You know the kids are watching too much Disney/Nick Jr when they start coming out with Americanisms. “Daddy”, Heather asked last week, “what’s tic-tac-toe?”. I explained that it was another name for noughts and crosses, without considering that this was likely to lead to the (obvious) question of what noughts and crosses is. And, inevitably, we were in the middle of something else and it wasn’t a good time to explain more fully.
By astonishing coincidence, we received a package from Walkers a few days later, allowing us to try their new snack, Hoops and Crosses. They’re baked, rather than fried, and contain 56% wholegrain which I know is good, but I’m not entirely sure why it’s better than other types of grain. That said, our kids already eat plenty of wholegrain, but it doesn’t harm to add a little extra. What’s more, according to Walkers 27% of UK kids don’t have ANY wholegrain in their diets, so hiding them in tasty snacks doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Hoops and Crosses come in three flavours: beef, prawn cocktail and salt & vinegar. We received a packet of beef flavour to try, which we did as a family.
Megan wasn’t keen at all, but Heather enjoyed hers, and was more than happy to deal with Megan’s leftovers. Gem and I liked ours too, with both of us being reminded very much of Monster Munch, another Walkers snack.
Much to Gem’s displeasure, I used some of the snacks to show Heather how noughts and crosses is played, before they all got gobbled up. I’m not sure I got my message across fully, right enough – after they were all gone I asked Heather if she’d enjoyed her Hoops and Crosses.
“Yes Daddy, and now they’re playing tic-tac-toe in my tummy!”
This is a sponsored post. I was provided with a bundle from Walkers for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own, and links have been included out of courtesy.
Eating as a family isn’t something we get to do a lot, thanks to the time I get in from work being too close to the girls’ bedtime. We do all eat together at weekends, though, and those are some of my favourite meals of the week. Well, the ones where we don’t have to keep nagging the girls to eat up, anyway.
What’s a little strange is the foods the girls will devour and the ones they need more encouragement with. We both love a good, traditional roast dinner, but the girls? Not so much. Pasta, on the other hand, will often disappear before the bowls have all been set down on the table. At least that’s how it sometimes feels. Gem and I reckon there must be some Mediterranean blood in one of us somewhere – what other explanation can there be?
Our family favourites include chicken parmigiana (breaded chicken on a bed of spaghetti, in a tomato sauce) and carbonara. The latter is one that’s a speciality of mine and, dare I say it, is one of the few things I can make as well as, if not better than Gem!
There are a lot of carbonara recipes out there, many of which over-complicate things, but the one we use is simple (which is why I can do it), economical and healthier than most, because it doesn’t include any cream. I’m sure I’ve read that traditional Italian recipes don’t include cream either, so I should add “classic” to that list!
Here’s our carbonara recipe:
Classic Carbonara – serves 2
200g dried pasta – spaghetti, linguine or penne
2 medium eggs
60g grated parmesan cheese
4 rashers bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic
1-2tsp mixed Italian herbs
Boil the pasta in salted water according to packet instructions.
Heat a frying pan and add your bacon. Cook until almost crisp then remove from the heat but leave in the pan. Crush in the garlic and stir in herbs. Leave to one side.
Beat your eggs in a cup and mix 2/3 of of the egg into 2/3 of the cheese. (Reserve the rest for sprinkling).
When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan, off the heat. Stir in the garlicky, herby bacon and finally add the eggy cheese mixture and stir well, adding the last drop if egg if you think it’s too dry. The egg will cook with the heat from the pasta so don’t put it on the heat as you don’t want scrambled eggs!
One thing I love about this recipe is that all the quantities are even numbers, meaning it’s easy to scale up or down to suit the number of people we’re feeding. For example, we usually work on 3 adult portions t feed the four of us, splitting one between the girls, although to be honest I think they would devour however much we put down in front of them
Last weekend was our 10th wedding anniversary, and one we felt we should celebrate in style. We decided that a night or two without the girls was the order of the day, but with a big old world out there, where should we go?
