brother to tickle...

...a brand new barbeque on its maiden voyage...

time for a taste test {MorrisonsMum}

Breakfast - the most important meal of the day. 


Breakfast during the week in our house is either toast or boring cereal, and weekends might be porridge, scrambled eggs on toast, doughnut bread, a big pile of fruit, or weekend cereal (weekend cereal is the cereal that is either too expensive to have on offer seven mornings a week, or else really sugary.  In which case only I am allowed to eat it).  Fruit and fibre comes into the too expensive for every day cereal category, but the Morrisons own brand was much less, so we decided a taste test was in order!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We bought a 500g box of Kelloggs Fruit and Fibre, and a 500g box of Morrisons Fruit and Fibre.  Kelloggs was £2.69, Morrisons £1.49, so a big difference in the price.
The new Morrisons I'm Cheaper pricing policy had been applied to their own one, which means it has been reduced in price not just for a promotion, but for everyday - I think it will be interesting to see how long prices actually do stay down, but I digress!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On with the taste test! 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

time for veggie kebabs {MorrisonsMum}

These are always a big hit with everyone - vegetable kebabs!  You can do them under an ordinary grill, but today for us it's all about the barbeque!  In case you're thinking of using those metal skewers that have been at the back of your kitchen drawer for years even though you have no idea where they came from, don't - they'll get hot while the veg is being grilled, and then you'll burn your hand when you pick them up...go on, ask me how I know!

Something else I really like with these kebabs is that Petal and Noah can make their own, and Smiler can give us the next piece he wants on his.  Because there's no meat there isn't worry about washing hands or mixing up plates - perfect family friendly food!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

silent sunday


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

time for a drink {MorrisonsMums}

You know those fancy cocktails you get with straws and (if you're very lucky) an umbrella in?  I remember seeing them when I was little, on holiday, and always thought they looked so pretty and special, all those jewelled shades, those posh glasses, those fancy paper umbrellas...

Something that I've tried to do, over the years, is to catch up and have, as an adult, the experiences that I didn't have as a child.  Sometimes with the kids, sometimes on my own, depending on what it was.  And fancy cocktails - well, they're very do able, and a fab treat for Smiler, Noah and Petal.

I've written the instructions out purely because my neighbour told me she wouldn't know where to begin - she became daunted by the idea and kind of froze, so I figured I'd include it in case there's anyone else out there who might find it useful.  The kids named them - Cherry Apple Crush was very nearly called Fizzy Juice, but that choice lost out in the final round of voting.

Also worth pointing out that the kids disagreed entirely when we told them they were mocktails - since they were fake cocktails they were adamant they should be focktails.  *cough cough*  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tropical Fruit Fizz (the orange one)

  • ½ carton of mango juice
  • ½ carton of pineapple juice
  • ½ carton of orange juice
  • 500 mls of lemonade

What do I do? 

  1. Open your three cartons
  2. Pour in the juice and lemonade
  3. Add ice cubes

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 Cherry Apple Crush (the pink one)

  • one carton cherry juice
  • ½ carton apple juice
  • one litre of lemonade

What do I do?

  1. Shake the fruit juice cartons and open
  2. Pour into a jug with the lemonade
  3. Add some ice cubes

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So, how much did these mock-tails cost?

There are five of us, and this quantity did all of us for lunch and then the rest of the day, which included a trampoline, a swing a trampoline, rescuing a dog that got stuck in brambles(not our dog - Eli is just fine!), frisbee, rounders/cricket-ish games.  I should point out that Mr Manley added some extras to his that meant they weren't mock anything!  Here's the detailed price breakdown :

  • Lemonade :: 13p {17p - used ½}
  • Apple juice :: 23p {45p- used ½
  • Orange juice :: 23p {45p - used ½}
  • Cherry juice             }
  • Mango juice.            } :: £1.67  {£2.50 - used ⅔}
  • Pineapple juice.      }

Price per serving :: 45p

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{I was given Morrisons vouchers by Morrisons / BritMums which were used to purchase the ingredients for this meal, but all opinions are mine and are the truth - I promise!}

Saturday, 3 May 2014

time for a picnic {MorrisonsMum}

Gorgeous georgous weather today, so a fab day for a picnic - a picnic in the back garden!

