Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Review: DK Children's cookbook - Eat your greens, yellows and purples ft. Carrot & orange muffins recipe.


I had a conversation with my 11 year old niece over the weekend which left my mouth on the floor.

She is in year 7 at school and received commendation for her baking in food tech. 

She has been baking with her mother since she was a tiny tot, the same as my children have with me.

She loves baking and cooking and as a result is really quite good at it and even has to tell the teacher a thing or two when his bakes go wrong.

The part that had me baffled was the rest of the children in her class of whom many, if not all, didn't even know how to cook pasta in class last week! 

A basic thing like cooking pasta and they all failed.

I also know of some children who don't know what many vegetables look like. Vegetables I consider 'normal' like a courgette and aubergine are just alien to some children in their raw state.

I get that some older children might not be interested in cooking as much as my niece is and when you are not interested in something, you don't really learn, but I have yet to meet a younger child yet, through all my years as a child-carer, who doesn't like getting involved and stuck right in in the kitchen.

They just love to feel like a grown up any way they can and get so so proud when they produce the final product to everyone.

I find they also eat a heck of a lot more and a better variety of foods if they have had a helping hand in making it. 

Somehow makes it taste a whole lot nicer if they've cooked it themselves huh?

And it is a great way to introduce mathematics through weighing and measuring ingredients.

Review: Yoshoi snapea rice sticks


I love trying new & intriguing foods & flavours.

It's like a hobby now.

If there is something I've never heard of before, I feel compelled to try it.

I never want to miss out.

I might miss something that is totally amazing & I never new it.

That's exactly how I felt when I heard about these new Yushoi snacks.

Made with green peas and rice, I was intrigued. 

And in flavour combinations I love but I've not tried in a snack before.

I HAD to try them.

Turns out they were totally amazing & I can't believe I never new until now.

Review: Carlton kids press out & play Dinosaurs book


Did you see our recent trip to London?

If you did you'll know that 4 year old LB is currently learning all about Dinosaurs at school at the moment and is SO into it, we decided to take him to see them at the Natural History Museum.

The topic at school has come about because all of the boys are obsessed & surprisingly (because I have a girly 'My little pony obsessed girl) the girls in the class are too. 

And it is clear to see that when a child is interested in a particular topic, they are more likely to learn.

They've been using Dinosaurs in everything from literature to maths, involving them in counting and sums.

They even had an open afternoon in the school where the parents went in and helped their child make a clay dinosaur and various other activities.

It was obvious just how much they all loved the dinosaurs and how much they were like little sponges, reeling off a ton of facts and names of dinosaurs to me.

So when I had the opportunity to review some Carlton kids books I just new the range of dinosaur ones they do would be perfect!

I made the mistake of telling LB they were coming and he asked me every single morning when the postman was bringing them. He was tooooo excited for their arrival.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Recipe: Hoppy Easter chocolate bunny cupcakes


It's Easter tomorrow - yay! 

Chocolate galore for the next 6 months. 

But that's never an excuse to not eat cake of course. 

There is ALWAYS room for cake. 

Especially cakes as cute as these. 





INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes: 
4tbsp boiling water 
40g cocoa powder
3 eggs
175g unsalted butter, room temp
165g golden caster sugar
115g self raising flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder

For decorating: 
75g unsalted butter, room temp 
150g icing sugar
A drop of vanilla essence 
A drop of green food colouring
12 malteser mini bunnies
A handful of chocolate beans

METHOD
1. Fill a muffin tin with 12 cases and preheat the oven to 200c.

2. Sieve the cocoa powder into a bowl and mix with the boiling water to make a thick paste. 

3. Mix in all the other cupcake ingredients until smooth. 

4. Spoon into cases and bake for 12-15 minutes before allowing to cool on a wire rack. 

5. To make the buttercream: sieve the icing sugar into a bowl with softened butter and add the food colouring & vanilla essence. Mix well. 

6. Spoon into an icing bag with a grass/ hair nozzle and leave in the fridge for 5 minutes. 

7. Using a knife or cupcake corer, make a  little hole in the middle of each cupcake and place a maltesers bunny firmly in each. 

8. Pipe grass effect around the bunnies and add chocolate beans around. 

    Friday, 25 March 2016

    Recipe: Easter biscuits





    I know, I am a little late in getting this recipe posted but they are so easy to make, you can squeeze in making them before Sunday. 


    And who said Easter baking has to stop on Sunday?

    We have a whole 2 weeks to keep the kids entertained over the Easter holidays so these are a perfect cheap & easy little activity for you to do with them on a rainy day. 

    Which, right on queue is supposed to arrive tomorrow for the next few days. 

    Typical bank holiday weather huh!







    INGREDIENTS
    175g Plain flour
    100g Butter, room temp
    50g Caster sugar

    To decorate: 
    Pink & white candy melts
    Icing pens
    Chocolate beans

    METHOD
    1. Preheat the oven to 150c/ gas mark 2.

