0001 – Roasted Red Pepper Soup

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ROASTED AND READY

We find ourselves in the lucky position of having an amazing market in our town.  Each week a number for market stalls arrive selling clothes, cheeses, meats and vegetables.  A wander though the market always piques my interest, and I’m usually drawn in to purchasing something from which I can create a recipe.

On Tuesday last, as I made my way through the stalls, I noticed several rather large bowls of vibrant, red peppers – front and centre on the main vegetable stall.  The sign beside the peppers read £1.50 a bowl.  The double whammy hit me – possible recipe, definite bargain.

I swooped in and purchased a bowl, and spent the remainder of my lunch hour dreaming up how I’d make use of these peppers.

Happiness is hot soup on a cold day!

The days are shortening, the sun is shining less, and gone are the warm nights spent outside around our patio table (at least for this year)!  Food is our medicine – and that comes from both the ingredients and the feelings it elicits.  Wholesome, warm soup makes us feel great, and there’s so little junk in it that it’s good for your body.

My decision – Roasted Red Pepper Soup!

Ingredients

  • 5 red peppers, halved and seeded
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 carrot diced (optional, but nutrient adding!)
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper – to your liking
  • 2 cups of water

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven at 200c (Gas Mark 6).  Chuck the peppers on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes (or until you notice a slight char on the flesh).  Don’t let them burn!
  2. Start cooking down the onions in a pan, in a good glug of olive oil.  Cook for approximately three minutes.
  3. I always boil the water in a kettle so it’s ready!  In a measuring cup add the 2 cups of water with the bouillon and set aside.
  4. Add the diced carrots to the onions and keep cooking for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped garlic, basil and warm until fragrant.
  6. Put in the tomatoes, bouillon mix, salt and pepper, and roasted peppers.  Bring everything to the boil.
  7. Cover a simmer for about 20 minutes.  At that point everything should be nice and soft.
  8. Let the soup cool enough so that it’s safe to blitz with a blender.  Blend it until it’s nice and smooth.  The texture should be somewhat creamy!

Warm it back up and enjoy.

Notes:

Some people might peel the flesh from the red peppers.  I think that’s a waste, and once blended, you won’t notice them anyway.

This will serve about 4-6 people.  My children love it, especially with a bit of bread for dipping.  Better yet if it’s rye bread.

Use olive oil liberally.  Olive oil has plenty of healthy fats that kids need to grow their bodies and brains.

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Better Late than Never

Well…it’s been a while.  The last time I posted on this blog, it was September 2015.  We were 27 weeks in to our pregnancy, we were about to move in to our new house, and I was preparing to sit my final exam in my four year long course.

Fast forward to today, and I’m completely finished with exams (hooray…for now), we’ve completely settled in to our new home, and our son is nearly two years old.

I’m a second time father and it’s been a very interesting experience.  The past two years have been both amazing and difficult.  I’ve learned that some things are much easier than they used to be, and plenty of things are much more difficult.

I’m also beginning to realise, with one son now entering year 7 (that’s junior high for North Americans) that there’s an entire new set of issues that I have to deal with.  I always thought that once the first five years of life are taken care of, then having kids would be smooth sailing.  I’m seeing clearly that it’s not quite as simple as that.

Finally, the most crucial observation that I’ve made over the past two years is how different my perception of fatherhood was ten years ago, as compared to now.  The world has completely changed in ten years and the things I need to anticipate now for my 2 year old son, weren’t even in existence when my older son was at the same stage.

I’m going to continue to share my experiences and I hope that my unique view and insights from being a second time dad might be useful for you on your journey.

R

WEEK 22.5 – Buying stuff

Cot

We’re somewhere in the middle of week 22 and 23.  How accurate can this really be?  My mind is boggled by the “really great” estimates that the ultra sounders (I forgot what they’re called) and the midwife comes up with.  We’re at 22.5 by my estimates, so that’s what I’m going with.

Babywise, there isn’t a lot going on.  It seems like a bit of a boring week when it comes to baby and mom websites as well.  Those talk about gaining weight, swelling fingers, one even suggests your feet will grow (moms not dads).  If all they can talk about during week 22 is that you’ll put on weight and get stretch marks, then you know they’re struggling for content.   It seems like there isn’t much to talk about all around – except there is some development stuff like the development of the pancreas.  The pancreas is important, but it’s not making headlines.

Here’s what I know is happening.  We’re looking for stuff for the baby.  True to my tag, we’re doing this on a budget.  The budget is self imposed (leave buying new stuff to the first time parents), but also imposed by severe lack of funds.  Call us crazy, but we’ve decided to buy a house during this process.  We move in to the house somewhere around week 33 – that shouldn’t be stressful!

I have to admit, I am not a shopper.  It absolutely kills me.  When it comes to buying things for me, it’s in, try on, fits right, to the till, out the door.  Luckily, buying on a budget means I don’t have to go in to a shop, because it’s simply too expensive.  Of course, we aren’t shopping traditionally, but we still have to shop.  Our shopping is done on the internet.  This consists of cruising local “for sale” and “pre-loved”(whoever came up with that idea is an idiot) sites and waiting for parents to decide to get rid of stuff as their kids get bigger and things no longer fit.  This natural growing process of kids is good for guys like me – second-hand cots go for cheap!

