Father’s Day Gift Ideas, for any Dad in your life

May is here are the weather has (occasionally) been fantastic! Honestly, when’s it’s been nice, we couldn’t have asked for better. A warm sun with a gentle breeze. Perfect! It’s allowed us to do one of the things we love the most, which is get out in our garden. It’s is so much bigger than the house, that when the weather’s nice we tend to gravitate out there, to play, relax and soak up some vitamin D. And when we can, we also love a good barbecue. We had the first BBQ of the year last week. Ben’s very proud of his BBQ. I call it the behemoth, because not only is it a grill, but it’s also a smoker too. If you’re interested in smoking or slow barbecuing you can read my post about it here.

He's very proud of his BBQ!

He’s very proud of his BBQ!

It’s a proper man toy and a few years ago Oscar bought Ben a snazzy set of BBQ tools (in their own case that look something like an assassin might carry) for Father’s Day. Ben was thrilled with them and they’ve been used every barbecue season since, to turn the food and prod the coals. They were a good present!

But I’m never sure what to get Ben for Father’s Day and I always leave it to the last minute. I’m hoping when Oscar’s older he can have some kind of input or even better make him something so I don’t have to make the decision, but for now it’s my job. I’m trying to get ahead of myself this year with some ideas. But where to start? I decided to looks at previous year’s gifts and see if I can get any inspiration from those. And if you can too, well that’s just dandy!

2012

A cast of Oscar's 8 week old footprint. A proper first Father's Day gift.

A cast of Oscar’s 8 week old footprint. A proper first Father’s Day gift.

Ben’s first Father’s Day and Oscar was only two months old. All Ben (and I) really wanted that year was sleep. Oh precious sleeeeeep. But as that wasn’t going to happen, I went for a keepsake instead, buying a cast of Oscar’s tiny foot from a local company called Little Impressions. I have to say this was a perfect first Father’s Day gift, but I probably wouldn’t have bought it any other year. Although it was quite expensive at the time, I’m really glad I did it. Isn’t it gorgeous?

2013

Father and Son. This picture is framed and in our lounge.

Father and Son. This picture is framed and in our lounge.

I wanted to get something a little bit personal to Ben and Oscar and by chance had taken this photo on my phone a few weeks before Father’s Day. It’s not the best quality photo, but Ben loved the image, especially as he didn’t know I’d taken it. I got it printed through an online printer (Photobox I think) and the frame from Homebase.

2014

A manly gift for Father's Day

Serious BBQ utensils for a serious BBQ chef! All stored in a serious looking case!

As I mentioned I was inspired by Ben’s purchase of the BBQ just before Father’s Day with this one. It’s less personal, but very ‘Fatherly’ and it was received just as well. I bought it from Amazon, but I’ve seen for sale it in various places.

2015

I love this image I captured last Father's Day. Twinning is win, with love.

I love this image I captured last Father’s Day. Twinning is winning, with love.

I loved it and so did Little Bird, who chose it to be part of their Father's Day post last year.

Little Bird also loved it, and chose it to be part of their 2015 IG Father’s Day post. Obviously our photo is the best right? 😉

Last year I had already bought Oscar a tshirt from Little Bird at Mothercare when they released a limited edition, Daddy size version just in time for Father’s Day. My guys had never done twinning before, but how cute is this? Even more cute was that Little Bird chose my Instagram picture of the boys in their tees for their Father’s Day Post. This was a lovely present and even though Oscar has grown out of his (boohoo), Ben still wears his.

So there we go. Seems I like personal gifts or those that are practical. And I think they’re the kind of gifts Ben likes too (although I think he probably prefers manly, Fatherly gifts) And short of buying him a flat cap and a pipe here are some of the ideas I have had for this year.

I love this bunting from Bonkers for Bunting. What a super idea for decorating for Father’s Day and if the Dad in your life has an office or a workroom or even a shed they spend lot of time in, what a lovely decoration and reminder of their children’s love all the year round. I love that these buntings are completely customisable, so if you would prefer Daddy or even some other name then they can accommodate you! Plus they’re all handmade with love by a mumtrepreneur down in beautiful Devon. What more could you ask for?

