Thursday, 31 July 2014

Our Summer Holiday plans!

So, we are a week into the Summer Holidays and so far we have survived!

I have decided this year to chill a bit with my plans. Rather than write a long list and frantically try to finish it, even when the children are over tired and not playing ball. I will try a different approach. I am going to go week by week, and rather than putting set activities on set days I am going to decide on a handful of things and go with the flow. If we get to do them, great, if not then there is always next week!

I realise that as an obsessive planner and list maker this is a huge step for me, but I think it will help us have an awesome Summer!

The first week has gone pretty well. We had set plans on the first day, Our day trip to Butlins. I knew that the children would be tired after that so apart from Millie's 2 and half year check we had no other plans for the Friday. This worked really well because a day at home was just what was needed. No getting up early, just chilling until we were ready to go out. Saturday we went to my cousins engagement BBQ and then to the park with my Sister. Sunday Craig's parents came over for the day. Monday we had a day at home playing Princesses and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, watching Disney movies and painting the Clay dragons that the children made at Art in the Park a couple of weeks ago. Tuesday we were invited to a friends house along with some of Millie's friends to go in her giant paddling pool, we had a great afternoon, finished off with some magic painting and both children were so tired out they went to bed with no arguments! Wow! Wednesday was another set plan day as we went up to London to learn all about Tesco's Go Craft range.

The week has gone really quickly, we have had barely any boredom tantrums and most importantly we have had lots of fun! We didn't have time to make some pretzels or pizzas, but thats ok I will keep those activities in mind for this week instead!

I am thinking that I will try and do at least one day out a week. That could be any kind of day out, a picnic to the park, the farm or even a trip to the cinema. I want the kiddies to have maximum fun, but at the same time I don't want to break the bank. So I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. For instance Cineworld have got movies for juniors on weekday mornings in the holiday's, its only £1.50 a ticket! We are also lucky enough to have some beaches within half an hour from our house. So day's spent on the beach with chips for tea is a must! I have got lots of Arts and Crafts ideas (thank you Pinterest) for rainy day's too). Not to mention lots of dips in our paddling pool!

We have got a week away planned too, down in Dorset for a week of fun. Craig has managed to get the week off to come with us this time, so the kiddies are super excited about that!

You will notice a drop in blog posts during the Summer, because I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. Its lovely to have Chester at home during the days, Millie really loves having her brother at home to play with. I will be updating my blog as and when I can, sometimes its great to have a break and I think Summer is the perfect opportunity for that!

No doubt I will be posting pictures daily over on Instagram, so if you would like to follow our fun and laid back summer then please pop over and follow me.

Do you have any plans for the summer, or will you just go with the flow?

Go Create! With Tesco

Yesterday we were invited by Tesco to a quirky cafe in London. Drink Shop Do . I had planned for it to be a Mother and Son day for Chester and I, but Craig ended up having to work so we took Millie along for some arts and crafts fun too!

Tesco have launched a great new range, just in time for the Summer Holidays. Its called Go Create Eco Craft.

Go Create is an innovative arts and crafts range exclusive to Tesco. The trend for up-cycling is more popular than ever, I am sure you will of read on my blog many times before about how much Chester likes to save everything incase we ever need it for arts and crafts. Well his foresight has paid off, because up-cycling is certainly the name of the game with the new Eco Craft range. There are 16 sets to choose from, each set comes with the main materials needed to produce your craft item, instructions and save for me tags to give out to family and friends to help you gather the recycled items you need.

Whilst we were at the event, Chester and Millie (mostly Chester) made the Rocket Bottle Jet Pack set. The recycled materials needed for that set were 2 x 2L plastic bottles, kitchen foil, paint and glue. So for us, all of those items can be found in our home. I would also add sellotape to the list, purely because if your child is impatient like Chester you will need it to get things to stick/dry quicker!

The kits are aimed at children aged 3+ and I would say that age range is correct, Millie is 2.5 and she was easily distracted. Chester on the other hand absolutely loved making the rocket jet pack. He loved that he was able to use materials he would have at home and he loved that the instructions we easy enough for him to follow. He is a very independant 5 year old! I did of course have to help him with some of the tricky parts, but it was a great activity to do together.

