31 December 2012

Cherry, Almond and Brazil Nut Florentines

This is probably a little bit late on the festive recipe front but for me it's never the wrong time of year for anything cake related!

This recipe has been a hit with all my family and friends who have tried it and I must have made about half a dozen batches in the last few weeks.

Ingredients:

75g Golden Syrup
75g Butter
25g Plain Flour
50g Flaked Almonds
25g Brazil Nuts (broken into smallish pieces)
75g Glacé Cherries
1tsp Lemon Juice
125g Plain Chocolate

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 160c and line two baking trays with grease proof paper. If you prefer you can do one tray at a time.

2. Place the butter and golden syrup in a bowl over a pan of hot water and heat until melted. (you can heat in the pan if you prefer but mine aren't the best).


3. Add the cherries, almonds, brazil nuts, flour and lemon to the melted butter and syrup and stir until everything is combined.


4. Place teaspoons of the mixture well apart on the baking sheets and flatten with a fork. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.


5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, if they have spread into each other you can use a spatula to part them and also make them rounder if needed.



6. Melt the chocolate and spread evenly over the flat underside of each florentine.



7. Leave to set, if you like you can use a fork create a wavy pattern before the chocolate sets completely.


I wrapped these up as gifts and served when visitors came round and they are not just a Christmas thing I love these any time of the year.

Hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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30 December 2012

Pinata Box Review

We were sent a Pinata box just before Christmas, it was an instant hit for both myself and my son, with lots of ideas and things to do.

 

This box was full of tissue paper, sequins, paper, cards, cookie cutters and with the tag to open the box down the middle it opened out just like a Pinata.
 

My son got to work straight away making some Christmas cards for his grandparents, although this wasn't on the things to do sheet it got him started on being creative.

I am pretty proud of his first creation, this Robin card is fab and he managed to make it all himself.


He then moved onto making a bauble card and finally what I named a Christmas sprite :)


I really love the Pinata box, delivered direct to your child it gets the creative juices flowing and even if you aren't that creative it gives you ideas of things to do with your child. It includes pretty much everything you need to get creative.

You can subscribe as a one off or as part of a monthly subscription so why not take a look and get creative.

We won our Pinata box but were asked to give our opinions on them, this post is entirely my own view on the box.
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23 December 2012

Christmas Traditions

I remember as a kid having plastic Santa sacks, they would be filled with smaller gifts that me and my brother would haul upstairs to open at the bottom of mum and dads bed.

Then we would go down stairs and open the bigger gifts.

I remember the year we got bikes, they were hidden behind the sofa and curtains.

I also remember the year I got my beloved pound puppy and the year my brother got a thundercats sword.

So finding traditions for my little family is very important, memories that will hopefully live with them when they go on to have their own families.

We currently have a Christmas Eve tradition of new PJs, this also helps with the Christmas morning pictures.

I have been trying to set a tradition of sending a letter to Santa and receiving one too. But we will also carry on the tradition of leaving a mince pie and carrot by the fireplace.

Too much today takes away the innocence of children and for me Christmas is a time to regain it, to spend time doing the family things we seem to have so little time for.

If its nice we might go tobogganing on Christmas Eve too :)

Do you have a Christmas tradition? I would love to hear it.
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21 December 2012

Christmas Cookie Pops

I know, I know I have been rather lax this last few weeks in posting. Christmas preperations are finally catching up with me and I still haven't wrapped a single present!

I have been making some simple treats for guests though and these cookie pops have been a hit.

They are super simple and easy to do and can be whipped up in less than an hour, you can make as many or as few as you like.

For this particular recipe I used a packet of chocolate chip cookies but you could use anything you fancy really. Add the cookies to a mixer and blend until a fine crumb, add in some cream cheese (add in a little at a time) until it becomes a smooth paste.

Take about a teaspoon of the mix and roll into a ball, place on some greaseproof paper on a baking tray and repeat using up all of the mixture.


You then need to melt your chocolate or if you can find in a local baking suppies shop candy melts, I find candy melts better because they can be reheated and you don't have to worry about it burning in the microwave.

Dip your cake pop stick into the chocolate to get about 1cm worth of choc on the end and then place into the top of your cookie mix ball, repeat this with all of the balls and then place into the fridge to cool.


Once they have hardened you can start to cover them in the chocolate, dip in the chocolate and then turn round until fully coated. Gently tap on the side of the bowl until the excess has dropped off add sprinkles if desired, then stand up to dry.

If you have some polystyrene then you can use this to stand them up in, otherwise a cup or glass can be used. And then you are done, the perfect size for children and pretty enough to give as a gift.


