Monday, 29 September 2014

Telford Town Park #countrykids

Freddy is never keen on being dragged around the shops while his sisters go clothes shopping. New Look and Primark hold zero appeal for him, whereas my girls will happily explore every rack in the shop for the latest fashion buys.  With a bored 5 year old in tow, it is hard to relax and indulge in the retail therapy that my girls so enjoy. So this weekend we reached a very welcome compromise. I took Kizzy for a girlie clothes shopping spree, while Daddy and Freddy headed into the Town Park for some boy's time together.

We are really lucky that our nearest big town Telford, which is about 16 miles from home,  has a good shopping centre as well as a great play area, connected by a new complex of restaurants, which has been built around a lake and landscaped area.  We were able to enjoy a nice lunch together, before I headed off to the shops, and Ian headed off to the town park. It's nice that we all got to enjoy a day out, whilst doing something we each enjoyed.

Ian sent me photos of my little lad having a fantastic time playing in the sand, on the giant slide and trim trail and in the water park. It is a great area and absolutely free to use.  The water park with squirting jets of water was a real hit.  Thanks to the sunny weather, Freddy was able to strip down to his vest and pants and enjoy a good soaking.  We are loving this Indian Summer!

Knowing he was happy, burning off his excess energy and having fun left Kizzy and I free to shop at our leisure. It proved a great solution to our situation and everyone was happy - just how I like it!

shropshire, days out

Saturday, 27 September 2014

After School Chefs Challenge with Birds Eye #AfterSchoolChefs

We've been slowly getting ourselves back into some sort of routine after the long, carefree summer holidays. This means I am having to be much more organised when it comes to the kids' teatime routine.  Gone are the leisurely alfresco meals or the lazy trips to our local pub for an impromptu evening meal, instead I am having to sate hungry tummies after a full day at school.  It is important to me that they get something that they really enjoy after a hard day's learning and go to bed with a full belly!

Sometimes, the teatime routine proves slightly more taxing. Delivering a nutritious meal to the children in between the school run and their after school classes means on certain days I need to be super organised and have the ingredients ready for a quick dinner. Knowing that I can rely on the frozen food in my freezer really takes the pressure off, making it so much easier to feed my hungry brood. Frozen food is just so convenient.  You don't have to peel and chop vegetables, there's nothing fiddly to contend with - it's all prepared and ready to cook.  This can be an absolute godsend to a busy parent!

Frozen veg

Making cooking and baking accessible to little ones is a great way to teach an important life skill that they will need in the future, plus it's a lovely way to enjoy some quality time with the kids. Involving them in the kitchen teaches them about the different foods, where ingredients come from and how to prepare them.  It helps with maths skills and problem solving, and also introduces them to the nutritional value of what they are eating.

cooking with kids

I am lucky that I have an 11 year old daughter Kezia who is willing to give me a hand when I need one, plus I have a 5 year old son Freddy who loves cooking up a storm in the kitchen.  Together, we make an unstoppable team of After School Chefs who can, not only whip up a tasty teatime meal, but also have some fun in the process.  Plus it's a great opportunity to chat and catch up with the goings on of their day at school.  So I love to include them in the teatime routine when I can.  Even if it's just getting them to find something in the cupboard or freezer, arrange food on a baking tray or stir the contents of a saucepan, it is lovely to get them helping out and makes them feel useful.

little chefs

My 18 year old daughter Ella has just started university and it's a great relief to me that she knows her way around a kitchen!  I don't have to worry about her going hungry or living off junk food, and I know she is a canny shopper trained to look for special offers in the supermarket.  Her cupboards and freezer at uni are well stocked! All the time spent baking and cooking with my little helpers (even when it sometimes takes twice as long to complete a task) has proven to be invaluable!

We are a family of vegetarians so for us the Birds Eye Vegetable Fingers, Potato Waffles, Mashtags, Rice Fusions and frozen vegetables are our favourite products from the brand.  It's so easy to throw the veggie fingers and waffles in the oven and boil up some peas and sweetcorn for a quick, tasty, vegetarian meal. The products are fun and child friendly so you know that the kids will be clearing their plates and leaving the table happy and full.  Or you can use the products as ingredients for recipes.  Adding a handful of frozen vegetables to stews, curries or pasta sauces is a great way to add some veg to the kids' diets.  Substitute waffles for toast and top with beans, or use instead of buns when serving burgers.  Use chopped up chunks of veggie finger to fill a pitta or wrap, just add salad.

frozen food

The kids have a favourite meal made using Birds Eye Potato Waffles, which is a wholesome and filling teatime dish.  Eggy Waffles, can be served with mixed vegetables or beans and are something the kids can really help with.

