Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ground breaking news


NEWS FLASH: Today, 29th December 2016 - both of my children ate all of their dinner and asked for seconds. WHAT THE! It wasn't chips... it wasn't chocolate... it was this amazing recipe from a book I got for Christmas! - ok I had to adjust it a little to make it work for Isabelle's allergies (coughs and for what I had in the cupboard!!) but they absolutely loved it... it had celery in it and onions and now my children are soo anti veg since Oliver (age 7) made this huge fuss that they're yucky and he hates them so obviously the toddler was like yeah me too = great, thanks child number 1.... you ate them when you were 2 years old but whatever. But today - shocked me. They ate it. They liked it. There was no tantrums. = shocked. I know I've said shocked about 1000 times. Sorry.
So yeah I made this post literally just because I couldn't believe it - didn't use the S word again!
What did I use?
  • minced beef 10% fat as it was so much cheaper... I like to get 5% fat but Michaels trying to make me buy the 10% all the time as it's cheaper.... argh!
  • onion
  • celery
  • beef stock
  • red wine
  • thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Doves Farm Gluten Free plain flour
  • Worchester sauce
  • Jam - LOL it said to add some redcurrant jelly... I didn't have any so I added a little teeny tiny bit of jam as you know I like to just throw these things together - ask Michael about the carbonara I once made him with enough philly for 6 people....... oops! but it worked with the jam the jam made it good.
  • potatoes
  • coconut oil
it was so easy to make, instead of usual cottage pie where it's mashed ontop it was left whole but gently squashed with a fork and the children loved it as it went crispy and we are a family who will fight for the crispiest chips from the chip shop!

Oliver asked for it tomorrow too...

Anyone looking for a new cook book then I'd definitely suggest getting Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites.

Oh but in true mum style I ignored the timings on the recipe - I don't have 1.5 hours for this to be in the oven then another 40 minutes with the potatoes added... so I cooked it completely on the hob then popped into the oven for 45 minutes and it was fine!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas Eve Box

Last year we started a Christmas eve box tradition which this year got upgraded a little to include some super cool extras! 
 
First of all there's a DVD - the lion king, one of my childhood favourites which now my two love as well. They have listened to the story a few times and loved it so I know they will be delighted with the DVD.

A Christmas eve box wouldn't be complete without some tasty treats would it? Isabelle ofcourse has some dairy free chocolate and she will also get a hot choc made with 'choc shot'  and koko coconut milk topped with marshmallows.


Another must is a new pair of pjs each - Isabelle's are super cute, kinda cath kids style but they're so much cheaper at £3.50 from Asda! Got to love Asda childrens clothes and adult pjs too actually. Oliver's were in the sale for £11 in Disney Store - I know massive price difference but he just loves star wars and she's happy with floral.

Then something extra special and completely new as well as a little bit random for us there is a game by Crayola - Scribble Scramble which looks like it's going to be lots of fun over the Christmas period. I'll be reviewing it soon so make sure you check back to see how good it is!

Crayola have lots of great games to offer - they're suitable for the whole family and it's so lovely to be able to spend time with everyone having fun... I guess that's why games come out over the Christmas period.

 






Thursday, 8 December 2016

Gentleman's Gift Guide

At Christmas time it's always the men that I struggle the most to buy gifts for. In my opinion women are so much easier to buy something for, perfume, clothes, handbags, flowers or just something pretty it's so easy to walk into a shop and just get it right (this may be because I am a woman I can relate to what I think I would love) but when it comes to shopping for men I think a lot of people take longer to buy presents so I've put together a Gentlemen's Gift Guide with a range of products I've found on the Chums website which would make great gifts this Christmas for an older man in your life. (Father in laws to be are the hardest to buy for by the way especially when you've already got them Ivor the engine mug or noggin the nog t'shirt in previous years!)

