Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Saying Goodbye to Ella - Finding My New Normal

When I think back to when Ella was a baby, I conjure up wonderful images of a delicate, golden haired child with an open and engaging smile that radiated beauty and warmth, lighting up any room.  Now she is 18, her smile still has the same effect.  Ella shines with a glow that quite literally lights up our lives. 

Ella was born at a time when I was still reeling from the devastation of losing my eldest sister.  Before she died, I told her that I was pregnant and that my baby girl would have her name as her middle name.  I'm so glad she knew, even though she never got to meet her niece.  It was so hard knowing that I had created a new life as my sister's life was ebbing away, but carrying a new baby brought me some comfort and I felt that a part of my sister, some of her spark, had become a part of my unborn child.

This weekend, Ella will be leaving to go to university, and left behind will be an Ella shaped hole.  However, we will be filling that hole with our pride and love and giving Ella all our support and positive energy as she embarks on this big adventure.

She has grown up to be a most wonderful daughter and an amazing friend to me and to her siblings.  She is such a calming influence on everyone and she possesses such natural empathy that she knows exactly what to do and say in any situation.  Her little brother Freddy and sister Kizzy adore her and are going to miss their big sister dreadfully. I have never seen siblings as close and the bond shared between them is something very special and so precious.

Ella will be studying Criminology and Psychology in Manchester, the city that my eldest daughter Megan has made her home.  It's such a comfort for me to know that my girls will be near each other and there for each other. As a family, we love Manchester and fully intend to make many visits to see both of our grown-up girls. 

As Ella forges her path into the big wide world, I will have to become accustomed to a whole new normal. We've enjoyed some wonderful quality time together these last few weeks, shopping, lunching and watching trashy films before doing the afternoon school run together.  It's been lovely for me to have her around.  She is great company.

  Ella is my third child to fly the nest and I will be left with just two of my little chicks living at home. I'm sure the house will feel disproportionately quieter and emptier without Ella in it.  I'll miss the sound of her singing and  playing the guitar (thank goodness for her YouTube channel) and I'll miss spending the evenings watching and discussing our favourite TV shows together. (Although we do have some Skype plans in place for the season finales of our favourite shows!)   However, knowing that Ella will be making a brand new life for herself is just so exciting.  I want her to grow her wings and fly out into the world of opportunities and fulfill her potential. I know how much fun and how many adventures lie in store for her. It's just that I will miss her...that's all.

I'm sure it will take me longer to adapt to my new normal than it takes Ella to adapt to student life, but I know that we all have so much to look forward to.  This is yet another step on our family journey and I couldn't be prouder of having such an intelligent, beautiful, loving and talented daughter.

"Good luck Ella.  You have done us all proud and we adore you.  Go rock Manchester!"

growing up, daughter

BEAR - Save Our Paws Campaign

BEAR is celebrating its 5th birthday and has decided to do something rather wonderful.  They are teaming up with the WWF, working together to protect some of the world's most endangered paws...those of the six species of bear that are under threat of extinction.  

BEAR, present

For every special WWF pack of Paws purchased, BEAR will donate 5p (and 25p from multipacks).  This money will go directly towards helping the endangered bears and their habitats. Four of the bears will be featured on the special pack fronts: Spectacled, Sloth, Panda and Polar Bears.  I love the artwork, the bears look so adorable and you know that every purchase is going to help them.

BEAR sent us a party box so we could find out more about the endangered bears and the campaign with the WWF to Save Our Paws.  Freddy loves the Spectacled Bear most of all (no surprise that we was drawn to one that looks like he is wearing glasses!) and has made a badge to show his support for the campaign.  It is so sad to think that these unique and iconic species of bear are under threat, but  I applaud BEAR for working to protect them.  It really is the perfect partnership.

BEAR, bears

BEAR hopes to engage and educate children about the world around them and about the wonderful creatures that we share our planet with.  Through the partnership with the WWF, kids can understand that we can make a difference as the campaign raises both funds and awareness for this vital conservation work.


BEAR fruit Paws are pure fruit shapes made from gently baked fruit picked in season, and never from concentrates, they contain no added sugar, preservatives or stabilisers. They are available in four tasty recipes- ‘Dino’ Paws (strawberry & apple), ‘Jungle’ Paws (apple & blackcurrant), ‘Arctic’ paws (raspberry & blueberry) and ‘Safari’ paws (orange and strawberry).  They are perfect for lunchboxes and after school treats!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Half Price Bargains from TalkTalk Mobile

TalkTalk Mobile customers can take advantage of some excellent savings this month, perfect for those with children heading off to college or university.  Until September 30th customers can get half price bargains from some of the best brands including Samsung, Sony and LG.  TalkTalk are making it so much easier and more affordable to stay in touch, allowing parents to kit out their kids while cutting their costs.

TalkTalk customers can get the Samsung Galaxy Fame from just £3.75 and the brand new Nokia 630 from just £5 a month. Customers can also get half price tablet and mobile bundles, ideal for back to school starting from just £7.50 a month.  These bargains are on offer until the end of the month, so be quick if you want the biggest brands at the lowest prices.

TalkTalk Mobile give their customers a heap of benefits, so you can be confident that you are saving money without compromising on service.  

TalkTalk Mobile

Find out more at :

Proud TalkTalk Family Blogger

The Furchester Hotel - Open for Business

Coming to CBeebies at the end of this month is the exciting new series for children aged 3-6 years, The Furchester Hotel.  Starring Elmo and the Cookie Monster along with the Furchester family and a host of other lovable characters, the series is made in partnership with Sesame Workshop.