Eggy Waffles Recipe

Firstly shallow fry the waffles gently in a pan until cooked through.

teatime, Birds Eye

While they are cooking, beat two eggs and season with black pepper.  Pour the beaten egg slowly into the holes in the waffles (don't worry if the egg runs over!)

teatime, food for kids

Gently heat until the egg starts to set, then flip the Eggy Waffle to cook the other side.  

Birds Eye

Freddy added grated cheese to his and decorated it with a tomato ketchup smile!

playing with food

The Eggy Waffle can be enjoyed on it's own or served with vegetables or beans for a delicious meal.  Freddy absolutely loved his eggy waffle, with the added cheese, which melted onto it.

eggy waffle

Here is a video of Kizzy and Freddy making their Eggy Waffles.


My top tips for coping with the term time teatime routine would be:
  • Keep the freezer well stocked with frozen food for quick, easy, nutritious and convenient meals.
  • Involve the kids with the cooking.  It's educational, it's fun and it makes them excited to eat the end product.
  • Let the kids get creative...a tomato sauce smile goes a long way towards making food kid-friendly!
  • Plan ahead!  Be prepared and plan what you'll be making in advance, especially when time is tight.
  • Throw a handful of frozen veg into stews, shepherd's pies, pasta sauces or curries to add some hidden vegetable goodness.  The kids will happily eat it and you'll get no unpleasant teatime vegetable eating stand-offs.
  • Use teatime as quality family time.  Sit down together and enjoy a chat as you eat.
  • Enjoy the time spent cooking and eating with your little ones, because before you know it they will be off to university and fending for themselves just like my Ella!

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Linky Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page.

Friday, 26 September 2014

What does your toast say about you?

Duerr's Marmalade and Roberts Bakery have teamed up to evaluate how a person's morning toast preferences reflect their personality. They have come up with a fun quiz so you can discover what your toast says about you!

From the thickness of the bread to your opinion on double dipping the knife between the butter and the jam jar, your thoughts unlock your breakfast personality and check your compatibility with whoever you share your breakfast with in the morning.

Duerrs, Roberts Bakery

With my love of lightly done, thick sliced, 50/50 bread toasted and topped with a medium spreading of no-bits jam and butter (no double dipping allowed!) and with a penchant for leaving my crusts,  I have been identified as a Peacekeeper, which is a surprisingly accurate reflection of my personality!

Marmalade and Toast

If you want to have a go simply visit and take part in this fun, and in my case, surprisingly accurate personality test!

Ben and Holly Magical Playground Playset - Swing with Holly Review

In the Little Kingdom, Holly is having fun swinging on her magical swing set.  The swings are attached to the stems of flowers making a colourful playground scene for the fairies and elves to enjoy! 

This swing playset is one of three interlocking sets, which connect together to create a bigger play area for the Ben and Holly figures.  The other two sets are a slide playset and a roundabout playset, each including a Holly figure. (It would have been nice to have each set come with a different character for variety, or you'll end up with three Hollies if you buy all three!  Freddy would have loved to see a Ben figure included.) 

The swing playset, is leaf shaped and features two flower swings and a toadstool.  Holly can sit in the swings and be pushed.  Holly also has a removable base, so when she is not being swung, she can stand up independently.

The quality is good and the playset is well made, colourful and perfect for fans of Ben and Holly, bringing the magic of the Little Kingdom to life.  I applaud the inclusion of a character so kids can play with the toy straight from the packaging.

It is priced at £9.95 and can be found alongside lots of other lovely Ben and Holly toys at Character Online.  

Nick jr, swings, Ben and Holly

Freddy received the playset to review.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Stampin' Up Hip Hip Hooray Designer Card Kit

It's always very special to receive a handmade card from a loved one.  Knowing the love and effort put into creating a card especially for you makes it a wonderful keepsake to treasure.  However, if you are anything like me, you may struggle to think of creative ideas or find it hard to execute any ideas that do bubble to the surface.  Sometimes, I just need a little help to get my handmade mojo into the swing of things.  That is why, when I was sent a Stampin' Up UK Hip Hip Hooray Designer Card Set to try out, I knew it'd be the ideal kit to get me crafting cute, fun and stylish cards (that were also quick and easy to make!)

