chinese chicken and vegetables

My dad was neither Chinese or a particularly good cook, but for Christmas one year he got a wok as a present and made something like the following recipe. I have added a lot more vegetables to his version of the dish and served it with some pea egg fried rice.

The vegetables in the dish can easily be changed for whatever is in the fridge or your preference. The key ingredients really are the cashew nuts and the sauce.
Chicken ingredientsIngredients
Chinese chicken with vegetables
1 chicken breast
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of mushrooms
1/2 cup of mini sweetcorn
1/2 cup of mange tout
1/2 cup of broccoli
50g of cashew nuts
150ml of chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon of corn flour
2 tablespoons of soy sauce

Pea egg fried rice
200g rice or 1 pack of ready cooked rice little easier to fry as it tends to hold less water
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 egg white
1 egg yolk

Cook the rice and set aside to dry

In a hot wok cook the chicken until cooked and set aside.

Toast the cashews for about a minute, being careful not to burn them. Once browned add all of the vegetables and cook until tender.

Add garlic and continue to cook for a minute or so.

In a jug mix the stock, soy and corn flour, and then add to wok. Stir and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from heat and place on a serving dish.

Heat a fresh wok or frying pan until hot and add the rice and peas.

Stir the rice through and once fully heated add the egg whites, continuing to stir.

Once the whites are fully cooked, egg the yolks and continue to stir so that the yolks are evenly mixed through the rice.

When cooked through serve with the chicken, season with a little soy and enjoy!

chicken rice

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rocks, crabs and fishing nets

This week is half term so we jumped in car and went to Welsh Wales to visit Grandma. Other than seeing family my eldest talks of nothing else other than going to the local beach and climbing around rock pools with his fishing nets, which is why we bought him a rock pooling reference book for Christmas so that we could learn a little more about what we were finding.

Since we last visited there had been some major storms to hit the beach, and the whole area was covered in new large boulders and rocks. On the day that we went, the sun was shining, it wasn’t too cold and there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

When we came in December, it was raining and cold and I was not too enthusiastic about the idea of getting my feet wet, and so we didn’t manage to find much.  This time I decided to wear wellies, to be able to maximise our time in the pools.

boy-with-fishing-netrock-poolI’m not sure whether it was the recent storms, the time of year, or just bad luck, but I turned over hundreds of large stones in search of some wildlife, such as crabs or fish, with limited luck.

todays-catchDespite our best efforts we only managed to find one very small crab, the size of a thumbnail, a very ugily red blob, which is some sort of sea anemone,  common limpets, and lots of pretty shells, seaweed, and driftwood.

Whilst the boys love looking for wildlife, and then looking in their book to see what they have found, the main thing that they love is being outside, and whilst our search didn’t yield too much, the mission was accomplished.

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winter woodland colours

Most of the nature this Winter seems to have been of the very wet and cold variety. Trying to motivate small children to spend their afternoons on walks requires some planning, bribery or invention.

Throughout the year there is a wealth of interesting things to find along our routes to keep them happy and moving, so we play a game of nature treasure hunt. The boys complete, or work together to find various items that we call out.

As the seasons change so do the colours of the woodlands, commons and gardens that we walk around. There may be less things to find, but that doesn’t mean that they are devoid of wildlife or interest.

reedsOn the days when the sun is shining and the skies are blue, the contrast in colours is really exciting.




Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?
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treasure hunt in alice holt forest

alice-holt-forestOur usual nature treasure hunts are a little ad hoc and based on what we can find along the route. This weekend we were invited by a friend to a forest park along with his boys for run around and as we found out, a more organised treasure hunt.

treasure-listWhilst the kestrels and falcons were some of the more optimistic items on the list (which we did not manage to see on this occasion), it was great to run around the forest searching for various trees, pine cones, wooden forts and obstacle courses.

My friend Paul had been to the forest before and so guided our way around the park. He made his treasure hunt list with a little extra research on the Internet and printed out photographs of the treasure items to make sure we all knew what we were searching for.

The huge wooden structures in the park were stunning and added a little extra colour to the walk around the park.

We took boys varying in ages from two to seven, and so spending time at the pirate park and the obstacle course, ensured that everyone was kept engaged.

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not just another valentines post

Valentines is not the worst of ‘holidays’, although it is incredibly crass at its most commercial level, and it is difficult not to be cynical. For some holidays their origins or purpose are largely irrelevant, but they do however bring attention back to the things that are important in life.

