August 2011 | Modern Mummy

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Ultimate Packed Lunch: A Morning with Annabel Karmel

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Cucina Caldesi in Marylebone to spend the morning with the one and only Annabel Karmel. (I can't deny it, I have a mega girl crush on her, the woman is A M A Z I N G).

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last twenty years, Annabel Karmel is the leading author of books on nutrition for babies, children and families, and more recently she has released her own branded meals and snacks. She has a fantastic website which I visit regularly and I also have a number of her recipe books, which were a godsend whilst weaning Daisy and I still use them today.

The purpose of the morning's Cookery School (which was attended by fourteen journalists and bloggers, as well as representatives from Disney, with whom Annabel has joined forces to produce a range of healthy snacks) was for a round table discussion on The Ultimate Packed Lunch and then to whip up a few recipes from Annabel's latest book, Top 100 Meals in Minutes.

So, what does make the perfect packed lunch? With the new school term just days away, here are my top tips for encouraging your kiddiewinks to eat and enjoy the contents of their lunchboxes.

A perfect lunch should be a combination of healthy, tasty and easy to eat fresh food. How about swapping boring old sandwiches for wraps, pitta pockets or little pizzas? Dinner leftovers like pasta salad and chicken drumsticks are great too. Put lettuce leaves inbetween bread and sandwich fillings to prevent sogginess and use a cookie cutter to shape sandwiches and make them more interesting.

Prepare fruit and vegetable crudites. Peel and chop fruit into bite sized chunks. Kids want to be out in the playground, not struggling to peel a satsuma! Wrap carrot, celery and cucumber sticks in damp kitchen towel to stop them drying out and include a hummous or cheese and chive dipping pot. Ready (and easy) to eat food is more likely to get eaten!

Freeze cartons of juice so that it helps to keep the contents of the lunchbox cool and fresh. A slushy, cold drink is great in Summer too.

Lunchtime at school is the perfect time to persuade fussy eaters to try new things. It is a social occasion when children all get together and they notice what others are eating. Kids will often develop a bit of lunchbox envy and you can use this to your advantage! One idea is to communicate with other parents on what your children's lunchboxes will contain so that they all eat the same. You could even take this a step further and get together with a few other parents and create a lunchbox rota where the same parent makes lunch for three or four kids at the same time. This means they get to try new things and you get a few days off of lunchbox duty! Another idea is to put extras of certain things into your child's packed lunch so that they can share them with their friends.

Personalise lunchboxes - especially for younger children. Lunchboxes are, effectively, a reminder of home. Put little notes in, add stickers and draw smiley faces on fruit.

Organisation is the key when it comes to fuss free, easy lunchboxes. Plan ahead, use up leftovers and involve the kids - take them shopping for food and get them to help you make things. You are more likely to have an empty lunch box returned to you at the end of the day if your child has chosen their sandwich fillings and fruit or if it contained a home made muffin that he or she baked him/herself.

And whilst on the subject of muffins, that was exactly what we baked with Annabel. Carrot, apple and sultana ones to be precise. The recipe is in her book, Top 100 Meals in Minutes, which is published by Ebury Press and available on Amazon here.

Thanks to Annabel's team and Disney for organising such a fun morning. We were sent home with Disney lunchboxes packed full of stationary for school and Annabel Karmel snacks, plus the fruits of our labour which were absolutely delicious. Daisy was made up with her new Minnie Mouse goodies!

Enjoy the last few days of the summer holidays everyone. Not long now til the kids are back at school and normality resumes! xoxox

Friday, 26 August 2011

Foodie Friday---- British 'Sun' Dried Tomatoes

I've written about my love of tomatoes before. I blooming A D O R E them. I've also posted a delicious and uber easy tomato, garlic, chilli and basil pasta sauce recipe - a perfect summer lunch or winter dinner.

This week I am sharing another tomato recipe which is great for my fellow veg growers at this time of year. Its so easy even Himself couldn't mess it up; it's more vegetable 'preparation' really. It's an ideal way to use up an abundant tomato crop and will provide you with tomatoes for the whole winter.

Unfortunately we don't have a climate like Italy so actually sun drying tomatoes is a bit difficult. It is, however, very easy to cheat using an oven! Drying your own tomatoes is a lengthy process but soooo worth it I promise. It also only costs a fraction of the price of posh shop bought varieties, plus you can fiddle around with the herbs and spices and make some perfect for your palette!