The Stampin' Up Designer Card Set compromises of 20 printed card bases (10 each of 2 designs), 5 sticker sheets, 20 envelopes, 1 sheet of Stampin’ Dimensionals, 18' Whisper White Twine; 10 mini paperclips; 3-piece Hip Hip Hooray Stamp Set & clear stamp block and 1 Basic Grey Stampin' Spot mini ink pad.  It also comes with an instruction sheet with guidelines on making the card designs. You can make up a whole batch of 20 homemade greetings cards for special occasions.

craft set, homemade cards, crafts

The first thing to do is to make up the stamps, sticking the self-adhesive rubber stamps to the backing sheet.  Bar one small mishap where we put one on upside down, we achieved this pretty easily.  The stamps say "Hip Hip Hooray It's Your Day", "Just For You" and "Thanks" making the kit pretty versatile.  The instructions give you a technique where you can mask off some of the big stamp so you can use either of the phrases on its own, with or without the pattern that divides them.  This brings even more versatility to the product.

I loved the quality of the cards with their spotty or lined designs.  The sticker sheets are really impressive as the pieces are made from strong card that peels away from the backing.  They stick securely and look very professional on the finished items.

We chose to make one of the more simple cards for our first try, which was very easy to do.  The patterned card made it very easy to line up the stickers to get a good finish.  Then it was just down to using the stamp to print the message onto the card.  OK, at this point there may have been a little nudge that caused a little smudge on the ink, so it wasn't a perfect result, but it wasn't bad for a first attempt.  Once you start, your confidence grows and you learn techniques that you can then apply to future projects.

crafting, homemade cards

Stampin' Up sell a whole array of paper crafting products and kits, including some seasonal things, which are really fun. (I love the Halloween range!)  There are products for all levels of crafting expertise from beginners (like me!) to the more experienced crafters.  The kits are a great starting point for those new to crafting and are also a great idea for craft parties or for gifts.

The Stampin' Up products are sold through independent demonstrators as well as online.

Hip Hip Hooray Designer Card Kit is £17.95 and makes 20 lovely homemade cards with envelopes, (and of course adds three versatile stamps to your collection).

crafts, homemade card making

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

How my kids keep making me proud - a new job and starting university

Last weekend, we packed up the car and drove to Manchester, the city that Ella will be calling home for the next three years.  With a car laden with bags of clothes, shoes, kitchen equipment and of course Ella's guitar, we headed up the M6 to our destination.  We were all a bit unsure about how the day would pan out and Freddy had been quite over emotional about losing his sister and having his family change.  In fact, we had seen some epic meltdowns over the smallest things, which is not like him at all.  But we tried to keep things light and have fun, stopping for some breakfast at the services and having an in car picnic en route!

university, student

We arrived in good time and found the campus. The brand new university building with its adjoining townhouse accommodation was an impressive sight. Although all the building work and landscaping was not completely finished, and although there had been some issues over allocating housing to students because of this, seeing the place put our minds at rest.  Once it is completely finished the place will be quite spectacular!

Ella was lucky enough to get her choice of accommodation in a lovely townhouse.  We were impressed that the university had a team of helpers on hand to advise arriving students on what to do, plus there were porters to help transport the loads of luggage from the car to her door.  Fantastic service!

The accommodation itself was lovely.  Ella has a fully furnished room with a desk, wardrobe, shelving, drawers and a large 3/4 bed.  She shares a shower room and toilet with the room next door and shares a huge kitchen/living area with her eleven flatmates.  With three full sized fridge freezers, two full size fitted ovens, two microwaves, two full sink units, toasters, kettles and a load of storage space, there is plenty of room for everyone to cook.  The living space has sofas, a big, wall mounted TV and a massive round table and seating.  It is more like a holiday home than student digs.

bedroom, halls of residence

Megan came across to give us a hand moving Ella in, as she has made Manchester her home after graduating.  As ever it was lovely seeing her and catching up on all her news.  Megan took a career break earlier this year to try her hand in the world of film and TV.  In six months she had worked on two shorts (one starring some bloke off of Corrie, which made my mum' day), one feature film starring John Hurt (in which both Megan and Ella had roles as extras) and a CBBC series.  It was a real adventure for her, but the 14 hour days, extreme pressure and the hierarchy of the industry made her realise that, although a great experience, it wouldn't cut it as a career choice for her.  So Megan set about returning to the corporate world and quickly was approached by the biggest digital marketing agency in the UK who offered her a job there and then.  She starts in October!  I'm so very proud of her.

sisters, siblings

Once we had moved Ella's stuff into the townhouse, we took the 10 minute walk to the main university complex and enjoyed a vegan lunch at Falafel, a delicious and healthy fast food outlet serving freshly cooked falafel in a pitta wrap with salad, hummus, tahini and chilli sauce.  One of the perks of city life is the choice of fabulous world food on your doorstep!  While Ian and Freddy had a play in the park next to the university, my girls and I went for a wander to check out the student union and pick up Ella's Fresher's wristband and help her find her bearings in her new hometown.


