Our Favourite Five – June

This months 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 all of you (or some of you, see #1!) have enjoyed. Here’s my five for June.

1. Team Umizoomi

Milly, Geo, Bot and YOU! Yes, I’m singing the theme tune in my sleep. Sigh. The pattern making, number counting cartoon is the boy’s new favourite and we’ve been watching it most days this month. In some respects it’s incredibly sweet to watch him running down the garden (or across our bedroom!) shouting ROLL, JUMP, RUN with all the actions included. But on the other hand if I have to listen to Milly singing badly, one more time, I just may cry. I shouldn’t complain I suppose, it’s got him counting everything (he still has a blind spot for 7, but he made it up to 13 this morning!) and at least it’s not Thomas again. But I have to say, I’m kinda happy he’s just discovered Dangermouse. Hopefully Team Umizoomi will be a brief phase. Everybody craaaaazy shake?18-00016

2. Dylan’s Ice Cream

You probably already know how much I love this place. I’ve been going to Dylan’s Milk Barn every week to sit peacefully, use their fab wifi, drink their great coffee and write, since Oscar started preschool in January. However recently Oscar has discovered that he loves and I mean LOVES ice cream. The unbribeable child, is still unbribeable, but can suddenly be ‘encouraged’ out of a situation by the promise of an ice cream cone. He can also ask for it. ‘Eye chick a Mom’ anyone? I think I’ll be heartbroken when he starts pronouncing that properly. Anyway we’ve been finding ourselves in Dylan’s at least once a week throughout June for a chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. We even took grandma on her recent visit. She was most impressed. It’s simply the kind of independent business I love to support, with a great team behind them. The owner, Ben, is always friendly and when I promised the boy an ice cream the other day then realised I’d left my purse at home, he was kind enough to let me pay later. What a great guy and what a great asset to the community.

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3. Netflix

We’ve had a Netflix subscription since Oscar was born. It was a god send then and over the years we’ve become more and more reliant on it. I’m not a big fan of any of the biggies. Ben loves OITNB and House of Cards and Breaking Bad, you know, all the series with the hype. Me, I’m more of a comedy girl and I love a good documentary. However this month I’ve noticed we hardly ever put the real telly on any more. If it wasn’t for Masterchef I don’t know if we ever would! Ben’s been enthralled by the new series of House of Cards and I binge watched Grace and Frankie. Oscar’s favourite on Netflix (for what feels like years) has been Thomas and Friends. However this month Netflix removed all it’s Thomas content. When I realised, I was panicked. How would I explain it to the boy? How would he, or I for that matter, cope? But do you know. He’s been fine and easily distracted with new favourites of Team Umizoomi (see #1), the beautiful animation of Eric Carle’s stories (narrated by Roger McGough and Juliet Stevenson, set to the most relaxing music. He can now say ‘caterpillar’. Only he pronounces it Bagaladar. Biiiig Fat Bagaladar.), and the 80’s kids favourite Dangermouse. Phew! It’s worth every penny of the subscription just to be able to sit down and say ‘what do you fancy?’. Yeah we love Netflix.

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4. Gin Bunny Prints

Nothing to do with the liquor (I’m not a gin drinker myself) but rather the fabulous online greetings card and print store. I’ve had call to buy several cards this month. We’ve had our Anniversary and it was Father’s Day (I know those of you with older children can probably rely on a card made grudgingly lovingly by your children, but I couldn’t be sure if Oscar would perform on the day, so needed an alternative!). I’ve spoken before about how much I’m trying to support independent traders more and when I discovered Katie’s Blog Hurrah for Gin and her online print store Gin Bunny Prints, I just knew she had me covered this month. Her cards are so simple and so funny and just so much more relevant to today than anything you’d find in the shops. In fact I loved them so much, that while buying the anniversary and father’s day offerings I couldn’t resist one for my awesome friend Bethany, just because it was hilarious and I knew she’d also find it hilarious! I promise you I’m not on any kind of commission, but if you’re looking for beautifully made, relevant cards I urge you to check out Gin Bunny Prints. Surely the name alone tells you how awesome this store is 😉 .

