Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Butternut & Ham Risotto

We just had this for supper tonight and it was so yummy, I had to share it right away!  A big hit all round in our house, served with warm french bread.

Medium sized butternut squash
Large knob of butter
Splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
175g risotto rice
600ml vegetable / chicken stock
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
4 slices of ham, torn into pieces

Peel & hollow out the squash and chop into bite size pieces.  Steam for 5-10 minutes - I don't have a steamer but do this instead using a (metal) colander over a saucepan of boiling water.

In a separate, heavy based pan, heat the oil and butter before adding the onion & garlic.  Saute for around 5 mins but don't let it take on any colour if you can help it!  Add the rice and stir well to ensure it is coated.

Add the stock, a splash at a time - just enough so the mixture is wet.  Wait for that to absorb before adding more, and continue until the stock is gone.  Do not leave unattended at this point as it burns / dries really easily!

When you have just a little stock left, add the steamed squash and chopped sage before cooking for the final 5 - 10 minutes.  If needed, you can continue adding a little boiled water if you think the rice is not soft enough.

When ready to serve, stir in the Parmesan and torn ham and spoon into bowls.

NB. I used Applewood smoked ham for this and it was delicious but any ham would work equally well.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Our 1 Year Anniversary!

It's exactly one year today since we swapped our city life in London for this 'ere life in the sticks.  Well OK, not the sticks but you was quite a change!  But happily one that I love.  I don't pine for our old life at all - sure I miss London but if I'm feeling nostalgic I can hop on the train into town and be there within an hour.  And sure enough, within a few hours I'm ready to leave again!

Our life here is so very different to how it used to be, much more than I imagined.  I love that we spend most of our weekends at home now - in London, we were always looking to get out and do things with the kids but here we are content in our home.  The kids love helping out in the garden, where DH spends most of his spare time, and we have the space to just "be" a family.

DS on move day...the fun of cardboard boxes!

We shop and eat differently here too.  Most days in town would involve a trip to the High Street to buy that day's dinner but now I meal plan for the week.  I still shop for basics at the supermarket but I love picking up free-range meat at the butcher and fruit & veg at the farm shop (or even better, picking it ourselves!).  We eat so much better with less temptation for take-aways or cafe meals, a staple of our London life.

Of course there are still things I'm getting used to.  Like the fact that every village Post Office within the vicinity closes between 1-2pm, a fact I discovered only last month when trying to send an urgent package!  London is a 24 hour city, and I definitely took that for granted when we lived there.  On our move weekend, amongst the chaos of packing boxes with nothing useful yet filling our cupboards, we headed to the local village to pick up a take-away for supper and were amazed to discover most of them closed on a Sunday!  Little things like that are like stepping back in time but when I look out of my window in the morning to be surrounded by lush greenery and trees, I don't mind one little bit.  

Keep your take-aways and 24 hour shops London, we're here to stay!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Haslemere Museum

Last week, DD and I visited Haslemere Museum for one of their Early Years sessions.  That week's theme was Maisie Goes To The Museum and although DD is not a huge Maisie fan, I thought we would give it a try, if only to introduce her to the concept of a museum.


We were treated to a reading of the story while the children could make use of related props, which they happily waved about when they recognised them within the story.  Then we went on a group tour of the museum to find some of the things that Maisie enjoyed seeing during her visit.  A dolls house, many various stuffed animals (which I had trouble dragging DD away from!), costumes and dinosaur bones were a few of things we found and the children loved it.  

After that, we returned to the room where we started for some colouring in of Maisie colouring pages that the children could choose from.  Then we had another reading of the story, recapping on what we had seen on our tour and comparing it to Maisie's visit.  To finish up we had a trip outside to the museum garden to see the working beehive, which the children were fascinated by.  There was the option to stay for tea or juice but we had an appointment with the supermarket so we left.

All of that for just £3 (£1 per adult, £2 per child), which I thought was fantastic value.  We were there over an hour and judging by the amount of mums with toddlers and newborns, it seems an ideal place to keep your toddler entertained, especially on a rainy day. 

