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.
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