Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dear Alexander

Dear Alexander

It doesn't seem 5 minutes ago that I was writing to you on your first birthday and now here we are and you are turning two tomorrow. How time flies.
You have changed so much this year, although I still call you my baby you really are a little boy now. Running around, climbing everything and causing chaos everywhere you go. You certainly know how to keep me on my toes. 
You have always been full of personality and that is really shining through now, you love to entertain and make us laugh. 
You may not speak much just yet but you know exactly how to get your point across, you're stubborn and your favourite word is no said emphatically with a shake of the head. 
Your favourite person is still definitely your big brother, you want to be everywhere he is, you do as he asks and you copy everything he does and he has recently discovered that he can boss you around and you do as he says, let's see how long that lasts! You play together so sweetly, having pretend picnics and making puzzles though of course can quickly go from playing to arguing! 
You are affectionate, you love cuddling up under a blanket with me to look at books or getting into our bed at night and sleeping cuddled right up against one of us so close that we are like one person. It may not be the most comfortable way to sleep but i know those nights won't last forever and i'll miss it when it stops.

Happy 2nd birthday Raffy Roo, I know that this next year will see just as many changes and I can't wait to be part of them. 

Love
Mummy




Thursday, 23 October 2014

5 Easy Halloween crafts

There are lots of wonderful things you can make with the kids at this time of year but sometimes you just want something quick and easy.
1. Simple shape witches
Cute witches, cata and wands made from basic shapes cut from sugar paper stuck together. Learning shapes is an added bonus to this one.
2. Pumpkin painting
I like painting our pumpkins instead of carving them as there are no guts to scoop out and young children can do the whole thing themselves without adult help and it can take as much time as you like. We especially like digging out glow in the dark paint and glitter for extra spookiness!
3. Still life drawing
Pumpkins( and other squash) are fun to draw Arrange them on a table and let your little one feel them and look at them from different angles, talk about the shapes and colours then do some still life drawings.
4. Potato print pumpkins
I already posted about our apple print pumpkin decorations but don't forget the humble potato print!
5. Chocolate finger sparklers
OA pintrest find, these are perhaps more for bonfire night but still easy and fun. Simply dip the end of chocolate fingers into a cup of warm water then dip into sprinkles. The warm water melts the chocolate so the sprinkles stick. Yum!

 
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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Lapland Mailroom

Christmas is coming and as parents we are thinking about ways to make it magical for our children. What could be more magical than receiving personalised letter from Father Christmas?
Lapland Mailroom does just that. This easy to use website allows you to order a personalised letter straight to your child. There are four different letters to choose from so siblings don't receive identical letters and when ordering you can add on extra information such as your childs age, a gift that they have asked for and what they left out for Father Christmas and the reindeer last year. How cute?!? You can even choose if the letter comes from Santa or Father Christmas. The letters come indvidually addressed to your child.
The letters themselves are gorgeous, really beautifully written and very sweet. The fact that are personalised is the massive selling point for me, i know that Seb will love his age and gift of choice being mentioned and it means they will make lovely keepsakes to put in the boys memory boxes.
It doesn't end there. Along with the letters you also receive a nice child certificate, a Santa stop here sign to colour, an elf yourself activity sheet, Christmas Eve door hanger, Christmas Decoration and a Christmas card to colour in. I plan on putting these letters into our Christmas Eve hamper and using the activities and colouring sheets to keep us entertained during the day.
The letters start at £6.95 each which includes postage anywhere in the world. For more information and to order a letter head over to Lapland Mailroom. You can also follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

**We were sent these letters for the purpose of this review but all opinions are my own**


Monday, 20 October 2014

Meal Planning Monday

The last week has flown past. We did pretty well with our meal plan apart from having a Chinese one evening we stuck to it. Beef fajitas were yummy and made a nice change from our usual chicken ones. The steak we had was lovely and even I(not a huge steak fan) really enjoyed it. 
This week we're eating in no particular order

Spicy sausage pasta
Lasagne
Cheesy potato chowder with cheese and onion bread
Pork and apple burgers, curly fries and onion rings
Steak with sweet potato and veg
Pasta with pesto
Freezer dinner

Linking up with meal planning Monday, why not join in over at At Home With Mrs M 


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Spooky pumpkin decorations

This week we've been doing lots of pumpkin based activities.
These cute decorations are perfect to brighten up the house for Halloween and are super simple to make. Apples make a great pumpkin print and are much easier for little ones to handle!