    2. Cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. 

    3. Stir in the flour. Once mixed, knead into balls. If it is a little sticky, add a pinch more flour. 

    4.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is 4-6mm. 

    5. Cut out your Easter shapes with cutters and place onto a baking tray. 

    6.  Put the tray full of dough shapes into the fridge for half an hour or so then put into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. 

    7. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before decorating. 

    To decorate:
    Melt a handful of each colour candy melts in the microwave according the the instructions then spread with a Easton into your cooled biscuits. Add a red chocolate bean to the bunny faces for a nose whilst the candy melt is still runny.  
    Wait for them to set before decorating with any design you wish with the icing pens. 


    Wednesday, 23 March 2016

    Review: Goodman's Oxford II DAB radio


    You may have seen this little beauty featured in my Spring in the home feature this week, telling you all about how perfect it is to add a splash of colour to your room as it comes in this lovely 'Bonbon' pink as well as porcelain white, Berry red, sky blue, mustard yellow & moss green?

    Well, I love it so much, I wanted to tell you a little more about it than just it's wonderfully pleasing aesthetic look.

    This is the Goodman's Oxford II DAB radio.

    Tuesday, 22 March 2016

    Easter: DIY twig tree & other decorations

    I officially love any excuse to get creative. 

    To decorate my home & make things magical for the children. 

    Some may see it as OTT & don't see the big deal with Easter. It's not Christmas is it?

    To me it's a bit of fun. 

    Cheap, cheerful & easy fun! 




    How effective is this twig tree? A real focal point on my 'Easter table'. 

    And it was so cheap to make!

    I already had the vase which I filled with some moss which was a pound or two on eBay. 

    I got the kids to go on a twiggy hunt on one of our walks, which was a great excuse to get out and picked the best to put in the vase. 

    The twignest in the middle was also a few pounds from eBay which I filled with mini glittery eggs from The works.  




    The birds are from Tiger UK and are on little crocodile clips making them easy to attach to the twigs. 





    I hung an assortment of eggs from the twigs: the sequin and glitter ones are from The works and the painted ones are from Tiger UK (pictured below) 

    This would also look just as beautiful with homemade eggs and crafts by the kids hung proudly on display. We normally would have but time has run away with is this year and we've not yet had the chance. 




    The grass runner is another Tiger UK purchase which I added daisies to, from Home bargains and glittery eggs from The works. 



    The pots of mini daffodils were from Morrisons for a bargain 50p which the children made decorative paper covers for and added mini eggs and a bunny to from The Works.




    The chick & striped bunting is home made. 




    This happy Easter banner was a pound or two from Home Bargains. 




    The sofa even gets an Easter addition with this bunny cushion which was a charity shop find. 




    And then I picked up this lovely Easter book last weekend in Hamleys when we were visiting London which is now proudly displayed on the mantle piece. 




    I'm going to do an 'Easter bunny breakfast' on Easter morning for the children. I have some pastel striped paper plates and pastel spot napkins along with some Easter crackers and an Easter cake stand I intend to fill with homemade Easter treats. 

    A lot of effort? 

    Maybe. But you're only young once and I am making the most of these innocent earlier years as I can!  








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    Monday, 21 March 2016

    Spring in the Home: Key pieces to transform your dining room into a pastel palace

    I'm Spring homeware




    Spring has officially sprung - yay!



    And I always find at this time of year I want to lighten things up a bit and change things up in the home to reflect the prettiness of spring.

    This doesn't have to mean getting your overalls on, roller in hand to redecorate the whole room.

    If you have a fairly neutral theme on the walls and floor you can changes key pieces with the seasons to transform the whole look of the room and add a new lease of life.

    Spring to me means Easter pastels and I have started to add splashes of baby pinks, blues, greens & yellows to my dining room to start with.

    Small things together make a huge difference.

    Over Autumn & winter I channelled a woodland/ country/ Scottish theme in the dining room with a red tartan throw on the sofa with stag and owl cushions, a hessian rug on the floor, framed woodland prints on the wall and red tablecloth.

    With no decorating whatsoever, now look at it!




    I have given the chairs a fresh coat of paint which they were desperate for! With having 3 grubby children, sometimes repainting every 6 months is the only thing for it.


    I used Wilko furniture and cupboard paint which is fab as there is no need to sand before painting or wax after and is £12.95 for 0.75l which I used less than 1/4 of a pot of each colour.

    I also recovered the seats with a white stain resistant tablecloth from B&M for a few pounds which did 5 chairs easily.

    Another way to add colour is seasonal flowers. 

    I just love daffodils in spring and they add a nice zesty colour in amongst all of the pastels in the room. 

    The yellow 'Smile and Be Happy' vase is from Wilko's too.


