Sunday, 11 December 2016

Recipe: Zesty carrot cake

 

The lovely people at Maille, makers of delicious mustards, sent me this fabulous hamper this week containing some of their products along with some fresh ginger, oranges and carrots, with the challenge to come up with my own take on a carrot cake using the ingredients provided. 

 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Gizmo the pug saves Christmas in the new Vision Direct advert!


You may well remember this adorable little pug, Gizmo, from last years Vision direct Christmas campaign, which was featured in the independent and the metro and amassed over 1 million views on YouTube and Facebook?

Review: Look good this festive season with Remescar!


Being a parent is stressful.

Being a parent, playing Santa at Christmas is even more stressful.

A family & Christmas parties to juggle, burning the candle at both ends is stressful.

And the stress and strains of everyday life especially at this time of year can really start to show on your face - especially your eyes. 

Those poor tired eyes.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Competition: Nick Jr Carol-oke & your chance to WIN a Nick Jr. Goody bag here!



Hot off the press - Nick Jr have TODAY launched a new competition to win the chance to star on the channel!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Review: Magic dip design art centre


Today me and LL have been trying out the this magic dip design art centre. 

The Magic dip design art centre enables you to marbelise absolutely anything instantly with a cool tie-dye effect.

Both me and LL are creative and love getting crafty so we were keen to have a go with this!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Review: Cbeebies Kazoops music release (Just imagine - Volume 1)


If you have kids from toddler age upwards, then you will probably have watched the popular Cbeebies series Kazoops - a show that follows 6 year old Monty and his pet pig Jimmy Jones on epic imaginary adventures together.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Review: Schleich horse club pick up with horse box


When I was contacted about reviewing this Schleich horse club set, I just new I had to get it.

Not only because LL loves horses, but because I new already that it would be a great quality product - which makes my reviewing super easy to do!

Schleich is renowned for its high standards and hand finished figures. 

It's company philosophy is simple - "Only the best is good enough for our child's development" - and they aim to promote their development through creativity and imaginative play, helping them to learn the lasting values which will prepare them for a joyful and positive life.

Pretty bold statement right? But something which I believe they achieve and is at the forefront of every product they make.

Review: Stretch Scooby-Doo


Scooby Dooby doo, where are you?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Review: U-Hugs Dolls Season 2


Now I must admit, although these U Hug dolls are already in season 2, I have never actually heard of them before.

But when I saw the pictures of them in my inbox, I new they were just the quirky sort of thing that LL loves.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Review: Peppa Pig Softee Dough Picnic Playset


The name Peppa Pig might make most parents groan and roll their eyes.

After 5000 times of watching her, she does tend to get slightly irritating huh?

But the kids bloomin' love the show & there's no getting away from that.

I've been unable to escape Peppa pig for the past 6 years, since LL was a baby. And now, today, BB is equally as obsessed as she was.

Clearly the show is still going as strong today as it was then.

That just shows it's popularity amongst toddlers. 

So when I heard Character Options were looking for bloggers to review their Peppa Pig Softee dough picnic playset, I new the most perfect Peppa & George obsessed little boy who would love it!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Back to school with BEAR snacks lunchbox fillers!


The kids are in their third week back at school already - can you believe it? 

It's gone so fast already, it'll be October half term before we know it.

But it's nice to be back in a routine and the children are loving being with their friends again.

But them being back at school does bring a few problems - namely what to put in their lunchboxes. Or in our case, what to send for snack time, as they are both in KS1, they get their lunches provided by the school.

But snacks are a different issue. The school stopped providing snacks for them after reception class. From there on in, you can send your child to school with money to buy something from the snack trolley or their own snack from home.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Recipe: Strawberry milkshake cupcakes


So, finally the children are at school & I am back to baking.

We did bake a few things over the summer holidays but with 3 children 'helping' and the cakes pretty much being demolished the second they were decorated, they weren't exactly blog worthy!

Now they are back at school, and the littlest naps, I can do what I love the most.

And seen as they have just gone back, I gave the kids the choice of what they would like me to bake this week as a treat.

The decision was milkshake cupcakes. 

Or cupshakes as I like to call them!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Trip report part I: Disneyland Paris June 2016 - My top tips on thejourney, Davy Crockett ranch, the food & the characters inc Auberge ducendrillon & Cafe Mickey & a stop off to Arras.

The castle lit up for Dreams.
On 5th June 2016 myself, P & the 3 children all headed off on the 3 hour journey to Dover to begin our first ever trip to Disneyland Paris. 

