28 October 2014

Healthier Halloween Treats

Halloween is a time where there are lots of sweets and treats. So, to try and cut down our sugar intake, Sykes Cottages have invited me to come up with some healthier options to serve this Halloween.

For the younger children, these banana and choc chip eyeball cakes are the perfect afternoon treat at Halloween. They are really easy to make, so it's a good time to get the children involved with the baking.

For the cake:
  • 100g Butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g Light brown sugar
  • 225g Self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed (use a fork to mash the banana)
  • 50g Chocolate chips

  • For the decoration:
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 15ml warm water
  • Smarties, buttons, icing

  • 1. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC/160ºC for fan assisted and line a muffin tray with 12 cases (spooky ones if you have them!).

  • 2. Place the butter, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, milk and banana in a mixing bowl and using a hand held mixer, blend until smooth, add the chocolate chips and stir in with a spoon.

  • 3. Spoon the mixture equally between the cases and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

    4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

    5. Once cooled, make the glacé icing. Mix 125g icing sugar with a teaspoon of water at a time until it reaches a smooth and thick consistency. Try not to make it too runny or it won't stay in the centre.  Place a teaspoon full of your thick icing on the middle of a cake and spread into a round(ish) shape.

    I used some renshaw candy melts for the iris and a chocolate chip for the pupil, but you could use a smartie and some black icing, or a raisin. For the red around the eye I used a streak of red food colouring on the end of cocktail stick and just squiggled it through the icing before it set.

    Once you have done this with all of them, there you have it, a spooky healthier cake.

    Next up is a recipe I have made several times, it is a mix of raisins and nuts blended up. These bites are full of natural energy and perfect for slightly older children, although my three and six year old both enjoy them, I know some people like to be careful with nuts. They are blended into tiny pieces though so should be fine.


    100g Raisins
    30g Cranberries
    30g Cashews
    30g Brazil nuts
    30g Flaked almonds
    20g Mixed seeds
    1-3 tsps Honey
    Liquorice Catherine Wheels for decoration.

    1. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

    2. Place the raisins, cranberries, cashews, brazil nuts, mixed seeds and flaked almonds in a mixer or chopper and blend until chopped and mixed, add a little honey at a time until it becomes wet enough to roll into balls without breaking apart.

    Once you've rolled out the spiders bodies, cut the liquorice in half lengthways so you have thinner strips to make the legs. Add these to the tops of the bodies whilst still squidgy, once you have done this you can add little pieces of cranberry as eyes or leave as is. Place in the fridge to firm up and then  serve.

    Together these treats look great displayed next to a pumpkin and some cobwebs...

    This is my entry into the Sykes Cottages Healthy Halloween Treats challenge.

    26 October 2014

    Black & White Project Week 16

    One of my fave photos from the blog this week, love the way their eyes stand out in black and white.


    25 October 2014

    An Autumn Walk at Rufford Abbey

    My son school has a two week half term break in October and as for the first few days of it there was such terrible weather, once it cleared up on the Wednesday, we decided to head out in the morning to Rufford Abbey.

    We have been there many times before, it is the perfect place to let of steam and whether its summer or winter it's a favourite for us.

    Firstly, there was something we had expected to see, a community archaeology project were digging up part of the grass. This looked interesting, so we made the little detour to check it out, the volunteers had dug up old tiles, brick work and some pottery. If you look closely you can see a paw print on the tile in this picture.

    The main reason I took the children to Rufford was because I wanted them to run and play in the leaves and I knew there would be plenty there. We looked at the leaves in the light to see their veins, so it was educational too.

    A rather friendly goose trying to eat my wellies and some obligatory leaf finding.

    The house looked beautiful eerily beautiful against the dark sky and surrounded by beautiful burning trees, autumn really is a beautiful season. There were some halloween treats about, including a witch in a tree, we also played on the park and dug in the sand.

    After the park we went and found some more leaves to play in, we spent ages kicking and chucking leaves and then sadly it started to rain. But we got to see some wonderful colours and had a fabulous time. We didn't have to pay for any of the fun we had, well, expect a hot chocolate for me and a snack each for the kids.