I love the rich bold colours of picnic food - the glistening cucumbers, the bright red of the cherry tomatoes, the vivid sunset orange of the carrots.  The kids all love cucumber and as Smiler tends to eat his fluids rather than drinking them (he struggles to control liquid in his mouth) cucumber is one of the easiest ways to provide this.  Luckily, as the cucumbers in Morrisons were only 49p I was quite happy to cut a whole one into sticks and let him snack as much as he wanted!

A pack of dips is always a good thing, with the afore mentioned cucumber sticks (and crunchy carrot sticks too) but rather than take the four dip selection pack we switch each into their own plastic box which is watertight when clipped closed - then they're much easier to chuck in a bag with a baguette or a couple of clip boxes of carrot and cucumber sticks.  It saves waste too - I'm sure I can't be the only parent that has been sat out on the blanket after a wonderful picnic trying to work out if there is any way to get the half empty plastic dip tray back home without covering everything in onion and garlic dip!

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One of the new-to-us bits of shopping were little chicken tikka pasties - you know how food is more appealing when it's littler?  It was like that - they looked so cute!  Of course Petal declined (newly fledged vegetarian) but they were a huge hit with Mr Manley and Noah.  They were pretty sturdy too - even though we didn't have to travel for our picnic I don't think a couple of hours bashing around in a cool bag as we trekked around a zoo or something would have done them any harm.

Something else we spotted and had not had before were Quorn mini scotch eggs - Petal was most impressed!  Obviously they fitted the no food with a face requirement, but they were really tasty too.  It's funny to see how set in those shopping habits you can get, buying pretty much the same things each time, compared to wandering up and down aisles when you have no clue what's coming up next - I definitely recommend it!

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Pom bear crisps!  Love love love pom bear crisps!
Why?  Just look at them!  Every single crisp is a little bear waving at you - how could you possibly resist?  They're yummy - not too salty but not flavourless either.  And they're probably the only pack of crisps that you aren't disappointed by when you open it up - it's actually full of crisps.  And, last but not least, they cost a pound.  £1.  Six proper sized packs of crisps for £1.  Woo hoo!

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So, that leads on nicely to the how much does it cost section!  Here's the breakdown ...

  • Cherry tomatoes :: 48p  {99p - used ½}
  • Cucumber :: 49p
  • Carrots :: 43p  {85p - used ½}
  • Four dip selection :: 25p  {£1 - used ¼}
  • Part baked baguettes :: 90p {45p/pack of 2, used 2 packs}
  • Pom bear crisps :: 34p  {£1 - used ⅓}
  • Quorn scotch eggs :: £1.09 
  • Prawn crackers :: 35p  {70p - used ½}
  • Chicken tikka bites :: 60p  {89p - used ⅔}
  • Artichokes hearts :: 75p  {£1.50 - used ½}
  • Pickled onions :: 17p  {£1.39 - used ⅛}
  • Jam & custard jammy dodgers :: 49p
  • Onion chutney :: 25p  {£1 - used ¼}
  • Tortilla chips :: 35p  {70p - used ½}
  • Black olives :: 35p  {70p - used ½}
  • Gerkins :: 22p  {£1.75 - used ⅛}
  • Apples :: 50p  {£1.50 - used ⅓}
  • Bananas :: 46p  {92p - used ½}
  • Grapes :: £1 {£2 - used ½ pack}

Price per serving :: £1.89

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{I was given Morrisons vouchers by Morrisons / BritMums which were used to purchase the ingredients for this meal, but all opinions are mine and are the truth - I promise!}

time to eat korma {MorrisonsMum}

Not quite a ready meal, but pretty close!  Chicken korma with rice and naan bread, on the table in less than 30 minutes.  As Petal is a vegetarian we usually all eat the fake chicken (I know that sounds decidedly unappetising, but that's what we call it!), but spotted some fresh chicken breasts in the quick sale still fresh section, so did a veggie korma and a chicken korma.  It's not as fiddly as it sounds - just two saucepans to stir instead of one (using different spoons of course).  Instructions for the veggie version are in green.

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What do I need?

