Making a meal of it – Get stuffed

It’s the end.

It’s the end of the summer holidays. We’re returning to work tomorrow after the best two weeks off. The children go back to school this week – and teen 2 is off to uni.

Today I felt really unenthusiastic. I didn’t fancy cooking an elaborate dinner. Also finances aren’t the best following the holiday activities, so I rummaged around in the freezer and cupboards and decided on stuffed peppers. I nipped to the supermarket for a bag of ‘cooking peppers’ which cost £1.15

I simply boiled one bag of boil-in-the-bag rice, added a handful of frozen peas and sweetcorn for the last couple of minutes, drained and mixed with two portions of bolognese and a handful of Quorn that was lurking at the back of the freezer. I really fancied adding a squirt of tomato purée – but as I didn’t have any, I opted for a shake of garlic granules, a shake of mixed herbs, a veggie Oxo cube and a splash of water.

I finished by stuffing the peppers and baking.

Simple. Tasty. Cheap.

I’d love to hear your shortcuts to budget meals.

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Anyone for…footgolf?

Sometime last year, Mr six took teen 2, teen 3 and Munchkin to play footgolf. Even though teen 2 is the least likely person to pull on trainers and play sport, they all had a whale of a time.

Now that we have more family time we’re trying to do more together. Teen 2 is busy this summer so when Mr six bought another ticket for 4, I decided I’d tag along.

In case you don’t know what footgolf is, it does exactly what it says on the tin: a mash up of football and golf – you kick a football around a golf course.

Ok don’t switch off. It’s hilarious. It’s so much fun and I say that as a complete kicking imbecile. I have no idea where that ball is going once it leaves my shoe.

Mr six, as ever, becomes Competitive Dad, teen 3 coolly plays a blinder, Munchkin takes is very seriously – but we all spend a lot of time laughing. So much so that we immediately booked a return visit!

Fresh air. Family time. Sporting activity. What’s not to love?

Kayaking

I’ve wanted to try kayaking for such a long time. Earlier this year, Mr six and I promised each other that we would try something new once a month. Oi oi, saucy! Not like that. Some activities would be family fun and some would be just for the two of us. Then life kinda stepped on the plans. Although, to be fair, I’d never set foot inside an intensive care ward – or a high dependency ward before this year, so I might count those as ‘new experiences’…

Anyway, back to the story. Mr six bought us a kayaking experience for two a few weeks ago and I’ve been looking forward to it so much. Then we went away on holiday. I love the sea. I feel that I’m ‘me’ at the sea. I can feel the worries and tensions leaving me as if the tide were washing them away.

We had already bought a little body board for Munchkin and I had looked at getting shorty wetsuits, but I was worried that it might be overkill as we had no experience – however, whilst we were away, seeing all the sporting activities available and how much fun everyone was having, it made me feel that I really needed to do it. And so, three days after grumpily returning from the most relaxing break ever, Mr six and I drove out to the water sports centre.

We had been advised to wear old clothes and to bring a towel and a change of clothes. So armed with the necessaries, we made our way to the water’s edge, to be greeted by two of the least sporty looking gentlemen (equipped with lit cigarettes).

As I looked around, I could see that all the other people in the group were first timers too, so I was fully expecting a meaty health and safety talk; not the “Keep to the right, about 10 foot away from the bank. The water is shallower at the edges than the middle. If you fall out, it’s because you’re stupid. There’s a weir 3/4 of a mile in that direction.” that was dished out.

We were then handed life jackets, assigned a kayak, launched and told “See you in 4 hours”.

I am quite very much a competitive person and there was NO way I was going to let anyone else set off quicker than us. So Mr six and I paddled. Or oared. Or whatever the term is (see! I’m now a person with experience but still know nothing) with great passion the 3/4 of a mile toward the weir, turned around and headed back – then out, under the M56 and out toward Rocksavage.

It was quite simply perfection. I mean, the water stank, the kayaks were minging, there were definitely negatives, but the experience was the best. Seeing the river from a whole new perspective was brilliant, the wildlife – including getting so close to a heron before it took flight just in front of us.