Bunting for Father's Day.

Beautiful handmade bunting for Father’s Day.

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If the Dad in your life likes to think that he’s handy, but is really more of a hacker then how about some Sugru, the crazy mouldable glue made for life hackers. This stuff is mind boggling, both in it’s properties and the amount of incredibly useful things it can be used for. It starts out soft like putty but dries to a hard but flexible, waterproof, cold proof, heat resistant to 180°C rubber, that sticks to most materials. I’ve been trying to think of things round our house that need Sugru and the more I think the more I come up with. Frayed cables need mending, the freezer drawer is cracked, pan handles need fixing, the rubber feet on the toastie maker need replacing, seriously the list goes on. Ben is a keen gardener and you know how gardeners love a good hack to help them grow their veggies, so I can imagine this would also be really useful down at the allotment!

In case I haven’t described it very well here’s a fab 89 second long explanation of what Sugru is!

They produce all sorts of different size packs and kits, but if you’re new to Sugru then maybe the Starter Kit is for you.

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This includes

  • 5 single use packs of Sugru in Classic Red, Snow White, Pitch Black, Mossy Green and Silver Grey
  • a practical storage tin
  • a booklet chock full of project ideas and how-to guides

So if the dad is your life loves to fix rather than replace (and good on him if he does) or just likes to save a bit of money along the way, this is the gift to help him do just that!

Hope these ideas have been of some help. Let me know what you’re thinking of giving this Father’s Day. I’d love to know.

 

 

 

 

I would like to thank Sugru for gifting me the Starter Kit to try. None of the other products were gifted to me.

I was not paid to write this review and as always my opinions are my own.

 

 

Southern Style Slow Cooked BBQ – in your own back garden

This last weekend was just superb weather. A bit of sunshine can make all the difference to how everything feels. And with the good weather should always come BBQ. I love barbecued food and would eat it every day if I could. Two years ago we bought a proper beast of a grill. None of this gas fired nonsense. A proper coal barbecue with (cos we’re fancy like that) an offset smoker. We loved the idea of getting a hunk of meat and slow cooking it the way they do in the Deep South, ’til it’s charred on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside.

I won’t lie, it’s not as simple to do as turning on a slow cooker and leaving it. It takes quite a bit of looking after, but both times we’ve done it it’s been simply amazing! When I posted the pictures of last night’s dinner so many people asked how we did it I thought I’d try and explain here.


So I’m sure there are a hundred different ways to slow BBQ but we use an offset smoker barbecue. The idea is that the coals sit in that little attachment at the side. There’s a vent through to the main body of the BBQ and the heat, and the smoke from the wood chips, is pushed through, keeping the BBQ at a constant temperature over an extended period.

Once the coals have heated the drum up to around 200 degrees F, we add a couple of handfuls of hickory wood chips (soaked in water for at least an hour beforehand), and the smoker is ready to start slow cooking.

You can smoke almost anything, but I’ve only ever done Beef, brisket to be precise, so that’s what I’ll explain here

Slow Barbecued Brisket

Get the meat out of the fridge to warm up to room temp at least an hour before cooking. You can flavour it however you like. I’ve tried premade rubs, but yesterday I used my own mixture and it was bloody lovely. I coated the meat generously just before putting it on the BBQ. I didn’t do it sooner as the rub had salt in it and I didn’t want it to draw out too much moisture. I used:

  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 or 1tsp smoked paprika (depending on the strength of your preferred brand)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds slightly bashed to release the flavour
  • Sea salt to taste


Once the meat is happily coated, place it on the grill, with any fat facing up. We coat the base of the drum in foil like this, as the meat drips as it cooks and it’d be a bugger to clean if we didn’t!

Then close the lid. And keep it closed! The hardest part is not opening it to check the meat, but seriously, every time you open it you’ll lose heat and slow barbecuing is all about consistent temperature (in our case of around 200 degrees F or 120 degrees C). To achieve this you need to top up the coals in the smoker every hour, or hour and a half, of cooking. And the first three times you do that you should also add another handful or so of the soaked wood chips. Then let it do its thing, while you relax in the garden!