The Early Years events take place every 2/3 weeks on a Friday (check the website under Events) and we will definitely be going again!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mini Banana Muffins

I always seem to have over-ripe bananas in my house that nobody wants to eat so quite often make banana muffins at the weekend, as the kids love them.  

Ingredients (makes 15)
85g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g porridge oats
1 egg
60g caster sugar
85ml sunflower oil
1 ripe banana, mashed

Sift together the flour and baking powder then stir in the oats.  In another bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and oil.  Fold in the flour, along with the mashed banana.

Spoon the mixture into petit four cases and sprinkle a few more oats on top.  Bake for 15 mins at 180 (fan 160).

Friday, 14 September 2012

The start of education...

It’s been an emotional 10 days for us in Three Counties Castle.   DS started school last Wednesday…wow, where did those four years go?!...and DD started nursery the next day. 

I knew I’d probably be a little teary at DS’ journey into the Big Wide World but I was NOT prepared for how hard it hit me.  He happily trotted in, very excited to be there at last after talking about it for so long, and with a hug and a kiss waved me goodbye.  It was all I could do to get out of the classroom before he saw the tears streaming down my face.  Only it wasn't just tears...they were followed by sobs.  You know the kind that rack your whole body?  Add to that a screaming two year old who didn't want to leave her brother having fun after she'd had his company every day for almost 9 weeks, and it was not an easy journey to get back to my car.  It was made all the more difficult by very kind teachers and mums alike that kept stopping me to ask if I was OK.  I couldn't get back to my car fast enough.  Luckily by that time the car park had emptied out so there wasn't anybody to see me sit in the driver seat and sob my heart out.  The bawling continued on the drive home with my bemused 2 year old DD watching me quietly from her seat.

I couldn't understand it - DS has been going to nursery for 4 days a week, and loving every minute of it, for the past year so it wasn't as if this was the first time away from each other.  I don't know if it was because we'd had a lovely fun-filled 9 weeks summer holiday together and our bond had grown tighter again, or if it was the permanence that hit me, but I felt like I had a hole in me.  I got through the day with a heavy heart and raced to collect him at 3.30.  When I thought about it later that night, I came to the conclusion that what bothered me most was having to relinquish some of my control.  When he was attending nursery, if I wanted to keep him home for a day I could easily do so.  But now he had set foot on to a ladder that he was going to remain on for the next 9 years, and there was little I could do about it (no, homeschooling is not an option for us!)

Already scuffed after only 8 days of wear!
The second and third day were harder - although I managed to keep my emotions in check, DS couldn't and he sobbed as hard as I did the first day, begging me not to leave him there.  I felt as though my heart was breaking.  I made it clear to the teachers that I had a very strong concern that he was a whole year younger than some of the other children in his class and that I would be staying put until he was feeling more comfortable.  On the second day, I found a selection of photographs in his school bag that the teacher had sent home...various shots of him enjoying all the activities throughout the day, and it reassured me just a little.

This week has been easier on us both - I have ensured we have a distraction each morning, whether it be taking in something to show what we did at the weekend or talking about what would be happening that day in school, and its been enough to take the focus off me leaving so that he hugs and kisses me goodbye without tears.

I also bought a book called Starting School which helps to explain the school day and what they can expect, and DS and I have been reading that together.

DD was altogether much braver, and with a brief protest, happily settled into nursery.  I guess it helps that she has been dropping her brother off there every day for the past year so she knew what to expect!

It's been quite a time for us all but in true mother fashion, I was fit to burst with pride when I picked him up this afternoon and discovered he had won a trophy for numeracy!   