What you need.
A grill pan/lots of grill pans/wire racks resting on baking trays (depending on how many tomatoes you are drying)
Jars with lids and seals
A knife for chopping


Tomatoes (lots - any kind, I used plum tomatoes)
Fresh thyme (you could use basil or oregano instead)
A chilli per jar of tomatoes (optional - you must all know my love of S P I C E by now!)
Olive oil (lots)

What to do.
Wash and half your tomatoes. Place on your grill tray/wire racks, cut side down, and leave to drain for an hour. (Some of the pulp and seeds will trickle away into the tray).
Preheat oven to gas mark 2.
Turn tomatoes onto their backs (skin side down).
Sprinkle each half with a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper and a pinch of sugar and add a few leaves of thyme.
Dry in the oven for 6-8hrs. The chilli can go in with them as it is. Keep an eye on them though, all ovens are different. You are not roasting them or cooking them, you are drying them.
Once they are ready (they will have shrivelled slightly) place them into sterilised jars with a chilli and a sprig of fresh thyme and cover with olive oil.
Sealed jars will last six months.
Unsealed/open ones will last one month in the fridge.

Enjoy x


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A Trip to Garson's Farm

Daisy and I paid Garson's Farm in Esher a visit yesterday. It's not your typical farm; there are no animals. It is a pick your own farm, and the fact it is only 20 minutes away (by car) from Richmond makes it a perfect day out for families from the borough.

Fruit and veg can be picked in season here, and their prices are very reasonable. There is nothing nicer than spending the day in the sunshine collecting together the ingredients for a special meal. Which is exactly what Daisy and I spent our afternoon doing. We specifically went to pick tomatoes to 'sun' dry in bulk for the winter (check this week's upcoming Foodie Friday post for details on how to do that!) but we also collected potatoes, carrots, spinach and peas (for last night's curry dinner) and strawberries (to make what we call 'pink milk' as a special treat today).

Daisy had such a great time running up and down the rows of vegetables - and actually being allowed to pick them was the icing on the cake!

I really wasn't surprised by the number of families enjoying a day out - the farm is huge (you can drive from field to field if you're not up to walking round it in it's entirety) and it is very easy to spend a full day there.

Garson's Farm also has a very well kept picnic field, a garden centre, a restaurant and a farm shop - the latter of which was truly fabulous and my idea of heaven. Hundreds of shelves and different deli counters packed full of delicious local and organic delicacies! We couldn't leave without buying a big tub of olives and some Montezuma's giant chocolate buttons!

Garson's Farm
Winterdown Road
West End
KT10 8LS


I am a member of British Mummy Bloggers and follow British Mummy Blogger guidelines when I review products and services. I have not received payment in any way, shape or form for this review - it is simply my personal opinions on a truly lovely local business.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

BigJigs Giveaway: The Winner!

Thanks to everyone that entered the Modern Mummy BigJigs competition, courtesy of The Wooden Toy Shop. has worked its magic and I'm very pleased to annouce the winner!

Emma Tabitha! - Please contact me with your address so that I can arrange for The Wooden Toy Shop to post your prize out to you.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Foodie Friday---- Super Speedy Sausage & Bean Casserole

All this crappy Summer weather we've had recently has made me crave really comforting hearty hot food. I have had enough of salads and BBQs; I'm ready to embrace Autumn and lots of lovely seasonal pies and stews.

A friend gave me her recipe for Sausage & Bean casserole this week, and I decided to cook it on Tuesday, after the wind chill factor made me wear a cardigan ALL DAY LONG. Yes in AUGUST. I adapted the recipe a bit to include random odds and ends that we had in our fridge and, despite not being particularly fond of sausages, it went down a treat! I will definitely be making it again.

The pros of this recipe are that you really can whack anything you fancy into it - and it only takes about 25 minutes. So no slow cooker/slaving over a hot stove for hours required!

What you need.
A large frying pan/wok.
Wooden spoon.
Chopping board and knife.

Sausages (whatever you like - I chose chipolatas)
Cannelini beans
Olive oil
Red onion
Chopped tomatoes
Frozen peas

*I'm not specifying quantities here firstly because you may want to substitute ingredients and secondly only you will know how much your family eats. The photo shows the ingredients used in a casserole made to feed two greedy adults and one toddler. There were no leftovers! (oink!)