How long it takes to cook will depend on the size of your piece of meat, but I reckon you’re looking at anything from four to eight hours. This size took about six hours and a smaller piece we did about five.

When you think it’s done, it needs to come off the grill and rest. Honestly, if you don’t let it rest you won’t get the melting texture inside. To keep it warm, we double wrapped ours in foil and then wrapped that in a tea towel. Again, resting time will depend, but we left it for at least half an hour and it was fine.


When it’s rested, slice it as you would a roast and tuck the hell in!

Last night’s dinner was BBQ brisket with balsamic dressed leaves and chilli swede chips. Yep you heard right; SWEDE chips. Someone suggested them at Slimming World last week, so I thought I’d give them a go and I can’t believe I’ve not done them before!

Chilli Swede Chips

Peel a raw swede, cut into thick slices and then cut into chips. Spray a oven tray with Frylight and add the chips. Spray again with Frylight, sprinkle with sea salt and dust with chilli powder (if you like chilli, omit if you don’t). Whack them in the oven at gas mark 9, 240 degrees C for 45 minutes, turning once or twice in the process. And voilà. Delicious, low carb (if you’re interested in that) chips. Perfect for an Extra Easy SP day.

So there you go. I’m not suggesting everyone run out and buy a smoker, but if you are interested in slow barbecuing with a standard BBQ a quick Google will come up with loads of suggestions of how to do it. I particularly liked this one. But if you’re in the market for a new BBQ, and fancy having a go at slow cooking, maybe consider one with a smoking function.

Can’t wait until the weather’s good enough to do it again. Hmmm, what to slow cook next do you reckon?

Our Favourite Five – July

Its that time again and I’m joining in fellow Surrey mummy Suburban Mum‘s link up Our Favourite Five. The idea is to look back over your family’s month and pick out five things you’ve enjoyed. Here’s my five for July.

Magnificent Stanley

I came across children’s clothing company Magnificent Stanley over a year ago. Becky specialises in handmade, customised items, using the most gorgeous Liberty fabric. I first bought from her last summer, when I ordered a tshirt and baby vest, in matching fabric, for Oscar’s friend Isabelle and her new baby sister Mollie. I loved them so such I knew I was going to have to get one for Oscar one day. It took me a while, but last month Becky introduced some new fabric. Coupled with the summer yellow tshirt, I just knew the time was right. And what a result! How gorgeous does he look in this Yellow T-shirt/JennyFan combo? He’s received so many compliments when wearing it . His teacher even told me it was her favourite tshirt! Praise indeed.

The shirt in its first outing, before it got covered in chocolate ice cream! FYI it's washed up brilliantly!

The shirt in its first outing, before it got covered in chocolate ice cream! FYI it’s washed up brilliantly!

My happy boy in his Magnificent Stanley original.

My happy boy in his Magnificent Stanley original.

MasterChef

While only the celeb version, I was still thrilled to have MC back on our screens. It’s the one thing we always make a point to watch on real TV these days (we sometimes even watch it while it’s being broadcast! I know right?!) I don’t know why we love it so much, but I think it’s something to do with the inner judge in me. Ben and I have become worse than Michelin Inspectors over the years and I can tell you now, I know whether a piece of meat is under or over just by looking at it! This series we both developed a grudging love of Rylan and were sad he didn’t win. You’ve got to hand it to Kimberly though. She started the programme with a 15 WEEK OLD BABY! When Oscar was that age I was still surviving on toast. Literally!

Kimberly Wyatt - Winner of Celebrity Masterchef 2015

Kimberly Wyatt – Winner of Celebrity Masterchef 2015

HappyBox

Towards the end of July, I really wasn’t very well. Nothing serious, I just felt rough. And down. It happens, but it’s not fun. My buddy Bethany came over to see me while I was feeling particularly rubbish. I thought I was holding it together pretty well, but I guess I wasn’t. Because the next day the most amazing gift arrived.

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It was a Happy Box, from the company of the same name. I’d never heard of them, but boy, what a gift. A gorgeous box, filled with little trinkets to cheer the soul. In mine was a trio of body creams, a set of Beefayre candles and a bracelet I’ve worn every day since. Totally unexpected and totally adored. Thank you Bethany and thank you HappyBox for helping me out of the dumps!