    So if you are looking for something to do this half term and are local to Nottingham I can highly recommend Rufford Abbey, they have a halloween trail during half term so perfect for getting into the halloween spirit

    24 October 2014

    Win a Family Ticket for Octonauts Live

    We are huge fans of the Octonauts in our house, in fact they are an integral part of our bath time routine, usually the first choice of toy to take the plunge into the bath. So it is exciting to see that one of our favourite adventures is coming to the theatre.

    Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure sees the entire crew of the Octonauts, led by intrepid explorer Captain Barnacles, Lieutenant Kwazii and Medic Peso, embark on an exciting new underwater quest and visit amazing underwater worlds full of adventure, with surprises around every corner. This action-packed interactive show features new music (from BAFTA-award winning composer Mani Svavarsson) and all the Octonauts live on stage for the very first time.

    Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure is produced by live childrens show supremos Fiery Light (a joint venture by Fiery Angel and Limelight Productions), the team also behind the recent tours of the three successful Peppa Pig stage shows. Their most recent – Peppa Pigs Big Splash - is currently on tour. It has broken box office records for a pre-school show and will return to the West End for fifth consecutive Christmas season at the Criterion Theatre this year. Other Fiery Light productions include the recent tour of Ben and Hollys Little Kingdom, LazyTown Live! and Roald Dahls The BFG.

    Director/adapter Richard Lewis said: ‘Octonauts is all about adventure and exploration which offers up a whole host of possibilities in a live environment. From the colourful characters and fantastic underwater setting to the amazing octopod where the Octonauts live, theres great scope for a really unique, interactive theatre experience. We cant wait to take fans on an adventure like never before.

    And why am I telling you all of this? Well I have one family ticket up for grabs for a venue of your choice (T&Cs apply). Just enter via the Rafflecopter form below, terms and conditions on the Rafflecopter widget.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    22 October 2014

    Stretchkins Review

    We have acquired many soft toys over the years but none have caused as much of a stir as the Stretchkins we were sent recently.

    Stretchkins aren't just something to hug and cuddle, they are also a great way to get children to be active. With straps on their hands and feet the Stretchkins really live up the their name and stretch so as your children move, they move too.

    They stretch up to about four feet but also offer some resistance, so they are exercising little arms and legs at the same time.

    My daughter has fallen in love with her unicorn, it spends most nights in bed with her but she loves to dance with it and give it lots of hugs!

    My son is the same, the poseable legs and arms means they look so life like and can be put in daft positions.

    When I first heard about them I thought they were a little gimmicky but I can see their use and both of the children have used them for their intended purpose.

    I think they're the perfect Christmas present and are currently on offer in Argos at £30 for two.

    NB: We were sent two Stretchkins for review, however all words and opinions are my own.

    21 October 2014

    A Family Day Out with Cineworld & Tamatanga Review

    Myself, along with several other bloggers and our families were recently invited to try out Cineworld Nottingham's Movies for Juniors, followed by lunch at Tamatanga just around the corner.

    Now, it wasn't until a few months back that I found out about Movies for Juniors but it is a really great option for those with younger children who might not make it all the way through a film and for those looking for a cinema trip without spending a fortune.

    For just £1.50 each, you get to see a film that is suitable for all the family. We saw Muppets Most Wanted, but they have a choice of a few each weekend. They also open the Movies for Juniors in the school holidays, which makes it the perfect place for those not so great weather days.

    During the Movies for Juniors mornings they also offer a fab munch box for £2, which consists of popcorn, a drink and some sweets. There was more than enough popcorn for my 6 year old and 3 year old and I got to pinch some too. They also have fab little booster seats for their younger patrons, meaning they don't slide through the back of the chair!

    All of this means that a family of four can go to the cinema for as little as £10, which I think is great value for money. The staff were also really helpful and couldn't do enough to make our visit an enjoyable one.

    We were also spoilt with some treats from Cineworld including cinema posters and a Muppets watch. And for the mums a goody bag with some gorgeous L'Oreal products from Icon Hair also in the Corner House so a huge thank you to them too.