I poured out orange paint and chopped an apple in half. I stuck a fork into each apple half(thank you pintrest for that idea) for easy grip and got the boys printing. Seb was a dab hand at this but most of Alex's came out smudged(he isn't even 2 yet) so we gave him a helping hand to make sure we had a few usable prints. We used fingertips in green paint to add stalks on to our prints. 

Once dry I cut out the prints and we got to work on adding faces. I cut out shapes from black card to stick on. It was a good chance to talk about different emotions and facial expressions and we showed our own happy,  sad and scary faces to each other. Once these were done I attached them to some string and attached these to some Halloween straws I picked up in the pound shop. You could also use lollipop sticks to attatch them to.

Ours are stuck up in the kitchen with some washi tape for bow but I'll be putting them in the window come Halloween!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Salt Dough Candle Holders for Diwali

Next week is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.


I saw these fab candle holders over on Jennifer's Little World blog and thought they would ideal for us to make as we love salt dough.  I am keen for the boys to learn about religion and different cultures and one of the easiest ways to introduce them in my mind is by looking at celebrations.

We made the dough using a cup of plain flour, 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of water mixed together, moulded it into our candle holder shape and then popped in the oven on it's lowest setting for a few hours.
Once totally dry and hard, I popped out some paints and loose glitter and let the boys decorate. They went for lovely bright colours and then added the glitter on top of the wet paint. Once dry we added our tea lights.


Seb and I also watched a couple of episodes of Let's Celebrate to learn more about Diwali. This series is great for younger children to learn about different festivals. Seb was really interested in the rangoli and the sweeties! 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Lush Butterbear bath bomb

Hurrah Lush have new products out! Of course I have been buying some to enjoy and review on here.
I have been reviewing Lush products on blogs since 2009(eek) and have been buying them since I was a young teen so for over 15 years, and now I also use them on the boys so I like to think I know what I am talking about!
Butterbear is a Christmas product, a cute little bear containing cocoa butter and smelling of vanilla. If you are familiar with Lush you will probably recognise that this is the same as a Butterball Bath Bomb(a classic) just in a sweeter shape.

I used the bomb for the boys bath as I know that it is kind to their skin and they love throwing a bath bomb in and seeing it fizz. This isn't the most exciting bath bomb visually, it fizzes and leaves the bath a plain milky colour but it has a lovely scent and the water is lovely and silky.
After the bath the scent stays on the skin and my boys smelt delicious for bedtime cuddles.

This would make a very cute stocking filler for little ones(or big ones) and at just £1.95 it won't break the bank!



Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Degustabox September

It's Degustabox review time! 
If you haven't heard of Degustabox before, it is a monthly subscription box containing foodie items so you can discover new flavours every month. 
We have been receiving the boxes for several months now(see my August review here)  and I still find them just as exciting. The whole idea that you don't know what to expect is a real selling point for me and i am always impressed with the contents.

As usual the box was bursting with goodies, well packaged and protected from any damage with lots of bubble wrap. Again this month there were 2 versions of the box one containing alcohol and one not containing alcohol, i received the contents of both boxes for the purpose of the review.



First up the drinks
Little Miracles Organic Tea. There were 2 bottles of this in the box, a green tea and a lemongrass tea. These drinks are a blend of orgaic tea and fruit juice sweetened with agave and are designed to give you a pick me up. They are free from artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners and come in at less than 90 calories. I surprised myself and really enjoyed these especially the lemongrass version and will definately be picking that one up again for a refreshing drink. 

