Christmas: All aboard the Dudley canal Santa boat

I love Christmas. 

I'm pretty sure, especially as I have a December birthday and am small in stature, I should have been an elf.

So having kids for me is just one great big excuse to go Christmas crazy for the whole of December. 

OK, who am I kidding. November too.

So for the past 5 years of having children at Christmas, I have sought out different things to do.

Over the years we've had some disappointments.

We booked a Santa train once.

It literally travelled what felt like a hundred yards, with spectacular views of peoples back gardens and finished off with a very skinny, polyester covered Santa.

Luckily it was LL's first Christmas, so whilst it was disappointing for a very excited first year mummy, she doesn't remember a thing.

We've also had our fair share of wonderful memories including a trip to the Drayton Manor Magical Christmas and the Snowdome winter wonderland.

This year I stumbled across the Dudley canal trust Santa boat where you can see Santa in his underground grotto.

And I'm so so glad I booked.

Christmas day starter recipe: Honeyed carrot soup with root vegetable crisps

This soup is so very easy to make and so incredibly yummy.

The sweetness of the carrots is enhanced perfectly by the honey and the addition of chilli flakes (optional) adds a new depth and lovely heat perfect in winter.

This soup makes the ideal Christmas day starter, made all the more special served with home made root vegetable crisps.

A winner with both adults and children alike.

Elf on the Shelf: Our North Pole breakfast

I've been doing elf on the shelf for years now, and as part of that we the elves organise a North Pole breakfast for the children at home.

In previous years, I've gone with the theme of the elves bringing their style breakfast from the North Pole to us.

And we all know what elves love don't we?

Candy, sugar, sweets, chocolate....

All the foods that are normally treats to us!

So previous years I've filled the table with danish pastries, chocolates and cakes galore.

What a treat you'd think?

In reality hardly any of it got eaten. 

It was just too sickly and the children just love their morning cereal way too much.

I didn't want to make the same mistake again this year.

But I didn't want to scrap it altogther either.

This is the year they are loving it the most out of all of them.

At nearly 6 and 4.5 years, they are the perfect age and are REALLY into the elves and their mischief.

I decided instead of bringing an elf's sugar filled breakfast to the kids, I would 'Elf-ify' their normal breakfast and bring Christmas to the breakfast table.

Recipe & Review: Lizi's granola, cranberry & yoghurt bars

You may have seen my previous Lizi's passionfruit & pistachio granola review and cookie recipe. If you didn't - check it out - they are seriously sooo moreish I make them every week now!

If you pop along to that post you'll also find a bit more information on Lizi's granola.

This recipe uses the Lizi's original granola which is a combination of  jumbo rolled oats, desiccated coconut, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, golden linseeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, roasted hazel nuts and walnuts. A perfect combination for a healthy snack bar.

As it's nearly Christmas -EEEEEEK - I thought I'd go for cranberries as my fruit of choice to add but you can use any dried fruits you like - blueberries, raisins, chopped apricots?

The greek yoghurt drizzle adds a nice touch of sweetness and moisture to the bars but if you wanted to be uber healthy you could leave this out.

I did try this originally as a no-bake recipe using honey and peanut butter to bind and whilst they were equally as yummy, they were just too crumbly. Definitely not a bar you could grab to snack on the go!

Recipe & Review: Mexican steak with Quinola

Having already tried the Quinola express pearl & black quinoa, I was very excited to try a more flavoursome variety - spicy Mexican!

I love love love spicy food, especially Mexican so this was right up my street!
It does state that it is a meal in itself. It is tasty and filling enough to be. Perfect for a healthy quick fix lunch for one - ready in just 90 seconds.

I however wanted to make this into more of an evening meal and wanted to share the packet with P so I decided to put it with mexican steak, roasted vine tomatoes and peppers and a side salad to complement the tastes.

Review: Vidisan eye drops

Eye drops wouldn't normally be something I would use or even keep in the house. 

It's just not a product I've thought much about.

Until the email popped into my inbox to review a product called Vidisan.

Vidisan claims to calm & soothe irritated eyes, which can occur daily from anything from chlorine in swimming pools to the wind (and boy have we had some wind!) with a unique combination of povidone to form a protective layer which retains moisture on the surface of the eye and euphrasia which alleviates external eye irritation due to external factors such as wind and pollen.

Until now, we've not really had any irritated eyes from the children but P suffers terribly with sore eyes through tiredness and about 1000 different allergies. 

Review & Recipe: OXO good grips spiralized courgetti with turkey meatballs

Following on from my review on the OXO mandoline, I had the opportunity to try out their new hand-held spiralizer too.

You may have seen my recipe for spaghetti bolognese here, which documented my low GL diet for health reasons and the fact I am making a few simple healthy swaps. One of these swaps is spiralized vegetables in place of spaghetti. 

