Thursday, 14 August 2014

Poppy The Pirate Dog And The Treasure Keeper - Early Reader from Orion Books

Poppy The Pirate Dog And The Treasure Keeper is an Early Reader from Orion Books written by Liz kessler and illustrated by Mike Phillips. This is a red band book for a new reader to read alone with little help. My 5 year old is beginning to gain in confidence so much that he can now read this book himself without frustration, despite a couple of words he needed help with.

Poppy The Pirate Dog And The Treasure Keeper - Early Reader from Orion Books

We've read quite a few of these books now, and they're always great bedtime reading. This is a great story about Poppy The Pirate Dog, who joins in her children's game and becomes the Treasure Keeper on their pirate ship.

What she actually does is save the day when some real treasure is lost, and Poppy finds out where it is, and who has it!

Poppy The Pirate Dog And The Treasure Keeper - red band Early Reader from Orion Books age 5-8

I love that the children in this book are playing with household and garden items and using their imaginations. They're having a great game and involving the family adults in a nice way, and entertaining everyone for free. It's good wholesome stuff.

There are trickier words and some more interesting ideas, but overall the language used is very familiar and easy to work out for the newer reader. The illustrations are lovely, and Poppy is a great looking dog who always seems enthusiatic in the way that Dalmatians really do!

Poppy The Pirate Dog And The Treasure Keeper  has 64 pages nicely broken into manageable chapters, and has an RRP of £4.99. There are two other Poppy books in the series - Poppy The Pirate Dog and Poppy The Pirate Dog's New Shipmate.

We've reviewed several other Early Readers from Orion Books - all my book reviews can be found here...

We were sent our book to review.

An Xtreme Visit to the Chill Factore, Manchester

We were really lucky a couple of weeks ago because we were invited twice in 3 days to attend events at the Chill Factore, at Trafford Park in Manchester. Even luckier because one event was for the over 12's and one event for the under 5's - which suited my family really well!

Xtreme Chewits

We love Chill Factore and have been before a few times, so an invite to the Chewits Xtreme Sour Pineapple launch for the older children was really exciting. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A Trunki Paddlepak picnic, review and giveaway!

I've always liked the Paddlepaks from Trunki, although as we don't currently go swimming regularly and don't live anywhere near the beach, I felt I couldn't really justify buying one - however as it turns out, they're far more useful than simply being a swim bag!

A Trunki Paddlepak picnic, review and giveaway!

Trunki sent us a Paddlepak to review - my boys were really happy with that - they were even happier when they discovered it was full of Ella's Kitchen snacks, and Trunki activity sheets! 

A Trunki Paddlepak picnic with Ella's Kitchen review and giveaway!
A picnic with a range of  Ella's Kitchen snacks review

Our job was to take our Paddlepak out on a picnic. It's a great rucksack, it holds loads, and what's more, it's waterproof - it's ideal. 

We picked our day, the sun was shining as we got everything ready and packed our Paddlepak, and we were ready to go.

A Paddlepak from Trunki - what does a Paddlepak look like on a 4 year old

Well, this is Manchester.....we'd barely got up the path when the rain in we went and waited 1/2 an hour. There were loads of black clouds building up, but instead of cancelling completely, we decided to brave the drizzle and picnic in the garden...

A Paddlepak from Trunki and Ella's Kitchen children's snacks picnic

The Ella's Kitchen snacks were met with a mixed response. The huge tub full of Row, Row, Row Raspberries and Bananas Multigrain Nibbles was a hit, as was The Yellow One Fruit Smoothie (which they fought over). Some of the other snacks were a little bit bland for my chilli-loving 4 and 5 year olds now, which is a shame as they did love them when they were younger, and the range is far more interesting and varied now. I really liked the 'ee i ee i oh' Raisin & Spelt Cookies.

A Paddlepak from Trunki and Ella's Kitchen children's snack range picnic
Ella's Kitchen children's snack range picnic banana and raspberry

After a few minutes the heavens really let loose, but it meant we could test the water-resistance of the Paddlepak
A Paddlepak from Trunki lying flat on blanket in rain
A Paddlepak from Trunki review - back cushioning padding and straps

Before trying the PaddlePak I thought they worked very much like an incredibly pretty carrier bag - I was wrong. Trunki say it is water-resistant, but it's actually virtually waterproof and I'm really impressed. You can even blow it up and fasten it, and the air doesn't squeeze out without massive pressure. Nothing is going to get wet in there....