Having spent so much time in the office recently, this break has been just what I needed. So little technology, getting back to nature and trying new activities which has given me back my self confidence.

We finally returned to our starting place and decided that 2 hours was enough so we got changed and headed home, aching all over but exhilarated.

I definitely recommend trying kayaking. Or just getting out of your comfort zone. And I look forward to any advice you have for me; kayaking related or other activities we should try.

The holiday – what we learnt

We’re home.

We had a meal cooked in an oven, a night in our own bed and reflected on our week away.

We loved every minute of it. EVERY minute of it. But we definitely learnt a few things along the way.

  • Buy a decent tent. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but buy a decent tent and get advice. We bought our current tent from Go Outdoors and they could not have been more helpful. They didn’t try to sell us the most expensive one in the shop; they listened to what we needed and showed us what fitted. And rather than sell pole replacements, they also taught Mr six how to fix broken poles (a skill that is necessary for continuing successful trips).
  • Choose your site carefully. Want a good sleep? Choose a site that has rules, that asks people to be respectful. Want to party late? Choose a site that is more relaxed. We (well, Mr six) chose incredibly well. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Hafod Y Plas – it was so peaceful, the owners were wonderfully friendly and the toilets/showers were clean and well maintained.
  • Work out what is important to you. Obviously there’s a checklist of things you need, but do you need EVERYTHING in the shop? I am rubbish at keeping warm and being cold makes me miserable. Before we went, I ran a poll on Facebook to see if we should take duvets or sleeping bags. We took both. And I am so glad that we did as the beds were really cosy.
  • Make sure you try everything before you go. We bought a fabulous kitchen unit from Aldi that I put together in a trial run before we went (so that I wasn’t scratching my head, trying to follow the instructions in front of strangers). However we didn’t test the electric coolbox that we bought from Winfields the day before we left. When we arrived onsite, I was incredibly frustrated to find the cable was dodgy. Thankfully Mr six has more patience than I and he wiggled and taped it until it worked.
  • Beds. We bought rollmats that have a foil backing. These were really inexpensive (about £5 each) but you can shop smart and look at the end of season sales. I saw some in B&M clearance for £1 last week. On top of the mats, we had airbeds. A top tip would be to position the airbeds with the valve accessible as you may need to re-inflate occasionally.
  • Electricity. We had electrical hook up this time. We swapped our gas stoves for an electric two ring stove (this was because the gas stoves caused ‘mild’ panic when they leaked and we had a fire). But the electric stove means that we can cook inside in poor weather. I also took my hairdryer as my hair takes ages to dry.
  • Pack smart. I think next time we go, we’ll pack the bedding and clothes in those vacuum storage bags, saving a lot of room. And of course, we’ll need to take the handheld vacuum cleaner with us for the return trip – which also means that I can use it to keep the tent carpet clean (like I said, work out what’s important to you…)
  • Another tip would be to chat with the site owner. Want to get a take away? Ask where they recommend. Want to visit a particular attraction? Ask for directions. The site owner is passionate about where they live, they know all the short cuts, best viewing points, parking places, eateries. They want you to have a wonderful time. They want you to come back.

So that’s what we learnt – what are your top tips? What advice would you pass on? I’m eager to hear

The holiday – Day 5

Following another peaceful night, we finally got to sample the delicious free range eggs from the hens on our site; boiled eggs and soldiers, washed down with a large coffee really set us up for the day. With the end of our holiday in sight, we decided to explore the local area a little more and Mr six took us on a magical mystery tour – which led us back to Valley. Munchkin wanted a few more photos of the planes before we walked down to a beautiful, secluded beach.

A few hours later, with rumbling tummies, we set off in search of lunch and made the most amazing find; Enoch’s fish and chip shop. If you’re ever near Holyhead, I urge you to sample the delights on the menu! We sat in the car to eat our lunch and all three of us were silent, save for the “mmm’s” and other favourable noises!