New York was the initial destination of choice, but quickly dropped off the shortlist once we figured out how much it would cost. Berlin was next up, and we actually had a hotel booked there, but again decided that the money it was going to cost would be better spent on other things, and started looking closer to home. Manchester, Liverpool, London and Inverness (where, all those years ago, I proposed by Loch Ness) were all in with a shout at one stage or another, but the winner was a late bid by Oban, somewhere neither of us had been before.
And so on Friday we waved the kids goodbye (Heather was most confused that we were leaving them, at our house, with Grandma and Grandpa) and caught our train to Oban. Travelling by train was Gem’s idea, and one of the best she’s ever had, because it made an overnight stay feel more like a two day break. Oh, and it meant we could indulge in some celebratory bubbles en route, to accompany our antipasti style lunch (another of Gem’s ideas – I’m so glad I married her )
Our home for the night was the Ranald Hotel, a short walk from Oban station. The Ranald is a new hotel, built less than a year ago right in the heart of Oban. It’s so new that its location on Google Street View is occupied by a dilapidated garage, apparently operating as a garden centre. I assure you, that’s NOT where we stayed, although it might have been cheaper!
Not that the Ranald was expensive I hasten to add – we paid a very reasonable £125 for one of their Splendid rooms, and it certainly lived up to its name. Not only was it spacious with one of the comfiest hotel beds I’ve ever slept in, but the shower was incredible and the decor – both in the room and in the hotel in general – was top notch. I also loved the tiny box of chocolates that were in our room on our arrival! It’s nice touches like that which make a hotel memorable, and it’s little wonder that the Ranald is ranked top hotel in Oban by TripAdvisor.
Luggage dumped, we went for a wander round Oban itself, stopping for “refreshments” along the way. It’s a really lovely town, and the views across the bay are stunning. I also had Gemma take the picture above, which probably seemed a little odd to anyone watching – why would anyone take photos in the car park of Farmfoods? Little did they know that over a hundred years ago this was the site of the Oban Tannery, where my great great grandmother was born!
After changing, and a quick cocktail in the hotel bar, we headed out for our anniversary dinner at Cuan Mor, a bar/restaurant with great views over the harbour. They also have an on-site brewery, the Oban Bay Brewery to be precise, so I was looking forward to sampling a few of their beers. Sadly they only had one (Kilt Lifter IPA) on tap, which was a little disappointing. It was tasty, though, as was the food. I had West Coast crab timbale, a rack of ribs and a New York cheesecake, all of which were excellent. The restaurant was busy, and we had to wait a couple of minutes for a table, but on a Friday night that’s to be expected and wasn’t a hardship. And the table we got was by the massive front windows, allowing us to watch the sun go down while we ate, which coupled with the atmosphere inside made for a very enjoyable evening.
Sadly, a 5:15am wake up call (thanks Megan!) meant we were both shattered, and after dinner we headed back to the hotel where we were sound asleep before 11pm. No stamina these days, unlike our wedding where we were the last folk to leave the reception at 3:30am! I think those days are long behind us.
Saturday morning we had breakfast at the hotel (pancakes) before checking out and going for another wander. We didn’t have time for the distillery tour, but we did sample some of the best seafood we’ve ever tasted, from a little stall between the harbour and the station. It was so good we bought some to take on the train with us.
All too soon it was time to go home. The girls were pleased to see us, and we didn’t mention that the pencils we’d bought them as souvenirs had accidentally been thrown away. They’ll never know! After they were in bed, we shared fish suppers with my mum and dad, which was a great way to finish a great couple of days.
Oban is a fantastic place, and a great choice for our anniversary weekend. And, from looking through the tour guide in our hotel room, there are plenty of things to do nearby too. In fact, we both loved it so much we’re already planning a return visit, this time with the girls, some time around Easter 2014. And, already, I can’t wait