Monday night is a rush- here’s my chilli recipe

Monday’s need to be carried off with military precision. Ned now goes swimming with a friend’s family after school on Monday, so we don’t have to pick him up from after school club but I have a 75 minute window to get home from work, cook and eat dinner and then leave to take Fifi and the boy to their respective drumming and piano lessons.

I’m pathologically against the idea of a jar of pesto over some hastily cooked pasta, or chucking chips and fish fingers in the oven, so I’ve been devising a range of quick to cook meals for Mondays (occasionally we go for jacket spud in the slow cooker but this generally meets with howls of disapproval, so it’s a worst case dinner) that can not only be cooked in under an hour but cooked and eaten in under an hour too.

First on my list is the patented Alex & Harry Lancaster university chilli from 1995. Or rather a modern variant on it.

There are two ways to cook this, both start with a 500g packet of mince (lamb or beef, we’re easy). The first method is the more straight forward in that it uses all 500g of mince. The second sees the mince split 60/40, with 40% used in chilli and the rest kept for another night to go into a spag bol or cottage/shepherds pie (there is a difference: cottage= beef, shepherds=lamb!). The reason for the unequal split comes down to the chilli having more additional ingredients in the sauce; kidney beans, black-eyed beans and maybe if you’re in the mood for it, some sweetcorn.

The key to this recipe is to make sure you don’t turn the hob up too high. It’s always a temptation when you’re in a hurry but you’ll end up with dry meat that’s hard and won’t absorb the sauce. If you let it brown gently, and then let the final chilli simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, you should have a luxuriant sauce that’s still taken you under half an hour to cook.

On a Monday I always tend to cheat with the rice and use the microwavable sachets that take 2 minutes to cook. I’m generally a bit rubbish at cooking rice anyway, and I’ve been meaning to get myself a rice cooker for ages.

If you do choose to use all 500g of mince, there will be a fairly high chance that you’ll have some leftover chilli- we tend to and that’s with 5 of us scoffing it. Chilli is one of those dishes that defies logic and actually tastes better once it’s been frozen, defrosted and cooked again, so never despair when you’ve got leftovers.

This is a meal that tends to sort the kids out prior to music but does leave them with an orange sauce-moustache if I’m not careful!

Just a normal nights dinner- homemade onion rings recipe

Last night I got home a little later than usual, as did the boy (auditions for the school play!). As Ned had Beavers and Fifi had a school opening evening visit planned (can’t believe she is in the last year of primary school- madness!), the two youngest and wifey had eaten, leaving me to fend for the boy and me. I had a forty minute window between getting back from dropping Ned off at Beavers and having to go and pick Ned up from Beavers. Not so much of a window, as a chink of light creeping in from between the curtains really.

So rather than going for the typical egg & chips that had been suggested, I had a spring onion and cheese omelette with a side of hastily home made onion rings, and the boy had home made onion rings and chips.

Onion rings aren’t difficult to make, and home made ones are so much nicer than the manky frozen ones you bung in the oven.

The thing it’s easy to forget (or not know in the first place I suppose) is by the time the oven is up to temperature to cook frozen pre-prepared food, it’s entirely possible to cook something much nice yourself on the hob. In this case, there were even some onion rings left over for Ned when I picked him up from Beavers. This is the sort of stuff I wouldn’t have in the freezer compartment even if there was room, which there isn’t, as we’ve got about 6 bags of frozen pineapple chunks in there at the moment for some reason or other I’ve never fully understood.

Where does encouragement stop and pushy parenting begin?

We’re at dilemma point with Ned (who is 8 in January) over his guitar playing. Like most of our children, practice is seen as a chore to him. In the past we’ve dropped the boy’s guitar, and Fifi’s guitar because they didn’t practice enough (the boy doesn’t practice his drumming as much as he should but is still heading towards grade 3 with speed, and Fifi is just about doing enough piano practice to justify continued lessons). The problem is, Ned doesn’t play anything else, so it’s not as if he is doing something badly while doing something else better.

We’ve talked about it with his teacher, who is great, and is also MY guitar teacher (I got a guitar for my 40th and am slowly but surely learning to play it), and he says Ned would regret stopping because he’s learnt a lot but there is no point in him continuing if he’s not going to put some effort in. As Ned and I have consecutive lessons on a Saturday morning, I thought this would mean that we could practice together. Well, I spent most of last nights masterclass by Arsenal (I don’t get to write that very often any more) learning how to play Wish You Were Here:

with Ned sat next to me, resolutely failing to practice Chasing Cars from the Grade 1 Rockschool book. He didn’t even do five minutes and while I wasn’t quite into Bryan Adams “played it til my fingers bled, was the summer of ’69” territory, my fingers were sore by the end of it.