    Bunting immediately makes me think of spring/ summer and is a perfect way to add a splash of colour.

    This Easter inspired chick & stripe bunting is handmade.


    On the sofa, I have added two pale green spot cushions from Dunelm mill and an Easter inspired hessian bunny cushion which was a charity shop find.


    Spring sunshine makes me happy. It makes me want to sing and dance!

    So I have added this Goodman's Oxford II DAB radio. It comes in a variety of colours but this lovely pale pink is 'BonBon' and is £69.99.

    Not only does it add colour to a little corner in my dining room that was otherwise very dull, it also exudes style with it's 1960's retro design.


    I always like to have water available on the table for the children to help themselves as and when they want so this Brita water filter jug is perfect with its pastel green lid!

    This too comes in a huge variety of new colours to choose from to add a splash of colour to your kitchen or table. The green is 'Soft grass' and is £22.99.



    The pastel spot tablecloth is from Dunelm mill.
    _________________

    I stick with plain white dinnerware but you could update yours in spring colours? Add a colourful rug? A spring print on the wall?

    The possibilities are endless.












    *Disclaimer: Some of these items were gifted to me for the purposes of a review but all opinions are my own and all reviews are done with full intergrity*



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    #FashionFriday: Mums spring picnic style

    Spring picnic



    Here we are again for week two of the new #FashionFriday. 

    I was amazed just how popular last weeks was so hopefully you like this weeks too. 

    Last week was toddler boys Spring style channelling nautical chic in yellow and navy. 

    I loved the colour combo so much it's the centre for this weeks 'Mummy' post. So fresh and clean and just screams spring sunshine to me. 

    Now the sun is making an appearance and the kids are off for two weeks, we have a few picnics planned. So here are my top picks for Spring picnic wear.  

    Being a mum, style aside, clothes have to be practical and comfortable and being Spring and prone to showers, waterproof outerwear is essential. 

    Review: BRIO stacking clown


    Recognise this toy?

    You more than likely will do either from your own baby days or your own child's.

    This toy has been entertaining children since 1955 and the design has barely changed a bit in those 61 years!

    Friday, 18 March 2016

    Fashion Friday: Toddler boys nautical navy & yellow


    This spring I am loving the bright yellows that are coming into the shops. Teamed with navy and blues offers a fresh twist on the traditional nautical. 

    Here's my wish list for 14 month old LBs Spring wardrobe. 

    Spring is still a little nippy and can be wet so invest in weatherproof key pieces like the wellies, Gillet and Mac to add a colour splash to any outfit. 

    'Deep blue' Pure cotton graphic sweatshirt from M&S for £9 
    Available in 0-18m. 

    Pure cotton stripe hooded top from M&S for £12 
    Available in 0-24m. 

    Little Fal appliqué t-shirt from Frugi for £16 
    Available in 0-4years. 

    Narrow padded Gillet from Next for £14
    Available in 3m-6years. 

    Yellow and blue Mac from mothercare for £18
    Available in 3m-3y 

    Little bird wellies from mothercare for £14
    Available in sizes 6-13. 

    Dungarees and tshirt set from mothercare for £19
    Available in 6m-4y. 

    Blue zoo navy boat shoes from Debenhams for £14. 

    Turn up hem chino from Asda for £6
    Available in 9m-6y. 

    Braces and dickie bow from 'the snappy sapling' on etsy for £19. 

    Thursday, 17 March 2016

    Easter Recipe: Cadbury's bunny brownies


    As soon as I spotted the new Cadbury's spring edition Dairy milk bars featuring a cute little white bunny on each square, I just new they had to be used in an Easter recipe rather than just scoffed down in 2 seconds like a normal chocolate bar would be.

    These little bunny squares needed pride of place on some deliciously gooey & chocolatey brownies to give them an Easter twist.

    After all, Easter IS all about the chocolate right?

    Cadbury's dairy milk bar - spring edition

    This is a fool proof recipe that makes winning brownies every time.

    I always use Cadbury's bournville chocolate to make my brownies and their bournville cocoa powder in the frosting because I know I can trust the quality & they will be just the perfect amount chocolatey, so it only felt right to top them with a Cadbury's chocolate too!

    Review: Our clucking good afternoon tea at Ma Pluckers, London


    On Saturday, me, P, LL & BB travelled the 116 miles to visit the big city.

    Last time we went was a year ago and it was manic. We had planned far too much to fit into one day and were flitting about from one end of London to the other like headless chicken. It was cold and miserable which didn't help either!

    Lesson well & truly learnt, this time we planned only a couple of things to keep us occupied with the ultimate treat being our trip to Ma Pluckers. 

    We are all about the food in this family so after only having a few snacks to keep us going on the train journey down, we were well and truly ready to devour what good ol'Ma had to offer at 3pm.