For the spaghetti bolognese recipe I bought the ready spiralized courgette and butternut squash from a supermarket, which, whilst convenient, does work out very expensive when used on a regular basis.

Spiralizing your own is much more cost effective and means you can spiralize exactly how much you need. I found the supermarket stuff was too much for just me so a lot went to waste. It also doesn't keep well! 

Spiralizing your own means you can do it as and when you need it and keep the vegetables fresher for longer.

Christmas: Stocking fillers under a fiver at Aldi!

We are already huge Aldi fan's in this house.

We always do our food shop here as the food cannot be beaten on price. Which is a hugely important factor when budgeting meals for a family of 5. 

But the price doesn't at all compromise on the taste at all.

We especially love Aldi at Christmas.

We got so many sweet treats last year.

Not to mention the extremely cheap alcohol.

But not only all of this, Aldi also offer a fab range of non-food items.

I always look out for the special deals every Thursday.

And being Christmas, Aldi have stepped up and are offering a great range of stocking fillers all for under £5!

Aldi’s Children’s Stocking Fillers Under £5 range is in stores on 15.11.15 and available while stocks last
Dinosaur Toys
Mini Colour Watch
Children's Games
Felt Creations
Christmas DVD'S
Jigsaw Book
Hand Puppet
Book & Model
Busy Day Board & Book
Scratch & Stencil
Puzzler Yearbooks
Christmas Sticker and Activity Books
We were kindly sent the dinosaur toys for my dinosaur mad 4 year old to test out.

The dinosaurs were much bigger than I expected which was great.

They are realistic and have a realistic texture and rubbery skin.

There are six different dinosaurs to collect and at £4.99 are great value for money.

BB loved them. As did 10 month old BB who enjoyed being able to play with his big bro for a change.

Normally parts are too small or toys unsafe for little fingers so he gets pushed aside, but these were great for his chubby little fingers and safe for him to try and munch on!

And another thing I am loving Aldi for this Christmas....

I couldn't stop laughing at their spoof of this years multi-million pound John Lewis ad.

Bravo Aldi, Bravo!

Restaurant review: Las Iguanas [Birmingham]

On Saturday, me, P & the kiddo's had the opportunity to check out South American restaurant, Las Iguanas, and play food critic for the night.

I'll be honest, I'd actually never heard of it before so I was shocked when I looked at their website and discovered they have quite a few branches around the UK with three of those being very close to me [Derby, Resort World Birmingham & Arcadian Birmingham].

We opted for the Arcadian branch in Birmingham.

Just so happened we chose THE busiest night to go so it was hectic.

But in a good way. 

Full of Latin atmosphere. Everyone there for a good night.

The manager said he had 418 booked in that night alone. Wow.

If that's not testament to how much people like this joint I don't know what is.

The service did not suffer at all for it. There were a lot of staff on to cater for the numbers.

Our food came quickly and the staff were very attentive to each table.

Recipe & Review: OXO Mandoline sliced vegetable crisps

A mandoline has been on P's all time wish list for like ever! So when an email dropped into my inbox from OXO uk asking if I would like to do a review, I new exactly which product of theirs I wanted to try.

They actually do a ton of kitchen products I never new anything about.

I LOVE kitchen and bake ware. It's like an addiction.

So I was like a child in a sweetie shop when browsing their site.

And when the box arrived on Saturday, P squealed like a girl 'I love new kitchen gadgets!!'

We're easily pleased.

We took no time in whipping it out of the box on Sunday and decided our first venture with our new toy would be vegetable crisps.

We love vegetable crisps but they are so expensive compared to normal potato ones and a little too salty for my liking.

OXO has three different mandolins ranging in price from the handheld at £15 to the Chef's mandoline at £60. 

We went for the mid-range simple mandoline at £40.

Recipe: Christmas tree cupcakes

This time next month the big man himself will have been and gone and we'll all be stuffed after scoffing down a giant Christmas dinner.

Scary thought huh?

Don't panic. Eat cake. It'll make you feel better. I promise.

And get you into the festive spirit if you make these cheery little Christmas trees!

Review & Recipe: Slow cooked paprika pork with roasted vegeteables & Quinola


Kwin-o-a? Kin-wa?

I've always struggled with what to call it. In my head it shall forever be Kwin-o-a. Even if I do now know that is incorrect.

I have to admit, I've heard it quite a lot recently. 

It seems to be the new super food on every ones lips.

But what the devil actually is it?

Apparently it is the grain-like seeds of the quinoa plant from the Andes.

Well I never, you learn something new everyday!

And what makes Quinola so special?

The Quinola mothergrain website gives 5 very valid reasons why:

1. It's super easy to cook! If you can cook rice and pasta then you can definitely cook this. And the express range is fool-proof.

2. It is super healthy. Quinoa is a complete protein that can be used to replace meat. It is gluten and cholesterol free and packed full of vitamins.