A quick spot of shopping at the huge Asda, which is a short walk from Ella's campus, and we had done everything we had to do.  I didn't plan how or when we would leave, nor did I want to think about it in case I cried and upset Ella, but it actually ended up so easy.  When we got back to Ella's house, her flatmates were chatting and getting to know each other and it was the most natural thing in the world for Ella to join in their conversation.  Gone was my timid little girl and in her place was a confident young woman, eager to start this new chapter in her life.  My heart swelled with love and pride as we said our good-byes.  It was like she belonged there and it would be the making of her. Yes, I shed a tear, but not because I was sad, but because I was so bloody proud and happy for my little girl being given this chance to shine.

As we drove away from Manchester, with my slightly smaller family, Freddy started talking about why he had been so upset over the last couple of days before Ella left.  He told us that he hadn't understood what university was.  He thought Ella was going to "another country with glowing floors and shiny walls" and that he wouldn't be able to see her.  However, he said that after seeing where she was living he now knew that it was "just normal" and that Ella would be OK.  In that instant, my calm, loving, well behaved little boy returned and all was good with the world once again.

Now, a few days since Ella left home, I've talked everyday by either phone, text or Skype to both of my girls and I've been enjoying Facebook updates and photographs of Ella's student antics.  She has embraced student life and has some wonderful flatmates.  There have been big nights out and impromptu house parties.  She is making the most of this opportunity and I could not be more proud! Having my third chick fly the nest has not left me bereft at all. My heart isn't emptier it's fuller and bursting with love for them all. My life feels even richer now, knowing I have another grown up child, doing me proud and making their mark. This is what being a mum is all about, raising kids to become confident, happy and fulfilled adults, and right now I am feeling pretty damn content about my life, watching my three big kids forge their own paths in the big wide world.

Monday, 22 September 2014

A Coffee and Cream Mood Board - Argos Colour Campaign

One of my guilty pleasures is a visit to a coffee shop, relaxing in a big, comfy, high backed leather chair and sipping on a delicious, iced, coffee frappuccino.  It's such a treat to take a few minutes out of my schedule to enjoy some me-time.  Needless to say, I am a big coffee fan.  I love its evocative aroma, the deep, dark colour and its rich flavour.

When challenged by Argos to create a mood board for redecorating a room in my home, I instantly thought of a coffee and cream themed living room.  I love the autumnal shades of brown, in all its shades, from the glossy depth of a dark, chestnut brown to the creamy, luxurious tone of cafe au lait. These colours provide a comforting warmth and richness to a room space, while the spectrum of shades brings contrast.

A coffee and cream palette offers a warm, sophisticated look, which works with natural woods, rattan and sepia artworks.  It is calming and comforting and evokes thoughts of my favourite coffee indulgence. With a rich brown feature wall and contrasting creams and beiges to lighten the aspect, I'd create a real 'grown-up' living space, taking inspiration from the coffee shops I so enjoy.  Comfy seating and soft furnishings, along with a few ornamental embellishments would complete the look.

coffee and cream mood board

I love the pieces that I found to include in my mood board.  Some pieces are from Argos such as the contrast clock, copper tone cafetiere and the embroidered lampshade.  I also love the vintage storage trunks, which would look brilliant in the corner of the room, concealing away some of our clutter. The sepia New York wall art is a really arty piece and a homage to its coffee shop scene ... I think Central Perk had a lot of influence in the UK's coffee shop popularity surge!

Colour has such an effect on our mood and well being, and making your home a reflection of the colours that you love can give you such a good feeling.  I like my kitchen and bathrooms to be bright, light, airy, clean and uplifting.  My bedroom is a tranquil space with muted tones and metallic accents.  The kids have bright, happy, fun, sunny colours in their rooms to match their personalities. But for my living space, the coffee and cream theme would be the perfect deliciously, indulgent spot of luxury, reflecting the guilty pleasure that is my love of coffee shops!