The rocket took an 1.5 hours to make, it turned out really well. However, if we were making it at home we would of spent longer on it and it would of looked awesome!

Another plus to these sets are that the children can go on to use their imaginations to play with them. The rocket for instance goes onto the child's back when finished, Chester has been playing space games with it since he got home, there is now talk of strapping a Lego man to the jet pack as well to help with the space mission!

Action shot! 

The sets are just £3.50 each, so a great pocket money craft, and until 6th August they are also 3 for the price of 2! I have made use of this today and ordered the Juice box bird feeder, the fabric conditioner bottle piggy bank and the snack tube robots! All for just £7.00, That should keep us going for a while!

Do your children enjoy junk modeling, what do you think of these new Go Create Eco Craft kits?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Fun at Butlins with Scooby Doo Ice Creams!

Last week we had a family first, we visited Butlins Bognor Regis for a day. All in the name of ice cream! A great way to start the Summer Holidays!

Chester and Millie were very excited, they had seen the adverts on TV and wanted to see what it was all about for themselves. It was a long 2.15 hours drive, but it was totally worth it. They didn't stop smiling from the moment we arrived!

Beechdean have launched a new range of Scooby Doo ice creams, Honeycomb, Chocolate and Strawberry. Which was the main reason we were invited to Butlins. But whilst we waited for the event to start, we had a little time to spare to go and explore the fairground.

Chester and Millie are both little daredevils and they both wanted to go on the biggest rides! They made me go on a very fast spinning ride and as we needed one adult per child a Butlins employee was only to happy to help! Never come across such kindness at a fairground before!

Soon though it was time to learn all about the new Scooby Doo Ice Creams. Which Chester and Millie were really ready for, as it was a really hot day!

As I mentioned before the Scooby Doo Ice Creams come in three flavours, it would of been rude not to try all three right?! Funnily enough we all had different favourites. Chester loved the Honeycomb, and he made it clear that he did not like the crispy bits in the chocolate on the other two! Millie loved the Chocolate, I am not surprised by this, she is just like me, really loves anything chocolate. I liked them all, but I loved the Strawberry and White Chocolate. I really love that flavour combination. The Ice Creams can be purchased from Toys R Us or from independent retailers and have an RRP of 0.90p. Taking into account the flavour and the size of the ice creams I would call that a bargain!
We then had a little fun dressing up. Well the children dressed up! They absolutely loved it! Both wanted to dress up as Scooby Doo and Millie also wanted to wear a wig, in fact she spent a lot of time in that wig! You can take part in a Scooby Doo selfie competition, the prize is a trip to Butlins. Plus everyone who enters gets £20 off a Butlins Holiday! You can find out more info here .

We then got to watch the Scooby Doo show, which is new to Butlins this season. Chester and Millie absolutely loved it! They joined in with the everything and I 'got' the jokes and nods to the Scooby Doo show I watched as a child.

Lastly I met up with Leta (Attachment Mummy), as always it was lovely to see her (and Steve) and have a catch up, which we did whilst the children were on some more fairground rides!

It was just a totally awesome day! A big thank you to Beechdean and Butlins for having us!

So come on..... who watched Scooby Doo as a child?!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

What makes Flora?

A couple of weeks back, on a rainy Thursday, I headed to College Farm in Cambridgeshire, to walk through some rapeseed fields and find out what the connection between Flora and the Rapeseed on College Farm is.

Those of you that know me will be shouting 'WHAT'?!

You see, as much as I am very interested in learning all about what goes on, on a Farm. I am not the sort of person that would walk through a field where you can not see your feet, purely for the fact there may well be snakes hidden in there!! It is one of my biggest fears, it freaks me out. A lot!  

But, I did it, and I loved every minute of it!

Most of us are familiar with the brand Flora. I use the Flora Cuisine and Flora Buttery a lot when I bake. But I had never really given much thought into what ingredients are in Flora, or indeed where they come from.