Remember to look for things that your recipient likes such as gardening, maybe some new garden tools would be a good idea or a tool bag, you can also get some novelty gifts such as a mug that says head gardener. Look back at conversations you've had with them over the time you've known them, Michaels dad loved the Ivor the engine mug we got him a few Christmas' ago because he loved Ivor when he was little. It doesn't have to be a huge generous gift, the thought is what counts when it comes to a present so always remember that! A new watch is a great idea for a Christmas present especially if they don't have one. Favourite alcohol and a special glass could be a great option too as well as some nice aftershave - Christmas is a great time to gift someone something new to try but if they're a little set in their ways with what they like then stick to their favourite! All of the photos below are items I've found on the Chums website! Who knew they had such a lot to offer?
Dvd classics are a great choice and will be loved over the christmas/new year period when we're being lazy eating all the Christmas leftovers. I found lots of options on Chums website and here are the two that I liked best. Who doesn't love Fawlty Towers? Also sweets such as a classic retro collection are a lovely gift for those with a sweet tooth or for chocolate lovers check out this huge collection!
Dressing gowns are a great present - Michaels just been converted, he's always said no to dressing gowns but now is loving being warm in the morning so I would 100% suggest others to try convert their dads/partners too. Slippers are always a great option for an older man - my Dad loved slippers, Christmas was always when he would get a new pair and these ones look so comfortable. A nice knitted jumper to wear on Christmas day would be lovely too or a chunky knitted cardigan. Scarf and gloves will be loved at this time of year too!
I've gone for great priced items on this gift guide but some other options if you're looking to really splash out on a gift for an older man this Christmas include things like experience days, sporting events such as football match or cricket.

Mary-Kate, x

Disclosure: collaborative post

 
 
 
 
 

Classic Tiny Tears Doll Review

Classic Tiny Tears Doll

Isabelle loves playing with dolls, she has quite the collection now but she definitely has a new favourite as we’ve been sent a gorgeous Classic Tiny Tears doll. It really reminds me of my childhood – I guess I’m on a roll lately of liking things for my children that I had when I was little, I assume others like to reminisce on the old times too. Tiny Tears is one of the original baby doll brands having celebrated her 50th birthday last year! Since then she’s had a little make over and come back with a brand new look, she now has a floral dress which has been specifically designed for Tiny Tears. Although Tiny Tears is made for children aged 3-6 years, Isabelle has played with her beautifully and I wouldn’t put anyone with a 2 year old off this doll. She even asked Santa for a dolls bed for her Tiny Tears dolly as she loved her so much.


In our photos, don’t be confused with the old outfit and the new – Isabelle loves to get her changed so we’ll be adding to her outfits over time I’m sure! Which is also a great additional thing as it’s a gift you can keep growing for a while.

Isabelle was so delighted when she arrived.

She comes with her own potty, bottle, dress, knickers and dummy as well as a hairbrush so there really is a nice selection of things to keep your little one occupied for a good amount of time. Tiny Tears can drink her bottle, cry and use the potty too! Which absolutely amazed Isabelle. It’s also a great toy to encourage using the toilet! Look dolly does it too….
Isabelle loved that Tiny Tears has long hair to brush, her other dolls all have no hair like a ‘baby’ as Isabelle says so she really enjoyed brushing her hair and spent ages doing it.

Isabelle was very keen on the design of the new dress and wanted one for herself! Isabelle says Tiny Tears is like her – not a baby but still little!!

Toys that really get your child’s amazing imagination working are my favourite and this Tiny Tears doll really does just that.

I honestly don’t think that Classic Tiny Tears needs any new functions at all – she’s perfect. We’ve also got another doll who requires batteries to do similar things, she doesn’t get played with much because she is very heavy for a toddler which is a shame. Classic Tiny Tears is the perfect weight for Isabelle and the fact that Isabelle needs to use her imagination a little bit more with this toy in a world surrounded by technology to me is a very good thing.






Price wise I would say it was very good value for money. I'm definitely going to be looking for a few outfits for Isabelle's birthday in March as she'll just love them.

You can find more about Tiny Tears here - John Adams Tiny Tears


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

7 Easy Tips To Help You Save Money This Christmas

7 Easy Tips To Help You Save Money This Christmas

Lots of families find it very hard to make ends meet, as low wages make it difficult for many people to get by. These people struggle before each and every Christmas, as they all want to have proper holidays, but buy gifts to their children and to enjoy a nice meal with their friends and family. The latest survey from Morrison's shows that the average family spends about £165 in December on top of their regular expenses. However, you can still have fun without spending this extra money. All you need to do is follow the below expert tips to save this Christmas without increasing your debt burden.
1. Trim the list of Christmas gifts
You can discuss the presents topic with your friends and family members, and agree to cut down on the regular gift exchange. Some of your friends are going to agree to give up this habit or to set a price limit for these gifts. It is also possible to go for a "children only" rule. A Secret Santa, which implies tossing all names of people in your group in a hat and drawing one name per person. This is how each of you is going to buy one single present. If you also set a maximum limit for the gift, you're going to save a lot of money.
 