Week 22.5 isn’t all that exciting.  If my partner read this, I’d probably get a slap around the head.  I’m sure her experience of week 22.5 is a bit different!  But as a guy, there’s no baby in my tummy, so my contribution is helping pick out cots.  Wild times!

Sometimes wetting the bed is funny!

Fire pit

We were sat in front of this the other night.  We didn’t camp on our holiday because the weather wasn’t cooperating and I spared my pregnant partner from the pain of sleeping in a cold tent.

On our return home, the weather improved, so we lit a fire in our back yard and roasted marshmallows.  At one point my son kept prodding the fire with a stick.  As all good fathers know, playing with fire leads to bed wetting (or so the legend goes).

I looked him in the eye and said, “Stop playing with the fire or you’ll wet the bed tonight.”

A good two minutes passed, no further fire prodding took place.   I could see there was a lot of thinking going on in his head.  He eventually broke his silence and asked in the most serious voice I’ve ever heard from him.

” So dad, do you definitely pee the bed if you’ve been playing with the fire?”

I almost fell off my chair.

Kids are great, and sometimes the subject of wetting the bed can make you laugh.

A free event saved the day!

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I’ve lived in good climate and it bores the hell out of me.  I like weather rather than climate.

John Steinbeck

It wasn’t the most idyllic seaside day, but when you live in England you have to take them as they come.  A cool, cloudy, sometimes rainy day found us on the beach in Bournemouth.  This is our summer holiday, and come rain or shine, we were going to make it to the beach and have some time in the ocean (sea for Brits).

On the run up to our holiday I’d been constantly checking the weather.  I was becoming borderline obsessed with it.  At the start, I was checking the BBC weather site two or three times a day.  Weather forecast – DREADFUL.  I moved to stage two of my madness and began to check OTHER weather providers.  I would hit the BBC site, move on to the Met office site, and sometimes see what my phone’s widget would tell me.  I held out hope, like a complete idiot, that something was going to change.  Those black clouds with two big blue rain drops would part and glorious sun would shine through.  If anything, the more I looked at the weather, the more I realised that nothing would change (and I was acting like a fool checking it) – we were in for a week of standard-summer-Englishlike weather.  I moved on.

Determined not to let the weather master us, but for us to be it’s master (or at least put up with it or something like that), we searched for things to do.  I found this decent site on things to do in Bournemouth (I’ve used it a few times before) and had a search around.  I scoured the site for anything that kids could do, that didn’t cost the earth.  To be honest, it’s a bit difficult to find much to do in Dorset that doesn’t cater to, let’s say, the older generations (I mean no offence by the way – simply an observation).

But low and behold, with some searching, I found this –Swim Safe.  This is an event put on by the RNLI, where local lifeguards teach children how to swim safely in the ocean – and it’s completely free.  It happens to be running most of the summer holidays, so with a need to get down to the beach, I signed the kids up and locked in a day to be there – come rain or shine.

We got down to the beach on the blustery Tuesday morning and found the registration zone.  From the off we were greeted by extremely friendly lifeguards who shepherded the kids in to the suit up area, helped them get west suits on, then whisked them away for a 45 minute chat and swim.  The kids looked a bit timid at first, but it didn’t take long for them to get caught up in the action and start enjoying themselves.  We sat and watched (huddling for warmth) as the kids swam in the ocean and let the waves crash over them.

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It made me remember back to younger days when the weather didn’t affect me either.  It mattered not what was going on around you, all you wanted to do was flap around in the water and have some fun.  Kids have that magical quality of allowing you to remember back to when you were their age and life was carefree!

Alas, the event was over and we thanked the lifeguards profusely for doing such a great job.  They took it in their stride as they sincerely enjoyed what they were doing.  My hats off to them for being so good with the kids.  If you are a parent spending any time around the seaside where they are holding one of these events, I highly recommend you sign up and take your kids along.

Well, the weather improved throughout the day, and after fearing the kids would make a break for the hot showers and want to leave, I was pleasantly surprised when they insisted they go back in the water.  We spent the entire afternoon relaxing on the beach while the kids made new friends and swam to their heart’s content.  By the way, the sun eventually made an appearance, so the parents were happy too!

My lessons learned:

  1. There are good things out there if we have a look around.
  2. Summer weather in England is unpredictable at best.
  3. Don’t let the weather get in your way, kids are resilient and they don’t have a weather app on their phone (they actually don’t have a phone!).
  4. There are good people out there that are great role models for kids!  The RNLI Lifeguards are among them.

As I write this I notice that the sun is peeking through the clouds on this beautiful Dorset summer’s morning.  The kids are stirring out of their beds and the next adventure awaits.