Then we continued with our drive of discovery, which also doubled up as an attempt to dodge the heaviest rain I’ve seen in quite a while, accompanied by thunder and lightning.

As it was our last night, Mr six dropped me back at the tent and he and munchkin headed out to Holyhead for a Chinese take away – and we were joined by two of our lovely friends and their son as they had heard me raving about the site.

We had a lovely evening – but the temperature dropped quite suddenly, so we retreated to our base, had a glass or two of wine before heading to bed for the final time

The holiday – Day 4

We woke to slightly ‘meh’ weather. Not rubbish, but the sun was behind the clouds and the temperatures suggested a thick jumper would be advisable. Obviously the beach was out of the question as the gusty wind would have whipped up sand so we decided to watch the jets at the viewing point for the local air base.

Taking Munchkin for the obligatory “toilet trip before we leave”, Mr six spoke to the site owner who told him of a better vantage point – and boy, was it worth it! We pulled up to a small, sandy cove where a little group of plane enthusiasts were gathered and we marvelled at the skill of the pilots, landing and taking off, circling above us and cruising out to sea.

We took many photos and even Munchkin took some incredible shots. This is something I’d never thought I’d do – but after leaving to explore Holyhead and having lunch, I asked if we could go back to do it all again. And being Wales, the weather had changed, with bright blue skies and warm sunshine beating down on us.

We eventually headed back to our tent for dinner – risotto stuffed peppers, cooked on the BBQ; not something I thought Munchkin would ever try, but like everything else on this holiday, it was successful.

Dishes washed, tent tidied, Mr six suggested another trip out to see the sunset – so we drove back to the beach for a few photos and then onto South Stack for a few more. This place is idyllic. Do we have to come home?

The holiday – Day 3

Day 3 started earlier than anticipated. The mild breeze of the previous evening grew stronger and stronger – and by 2am I was lying on my airbed, clutching my duvet, fearing that at any moment we would be staring at the stars whilst a half naked Mr six chased the remains of our tent around the field. However, due to the excellent job Mr six did pitching and pegging out, we were still safe, if somewhat tired by breakfast time.

After making beds, showering and a decent brew, we rallied and decided we needed to avoid the weather that was drawing in. The tent may well be waterproof, but there’s no joy sitting inside listening to the rain, so we headed out.

First port of call was to find somewhere to buy lunch. As we drove through Menai Bridge, we came across a lovely little sandwich shop with choices to suit all – and a fab cake section too. And to top it all off, we were given this fantastic bag to take it all away in

Then we headed to Plas Newydd, making the most of our National Trust membership. The weather had taken a turn for the worst by now and we could see nothing of the wonderful views out of the windows and as it was so busy we decided to cut short our visit in the house as Munchkin was getting bumped around and moved into the gardens as there was a break in the weather. We ate our sandwiches whilst walking around the wild garden meadow but as the weather drew in again we had to leave.

We went back to the tent for the remains of our lunch then a wee nap to make up for the broken sleep the night before.

When we woke, the weather had changed again, with sunshine making a welcome return. We ate our dinner and decided to head back to the beach to catch the last of the rays

The holiday – Day 2

Day 2 started a little earlier than planned. I woke first, then Munchkin – then our hushed whispers woke Mr six.

It was 3 am…

We all needed the loo!

I have to admit, plodding across a field, in the pitch black, with only a torch to light my way, wasn’t exactly filling me with confidence – but Munchkin was terrified – so I told him it would be fine, we all climbed out of our beds, out on our shoes and Mr six unzipped the tent.

WOW

The stars were INCREDIBLE! It was like nothing we had ever seen before. The lack of light pollution meant there was so much more visible. Breathtaking. The trip there and back was definitely worth waking up for and when we got back to the tent we spent a few more minutes marvelling and showing Munchkin the few constellations that we knew. Then we all climbed into bed, cuddled up and fell back to sleep.