We stayed at the Premier inn, Dover, the night before as we were catching the 7:30am, Ferry the following morning and it broke up the journey for P too.

The premier inn is right on the sea front and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Disney cruise docked whilst we were these.

The view from the premier inn.
The Ferry journey was an adventure in itself. Non of the children had ever been on a Ferry before and they were in awe of it's sheer size and amazed that you could drive onto it and there were actual shops on board.

We sat at the very front of the Ferry in the family lounge for the 1.5 hour duration which was very exciting to watch as France came into view and we pulled into Calais.

Saying goodbye to the white cliffs of Dover.
We were very lucky - we managed to get our Ferry travel for free. I had originally booked through the Walt Disney Travel Company using their 2 free nights deal but noticed on their website a few weeks before we were due to travel that their new deal was free Ferry travel. I called up, not expecting to get anywhere to be honest, but I called up anyway to see if we could get the same deal on our existing booking. Initially I was told no, like I thought, it was for new bookings only and I had already had a great deal from them with the free nights. But after "checking the system", they agreed to let me have the free travel too!

So my first top tip is - Always ask to combine deals or what extra's you can get free. The worst they can do is say no. But you might just be surprised by what they are willing to offer!

So after an enjoyable Ferry trip over, we were back in the car and on our way to Disneyland.

The drive over is a fairly easy one, one straight road really, but we did discover a great stop off place on the way home to break it up a little & grab a bite to eat after a failed attempt to drive into Paris.

Top tip: Do not attempt to drive into the centre of Paris - especially on the day Euro '16 kicks off there!! The drivers are seriously on a death wish and no normal rules seem to apply to anyone or anything. It is a total free for all and totally scary!!

Instead, my suggestion is to stop off at a beautiful French town called Arras, which is about half way between Calais and Paris. It has a lovely Olde Worlde feel with lots of little eateries, pubs, patisseries and chocolatiers set in a square with a church at the centre.



We of course had to grab ourselves some french biscuits and macarons to take home!





My top tips for other self-drivers are:

Pack lots of snacks & activity packs to keep the children entertained.
Make sure you have the postcode for Disneyland in your SatNav whilst in England just in case signal strength is iffy once you get to France.
Make sure you have change ready - there is a toll road on the route from Calais to Paris!

After 3 hours on the road we made it to Davy Crockett ranch. Check-in for your room/ cabin is 3pm but you can go and collect your park tickets at anytime to start enjoying the fun asap.

We arrived around 2pm but were lucky enough to be given our cabin key there and then too.

We chose Davy Crocketts ranch because as a family of 5 we really wanted the benefit of having the extra bedroom for the children to go to sleep. There is nothing worse for me than all being together in one tiny bedroom and having to escape to the bathroom for 30 minutes whilst waiting for the kids to go to sleep and then not being able to watch the TV or talk properly to each other. 

So a self catering cabin with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a lounge/diner, kitchen & private decking area in a beautiful forest setting was the perfect option for us. The only downside is that you must drive over to stay here as there is no shuttle bus option. This was not a problem for us anyway. We wanted to drive over and make full use of space in the car & car box rather than squeezing everything into a few suitcases. The drive from Davy Crockett to the park is literally a few minutes and parking at the park is free.

Davy Crockett ranch also doesn't automatically come with breakfast included but we opted for the standard half board meal plan which meant we then got a voucher for each day to exchange at a small hut opposite our cabin for a breakfast bag each.  

There was a huge selection of what we wanted each morning in our bags from hot drinks, milk or juice to bread, spreads, cereals & croissants. There was way more than any of us could possibly eat each day.

With the half board meal plan we also got a voucher to exchange for lunch or dinner (plus a drink) and a voucher for an afternoon snack or 'Pause Gourmade' which gives you the choice or a hot or cold drink plus a donut or magnum ice-cream between 3pm & 6pm everyday. 

Opting for the cheapest meal plan 'Standard' we could chose from 7 buffet style restaurants to eat in everyday. We ate in Plaza Gardens which was in the centre of Disneyland park on Main street U.S.A and Crocketts Tavern at Davy Crocketts ranch.
Dessert at Plaza Gardens
Both were lovely. Lots of choice of food and the all you can eat element of them meant we were stuffed beyond belief at the end of every day.

You can reserve a table at any restaurants 60 days in advance by calling the reservations line on the Disneyland website, which is highly recommended to do as availability might be low in popular restaurants, especially the buffet style as lots of people opt for the standard meal plan and with only 7 restaurants to chose from, they get very busy!

