Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Have A Family Break Without Breaking The Bank

A little while back we decided that the tribe needed a minibreak, so C set about looking for good deals for a trip away.  6-12 weeks before travel is when the best prices are available for train travel, so deals were sought for that period.  C found a deal for single tickets to Edinburgh from Newcastle for only £10, and the return journey was the same.  One thing to always remember when booking travel is that sometimes two singles are cheaper than a return! As children under 5 go free that meant travel costs for a break abroad (M would like to point out that Scotland is another country, and maybe we'll need a visa to visit this time next year...) for a family of four were only £40!  No hidden taxes, no excess baggage charge and we could take a pram with no difficulty.
Accommodation was not as nice as we are used to, but for a city centre hotel it was very cheap (£68 for the family) and for one night you can put up with it not being the Savoy.  The hotel was not bad, the only problem we really had with the room was the lack of natural light.  We were situated on a bridge between two high rise buildings, the room only had windows in alcoves that were above ceiling level and as a result it was very dark.  Having said that it was clean, the beds were comfortable and it was very spacious which was good given that B did not want to sleep and wanted to run around until late into the night. Given that the hotel was virtually on Prince's street also, there can be no complaint.
Arriving in Edinburgh, after prior research, the tribe headed to the Royal Museum and the Museum of Scotland.  These are 2 adjacent museums that visitors can walk freely between (without really noticing that you have gone from one to the next)  And just as importantly they are free to enter.  The royal is an old building with natural history exhibits and exhibits on science and technology and the other was mainly history of Scotland and its people in a very modern building.  The exhibits will probably change occasionally so we cannot say what will be there now.
The museums offer a rooftop garden showing some of the native species of plant in Scotland and some extraordinary views across the city
We expected to spend an hour or two walking around, B was excited about there being dinosaurs there, but spent about 5 hours in the museum and it was well worth the visit, certainly somewhere we will go back to as the kids grow up.  The architecture of both buildings is amazing, but a little unnerving to those scared of heights.
On the first evening the kids were tired from the travel and the day walking round the museum and up to the castle and back.  So we decided to get a takeaway and eat in the hotel room.  We found a Chinese buffet restaurant on Waverley bridge called Jimmy Cheng's.  They offer both an eat in and a takeaway option.  The takeaway option allows you to fill a large tuperware box with food from the buffet for £5.  So we got 3 boxes and they kindly gave us a bag of prawn crackers free of charge after B pulled his cute 'I like prawn crackers' face.  The food was magnificent.  For £5 a meal you dont expect it to be brilliant, but this was.
The next day we travelled out to the zoo.  Its a short bus ride from the centre for which the guides suggest getting a day pass, but if you are not planning on going elsewhere on the bus it turns out to be cheaper to get singles there and back.  We had booked in advance for the zoo, which does not offer any discount for doing so, but does mean that you can spread the cost before you go.  Arriving very soon after opening, it was very quiet and we decided that the best thing to do would be to walk to the farthest end of the zoo and work our way back to the entrance.  The zoo is on a large hill.  Most of Edinburgh is.  So this meant that we would walk up the hill to the top and work our way back down.  This I will say is a good idea.  On our way up the hill we were sidetracked by the penguins, many of which were still sleeping when we passed.

We had also booked a time to see the pandas, but both were unwell, the female possibly pregnant, so all bookings were cancelled and it was a case of taking a chance that they would be outside for viewing at any time of the day.  The pandas are behind the penguin enclosure, so we had a look and saw a sign saying they were not out.
When we reached the top the views back out over Edinburgh were again brilliant.  We were very lucky with the weather, I can imagine on a bad day this would not be such a good view.
We then made our way slowly down through the rest of the zoo, it was amazing.
The are loads of animals, zebras, lions, tigers, monkeys, chimps, tapias, rhinos, and the famous pandas.

By the time we had walked back down to where the pandas are, the female was outside, she didnt stay out for long, but we did get to see her.  To this day no sign of a baby, so maybe she wasnt pregnant.
The trip to the zoo cost a total of £29 (a quick look at the website today shows its £16 each now), and it filled the entire day before our train journey home.  The kids loved it, and it is a fantastic way to spend a day, especially on a nice sunny day, like the one we visited on.
We took food and snacks for the daytime for both days so all in all the 2 day trip cost us only £152, which is certainly good for a family holiday.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Trains, Cache & Pirates

So the weekend has long gone, and it was a good weekend.  Saturday we visited the oldest railway in the world!!!  tanfield railway boasts not only being the oldest railway in the world, but has the oldest surviving railway bridge (although the railway does not cross the bridge anymore).
Just a few short years ago neither of us had any interest in trains.  Now we have 2 small boys, and the eldest thinks they are brilliant, and to be honest we are now all hooked on them.  Old ones mostly, they really do have something special.  So off we went on Saturday to visit Tanfield railway, but we found when we arrived that it was not open.  The railway is to our knowledge run by volunteers, and they run a special Christmas train throughout December, so I imagine that there is a lot of work preparing for that.  Despite the railway not running, a couple of the volunteers told us that one of the rail sheds was open and we could have a look inside.
It was not at all what we expected. we walk in to an engineering room, filled with massive drills, lathes and other various machines.  Through a door was the main part of the shed, with some engines.