A Paddlepak from Trunki review - watertight and blown up like a balloon
Empty of everything - except air!
A Paddlepak from Trunki review -details reflective tape straps pockets loops

The detail on the Paddlepak is great. There is reflective tape on the padded straps, soft padding against the child's back, side pockets and hanging loops, and a huge inside pocket that runs the full height of the bag. If you have wet AND dry items you need to transport, they can go separately. There's even a zip up pocket in the tail fin - perfect for bus or changing room locker money, tissues and keys etc.

A Paddlepak from Trunki free downloadable printables activity sheets travel gamesfor children

As it was raining and we were now indoors, the Trunki activity sheets were perfect....they have absolutely loads of activity sheets and games which you can download for free from the Trunki website. They kept my boys busy for a while....

range of Trunki free printables activitysheets and travel games

We've used our Paddlepak every day since we got it, and we even attempted another picnic when we went to see my children's Grandparents compete in a pony and carriage event - but guess what? Yep - it was rained off! Hurricane Bertha was on the way, and the ponies were back in the horse box before we even arrived!

A shark Paddlepak from Trunki on small 4 year old

I'n really impressed with the Paddlepak. It's genuinely a fantastic and pretty much waterproof rucksack that my 4 year old has taken great pride in, and is using to carry his treasure and snacks everywhere. It's obviously very comfortable, even when it's pretty full, and it's ideal for a picnic. The fact it's a shark is brilliant - both of my little boys love sharks.

There is a huge range of Paddlepaks costing £19.99- £24.99 - which I feel is on a par with any good quality children's rucksack, but Paddlepak is much more cool.  My son wants to wear it all the time, so he's helping carry what we need for our trips out each day and it gives him responsibility and importance. It is very light and with all the pockets and loops is perfect for a multitude of jobs - especially picnics! It's not in any way 'babyish', and he'll be using the Paddlepak for years to come.

We have enjoyed reviewing the Paddlepak this week, and we love it, so I'm delighted that Trunki have offered a Paddlepak of their choice as a prize for one of my readers.

Entry to the giveaway is by rafflecopter form below.  Each additional task completed will give additional entries into the giveaway. UK entries only please. The giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday September 7th when no more entries will be accepted. Please see additional terms and conditions at the bottom of the rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Penne Pasta With Sausage Recipe - The Camping Cookbook

I've always camped. My parents met through their involvement with the Scouts, and my grandfather and uncle were both wardens at Drum Hill Scout Scout Camp in Derbyshire. When I had my own children it seemed the best way to ensure they had holidays and freedom, and the space to be children - away from electricity and other distractions.

Boy looking under bridge for a troll
Checking to see if there's a troll under the bridge before he crosses!
In 2003 we bought our first camper van, and I met my partner when he was buying his camper and rang me for advice. My children have always camped.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Toogiez T-Shirts Complete With Squishable Companions review

Toogiez have come up with a really novel idea for children who like to take their cuddly toys and dolls out with them - companions you can wear! Each Toogiez t-shirt has a velcro patch on the front where you can fix your Toogiez character or animal.

Toogiez T-Shirts Complete With Squishable Companions review Pirate Toogy

We've been sent a Toogiez t-shirt to review - and we have a pirate Toogy!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Matalan School Uniform Review - and Autumn/Winter preview.

I haven't ever bought school uniform from Matalan before, but over the years we've spent a fortune there, so when I was invite to visit the headqarters in Skelmersdale to look at their school uniform and have a sneak preview of their Autumn/Winter ranges I was really quite excited.

The Autumn/Winter clothes look great. The little girls and boys wear (which goes up to age 5) especially. I'm glad my 5 year old is small, because I'll certainly be going back in store to buy some of these. Blue and grey suit my ginger haired boys, and I think they're great Winter colours. The emphasis is on softness, and I really like it.

Matalan UK Autumn Winter young boys range

Saturday, 9 August 2014

How To Make Apple Pice Cream

My 5 year old has been a star all week, whereas his 4 year old brother has been in loads of trouble and visited the naughty step several times - including for pulling one of our rabbits onto the table by it's ears. I told him he could pick what we have for tea tonight, and I was expecting 'pizza'. In 5 year old style, he completely pulled a blinder out of the bag, asking for "Pice Cream".

