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Surrey Mummy is loving...the Glow Art light-up drawing board

Glow Art is the original light up drawing board that can take a kid’s imagination anywhere and to a whole new level! The toy is simple, just four fluorescent markets can be used to create fantastic neon-like works of art. 36 selectable modes use multi-coloured LEDs to flash and light up the board in different ways, transforming and bringing their art to life.

The see-through screen means they can use it as a tracing board as well, so all their favourite pictures can be drawn by them. This is ideal for pre-schoolers as well. Kids can play games on the board for extra fun. It’s also a great educational tool as letters, numbers and shapes can be traced. Even maths homework can become more fun! As children get older their creations advance. If you need any more inspiration just visit the Glow art website for cool examples of what you can do with the light-up drawing board.

 Our very own Surrey Mummy reviewer had this to say about the board she tried out:

“Glow Art is great because it’s good for all ages and it has cool neon effects and it lights up after you’ve drawn. It has four different colours with good effects on the drawing board. You can draw whatever you want, anything you can think of! You can keep changing your creations and can use it for hours. I’ve created a Christmas scene and left it up for my family to see. I know I will use this Glow Art again and again”.

For more info visit the Glow Art website.

How to prepare for budgeting as a single parent

If you’re preparing for a new life as a single parent, it can be pretty difficult to adjust. You don’t just have the stress of a relationship ending to deal with. You also have to think about how you’re going to afford all the expenses of looking after your child with a single income. 

Before you panic that you simply won’t have enough cash to make ends meet, it’s worth noting that there are a lot of single parents out there that manage to get by with their single income, particularly when they know how to budget correctly. 

Here are some of the crucial things that you can do to improve your financial situation as a single parent and set yourself up for family success. 

1.   Keep Track of Your Spending

You can’t control your spending situation if you’re not keeping track of how much money you’re using. Try to get a clear picture of how much cash comes into your bank account each month with your income, and how much you spend on things like bills and necessary expenses. 

The good news is that a lot of banks now have online services and apps that allow you to see your balance, standing orders, and direct debits in real-time, so you can get a closer overview of your money. Several banking apps also show you what your money is being spent on, so you can better organize your budget going forward. 

As you track your spending, make sure you ask yourself what you’re spending money on that you could cut back on, what you buy that you may be able to get cheaper, and whether you can find any ways to supplement your income. 

2.   Buying the Things You Need

As a single parent, you’re going to have things that you absolutely need to buy for your child. In some cases, you won’t be able to wait until you’ve saved up enough extra cash for these big expenses. You’re going to need to find the best possible way to access the things you need as quickly as possible, which might mean accessing a loan via somewhere like Omacl.co.uk

If you do decide to borrow money, make sure you think carefully about how much you need, and what kind of loan is the most suitable for your circumstances, there are a lot of options out there depending on your situation. 

3.   Find Quick Ways to Save Money

When you’re saving money and raising a family at the same time, it’s important to get into a state where you can consistently find new ways to save cash. Depending on how old your children are, you can even ask them to work with you on becoming more frugal. For instance, take showers instead of baths, and avoid putting the heating on before you really need to. 

There’s also the option to think about air-drying your clothes and washing your dishes yourself instead of using an appliance. Cut the costs of your electricity bill by turning off the radiators and lights in any room you’re not using too. You could even look into getting rid of your television subscription package and switching to something like Netflix instead. 

4.   Look for Extra Help Wherever You Can Get it

Sometimes, the best way to improve your financial situation is to look for additional sources of income, and make sure that you’re not spending over the odds on the things in your budget. However, there are some additional sources of support that you can track down too. Talking to a professional from the citizens advice bureau is a good place to start. 

You can also think about looking into any extra groups that you can join to save money on things like groceries with vouchers and discount codes. A lot of stores have their own loyalty schemes available to sign up to these days. 

5.   Save Whenever You Can

Finally, remember that finding extra money to save when you’re struggling with expenses as a single parent can be difficult, but you don’t have to save hundreds of pounds every day to see results. Even just putting a small amount of cash away on a regular basis can make a huge difference to your situation in the long-term. 

Setting up a standing order from your existing current account to another savings account could help to ensure that you get the savings you need into your account without having to worry about things like accidentally overspending. Don’t give up on saving money – even if it’s just a small amount each week. 

Fine food, casual dining: new national prepared food delivery service launches

  • Working long hours and too tired to cook?