This is not a rail museum like you will find in York or Shildon, this is a working railway.  It looks and feels like you have traveled to the time when these machines ruled the industrialised world.  It was slightly disappointing that the railway was not running, but the site provided a nice little walk, the views of the Tyneside/Durham countryside are lovely and there seemed plenty more to explore and we will be back I'm sure.  The whole visit was totally free, and only if you want to ride the train (on the days it is running) will it cost you anything.

For some time now we have both wanted to try geocaching, but with the little ones it has been a little difficult finding the time and energy at the same time when the weather is good enough to take them out hunting for little boxes.  But Saturday afternoon we decided to go for it. We were out on an errand without the little ones.  With 15 minutes to spare we found 2 local caches that we could try, the first was a tough one which we couldnt find (Morton road, Darlington), but the second we did, and so we became official geocachers.  Its fun, free and addictive, we have both been looking at more cache sites that we would like to visit, but not finding one when you are so close is frustrating.

Sunday brought warm weather, which meant a visit to the beach.  We dont mean sitting sunning ourselves, it was a pirate's adventure.  Lots of going arrggh, with two excitable boys searching for treasure.  We collected some driftwood for Christmas projects, but more about that to come...  Seaham beach has lots of rock pools at low tide to explore, is renowned as a pebbly beach and is sprinkled with the glittering treasure that is sea glass.

Last Night's Evening Meal, Lemon and Orange Chicken

C found a great new recipe for chicken using oranges and lemons.  So adapted it and here is the result, stunning in my opinion(M).
The recipe:
6 chicken drumsticks + 4 chicken thighs -> £2.99 from Aldi
4 oranges -> 60p (small to medium, 10 pack for £1.50 from Sainsbury's)
2 lemons -> 53p (79p for 3 in Aldi)
1 onion from garden
1/4 cup olive oil*
4 cloves garlic, crushed (home grown)
1 tbsp italian seasoning home mixed from dried herbs*
1 tsp paprika*
1/2 tsp chilli flakes*
3/2 tsp onion powder*
2 tbsp light brown sugar*

* store cupboard ingredients cannot be priced accurately, but do not affect the overall price of each individual meal by much.

Garlic, italian seasoning, paprika, chilli flakes, onion powder and sugar mixed in pestle and mortar.

Add the oil, the juice of one lemon and two oranges

mix, pour over the chicken and allow to marinate.  We left this overnight in the fridge, but you could leave it for less time if you desire.

Chop the onion, and remaining fruit into slices and cover the bottom of a roasting tin. 
Place the chicken on top
Then cook in a hot oven (200C) for about 40 minutes (until juices run clear)

We served with rice made in the stock from the chicken with added sweet peppers, chestnut mushrooms,  and cauliflower (in with the rice).  The veg were the remainder of our weeks veg not used in the previous meals of the week.

In total this meal cost £4.12, with the addition of the rice and bits of leftover veg you could call it a round £5, and fed the 4 of us heartily with enough left over for M's bait today.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Our Tribe

Our Tribe are a family of four, for now...
We are a thirty something and a twenty something, married with two boys currently both under three.  Trying to achieve the god life in the city.  We strive to beat the commercial powers, not by avoiding them, but by using them for our benefit rather than their's. Dad, M, the thirty something works full time for the man, come the weekend, DIY potterer, gardener, countryside loving punk. Mum, C,the twenty something, is a full time stay at home mam and housewife, bargain hunter, cuisine experimenter, and crafter.  And the boys, B and I are bundles of energy, bottomless pits and comedy geniuses.  
This blog will over time detail our adventures, how we entertain ourselves and the kids.  Our shopping exploits and how we combat the rapidly inflating cost of modern day life.  We will share our ideas for gifts, days out, and the ways we find to cut the cost of the more mundane parts of life.

As a family we home grow as much of our own fruit and veg as our plot allows, we are venturing into the world of home brew.  This is something new that we only started in the last week (although we have experience of out parents doing so when we were children), so if you follow us you will be a part of that journey from the beginning.  We try to be eco-friendly, upcycling, reusing and recycling wherever we can.  We cloth bum our children, avoiding disposable wipes, nappies, and liners.  We compost all our peelings and food waste, that is where any left overs exist that cannot be used for further meals or are polished off by the insatiable appetites of the boys.

We will not only share our recipe ideas for frugal feeding, but also some of the places that you can buy the ingredients at reasonable prices.