29 September 2014

Making Teatime Easy with Birds Eye

We have always been a fan of Birds Eye in this house, with waffles and fish fingers being a freezer staple and my go to dinner for when I want something quick, simple and tasty for the kids.

But they don't have to just be used together, for us chicken dippers makes a great addition to a Friday night buffet tea, this is a great way to enjoy a Friday night snuggled in the lounge with some yummy food.

The great thing about the Birds Eye range is the amount on offer, with everything from chicken to rice, waffles to peas, there is something to make a whole meal or to complete one.

My kids both love waffles and even more so accompanied by fish fingers or chicken dippers, or both for that matter.

Super simple dinners that can be put together easily, and it's not just for the kids. For me some rice infusions with a sweet chilli chicken is the perfect way to enjoy a delicious dinner.

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Linky Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page.

NB. I received vouchers from Birds Eye to buy the food in this post, however all words and opinions are my own.

Visiting the Major Oak

Nottinghamshire has a lot of history, one of it's most famous residents of course, was Robin Hood. If you are visiting the area then one of the most likely places to be on your must see list is the Major Oak. This beautiful piece of forest is filled with the most majestic oak trees and the one everyone wants to see is the Major Oak.

At between 800-1000 years old, it is now held up by supports, but this is only to help it live longer! On our visit there, we learnt about oak trees, how they take 300 years to grow, live for about 300 years and then die over 300 years, the supports on the Major Oak help this process and mean the tree stays here for people to enjoy for much longer.

Oak trees are beautiful, the shapes they form and their leaves are unmistakeable, some of the older trees in this forest have bands on them to help them stay alive.

We looked at the tree stumps to see if we could figure out how old the trees had been when they fell, there were lots of information points, to help us learn about the wildlife and we saw lots of fungi.

Some of the stumps had been made into fairy houses, we loved this sign that told you not to poke things into the trees trunk as it is a home to many little creatures.

On a few of the trees there were these fab faces made from clay, feathers, twigs and leaves, we are definitely going to give these a try!

Onto the major oak itself, you can't really tell from the pictures the size of the tree, but believe me,  it is big.

The trunks on oak trees are hollow yet the outside keeps on growing, the hole in the trunk here an adult could get through standing up, the reason for the fibre glass on part of the trunk was due to some ignorant person trying to burn it down and this will stop any mold setting in.

This weekend there was an archer talking about the bow and arrows that Robin Hood and the knights of the crusades would have used, he gave an awesome display of archery.

He then went on to tell us about the different arrows, allowed the children to try holding the sword and went on to tell us about the battle of Agincourt. It was really interesting and gave an insight into the world of Robin Hood.

Linking up to Magic Moments on The Oliver's Madhouse


28 September 2014

Black & White Photo Project Wk 12

With the sunshine still upon us, we used the warm weather as an excuse to take a trip to the coast, I wished we lived closer as the children both love the beach. 

Linking up to the Black & White Project on


25 September 2014

Peppa Pig's Big Splash Live Tour

Whether you have young children or not, you will most likely have come across the rather cute pink piggy that is, Peppa Pig.

From now until the new year, Peppa and her friends are on tour throughout the UK, you can join them on an all singing, all dancing adventure full of songs, games and muddy puddles.

With super cute puppets and plenty to sing along to, this brand new show will be sure to brighten your day.

Travelling to 12 venues throughout the UK, there is plenty of opportunity to find a hotel and make a weekend of it, locations include, the fabulous Woking with it’s beautiful canals and the lightbox museum.

Or how about a weekend away in vibrant Southampton, with a few hotels nearby including Eastleigh and Fareham there are plenty of places to stay meaning you can explore what this great coastal town has to offer.

Peppa Pig's Big Splash Live Tour will be appearing at the following locations over the next few months.