  • Wanting to enjoy restaurant quality food without having to leave home?

  • Needing to send some cheer to someone struggling with the current social distancing restrictions?

Then the launch of Noble House Prepared, a fabulous new prepared food delivery service could be exactly what you’re looking for.  With their core independent top-class events and upmarket corporate catering business severely disrupted by the pandemic, the team behind Noble House Events is now bringing its 10 years’ heritage in serving up exceptional food directly into people’s homes. This is a prepared food brand with a difference - largely thanks to the impeccable credentials of Noble House Prepared’s Executive Chef, who spent many years leading the restaurants of Michelin star chef Gordon Ramsay, both in the UK and overseas - but also courtesy of the complete and diverse range of outstanding food and drink solutions on offer.

The Noble House Prepared concept is simple: delivering delicious, superb quality frozen award-winning prepared meals directly to your doorstep, creating a fine food, casual dining experience. In addition to a glorious range of gastronomically triumphant mains, customers can also choose from a selection of sumptuous sides and decadent desserts. To complete the restaurant phenomenon theme, Noble House has tracked down an impressive array of quality wines from all around the world, as well as a generous selection of coffee beans and pods (ethically sourced and blended from the very best growers across the globe) designed to meet the discerning standards of the ultimate coffee connoisseur.  

The exceptional standard of food synonymous with Noble House Prepared has already been granted a highly respected seal of approval by Great Taste, the world’s largest and most trusted food and drink awards, with the company securing three prestigious Great Taste Awards in its first year of entry.

Ordering is online (www.noblehouseprepared.com) and couldn’t be simpler, full nutritional and allergen details are clearly provided for every product and special dietary requirements are well catered for. Each dish is also supported by notes from the chef and guidance on recommended wine pairings will also be available.  The Noble House Prepared service is available nationwide and delivery slots are confirmed with the customer by the company’s dedicated delivery service. 

Perhaps this year, of all years, you just want a peaceful, stress free Yuletide holiday, without all the endless food prep and cooking. So, here’s an early seasonal gift that’s sure to lift the spirits: the most delicious, restaurant quality festive fayre, delivered straight to your doorstep – or ‘Christmas in a Box’ courtesy of Noble House Prepared. 

Alternatively, you can create your very own Christmas Box by ordering a bespoke selection of individual dishes, don’t forget to check out the three Great Taste Award winning mains.

To complete the restaurant dining vibe, Noble House also offers an impressive array of quality wines from all around the world, as well as sparkling Christmas bubbly together with a generous selection of ethically sourced coffee.

And don’t forget, what better present to give this Christmas than a voucher from Noble House Prepared, representing a gift-wrapped restaurant meal experience in the comfort of your own home, available in a range of denominations from £50.
 
Last order date for Christmas 18th December, last delivery date 22nd December.
 
Merry Festive Dining!

The top toys set to sell like hotcakes this Christmas 2020

Child with PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller

We are all aware of needing to do things differently this year and Christmas preparations are no exception. The message coming from toy retailers is not to leave our Christmas shopping too late. Due to COVID-19 restrictions across the country with non-essential shops closed and couriers already overloaded, it will pay to plan ahead and secure those sought after gifts before they're sold out.

We want to see happy faces this Christmas and an exciting or loveable toy can make all the difference to our children who have endured hardships as much as the rest of us.

There are many familiar names on the DreamToys list this year, including big classic toy brands such as Monopoly, Harry Potter, Lego and Star Wars as well as the massively popular Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Pokémon and L.O.L Surprise.

So without further ado, here is the list, with RRPs, but remember to shop around because you may find a better deal.

Surprise Mini Brands Mystery Capsule from Zuru (RRP £6.99)

Unwrap, peel, and reveal REAL miniature collectibles with 5 Surprise Mini Brands! Each capsule is a surprise unboxing with dozens of miniatures and surprise shopping accessories to find. What 5 surprises will you unbox? There are over 100 miniatures of your favorite brands to collect, including rare Metallic and Glow in the Dark minis, and Super Rare Golden Minis too!Can you find your favourite brands like Skippy Peanut Butter, Aunt Bessies Yorkshire Puddings or Mentos Gum? Collect them all to create your own mini shopping world! Buy toy.

Barbie 3-in-1 DreamCamper from Mattel Toys (RRP £79.99) 

The Barbie 3-in-1 DreamCamper comes with lots of hidden surprises for camping fun.

