Saturday, 30 November 2013

My first Spa Day...

Sad to say I've managed to last this long without ever visiting a spa, but today I did and it was worth the wait. Andrex sent a group of bloggers for a spa day at the Last Drop Hotel and Spa in Bolton because they felt Mums deserve a day off....well, thank you! It was just lovely...I was extra lucky as my daughter got to go with us because of a last minute drop out. It's her birthday on Monday and we rarely get any time together without the boys, so it was very special.


We all donned the traditional attire and were taken on a little look around, told where to go for our treatments and left to it. After 1/2 an hours coffee, introductions and catch up people started going for treatments. I was one of the first and having a facial.


The facial was lovely and the Beauty Therapist was a really chatty but relaxing. Chilled and smelling of the delicious Neroli Oil we went down to try out the pools....


It was an absolutely gorgeous clear day for once and the infinity pool outside meant I could take some really amazing shots! On Friday I received a waterproof LifeProof case for my phone to review - or I wouldn't have taken my phone in the water...





It was a lovely day and I think this photo of my daughter sums it up beautifully....



We were sent to have a day off at The Last Drop Hotel And Spa by Andrex - thank you!

Duck Tape Colours Christmas Crafts

I actually love Duck tape Colours. That's probably a confession I'll regret, but it's totally true.


I think my love affair started back in 1998 when I ran a parent and toddler group and stupidly raised enough cash to buy a little bouncy castle. Within 6 months it was almost entirely made of various shades of duck tape and was pretty much bombproof. I've used it to fix everything from jackets and chairs to Christmas trees and bag straps.

When I was given the opportunity to review I got quite excited. I told my partner and he got excited. We're a good match.

Duck tape can fix just about anything, but it isn't only useful for fixing things, you can also make things - loads of things. The new and extensive range of 15 Duck Tape Colours rolls makes it even easier and more effective.

Penguin Duck Tape

I first saw these Christmas trees a while ago, and it was a natural choice at this time of year. I can't credit the originator because I have no way of knowing who first made them.

Duck Tape Colours UK

The cone is any card or thick paper you might have. No-one sees it, so mine is pre-loved. Cut 'not quite' a semi circle and then fasten the two edges together - with a little tape naturally.


You make the 'branches' by ripping off a rectangular piece and forming the triangle shapes that have a strip of tape along one side.


Then you cover your cone starting at the bottom.


Each layer covers the imperfections in the layer before it.


When you've made your tree, you need to decorate it....well, I think so anyway. Apparently most of the internet doesn't agree, so ideas are far and few between. I decided I wanted garlands. Paper chains seemed very possible.


Tear off thin strips, or cut, then fold each one nearly in half, so a bit of sticky is still there, and fasten each one into ring connecting with the one before until you have a chain long enough to decorate the tree.

Mini Paper Chain Duck Tape

Add some baubles and voila...

Christmas Tree from Duck Tape

While I was doing that, one of the kids picked up the tape and made these tiny roses....

Duck tape tiny flowers

I'm stunned, they're gorgeous and took only a few minutes. There's definitely a natural talent there that we've never noticed before... I've put the white rose onto white paper so that you can see the detail..


If you want to find out if your children have a natural talent with Duck Tape, or make your very own Christmas Tree, or any of the millions of other things possible, then Duck Tape retails at around £6.00 for a 9m roll and is available on Amazon and nationwide. The Duck Tape Website has a Ducktivities section with loads of inspiration and 'how-to' make all sorts of things including handbags and wallets, bows and Christmas Wreaths.

ET Speaks From Home has some more craft ideas on her blog post here..
 

Red Rose Mummy


Friday, 29 November 2013

F&F Children's Winter Clothes

I've bought my children clothes from Tesco since they first started producing them. The clothes have always been excellent quality, great fun and really well priced. My little boys now still have some F&F clothes that were bought for their older brothers 15 years ago that haven't gone out of fashion or worn out at all.


I was given the opportunity choose an outfit from their Autumn and Winter collection, and I let my 5 year old choose for himself because he's very particular about what he wears. I think he made a good choice!


He chose a great pair of Jersey Lined Dark Wash Slim Fit Jeans at £10 and a fantastic green Reindeer Jumper also at £10. 



The jeans have the jersey lining throughout, so they're lovely and warm for Winter. The jumper is 100% acrylic, soft and cosy, ideal for wearing with a shirt underneath.


He's VERY pleased with them! 


Both items can be machine washed and are available in Tesco stores
 and from Tesco Online

F&F have a huge range of clothes and accessories including shoes, underwear and school wear, and online most things are available year round, so you don't have to wait until June to buy a swimming costume or August to buy school uniform. This year they also have a great collection of Christmas jumpers to suit everyone - so we can all have a reindeer jumper!


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Warburtons Christmas Facebook Competition

Warburtons are a very local company to me, and pretty much the only bread anyone round here will eat. Thankfully that's not in any way an issue, as their breads, crumpets, teacakes and the rest of their range are delicious.

For our Bloggers Night In last weekend the Northerners among us had hoped to be able to introduce the Southerners to Warburtons, but events were against us and although they sent a gorgeous hamper, it spent the weekend locked in a warehouse....boohoo...