Since we returned back to the UK last year my wife has had to work, as I have not been in a position to do so. This means that she’s out of the house more than twelve hours a day and some days doesn’t get to see the boys at all.

We certainly can’t complain. There are many families where both parents work the same amount of hours or more, or where neither parent is in a position to work, but for us, especially my wife, this time away from the family is hard.

So having made a bit of a hash of the various gifts over the last twelve months (ten year anniversary, birthday, Christmas) that I had given to my wife, I needed to make sure that whatever I did this time was a hit. As I now have the time to do something a little more personal, I pressganged the boys into action and we did some cooking and crafts.

heart-cookiesI had tried to amend my cookie recipe to replace chocolate with some dried cranberries, but they came out a big gooey mess, so had to revert back to chocolate!

valentines-cardMy wife is a professional graphic designer and so sets the bar high, especially with print and design. I accept the fact that I am technically inept and lack the necessary skills to pull off most if my ideas, but it is testament to persistence, cardboard, parcel tape and paint, what can actual be achieved.

printing-blocksNot to be out-done by dad, the boys made some cards at nursery.



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stained glass windows to brighten up the day

With the weather taking a turn for the worse, we decided to brighten up the day with some coloured stained glass windows made from tissue paper and card.

This is probably the easiest thing to do in the world to brighten up a room and the mood. As my boys are so young I ended up doing most of the work, but they were entertained for the whole time.

I pretty much free-styled the whole way through this, which you’d never guess, but for a more finished product you may want to sketch out a pattern on the card in advance.cardboard-stained- glass-stencilcoloured-tissue-paperSelect your preferred colour scheme, and stick away. If you have a specific pattern, make sure to turn the stencil over so that it will look right when you put it on the window. I used a Pritt Stick to stick the paper to the card to try and avoid any mess, and have a little bit of control as to where the glue ended up. Being very preoccupied with ensuring the knife was kept out of the hands of the boys, I took my eye off the ball with the glue, and its amazing how much mess a Pritt Stick can actually make!


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painting with magic maize (or wotsits by numbers)

My boys are at the age where they want to make or do things, but quickly lose interest if it’s not done immediately. When we make something or paint pictures I usually have to get prepared everything in advance so that we are good to go.

We were recently given as a birthday present a set of Magic Maize (ELC), which are multi-coloured Wotsits (Cheetos) – looking cylinders which are used to make pictures by applying a little water and sticking them onto paper or card.

magic-maizeWith almost no preparation required, they were an instant hit. For me the best thing, other than being able to make some cool pictures, is that they are virtually mess free.

Step one: add a little colour to the picture using crayons.
magic maize2Step two: moisten the maize.
magic maize3Step three: lightly press the maize onto the card or paper.
magic maize4Step four: stand back and appreciate your creation!
magic-maizeThe pack came with several images to use, but we are going to make some ourselves, which at the request of the boys will be a rainbow, a rocket, and for some reason, an ambulance.

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sunny afternoon in the park

We are very fortunate to have lots of very good parks within a short walk or drive from our house. They each have their own unique feature that brings us back time and time again. During the winter months we need to make the most of any clear weather that we get and head out of the house as quick as possible.

seesawroundaboutWhilst the boys love the seesaw or the round about, they have to be dragged off the swings every time that we visit any park.


climbingI’ve always thought that these rocking horses/cars/animals are actually quite dangerous, especially for the smaller kids. It took the boys a while for the boys to learn to keep their arms straight, and I was always concerned that they’d head butt the handlebars.


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muddy puddles in the common

Throughout the Summer and Autumn we went out into the woods and commons several times a week to look at the trees and plants and to get some fresh air. Since December we haven’t managed to get out too much as it seems like it has rained the whole time.

With a nice break in the weather this weekend we headed to a local common for a walk and to soak in some sun. As the ground was really wet we booted up and wrapped up warm. pyrfordDuring the recent storms very few of the really big trees were blown down, but with the continuously wet ground many of the birches were not so lucky, which made for fun obstacles.

pyrford fallen treesWith all of the rain that we have had has one benefit that the boys like; muddy puddles. Although some of them were a little too deep and they needed a helping hand.

An old tree stump provided some respite from the mud and an excuse to climb something.

Animal muppet hat face


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