Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Highlights of 2013

2013 has been an interesting year, Nate has gone from a 17 month old to a 2 1/2 year old with his own distinctive personality and lots of creativity. He has begun to tell us stories that he has made up about various objects. 

January he saw snow for the second time but the first time walking in it.

Nate went on a plane twice this year both times visiting family. He enjoyed going to museums...

And breathtaking sights. 

He started to show empathy. Needing his  toy animals to match so "they can hug" 

Started to get involved in ball games and ask to go to the park to play football. 

It is amazing looking back on the pictures from this year and seeing how much he has changed. 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Make your own crackers

One of the things Nate wanted from Poundland was the make your own Christmas cracker set and as someone who likes being creative I was quite happy Nate wanted to something creative. On Christmas morning after opening a couple of presents we started to colour them in and put them together. Nate coloured in a couple, his cousin another two and I was left with a couple to colour in.

We found some stickers in a cupboard and as Nate loves stickers he decided to stick a few on the crackers.

The finished crackers ready to be put on the table. Nate pulled every last one of the crackers with a different person around the table and was left with a jumper full of stickers (the crackers had stickers, a hat and a joke in each one). Some of the bangs didn't work but overall they were great fun to make. 

Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas tree cake

It's been a busy week here and I thought I'd blog about one of the things we made for the Christmas table from Disney - cakes & sweets magazine Christmas special. It came with a tree mould to make a Christmas tree cake, so we decided to make the 3D version.

One of the first things I set about doing after whipping together the mixture, although the mixture didn't quite stretch to two cakes, was making presents to put under the Christmas tree. 

Another little moan about the recipe it called for 1kg of icing sugar and 500g of butter to make butter icing and we using roughly half of the butter icing, so there wasn't quite enough cake mix and we used the icing to hide the lack of cake in the middle at the tip of the tree and way too much butter icing. 

Our finished cake, I made the star freehand as the moulds that came with the magazine weren't deep enough for our liking and the icing was quite difficult to get out of the moulds in one piece. Nate was very impressed with the Christmas tree.

Disclaimer - I didn't use any dairy free alternatives in this cake so Nate wasn't able to try any but you can use dairy-free spread or Trex to make Butter icing so it is dairy free.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas Baking

This weekend we spent a lot of time in the kitchen, we baked biscuits and stollen for Nate's nursery. After the biscuits were baked Nate iced them. I coloured the icing using Baker's Toolkit Paste colours and then let Nate ice the biscuits as he liked. The colours were very vibrant with only a tiny bit of paste and I even mixed some of the colours to get orange and purple. 

Nate really enjoyed icing the biscuits, I had to bake more and make more icing so he could continue icing them. In the end he was also asking for more colours, I originally only gave him pink, blue and green. 

Some of Nate's finished work

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Poundland Christmas Challenge 2013

Poundland recently invited us to take part in their Christmas Challenge in which we had to see how much we could get for Christmas for just £20.

Nate and I had great fun taking part in this challenge. 

Nate's choices of things to were:

Playdough (Hello Kitty)
Cars x 2
Make Your Own Christmas Cracker Kit 
Mickey Mouse Biscuits (Gingerbread)
Blindpacked Christmas figure

Team GB Car 

After Eights x2 (It's Christmas after all and I'm sure one won't make it to Christmas) 
Wrapping Paper x2
A pencil set for presents
Activity books for presents
Make your own festive fancies
Kleenex Balsam Menthol Tissues (Nate's dad gets Hayfever at this time of year)
Clip on Antlers 
A Light Bulb (If a bulb is going to go it will be Christmas morning so good to have a spare.)
Embroidery for kids (present)
Christmas Ice Cube Tray

Something for the train journey back - a couple of drinks (2 for £1) 

Some of Nate's choices were swiftly hidden for his stocking, some didn't quite get moved quick enough for him not to have opened the packaging, hence there being two sets of cars.