3. Great for the planet. It is sustainably organic.

4. Ethical. The farmers in Cabana are covered by the fairtrade guarantees.

5. Superior. This brand claims to be the very best in quinoa.

Quinola is a great carrier for flavours so lends itself so well to so many different sweet and savoury recipes.

The Quinola website is also packed full of yummy and imaginative recipes to use quinoa in, from Quinola fried chicken to Quinola cashew truffles.

Quinoa is also great as a simple swap for pasta or rice in meals.

As this was my first time of trying quinoa I kept things simple and used it as a straight swap for mashed potato which I am trying to avoid as part of my low GI diet.

Review & Recipe: Lizi's passionfruit & pistachio granola cookies

When the email landed in my inbox asking me to review some Lizi's granola I jumped at the chance.

I know granola doesn't sound like the most exciting product to try but I had never tried it before and was intrigued by the different flavour combinations Lizi's range has.

I was also very keen because I am currently following a low GI/GL diet (hate that word!), as I have previously discussed, for health reasons.

Lizi's webiste has a whole glycemic load section which was very informative and great to hear these products fit in with my diet!

The webiste also features a whole heap of recipes featuring new and imaginative ways to use granola, from apricot and sage stuffing to granola bread.

I used my Lizi's passionfruit and pistachio granola in my own recipe to make some healthy cookies.

Paris terrorist attacks: How much do we tell our children?

This is something I've really pondered over the last few days.

Struggled with.

My head and my heart are at logger heads over it.

My 5 year old came home on Monday having been told about what happened in Paris at School.

Recipe: Healthy spicy turkey burgers with sweet potato wedges

So you may have seen my last post for Quorn bolognese which details my new healthy eating journey.

I don't particularly like the word 'diet' as I think as soon as I tell myself I'm on a diet it suddenly becomes really unachievable for some reason. 

Food loses its excitement to me if it is for a diet.

I'm not over weight by any means so I don't need to go on a diet anyway, but I am mindful that recently I have let my eating habits change and meals have become much more fatty.

I explained on my last post too, that I was previously a vegetarian for 10 years. My eating habits were naturally very healthy then because of that. 

When I became a meat eater again, I started to love fatty meats, mince beef meals, steaks etc.

Because me and P had started to eat fatty, unhealthy meals, it had become the 'norm' that the children would eat something nutritious and healthy first, then me & P would eat something different later.

Looking after the childrens wellbeing but not our own.

And eating at different times is not something I like doing at all.

The children have such busy schedules with after school clubs, rainbows, dance classes and things, that fitting family meals in is becoming impossible at times.

So my aim this week has been to NOT go on a diet, but to make healthier choices and few simple swaps like quorn mince in place of beef mince and here turkey mince in place of beef mince and to make meals quick enough to fit in with our hectic schedule, meals that all the family can enjoy, together!

These turkey burgers were a total winner all round.

I'm a total convert and will do turkey burgers over beefburgers every time now.

The children much preferred them too!

This recipe makes 10 burgers.

Recipe: Vegetarian Quorn bolognese with buternut squash & courgetti

I'm currently trying to eat a little healthier.

As you may be able to tell, I do love cake.

But it is starting to show!

I used to be a vegetarian, and was for 10 years, until recently when the smell of meat got the better of me.

But the one thing that has remained the same, is using quorn in place of beef for things like bolognese and lasagne's.

I think it is very close in taste and texture to meat, one of the best meat substitutes out there and many meat eaters over the years have not been able to tell the difference.

And this simple swap is not only just as tasty, it is much much less fatty and cheaper.

The butternut squash and courgetti is a fun alternative to pasta and a great way to get the children to eat extra veggies.

This recipe is healthy and quick. 

A win win family meal.

[Serves our hungry family of 5 pigs]

Recipe: Spiced apple & sultana slices

These slices are perfect for lunchbox treats or with an afternoon cup of tea.

Packed full of fruit which keeps it moist and naturally sweet, spiced perfectly with cinnamon and ginger, these cake slices have a carrot cake type texture and similar taste.

They would taste lovely with a cream cheese frosting but I kept mine plain for the children (they are odd creatures and hate any sort of cream/ frosting on cakes!)

This recipe fills 2 x 18cm square tins, which is approximately 18-20 slices.

Recipe: Mint aero cupcakes

If you love mint aero's as much as me, you'll love these cupcakes.

Perfectly chocolatey.

Perfectly minty.


This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

For the cakes:
240g Plain flour
280g Caster sugar
100g Mint aero, melted
2tsp Baking powder
250ml Milk
2 Eggs
80g Butter

For the frosting:
50g Butter
20g Cocoa powder
70ml Milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint essence
Green food colouring

To decorate:
Mint aero balls

1. Preheat the oven to 170c and line a muffin tray with 12 cases.

2. Mix the flour, caster sugar and baking powder in a bowl then add the softened butter and rub together until it resembles sand.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the melted chocolate, eggs and milk together.