I was a bit daunted by this as I really didn't know where we would be on each day and what we would be doing to pick the best times. 

Top restaurant reservations tip - Book your dinner much later than you normally would here in England. There is an hours time difference to take into account so your 6pm teatime here in the UK would be a 7pm teatime in Paris and also, you are so so busy having fun, time really runs away with you and before you know it, it's 8pm and you haven't felt hungry once (not even the children!)

Top food & drink tip - To save us money & time (no one wants to stop and eat when you're having so much fun!) we didn't stop for lunch at all. The breakfast, afternoon snack and all you can eat dinner were more than enough food for anyone but I did pack snack bags (I filled sandwich bags with an array of snacks from cereal bars & biscuits to crisps, raisins, fruit pouches & yogurt fruit flakes, labelled for each person for each day so we could help ourselves as and when we wanted) & we filled up collapsible bottles (from the pound shop!) at the water fountains on our way around and added those small squirty squash pods to them. We never had to buy any extra food or drinks the whole time we were there!

In addition to our meal plan, we also booked some special meals as a treat for the children.

We booked a meal with the princesses at Auberge du Cendrillon which was a present for LL's birthday back in December (She received a special invitation from Cinderella in a box of princess goodies) and breakfast with Mickey and friends on our last morning to celebrate BB's birthday a week early (Mickey left him a note that morning with a Mickey mouse t-shirt and Birthday ears to wear.)

Birthday breakfast at Cafe Mickey.
The princess meal was just lovely. It is very expensive but they do make the whole experience feel very special. 

You get to meet 3 princesses, a prince & 2 of cinderella's mice. We got Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White & her Prince and Suzi & Perla.




Once seated, the characters enter and do a little dance before coming around and mingling as you enjoy a 3 course meal. 

The princesses make a real fuss of the children (as do the normal waiting staff) and you get some real quality time with each.

I was a little worried about the food beforehand as it does sound quite fussy and posh on the menu's but it was all lovely and the children's were totally fuss-free and kid-friendly pasta and chicken.


One of the days we queued to see another Princess at the Princess Pavilion where we queued well over an hour and you only get to see one of the two princesses at the top of which is a surprise so you run the risk of seeing the same princess twice - so the princess meal is definitely a better option if you want to see a few princesses without the wait!

We were lucky in the Princess Pavilion as the member of staff at the top asked who we had already seen, 2 of which were in the rooms at that time, but he asked if we didn't mind waiting 20 minutes for their change-over so we could see a princess we hadn't already seen. 

After 1 hour of waiting, 20 minutes didn't seem so bad and it was worth it because LL got to see Aurora who was just lovely.

The benefit of Princess Pavilion is also that there is a photographer present to capture all of the special moments professionally. 


We managed to get quite a few character photo's so by the end of the week it was more than worth our money to purchase the photo pass plus to have all of them.

The longest we queued for any character was around 1 hour and that was for Minnie Mouse who was very popular.



We managed to use our Early Magic Hours between 8am and 10am when the park opens to the general public to meet Donald, Chip n Dale, Goofy & Pluto with no more than a 30 minute wait for each.




We were lucky enough to catch Princess Jasmine do a random unscheduled pop-up meet & greet as we got off the Circus train towards the back of the park (I've heard this happens a lot and this is a great area to catch them as they come straight out of the staff area there) We were first in line for her so absolutely no wait!


We also managed to catch a little moment with Woody after a lovely member of staff pulled him to one side to see us after the line had already closed because she took a shine to LB in his Woody costume!


Top tip for meet & greets: Dress your children up as the character (Plan your day well or carry a bag of costumes and change whilst queuing) - the characters make a real fuss & an extra special effort with those children who are dressed like them.


The only other characters we queued to see were Mickey and Hook as they both happened to have very small queues just as we were passing.


The breakfast at Cafe Mickey in the Disney Village on our last day also meant we were able to meet Mickey again, Goofy again, Pluto again, Eeyore & Rabbit.


Again, like the Princess meal, this was very special and the children had LOTS of time with each character, especially Mickey who absolutely fell in love with LB who kept kissing his nose.


On the last night, we thought we would treat ourselves and headed to the Disneyland Hotel. It is a bit of a hidden treasure & something that you might miss if you aren't staying there yourself but I totally recommend you go!

Top hidden treat tip: The Disneyland Hotel is really something a bit special & worth a little visit. Cafe Fantasia is a lovely piano bar on the second floor and is a wonderful place to enjoy a Glowtini or Mocktail for the children with some free nibbles! There is also a shop which has some beautiful (and very expensive) Princess dresses. I've also heard lots of people say characters can sometimes be seen walking around the lobby for secret meets!