Crabbies Fruits, Zesty Lemon. A new alcoholic range from Crabbies containing upto 10% natural fruit juice. There are 3 flavours, Black Cherry, Raspberry and Rhubarb and the one we received Zesty Lemon. I shared this with Phil and it was really tasty and refreshing and no overly alcoholic tasting. 
Crabbies Ginger Beer, Traditional Ginger. This is a non alcoholic cloudy ginger beer, established in 1801 Crabbies use a secret recipe of spices, fruit and ginger to create a refreshing drink.Phil drank this and enjoyed it.

Onto the food items!
Carnation Cook with it! This is probably my favourite thing from this months box. Cook with it, is a cooking creme that can be used a huge number of dishes. It contains 68% less fat than single cream .I have used this to make macaroni cheese, a creamy coconut curry(see my recipe here) , chicken and chorizo pasta and added it into mash instead of milk. I really like this product and can see it having a place in my kitchen cupboards. 
Elizabeth Shaw Dark Chocolate Mint Thins. Having tried Elizabeth Shaw treats from previous Degustaboxes we were both eager to try these. Made of 55% dark chocolate with a mint flavour and decorated with crunchy mint sprinkles, these thins are a real treat. They are sooo good! I had to stop myself eating too many in one sitting. A perfect after dinner treat. 

Righteous Salad Dressings. These interesting salad dressings are all natural. The flavours are a bit different, we received 3 varieties; Lemon and Mustard Seed, Raspberry and Sweet Basil and Mild English Blue Cheese and Cider. I've not tried these yet, i;m saving them for a day when we have a picky lunch off the table and will go perfectly alongside that. 

La Vieja Fabrica Marmalade. This marmalade is produced in Seville using a recipe that is over 170 years old. It is packaged beautifully, it reminds me of a product you would receive in a nice hamper. I'm not a marmalade fan but Phil and the boys are and have been enjoying this on toast.

Jordans Simply Granola. We are already big fans of Jordans, so i was pleased to see this in the box. This simple granola with a hint of honey hits the spot. We mix ours up with some yoghurt and fruit for a yummy breakfast. 
Burts Lentil Waves. These were probably the most interesting product for me this month. I am always looking for healthier alternatives to crisps and thats exactly what these are. We received 3 flavours; Lightly Salted, Thai Sweet Chilli and Sour Cream and Chive. Flash cooked in Devon these chips are crunchy and full of flavour. They are currently available at Waitrose, hopefully they will be more widely available soon as i would definately buy them.

Bahlsan Pick Up. Those who follow me on twitter may have seen me raving about this biscuits! We received 2 packets of these biscuits, Milk Chocolate and Black N White. They have a slab of chocolate between 2 crunchy biscuits and are totally delicious and perfect with a cuppa. My mum even got in on the action and has been buying these after trying one at my house.

Yet again another great box this month we have thoroughly enjoyed trying everything and there are several products that i will definately be buying again!

The lovely folks over at Degustabox are offering you all £3 off when you register with them. Simply go to their website and use the code AD9EM

You can also follow Degustabox on Facebook and Twitter

**I was sent this box to review but all opinions are my own**

Monday, 13 October 2014

Meal Planning Monday

Now I'm back on the meal planning bandwagon I'm feeling inspired again. This week I've been hunting down lovely recipes to try which I will probably cook and feature over the next few weeks.
We did well last week, Chicken and Chorizo pasta went down well with everyone and was super simple to make and the babybel burgers were just delicious!
 We also popped into Trinity Kitchen in Leeds this week and tucked into ribs and waffles, divine! I love the concept of Trinity Kitchen, that each month you can tuck into something different.

This weeks plan is pretty simple but yummy all the same. I can't wait for my curry tonight as it's so cold here!