This is my entry into the Argos Colour Campaign competition.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sing Along to the Cussons Mum & Me Baby Snuffles Video #voiceofmums

Although my youngest is now well out of the baby stage, I remember only too well the days when he suffered from a cold.  Snuffly, snotty noses make feeding and sleeping next to impossible, which means that us mums have to suffer alongside our little ones with sleep deprivation and the general feeling of helplessness that comes oh so often when you are a mother!

Cussons have been listening to real mums (the #voiceofmums) as they have voiced their thoughts and feelings about motherhood, and have come up with a brand new product, designed by mums and developed by experts:  Baby Bath to Comfort Snuffles, to help relieve the discomfort of blocked baby noses.  The mild baby bath has an added menthol fragrance that will help clear little noses as baby relaxes in a warm bath.   It's available to buy at Asda, Boots, Sainsbury's and Tesco.  It could be a godsend come the winter and cold season!

cussons, baby colds, blocked nose relief

They have also produced a fun video featuring real mums with their babies, singing their own reworded version of "If You're Happy and You Know It"!  I'm sure every mum will be able to relate to many of the aspects of early motherhood featured in the lyrics.  The snot trails on your clothes is definitely something I remember!

I was sent some fun goodies so I could enjoy the premiere of the video with my very own tub of very red carpet!  So, here it is...Baby Snuffles - the Real Mum's Remix...enjoy!


You can find out more about the Cusson's Mum & Me products and about the #voiceofmums campaign at

My Mini Golfer

Freddy loves getting outdoors and playing in the garden, so when he received a Mini Golf Set from Great Gizmos to try out he was very excited.  Still in his school uniform, he raced outside to have a few rounds of golf.  Unfortunately, our lawn was more "rough" than a putting green, but unperturbed, Freddy put down the hole and was quickly enjoying his game.

Plan Toys

The Mini Golf Set includes a kids' size wooden golf club and ball, along with a flagged hole and two tracks, which can be put down to make the game more challenging.  Everything fits into a cloth bag for storage and for carrying around easily.  

mini golf

Everything was the perfect size for Freddy and he enjoyed putting the ball around the lawn, through the tracks and into the hole.  The club and ball are well weighted and are great for little hands to manage.  

Each piece is beautifully made, strong and sturdy, making this a great investment that will last for years (unlike some of the flimsy plastic golf sets on the market with bendy clubs and balls that blow away or get crushed when whacked by a 5 year old wielding said club!)

mini golf

The Plan Toys Mini Golf Single Set is £21.95 from Great Gizmos.  It is a great introduction to the game and gets little ones up and active out of doors, learning a new skill. It is suitable for ages 4 and up.  Freddy loves it and I am very impressed with the quality of the pieces and the fact that it packs away into a bag.

mini golf

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Saying Goodbye to Ella - Finding My New Normal

When I think back to when Ella was a baby, I conjure up wonderful images of a delicate, golden haired child with an open and engaging smile that radiated beauty and warmth, lighting up any room.  Now she is 18, her smile still has the same effect.  Ella shines with a glow that quite literally lights up our lives. 

Ella was born at a time when I was still reeling from the devastation of losing my eldest sister.  Before she died, I told her that I was pregnant and that my baby girl would have her name as her middle name.  I'm so glad she knew, even though she never got to meet her niece.  It was so hard knowing that I had created a new life as my sister's life was ebbing away, but carrying a new baby brought me some comfort and I felt that a part of my sister, some of her spark, had become a part of my unborn child.

This weekend, Ella will be leaving to go to university, and left behind will be an Ella shaped hole.  However, we will be filling that hole with our pride and love and giving Ella all our support and positive energy as she embarks on this big adventure.

She has grown up to be a most wonderful daughter and an amazing friend to me and to her siblings.  She is such a calming influence on everyone and she possesses such natural empathy that she knows exactly what to do and say in any situation.  Her little brother Freddy and sister Kizzy adore her and are going to miss their big sister dreadfully. I have never seen siblings as close and the bond shared between them is something very special and so precious.

Ella will be studying Criminology and Psychology in Manchester, the city that my eldest daughter Megan has made her home.  It's such a comfort for me to know that my girls will be near each other and there for each other. As a family, we love Manchester and fully intend to make many visits to see both of our grown-up girls. 