One of the ingredients in Flora is rapeseed oil. Unilever, the company that own the Flora brand, work closely with LEAF to find and work with Farmers across the UK to source the rapeseed that is added to their products. If you didn't know, which I didn't before my farm visit, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) is the leading organisation promoting sustainable agriculture, food and farming. They help farmers produce good food, with care and to high environmental standards.

Andrew Nottage, College Farm manager, took us out on a tractor/trailer to show us the Rapeseed fields and explain further how the Rapeseed on his Farm gets in the Flora product.

As you can see the Rapeseed fields are just beyond the Tractor. What I LOVED hearing about was how the Farmers are not only concerned for their crops, they are also concerned for the wildlife. For example, the big set of tree's to the right of the field are not just there to look pretty, they are there to encourage birds. The bit of green you see before the Rapeseed starts is also their to encourage wildlife, in includes certain flowers that encourage insects, such as bee's. In fact each field even has its own beehive! How awesome is that?!

We learnt a lot on our trip to the fields. We learnt that Rapeseed has to be harvested at a specific point in the farming cycle, moisture levels are critical in deciding when to harvest. It takes almost a year to grow and harvest the Rapeseed crop, if we happen to have a particularly wet time around the harvest time , then it could lead to the whole crop being destroyed. How disheartening must that be for Farmers, a whole years work, ruined.

I am a very visual person, so was really grateful when Andrew got out a square meter (made from pipe) to show us that a meter squared will plant around a kilo of Rapeseed. That kilo will produce around 440ml of Rapeseed Oil. That may not sound a lot, but looking at it in perspective, looking at the size of the whole field, this means that the Rapeseed grown here equates to almost 80,000 litres of Rapeseed oil to be put into Flora products! WOW, that is a lot!!

The Rapeseed's are black, they look similar to poppy seeds. We got to handle some and even though they didn't look it, they were very oily (hardly a surprise really when they are made into oil). We were told that none of the crop goes to waste, after the oil is extracted the rest is made into animal feed.

Now, I don't know about you, but I hadn't really put much thought into what ingredients are in Flora. I cook a lot of my meals from scratch, so have a pretty good idea what goes into them. But when I stopped to think about it, I actually have no idea what goes into the Flora that I bake with almost weekly! I am pretty annoyed with myself about this, especially with two young Children, I really should be taking more notice of these things!

Anyway now I do know, so I will let you know too....

Flora is made up of 3 key oils, Rapeseed Oil, Sunflower Oil and Linseed Oil. We got to taste all three by the way, and I can confirm that Linseed Oil is disgustingly bitter on its own! However I loved the taste of the Rapeseed Oil and wondered why on earth I have never cooked with it?!

Flora Original has 80% less saturated fat than butter. The Sunflower oil in Flora contains Omega 3, which combined with Omega 6 (also in Flora) helps to maintain cholesterol levels. Now Craig has got a cholesterol level that is a bit on the high side, so I was very pleased to hear this. I was also surprised to learn that the emulsifier in Flora also comes from Sunflower oil! So no hidden unhealthy nasties in there! It also contains vitamins A and D. I have just been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency (more on that soon) so this was a nice surprise for me.

After spending lots of time out in the fields, we came back with a lot of new found crop knowledge. The afternoon was spent eating lunch and baking savory scones with Edd Kimber (winner of GBBO), I will be posting separately about that part of the day, so keep a look out for that post, coming soon!

I am so very proud of myself for going out into that field, I am very pleased to report that I didn't see a single snake the whole time I was there and I was so distracted by the information I was being given I barely thought about snakes the whole time! But more importantly, I am very grateful to Flora, College Farm, and LEAF for giving me a great insight into how Flora goes from Farm to Shelf! So Thank you very much!

How about you, do you ever stop to think about what goes into the spreads you eat or how they are made?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Real Mums All Bran 5 day challenge

This post is an entry for the Real Mums of All-Bran Linky Challenge, sponsored by Kelloggs.

Recently I was sent these 3 All Bran cereals to try over 5 days and see if it makes any difference on how my tummy and general well being feels. 

When I opened this parcel, the first thing I got excited about was CHOCOLATE!!!! Surely Chocolate can't be good for you in a cereal? Can it? Well apparently it can, and I can confirm that it is indeed VERY yummy! I was in no way expecting a healthy cereal to taste yummy, but it did! 