When I asked what Pice Cream was, he told me it's 'pie with ice cream in it'. Now, I can do baked alaska no problem, but ice cream IN a pie? So I asked on Facebook and had a look around and we came up with a few alternatives...

The amazing Blueberry Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches from The Kitchen McCabe seemed a winner, and easy enough to recreate in 'apple', but then a friend of mine suggested I was actually making it more complicated than I needed to, and I could just blind bake the pastry, stew the apple, and add a dollop of ice cream, and a lid. What's more is that if I deal with the hot stuff, he can do most of the rest himself, so it's even better...

What we've come up with was certainly delicious....

Apple Pice Cream

How To Make Apple Pice Cream ingredients


1 big apple (or 2 smaller) - cored, peeled and chopped quite finely. 
25g caster sugar per large apple - golden caster sugar is best, but all will do.
1/2 tspn mixed spice or cinnamon
30ml water per apple 
250g ready made puff pastry

You will need a deep cupcake tin or little ramekins


Mix apples, sugar and spice in a bowl

How To Make Apple Pice Cream ingredients chopped apple and spice

Add 30ml water per apple. Cover and microwave for 2 minutes on high power, stir

Microwave again for 2 more minutes on full power (if the mixture dries out add another teaspoon of water). If you don't use a microwave then put into an ovenproof dish, cover and bake in the oven until soft but with a little bite.

Blend with a hand blender until it is mainly goo

How To Make Apple Pice Cream apple puree blended

Cover and leave aside.

Roll out the pastry and cut a square for each pie to fit your tin. I found 10cm x 10 cm was just right. The pastry should overlap the edges, but not by loads.

How To Make Apple Pice Cream ingredients cutting pastry shapes

My son said the pies needed tops, so you need to find a suitable template. A Green Toys children's teaset mug was just right for ours.

How To Make Apple Pice Cream ingredients cutting pastry lids

Half fill each pie with the apple mixture. I couldn't decide whether to bake the lids alone or on top of the pies to catch the flavours, so I did a mix.

How To Make Apple Pice Cream ready to go into the oven

Bake the solo lids for approximately 12 minutes and the pies for 15 minutes, or until they're turning golden brown. Don't leave them too long, or the corners of the pastry will dry too much and burn.

Leave to cool just for a couple of minutes, and then the pies should carefully lift straight out by gently holding the pastry corners. 

How To Make Apple Pice Cream out of the oven and cooked

You can clearly see that cooking the lids on the pie does not give as visually attractive a result. The lids can be easily prised out though, and the added appleyness is lovely.

How To Make Apple Pice Cream out of the oven lid removal

Fill with a scoop of ice cream. We ended up with vanilla and chocolate.

How To Make Apple Pice Cream out of the oven ready to add ice cream

 Eat straightaway while the apple is still warm, and the ice cream is still solid..

How To Make Apple Pice Cream out of the oven ready to eat

 And was my 5 year old recipe inventor happy with his Pice Cream?

How To Make Apple Pice Cream ready to eat small boy's delight

Boy eating Pice Cream

Yes he was. Job done.

Link up your recipe of the week

Friday, 8 August 2014

Green Toys Recycled Plastic Cookware And Dining Set Review

This month's Green Toys review is a brilliant Cookware & Dining Set. Suitable for ages 2+, it has 27 pieces which are all made entirely from recycled plastic milk bottles. With place settings for 4 people, plus a frying pan and casserole dish with lid, it has everything your chil(ren) need to cook up some interesting dishes - very interesting in the case of my 4 year old!

Green Toys Recycled Plastic Cookware And Dining Set Review

Jack Daniels Barbeque Sauces

I was sent some of the new Jack Daniel's Barbeque Sauces a little while ago, and they've become such an everyday part of our meals that actually I almost forgot it was a review. 

Available in 5 different flavours, all infused with 1% Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey (not enough to make them an age-restricted product or unsuitable for children). We were sent Hot Pepper Steak Sauce and Extra Hot Habanero Barbeque Sauce to try

Jack Daniel's hot limited edition barbeque sauces review

Hot and spicy foods are popular in my house with my 5 young people. We love a good chilli or curry, and when it's chip night the chilli sauce is there on the table with the ketchup. I did expect these to be a hit with everyone except the two youngest, and they are, but I've actually found them to be incredibly versatile too.