There was a great selection of stockings and other stocking fillers, it was quite a hard to choose from the range of Christmas goodies.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Organix Mighty Soups

As part of our lovely bundle of foods from Organix were some Mighty Soups, the Mighty Soup we tried was Sweetcorn and Noodles

At the minute Nate loves sweetcorn so he was really happy to have a soup containing his favourite. As you can see from the picture the soup isn't a smooth soup but one that has bits in, encouraging children to chew. 

It was enjoyed here (I had a little taste and it was nice although a little bland for my adult taste buds) and Nate has his own soup at nursery when the others are having a food he can't have.

Allergy/Intolerance notice
Dairy Free Soups - Tasty Sweetcorn and Noodles
Hearty Root Beans and Veg

Gluten Free
Hearty Root Beans and Veg

None of the soups contain a nut warning although I have not contacted the manufacturer to check they are nut free.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kindle Fire HDX & Paperwhite

Last week I was invited to an event at Maggie and Rose all about the new Kindles. We had a quick demonstration of the Kindle Fire HDX and Paperwhite. I'm a little bit of a gadget geek (little is very likely an understatement) so I really enjoyed having a look and play with these e-readers.

The Paperwhite is perfect as an e-reader for a family with slightly older children (or just the adults) who can read as it has a section of achievements such as having read for 30 minutes everyday for 5 days. It also has a flashcards section where words that were looked up in a book being read are placed to later test their understanding of the words.

We however, chose to play with the Kindle Fire HDX which I think is the better choice if you have smaller (non-reading) children and want something they can explore. Nate has his own profile on the Kindle and it even say's Nate's Kindle in the top left hand corner when his profile is active. There is the option of having up to 4 child profiles on the Kindle, in managing child profile you have the option of limiting the amount of screen time they have, the apps and even the books they can access.

A new update to the Kindle Fire allows you to set Goals and to specify that the Education goal must be reached before playing with other apps. These goals can be in relation to reading or for the younger children playing with an educational app. Also included in this update is the bedtime feature, you can set the hours in which the kindle can work so it will stop working between the hours of 8pm - 8am for example.

One of the first apps downloaded for Nate was the Lego Duplo Train app which has kept Nate very busy. Thomas & Friends is another, it contains a few puzzles and the option of making it harder or easier (the same puzzle but with either 6 pieces or 12). Although I was quite disappointed that the Cbeebies Playtime app wasn't supported by the Kindle Fire HDX (but it is by the Kindle Fire).

I found setting up the children's profile quite easy, although I should mention that Nate's dad struggled as Kindle FreeTime didn't automatically stand out to him as where he would find the 'other' profiles.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Braun Me Time

Last week I was invited to an event promising some pampering 'me' time.

We were welcomed with a glass of Champagne.

Then we had a spot of afternoon tea.

After we had indulged in Champagne and Afternoon Tea we were then treated to a Manicure, and shown the wonders of the Braun SkinSpa Silk Epil 7 which can has the additional Exfoliating brush head. 

It was a great event to catch up with a few of the bloggers I have met in recent months and also to meet a few more. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Immink Kids Hoody Review

We were recently sent a lovely hoody to review from Immink Kids. A few things about Immink: they are a British brand (the clothes are dyed and made in Norfolk) and they use 100% organic cotton in their products. Two very good reasons why we were excited to receive this hoody.

The package came beautifully packaged (unfortunately I was so excited to open it there are no pictures) and inside the hoody was so soft.

I love the contrasting colours and they are colours that work with most outfits. The sizing is very generous so will last easily until Nate is 3.

Overall, we love this hoody and it is the perfect thickness for layering up in the winter and having a thin layer over a t-shirt in spring.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Disney's Frozen

Last night we went to a preview of the new Disney film Frozen 3D. First of all a moan about 3D glasses, they are always too big and fall off. Which makes it hard to enjoy a really good film however, I forgot about the uncomfortable glasses as soon as the film started.

The film had all the elements that make a good Disney film. There are jokes and subtexts as always that go over the heads of young children. There are scary bits for both the young and older audience: Nate found the monster very scary, but loved Olaf the Snowman.

There was also a Q&A session after the film however, Nate was ready to leave so we only got to hear the answers to the first two questions.