What to do.
Prepare your veg. Peel and chop your potatoes and carrots into big chunks and boil. Finely chop the celery, chilli and garlic and roughly chop the onion. I also chopped the chipolatas into inch long pieces.

Soften the celery and onion in a frying pan of hot oil, along with the garlic and chilli. Add the sausages and cook til browned (about 10-12mins for chipolatas). Add the chopped tomatoes and rosemary and simmer for five minutes, then add the cannelini beans and simmer for a futher ten minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots and a handful of frozen peas a few minutes before the end of the cooking time.

Serve with fresh crusty bread smothered in real butter. Mmmmmmm.


Psssssst. Do you want to know a secret? I'm going to spend more time on Foodie Friday over the upcoming weeks and months. I really want things to take off and for like minded foodie people to be able to come to the MM blog to share their recipes. Need more info on the Recipe Sharing Revolution? Look here! And please let me have your thoughts and comments - is this something you would like to take part in? How would you like it to work?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Old Goat, Fulwell - Yummy Mummy Thursdays: A Review

The Old Goat in Fulwell (previously The Fulwell Arms) is well known within the local area for its great food. It has built up a fantastic reputation for its Belgian influenced cuisine - and the Sunday roasts are also very very very good.

But something else they do, which is not very well known, is to host Yummy Mummy Thursdays - a day set aside especially for mums (and dads!), where you can leave the kids in a secure(ish) play area and kick back, relax and enjoy a delicious lunch. The best bit is YOU GET A FREE DRINK when you order food. Beer, wine, whatever you fancy. How good is that? Not that I'm an old lush or anything!

The lunchtime session runs from 12-4.30 every week and the menu (see here) has plenty to choose from. There are also sandwiches, specials and kids meals (which are £3.50). The free drink applies to any adult meal, be it a steak and chips or a prawn sandwich.

The play area isn't great for toddlers and bigger children; it's just a cordoned off section of the pub where the wooden floor is covered and bags of toys are left out to entertain the little ones - but it's perfect for babies that are sitting and/or crawling, and older children are still welcome.

The staff were very friendly and accommodating and the food was delicious. I know I'm easily pleased but its so nice to not have to prepare your own lunch and wash up afterwards. Plus I don't think I could get away with drinking a rose spritzer at home on my own at midday....

It's a great opportunity to meet other mums in the area - and it's always nice to know about a local pub where kids are welcome and you can sit and have lunch without local businessmen rolling their eyes everytime your children move / breathe / ask for a drink / play.

For more information, pop down one Thursday or contact The Old Goat by telephone on 020 8977 2698.

I am not affiliated to The Old Goat in any way. This is not a sponsored post, and no freebies/monetary payment were received in exchange for writing it. It's purpose is just to inform fellow local mums of baby/child friendly places in the area

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Eating Healthily with Kids: A BigJigs Giveaway!

We've been quite lucky with Daisy in as much as she eats (and enjoys!) lots of different healthy foods. Himself and I are both quite strict when it comes to being active and eating 5 a day - and that goes for ourselves as well as Miss Moo.

A balanced diet is vital for children although I am a strong believer in the age old saying "a little bit of what you fancy does you good". You've probably noticed that I am not a neurotic mother that only gives her child raisins and carrot sticks as a treat. Daisy gets chocolate or cake every now and again - at Christmas she even had chocolate BEFORE BREAKFAST (quick! someone call Social Services!).

However every day she will get more than five portions of fruit and veg and we all regularly eat an assortment of fish, meat, pulses, eggs, dairy and lots of carbs. A healthy diet is important for the development of strong bones and teeth, to stay well in general and to provide energy which, there is no denying, our kids need a lot of!

There aren't masses of resources to educate our pre-schoolers in the importance of healthy eating; that job is down to us as parents.

There is, however, one fab toy on the market that I would whole heartedly recommend - and that is the BigJigs Healthy Eating Fish SetWhat better way to teach children about healthy eating than with toy food? Four boxes of wooden fruit, vegetables and fresh and tinned fish in fact. As your children learn to recognise the different foods, you can tell them how they make you big and strong.