Open the side panels to transform the Barbie 3-in-1 DreamCamper into a camping playset with room for 4 Barbie dolls to eat, sleep and play. Unlatch the front of the camper to reveal a pickup truck, and peek under the backseat of the truck to find a boat that's perfect for fishing trips.

Keep exploring to uncover a pool and an open-air kitchen for cooking fun. Open the back of the Barbie DreamCamper to reveal a bathroom with a pop up shower, toilet and vanity, then help your Barbie dolls climb to the rooftop bedroom where they can sleep under the stars. With 50 camping, cooking and fishing play pieces, the opportunities for storytelling are endless. Buy toy.

Harry Potter Hedwig from LEGO (RRP £34.99) 

Bring the magical personality and elegant movement of Hedwig, the celebrated snowy owl from the Harry Potter movies, to life. The collectible LEGO Harry Potter Hedwig (75979) display toy offers a rewarding building experience and looks magnificent on show.

With a wingspan of over 13" (34cm), this 630-piece brick-build model shows Hedwig in flight, delivering an important letter. Once the build is complete, a turn of a handle causes the jointed wings to move gracefully up and down. The collectible model stands on a sturdy base with a detachable LEGO Harry Potter minifigure and another, smaller, Hedwig the owl toy with wings spread open.

If you’re looking for a cool gift or popular buildable model for kids or Harry Potter fans of any age, the range of LEGO Harry Potter toys are sure to provide endless magical pleasure. Buy toy.

L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Remix Fashion Doll Assortment from MGA Entertainment (RRP £39.99) 

O.M.G. we sisters are ready to take the stage, but everything on our So Extra Tour got remixed – from our music to our fashions. We’re calling all B.B.s to join with our crew, and together, we’ll put on a concert that will bring down the house. We’ll take our fresh sound, outrageous fashion and show stopping moves and do what we do best – play that fierce music and remix this vibe.

Each L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Remix includes a fashion doll, 2 fashion looks, 1 pair of shoes, a shoebox, accessories, a hat box, a hair brush, a doll stand, a full-size record, a lyric magazine and a package that really plays music. Collect all 4 L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Remix fashion dolls. Collect the whole L.O.L. Surprise! Remix line to collect all the song lyrics and complete the surprise song. Buy toy.

Laser Battle Hunters Vehicle from Character Options (RRP £59.99)

Get ready for radio-controlled combat with Laser Battle Hunter vehicles. Take control of Shadow or Reaper and hunt down your opponent with laser cannon action. Each vehicle races with multi-directional 4- wheel drive, super-fast speeds and crazy drifts.

\for Multi-Player combat use the built-in infrared cannon to out blast your opponent. Hunt your enemy, take aim at the rear of their vehicle and fire with impressive cannon recoil. Blast your opposition 3 times to win. Each hit triggers explosion sounds and sends your vehicle shaking.

As a single player make one Laser Battle Hunter a moving target for 60 seconds. Use your Laser Battle Hunter to blast the target vehicle as many times as possible as it races around and returns fire. Buy toy.

Monopoly For Sore Losers Hasbro from (RRP £22.99) 

Don't get sad…get even! Say goodbye to the frustration of losing while playing Monopoly, and say hello to the Monopoly For Sore Losers board game. This hilarious twist on the Monopoly game turns losing on its head and celebrates it instead. Players earn cash by doing the typically frustrating things in the game such as going to Jail, paying rent on a property, or going bankrupt. And those who really start sinking can make a comeback using the large Mr. Monopoly token that gives players advantages over everyone else. So get playing, get the revenge you've been craving, and feel good about losing! Family Game Night might never be the same again with this game for ages 8 and up. Buy toy.

PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller from Spin Master Toys (RRP £64.99) 

Jump into action with PAW Patrol! Saving the day is more adventurous than ever with the Dino Patroller, the first-ever motorised PAW Patrol team vehicle! Featuring room for all six pups, oversized wheels, a projectile launcher and an exclusive Chase and T-Rex dinosaur action figure, the Dino Patroller is ready to roll! When the dinosaurs yelp for help, place Chase and another pup (sold separately) in the cab and a Dino Rescue Deluxe Vehicle (sold separately) into the back bay.