4. Stir the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

5. Spoon into the cases and bake for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

6. For the frosting: Mix the icing sugar slowly into the softened butter. Split the mixture equally into 2 separate bowls.

7. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and half the milk to the first bowl. Mix thoroughly.

8. Add the peppermint essence and a few drops of green food colouring to the second bowl. Mix thoroughly.

9. Refrigerate both for 10-15 minutes before putting into a piping bag, alternating between a spoon of chocolate, a spoon of mint, and so on, to create the two tone effect frosting you can see.

10. Pipe swirls onto each cake and top with a mint aero ball to decorate.

Linked up to:
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.comMonkey and Mouse



Easy right? Just go?

Or maybe not....

The current guidelines in England are that every women is invited to have a smear test at 25.

I was no different.

The letter landed on my doorstep shortly after my 25th Birthday.

And what did I do? 

Book the appointment?

Nope. Of course not. 

Bonfire night safety with free printable guide

It's nearly bonfire night, and we are very excited to this year be hosting our own fireworks in the back garden.

Here is some great Bonfire night safety information.

I've printed and spoken with my children about it.

Now it's your turn....

Better to be safe than sorry.

Recipe: Cheese & bacon muffins

These cheese & bacon muffins make a lovely change from all the sweet baking I do and are perfect for a breakfast on the run or lunchtime accompaniment.

Yummy and healthy too!

This recipe makes 9 large or 12 small muffins.

Half term: PYO pumpkins

On Sunday we started a new family tradition. 

I know a lot of people do it every year but all 5 of us have never been before. 

On Sunday we went pumpkin picking! 

Halloween recipe: Scary hairy mini monster cupcakes

Its half term here, so all baking this week has been taken over by the kiddies. 

And as Halloween is only a few days away, of course BB wanted to make scary cakes.

We decided on these scary hairy monsters.

4 year old BB did EVERYTHING himself. 

For the first time ever I let him crack the eggs completely alone.

Normally my hands are in there somewhere trying to save any bits of shell from going in the mixture.

He was adamant he was a big boy now and could do it himself.

Ok, go ahead then.

And to my surprise, he did all 3 perfectly!

Not one bit of egg slopped on the floor.

Not one bit of shell in the mixture.

Lesson learnt on my part.

Listen to the children and trust them more.

They can of course only learn by doing.

He perfectly weighed out each ingredient alone too. 

So proud of himself.

Of his cupcakes.

And I'm proud too.

Half term: Blackpool illuminations

So, it's October half term here. 

How'd that come around so quick?

Feels like only yesterday I was packing them off looking pristine in their new uniforms for their first day of reception and year 1.

Fast forward 7 weeks and here we are. 

Ready for the break from school runs already. 

School shoes already looking scuffed and old.

One P.E. top, a cardigan, a purse and a few toys from home down. 

Ready to have some half term fun?

A break from the usual baking. 

Messy, chaotic, childrens baking to be done in its place. 

To start our week we went to Blackpool illuminations on Saturday. 

I think everyone had the same idea. 

The whole world was travelling north that day. 

A normally 2 hour journey took us 4. 

But we made it. 

And despite it being bitter cold we all enjoyed it lots.

Recipe: Slow cooked pulled chilli chicken

This pulled chicken recipe makes a nice change from the usual pulled pork, with a Mexican twist!

Using chicken thigh is not only much tastier but also makes this dish super cheap.

However just like the pork, the chicken thighs do need a while to cook down (this is where the slow cooker works its magic!), but in doing so, the meat really does just fall off the bone. 

This recipe serves 6-8 people but does freeze well if there are less of you.

I served mine with lettuce, tomato and pepper in a soft taco but it would also be lovely on a jacket potato on a cold winters night, with wedges or on a salad in the summer.

Recipe: Gingerbread cupcakes topped with cinnamon & toffee frosting

My children are currently LOVING gingerbread. My 4 year old made some gingerbread men (recipe here) to take to school and they are addicted to the new McVities mini gingerbread (seen here on the cakes) so I thought, as my main love is cupcakes I'd combine the two.

Baking with children: Gingerbread men recipe

 My two children LOVE baking. Always have. 

They've been in the kitchen helping mix, dollop and roll ever since they were teeny toddlers.

Now they are that bit older (5 and 4) they are loving starting to weigh the ingredients themselves (great for Maths!), crack the eggs and reading recipes all by themselves. 

So not only do we create a yummy treat to eat, we also learn lots in the process too.

.....And create quite a bit of mess!! 

I made these little gingerbread men with my 4 year old. They were his request and he was so proud of them afterwards he asked to take them into school to hand out to his class. 

The class all thought they were yummy too!
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