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5. The Royal Oak, Haslemere

Hahaha, I know what you’re thinking and no I haven’t been sneaking off for a crafty gin in the day (see above, I’m not a gin drinker 😉 ) but The Royal Oak has become my new favourite hang out with the boy this month. Last week, I decided I needed to stop being so scared of taking Oscar out on my own, beyond the places we are already familiar with (park, Children’s Centre etc). Because he can be somewhat unpredictable, and because I don’t have a car to bundle him into should things go awry, I’ve been somewhat reticent to try new places, without the back up of daddy. But last Thursday, it was a beautiful day and I decided to just go for it. As it happens the Oak is only four doors down from us, but has a large garden with lots of toys. I figured a) it was likely to be quiet and b) if it all went wrong I could probably carry Oscar home. Baby steps as they say. But seriously it couldn’t have been a better place to start. He walked there holding my hand and once in the garden just played and played and played. He occasionally came back to the table to eat a chip and get a drink of water, but other than that he was in his element. I was right, it was quiet, but he didn’t bother the few people who were there. As long as I made sure the gate to the car park stayed closed and bolted (it did) and that he didn’t head towards the pub itself (he didn’t) I realised the Oak’s garden was a fantastic place to take him. The food is OK, it’s no gastro pub for sure and I’m not sure I’d want to take him on a weekend when it’s likely to be much busier, but a lunch date in the week? Yeah, I think we’ll be frequenting the Oak this summer 🙂

The Royal Oak, Haslemere

The Royal Oak, Haslemere

I promise there is only coke and water in this picture!

I promise there is only coke and water in this picture!

Lunch with my guy

Lunch with my guy

The playhouse is pretty shabby chic, but makes for awesome photos ;)

The playhouse is pretty shabby chic, but makes for awesome photos 😉

Playing nicely with the one other child there

Playing nicely with the one other child there

Have you enjoyed anything new this month? Any revelations? Let me know – I love discovering new ideas of things to try.

My Cookbook Shelfie

Although I’ve been blogging for over a year now, I’ve been sort of been, well not avoiding, just not really getting into the whole mummy blogger scene. I don’t know why. I guess I just didn’t really feel what I wrote was ‘good enough’ (haven’t we all been there!), and anyway I never really started this to be a ‘blogger’, I kind of started by mistake! Anyway, anyway, recently I’ve been embracing my ‘blogger’ status a bit more firmly and have starting to reach into this thoroughly established community, largely through Twitter. I have to say I’m loving it. I’m finding more posts than I’ll ever have time to read and I’m feeling inspired left, right and centre! It’s just ever so slightly fabulous!

Soooo, this afternoon, I came across the linky #cookbookshelfie started by Penny Alexander, inviting anyone to join in and share their cookbook shelf’s story. I loved the idea and knew I had to join in the fun!

I’ve loved cooking and cookbooks all my life. I started in my mum’s kitchen, with a copy of her Be-Ro Home recipes book. This one in fact (well this edition – the original fell apart long ago!)

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It was battered and torn and I never made anything from it other than a most passable Victoria Sandwich and (if I remember rightly) some pigs in blankets, but I read it over and over. It gave me a cavalier disregard for keeping cookbooks clean and this is absolutely evident in my own collection today. If it’s not stained, it simply hasn’t been loved in my opinion 😉 .

So on to my own cookbooks. Putting the shelf up for my cookbooks is one of the first things Ben did when we moved in three years ago. It’s pretty stuffed and slightly bowing, but of all the books I own, these are ones I just can’t part with. Here is the shelf.

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In my old life, my books, were always in height order. Always. Today? Weeeeeell, lets just say there are more important things to think about. I could have tidied it up for the photo but that would have been such a lie 😉 ! So anyway, as you can see I am Nigella’s number one fan (more on that later) and I had a bit of a thing for Jamie Oliver before he went all preachy. I don’t mind paperback cookbooks, but I love a hardback, they just feel better somehow. Some of these were gifts, some of them I chose myself. Some I’ve used to death ( I used to use my copy of Nigella Bites so much, I took to leaving it out in the kitchen. Only one day it fell in the sink and got soaked from cover to cover. I was gutted! The copy I have now is a second hand one I got from eBay. It’s never felt the same 🙁 ), some I’ve never made a recipe from (Gary Rhodes 365 was a 30th birthday present, I’ve still not used it). Some of them are particularly focused on low fat, healthy eating (Weightwatchers, Slimming World etc) others not so much (‘101 Best Chocolate Recipes’ anyone?). But regardless of whether I use them regularly or never at all, I’ve read them all. I love reading recipe books. I think it’s one of the reasons I love Nigella’s books so much. You can knock her TV shows for their food porn qualities, but she is an awesome writer and I can read her books over and over (as you’ll see).