When we woke, Mr six took Munchkin for a shower whilst I made the beds and tidied then they went to buy a new stove (see previous day) whilst I showered. Breakfast was eaten outside, making the most of the weather.

Once we were fed and everything washed, we set off. Firstly to South Stack RSPB reserve, then Ellin’s Tower and then South Stack lighthouse. Built in 1809, this light house was built to warn ships of the dangerous rocks and is reached by descending almost 400 steps and crossing 30metres from the main land. Whilst the weather was beautiful, the sea was a little choppy and you could definitely appreciate the need for such assistance!

From there we headed into Holyhead, to show Munchkin the ferry port – and then onto the country park for a leg stretch and a little history of the town. We picked up a little lunch on the hoof and then back to the beach for some rock pooling, as the tide was low. Carefully picking our was over the rocks, I think Mr six and I enjoyed this as much as Munchkin.

The tide started making its way in so we decided to bid a safe retreat and headed back to the beach to make the most of the last of the sun before returning to the site for dinner: veggie kebabs on the BBQ.

As the day turned into evening, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up so we headed inside for a game of cards then decided to have an early night – this sea air really takes it out of you…

The holiday – Day 1

We packed the car up the previous night. I know, right?! It’s almost like we know what we’re doing. The last few bits went in as we climbed in the car; pillows, toiletries, coolbag…

The journey was uneventful, thankfully. The roads were relatively quiet for August, considering our beach destination, too. However, having followed the weather forecast and rain being on and off the cards, the clouds did look suspiciously low and heavy.

We arrived at the site to a warm welcome. Nerys, the site owner, came to greet us and showed us around. The site is a working farm and we were invited to see the cows being milked each day. The shower blocks (which were were clean and roomy) were situated in the old stables and there were fresh free range eggs for sale onsite. Bliss!

Nerys guided us to our spot (the site is divided up into small fields, giving it a homely feel) and Mr six began to unpack the tent. He laid it out, started pegging out when our ‘neighbours’ pulled up and drove over the poles. Then reversed over them whilst apologising! I felt sick and Mr six looked haunted.

STRIKE ONE! Not the best start, but fortunately all was ok… And the neighbours turned out to be hilarious company for the rest of their stay.

The rest of the pitching was stress free – I organised the bedding pod, inflated the airbeds, made the beds, unpacked the kitchen stuff and generally readied us whilst Mr six sorted the outside stuff (guy ropes n’at).

Now, “Fancy a brew, love?” is always a welcome sound, but given ‘pole-gate’ and the fact it was insanely hot, I definitely needed a coffee. So Mr six took the stove to a safe distance from the tent, lit it – and we watched in stunned horror as the flames instantly grew and suddenly the front (including control knob) melt off our little cooker.

STRIKE TWO! The site had fire extinguishers located in each field and the fire was soon out, thankfully.

Needing a change of scene and a decent leg stretch, we got changed and headed to the local beach. The sun shone, Munchkin played in the sea, we tired ourselves out and fed on sea front chips.

When we finally headed back to site, we showered, watched the stars and snacked on delicious cheeses. Perfection!!

What an amazing end to day one – and I’ll leave you with this

Taking a break

I’ve taken quite a break from blogging. There were lots of other things going on.

Life.

Some of those things were good. Our jobs. Our work/life balance. Doing lots together.

Some of those things were bad. We’ve experienced some horrendous lows with a family member’s health which saw us spending a lot of time in hospitals. In intensive care. In high dependency.

Things all kind of got on top of me and I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to fill this space with negative thoughts and sadness.

Work has been very busy and I just haven’t had Head space.

Mr six booked us a holiday. A very low tech holiday. Initially, I wasn’t fully onboard with camping in the middle of nowhere. With no amenities. But the more I thought about it, the better it sounded… A holiday is meant to be a break. We’re going to have a break from everything; people, tech, artificial lights. We’re going to breathe in clean air, sit on the beach, swim in the sea, kayak, play football, wear shorts and add a jumper if it gets cold.

And I can’t wait