Monday- Chicken tikka masala with rice and poppadoms
Tuesday-Steak, sweet potato and veg
Wednesday- Beef fajitas, wedges and sweetcorn
Thursday-Pesto pasta
Friday- Toad in the hole and mash

Linking up with meal planning Monday, head over to At Home With Mrs M to join in. 


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Heinz Ketchup 50% less sugar

Everyone has a bottle of Heinz ketchup in their kitchen,  it has become a staple for many of us and my house is no exception to that. Seb loves dip as he calls it and of course Alex wants everything his brother has!
I have however always been aware that ketchup is fairly high in sugar so when Heinz contacted me asking if we would like to try a new Heinz Ketchup with 50% less sugar I was really interested to try it out. The sugars have been replaced with sweeteners from natural sources such as stevia a plant from South America, so there are no artificial sweeteners in there. As well as having sugar the ketchup also meets the 2017 Department of Health salt targets.

I will be honest Phil was very sceptical, he thought it wouldn't be the same as the ketchup he knows and loves but he said he would try it.This week we've had it on hot dogs and in burgers and it has gone down really well. Even the sceptical Phil says it tastes pretty much the same as the traditional ketchup which is a real compliment! I will definitely be buying this version in the future.
You can find Heinz Ketchup with 50% less sugar alongside the regular ketchup in the supermarket. For more information check out the video below, visit the Heinz website or follow them on Twitter.
 

Heinz is also launching a new European advertising campaign which focuses on how the unmistakable taste of Heinz Tomato Ketchup brings food to life. The new European advertising features a collection of food moments that simply aren’t the same without Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Check out the video below. 

 

**We were sent a bottle of Heinz ketchup to try for the purpose of this review, all opinions are my own***

Homemade Herby Play Dough

I haven't made play dough in what feels like ages but now the weather is cooling off we are back to doing lots of indoor activities again.



This homemade herby play dough is nice and natural and smells amazing! 
I have grown Oregano and Basil from seed in the kitchen with Seb to use in cooking and after seeing a few natural play doughs online I thought we could use some of ours in a dough. I usually make bright dough so this was a bit of a change for us.


We made the dough with 1 cup plain flour, 1/2 cup of salt, 1 tbsp cream of tartar and 1 tbsp oil mixed together in a bowl.  Then I gradually added 1/2 cup of boiling water until a dough formed. Then I added the fresh herbs plus a sprinkling of dried mixed herbs and kneaded until the dough lost it's sticky feeling and the herbs were mixed through. 
I set it out with the usual cutters and rolling pin and added some food picks, cake cases and a bowl of sunflower seeds and pasta.


I encouraged the boys to smell the dough(it really does smell lovely) and to think what they could make with it. As well as rolling and cutting shapes,  Seb made pizzas and cakes with pasta and seeds on top and we pretended to cook them in the oven, counting down from 20 and beeping when they were 'cooked'(good maths practice!)
Alex imitated his brother, making cakes for the oven this is the first time he really engaged with the dough, he was really concentrating and he didn't try to eat it at all.


We spent over an hour playing and Seb came back to it later in the day while Alex napped. I am definitely going to make some more natural doughs.


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Should this magazine cover be on display for children to see?

Today we popped into town to the library and then to the supermarket to pick up some bits for lunch. When we got to the tills to pay I had a look a the magazines on display there and was pretty surprised to see Closer magazine with this cover for sale at the exact height that Alex and Seb were at while sat in the trolley. There were more copies at other tills and at the front of the shop with the other magazines too, also viewable by children. 
Now I'm not a prude at all, the human body is an amazing thing  but this made me really uncomfortable. The cover is basically soft porn, it is a sexual image(huge pout,tousled hair, silky sheets) and reminded me of top shelf mags. If that is how Lauren Goodger wants to get exposure(pun intended) then fair play to her but I don't think it should be on display for young children to see in the supermarket. 