I smell look and feel beautiful. What else could you need to make you Happy?

I smell, look and feel beautiful. What else could you need to make you Happy?

Barbecues

July has truly been the month of Barbecuing for us. We started the month we our very first July 4th cookout, held for our American buddy and her family. It was AWESOME. The food was great (you can read about my Layered Flag Dip here), we had some amazing American beer (Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale was my favourite) and the weather couldn’t have been any kinder. We sat and talked and ate and drank all afternoon. Oh and the children had fun too (I assume 😉 ). I would happily do that every year!

All the food and the flags! U.S.A. U.S.A ;)

All the food and all the flags! U.S.A. U.S.A ???

As well as hosting our own BBQs, we also went to several hosted by other people. What is it about cooking outside that brings people together? We had an awesome time towards the end of July, when we went to a BBQ held in honour of some old friends who were visiting from the US, where they now live. It was great to catch up with everyone and particularly lovely to see Lou, Noel and Leia.

Super fun get together

Super fun get together

Ahhhh friends.

Ahhhh friends….

Bringing people together. With alcohol ?

…friends with alcohol ?

John Mayer

OK, this is mine alone. I don’t have a favourite kind of music. I’ll listen to a fairly eclectic mix and it mostly depends what mood I’m in. Thank god for Spotify right? Any who, I recently heard an old tune of John Mayer’s a couple of times in various places and ended up looking it up. And fell a little bit in love. I don’t know much about him, other than he seems to go through women like socks. But I can’t stop listening to his music. Does anyone else like him? Any recommendations of further listening gratefully received.

It's his music I love. Honestly!

It’s his music I love. Honestly!

What did you enjoy in July? I’d love to know.

 

I was not paid to endorse any of these brands. I paid for Oscar’s tshirt myself and the HappyBox was a gift from a friend. I just like sharing the things I love.

Layered Flag Dip Recipe

We don’t have a summer holiday the way the Americans do. Our weather is so unpredictable, even in the summer, that BBQs tend to be last minute things, with no planning involved. So when my American friend Bethany suggested we have a Summer BBQ months ago it was actually really exciting to plan. Weather be damned! And when she suggested having it on 4th July, to celebrate Independance Day, well, I hit the Pinterest with a vengeance.

Having used Pinterest for Oscar’s birthday party recently, I was aware how bonkers they go for party theming stateside, so was unsurprised to see how many ideas there were for a 4th July shindig. I found a red, white and blue version of everything you could possibly need or want at your patriotic BBQ, some of it really awesome looking, some incredibly tacky. Then I saw this recipe for a layered dip. Designed to look like the American flag! It was just so, well, American. I knew straight away I had to make it as a centrepiece for my first all American cookout.

Tex Mex Layered Dip. Flag decoration optional!

Tex Mex Layered Dip. Flag decoration optional!

It was actually incredibly easy to make, but looked amazing and tasted fantastic.

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Ingredients

  • 1 can Refried Beans
  • 1 packet Taco Seasoning
  • 1 pot salsa
  • 1 pot olives (about 100g)
  • Half an iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 bag of grated cheese (I used Monterey Jack, but any mild cheddar would do)
  • 1 large tub of Philidelphia
  • 1 large pot of sour cream
  • 1 large/beef tomato

If you want to do the flag decoration then also:

  • Handful of Blue Tortilla chips
  • 2/3 slices of mozerella or other pale coloured cheese
Blue Tortilla Chips. Not dyed, but made from actual blue corn. I got these from Ocado but you can find them in many large supermarkets.

Blue Tortilla Chips. Not dyed, but made from actual blue corn. I got these from Ocado but you can find them in many large supermarkets.

Method

Mix the taco seasoning with the Refried beans and spread the mixture over the base of a large rectangular dish

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Cover the beans with the salsa, cut the olives in half and sprinkle over the salsa.

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Top with the shredded iceberg lettuce and the cheese

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Mix together the Philadelphia with the sour cream.

If you’re going to make this into a flag, then use a small amount of the cream cheese mix to make a small square in the the top left hand corner of the dish.