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15 December 2012

Dinner at Hawsmoor Air Street

Last weekend me and the hubby went to London for the weekend, after several hours of trying to choose somewhere for dinner we settled on Hawksmoor after reading Jay Raynors review about it cooking the best steak in the country.

We chose the express menu which is £25 for 3 courses, between 5-6pm. We went with this so we could go out afterwards and look around the still open shops and visit the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

We started with a couple of cocktails or anti-fogmatics as they are called, we chose the Marmalade Cocktail (Gin, Campari, Lemon Juice, Orange Bitters & English Marmalade) and  Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew (Gin, homemade Ginger Syrup & Lemon Juice, topped with London Pride) they definitely woke us up and did exactly what they set out to do.

For starters we both chose the Potted Beef & Bacon with Yorkshires, not wanting to look like a blogger I decided against taking pictures so you will have to take my word for it when I say what arrived was truly a work of art.

Two huge Yorkshire puddings, a Kilner jar full of the most tastiest potted beef I have ever tasted and a small gravy boat with super soft and yummy onions, it all tasted amazing but the fun was in ripping apart the Yorkshires and spreading them with the potted meat and onions!

We both chose the Rib Eye for main, the sauces sounded fab so I chose the Stilton Hollandaise and hubby had the Anchovy Hollandaise, for sides we chose Triple Cooked Chips and Roasted Field Mushrooms to share.

The steak was perfectly cooked (hubby has his blue and very rarely does it come that way) and without a doubt it was the best steak I have ever had when dining out. The triple cooked chips were perfection as were the mushrooms, the sauce was creamy and a great accompaniment to the steak.

We chose the Borsao wine to go with dinner, even though it was the cheapest it was still very drinkable.

My husband and I had been talking to the fantastic waiter Thomas about how we were away from the kids for the night so were having cocktails etc and whilst talking about the pudding got onto the subject of salt and caramel going together so well.

We were then very kindly sent some Salted Caramel Rolo’s from the kitchen as an ‘away from the kids for the night gift’, I have a very sweet tooth and these were without a doubt one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted. If I could have taken a dozen home I would have!

Finally the pudding, by this point I was full so opted for the Plum Ripple Sundae, it was just what I needed. Although after tasting my husband’s pudding of Peanut Butter Shortbread with Salted Caramel Ice cream I was a little jealous as it was divine.

After dinner we both opted for an Espresso Martini as an alternative to a coffee, it was the perfect way to end what was truly a fantastic meal.

So if you are in London and looking for somewhere to go I can highly recommend it, the service was excellent, friendly but not intrusive and the food really was the best I have had, add to that the gorgeous setting in there Air Street restaurant made for a truly wonderful evening.
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10 December 2012

Supporting Small Businesses this Christmas - Knot Just Jigs

I have bought many things from Knot Just Jigs, not just because Toniann who owns it is lovely but because the toys are fabulous.

As I have said before there is nothing sadder than hearing a toy where the batteries are going. With wooden and fabric there is none of that, all you need is some good old fashioned imagination.

We have just bought this gorgeous Alfie the Elf from her as a little Christmas friend for my son.


We bought all of our daughters party bag gifts from her too, which went down a treat including these fab wooden castanets.


And if you want personalised she can do that too, from bags to bunting, dolls to owls. Toniann has made a taggy for my daughter and a book bag for a friends little girl. They were both gorgeous and unique and just that little bit different.


If you are local to Nottingham you might be able to catch her at a local craft fair, but you can order online at www.knowjustjigs.co.uk too.
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29 November 2012

Ethical Fashion and Clothing

I love a bargain as much as the next person, but something about fairtrade and ethical fashion appeals to me.

I would prefer to pay a a little more for an item of clothing that has been made ethically, from the farmers who grow the cotton to the people who make them.

I love this selection from some fabulous eco concious brands:


People Tree
Minna
VIVOBAREFOOT

For more on ethical fashion, news and links to eco fashion sites then visit Ecover's eco fashion news.

*This is a sponsored post, all words and opinions are my own.

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28 November 2012

Local Craft Fairs

I went to a local craft fair on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised by the goodies on offer, perfect gift ideas that were very reasonably priced. Most were hand made and by buying from them I was supporting local small businesses.

So what did I buy, first up was this gorgeous button broach. Was thinking of giving it to my mum but I love it so much I might keep for myself.



Next were these quite frankly gorgeous gift tags, the lady was selling them at 25p each but said I could have the whole bundle for £1. There are about 30 in total and they are beautiful, think I might buy some brown wrapping paper and pretty ribbon to make them look simple and gorgeous.



