JUST one week in and the school run is already driving me crazy!
My meticulous plans for having everything ready the night before, going to bed early and getting out of the house in an orderly fashion lasted, oohh about two days. Every morning in our Uxbridge home it's chaos. This morning it wasn't - that is until Igot to the car and realised I was still wearing my slippers!
My efforts may be failing as regards the morning school run but my aim to make quick family dinners is going to plan.
If you've read this column before, you'll know that we're big pizza fans. The healthiest option is to make it yourself, of course, but making dough from scratch is a real pain. I've made it in my bread-maker a few times and set the timer to finish when I get in from work but the last time I did that, a power cut ruined my attempts at mummy-yumminess.
However, all is not lost. I've found an alternative that is so easy I can even get Alex to make dinner with no help from me!
The Big Dom's Pizza Kit from the chiller cabinet in supermarkets contains ready-rolled fresh pizza dough, a jar of fresh tomato pizza sauce and a pack of grated mozzarella for the topping. All you need is a baking tray, any extra toppings you want, a hot oven and a willing child ready to cook dinner for the family. The result was delicious and Alex cleared his plate super fast as he'd made it himself.
In true Pizza Express style, the next time Alex used the kit to make pizzas for us, he stretched the base so that it was really thin and made dough balls with the leftover dough, with great results! The kit is big enough to serve a family of four and is a satisfying, quick and easy dinner.
Have you heard about the crazy pregnancy pizzas on sale at the Italian restaurant ECO in Chiswick? It's the brainchild of owner Charmaine Wasif, who has been working closely with chefs and nutritionists to create tailored pizzas that provide vital nutrients and pander to pregnancy cravings. There's an ice-cream pizza as well as a baked bean and sultana pizza! I'm sure Alex would love to create a Haribo and marshmallow pizza given the chance.
I was really pleased to get tickets for the sell-out Tea With Smee pirate party at the Beck Theatre last week. I took Alex and his friends Louis, Tom and Danny and they spent ages perfecting their pirate costumes ready for the party. Tea With Smee is hosted by local actor and children's entertainer Mark Jones in the theatre's foyer.
I've seen Mark and his alter ego Cheeky Maleeky at a couple of children's parties and he's very good. [25cf] At just £6 a ticket, Tea With Smee is really great value. The lunch provided was worth that alone, regardless of the entertainment thrown in. There are two more Tea With Smee events during the autumn, on October 27 and November 23, which I am sure will sell out really quickly. You can book by calling the box office at The Beck on 020 8561 8371.
You can also see Mark Jones in this year's panto at The Beck - Peter Pan - in which he stars as yes, you guessed it - Smee.
Cathy pizza tips
1. Buying a Big Dom's Pizza Kit is the no-fuss option to cooking a 'home-made' pizza for the whole family. It's more satisfying than getting pizza out of the freezer and means the children eat more because they've made it themselves.
2. For a healthier and quick pizza for lunch, try naan breads, pitta breads or split bagels as your base then top with a jar of pizza topping and finish off with grated cheese and favourite toppings.
3. Buying a pack of grated mozzarella cheese really speeds things up, but older children enjoy the grating process under a watchful eye.
4. If you have a bread-maker, you can make your own dough. It freezes well too, so you can make a big batch and stash what you don't need to use immediately.
5. Any left-over cold pizza can go into lunch boxes the next day.
It is scientifically proven that there is a chemical reaction in the tomato sauce making it irresistible when cold!