I have blogged about the brilliant Wooden Toy Shop before (see my review of the John Crane Easel here). I seriously love these guys and they have very generously given me one of the BigJigs Healthy Food Sets to give away. BigJigs make a huge range of beautiful wooden toys, including walkers, dolls houses, play kitchens and model railways.

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning the BigJigs toy food set all you have to do is subscribe to this blog through Google Connect or NetworkedBlogs, follow Modern Mummy and The Wooden Toy Shop on Twitter and leave a comment to say you are doing so in the box below.

Now for the boring stuff! The competition will close at 23.59 GMT on Monday, 15 August 2011 and I will randomly select a winner the following day using's random number generator. The winner will be announced on this blog and Twitter, and the prize will be sent directly to you from The Wooden Toy Shop. This competition is open to UK residents only.

Good luck! xoxox


Monday, 8 August 2011

Modern Mummy is LOVED BY PARENTS!!!!

OH MY GOD---- I've only gone and won the Blogger of the Year award!!!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Without deliberately sounding all Gwyneth-Paltrow-gushing-at-the-Oscars-in-1999, thank you all so much for voting for me and Modern Mummy! I'm over the moon - it really does mean a lot. I've only been blogging for eleven (brilliant!) months and it was a big enough shock that I was shortlisted - to win is just a m a z i n g. Thanks to Lovedbyparents for hosting the awards and for doing such a fantastic job with the announcements on Twitter and Facebook over the course of today (you deserve an award yourselves!!!) and massive congrats to all the other winners and my fellow finalists.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Moving House

Research shows that moving house is one of the most stressful things you will ever do in your life. And the clever researchy people that discovered that are not wrong.

The sale of our house and the search for a new one wasn't the hard bit, although it did take a bloody long time (fourteen months! Yes really!). It's been the packing that has caused me to nearly have a nervous breakdown on more than one occasion. It is never ending! I very naively thought it would take a day - two tops - to put the entire contents of our home into a few cardboard boxes. It took me a day and a half to pack up our books alone and more boxes than I ever thought was possible.

I have found the sorting out of things quite theraputic in all fairness; I'm a hoarder and for the first time in my life I have been really, really ruthless. Today I took six bin bags of clothes and two boxes of bric-a-brac to the charity shop. And there will be more too, I'm sure. I have also unearthed some B R I L L I A N T stuff - old photos, old diaries, old letters. It's just finding the time to do it that's the hard and stressful part - especially with a toddler and a puppy underfoot (and lots of entertaining diary entries to distract you). Every time I put something in a box, either Daisy takes it straight back out again, or Percy tries to eat it.

 A Travelcard glued into my 1996 diary - when a 16 year old me skived
off school to go into London with my friend Emma and then spent the evening in The Mitre pub. Ha!

 Gigs I went to in 1995

My diary entry after the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994. "HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE?!"

I am about two thirds of the way there now and very much looking forward to it all being over. I know it will be worth it in the end. But in the meantime I thought I would share a few tips for successful packing (and unpacking!)*

*No doubt this post will be updated as and when I come up with other things I wish I'd done...!

1. Plan ahead and save up and store bubble wrap, newspapers and boxes. I can guarantee you will need more than you think. Look on ebay for cheap second hand packing boxes and ask at your local supermarket for freebies. Invest in lots of good quality packing tape and make sure boxes are taped at the bottom as well as the top for extra strength.

2. Don't overpack boxes - especially if there is a chance you may be lifting them yourself at some point! Label your boxes too - so that you know what is in them when it comes to unpacking at the other end.

3. Set aside all your essentials - enough cutlery, crockery, glassware, toiletries, clothes etc to see you through until you move. Then brace yourself to pack everything else.

4. Be ruthless in your sorting. Get rid of things. I have been hoarding clothes for years 'just in case' Buffalo trainers come back into fashion, or I have an 80s party to go to and might fancy wearing a hot pink sequinned mini skirt. The fact is most of these clothes are a size 8.... which I most definitely am not anymore. Do a car boot sale or sell some of your bits and pieces on ebay and make yourself a bit of extra cash. Or give things away to charity. Try and recycle whatever you are planning on chucking.

5. Ask for help whenever you need it. Get a babysitter! Packing is a N I G H T M A R E with kids about. Or conserve energy (yeah right) during the day and pack at night once the sproglets are in bed. Rope friends in to help with the packing and removals. Make sure you keep the workers refreshed with tea and cake. And don't forget to say thank you with a few glasses of vino - but only at the end of the day!