And so we reach the conundrum. Ned will regret giving up and it will take forever to get him onto a waiting list and back into lessons if he changes his mind (and almost certainly not the lesson next to mine) but, and it’s a big but, the lessons, even his 20 minute a week lesson, aren’t cheap, especially if there isn’t any practice going on. At the moment I sort of feel like he’s trapped in that vicious circle of not practising as he’s not developed the finger tip callouses that practice gives you that means your fingers don’t constantly hurt but can’t break out of it. He knows all the major chords, can do some power chords, and is even getting better with his pinkie movement but there is only so much 20 minutes a week can do for you.

I’m the biggest lover of music in our house but I’m also the most unmusical when it comes to innate talent. It’s going to be such a shame if I end up being one of the best musical instrument players just because I’ve put the time in.

We’re still not sure whether to push Ned to keep it up or just let him give it in. I’m secretly hoping I can convince him to practice in the next week or two as we need to make a decision to give a half terms notice by 25th October…

And lo, there was WAR

Ned is taking to junior school (well year three) with aplomb. The focus on learning vs play lead learning in infants hasn’t fazed him and he’s still very chipper.

We get regular updates on how things have gone at school, and I have to say mostly they’re believable. The thing with Ned is you can always tell the cut off point where his retelling of events starts to veer into the realm of fantasy; it will be the football story where he goes from having a good game to scoring 87 goals and being carried on the shoulders of his team mates, or the maths lesson where he gets a prize for doing well, followed by a prize for the number of prizes he won.

So it’s in this context of tall tales, that we listened raptly to Ned’s tale of the school WAR. A child in year three who disliked someone in year four decided to declare WAR on year 4. An army was marshalled and there was much punching and kicking, with lots of blood spilt, as WAR was enacted upon year 4. Ned and his buddy were determined to not get involved (this was perhaps the beginning of the tall tale, who knows, Ned does follow some rules at school) but saw the carnage wrought during the WAR. The large foam play bricks were used to batter other children, there was shoving, and shouting, and it took all the playground supervisors to separate the factions.

In the aftermath of the WAR, the headmistress spoke to both years, threatening a ban on the play bricks forever, and various other dire consequences if they broke the terms of the peace treaty and the white caps patrolling the playground had to intervene.

The next morning the boy who instigated the WAR smuggled in a large supply of sweeties to dish out to his disaffected troops in an attempt to keep them onside and loyal through the phoney war period until proper WAR could be re-instigated. We didn’t get to the bottom of how this morale boosting manoeuvre worked out because there hasn’t been any additional WAR so far, and I had to get Ned off to Beavers, thus ending our discussion of WAR. I’ve reached out to Kate Adie, former BBC war correspondent, to see if she wants to join me on the front line but have yet to hear back.

And lo! the sentence is almost over

This school summer holiday has been a bit different to others. It’s the first summer holiday that the both of us have had full time jobs. It’s a good job I use maths daily in my job and was able to deduct two from six – two weeks family holidays away from home, taken from six weeks off school leaves four weeks where we have to cover the kids.

We managed to cover the school holidays but it did involve using a spreadsheet with more formulae that you would have necessarily expected. I realise that for many this isn’t an unusual occurrence but when you’ve got three kids and haven’t had both parents in full time employment for the better part of a decade, it takes some organisation and some getting used to. We’ve managed to avoid kids clubs which aren’t inherently expensive if you’ve got A child but when you have three tend to be very much so, mostly by relying on my wonderful in-laws and swapping kids with friends for the odd day either I or my wife have had off.

But we’ve now reached the stage where the kids are pretty much sick of the sight of each other and can’t spend ten minutes (dinner time, a car ride somewhere) together without bickering or fighting. We can’t wait to pack them off to school again next week, even though the autumn term is the hardest to deal with from so many perspectives. Hard? Well the primary school runs all the curriculum meetings about and hour and a half into my working day, and I work 2 miles from the office. The wife does the school drop off but works miles away in Tring, so an extra hour off her working day for a meeting means she doesn’t get into work until late morning. On top of that the kids obviously have to settle back into the routine of school, new teachers, and re-establish friendships that haven’t been maintained over the summer. It’s a hell-term but something we’re actually looking forward to it!