As Ella forges her path into the big wide world, I will have to become accustomed to a whole new normal. We've enjoyed some wonderful quality time together these last few weeks, shopping, lunching and watching trashy films before doing the afternoon school run together.  It's been lovely for me to have her around.  She is great company.

  Ella is my third child to fly the nest and I will be left with just two of my little chicks living at home. I'm sure the house will feel disproportionately quieter and emptier without Ella in it.  I'll miss the sound of her singing and  playing the guitar (thank goodness for her YouTube channel) and I'll miss spending the evenings watching and discussing our favourite TV shows together. (Although we do have some Skype plans in place for the season finales of our favourite shows!)   However, knowing that Ella will be making a brand new life for herself is just so exciting.  I want her to grow her wings and fly out into the world of opportunities and fulfill her potential. I know how much fun and how many adventures lie in store for her. It's just that I will miss her...that's all.

I'm sure it will take me longer to adapt to my new normal than it takes Ella to adapt to student life, but I know that we all have so much to look forward to.  This is yet another step on our family journey and I couldn't be prouder of having such an intelligent, beautiful, loving and talented daughter.

"Good luck Ella.  You have done us all proud and we adore you.  Go rock Manchester!"

growing up, daughter

BEAR - Save Our Paws Campaign

BEAR is celebrating its 5th birthday and has decided to do something rather wonderful.  They are teaming up with the WWF, working together to protect some of the world's most endangered paws...those of the six species of bear that are under threat of extinction.  

BEAR, present

For every special WWF pack of Paws purchased, BEAR will donate 5p (and 25p from multipacks).  This money will go directly towards helping the endangered bears and their habitats. Four of the bears will be featured on the special pack fronts: Spectacled, Sloth, Panda and Polar Bears.  I love the artwork, the bears look so adorable and you know that every purchase is going to help them.

BEAR sent us a party box so we could find out more about the endangered bears and the campaign with the WWF to Save Our Paws.  Freddy loves the Spectacled Bear most of all (no surprise that we was drawn to one that looks like he is wearing glasses!) and has made a badge to show his support for the campaign.  It is so sad to think that these unique and iconic species of bear are under threat, but  I applaud BEAR for working to protect them.  It really is the perfect partnership.

BEAR, bears

BEAR hopes to engage and educate children about the world around them and about the wonderful creatures that we share our planet with.  Through the partnership with the WWF, kids can understand that we can make a difference as the campaign raises both funds and awareness for this vital conservation work.


BEAR fruit Paws are pure fruit shapes made from gently baked fruit picked in season, and never from concentrates, they contain no added sugar, preservatives or stabilisers. They are available in four tasty recipes- ‘Dino’ Paws (strawberry & apple), ‘Jungle’ Paws (apple & blackcurrant), ‘Arctic’ paws (raspberry & blueberry) and ‘Safari’ paws (orange and strawberry).  They are perfect for lunchboxes and after school treats!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Half Price Bargains from TalkTalk Mobile

TalkTalk Mobile customers can take advantage of some excellent savings this month, perfect for those with children heading off to college or university.  Until September 30th customers can get half price bargains from some of the best brands including Samsung, Sony and LG.  TalkTalk are making it so much easier and more affordable to stay in touch, allowing parents to kit out their kids while cutting their costs.

TalkTalk customers can get the Samsung Galaxy Fame from just £3.75 and the brand new Nokia 630 from just £5 a month. Customers can also get half price tablet and mobile bundles, ideal for back to school starting from just £7.50 a month.  These bargains are on offer until the end of the month, so be quick if you want the biggest brands at the lowest prices.

TalkTalk Mobile give their customers a heap of benefits, so you can be confident that you are saving money without compromising on service.  

TalkTalk Mobile

Find out more at :

Proud TalkTalk Family Blogger

The Furchester Hotel - Open for Business

Coming to CBeebies at the end of this month is the exciting new series for children aged 3-6 years, The Furchester Hotel.  Starring Elmo and the Cookie Monster along with the Furchester family and a host of other lovable characters, the series is made in partnership with Sesame Workshop.

CBeebies, Sesame Workshop

Back in May, we visited CBeebies Studios in Salford to find out about more about the show and to watch the filming of an episode of The Furchester Hotel.  

Sesame Street, Furchester Hotel

The show is set in The Furchester Hotel where a family of close-knit, chaotic monsters welcome their guests and bend over backwards to meet their every need.  Mum Funella, dad Fergus and their daughter Phoebe work alongside cousin Elmo, waiter and room service guy the Cookie Monster and the furry bell monster, Isabelle to ensure everything runs smoothly.  