In the part II & III I will tell you all about the rides, the shows, the parade & Dreams fireworks.

Oh and a little secret I have to tell you.....

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Fathers day gift guide


Can you believe Father's day is less than 3 weeks away on Sunday 18th June 2016?

But don't worry, if you've not had chance to look for the ideal gift for your Dad yet, we have hunted down the perfect gifts for any type man!!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Review: Pom Pom WOW! Deluxe dip and create station


"Pom Pom WOW! is the new way to beautify your world by placing pom-poms on anything and everything! Create scenes, imagery, unique and complex shapes, messages and even custom pom-poms!"

As soon as the info landed in my inbox about the PomPomWOW! Deluxe dio and create station I new that it was right up 6 year old LLs street and jumped at the chance to review.

LL totally takes after me, in fact they all do, for creativity and a love of anything crafty.

I remember as a child myself sitting for hours upon hours making pom-poms to sew onto jumpers or hang from anything. I even made bags full of them for the schools bring and buy sale one year!

Nothing has changed over the years, and pom-poms are still as cool (kids so don't use that word anymore do they? Meaning I totally just made them uncool by saying that....) AWESOME as they ever were and kids still love them as much as I did! 

This pom-pom set is brilliant because you get all the fun of making and customising your pom-poms without the agonising hours wrapping wool around a couple of cardboard hoops!


The box contains a carry case and a bag of pieces to fit into it to make it a complete work station, with everything in one place. 

The parts were very easy to push in and the instructions were very clear on where each part should go. LL managed to do this by herself.


There are water colours, pens, sticky pads, glitter glue, pom-pom holders, stamps, a pipette, paintbrush and a colour mixing tray all ready to use to create and customise your pom-poms.

The set also includes enough pom-pom pellets to make a whopping 75 pom-poms!


And the best part of all is that it all folds up again into a little case to carry and store away.

I was surprised how compact it all is and how well it folds up without the need to take parts out or move things around. Literally fold up and go. Everything still in its place.



In terms of making your pom-poms - it really couldn't be easier....

1. Choose your colour pom-pom pellet.

2. Decorate it as you wish.

3. Add an adhesive glue dot to you pellet.

4. Choose whether you would like to place your pom-pom stick, stick down and gently lift off the outer plastic cover to reveal an awesome coloured pom-pom.


To decorate you can use the inks or dampened watercolours by sliding your pellet holder (the pink squares) into the purple holder above the water colours and inks, sliding the base along to which ever colour you want and plunging the purple holder down, pushing the pellet into the paint.


You can then pop your pink pellet holder back into the station to leave your pop-pom to dry.


You could also try mixing your colours by using the paintbrush to put some of the watercolours into the mixing tray, mixing with some water and using the pipette to suck the colour up and squeeze into the pom-pom using the pipette holder.


Once dried, you can attach your glue dots and get sticking where ever you can think of!


LL decided she would like to make some hair accessories so we started with a headband...


which turned out amazing and almost like a big fluffy crown!


And some hair clips to match.



She then decided she could add a pom-pom to her sandals where the flower that was originally on them had fallen off....



We went on to do stationery.


Pretty pom-pom pencils.


A pencil holder upcycled from a tin can, made pretty with a pom-pom 'P' for pens.


And of course, a pom-pom pencil is nothing without a pom-pom notebook to write in!


A phone case



And a photo frame.




You get the idea right?

I mean literally, the world is your pom-pom with this kit.

Me & LL got very carried away one rainy afternoon and quite honestly, if the kittens had stayed still long enough, they probably would have been pom-pom-ified too!

The joy is that each pom-pom turns out completely different and unique and that you can personalise anything, anyway you like - adding a subtle one or two pom-poms to enhance an item or going full on pom-pom crazy, completely covering an object in pom-poms.

Which incidentally is something the fun people at Pom Pom WOW! have gone and done.... on a HUGE scale, having covered an actual car entirely with pom-poms which will be touring the UK soon!
____________________________________________________________________

The Pom Pom Wow! Deluxe dip and create station is available from all large toyshops like The entertainer, Toys R Us & Smyths or online at www.character-online.com for £29.99.

For more information you can find Pom Pom Wow! on Facebook, Twitter & instagram.

Pom Pom Wow! will also be taking over UKMums.tv on on 28th May so keep your eyes peeled for that!





*Disclosure - this item was gifted to me for the purposes of a review but all opinions stated above are my own and true*
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