2. Use vouchers to the full
 
According to a survey of the Gift Cards and Vouchers Association, lots of gift vouchers are left unspent each year, totaling a whooping £240m wasted. Keep track of all vouchers around your home, and use your loyalty card rewards. If you are like most people, you should have at least one Tesco Clubcard, Sainsbury's Nectar or Boots Advantage. In addition, you could save even more money by using these points before Christmas, when all retailers run promotions to attract shoppers.
3. Go for discount supermarkets instead of your usual ones...
 
Festive dinners can cost you a lot of money. You can cut down these costs by doing your shopping at Aldi or Lidl. These German supermarkets have a good selection of festive foods at affordable prices. Besides, the quality of some of these delicacies has been perceived as being superior to more expensive brands.
4. ... but hold your horses, buy only want you need
 
When you are a host, you are tempted to spoil your guest by offering them a wide range of foods. If you are like most people, you probably overestimate the amount of food one can eat before feeling full. You can avoid wasting food by calculating the right portions to offer your guests. You can use the portion calculator on lovefoodhatewaste.com. If you estimate you are going to have a two-hour party, this calculator will tell you that you must prepare seven party food nibbles for each person. The website gives you examples of foods, so you can easily add them to your shopping list.
5. You don't need that much alcohol to survive Christmas
 
Festive periods are often associated with huge amounts of drinks that can easily add up to a small fortune. By using a cost comparison website such as Quaffers' Offers (quaffersoffers.co.uk), you can find out where to go to get the best prices for the wines you want to buy.
6. Take a look on eBay
This doesn't mean you should go on eBay to buy presents, but rather to get rid of things you don't need anymore. Most of us have piles of unnecessary stuff around our house. You could generate a bit of cash by putting them up on eBay for sale. You'll need to work a little for the money, as you'd have to take photos of your items and upload them, and then ship the sold items to the buyers. If you can't be bothered doing so much work, you can always consider alternative ways to make some extra money for holidays. You could sell books on Amazon or list your stuff on local internet forums. You may be able to find buyers in your area, people who wouldn't mind coming to your house to pick up their items.
7. Learn how to save money on Twitter
 
All you need to do is type in "money saving" and you're going to find lots of accounts sharing tips and tricks to help you cut your costs and save money. @wowfreestuffwow and @moneymagpie are two good examples. Big retailers may also tweet their promotions, so it's worth watching their accounts closely.

 
*Please note that this is a collaborative post*

Monday, 5 December 2016

Willows Activity Farm Santa Spectacular

Willows Activity Farm Santa Spectacular
 
We love Willows Activity Farm, it’s always a great day out with our young children and we’ve been with their grandparents before and everyone seemed to have a lovely day! We were invited to the Santa Spectacular this year – we’ve never been before and I’m so happy that we have been now as it was amazing! I’ll be honest and say originally I thought that the ticket prices were quite high but now I can see why they’re the price they are, there is so much to do included in the price and we can’t wait to return again this year with family for another exciting day out!

Santa Spectacular is a whole day out – not just meeting Santa! We got to do lots but there was still loads more that we didn’t get a chance to do so the ticket price is worth it and you won't leave regretting your decision to go.

So what did we get up to?
Firstly we went to the 3D film experience, I wasn’t too sure about how this would go with a little 2 year old who doesn’t like to sit still for more than 1 second but she loved it! Her eyes were glued to the screen and she loved wearing the glasses but did cutely jump when things looked as if they were coming towards her. Oliver wanted to watch it again!

 
Then off we went to see Santa! You need your token. We got in the que and it wasn’t too long, at first we thought this is going to be soo boring just waiting with two children who aren’t great at waiting for things but once we passed the corridor there was a magical winter wonderland with lots of different scenes to look at, twinkling lights, penguins, polar bears and reindeers to name just a few. The amount of detail that has gone into everything is just amazing. The Elves were so happy, Santa was lovely with the children and handled Isabelle being a little frightened perfectly – even got her talking to him! I’m interested to see what she’s like next time now. Once the children have finished talking to Santa they get their photo taken and given a golden key which is how they get into the toyshop which by the way was full of great choices – they decide for themselves! I spotted some great finds in there, a that’s not my book, peppa pig piano and my little pony bits too! Oliver picked a small pool table toy and Isabelle picked a small playhouse which she loves. We were in there for so long! On the way out you have the choice of buying your photo.