  • Grimsby Auditorium - 27 - 28 Sep 2014
  • Woking New Victoria Theatre - 1 - 2 Oct 2014
  • Isle Of Wight Medina Theatre - 4 - 5 Oct 2014
  • Bristol Hippodrome - 7 - 8 Oct 2014
  • Southampton Mayflower Theatre - 10 - 11 Oct 2014
  • Bournemouth Pavilions - 15 - 16 Oct 2014
  • Clacton-On-Sea Princes Theatre - 18 - 19 Oct 2014
  • Billingham Forum Theatre - 22 - 23 Oct 2014
  • Nottingham Theatre Royal - 25 - 26 Oct 2014
  • Leeds West Yorkshire Playhouse - 30 Oct - 2 Nov 2014
  • London Criterion Theatre - 2 Dec 2014 - 4 Jan 2015

For more information visit http://www.peppapiglive.com

This is a collaborative post, however all words are my own.


24 September 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow - Apples

The apple tree has suffered a bit this year, not sure whether it is down to the fact that there have been less wasps to eat the pests but still, a lot of them seem to have been eaten already. Hopefully there will be a good crop though, we've already have some whoppers.

Last year I made some Gelée De Pomme, as well as lots of apple crumbles and pork with apple sauce and apple gravy, it really is a one tree wonder.

This beauty here, I picked for an apple and blackberry crumble, I had assumed whatever had made the hole in it would have been long gone, but alas not, it was a great big earwig! Needless to say I squealed when I cut in to it, hate anything like that.


23 September 2014

What Water Means to Me - Plus Win a Fab Kettle

What does water mean to you? Well, to me, it is an important resource that should not be wasted. From an early age, I have tried to teach my children this and they are forever hearing the cry of “turn the tap off whilst your not using it” and “don’t waste water”.

There are many people in this world, that, unlike us, do not have access to any water, let alone the clean water that we take for granted. It is important that we learn to appreciate how privileged we are to have such easy access to this valued resource.

You only need to look at this video over Just a Drop to see how much water means to some people.

Just a Drop are currently the 2014 charity of Kinetico, who know a fair bit about clean water.

Our family drink water every day, the children drink it on it’s own and my husband and I mix it with cordial or coffee. We don’t have the best tasting water in our house, so when we replaced our kitchen 7 years ago, we chose a fridge that would not only allow us to have cool water and ice on tap but also came with a filter to allow us to drink better tasting water.

I’m not wanting to belittle this most important of resources, but the water we have here can taste pretty awful, flowing through old water pipes and with the chemicals in the water, so for us choosing a water filter (and replacing it regularly) was a great way to get even better tasting water to drink.

The people at Kinetico have kindly offered me something lovely and water related to giveaway to my readers. I have chosen this fab Bosch Styline Kettle, not only does it keep your water warm (which as a parent we all know kettles are often boiled and then go cold several times a day). It also has an audible sound to let you know when it’s done, nothing like a reminder you can here to make sure you pour yourself a cuppa and has different temperature settings too.

T&Cs apply. This is a collaborative post, however all words are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

22 September 2014

Learning to Draw

This week my daughter has surprised me a in a few ways, firstly when we were in the playground at school she recognised the first letter of her name from the letter cubes on the playground floor. After  speaking to nursery about the recognition of letters we also established she can pick out her name.

Then as we were talking about letters and drawing I asked her to draw a smiley face and she did, she hasn't really shown much interest in drawing up until now so this is a big milestone for us.

You probably can't tell from the picture but this circle has a smile, two tiny eyes and a nose, it is the first time I have seen her draw anything that resembles a face, so I am excited about what we are going to see in the future.

My sons drawings have gone from this, which was his first ever picture of him and his daddy...

To these intricately drawn pictures, full of imagination and a world through a six year old boys eyes, it is a truly wonderful privilege to be the person who sees these pictures and thoughts.

The milestones never really seem to stop and the magic of children and life through their eyes is just wonderful.


Magic Moments 22/9/14

The lovely Jaime over at The Oliver's Madhouse is having a well earned rest this weekend, so she has passed the Magic Moments torch on to me for a week, she'll be back next time though.

The thing I love about Magic Moments is that it gives you time to reflect on the week, from your child learning to write their name for the first time to learning to tie their shoe.

So without further ado its Magic Moments time! 