Load the projectiles into the launcher and get ready for epic rescue missions. Press the vehicle’s badge button all the way down and watch it move! With its oversized wheels, the Dino Patroller is able to conquer any terrain! As you play out your dino rescue adventures, push the tail to make the large-scale dino’s mouth open and help the PAW Patrol spot your T-Rex in trouble! Deploy your Deluxe Vehicle from the bay and launch the rescue nets to help save the day! Create your own prehistoric missions just like in the hit show again and again. Go on action-packed dino rescues with the PAW Patrol and the Dino Rescue Dino Patroller! Buy toy.

Peppa Pig Peppa’s Shopping Centre from Character Options (RRP £39.99)

Take Peppa on an exciting trip out to the shops, with The Peppa Pig Shopping Centre Playset! Your little Piggies will discover lots of fun filled features to make an exciting day out with their friends.

Make New shops! The Peppa Pig Shopping Centre has 2 floors of fun, and four shopping areas. Swap around the backgrounds and swivel the signs to create 6 different shops in total! There’s an Ice Cream Parlour, which changes to a Pizzeria, and a fancy Cake Shop, which can transform into a Toy Store. There’s also a Fruit and Veg Shop, and even a Bakery, where Peppa can choose a biscuit or iced bun for a lovely treat, simply rotate the table to change the food. Buy toy.

Pokémon Carry Case Playset from Character Options (RRP £39.99) 

The awesome Pokémon Carry Case Playset brings the world of Pokémon to life! Kids can discover the world of Pokémon and take it with them wherever they go. Re-enact your very own Pokémon Battles and explore the Pokémon world with this exciting feature filled Carry Case Playset! Where will your adventures take you? With tons of features including a bounding boulder trap, treetop trap door, battle arena complete with launch pads, secret caves perfect spots for hiding in, spinning whirlpool, tree-top platform look-out spots, sneak attack launch pads, shaking bridge and so much more the adventures are endless! Never has the Pokémon World been brought to life quite like this! The Pokémon Carry Case Playset is scaled for any 2-inch Pokémon figure and when your adventures are complete it all folds up easily into Ash’s iconic Kanto Region backpack making it not just perfect for safely storing all your Pokémon figures in one place but also addsto the Pokémon role play and means you can take your Carry Case Playset wherever you go! The Pokémon Carry Case Playset is sure to be top of every budding Pokémon fan’s wish list! Gotta Catch ‘Em All! ™ Buy toy.

Present Pets (Assortment) from Spin Master Toys (RRP £54.99) 

Discover Present Pets, the only gifts that unbox themselves! Waiting inside each Fancy Pup themed box is an adorable interactive puppy just for you. She is so excited to meet you, she paws her way out of her own gift box! With one of two possible Fancy Pups available in every box, you won’t know which puppy you’re getting until she unboxes herself. To start the big reveal, unwrap the box’s outer layer and pull the gift tag. The box will instantly start to shake as your sweet pup eagerly paws her way out! The front panel pops open, revealing which Present Pets Pup is inside. 

Present Pets are a great gift for kids aged 5 and up and make any gifting occasion extra special. Unwrap all of the Present Pets, including Fancy Pups Princess and Kweenie (each sold separately) and bring home an unforgettable unboxing experience the whole family will enjoy! Which puppy will you get? Buy toy.

Star Wars The Mandalorian – The Child “Baby Yoda” from Mattel Toys (RRP £29.99) 

Fully embrace the cuteness of the 50-year-old Yoda species with this adorable Talking Plush Toy. He may look like a baby Yoda, but this lovable creature is referred to as the Child. Inspired by the Disney+ live-action series The Mandalorian, this sweet Star Wars Talking Plush Toy makes a Force-sensitive addition to your collection.

The adorable figure with green skin, big ears and large eyes resembles a baby Yoda but is referred to as the Child. The toy plush has a soft body, plus a sturdy base filled with beans, perfect for cuddling or to display as a collectible. Star Wars fans will love taking on the role of The Mandalorian Bounty Hunter and caring for the Child on their own!

Nothing in the galaxy is as cute, has taken as many naps, sipped more soup, or learned to control the Force as The Child from the hit streaming series The Mandalorian on Disney Plus!

Now you can become his protector with this cuddly plush toy from Star Wars, dressed in the cutest little robe ever seen this side of Mos Eisley. Posable arms let kids pretend the Force is within their reach, while a squeeze of the toy’s soft plush body activates character sounds! Buy toy.