Ofcourse there’s the farm animals to see too as well as a festive tractor ride – they’ve even added some bells for the Christmas season!
Meet Mishka before going to Create-A-Cuddle workshop where the children got the chance to build their own husky toy to take home with them. This is included in the entry price but you do have the option to purchase an outfit or accessories if you would like to but we didn’t and we didn’t feel pressured into at all like you do in some places. We didn’t have to wait long and it was easy for both children to understand what to do. They’re so cuddly and I was shocked at the size and quality considering it was included in the price.



Next to here in the Elve’s House you can write a letter to Santa, there’s also arts and crafts too. There’s a post box and we have just received a reply from Santa – which was included in the price too! The children were delighted when they arrived.

Off we went to Elf School with literally the happiest of elves ever. Real elves ofcourse called Berry and Twig and they’ll help you learn to be an elf with things such as the Elf-a-bet, at the end of the show all children will receive their own Elf Diploma which the children thought was amazing!

The children also enjoyed having a go on the rides and playing in the sand pit as well as the swings.
For lunch we had some chips and a sausage roll. Isabelle has multiple allergies but the chips were completely safe for her which is just amazing and makes life so much easier for us when we visit.

There’s lots of spots to get a cup of tea which is great. We didn’t even get to have another look at the Peter Rabbit play area but we definitely will pop there next time we visit. We also need to have a look for the nativity story, sing-a-long with Ronnie the reindeer show and finish the reindeer hunt as well as get all the stamps on our Elf Passport next time! We’re ready for another busy day.

If you’re looking for somewhere to visit Santa this year in Hertfordshire then 100% go to Willows Activity Farm! Amazing.
Mary-Kate, x

*please note we were invited for free in exchange for our honest review

Friday, 2 December 2016

Wynsors Kids Christmas Project number 1 - DIY advent calendar

Wynsors very kindly sent us a box of goodies this week including some arts and craft bits as well as some Christmas treats to get us in the Christmas mood now it's December! *I know I keep saying 'it's December!' - I cannot promise not to do this for the rest of 2016...* We were also sent a pair of slippers for each child and they're delighted with their first slippers. Daddy has since requested a pair of slippers too. You could probably guess without looking at the photo below what slippers Oliver picked - obviously Star Wars! Isabelle went for her favourite which is Paw Patrol - she just loves Skye at the moment.
We're going to do another few arts and crafts Christmas posts leading up to Christmas with this great little bundle from Wynsors but the children were so keen to make something today that we decided to do something little.

Isabelle has multiple allergies which makes Christmas advent calendars a little tricky - Grandma has got her a moo free one which she loves (So much that actually the sneaky little lady helped herself to not one but two chocolates today!!!) but yesterday at Beavers with Oliver they gave me a brilliant idea for allergy children and crafts around Christmas time to help them feel involved because having allergies can be isolating at times. They were making their own advent calendars! Why hadn't I thought of this before?
Luckily it just so happens egg boxes were included in the parcel from Wynsors so I was able to make one for Isabelle this afternoon using some sweets we already had in the cupboard. I wrapped the jelly babies in cling film so they had a wrapper on them. I had two little helpers but they kept trying to eat the sweets!

So now Isabelle can open one bit each day to get a sweetie after he dinner. Here's the cute slippers we were sent from Wynsors, the children are both delighted with them and are looking forward to having warm feet at home this winter!




I've never heard of Wynsors before so after a quick google I found that they were established in 1956 and have since grown from a handful of small high street stores to a leading UK family footwear retailer. I was really looking forward to seeing the slippers in person and finding out if they're as good as they look - they're a fantastic price actually. Star Wars are £9 and Paw Patrol are £9 too. Both children think they're very comfortable and I have to say they are made to a high standard, I'm confident these will be safe for my children to have on their feet. I think that they would make a great addition to a Christmas eve box!

I'm looking forward to publishing more craft posts using the bits included in the box so watch this space! 

Mary-Kate, x

*please note that we were sent this box including the slippers for the purpose of this post. All views are my own*