Blitz the blue corn chips in the food processor (or otherwise crush). Sprinkle the crumbs onto the square of cream cheese mix.

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Then put the rest of the cream cheese mix in a freezer bag or a piping bag (depending on how fancy you are 😉 ), snip the end off and pipe stripes across the dish.

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Chop the tomato finely and fill the gaps inbetween the cream cheese mix.

I had a tiny star cutter (thank you the boy’s playdoh box) but you could just use a straw a make dots in place of stars. Cut them out of the mozerella (the sheet slices, not the fresh stuff) and pop them on the blue chip crumbs.

Et voila!

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Serve with the remainder of the blue corn chips or any other tortilla chips you like. Or a fork. It’s that good!

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Bethany takes an inaugural dip!

Obviously, we would have less need for a dip that looks like an American flag, in the UK, but I totally urge you just to make a stripy one instead. Or if you’re the crafty type, how about a Union Flag?

Let me know if you have a go at this. I’d love to hear if you like it as much as I, and my guests, did.

xx

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Slimming World Update – Week 46

Hihihi!

How you doing? Sorry I’ve just discovered ‘Episodes’ – how you smelling? Fantastic.

Anyways, I’m good thanks and have had a busy old week. Last Sunday was the first of the baby showers I have this month. The weather was amazing and the mothers to be, Jane and Ella, both radiant. We had such a great time, although I feel I may have scared Jane to the core with my tales of new motherhood. I’m sorry if I did Jane. I’m an honest person by nature, but I did come away thinking I needn’t have been quite so honest in this instance 😉 . I have also had two BBQs this week, one at home and one at a friends, and have discovered that BBQing is the perfect medium for Slimming World! I made burgers (two flavours), spicy veggie and prawn kebabs, red pepper hummus and hot coleslaw all syn free. My friends kindly bought syn free potato salad and cous cous salad and Hayley, the cake monster, made low syn SW Carrot Cake. We ate like gods I tell you and we had the biggest fun! And like I said last week, it’s all about the laughs you have!

I was pretty confident about weigh in this week and yet, do you know what? As I waited to get on the scales I was suddenly incredibly nervous. I was shaking in fact. What’s that all about?! This is my 46th week and I still get nervous. I guess that means I still care? I don’t know. Anyway I was very relieved to see I’d lost 1.5lb. Total loss is now 5 stone 9.5lb (79.5lb). It wasn’t quite the 2lb I was aiming for, but after having such an amazing weekend, I’ll take it.

I had another exciting signal that things are a changing this week. My wedding and engagement rings have slowly been getting bigger and bigger as my fingers have been getting smaller and smaller. A couple of weeks ago I threw a ball to my son and my engagement ring went flying off into the garden. It scared me so much I went and bought a ring clip to keep it safely on my finger. However it soon became apparent that this would only be a temporary measure, especially as the clip kept scratching both Oscar and the ring itself. So I decided to bite the bullet and have it resized – 3 sizes smaller, dont you know. Well I picked it up last Saturday and O.M.G. Not only had they managed to resize and reshape the ring and polish it to an amazing shine, the diamonds now look bigger as there’s less platinum showing on either side. Score! They did such an amazing job, I’m having my wedding ring done now too and I’ll be picking up right in time for our 6th wedding anniversary! All together now – ahhhhh!

 

2007-2014. Amazing how pasty an office job you hate will make you.

2007-2014. Amazing how pasty an office job you hate will make you.

This picture shows not only what I mean about the diamonds (and who doesn’t want bigger diamonds 😉 ) but also the difference in my hands. Not only are they so much leaner, they just look so much healthier! And to me they look happier. Yep, I may be crazy, but I honestly think the pudgy, pasty hands on the left look sad compared to the leaner, tanned hands on the right. I guess that reflects how much happier I am in my life these days. And how much time I now spend out of doors!

So despite having another baby shower this weekend (we’re going for afternoon tea with all the tempting cakes and associated loveliness that brings), I still want to reach my 6 Stone award before the 21st. So I think I will enjoy in moderation and let the pregnant lady have most of my share. For all she’s about to go through, it seems only fair 😉

Have a great week

Xxxxx