Super Mario Adventures With Mario Starter Course from LEGO £49.99

Collect virtual coins with Mario on the LEGO Super Mario Starter Course Set. The LEGO Mario figure reacts to action bricks and enemies with instant LCD animations and sounds. Jump from the ? Block, spinning and cloud platforms, battling the Goomba and Bowser Jr. LEGO figures as you go. 

Rearrange the bricks to create new levels, or combine with LEGO Super Mario Expansion Sets for more ways to play (each sold separately). 

The LEGO Super Mario app offers fun share features and zoom and rotate viewing tools make building easier. App and smart device not included. Buy toy.

Where is staying open in Surrey during Lockdown 2.0?

Enjoying the parkland at Painshill

So here we are again, facing another lockdown as COVID-19 tightens its grip. The government announced on October 31 2020 that England will be placed in a lockdown again from Thursday 5 November. This time, however, there will be some differences, which is great news. Stemming from the fact that we will be encouraged to undertake plenty of exercise, many venues with gardens and parkland have been declared exempt from the lockdown.

Below we have listed out those venues that are able to stay open, as well as some of the finer details such as pre-booking requirements and other information. As announcements are made we will endeavour to update and add to this list.

Staying open in Surrey

National Trust: Outdoor spaces are staying open in the following venues; Box Hill, Claremont Landscape Gardens, Dapdune Wharf, Hatchlands Park, Devil's Punchbowl, Leith Hill, Polesden Lacey & Winkworth Arboretum. This will include gardens, parklands and car parks. Pre-booking essential and the booking cycle begins each Friday for the following week. Find out more.

Painshill Park: Open, pre-booking required for non-members. Find out more.

RHS Wisley: Pre-book a time slot before your visit. All shows cancelled. Find out more.

The Sculpture Park, Churt: Tickets must be pre-booked online. Find out more.

Garden centres: Most are staying open, including Secretts of Milford, Notcutts & all Squire's Garden Centres. Find out more.

Also remaining open are Parks & Playgrounds. You can also get some fresh air and exercise ideas by having a look at our Duck feeding & paddling (pack your wellies!) and our Family walks & cycles sections.

WIN a 'Dine in for Two' package from Mandira's Kitchen

Mandira's Kitchen Dine in for Two

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.

We may now be over the worst of the lockdown (for now at least) but going out for dinner is still beset with issues for many. We now need to comply with the 'rule of six' as well as having the stress of remembering your mask, having your temperature taken, leaving contact details as well as making sure you're done and dusted by 10pm. And for those of us with young children going 'out out' to a restaurant without the kids can involve the expense of babysitters on top of everything else.

So we've teamed up with Mandira's Kitchen for a fabulous competition with the lucky winner enjoying a 'Dine in for Two' package from Mandira's authentic Indian kitchen based at Silent Pool, near Guildford. The local catering company have recently received six Great Taste Award stars which are the equivalent of the Oscars in the food world! Read our recent review Spice up your life...or at least your weekend dinner to whet your appetite and get a flavour of what's on offer.

For the competition the prize menu will include Chicken Xacuti (Goan style curry with roasted coconut and red chilli), lemon rice and lehsuni dal (lentils with caramelised garlic and fresh coriander), with two naan breads, two vegetable samosas and a mini jar of orange and gin chutney.

The vegetarian option is Palak Paneer (Indian cottage cheese cooked in a creamy sauce with baby spinach) and the vegan version is Enchorer Dalna (green jackfruit cooked with tomatoes, ginger and garam masala), vegetable pulao and palak dal (lentils with baby spinach and tomatoes), with the samosas and chutney, and spiced crackers instead of the naan bread.

Those not lucky enough to win this time will be sent a voucher to use at Mandira's Kitchen shop or online. For more info on Mandira's Kitchen and their full range visit the Mandira's Kitchen website.

To enter simply answer the following question using the entry form at the bottom of the page:

Where in Surrey is Mandira's Kitchen based?

a) Priory Pond b) Silent Pool c) Frensham Pond

Terms & conditions
One entry per person.
Contact details required in order to notify the winner.
Email address required to receive a voucher.
Contact details will be passed to Mandira's Kitchen but strictly no other third parties.
Competition closes on Wednesday 30 September 2020 at 4pm.

“Creativity is as important as literacy” as Story Art trials free online art lesson

Story Art's aim is to make online art tuition fully engaging with the exciting stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey to cater to the perspective of children.

We use famous paintings and short animations with which the children can interact, learn the stories in fun ways and get to know many Greek gods and heroes through the lesson.