But they do run into problems!  For example how do you disguise a pony who checks in for a quiet break? Where is the perfect place to put a very fussy plant? What happens when Super Rock appears and needs a new super hero cape? How can they stop Cookie Monster from eating the giant cookie guest Mr. Crumb? 

The Furchester family approach every problem with determination and resolve in order to keep their guests happy and devise a solution for every situation. Even when they think they have exhausted all the possibilities, their perseverance prevails because their family motto is, “A Furchester never gives up!”

CBeebies, Furchester Hotel, Sesame Street

We were able to watch an unfinished episode that featured some singing vegetables!  Freddy loved it and thought the characters were adorable and fun.  Then we went to see the show being filmed.  Seeing the puppeteers in action in the beautifully crafted sets was really incredible.

The very best part of the day was when the children got to meet the characters!  They swept in to the room and chatted, hugged and played with us all.  It was magical!

Furchester Hotel

The puppeteers are real artistes who breathe life into the array of fantastic puppets, giving them all a personality and a voice.  Hearing the familiar sound of the Cookie Monster and Elmo as they chatted to Kizzy and Freddy left me a little starstruck!!

Furchester Hotel, Sesame Street

We had a great day at the CBeebies studios and got a real insight into The Furchester Hotel.  I love the message of inclusivity and optimism, the uplifting use of fun-filled music and the colourful characters and elaborate sets. We will definitely be looking out for it when it appears on our screens on September 26th at 5pm.

The Furchester Hotel, Sesame Street

Monday, 15 September 2014

Trackside Fun with Bigjigs #PlayPatrol

We are huge fans of the Bigjigs road and railway sets.  The beautifully crafted wooden pieces are the tools to unleash a child's imagination as they create their own miniature world complete with tracks, roads and vehicles.  Like tiny town planners, children can make a fully functional transport network, add houses, shops, zebra crossings, bridges, roundabouts and even recycling plants!

Freddy received a Bigjigs Trackside Accessory Set to test out for his latest Play Patrol mission.  The set contains 34 wooden pieces such as workers, shoppers, farm animals, vehicles, houses and trees.  It makes the perfect addition to his road and railway sets, as he can use the figures and vehicles as props for adding an extra element of story telling to his games.  The fireman, the policeman, the nurse and the builder become the everyday heroes in Freddy's little world, while the cars, ambulance, fire engine and police vehicle whizz around the roads on their travels.  An imaginative story unravels as he explores the day to day adventures in his Bigjigs town.

Bigjigs, railway

Freddy used the accessory set alongside his figure of eight road set.  The extra people, buildings and vehicles added to the play value, allowing Freddy to make an elaborate set up.  He enjoyed making up a story involving a pig that got run over by a car that came flying over the bridge (typical Freddy). The policeman, the nurse and the fireman came to the rescue so it all ended well!!

train track, Bigjigs

The wooden accessories develop a child's dexterity and coordination and spark creativity and imagination through play.  The figures and vehicles are also great tools for counting, matching, comparing and for encouraging conversation.  A child's vocabulary can be enhanced by discussing the various animals, the jobs done by the characters, the shops and the types of vehicles.  There is so much to look at and talk about in the busy town set up.

Bigjigs, wooden toys

Freddy's verdict on his new toy was that it was "awesome!"  He loved being able to extend his play and enjoyed arranging everything exactly how it wanted it.  The scope for imaginative play was increased by having the extra accessories to use in his games.  He made a tower block out of the individual shops.  He used the people as skittles, knocking them down with his cars! He made some of his characters into superheroes flying over his town and he raced the cars against each other.  He had so much fun!

The Bigjigs Trackside Accessory Set is available on the Bigjigs website for £20.49 and is compatible with all road and rail sets from Bigjigs and other major wooden railway brands.  It's a great add on set to engage young minds for hours of imaginative play.

wooden toys, Bigjigs

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Benefits of Chia Seeds

Having been vegetarian for 14 years, we have enjoyed discovering many new and interesting whole foods along the way.  One of our latest discoveries is Chia Seeds, a small tasteless seed that can be sprinkled onto cereals or yogurt, used in salads, added to smoothies and shakes, used in porridge or baked into cookies, muffins or bread. I throw a spoonful into many meals I cook to give them a nutritional boost.

