Half-term – get ahead!

I don’t know about you but it feels like the term has hardly started when suddenly the children are off again!

I am really looking forward to having no school run and to spending some relaxing time with the kids but I also want to make sure I am ready for Monday week.

Here is my, thankfully, very short checklist for half-term -

1) Wash uniform and sports kit NOW at the beginning of the holiday rather than at the end.  It means you can check that it is all there and prevents that ‘oh why won’t this sports kit dry?’ moment on the Sunday evening before the kids go back.

2) Check that everything still fits – if you bought new shoes and trainers in September, your children may already have outgrown them if they are having a growth spurt. Better to get to the shoe shops now than in the going back to school rush the weekend before.

3) Homework –  personally I think that primary school children shouldn’t be given homework in the holidays but some schools do set projects or expect them to catch up on missed or unfinished work. When asking about homework, it is usually worth checking homework books as well.  I find that the answer ‘not much’ can actually mean a project to construct a working volcano or something equally time-consuming.  Better to get the homework out of the way at the beginning rather than the last minute panic on Sunday afternoon.

4) Revision – some teenagers may have (mock) exams after half-term.  You need to check that they have some kind of revision plan and are actually revising – although this can mean bracing yourself for a lot of moaning and groaning !

If you are looking for somewhere to go with the children, try your local Mumsnet or NetMums.

Whatever you do, have fun!!!


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Back to school – 4 ways to get ahead

So, here is a quick list of things to think about:

1.            Uniform/sports kit – wash it

I got round to washing uniform and sports kit yesterday which felt a bit odd as it was so near Christmas but now it is done.  Hurrah.

2.            Uniform/sports kit – does it fit?

My daughter has had a real growth spurt over the last year, I have had to replace virtually her whole wardrobe every 3 or 4 months which is a bit disheartening.  But, much as I would like to avoid any post-Christmas spending (!), I will be making her try on shoes and trainers tomorrow as well as checking whether her uniform still fits.  That gives us a week then to buy new ones as required.

And if you have a child in years 12 or 13, you probably need to get their suit dry-cleaned (and buy yet another replacement pair of trousers – aaaggh!  He played basketball at lunchtime in his suit…

3.            Day chart

I did put together a daily chart for ‘everything that we need to remember for school’ for each day but it didn’t really work as I made it too complicated.  So, before my children go back this term, I am going to create a much simpler chart and USE IT!   I do write everything in our house diary so mostly we did remember most things but I think any help in avoiding that dash back to school with PE Kit is worth doing.

4.            Homework/revision

They may not have mentioned it but it is worth checking with your children (and, depending on their age, going through their bookbag to check) whether they had any homework set for the holidays.  My daughter missed a few days of school in the last 2 weeks of term and she has to complete a comprehension that she missed out on. I know she has forgotten about it so am going to pick my moment to ensure it is done before she returns to school.

Older children may have mocks or other exams in January so a bit of revision may be needed.  Good luck with that one!

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Getting organised – menu planning pt 3 – Generating ideas

So you have written out your days of the week, made a note of any activities that will affect dinner time and are ready to start filling in those blank spaces with meals.  After day 1, you can’t think of ANYTHING to cook.  So how do you come up with ideas?

Menu planning

Family favourites

This is always a good place to start – ask the family for their favourite meals.  If there are quite a few, keep a list somewhere and use one or two ideas each week.  It is surprising what the family comes up with when asked.

Beyond meat and two veg

Call me slow here but it took me years to realise that most meat goes with any starch.  This was really liberating and is a good way of generating ideas. Chicken legs, for example, depending on how you prepare them, can go with mash, chips, pasta, rice and noodles. So if you think roast chicken has to go with roast potatoes (again..), think again.  It is lovely served with rice and stir fry or, as we had last night, noodles and stir-fry.  Steaks can be eaten with bread, sausages with pasta, fish with rice and so on.

Choose your protein

In our last menu planning article, we mentioned choosing a different protein for each day and working around that.   If you are really stuck, just arbitrarily decide to assign a protein to a day eg lamb on Monday, eggs on Tuesday and beef on Wednesday and see if that helps.

Add carbohydrate & veggies

Then just choose your carbohydrate – pasta, rice, potatoes (chipped, baked, mashed, roast, new), noodles, bread. Decide on vegetables, or salad and there you are – a meal planned.

As I said in an earlier article, I usually buy a selection of vegetables rather
than specifically allocating a specific vegetable to a meal but it all usually
works out.  I always buy carrots, spinach and frozen peas as basics and then maybe pick up whatever else looks good or is in season.

Or make the starch your inspiration

Alternatively you could decide to make the carbohydrate the focus of one or two days nstead of a protein. Pasta with your favourite sauce, for example, or rice.

Or be a bit saucy

Another way to get your inspiration going is to think of a sauce and then decide what could go with it.  Cheese sauce could be used for cauliflower cheese or macaroni cheese, tomato sauce goes a treat with sausages and pasta  or can be used to make melanzane con parmigiana (try this recipe from BBC  Good Food)

Stuck for time or ideas?

If any of the above haven’t got you started, try these quick recipes to get you
started –

Pesto chicken – slice chicken breasts, spread with pesto and grill; serve with salad and rice

Pesto pasta – add pesto sauce to your favourite pasta, add toasted pine-nuts for extra deliciousness

Stir fry with noodles – garlic, broccoli, red pepper, soya sauce and lemon.  Add a protein (eg tuna, beef or chicken strips) to make this more substantial.

Do let us have any of your quick meal ideas – we will be writing a post about this soon.

Our next article will look at how to remember all those great recipes!

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