Below are a few that mean something special to me. Hope you enjoy!

Oldest book: The Usborne First Cookbook

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My first ever cook book

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Love the illustrations

This was my very first cook book, bought for me by a close family friend in the late 80’s (probably for my 10th birthday actually). I loved this book, I read and re-read it many times. I made various recipes from it – I even took it to school with me in Year 7 to make the Ice Spice Biscuits recipe in Home Ec. The recipe I made most often was the Apple Crumble. I know it’s not a difficult thing to make, but I could never remember quantities and do you know I still can’t now. I’m terrible at following written instructions usually, but actually I can follow recipes no problem – weird huh! Anyway I was thrilled when I found this book among my mums stuff a few years ago and its had pride of place on my cook book shelf ever since.

Most used book: Nigella Express

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A tatty well loved copy

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I don’t even know what that is at the bottom of the page! Gross!

I’ve loved Nigella Lawson since I got How To Eat, way back when (a present from Ben). But although I found How to Eat great to read, I found it largely inaccessible to me as a fledgling home cook. Nigella Express however opened it’s arms wide and drew me in with amazingly easy and delicious recipes. It was a gift at a time when I was working stupidly long hours, so I loved being able to come home and just throw something together. This recipe for Chicken and Beans has been done time and again (and despite that I still always get the book out every time I cook it!). It’s tasty, filling and with a few tiny tweaks very low fat, not something the Queen of Cream is known for!

Never made a recipe from : Best of the Best from Texas Cookbook

Do you know what Crisco is?

Do you know what Valveeta Cheese is?

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Son-of-a-Gun Stew anyone?

I bought this book on my first trip to Texas in 2008. I wanted to bring home a book that had recipes for real Tex Mex and I loved that this was a collection of recipes from many other local books. My favourite contributor titles have to be “I’m Glad I Ate When I Did, Cause I’m Not Hungry Now” and “It’s a Long Way to Guacamole”. This book has some amazing sounding recipes. Personal faves include Nita’s Hidden Treasures, Better Than Sex Cake and the aptly named Navy Beans for Writers (apparently “a man who can cook his own beans don’t hardly need to ask anybody anything about nothing”!) It’s made me giggle many times but I’ve just never got round to making any recipes from it, despite buying measuring cups specially. I will do one day I promise!

Newest book: Slimming World’s Fakeaways

There's a healthily way to have a takeaway

There’s a healthily way to have a takeaway

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A new fave

I’ve been food optimising with Slimming World for 14 months now and one of the things I love about it is the ability to take it’s principles and apply them to my existing cookbooks. With a tweak here and a healthy switch there I can make a lot of my favourite recipes and still lose weight. However on occasion it’s nice not to have to think about tweaking or switching and just to follow a recipe that’s already optimised for you! I only have a couple of Slimming World cook books and this is my latest acquisition. It’s full of healthy and delicious alternatives to standard Take Away meals. A current fave is the Pork in Black Bean Sauce, but I have also made Thai Yellow Curry (once with just vegetables and once with veg and prawns), Pizza and Indian style curry.

My Favourite Book: Feast

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10522736_10153314125000616_8083799139315164052_nI remember the first time I picked this book up; it was in the (now defunct) Borders in Wimbledon. I’ve never been one to sit down and read in a book shop, despite their strategically placed easy chairs. It just feels like stealing to me so I don’t know why I did with this one, but as soon as I did I tumbled in and was lost. I got it for Christmas that year and it’s been my favourite ever since. I’ve made so much from it yes, but I also love reading it. If you’re like me, any celebration in your always comes with food. This book not only contains masses of recipes fit for any occasion, but also discusses the meaning/significance of food at any given occasion. From a Sunday Roast to Seder Night Meal to my favourite chapter the Funeral, I’ve eaten this book up like the food on it’s pages. The recipe I’ve probably made the most is the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake. It’s great for a birthday and I’ve had people mistake it for a professionally made cake, which is always nice. I never put sugar flowers on mine though!

So there you go. My cook book shelf isn’t exactly eclectic, but it’s mine. I’d love to hear what your favourite cook books are, new and old! And the more stained the better. In my opinion 😉 .

If you’d like to join in with the Cookbook Shelfie, check out Penny’s original post here .

#CookBookShelfie