Greek mythology is a basic subject matter in many fields, including all literary arts. Knowing the story of the gods and man will help children learn and understand other fields as well.

Our art tutor shows the process alongside your child for the whole duration in the following ways:

  • Tell the story of The Iliad and show a painting about the story 
  • Discuss Greek gods and goddesses
  • Express the scene in the child’s own way
  • Includes some supportive materials
  • After finishing the story, the sketch book will be children’s own Iliad pop-up book.

We're pleased to let you know that Story Art Class is open with NEW online classes for children including a FREE Trial lesson for first week. The promotion end by 18th September.

WED ~ FRI    4:30 - 5:30 

  • Class 1. 14th Sep : The Golden Apple ( Free trial lesson )
  • Class 2. 21st Sep : The Judgement of Paris
  • Class 3 28th Sep  : Menelaus becomes king of Sparta
  • Class 4 5th Oct  : Paris wins Helen’s Heart
  • Class 5 12th Oct  : Odysseus feigns madness
  • Class 6 19th Oct  : Achilles throws off his disguise

Parents don’t need to prepare anything. We supply all the materials needed for the lesson.

This online course was designed for children to enjoy art and express their creativity.

For more info and to sign up for the Free trial class click here or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our Guide to creating the perfect family-friendly garden space

By making the perfect garden space, it is important to make the most out of the perfect family-friendly garden space. With the use of furniture and garden games as well as family-friendly garden furniture, this can help to create the perfect garden space for your family regardless of the amount of space that you have. To help you get started, we have created a list of some tips and tricks to make the perfect garden space. 

Make An Allotment For Your Kids 

When making the perfect family-friendly garden it is important to get creative. When you are out planting in your garden, why not make a space for your children to grow their own flowers and plants. By providing them with their own personalised space you are encouraging them to be as green-fingered as possible all whilst encouraging them to be healthy in their eating habits. By encouraging them to grow their own items of food such as vegetables, you can then get them to eat healthily and spend time in the garden. 

Make Use Of Play Houses 

In addition to adding their own space to grow food and their own flowers, your garden space must be a great place for your children to play. By adding playhouses, climbing frames and several other outdoor play items, you can make the perfect family-friendly garden space for your family. This is important and can help you to make the perfect garden space for your family and ensure that it is the perfect space for the whole family to enjoy. 

Secure Your Fences 

When making the garden space, it is important to secure your fences. By ensuring that you line the perimeter with a fence with concrete posts this can prevent the boundary from falling over with the wind. This will ensure that your garden is as safe as possible for your young ones regardless of what part of the garden they are playing in. This will keep your fences looking great all year round and will ensure that your garden is family friendly at all times not only for safety but also for privacy. 

Make The Most Of Garden Furniture 

The final way that you can make your garden family friendly is to incorporate the perfect garden furniture. Whether you opt for a fire pit and outside table and chairs or you have a climbing frame, this is the perfect way to make your garden the perfect one for your home. Though this can take time, this will benefit you in the long term as you can make the home and garden space as comfortable as possible for your family. This furniture can b made to match the colour theme of your home and make it look as stylish as possible.

With this in mind, there are several ways that you can make your garden enjoyable for the whole family with climbing frame, furniture and other additions to make your garden space as family-friendly as possible.  

2020, lest we forget? I hope not

At the stroke after midnight, 1 January 2020, sitting in front of my TV with a fizzy glass in hand, I leapt with joy. 2019 was over. It hadn’t been a great year for me; a two-month illness that came upon me like a bolt from the blue, the death of my father-in-law, my husband made redundant and to cap it off a further two months of ‘bed-ridden’ illness. It was my annus horribilis, something that seems to afflict most of us once or twice in our lifetimes, if we are lucky.

As I punched the air with great abandon that 2019 was over, little did I realise that 2020 would bring to the macro what I had experienced at a micro level the year before. But this time was different; we were all in it. There is comfort in solidarity. The affliction was affecting everyone and it wasn’t just my normal life that stopped, it was everyone’s.

But much like when we are ill, we have lived in a vacuum. And indeed, similarly to childbirth, on the whole we forget and move on. Are you, like me, forgetting what going into lockdown felt like? Are you not remembering the anxiety, disbelief and discomfort you experienced when going into a complete unknown in our lifetime? Did you, like me, start to wind-down your thoughts and fears, and relax into a routine which felt very much like an extended holiday for a good while – indulging in sundowners, zooming friends, clapping with neighbours, celebrating VE Day in a different way, spending time with the children, all helped by the wonderful weather we had this spring?