Don’t forget there is a Magic Moments page on Google+ to, so if you are on G+ feel free to pop over and add your link and visit … also I have just created a Magic Moments collaborative Pintrest board too which you are more than welcome to pin your post onto too! Feel free to email me directly  ( jaime@theoliversmadhouse.co.uk ) so I can make sure I am following and that I can add you to the board too.
If you are new to Magic Moments you can find more information over HERE.
Don’t forget that linkys only work when people take the time to visit and share with others. With such a large crowd linking in please don’t think you have to comment on every one. I know many of you don’t have time for this and it’s unrealistic, however please visit as many as you can manage to share some love and build community spirit.
If you would like to join in  I would love it if you would pop on the Magic Moments badge or a link back to me as it also helps others to see where you are linking up and they may decided to pop over and link up too! Remember the more people who take part and link up, the more people who are likely to visit, but this is only a polite request not a prerequisite.


21 September 2014

Black & White Photo Project Wk 11

Last weekend me and the kids went on my mum and dads boat. There were some beautiful pictures from our trip, but for today I have narrowed it down to this one. I love bridges over canals, always so pretty with their perfect reflections.


19 September 2014

Summer Fun with Panda Drinks - Review

We were recently sent some Panda Drinks and summer fun goodies to test out, a great treat for the kids including a book of things to do.

We took the drinks on a picnic, my son will only drink water and even those these are clear and look like water he is no fool and wouldn't even give them a go. My daughter who is a little more adventurous loved them, I had a try and they are a nice blackcurrant flavour.

Using some of the goodies we were sent we played football in at the park, tried to skip in the garden and used the chalk to drawer round our feet and write our names on the wall outside.

The booklet had some timeless classics for us to try like tig, a favourite for my son and his school friends and then more recently, with autumn arriving, conkers. My daughter loved giving skipping a go although at three she did struggle a little.

They are the perfect size bottle for packed lunches and picnics and great size for little hands to hold on to.

My only gripe with these drinks is they contain Acesulfame K, I really don't like artificial sweeteners and prefer a bit of sugar so if this could be changed they'd be on my shopping list.

NB: We were sent the panda drinks and summer fun goodies, all opinions and words are my own.

16 September 2014

The Big Draw - Campaign for Drawing

My son loves to draw, it plays such an important part of his day and allows him to express his thoughts and feelings and most importantly his beautiful imagination.  So when I was sent details of The Big Draw campaign I knew it was something I wanted to help promote.

Faber-Castell, the world’s oldest and biggest pencil manufacturer is about to inspire a new generation of little artists as lead sponsor of The Big Draw. 

The programme of hundreds of events will connect people with museums, outdoors spaces, artists, designers and each other this autumn across the UK and in 20 other countries. The Big Draw runs from 1st October to 2nd November.

Launching with a day of creative fun at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London on Sunday 28th September, Faber-Castell will provide its famous red-packaged ‘Playing and Learning’ art material range for an action-packed day that will see children contribute to an artist-created birthday party installation as they experiment with colour and play creatively. 

Special guests; author Jacqueline Wilson and illustrator Nick Sharratt will each give a talk to visitors, who can also enjoy drawing activities in the galleries led by Nick and fellow illustrator Marion Deuchars. 
Simon Stone, of Stone Marketing Limited, Faber-Castell’s UK distributor said: ‘We’re delighted that our beautifully designed products for school and pre-school children will be so central to this important series of events. The ethos of the Playing and Learning range fits perfectly with The Big Draw’s aim to unlock children's imaginations and fuel their appetite to learn.’

Looking through the Faber-Castell's range there are so many ways to get children into drawing from these fabulous connector pens to paint to the clic & go paint sets.

I have always been one to say I can't draw, but the fact is I spent many a summer sat at my desk designing outfits and dresses, looking back at them now for a 10 year old they were pretty impressive. 

Drawing is about expression, putting on paper what is in your head, it doesn't have to be perfect.

For more information on The Big Draw and to find your nearest event please visit www.thebigdraw.org

NB I haven't been compensated for this and am simply passing on to my readers as I found the subject interesting.