There has always been debate over magazines on display in shops. Just last year most major retailers agreed to display lads mags out of view of children but what about magazines covers like this one? After a quick google of a couple of lads mags I looked at some covers and this is on par with those. I don't want my children seeing sexual images like this or thinking that women should look like this(surgically enhanced and heavily airbrushed) or that they have to take their clothes off to be sexy.  It amazes me that people still complain about women breastfeeding in public(where there is very little breast to see) yet images like this are OK.

It isn't just that supermarket of course, that's just where we were today.  After tweeting about it, it seems other supermarkets also have the magazine on display in similar ways. 

Today my 2 were more interested in the gingerbread men we were buying, but I can just imagine on a different day Seb asking me about that lady on the magazine, he is 3, boobs are hilarious and interesting to him of course he would look.

I would to know what you think? 

**I tweeted the supermarket in question and Closer regarding this today but have had no response from them as yet**

Monday, 6 October 2014

Meal Planning Monday

I've had a break from meal planning for the last few weeks but now the weather is cooling down I'm looking forward to making lots of warming meals in the coming months. Onto the meal plan! 

Monday-Chicken and Chorizo pasta
Tuesday- Homemade babybel burgers with wedges
Wednesday- We're going out for a meal
Thursday- Pasta with Pesto
Friday- Corned Beef Hash
Saturday- Sausages with herby potatoes and veg

Linking up with meal planning Monday, head over to At Home With Mrs M to join in. 


Ella's Kitchen Snack Range

Last week I posted the cutest video from Ella's Kitchen and their Little Speakers Corner. The children were shouting about what matters to them when it comes to snacks and it makes for very cute viewing! 

Ella's Kitchen has recently launched a brand new snack range aimed at toddlers from 12 months onwards. The new range consists of ten different snacks all of which contain no added sugar or salt, no additives and no colourings. There are both sweet and savoury snacks all of which are suitable for vegetarians and some are dairy free too.

The boys were sent a lovely parcel of goodies from the new range to test out. As we've come to expect from Ella's Kitchen the snacks are brightly packaged and appealing to little ones. 

Ella kitchen snack range review

We received a canister of Once Upon a Time Apple and Cinnamon multigrain puffs. I love the packaging for these, both because it is resealable amd keeps the snacks fresh and because it means they can be popped into the changing bag or under the pushcair and not get squashed and broken. The boys enjoyed the snacks themselves, I mixed them in bowl with some dried fruit and it seemed to fill a hole.
We also received a pack of Hello-coptor Oat and Spelt Cookies. These come in a resealable packet, again great for freshness. The boys enjoyed these with a cup of milk as a pre bedtime snack.

The other snacks that came were savoury. I was pleased to see these as I sometimes struggle with savoury snacks and i don't like giving crisps as a regular thing.
The Carrot and Lentil Multigrain Sticks and Cheddar and Leek Multigrain Wheels were perfect alongside lunch and the packs are generously sized(the boys shared a bag). They are nice and crunchy and I have to admit I particularly liked the Cheddar and Leek flavour.
Parsnip and Poppyseed Cracker Bites and Tomato and Fennel Seeds Cracker Bites come in snack sized bags perfect for lunchboxes. Again they are nice and crunchy and I like that the flavours are different from the norm. Alex gobbled these down though Seb wasn't as keen(though he has never liked parsnips so that's probably why!).

Overall the range has a really good variety of sweet and savoury snacks. The quality was excellent as always with Ella's Kitchen and I will definitely be buying some of these again.

The range is available instores and online now with RRP's ranging from £1.79-£1.99.
If you want to know more take a look at the Ella's Kitchen website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

**We were sent some of the snack range for the purpose of this post but all opinions are my own** 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Coconut Chicken Curry

As the weather is starting to cool down warming dishes start to reappear on my meal plan. Curry is always a hit here and earlier in the week I made a coconut chicken curry which was super simple but really tasty. As I was sent some Carnation Cooking Creme in this months Degustabox(review coming soon) I decided to use it in place of cream to save on a few calories.