Review: Nozstock 2019

We loved the 2019 Nozstock the Hidden Valley music festival. We loved it so much, we’ve put our money were our mouth is (because bloggers tend to find free stuff “brilliant” all the time, don’t they?) and booked our tickets for next year. In fact we booked our tickets as soon as we got back (my wife did it while I unpacked the car).

Let’s take a step back though and talk about the Nozstock Festival. In it’s 21st year, Nozstock continues to be an environmentally conscious boutique festival, set in the rolling Herefordshire countryside on a cattle farm (it used to be a dairy farm but the current generation of farmers weren’t particularly in favour of the early starts).

This years Nozstock festival was a sell out, as was the previous year but even as a sell out, the sprawling site fits the 5,000 or so attendees comfortably, with plenty of space to swing a cat, or more pertinently some of those balls on a bit of string with streamers attached like some of the hipsters seem to like.

Everywhere seems to have a festival now, and the quality of course can be enormously variable. That’s one of the things I like about Nozstock; it’s kept it’s modest size and been happy continuing thus. It’s well organised, doesn’t overstretch either the organisers nor the facilities, and just works.

This years line up had more than a hint of reggae, folk and country about it during the daylight hours, reverting to some banging DJ sets and other more rambunctious acts after dark. My personal highlight was David Rodigan, some middle aged chap in a bright yellow suit I’d never heard of. Fortunately my wife filled me in on who he was (back in the day he was the Kiss FM DJ who introduced Jungle to an unsuspecting mainstream audience). He was absolutely fantastic and one of the key reasons festivals like Nozstock are so vital.

What do I mean by this? Well lets time travel back to 2008, before all this Spotify and Google Play Music stuff was popular. I had 500+ CDs in a rack next to the hi-fi. I usually played about 10 of them and ignored the rest. Even now, I have my playlists and favourite albums on Spotify and that’s pretty much all I listen to. Festivals are a brilliant way of stepping outside your own personal bubble and experiencing something new. Live music really is hard to beat.

Fifi’s personal highlight was the DJ set by Rudimental and if you’ve never seen a 10 year old pogo for over 90 minutes, let me tell you she managed it and was awesome.

Attending a festival as a family is a little different to attending a festival and this is another area that Nozstock shines. The site is sprawling but easily accessible, there are loads of free kids activities, and the food is both nice (not a given) and really reasonably priced. We were pitched in the family camping area, and since it’s policed (they don’t let people in without i) a family and ii) a colour coded family wristband), it was full of families.

There are some parts of the site that cater to EDM enthusiasts, be it jungle, trance or more rave influenced stuff and it was great fun to drop into these areas with the kids and experience an experience that is unlike any other- if you ever do the same, just make sure your kids have ear defenders and you might actually want a pair of foam ear plugs yourself! (And a word to the wise, if you decide to see the Sleaford Mods, which you should, they’re ace, remember they’re about as sweary as it’s possible to get live.)

Nozstock 2020 tickets are already up for sale, and the early bird discounts are too good to ignore, which is why we didn’t, put our money where our mouths were and purchased some tickets, guaranteeing a blooming great weekend of live music and entertainment next year!

10 years. 10 damn long years

A month before the iPhone 3GS was released, and Terminator Salvation was getting roundly trounced by the rebooted Star Trek franchise at the cinema, I decided to buy a domain name. I rather enjoyed puns so thought that a family orientated play on the Boney M song Daddy Cool would be just the ticket. And so Daddacool was given form.

Ten years have passed since I made that decision. The Wild West of the blogging world has given way to the Wolf of Wall St world of online influencers.

Things have changed a lot in ten years. If nothing else, I’m ten years older and about 30 years more tired. People who don’t have kids don’t know what tired really means. I don’t mean that disrespectfully of course, but until you’ve had three children devise a rota to make sure you never get more than 45 minutes continuous sleep, for years on end. Still, in the spirit of celebration (although I’m too tired to properly celebrate), there’s a slide show of some of the highlights I’ve had as a blogger over the past decade. In some instances there is even an overlap of the highlights of being a parent but I’ll leave you to guess which ones those are!

10 years

Different Ways to Look After Your Health

Forget your financial income; your health is your true wealth. Without a clean bill of it, you can’t partake in the everyday activities that you enjoy, and you can’t even make the money you need to get by in life. Quite simply, everything comes back to your health, so you need to look after it if you’re to be the person you want to be and do the things that you want to do in life.