One tablespoon of chia provides 100% of your Omega 3 requirement, provides fibre for healthy digestion and also gives a source of sustained energy, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and protein. They are nutrient dense and non-allergenic. The seeds swell up when in contact with a liquid so will swell in your stomach, keeping you feeling fuller for longer (great when you are trying to cut down on calories).  It's no surprise that they have been hailed as a superfood.

The Chia Co have recognised the benefits of incorporating chia seeds into the diets of children to give them a healthy start to the day, especially now with start of the new school year.  By giving kids  a healthy, nutrient packed breakfast they will be less likely to snack on 'junk' food.  This will help tackle the issues of childhood obesity and reduce the consumption of refined sugars. Adding chia seeds to children's diet is a simple way to give them a real nutritional boost. Even if you have a child with a small appetite, the seeds will provide a rich dose of essential nutrients in just one spoonful. They are a pure and 'clean' food, which is completely natural and free from the nasties associated with processed foods.

To encourage children to eat chia seeds, The Chia Co have come up with some dairy free, vegan breakfast products, Chia Pods and Oats + Chia, which are a great way to get kids to enjoy a healthy start to the day. I received some samples to try.

the chia co, chia seeds

Chia Pods are ready to eat pots of chia seeds and coconut milk naturally flavoured with fruit; banana, mango or blueberry, or with vanilla bean and coconut sugar.  They are conveniently packaged in individual pots with a spoon in the lid, so they can be enjoyed on the go or popped in a lunchbox. They are mild tasting and naturally sweetened, and have the consistency of a thick jelly and resemble tapioca pudding in appearance.  There is a slightly crunchy texture, as you eat the Chia Pods, from the seeds. Chia Pods are quite an unusual product in both texture and appearance, and in such may take some getting used to.  But the wholesome ingredients and convenience makes them well worth a try.  Each pot contains 100% of your daily intake of Omega 3 and 25% of your fibre.

the chia co, chia seeds

Oats + Chia are individual single serve sachets of wholegrain oats, sun-ripened chia, real fruit and coconut oil.  You just add 120 ml of hot water to make a hearty, fruity porridge.  It comes in Banana and Mango, Mixed Berry and Apple Spice flavours.  

chia seeds, porridge

The porridge is thick with a lovely texture and the fruit bits add a juicy burst of flavour.  Perfect as the weather starts to change, giving a great, wholesome and nutrient packed start to the day.  I loved the convenience of being able to make such a nutritious porridge in super quick time and the fruity flavours were a big hit.

the chia co, chia seeds, wholefood

Chia Seeds make you feel better on the inside, giving you more energy and providing lots of your daily intake of nutrients.  Eating one of The Chia Co breakfast products or sprinkling the seeds onto or into your own dishes, gives your family's diet a real boost. 

Chia Pods are £2.59 each and are available from selected Tesco and Costco stores. Oats + Chia are £5.00 for a five pack and are available from Ocado.  150g packs of white or black Chia Seeds are £4.79 each from selected Tesco and Costco stores.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Banana and Date Loaf Recipe

Banana and Date Loaf  is a great recipe for using up over ripe bananas.   So when we were left with a fruit bowl full of brown spotty bananas, it was the perfect choice!  The fruit make the cake so moist and the dates give an indulgent almost fudge-like flavour. A sprinkle of demerara sugar on top gives a crunchy sweet crust that is delicious.

cake, recipe


100g Kerrygold* block butter cut into cubes
225g self raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
125g stoned chopped Medjool dates
2 ripe bananas mashed
2 free range eggs
2 tblspn maple syrup
1 tblspn demerara sugar

cake recipe


Line a 2lb loaf tin with a greaseproof paper liner.
Rub butter and flour together.
Stir in caster sugar, dates, banana, beaten eggs and maple syrup to make a soft batter.
Spoon into tin.
Sprinkle demerara sugar over the top.
Cook in a pre-heated oven at GM3 for 1 hour.

*Kerrygold is having an exciting makeover for 8 weeks from October 1st, as Orla Kiely has redesigned the packaging giving it an iconic new look.  Inspired by the colour palette of a lush Irish meadow, the use of faun, green and cream complements Kerrygold's iconic green and gold signature colours.

In addition, Kerrygold is offering the chance to win Orla Kiely kitchen items every week as part of an on pack promotion running across the limited edition packs. These prizes include cake stands, butter dishes and cake tins which can be won by visiting the Kerrygold UK Facebook page (

We received a voucher for a pack of Kerrygold butter to use in this recipe.


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