    After we had watched the film, which was brilliant, we went on to Tamatanga. I had been a few years back and it was good then so I had high hopes, thankfully I wasn't disappointed.

    It's a really great restaurant, bright, airy and we were greeted by scent of josticks. Not too overpowering but added to the atmosphere.

    The menu is substantial and there is so much choice and with meals starting from as little £9.95 for a curry and rice or a naan this was the perfect place to spend lunchtime.

    Whilst we chose our main courses we were bought over some poppadums and chutneys, the chutneys were really tasty, the apple and mint was a particular favourite. The children were also kept entertained with some crayons and the place mat which is always useful in case you forget to bring something for them to do.

    It's not just curry though, for children they do have a less spicy menu including chicken goujons and chips, not all children like curry but it is on the menu. My son chose the chicken tikka masala and loved it, he thoroughly enjoyed the naan that came with it.

    I settled on the combo! veggie heaven, from the tandoor section of the menu. Now, I am by no means a vegetarian but it's nice to try something different when you eat out so I gave this a go. The Broccoli, Paneer kebabs and mushrooms were cooked perfectly and what I couldn't manage I took it home in a goody bag.

    We also had the papdi chaat as a side, this is a really beautiful and light side dish made with chick peas and yogurt, which added an element of cool to the spice of the main course.

    Both of the children had a pudding, a chose your own ice cream combo which was a great option and finished off the dinner. I didn't have a pudding as I was really full from dinner but they looked great, they also have a selection of coffee's if you prefer. The staff were really helpful and knowledgable about the food and made us all feel so welcome.

    NB We were invited to Cineworld and Tamatanga to try out the Movies for Juniors and food free of charge. All words, opinions and photos are my own.

    20 October 2014

    Big Energy Saving Week with British Gas - Plus Win a Hive Active Heating Kit

    This week is the Big Energy Saving Week with British Gas and Netmums , so I have been thinking about what we do around the house currently and what we else we can do to save energy.

    Firstly what we do, well one of the big things for us is the telly, internet, and stereo, which were difficult to turn off individually and sometimes got left on. We installed a switch from Belkin which allows us to turn everything off at the flick of one button situated next to the front door.

    Around doors where there are drafts, we have draft excluders, this ensures the heat stays where it needs too. They don’t have to be boring, we have these fun ‘giraffe’ excluders around a few doors.


    Our front door is wooden and lets in a terrible draft, we can’t really afford a new UPVC or composite door at the moment, so we have installed a thick curtain which blocks some of the draft.

    A few years ago we had loft installation installed free of charge through a government grant, we also added some reflective material to the inside of the roof for more insulation.

    These small things help to keep rooms warmer which means we don’t need the heating on as much.

    When we do have the heating on we also dry our washing next to it, this means we don’t need to use the tumble drier.

    We have also replaced the majority of our lightbulbs with LED ones and for those that aren't, we use energy saving lightbulbs or newer halogen ones. It goes without saying we turn lights off when we leave the room but this means that when we are in them we aren't using as much electricity.

    So what could we do to improve our energy consumption? There are a few things in our house we are looking to improve over the coming year, firstly although we can’t do much to change the door we can change the letter box which currently lets a lot of cold air in.

    We also have a single glazed window at the bottom of the stairs, although it is currently blocked up with some polystyrene and a curtain we need to replace it and this will add some heat to the hallway.

    We also have a fireplace we don’t use, really because of the gas it uses but it also lets a lot of cold air in, we need to find a way to stop the cold air coming down the chimney.

    At the moment it’s about making small changes that add warmth to the house, saving money will come I think as these changes mean we don’t need the heating on as much.

    We currently put it on a set temperature so it comes on to get it up to that temperature, this means it may come on for half an hour or an hour at a time maybe a few times a day. This seems to work for us and over the last 5-6 years our gas and electric have stayed about the same even though the cost per unit has gone up.

    We had a new boiler about 4 years ago and this has improved our overall usage as it is much more efficient. None of these are big changes but I think with something like this it is about small changes that don't necessarily cost the earth but save you energy.