And finally to make Christmas eve that little bit extra special some reindeer food, never done this before but since my son is really in to Christmas this year I thought I would give it a try. A fab little poem and bag containing 'food' will be perfect for spreading Christmas excitement.


So this year if you can make it to a local craft fair I highly recommend it, some great bargains to be had whilst supporting local businesses.
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27 November 2012

Eco Friendly Cleaning Products

I am not sure why but something about pouring bleach down the toilet just seems wrong, especially when the eco friendly cleaning products I use are just as good.

The thought of more rubbish entering our drinking water has always been something that has bothered me, it's why the water we drink in our home is always filtered.

With a young family in the house I am also concerned that what I am spraying on surfaces or in the air could be ingested by them in some way or another, so wherever possibly I always try to use green cleaning products.

With so much going down the drain that can't be helped I feel that even small amounts of change can benefit the environment, the water we drink and the air we breath.


Next year I think my new years resolution will be to find even more eco friendly, green and natural solutions for my cleaning.

With four and a half years of using reusable nappies to help the environment, we may as well continue in the hope all will not be lost for our children and grandchildren.


*This is a sponsored post, all words and thoughts are my own.

Image courtesy of mack2happy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nixxphotography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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23 November 2012

Supporting Small Businesses this Christmas - Colour Me Fun

So I said I would write about the small businesses I have found and love and this one is perfect if you have little ones who love to colour.

Colour Me Fun's crayons make perfect stocking fillers, they are unusal, reasonably priced and fun.

I really love these lego crayons, they are brilliant and would be great for any logo loving mini Picasso.
If you want to go personalised you can have your childs name in crayons too!

I went for the dinosaur set as we are going to the party of a dino mad little boy tomorrow, they look awesome and I just hope my son doesn't see them otherwise he'll want a set too!
 
So if you are looking for the perfect gift that you can't find on the high street head on over to Colour Me Fun, the delivery was super quick and I am really pleased with my purchase.
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19 November 2012

Christmas Goodies

Ok, ok so I know it is still a little early for Christmas but I need to start thinking about it now otherwise I won't ever do anything!

Now, whether I decide to give these as gifts or offer them to family and friends at our annual Christmas Eve open house I am not sure.

So far we have Florentines, I have tried a couple of recipes now and I am not sure which I prefer so need to try them out on hubby when he gets home. Either way I am in love and I think this is my new fave over cupcakes!


Next is my husbands favourite, chocolate covered marzipan. Nothing say's Christmas more than marzipan right?


I really must get on and do the apple chutney so that will be next, watch this space.

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My changing bag woes!

When I was pregnant I didn't really think about the importance of a changing bag.

I used the one you got free from Boots, but it wasn't very pretty and didn't stay clipped on my pushchair.

So I bought another one, not that attractive either but it hung on the pushchair so I forgave it.

At a year I sold the pushchair and gave this away too.

I bought a gorgeous new one, super expensive but oh so pretty. After a year it broke and I took it back, I bought another expensive one but it was heavy and only the pods inside it got used.

Then my daughter was born and that was that, I couldn't carry a heavy one so I only used the pods and sold the bag.

I have never had a changing bag I have loved, ever! And although I know there are bigger problems in the world, I feel like I have missed out on some part of being a mum.

Having a nice bag filled with mum bits and pockets for wipes and a bib. Oh well, I have become accustomed now to getting to work on a Thursday with a car or other random 'toy' floating around in my bag.
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18 November 2012

17 November 2012

Supporting Small Businesses this Christmas - The White Approach

I wanted to highlight some fab businesses on my blog this Christmas, small businesses run by the loveliest of people.

Today is The White Approach, owned by the very lovely Karen Jones. I have mentioned her store so many times before and that is because I love everything Karen has in her shop. I only wished I lived in Exeter where she can be found at so many vintage fairs, she even has a space at The Vintage Trading Company too.

I bought this gorgeous bon bon dish from her a while back and it sits proudly in my display cabinet.


Why do I love her vintage items so much? One word 'quality', these pieces have already stood the test of time, they are well made and built to last. They are of the moment pieces, most of them very similar to what is already on the market, but these are more individual because they are so old.

Like this gorgeous Pink Pyrex Dish, with the beautiful snowflake design. Wouldn't it be perfect to serve your veg in on Christmas day.


Or how about this serving bowl, the colour is divine and look at the legs! Oh how beautiful this would be on a dining room table!