15 September 2014

Yumbox Panino Review

I loved the original Yumbox, so I was super excited to get my hands on the Panino. With one large compartment, two smaller compartments and a dip well, it is a perfect lunchbox for older children and adults although it also makes the perfect bento box for younger children.

I particularly love the background with the French and Italian wording, you get to learn something new with lunch too.

I love salads and this is the perfect lunch box to fill with plenty of health and not so healthy food.

With the silicone lid it offers the same spill proof storage as the original, allowing you to pack a lunch with whatever you fancy.

The proof is, as they say, in the pudding and this chocolate pudding was certainly good for testing the seals on the lid, after a few falls off the car seat on the way to work it was still within it's compartment and had not leaked.

This is another great box and the colours are beautiful too, I love the Tutti Frutti Blue as well as this one the Anguira Pink.

Again I have nothing but praise for the Yumbox, it is such an ingenious solution allowing you to produce great looking healthy lunches.

With the lighter colours I have noticed any scratches show up a bit more, this isn't a problem and hasn't stopped me buying more, it was just something I noticed (and am probably being picky over) but felt I needed to mention. Having spoken with other Yumbox owners though, they haven't noticed these and have the darker ones so. They don't show up on the pictures so aren't 'bad', i'm just here to give an honest opinion.

NB I was sent the Yumbox Panino for review, all pictures and opinions are my own.

14 September 2014

Black & White Photo Project Wk 10

This picture is one from our holiday this year, my daughter called it Sleeping Beauty's Castle. To the top it was about 150 steps, so I certainly burnt off my wine and cheese intake for that day.

 It was a gloomyish day, so in black and white it still looks as impressive!


12 September 2014

Bakewell Tart Cupcakes

I love anything almond flavoured, my gran used to make the most beautiful almond buttercream when I was younger.  It is this that inspired my Victoria Sponge with a Bakewell Tart twist, something that is a regular amongst my cake repertoire.

So I decided to adapt the recipe into cupcake form for National Cupcake Week and as my entry into the Betta Living #bettabakeoff.

Ingredients (Makes 9-12 depending on cupcake case size. I used baking cups which are a bit bigger so only got 9 you can always double up the cake recipe):

For the cakes:
100g Self Raising Flour
100g Golden Caster Sugar
100g Margarine
2 Eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract.

For the icing:
500g Icing Sugar sieved
160g Unsalted Butter softened
1-1 ½ teaspoons of Almond Extract, add more/less depending on your taste
1-5 tablespoons milk

To decorate:
100g Raspberry Jam
25g Flaked almonds

Cake method:

1. Heat the oven to 180c/160c fan

2. Line a muffin tray with 12 cases or baking cups.

3. Place all of the ingredients (SR Flour, Sugar, Margaine, Eggs & Almond Extract) in an electric mixer and mix until smooth, alternatively if you don't have one then cream the sugar and margarine together until smooth, add in the egg a bit at a time and mix well, add in the almond extract and then add the flour and mix until is smooth and everything is combined.

2. Fill each of the baking cups or cases to about half way with the mixture, be careful not to overfill.

3. Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes or until cooked. To check if the cakes are cooked place a skewer in the middle of one of the cakes and it should come out clean.

4. Once cooked remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

For the Icing:

1. Mix the icing sugar and butter until combined, add in the almond extract and then a tablespoon of milk at a time until smooth and is the consistency of meringue (you should be able to make peaks).

2. Once mixed, place the mixture in a piping bag with your nozzle of choice, I am using a round nozzle but you could use a star if you prefer.

To build the cakes:

1. Once the cakes are cooled using a knife carefully cut a circle from your cake, should be about the size of a 10p piece and about 1-1.5cm deep. (NB leave a good edge between the edge of the circle and the edge of the cupcake, you can either eat the left overs or use in cake pops)

2. Place a teaspoon of jam into the whole and then pipe a swirl of butter cream on top.

3. If using sprinkle some flaked almonds on top of the swirl, if you have children who aren't keen on them then just leave the flaked almonds off.

Pour yourself a cuppa and enjoy, these are so light and would make the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon tea or picnic.

This is my entry into the Betta Living #bettabakeoff, more details can be found here.