This would serve 2 adults.
2 chicken breasts, diced
1 onion,diced
1 pepper, diced
5 cloves of garlic(yes really!), chopped
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 tin of coconut milk
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
100ml Carnation Cooking creme or double cream

Melt the butter over a low heat and then add the curry powder and mix the two. Add the coconut milk and stir.
While that is warming heat a little oil in a separate pan and cook the chicken, onion, pepper and garlic. Once the chicken is lightly browned and the onions softened add it all to the coconut milk mix along with the potato and stir together. Turn up the heat until it is simmering  before covering the pan and lowering the heat.
Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every now and then. Taste the sauce and add sugar if more sweetness is needed.
Once you're happy with the taste stir in the cream and you're done!

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

No Sew Autumn Bunting

Autumn is such a pretty time in nature, I love Autumnal colours and wanted to bring some of them into the house so last week I set about making some Autumn bunting for the playroom. 
Of course I enlisted my little helpers to help me make it! 
Some of you may remember our conker painting from last year. It was such fun that I wanted to do it again so I incorporated it into our bunting making.
I printed out a few leaf shapes and we headed out to the woods to collect some conkers and leaves(for later). I had an empty celebrations tub in the craft cupboard so popped a leaf shape in along with a couple of squirts of paint and a couple of conkers and got the boys to take turns shaking them about. Alex particularly loved doing this, it's much more suited to smaller children than leaf prints which can require a gentle touch to avoid smudges. Once we got a good covering we swapped for a different leaf.
I let them dry and cut the shapes out and at the same time cut some bunting triangles from some felt sheets I had. I then attached them all to some twine using washi tape. 
I'm pleased with how it turned out, it's a cute addition to the playroom and the boys love having their art displayed. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Film and Fajita night with Santa Maria

Fajitas are a firm family favourite in this house and regularly appear on our meal plan so when I was offered the chance by Santa Maria to have a family film and Fajita night I jumped at the chance! 

Last week a shiny red box was delivered to us and inside were all sorts of goodies to help us have a fun family afternoon.
We chose to watch Shrek as the boys have never seen it and it's been years since I watched it. So in the box was a Shrek DVD, fajita seasoning, corn and wheat tortillas, nacho rolls, salsa, guacamole and a jar of red jalapeƱos. 
Late afternoon on Saturday we all snuggled down on the sofa with blankets and a bowl of nacho rolls and popped the DVD on.
The nacho rolls are lovely, I am not a dip person so had mine plain but Phil and the boys are and enjoyed the salsa with theirs. Alex in particular loved them and ate loads!
 Shrek was as good as I remembered, I love that it has grown up humour to keep adults amused as well as potty humour for the children(and husbands!) and I can safely say Seb is now a fan of the green ogre so we will be getting the other films to watch too!

 After the film we headed into the kitchen for our fajitas. One of the reasons I love fajitas is that they are speedy to make which is great when you are cooking for impatient little ones. Including prep it took me less than 15 minutes to make them.
 I cooked off the chicken, along with peppers and onion and added the seasoning. Meanwhile the tortillas were warming in the oven wrapped in some foil. I used the medium seasoning which was just right for me and the boys, though I imagine Phil would have been happier with the hot one!
 We all tucked in and as usual the boys loved their fajitas, both had the salsa and guacamole on the side as dips and they emptied their plates. The tortillas were different to the ones we usually buy and they were really lovely and soft so i'll definately be buying those again.
We had a fab family afternoon and it's something we'll definately be repeating in future, especially with winter creeping up on us.

For more information on Santa Maria, take a look at their website or Facebook

**We were sent a box of goodies from Santa Maria for the purpose of this post but all opinoos are my own**

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