You don’t just have to hit the gym five times a week and diet for months on end in order to be healthy. There are a plethora of different ways to look after your health, and you can find a few of them listed below.

Stay Healthy Even While You’re Enjoying Yourself

When they embark on a bid to better their health, people often think that they are no longer allowed to enjoy themselves. They believe that they cannot go out with their friends of a weekend, and they think that they must opt for carrots and celery in favour of all the delicious foods that they love.

This, however, is a very common misconception. You can remain healthy, even while you’re enjoying yourself. A few things you can do to stay healthy while you enjoy yourself include:

  • Only ever indulging in moderation
  • Treating yourself to a cheat meal or activity at least once a week
  • Embracing the social aspect of eating and drinking, and stop inducing out of boredom
  • Making fulfilling meals out of healthy foods
  • Taking reputable vitamins and nutritional supplements, the likes of which are distributed by swanson.co.uk
  • Growing your own foods in your garden
  • Taking your own drinks to parties

Fun is itself a great medicine. The more you enjoy yourself, the happier and healthier you will be. You shouldn’t, then, go through your whole life without making a bit of time for yourself. When you do decide to have a bit of fun, though, just be sure to take the above advice and so in moderation.

Look After Your Mental Health

Looking after your mental health is just as important a task as looking after your physical health. In fact, the two are so intrinsically linked that, to look after one, you have to tend to the other anyway.

If you continue to allow mental health issues plight your days, not only are you going to make everyday life ten times harder for yourself, but you could also end up heightening your stress levels. That could then lead to all manner of physical problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.

To look after your mental health in the best way possible, you should:

As you now know, looking after yourself doesn’t have to mean slogging away at the gym or eating healthy foods that, quite frankly, make you heave. You can stay healthy while enjoying yourself, and there are ways to tend to your mental health and, in turn, your physical wellbeing.

Fail-safe Father’s Day Gifting with Boots

Fathers Day is a tricky one to deal with as a father of small children, which is why it’s always a good idea to point the family at Boots. It’s a case of balancing what you’d actually like with what is i) affordable and ii) something the kids would actually like to give you. A case in point is I’d quite like a new soldering iron and a stand but that’s not something the kids will actually get any joy in getting for me. Frankly it would just confuse them.

So it needs careful planning to ensure you get something that you want and something that the kids want to give you. It doesn’t always work out though, last year when I gave it the old “just make me a card, that would be perfect, I don’t want anything”, routine I got a cravat. Apparently, I had complimented Matt Berry’s cravat in the amusing film What We Do in the Shadows and that

A cravat. Honestly

was enough of an indication that I should like to own a cravat. Now I’ve written the word cravat four times, I’m beginning to even doubt it’s a word. The time before that when I couldn’t be bothered to come up with something I got a jumper with my twitter profile motto ever so slightly paraphrased.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful; far from it but if people are going to spend the money, they should spend it on something, well, better.

This is where Boots comes in handy. I’m often running through their Christmas gift aisle on Christmas eve, exchanging knowing (and panicked) looks with other men because we all leave our shopping to absolutely the last minute. Which reminds me, it’s our 15th wedding anniversary tomorrow and I simply must get something.

Anyway I digress, the range at Boots for Father’s Day gifts handily solves the issue of cravat vs misspelled jumper as they have plenty in terms of scents, shaving and general pampering stuff to cater for all but the most picky of picky individuals.

If I had to put together an informed yet spontaneous list of some of the groovy things you can get for Father’s Day at Boots, well it would look a little something like this:

So that’s my advice then; chuck your nearest and dearest mini people (and their mum) towards Boots if you can’t decide what to pick up as a gift this Father’s Day. Job done!

Do you find it hard to buy for your Dad on Father’s Day? Well here’s your chance to win something amazing for him! All you have to do is leave a comment below on what you like to do with your Dad on Father’s Day, and what kind of gifts he usually appreciates!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is an advertised collaboration with Boots but all thoughts are my own

I think any relevance I had died a while back

I have a 7 year old who patiently explains to me that if something is sick, it’s actually good, while my 10 year old bolts from the room if anyone actually mentions sick or does a throaty cough.

I’m not sure what, if anything, this means but I know it means I’m getting left behind by the modern age. It’s bad enough half the time when I get a blank response from quoting a TV show or movie at work I realise the person I’m quoting it at wasn’t born when the show was first broadcast.

Getting old is inevitable though, getting irrelevant shouldn’t be so I guess I need to up my game a bit!