If you are in Exeter this weekend then there are several fairs she is selling at so please do go and take a look, think about who in your life would love something this gorgeous sitting on their dinner table this Christmas.

I have not received anything to write this, I just wanted to share the small business love.
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16 November 2012

Love Is...

My son has been singing this song all week

'Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.'

I remember singing it at school and in his beautiful innocent singing voice it makes me smile, an achingly please don't grow up too quick smile.

His innocence and pure heart on his sleeve attitude is what makes me want to get up in the morning.

To my little boy, don't ever stop being you and don't grow up too quick.
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14 November 2012

A Hug a Day

This morning as my son's friends arrived in the playground they all gave each other a hug.

This was something I observed at nursery and it is so lovely to see that even though they are at school, they are still young enough to want to do this.

It is true to say my heart melted and for that moment the world seemed so innocent.

If only when I turned up to work someone would give me a hug, I think the world would be a nicer place.
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12 November 2012

Dyslexia at 30

On Saturday I went to the opticians, nothing unusual, I just felt my eyes were getting worse and I was getting headaches at work when using the computer.

We sat and talked, I explained how difficult I found it to read a book because the words seem to split up and move. But it had always been that way, ever since I first went to the opticians when I was about 12.

We then talked about how reading son his books felt easier, possibly because the words are often on dark backgrounds and over the pictures.

He then told me it sounded like I have a form of dyslexia. I can read and write, however I have always just found reading books somewhat of a chore!

So at 30, after almost 18 years of finding it difficult to read, I finally have a reason and can hopefully find solutions to my reading difficulty.

If anyone has any experience of this I would love to hear from you.
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11 November 2012

Lest We Forget

Today I remember my great grandad who was lost during the first world war, as well as the young family he left behind.

I also remember the other hundreds of thousands or service men and women who didn't make it home and those who are still out there fighting.

I leave you with a few pictures from my visits to two very poignant places.

Theipval Memorial to the Missing where my great grandad is named.

American Cemetery - Omaha Beach
One of the exhibits at the American Cemetery at Omaha
Wherever you are and whatever you believe is right or wrong, I hope you to stop and think about those who gave their lives so that we may live ours in freedom.

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10 November 2012

My Favourite Bag

I won a Where's Wally Zatchel a few months back, it is my bag of choice when out and about on my own without the kids (nothing worse than a crushed rice cake or sticky raisin in the bottom of a bag).


It is a total ice breaker and I do adore it, the quality is brilliant and I just love the looks and comments it gets.

They currently have an equally amazing collection and if you love Hello Kitty you simply must go and have a look!

I love the barrel bag and may have to save my Christmas pennies to buy one as it would make the perfect just nipping out bag!



Or maybe the saddle bag?!? I simply cannot decide!


If you love satchels that are quirky and make you smile then Zatchels do just that, their range is vast and they are hand made in the England.
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6 November 2012

Is a homemade Christmas ok?

The other week I posted about making some homemade gifts for people this Christmas, and I still want to do this but is it OK?

Do people really appreciate the things you spend hours making? Sometimes once you have bought everything you need to make said gift, would it have been cheaper to buy them?

I really don't want to spend a lot of money, not because I'm cheap but money is tight and most of our relatives don't 'need' anything.

We only have a few children in the family and for me that's what it's about, that and getting together.

So would you appreciate homemade gifts? Do you all need to do it for it to work?
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5 November 2012

Teach Your Monster to Read

My son has just started school so reading and phonics are currently top of our agenda, our fridge is covered with magnetic letters and we have many books that we read every night.

I am always on the look out for other interesting ways to get him reading and making sounds so when I heard about a game that could help my son with his reading, I was keen to see how he would get on.

Teach Your Monster To Read is a free interactive game which allows your child to design their own monster and takes them on a journey finding letters, learning how to pronounce them and building words in a fun way that makes it seem like they aren't even learning.


The game itself is fairly easy to play, my son who is four can quite easily control the monster using the mouse, although he misses a few objects hopefully the game will improve these skills.

There are several levels too, so it doesn't get too repetitive and they are all fun games that keep my son engaged.


Teach Your Monster to Read has been developed for the Usborne Foundation - a charity set up by Peter Usborne (who also founded The Usborne Publishing company). There will be a series of games, all of which will be given away for free. The game has been featured in the Sunday Times, the Times Educational Supplement and recently won Gold in both the Practical Preschool and Primary Teacher Update awards.


Finally, the guys at Teach Your Monster to Read currently have a great competition running over on their blog, if you have a little one who loves to draw monsters then they can enter to win a first prize of £150. The competition ends at 5pm on Friday so get creative and send in your pictures.