I’m not saying it was all rosy. There was family bickering, concerns about finances, the dread of running out of food, boredom, dealing with the rebellious (grand) parents; the list is fairly extensive and will be different for everyone. But I’d hazard a guess that this was balanced by the quietness of life, the connection with nature, having the time to exercise in the garden and walk or cycle if you wanted to, not popping to the shops every five minutes, the feeling of not having to be anywhere or answer to anyone, the freedom to be yourself.

But the nature of illness is that we forget - how we felt, what inconveniences it brought, how we wondered if we’d ever recover. Are you, like me, already forgetting? There is something special about human psychology that allows us to only remember the last thing that happened to us. We remember the end and by consequence the new beginning. This is a good thing, no? We’ve already forgotten how worried we all were that Boris Johnson would die. He lived, so we move on and resume our positions.

There are already many exceptions; people who have lost loved ones who will never forget. But as a human race we will move on from this coronavirus pandemic. We will forget. Such is the nature of illness on a macro as well as a micro level. The question remains, we forget the bad times, but will we also forget the good? As an optimist, I hope not.

This is an opinion piece written by Penny.

Spice up your life...or at least your weekend dinner

What shall we eat this evening? If you, like me, find it difficult to get inspired by the contents of your fridge or freezer and are trying not to visit the shops too often at the moment, we may have a way to spice things up for you (no pun intended!) Lockdown hasn’t helped, with queues at supermarkets, less range and with a house full of hungry children who have higher expectations in terms of variety.

Coming to our rescue last weekend was Mandira and the Mandira-ettes of the eponymous Mandira’s Kitchen as we were lucky enough to try one of their Indian weekend dining options, the celebratory 3-course Thali.

How Mandira's Kitchen began

Mandira’s Indian catering business began from her home kitchen and is now located at Silent Pool, near Albury, also home to Silent Pool gin. Mandira offers event catering, cookery lessons, spice tours and supper clubs, all of which ground to a halt during the coronavirus lockdown. Not one to be deterred, she set about promoting her freezer meals and takeaway options from a small shop at their premises.

Creating an ambience

It was quick and easy to order the food from Mandira. We selected the menu we required and completed the order and payment online, then made a quick drive over to pick it up on the day. Once back home we dug into the bag and pulled out the serving/heating instructions, all of which seemed very straightforward and helpful, heated up the oven and got cracking. 

We laid our table, incorporating the suggested bright table cloth, fresh flowers and candles to create an ambience deserving of our ‘Calcultta Connections‘ themed menu. Although we were experiencing a balmy evening by UK standards, the heavens opened as we sat down for our poppadums, chutneys and raitas – monsoon season had arrived!

We set the Sonos to start the suggested playlist that had been curated by Mandira to accompany our dining experience, shaking our hips to the Bollywood beats.

The main event

Once we’d cracked open the beers we began with a divine Fish Paturi starter, steamed to retain moisture and perfectly cooked with a translucent finish that I never seem to manage when cooking fish at home. Now I know the secret, steam your fish in banana leaves!

Next followed Ghee Bhaat (fragrant basmati rice with cashews and raisins), Mum’s Musur Dal (yellow lentils with onions and fenugreek leaves) and Misti Kumro Chocchori (butternut squash) all perfectly complementing the main affair, Murgir Jhol (a light chicken curry with potatoes). This came in trays for each person, all neatly portioned into sections and easily microwaveble as a whole dinner. 

Whilst eating our main course we played the fun quiz which had accompanied our meal, an Indian themed guessing game and a bit of an educational angle for the children (and us).

Meetha (dessert) followed with the most sumptuous Thandai ice cream which went down a storm alongside a warming cup of Indian Masala Chai, pre-mixed for us. We were certainly satiated and had the most delicious flavours bouncing around our mouths long after we’d finished.

A winning formula

We didn’t quite get round to watching the Bollywood film suggested with the tasting notes but if this floats your boat it would certainly round off a fun evening of escapism, vibrance, laughter and most importantly, fantastic food.

For more information about Weekend Dining and other options visit Mandira's Kitchen website. We are currently running a competition to win a Dine for Two dining package from Mandira's Kitchen. WIN a 'Dine in for Two' package from Mandira's Kitchen.