It arrived on Monday, so Eileen from ET Speaks From Home and her family had a couple of days feast, and they went around all of their neighbours giving out what they wouldn't be able to eat or freeze so that not a single slice was wasted.

Warburtons are really getting into the spirit of things this Christmas with specially designed festive wrapping and a competition hosted on their Facebook page.

To launch the competition they built the UK's first baked Christmas Tree on London's South Bank. Standing over 12 feet tall it took 50 hours to build and comprises 2500 pieces of bread, pancakes, crumpets and wraps.


Between now and Christmas they will show several photographs of the tree with a gift beneath it, and their Facebook fans can guess what the gift is for a chance to win it. Simple!

Personally, I'd be happy enough to win the tree - it'd do the sandwiches for my lot for the next couple of weeks at least...



Birth Should Be About Life ~ mothers2mothers

When I was a child I remember saying to my parents that I was really lucky to have been born where I was and not in Africa. I don't think they really understood, they thought I was just saying one of those things children say that doesn't make sense to adults, but I've never forgotten it.

I was referring to famine and starvation at the time, and as I've grown and had my own 5 children I am even more grateful for them that we haven't ever had to struggle to eat.

Sub-Saharan Africa has another problem affecting young children, and that's paediatric HIV. In the global North transmission from mother to child is virtually unheard of because it's entirely preventable, but in Sub-Saharan Africa HIV positive Mothers are stigmatised and ostracised and left to try and cope alone. The result is that 600 babies every day are needlessly infected with HIV.  A little education and support is what makes all the difference...


The maternal health charity mothers2mothers have already reached out to over 1 million pregnant women and their babies are HIV negative. Birth should be about life, it's something most of us can take for granted, it'd be so much better if they could too.

Find out more about the work of mothers2mothers on their website and join in the conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #PreventBabyHIV

Sunday December 1st is World Aids Day. Prevention and education is better than hoping for a cure.



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Bloggers Night In ~ Cotton On Tour 2013

Just over a year ago I became part of a group of reviewers for Izziwizzi Kids and Playfest. Sadly Playfest is no longer with us, but some of the group ended up in an offshoot group of 13, which we called 'Cotton On' for some obscure and lengthy reasons.

Several of us were very new to public blogging, and certainly had no understanding of statistics, analytics and communities we could join, so the more experienced bloggers taught us tons and saved us having to spend 3 days a week on Google or make any major terrible faux pas (I hope). We've all checked Rafflecopters and informed one another when we've misspelt our blog post titles or referred to completely the wrong person.

We've become really close and the group has supported each other through all kinds of disasters and life events. We've helped restore blogs and unlock dashboards, move people to self-hosted and give second opinions on things our kids have said or done. They were the people who were there for me at 2am and 6am when my my partner was seriously ill with Meningitis and I was scared and alone.

We decided we wanted to meet up. We're from all over the UK, so normally it would never happen. We made it happen.

Sadly we couldn't all make it, but 10 of us could...and on Saturday we all descended on Eileen...


Left to right....
Fiona from Mummy's Little Stars
Eileen from ET Speaks From Home
Mary from Over 40 And A Mum To One
Anna from In The Playroom
Pippa from RedRoseMummy
Me!
Zoe from My Mummy's World
Tina from The Soup Dragon Says
Angela from Life Of Spicers
Tami from Mummy Of Two


It was amazing to meet so many people who I've known so well for so long and we had an absolutely fantastic time. We played games and handed out Secret Santa gifts and talked until the small hours. 


No children, but we were still all up by 7.30am Sunday morning ready for a smashing full English breakfast at Frankie and Benny's.


It was the first time I've ever left my lot overnight - the littlest one was born at home so I didn't even go into hospital then - I have to admit it was a real break from being full on Mummy and I really did relax and enjoy myself.


We took the opportunity while we were all there as a group having our party to look at a few new things, so with a lot of hard work and effort - and hardly any of it was me - we had snacks and drinks and entertainment for all, and fantastic goodie bags to take home...

Thank you ladies for travelling all those miles, and thank you Eileen, for letting us all into your immaculate home! And hopefully if we ever do it again - we'll be joined by the 3 who couldn't make it this time - Kel from Writings, Ramblings And Reviews, Laura from Yummy Mummy Flabby Tummy and Anthea from Blue Bear Wood.


Frankie and Benny's kindly gave us a voucher towards the cost of our breakfast

The Magic Tooth Fairy Game from Drumond Park ~ Review and Giveaway


We were sent The Magic Tooth Fairy Game to review a little while ago and it's become an instant hit. It has magic and excitement and my little boys love it. Neither of them have lost any baby teeth yet - but they'll certainly know what to do when it happens!


You each have a mouth with 4 'removable' teeth and a little character playing piece. Your playing piece travels around the board using a spinner to decide how many squares you move each turn, and you follow the instructions on the squares that you land on. First you need to get a wobbly tooth, then you need to see if it is ready to come out or not using the Fairy Dice. If it is then you pop it in your backpack and wait until you land on 'go to bed'.