    We actually ended up getting there early as we weren't sure how far out it was and wanted to be sure we got there on time.

    WHERE IS IT?

    Tucked away on the very aptly named Beak Street, Ma Plucker's is situated in hip & happening Soho, not far out at all! It is right off regent street and next to Carnaby street, so the perfect stop off for shoppers and a stones throw from theatre land.


    We took our chances to see if we could get our table half an hour earlier than our booking and we were lucky, the staff were very accommodating and didn't hesitate to let us have a seat earlier than planned.

    INSIDE

    It looks small from the outside but it's deceptive. It is cosy but the tables are big. Not one of those places where they cram you all in for maximum covers.


    CHILDREN WELCOME

    Although there is no specific children's menu's at Ma Pluckers, they are most certainly very welcomed.

    As soon as we entered the girl who was seeing us to our seat, chatted away to the kids and grabbed them a colouring sheet each and some crayons.

    She was clearly used to children and chatted to them on their level, which was lovely.

    So often the children get ignored by staff in restaurants and all of the conversation is aimed at the adults or they are merely seen as an inconvenience being there.


    THE ATMOSPHERE

    As soon as you enter Ma Pluckers, you feel relaxed and its family friendly atmosphere shines through with it's feature wall full of children's colourings.

    BB's & LL's pictures are now proudly on there somewhere!


    Aside from the family feel, this place oozes retro chic with it's 60's tiles, orange & yellow walls and 50s pin up chicken logo. 

    But in amongst the busy contrasting sixties patterns, it still manages to maintain its 'no fuss' feel.


    THE FOOD

    Ma Plucker's do chicken. And they do it clucking well! 

    It's not just any old chicken. Oh no!

    It's soul food.

    Food for your soul.

    Comfort food.

    Food of the deep south.

    The main menu features chicken in every which way you can think from Crispy coated, buttermilk dipped to pulled slow and low.

    But don't panic if you aren't so down with the chicken love. There is a 'Crack n Cheese' deep fried mac n cheese burger which looked to die for!!! 

    However, we were there Saturday to try out Ma's afternoon tea.

    Now, when you mention afternoon tea it can make you think of a stuffy formal setting, most suited to members of the WI, with fine bone china out and finger sandwiches.

    Do you think I'm mad enough to let my kids loose with bone china?

    Do you think my kids would be happy with a finger salmon sandwich?

    Big fat NO on both counts there.

    Ma Plucker's afternoon tea, is afternoon tea with a  southern twist. 

    And whilst I'm sure the traditional British afternoon tea are lovely for a treat now and then, they are definitely not me. 

    I would spend the entire time stressing that the children weren't behaving appropriately and wouldn't relax or be myself.

    Not at Ma's. Ma's made me feel like I could have sat and casually chatted the afternoon away with P whilst the children happily coloured away and scoffed their way slowly through the mammoth pile of food in front of them.


    AFTERNOON TEA WITH A TWIST

    Now THIS ^^ is my kinda afternoon tea.

    So much more fun for the kids....and the adults.

    Burgers in place of finger sandwiches. Donuts, chocolatey eggs & cherry pies in place of scones & sponges. And iced tea in place of your tradition rosy lee.

    The iced tea came in a choice of lemon or cranberry and the adults get an added bonus with the option of booze added into theirs. Nice touch Ma!

    The kiddies opted for no chilli sauce on their burgers, which the staff happily sorted for us.

    But the chilli glaze and the chipotle sauce were THE best bit about it all for me.


    When it first came, I was sooooo hungry, I thought it didn't look like there was too much there.

    But my goodness, looks are deceptive. It was so filling.

    And that egg. Oh my. THAT EGG.
     White chocolatey-ness covered in cornflakes. Whoever invented that is a genius. The kids said it tasted like ice-cream and BB even ate his like one, holding the egg cup like a cone whilst licking the egg.


    It was ALL oh so very delightfully yummy!


    Having a sweet tooth my favourite was the mini doughnuts with caramel sauce but P was all over that cherry pie like a rash! He ate his own and the kids two as they were too full to eat it.

    Every day since we returned from London, when I've asked the kids what they want for tea, guess what the answer has been?

    "Chicken on a Waffle please!" or "Mini Burgers please", "And a cornflake egg for pudding!"


    DO YOU WANNA BE IN MA'S GANG?

    Me & LL have now decided we are in Ma's club and are totally cool & hip enough to be one of Ma's girls. 

    Maybe she'll share her secret recipes with me now?

    Or maybe I'll leave it to the experts & book in to visit again next time we're in town. P is desperate to try some of the chicken skin gravy!

    THE INFO

    You can find Ma Pluckers at 75 Beak street, London, W1F 9SS.

    The afternoon tea is served Monday to Friday from 3pm - 6pm and weekends from 12pm to 6pm and is priced at £16.50 each.

    http://www.maplucker.com/









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