  • 3 fresh chicken breasts
  • Morrisons chicken style vegetarian pieces (...fake chicken!)
  • Rice for 5 people
  • Jar of korma sauce
  • Pack of 4 naan bread 
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What do I do?

  1. Chop the chicken into chunks.  Measure out ⅓ of the pack of fake chicken.
  2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil into two saucepans on a medium heat.  
  3. Chicken into one saucepan, fake chicken into the other.  
  4. Measure 6 cups of rice and 6 cups of water into the rice cooker and start (or follow instructions on rice packaging if you don't have a rice cooker, then go out tomorrow and buy a rice cooker)
  5. Once chicken has browned, add ¾ of the sauce into first pan and stir.  Add remaining sauce to fake chicken saucepan, stir.
  6. Turn oven on high and put naan bread directly on the shelves.
  7. Stir both the chicken and fake chicken saucepans, and take off the heat after 10 minutes.
  8. Serve rice, curry and naan bread dish out onto plates.
  9. Eat up!
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So how much did the chicken (and vegetarian) korma, rice, and naan bread cost?

  • Chicken :: £1.28  (£2.55 - used ½)
  • Vegetarian chicken style pieces :: 67p  (£1.99 - used ⅓)
  • Rice :: £1.48  (£2.95 - used ½)
  • Korma sauce :: 99p
  • Naan breadbread :: 67p for 4 - (Mr Manley and I shared)

Price per serving :: £1.02

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{I was given Morrisons vouchers by Morrisons / BritMums which were used to purchase the ingredients for this meal, but all opinions are mine and are the truth - I promise!}

expressions #5

This is Petal through and through - calm, measured, thinking carefully about her options! 

Expressions - Actually Mummy...

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Friday, 2 May 2014

time to shop {#MorrisonsMum}

I had £80 of Morrisons vouchers to spend for the bank holiday weekafter talking to the kids we decided that today, Friday, was the day to do it.  Smiler opted out, after making sure we understood his requests (wraps, chocolate, and ice cream), so we picked Noah and Petal up from school and off we went.

First impressions - big car park, lots of trolleys (stored inside so dry even if it's pouring down), the huge tall security guard, helping a slightly confused elderly lady who was having trouble picking up one basket, and kept getting two or three every time, but he sorted it for her.  The fresh produce looked bright and colourful, the guy behind the fish counter (the fishmonger would that be?) noticed Noah's fascination with the crayfish and chatted to him about what he could see - a big hit with Noah, as you can imagine!

The shelves were all pretty full - I remember being told to 'face up' when I worked in Holland and Barrett - don't know if that is a recognised phrase or a geographic thing, but Morrisons shelves were tidy with no big gaps, and plenty of staff stacking up and keeping things neat.  I asked a woman where I would find something specific and she not only told me where I needed to go, but actually accompanied me there and pointed out a special offer, which I was really impressed with.  She didn't make me feel like I was bothering her, and was friendly as well as efficient.

Bearing in mind we went on a Friday I was expecting it to be busier - people stocking up for the long bank holiday weekend, you know?  I wonder if it was something of an optical illusion - the aisles were wide, and the main central walkway very spacious, so perhaps it seemed quiet because everyone was spread apart?  Anyway, as you went up and down the aisles you didn't have to think about navigating around other shoppers because there was so much room, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned, and probably for other shoppers too, especially as Noah and Petal were steering!  Worth keeping in mind for doing shopping with Smiler though - often supermarkets can be a bit of an assault course when you're with a young person who is adamant that they can propel their wheelchair without any help, lots of stands and display units seem to get in the way!

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Petal liked that there were pieces of cherry danish pastry to try, as did Noah!

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Because we tend to make our own bread (not in a posh way, in a-breadmaker-that-does-it-all-for-us way!) I was a bit disappointed that while they stocked (own brand) brown bread flour and wholemeal bread flour, they didn't have white!  This meant we had to buy a branded one for £1.72, while Tesco and Asda stock their own brand version costing 82p.