Disclosure: We have been given three of the Usborne Young Readers books for reviewing the game. The game is available free. All views and opinions are my own.
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2 November 2012

Technology or Paper?

With all the technology in my life I have been wondering whether there is still a place in my life for a diary or wall calendar?

I have had a couple over the years but have stopped using after a while because it was too bulky or just didn’t get updated , but what with party after party for my son and more dates in his diary for school than you can shake a stick at, I am now thinking I really need to get back to using one.

My phone is alright but only I can see it and it doesn’t get updated with hubbies dates of being away. The battery life on it is appalling so often in the evening when I am sat down to do anything it has died and I have to charge it back up to use it.

Part of me does like the idea of a diary and calendar but I just need to make sure I use it.

So what are my options, is there some magic diary or calendar that isn’t too bulky, something that fits neatly into my busy life and house.

Will be on the lookout and update you on what I go for.
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30 October 2012

"Messing about on the River"


My Dad used to build narrow boats for a living, so when I was younger we spent many a week’s holiday on one.

I have seen much of the English countryside from the rivers and canals that wind through England.

There are many great aspects to canal boat holidays, from the peace and tranquillity as the boat glides through the water, to sitting in the sunshine on the front of a boat engrossed in a book.

If you are taking children there is lots to see, from fabulous wildlife to trees and open fields.
With many pubs, beautiful villages and towns along canals and rivers it can be the perfect lazy way to spend a week.

And it isn’t all just lazing about, for those that like a bit of exercise on their holidays, depending on where you go, there could be locks that test your strength and offer an opportunity to talk to fellow boaters who are usually polite and helpful.

You can go as far or as short a distance as you want, taking it as easy as you like. 
Don't worry if you haven't been through a lock before or don't know your port from your starboard, if you are using a canal boat hire company they will show you the ropes before you go out.
*This is a sponsored post, all words and opinions are my own.
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25 October 2012

Homemade Christmas

So I know this is early, but I am busy so am trying to plan ahead. This year I have decided to try and make a few home made gifts for Christmas.

The first thing is we have loads of apples from the garden, so I was going to make some spiced apple chutney for everyone. I have been saving my pretty Bonne Maman jars to fill and label.


Next I have seen a few of these sort of things in the shops and online so I thought about giving it a go myself.

Hot chocolate spoons, a wooden spoon with chocolate on the bottom to put into hot milk along with some marshmallows. These ones are great although I am sure the chocolate is nothing like what I will use.



I also do a mean chocolate fudge so I was thinking of including this too.


Wrapped up nicely in some cellophane and Christmas ribbons I think this should make a nice little hamper. Would love to know what you think and if anyone has any other ideas? Maybe include some recent pics of the kids?

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24 October 2012

Ecover Zero Review

I was recently sent over some fab new Ecover Zero goodies to try out. Ecover Zero is a new range of fragrance free products that have been awarded the stamp of approval from Allergy UK.


First up we have the Ecover Zero Washing Up Liquid, now although we have a dishwasher I do tend to do a lot by hand, so for me this was great. Normally washing up liquid makes my hands very dry but I have noticed with this they aren't as bad as normal.


Although I can smell a slight fragrance when I pour the liquid into the water, there is also no smell left on the pots, this includes the kids drinks bottles who would be first to complain should it smell of anything other than water.

Even though it contains no nasties it still cleans really well and with the additional help of some rather nifty dishcloths (thanks Ecover) the pots have come up clean and shiny every time.

Next we have Ecover Zero Non-Bio Laundry Liquid, this again has a slight smell to it when it goes in the drawer but the clothes come out clean and smell of nothing. Whilst this isn't a problem I do sometimes like being able to smell the fragrance of the detergent on clothes. However it does what it says and for those that prefer it not to smell then this is for you.


I also gave this a try out on reusable nappies and although not as white as with the normal non-bio that I use (probably down to there being no optical brighteners) they were still clean, which if you have used reusable nappies before is always a bonus, and to make them smell nice I just used some lavender oil in the rinse.

Next the Ecover Zero Fabric Conditioner, well this worked a treat. The bottle gives you measurements for soft or extra soft, since I was doing sheets I chose extra soft and quite simply they were. This time the lack of smell didn't really bother me, it was actually quite nice getting into a bed that didn't smell.

All in all, these products work well and do what they say, we have had no skin problems and as I said before my dry hands are looking much better with the change of washing up liquid.

We were send these items to review all words, photos and opinions are my own.

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