Is it harder than you expected?

uphill battle

It is a wise father that knows his own child. – William Shakespeare

How many of you out there think being a dad is the best thing that’s ever happened?  I do.  I love it! But it’s not all gravy, is it?  When you were young, did you have this fantastic notion, like me, that being a dad would consist of the following:

  1. Playing hockey/football/basketball every waking moment.
  2. Teaching your kids every possible thing you know, them sitting attentively, taking in every single word you spoke.
  3. Taking them to every sporting event imaginable.  Taking them on a tour of every stadium (insert your sport here) to watch every team play a game.
  4. Always laughing, always playing, never ever having to be the disciplinarian – leave that stuff up to mom!

Well, if that’s your life now – Man, I hate you.  No, actually, good for you!  Someday maybe I’ll get there too.

My reality of fatherhood doesn’t play out exactly like that ideal dream I once had.  I play a bit of football with my kids, I teach them a few things when they’ll listen, we’ve never been to any stadiums (yet) and we manage to laugh and play quite a bit.  I do this all while being the disciplinarian in the house (I’ll explain that further some other time)! My reality is that I make a lot of mistakes as a dad, I don’t have infinite amount of time to spend with them, and I don’t have money galore to take them everywhere they want or buy them everything they ask for (not a bad thing). My reality is that being a father is a lot harder than I ever could have imagined.

But I wouldn’t change it for the world…although I do strive to make things better.

I wonder how all of you out there feel about this.  Is being a father what you expected?  What are those things you always wanted to do with your kids, but you haven’t been able to do yet? I’m making a big list of things to do with my kids (and letting them be part of it too). I’ll share them with you some day – and how I’m making a plan to get them done. Making this plan is important as it will allow these three things:

  1. Writing it down and making a plan bring it closer to reality.
  2. Getting them involved ensures that the things that I want are aligned with the things that they want.  We’re going to have a lifelong partnership of working together – not battling against each other.
  3. I want to do as much as I can with my kids because I want to truly know them before they wander off in this world and make their way without me.

I hope, like me, you are embracing the tough times, and making things better every day! Ciao for now.

In the beginning

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything. -Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome Welcome to my blog.  This is my first proper attempt to write a blog.  I’ve toyed with the idea many times, I had a small go at it a few months back, but it was a bad attempt and I wasn’t ready to put a true effort in to putting it together.  That’s changed now!  Like anything that needs to be done properly, I’ve sat down and thought about why I want to do this, what is it I’m going to do, and made a plan to get this done.  Is this your experience behind your first attempt at blogging?

Who I am (Briefly)? I don’t think I’m an average dad, at least not in the place I live.  You know what? I probably still am the average dad, but thinking that I’m a bit different makes me feel a bit special.  I live in the UK, but I’m Canadian.  I’m 38 and still going to college with kids (some half my age).  I’ve served in the military, built scaffolds in large industrial plants, served food and beer around the world, travelled extensively, and now I’m an accountant.  A wild end I know, but it pays the bills.

This is what I look like.

A young Rudyard Kipling and me!
A young Rudyard Kipling and me!

That’s me and my son.  He’s in disguise because I’m not sure if I want to reveal his identity just yet.  I’m not sure if it’s fair on him, or even safe to do so.  Since this is going to be in the world of the internet, and any one can see it, I think I’ll be cautious at first.  I suppose that a few of you have may have the same concerns.  I’d like to know what you think about that.  Am I being stupid or is this a sensible thing to do?

Oh ya, I have a daughter as well, but there’s not a chance in hell that I’m ready to put a picture of her up yet.  I’m a bit protective.  She’s in school now, and I’ve had to hold myself back a few times from “having a quiet word” with her so called boyfriends…just to set some ground rules.  I’m sure there’s going to be a few posts on protective-fatherness, but those will come in time.

Oh ya, oh ya.  I’m also going to be a dad again.  That’s gonna make three!  There’s going to be 8 years between my daughter and her future brother/sister.  This gives that child a massive advantage because they’ll benefit from all the things I’ve realised makes a better dad.

What this blog is going to be about?

This blog is going to be about my experiences so far as a dad.  I’m going to write about what I’ve done, what I’ve seen, the good things that happen, and probably about the mistakes I’ve made.  As the title suggests, I’m a bit of a thrifty guy.  I don’t make much money, and I’m careful with what I have.  I’ll share things I think is important for parents to know about when it comes to their finances.

I’m going to ask a lot of questions.

I don’t just want to spew out my experiences in a one way mind dump.  I want to hear about what other people think.  I’m really interested in how others raise their children, what works for them, and what worries them in this crazy world we live in.

To be quite honest, there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not terrified that I’m not properly preparing my kids for the future.   I  imagine this is a common experience and most of you out there feel the same!

I almost forgot in my bit about myself.  I’m a bit of a food and fitness freak.  I eat in weird ways and I like to work out.  I’m probably going to post about that as well because I think it’s important to be being a man and a father….but I’ll get to that some other time.

Here’s my parting thought for the day!

The next time one of your kids wants to tell you something do this!

  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Get on their level.
  3. Listen intently.
  4. Hear what they are saying.
  5. Don’t touch your phone/computer, don’t be multitasking, don’t do anything but listen.
  6. That’s it…

Ciao