Bargain hunters that we are, we found the reduced / quick sale still fresh section, and got some bits and pieces - surprised to find everything in there was half price or less - no piddly 20p off or reduced to what it would cost on offer anyway - you know, £3 each or two for £5, reduced to £2.50.  I can't help it - that kind of stuff really winds me up!  I don't like to feel I've been had by th big companies, you know?  But judging by their get-it-while-it's-fresh cabinet this afternoon, I won't put Morrisons on my naughty list - I'm sure they'll be very relieved!

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Word of the Week

It's Friday, it's a bank holiday weekend, it's time for Word of the Week!
And this week, my word is 

hug   (hŭg)

v. huggedhug·ginghugs
1. To clasp or hold closely, especially in the arms, as in affection; embrace.
2. To hold steadfastly to; cherish: He still hugs his outmoded beliefs.
3. To stay close to: a sailboat hugging the shore.
To embrace or cling together closely.
1. A close, affectionate embrace.
2. A crushing embrace, as in wrestling.

Smiler has sought me out several times in the last few days, hugged me, then wandered off again.  Not sure why - maybe he just needed a bit of physical attention, or perhaps he thought I did.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Partly because of his learning disability nothing has ever been guaranteed for Smiler - he wasn't expected to speak, to smile, to recognise people - I guess that's why every little step forwards is such a big deal.  I hate - hate that clichéd 'oh, they're so affectionate' thing - first issue, they are individual children, with their very own personality, it is utterly impossible for that generalisation to be true.  Second, very few people, children included, are anything all the time - everyone has good days and bad days; quiet days and noisy days; days they want a hug, and days they want no one near them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I love it when Smiler seeks me out, but although between he and I we can get him on my lap, I worry that those days will be over soon.  He weighs around 44kg, and he's about 140cm tall (so that's 98lb and 4'8" in old money), and just thinking about heading into puberty.

So I'm taking the hugs while I can, for as long as I can.
Thank you Smiler, and you know where I am when you need a squeeze.

And, incidentally, look at my gorgeous boy...
Won't be able to learn to smile -
Yeah right!

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Joining up with The Reading Residence for

The Reading Residence

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Thursday, 1 May 2014


Something exciting to share - I filled in a BritMums form to be a MorrisonsMum - £80 in vouchers to spend for the bank holiday, and I was chosen.  Yes, I am the chosen one - does that make me Highlander or Buffy or something?  Well, not the chosen one exactly, more like one of the chosen fifty I think, but hey - I'll take validation wherever I find it!

So yesterday, I had some genuinely exciting post - have you ever wished your post now was as exciting as it was when you were a child?  How thrilled you were when you spotted your name on the front?  Sorry, I digress...Anyway, this post had a BritMums stamp on the back, and £80 in Morrisons vouchers inside!

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Morrisons have launched a new thing this morning - I'm Cheaper.  They've cut prices on more than a thousand items, and the good bit is that they're staying down!  Everything that has been brought down will have a round yellow I'm Cheaper sticker, so should be pretty easy to spot.

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So next, the fun part - spending the vouchers!  In my mind Morrisons is at the budget end of the supermarket spectrum anyway, so I'm looking forward to checking out what kind of things they've brought even further down.  The kids have worked together to write a list of things to buy - I bet you can imagine what that looks like!

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Seems like lots of bloggers I know are MorrisonMums this weekend, so I'm looking forward to checking out everyone's posts, and how they've chosen to use their vouchers!  Although the easiest way to do this shop would be for Mr Manley and I to go over to Morrisons with a carefully composed shopping list while the three kids are in school, since it is quite exciting and kind of a one off we're all going to go after school tomorrow instead.  And now I have written my own list, mwah ha ha ha ha (evil laugh there, just in case that wasn't obvious)
So, watch this space...

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{I have received £80 in Morrisons vouchers to use for shopping for the bank holiday weekend, but any opinions expressed on abstractLucas reflect my genuine thoughts}

In April

...Smiler got a PE bag, made by my own
 fair hands...

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...I finished off a very cosy and very beautiful 
(even though I do say so myself) blanket...

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...the garden started ramping up for the summer...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

...and we got out in the sunshine - in the garden...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ the woods...

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...and of course it was easter, which means easter egg hunts...

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...spring related cutting and sticking and colouring...

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...and songs involving bunnies.
Of course.

So, how was your April?

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