But the film made enough of an impression on him that he went on about carrots (used for the snowman's nose) all the way home.

I think it's a film we'll be seeing again at the cinema. It's out at cinemas tomorrow (6th December).

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Minnies Macaroon Review

We were sent a beautifully crocheted hat from Minnies Macaroon to review. It arrived very quickly, it felt like the next day although I think it was two days and I didn't have to tell Nate who it was for.

Nate has recently decided that he doesn't want to wear a hat and as it is slowly getting colder we have been wondering how can we encourage (make) him to wear a hat. I hadn't thought of a novelty hat, as soon as his froggy hat was unwrapped Nate was happy to wear it and go outside, the hat stayed on all day. When he is picked up from nursery he asks for his froggy and happily wears it. The yarn of the hat is soft and the details of the hat don't affect the wearing of it.

The hat is beautifully soft and I adore the detail that has gone into it. Minnies Macaroon stock lots of different character hats and the sizes range from baby all the way up to adult, which is perfect as Nate has nearly lost his hat to an aunty. 

Have a look at their website as there are lots of other nice bits to look at. I have my eye on a hat for myself but secretly wish they made the Mickey Mouse hat in an adult size.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Barbados Independence Day

30th November is Barbados' independence day, my grandmother is from Barbados, and my way of marking independence day is making Conkies. Conkies are a bit like a cake that are steamed (normally in a banana leaf) they are made/eaten as part of independence day celebrations. Although as always we have to make them slightly different, so there is no dairy, egg or nuts in the conkies I made.

Conkies (makes 7)
130g pumpkin (butternut squash)
110g sweet potato
130g desiccated coconut
1/4 cup flour 
1 cup fine cornmeal 
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup of milk (KoKo)
2 tsp of nutmeg
2 tsp of mixed spice
80g raisins (optional)

Grate the pumpkin and sweet potato into a bowl and then mix in the coconut.

Stir in the flour, cornmeal and baking powder. Add in the milk and raisins (if using). Mix together, it should have the consistency of a thick batter.

Get a square of foil roughly 15cm by 8cm (traditionally you would use banana skins), and Add a Dessertspoon and a half of the mixture in the middle of the foil. Wrap up the mixture in the foil and put in a steamer for 25 minutes. Check they are cooked by pushing the package (if they feel firm they are done)

Open up the package and enjoy. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Mothercare 25 sleeps

Last week we were invited to the launch of Mothercare's newly refurbished Oxford Street store. One of the first things we were welcomed with (after a glass of champagne) was a goody bag for Nate, the goody bag was full of bits to eat: crisps, fruit, biscuits and a drink. Nate loved his goody bag and set about eating bits of everything, which was great as I got to look at the lovely store.

The layout of the shop is perfect for popping in for clothes or shoes as these are all on the ground floor with a few toys scattered about as well. However, if you want furniture, pushchairs or other bits you'll have to go downstairs.

Big thanks to Myleene Klass and Mothercare for the Baby K range as there is some lovely clothes for boys that actually stands up to the girls section in terms of choice. I'm a bit of a fan of the Little Bird range as well.

The entertainment for the children consisted of a face painter, a few elves and an appearance of Father Christmas. However, Nate was far more interested in playing with this keyboard/drum.

Love the mini Xmas puddings

Thank you Mothercare for the invite and for both of the lovely goody bags (especially Nate's as it was lovely for him to have something)

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Comfort Food - Banana Jam Roly Poly.

What am I making with these ingredients

While making dumplings for our casserole the other day, I saw the recipe for a Roly Poly. Roly Poly's weren't a childhood staple for me but it made me want to try and make one. What about the filling though, we have lovely Strawberry jam in our fridge that could do but we love bananas here, and I had seen on one of the websites I frequently visit Banana Jam. 

Banana Jam
400g of banana (skins on, roughly 4 smallish bananas not the tiny ones)
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon of Light Muscavado Sugar
1 cup of water (can add more if you want a thinner consistency)
2 teaspoons of Cinnamon (less if you aren't a cinnamon fan)
Pinch of Salt

Cut the bananas up and let them simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.