As you can see from the picture above, I was also eager to try the strawberry version too. I love strawberries and this did not disappoint, it was just sweet enough and very filling. 

The Golden Crunch version was ok, I would probably not put that one on my weekly shopping list, however, that does not mean that I wouldn't eat it again. It just wasn't my favourite of the three. 

Initially I found the 5 day challenge hard, because quite frankly feeding MYSELF breakfast in the mornings is usually the last think on my mind! Making sure the children are fed, washed, dressed and Chester is ready for School is my priority! It is honestly like a comedy show in our house in the mornings! It usually consists of me saying shouting WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE or WHERE IS YOUR OTHER SHOE. The best one being 'no Millie you can not wear those shoes with that dress'! Resulting in a meltdown that means we only just make it to the School gates in time! So I am sure you can see why breakfast is not for me!

BUT I did make sure I had breakfast on 5 consecutive days, and I did enjoy it. I found that it gave me more energy than I am used to. 

Part of the campaign is about learning to love your tummy. This is something I struggle with. Yes I have had two Children, so my tummy is not going to be as nice as it was. But I just need to accept that and be happy with what I have got. I am working on it! 

I am pleased that I took on this challenge, it has given me the boost I needed, its nice to eat something that you know is good for you and enjoy it!

What do you think? Could you do the All Bran 5 day challenge?!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Quorn Toad in the Hole recipe.

Toad in the Hole is one of our favourite dinners, and as much as I hate to admit it, my Dad's version is the best.

But its not exactly the most healthy of meals is it?! This is where Quorn come in. Quorn sausages, are both low in fat and a great source of protein. We are not vegetarians (although my Sister is), but that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy a meat free meal.

Until now, we had never tried Quorn Sausages, but as you know we tried the Quorn meat free chicken nuggets recently and were very impressed. So we were very looking forward to trying them.

The recipe for the Quorn toad in the hole can be found here. Do also check out the other recipes as they have some delicious meal ideas!

This is how our toad in the hole came out....

It was really yummy. In fact it was so yummy that Chester ate everything on his plate, and Millie had seconds! That is virtually unheard of! Obviously its not the same texture or taste  as meat sausages, but the texture and taste it did have was really enjoyable. Knowing how much healthier they are compared to meat sausages, this version on toad in the hole will definitely be on our monthly meal planner!

Do you have a favourite family meal in your house?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ozeri Elite 3-piece Ceramic Knife set review

Being a busy Mum of two I am in the kitchen a lot, even more so in the summer holidays! I like to cook as many fresh meals as I can so therefore knives are a kitchen essential to me. I use them on a daily basis. So it is imperative that they are of good quality and will withstand use.

I was recently sent a Ozeri Elite 3-piece Ceramic Knife set to review. Having never used ceramic knifes before I was intrigued to see how they would fair.

My first thought when I got them out of the box, was how light they were! My kitchen knifes are all relatively heavy, so this was hard for me to get used to at first, but it was a welcome change!

The knives are easy to use, they slice through most things without any real pressure. I have been using them every day over the last few weeks, cutting a range of foods from malt loaf, onions, apples and potatoes, to uncooked Steak and Chicken. With the blades being ceramic each blade is close in hardness to diamonds and preserves its razor-sharpness 10 times longer than traditional steel blades. I was dubious about this at first, but after using the knifes every day for a few weeks I can confirm that I have not had to sharpen them once! They are still just as sharp as the day I got them!

Because they are Ceramic it also means that they do not corrode or rust. So this means that they should be long lasting.

The Ozeri Elite 3-piece Ceramic Knife set is currently on offer on Amazon for £49.99. For 3 good quality knives that is an amazing price. I can see them lasting for many years. Having never used Ceramic Knives before I can honestly say that I am very impressed, they have cut down my prep time so much, they are certainly the way forward! The only 'extra' I would like to see is the option to have a knife block included too.

Who does all the cooking in your house? Do you class it as a chore or a way of getting a bit of me time (I see it as the latter).