    These are just a few of my changes, this week is about the small and the big changes you can make to your home to save energy, there is so much going on over on the BritishGas Netmums hub. Room by room they will be looking at ways to save energy. 

    I also got to ask a question about saving energy mine was:

    What is the best way to set your heating, we have radiators all through our house:
    "Set your timer 15-30 minutes before you need your room to be warm, when you wake up in the morning for example, so that it has time to reach your chosen temperature.Turn your heating off 30 minutes before you leave home or go to bed and the heat already built up will keep your house warm"
    And finally, I have a competition to win a super Hive Active Heating Kit with Installation from British Gas for one of my readers, it is worth £199 and allows you to control your heating from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

    By entering via the Rafflecopter form you agree to and accept the Terms & Conditions of the giveaway.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    NB: I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to write about products and brands on their behalf. I may have been paid expenses but retain all editorial control. 

    This is a Netmum's sponsored review.To find out more click the button:


    19 October 2014

    Black & White Photo Project Wk 15

    I love this alpine in black and white, so pretty with the dark of the soil.


    18 October 2014

    Pumpkin Picking Fun

    After a trip out with my brother today, we visited Maxeys Farm Shop in Kirklington for a spot of pumpkin picking.

    First of all, we looked at the rather awesome huge pumpkins that they'd grown, quite how I have no idea!

    Next up we walked up the pumpkin and halloween themed path to where all of the pumpkins were grown, all the pumpkins on the path had been carved so it gave us some ideas.

    There were so many to chose from so we had to walk around and check them all out.

    There were some really perfect pumpkins...

    Some rather knobbly pumpkins...

    And then some really rude pumpkins...

    I love how Maxeys has setup the pumping picking area, it's fun and gets everyone into the spirit, there are wheelbarrows for you to carry your pumpkins back to the car and and a little something extra for the kids. We certainly had lots of fun choosing them and can't wait to carve them in a few weeks for halloween.

    14 October 2014

    Boys & Girls Raindrop Dress from Sidneyboo Review

    I blogged about Sidneyboo, a fabulous online boutique a while back when they launched and bought some gorgeous shorts for my daughter from them. So, when Sarah from Sidneyboo asked if I’d like to review a dress for my daughter, I knew she’d send me something pretty special. 

    And she did, this most delightful raindrop dress from Boys & Girls is the perfect Autumn outfit, my daughters first impression was that she loved the colours of the raindrops. Her normal favourite colours are pink and purple, but even so she loved this print.

    The fabric is similar to sweatshirt material, so it is really snug and warm, and being organic cotton it is super soft. I loved the cuffs, so chunky and perfect for keeping the cold out and little arms warm.

    The attention to detail is divine, with the Girls & Boys logo sewn on the outside of the dress. Although not unisex as it’s a dress the colours don’t sway to those of the normal run of the mill high street colours, which for me is great, as it has opened my daughters eyes to other colours.

    At just £24 this dress is perfect for dressing up with tights and pretty shoes or down with a pair of jeans. Great with jellies or wellies we love this dress and it has been a hit with both my daughter and I.

    Not only is this dress gorgeous but it washes well (we should know, as we had a major chocolate incident in it) and with the philosophy behind Boys & Girls being Out to Play it allowed my daughter to enjoy being a child in comfy fashionable clothing,

    She absolutely adores this dress and was so happy to run around showing it off.

    It really is the perfect exploring, running, jumping and being a child kinda outfit!

    I absolutely adore everything from Sidneyboo, with brands such as Indikidual, Gardener & the Gang, Tootsa MacGinty and Slugs and Snails there is something for everyone.

    And finally Sarah is offering my readers 15% off with code MUMMYDIARY15 so why not pop on over and see what you can find to brighten up a rainy day.

    NB I was sent this dress for review, however all words and opinions are my own,

    13 October 2014

    Magic Moments - 13/10/14

    The lovely Jaime over at The Oliver's Madhouse is on holiday this weekend, so she has passed the Magic Moments torch on to me again. It was an absolute pleasure last time and I got to read some wonderful posts and find some wonderful blogs.

    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.