And on that note, I'm off to reward myself for a hard day's work with a bottle glass of pinot noir in the bath. Night all xoxox

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

In The Night Garden Live, Richmond: A Review

When I heard that ITNG Live was coming to Richmond, I have to admit I was a little bit excited. On madam's behalf of course.

We went to see it this afternoon and it was B R I L L I A N T. Daisy loved every second of the show and it was adorable watching her eyes light up every time a new character came on stage and listening to her squeal with delight and clap her hands to all the songs.

There were two shows to choose from, each with a different story. We booked the Pinky Ponk show where Makka Pakka washes everyone's faces until his sponge gets stuck in Upsy Daisy's megaphone! (The alternative is the Ninky Nonk show - where Iggle Piggle loses his blanket and everyone helps him find it!) The shows last just under an hour (perfect for toddlers; Daisy just started fidgeting in the last five minutes) and are held in a purpose built 'showdome' which provides lots of baby changing facilities and a big buggy park.

The location of the showdome is spot on. Old Deer Park in Richmond is easily accessible by train, bus and car - and for people travelling from further afield wanting to make a day of it, there are plenty of other things to do and see in the local area. Richmond Pool (Pools on the Park) is right next door (and has a fabulous outdoor swimming pool which would have been bloody amazing to dive into today!), Kew Gardens is a ten minute walk up the road plus there are plenty of cafes and restaurants in Richmond Town Centre to pop into for brunch, lunch or dinner.

Daisy and I arrived a little before the gates officially opened this afternoon which was a bit of a faux pas - we had to queue for twenty minutes in THE HOTTEST 'SHOWDOME' IN THE WORLD. Obviously, being 30degrees today, it was bound to be warm but the website did claim that the showdome was air conditioned and it was disappointing to discover that this didn't apply to the foyer.

The brilliant seating - perfect for fidgety kids. The four rows on the left (on the other
side of the barrier) were the premium area - not worth the additional £8+ in my humble opinion

After a sweaty start, we were ushered into the theatre on time and all was forgiven. The set up was fabulous. Rather than having old fashioned, uncomfortable chairs, the seating plan was more like an amphitheatre, with purpose built semi-circular steps to sit on and lots of space. Although it was definitely cooler in there, I'm not convinced there was working air conditioning; we were all handed paper fans on the way in.

There were plenty of refreshments on sale inside the theatre (drinks, crisps, chocolate and  ice creams) along with souvenier programmes (£5) and neon electric Iggle Piggle or Upsy Daisy fan/lights (£6).

The show was spectacular. There were both life size costumes and smaller puppets for each of the characters and all of them were ace! The puppets were just G E N I U S. I loved the tomliboos. They were actually attached to the puppeteers so all movements were really OTTand funny - there was lots of dancing and little kicks which made me chuckle, plus I *swear* one of the tomliboos was doing some dodgy bump and grinding which had me in stitches - not sure if the puppeteer was having a laugh but I liked it anyway. The actors and puppeteers all worked really hard and did a great job. The lighting was great, there were lots of bubbles (much to Daisy's delight) and everyone joined in with the songs.

After the show you left via a big souvenier tent, where you could buy all sorts of paraphernalia. It was all pretty reasonably priced too which was good. We bought a set of books (£5), an Upsy Daisy purse (£3) and a helium balloon (£4). You could also have your photo taken with Iggle Piggle or Upsy Daisy (£15).

I would thoroughly recommend going if you get a chance (the shows run until 13 August) - however if the weather remains the same I would also thoroughly recommend wearing as little clothing as you can get away with and taking plenty of cold drinks with you. Also if you want your little one to have his or her photograph taken with one of the characters then make sure you speak to a steward on your way in. I wasn't aware that you needed to do this and although I could have added Daisy's name to the waiting list it would have meant hanging around for an extra 45 minutes - and the exit dome was as hot as the foyer.

Tickets can be booked from the Night Garden Live website here - and prices range from £14.50 to £27.50, depending on the time and date of the show and whether or not you choose the premium option.

Daisy and I are both a little bit in love with Makka Pakka. And on that note I'm going to leave you with a photo of him that I've pinched from the official site..... xoxox

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