My babies are growing up...I guess I better find a hobby ;)

FREE Entry at Winkworth Arboretum

If you haven't visited Winkworth yet, you should definitely take advantage of free entry this Sunday (16th September) between 1100 - 1700.  It is gorgeous there, especially as the trees begin to change colour for autumn.  Here's the blurb:

Live Local, Love Winkworth

Fabulous event especially for the local community, with a range of activities designed to help bring the trees to life for everyone!
As a big thank to local supporters, and yet to be found friends, the National Trust will be hosting a free open day just for the local community. Not only is entry into the arboretum free for this day, but it has organised a host of events to make for a day that is not to be missed! Live music throughout the day, guided tours, falconry displays, archery, wood carving, face painting, children's crafts, trails and activities. Far more than just a walk in the woods!

More Information: Kiosk, 01483 208936 or here.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Berkshire County Show

Sounds like there is lots to see & do at this show!  It runs over the weekend of 15 & 16 September and tickets are cheaper if you buy them in advance.

The Berkshire County Show 2012

The Royal County of Berkshire show is undoubtedly Berkshire’s best weekend. Where else can you see everything from chickens to llamas; horse driving to pig showing skills; taste Britain’s finest foods and watch cookery demonstrations; sample the best craft and watch traditional crafts in action or compare your horticultural skills to the expert displays on show? Come and watch the best in show jumping, the wonderful spectacle of the Livestock Grand Parade and the breathtaking Hot Air Balloon flight at the end of each day. Shop ‘til you drop, celebrate agriculture and all your countryside has to offer, meet friends and make new ones, bring the family and you’ll find something for everyone.

Circus Ticket Giveaway!!!

How very first giveaway on the blog!  

The lovely people at Jay Millers Circus have kindly donated 4 tickets so you can enjoy one of their fabulous performances whilst they are still in Haslemere.  


Just share the Three Counties Mum page with your friends on Facebook and tell me which anniversary Jay Millers are celebrating this year (clue).  Contact me via e-mail ( or via Facebook to tell me the answer, and you could be taking your family to the circus compliments of Jay Millers.

Giveaway closes on midday Saturday so hurry!

Prize: 4 tickets to a show time of your choice (Saturday 1.30pm, 4pm & 6.30pm / Sunday 1.30pm & 4pm). 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Jay Miller's Circus

DH and I took the kids to the circus on Sunday afternoon.  Although it was their first experience for both of them, I was pretty sure they would enjoy it...and I was right!

The show lasted 2 hours (with a short interval) and featured among others Peppi the clown, amazing acrobatic and trapeze displays, a human slinky (yes, you read that right!) and an incredible roller skating pair who left an audience volunteer ever so slightly dizzy.  Both DS and DD were transfixed by most of the acts, with plenty of opportunity for audience participation, and DS enjoyed getting his face painted by Peppi during the interval.

Jay Miller's is a family run operation, with three daughters participating in the show, and this year is the 25th anniversary tour.  The skill and talent from these artists was amazing - it no doubt takes relentless practice and for not much recognition, lets be honest.  I'm all for supporting these guys - what a terrible shame it will be if our grandchildren don't get to experience a circus because they have ceased to exist. 

If you get the chance, then grab some tickets for this week before they leave town on Monday!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Play Passports

When I got the kid’s passports out this week in order to collect a parcel addressed to them (don’t get me started on that!), I could barely prise them away to put them back.  I obviously didn’t want to let them play with the real deal so decided we should fashion some for them.  

After a quick search, I found a handy template that we used as a base here.  Instead of laminating the cover as they suggest (who has a laminator at home anyway?!), I stuck the page onto card as a base before cutting it out.  I used the Personal Details page from the template and then cut blank pages for the inserts.  I printed shrunk down photos of each of them for their passport photo and we stuck them on before filling in their personal details.

I decided to print a flag and photo for each trip, even though it meant we had duplicate flags.  I wanted to add a photo from each trip so it would jog their memory about the holiday.  I also thought it would be nice to add a new flag and photo after each trip.

I found flag images on Google and added the country's name and the dates we had been there to surround it before printing.  We added the cut out "stamps" to a couple of the pages too for an authentic look.  

Finally, I used coloured ribbon to bind it all together - just tie it round the middle pages and knot firmly to hold it all together - I didn't feel comfortable using staples that they could pull out.

I've a feeling these will be joining us on our trip to Germany next month!