The more you mush the banana's the thicker the jam will be, I like a smoother jam but left a few chunks as others like chunky jam.

I made the suet up to the recipe on the back for dumplings. I made a slightly bigger batch, so 60g of suet, 120g of flour ( I had plain flour so added a teaspoon of baking powder)

Roll out your suet pastry, & add a layer of your jam the pastry. The right hand edge was left clear as that was used to stick the roly poly together.

Ready to go in the oven.

I baked the Roly Poly at 170 for 30 minutes and made custard using our normal milk (Koko) and birds custard powder. It was a hit here with all of us going back for seconds. There was enough banana jam for jam on toast for breakfast. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Ski holiday

I am the person who is always complaining about being cold; I'd have my electric blanket on all year round, as soon as October starts I'm in thermals. Now there is a chance to be a Mark Warner mum and the options are a skiing holiday or a sun holiday, you'd think I'd want the sun, but no I'd love to go skiing.

When I was offered the chance to go on a ski holiday with school I ummed and ahhed for ages, worrying about the cold. In the end I went and I loved it. I was cold for all of the five minutes it took to walk to the ski lift, once I was on skis I was lovely and toasty. There is of course the necessity to wear layers but I often went out in the evenings in just a windproof jumper (and thermals of course). However, I haven't been skiing since Nate was born or actually ever since meeting Nate's dad. 

Looking back on my skiing holidays, I was always impressed by the little children who would fly down the mountains, think of a motorway (not the M25, or the M1 they are always slow) and the car zooming past in the fast lane doing at least 100MPH that's what these little people were doing. I have always wanted Nate to enjoy skiing and have been planning to take him as soon as he was a good age, but what is a good age? 

This is a debate my friend and I have had since Nate was born, at first she thought 2 was a perfect age to just let them go. I wasn't so sure, but now Nate is two and not that tiny little person I think I'm slowly coming down to 3 (I was previously saying no earlier than 5). I'd love Nate to love skiing and not have the fear I did when beginning, although there is no promises that learning to ski early will protect you from the fear.

The thing about a ski holiday is that it's not just about sitting down doing nothing, it's about having fun and the best bits about the ski holidays were always the fun on the way up the mountain and what we did after skiing. Now I have no reason to believe Nate wouldn't love skiing, knowing him I'd have trouble getting him off the mountain at the end the day, but even if it's not his favourite there is always something else to do. We'd live for the Hot Chocolate at lunch, there is nothing better than sitting at the 'top' of a mountain with your sunglasses on and lovely warm cup of hot chocolate.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Advent Calendar

This year will be Nate's first time having an advent calendar, and it'll be a homemade one. There are a lack of good pictures of the advent calendar as Nate insisted on it going in his tent and then either laying on top of it or hiding under it. It is also not 100% finished, at the minute it doesn't have his name on it.

All of the numbers are in order unlike most advent calendars this was mainly to make it easier for Nate to get the right present and also so he can learn the number orders.

It makes a perfect blanket to hide under

What am I going to put in each of the pockets? Well every day there will be two little chocolates and a sticker. I found some lovely scratch and sniff stickers in one of our local shops. Nate loves his stickers so will love having a sticker everyday. For the weekend days he also has another little present such as a little puzzle from Tiger Stores(£1 each). 

As Nate is dairy free, I have been making little advent chocolates in non-advent shapes (Dr Who) from his favourite dark chocolate. These were made using the Chocolate mould from lakeland. 

Dr Who Advent chocolates

As Nate is a bit of a Who fan & the Doctor Who Magazine had a advent calendar as their free gift, Nate also has a Dr Who figurine for each day of advent.

We're starting to get a bit excited now.

Monday, 25 November 2013

BritMums Xmas

A picture post, there were so many lovely things and people, so I thought I'd leave the pictures to do all the talking.

A tip for those who are dairy free, put lard instead of butter under the skin of the turkey or a little olive oil (be careful with olive oil don't go mad)