When you go to bed you have to spin the spinner again to see if you remembered to put the tooth under your pillow. If you did then that's exactly what you do! Put the tooth under your pillow and the tooth fairy visits while you sleep, replacing your tooth with a shiny gold coin.


The game has a fantastic little bed at it's centre, which is where the magic occurs. My boys think this is brilliant. They can't work out why the tooth turns into a coin, even though they've inspected the bed at length.



The game is quick and fun. You need to lose all 4 teeth and replace them with coins to win, but everyone feels like a winner, because everyone has gold coins and the use of 3D objects and the magic bed make it really attractive to children.

 

It's excellent for teaching very young children about turn taking, counting and reading numbers to 4, and recognising the 3 different instructions written on the squares on the board.


The Magic Tooth Fairy Game is by Drumond Park and has a recommended retail price of £19.99. It is suitable for 2-4 players and recommended for children aged 5+, although my 3 3/4 year old is very capable of joining in - he does sometimes stop play so that he can inspect the bed again though!

Drumond Park kindly gave away a copy of the game to one of my readers. The competition closed at midnight on Saturday 14th December 2013

Monday, 25 November 2013

Home Made Fudge

Fudge is something that's really expensive to buy and incredibly popular, but actually not too hard to make yourself, and if you do, then you can flavour it with whatever you choose.

I had to provide a Secret Santa present at the weekend for the gorgeous and very lovely Tami from Mummy Of Two. Our budget was a fiver, and I decided I wanted to make her something nice. I've not made fudge since last Christmas, but it instantly came to mind.

I'd seen a very simple recipe using condensed milk on the Carnation website, so I used that.

Ingredients

  • 397g can Condensed Milk
  • 150ml milk
  • 450g demerara sugar
  • 115g butter
You will also need a 20cm square tin lined with baking paper - I found actually that gave a really fairly deep fudge, although it really doesn't matter as you'll usually cut it up to suit anyway. 

Method


All of the ingredients go into a saucepan together - non-stick is best, but I don't have one and mine was absolutely fine. Heat until dissolved, stirring all of the time to stop it burning. 


Bring to the boil and then simmer gently. The recipe says 10-15 minutes, but actually I found when I simmered it for 15 minutes it ended up very dry and a bit crumbly, although quite like Scottish tablet. My second batch I simmered for around 5 minutes and stopped when it reached a good thick consistency that was still slightly syrupy. You MUST stir it carefully right to all of the corners the entire time or it'll just burn to the pan. Be really careful not to splash as the sugary mixture is incredibly hot, will immediately stick to your skin and makes for a nasty burn.

For fudge to work properly it has to be heated to 118 degrees. You can test that it has heated enough by dropping a small drop into cold water, where it should form into a fudgey ball, but it's easier with a thermometer.


Oxo had recently asked me if I wanted to review anything else, and remembering a few previous fudge disasters where ours had not heated enough and had turned out really not very well with masses of crunchy sugar crystals, I contacted them to ask for a thermometer.
 

I chose a very specific Digital Instant Read Thermometer as it has a huge temperature range (from -40 degrees to 302 degrees F / -40 degrees to 150 degrees C) and is therefore suitable for meat as well as jams and fudge. I don't cook meat very often, so I always panic about it being properly cooked through and end up hacking it to death looking for pink bits before I serve up. With Christmas looming, and the likelihood of huge joints of meat going into the oven, I don't want any of my family to add to the food poisoning statistics and spoil their Christmas.

After your fudge has heated enough and you've simmered it, stirring all of the time, comes the hard work. To make your fudge creamy and light you now need to beat it. The better a job you do here, the smoother your fudge will be. It's a good workout for your arms! 


To make life easier, and the job much quicker, you can actually swap your wooden spoon for a balloon whisk - I was previously sent an Oxo Silicone Balloon Whisk which can withstand temperatures of up to 600oF/315oC, so it's perfect for the job. Because it's silicone, it's also incredibly easy to clean - the cooled fudge just falls off when you shake the whisk or tap it on the counter. 


When your arms feel like lead weights and the fudge is fudgey but still pourable is time to add any extras before pouring it all into your lined tin and smoothing the top and putting to set.

To my first batch I added dried cranberries and white chocolate. The chocolate is going to melt, so it's easy to stir into your fudge, not so easy to leave chunky. I tried lining my tin with chunks of chocolate and then when the fudge had cooled enough I jabbed chunks into it. It doesn't look very neat and didn't really work, not exactly a success, but certainly not a failure - after all it's fudge and white chocolate however it's presented!


To my second batch I added a teaspoon of vanilla paste - the equivalent of around 1 vanilla pod. I split it and added chopped pecans to one half, leaving the other half nut free in case Tami wants to give any to her little one. Because this fudge was cooler by the time I poured it into the tin it was virtually impossible to get a neat surface, but as I'm cutting it up you'll never tell.


I put it in an airtight tin overnight and next day cut it all into cubes and we kept the offcuts....


And Tami gets the neat bits....


Fudge will keep at it's best for around 3 weeks in a cool place in an airtight container - so it makes an excellent Christmas gift, but don't make more than a few days before you gift it!