CBeebies, Sesame Workshop

Back in May, we visited CBeebies Studios in Salford to find out about more about the show and to watch the filming of an episode of The Furchester Hotel.  

Sesame Street, Furchester Hotel

The show is set in The Furchester Hotel where a family of close-knit, chaotic monsters welcome their guests and bend over backwards to meet their every need.  Mum Funella, dad Fergus and their daughter Phoebe work alongside cousin Elmo, waiter and room service guy the Cookie Monster and the furry bell monster, Isabelle to ensure everything runs smoothly.  

But they do run into problems!  For example how do you disguise a pony who checks in for a quiet break? Where is the perfect place to put a very fussy plant? What happens when Super Rock appears and needs a new super hero cape? How can they stop Cookie Monster from eating the giant cookie guest Mr. Crumb? 

The Furchester family approach every problem with determination and resolve in order to keep their guests happy and devise a solution for every situation. Even when they think they have exhausted all the possibilities, their perseverance prevails because their family motto is, “A Furchester never gives up!”

CBeebies, Furchester Hotel, Sesame Street

We were able to watch an unfinished episode that featured some singing vegetables!  Freddy loved it and thought the characters were adorable and fun.  Then we went to see the show being filmed.  Seeing the puppeteers in action in the beautifully crafted sets was really incredible.

The very best part of the day was when the children got to meet the characters!  They swept in to the room and chatted, hugged and played with us all.  It was magical!

Furchester Hotel

The puppeteers are real artistes who breathe life into the array of fantastic puppets, giving them all a personality and a voice.  Hearing the familiar sound of the Cookie Monster and Elmo as they chatted to Kizzy and Freddy left me a little starstruck!!

Furchester Hotel, Sesame Street

We had a great day at the CBeebies studios and got a real insight into The Furchester Hotel.  I love the message of inclusivity and optimism, the uplifting use of fun-filled music and the colourful characters and elaborate sets. We will definitely be looking out for it when it appears on our screens on September 26th at 5pm.

The Furchester Hotel, Sesame Street

Monday, 15 September 2014

Trackside Fun with Bigjigs #PlayPatrol

We are huge fans of the Bigjigs road and railway sets.  The beautifully crafted wooden pieces are the tools to unleash a child's imagination as they create their own miniature world complete with tracks, roads and vehicles.  Like tiny town planners, children can make a fully functional transport network, add houses, shops, zebra crossings, bridges, roundabouts and even recycling plants!

Freddy received a Bigjigs Trackside Accessory Set to test out for his latest Play Patrol mission.  The set contains 34 wooden pieces such as workers, shoppers, farm animals, vehicles, houses and trees.  It makes the perfect addition to his road and railway sets, as he can use the figures and vehicles as props for adding an extra element of story telling to his games.  The fireman, the policeman, the nurse and the builder become the everyday heroes in Freddy's little world, while the cars, ambulance, fire engine and police vehicle whizz around the roads on their travels.  An imaginative story unravels as he explores the day to day adventures in his Bigjigs town.

Bigjigs, railway

Freddy used the accessory set alongside his figure of eight road set.  The extra people, buildings and vehicles added to the play value, allowing Freddy to make an elaborate set up.  He enjoyed making up a story involving a pig that got run over by a car that came flying over the bridge (typical Freddy). The policeman, the nurse and the fireman came to the rescue so it all ended well!!

train track, Bigjigs

The wooden accessories develop a child's dexterity and coordination and spark creativity and imagination through play.  The figures and vehicles are also great tools for counting, matching, comparing and for encouraging conversation.  A child's vocabulary can be enhanced by discussing the various animals, the jobs done by the characters, the shops and the types of vehicles.  There is so much to look at and talk about in the busy town set up.

Bigjigs, wooden toys

Freddy's verdict on his new toy was that it was "awesome!"  He loved being able to extend his play and enjoyed arranging everything exactly how it wanted it.  The scope for imaginative play was increased by having the extra accessories to use in his games.  He made a tower block out of the individual shops.  He used the people as skittles, knocking them down with his cars! He made some of his characters into superheroes flying over his town and he raced the cars against each other.  He had so much fun!

The Bigjigs Trackside Accessory Set is available on the Bigjigs website for £20.49 and is compatible with all road and rail sets from Bigjigs and other major wooden railway brands.  It's a great add on set to engage young minds for hours of imaginative play.

wooden toys, Bigjigs

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Benefits of Chia Seeds

Having been vegetarian for 14 years, we have enjoyed discovering many new and interesting whole foods along the way.  One of our latest discoveries is Chia Seeds, a small tasteless seed that can be sprinkled onto cereals or yogurt, used in salads, added to smoothies and shakes, used in porridge or baked into cookies, muffins or bread. I throw a spoonful into many meals I cook to give them a nutritional boost.

One tablespoon of chia provides 100% of your Omega 3 requirement, provides fibre for healthy digestion and also gives a source of sustained energy, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and protein. They are nutrient dense and non-allergenic. The seeds swell up when in contact with a liquid so will swell in your stomach, keeping you feeling fuller for longer (great when you are trying to cut down on calories).  It's no surprise that they have been hailed as a superfood.

The Chia Co have recognised the benefits of incorporating chia seeds into the diets of children to give them a healthy start to the day, especially now with start of the new school year.  By giving kids  a healthy, nutrient packed breakfast they will be less likely to snack on 'junk' food.  This will help tackle the issues of childhood obesity and reduce the consumption of refined sugars. Adding chia seeds to children's diet is a simple way to give them a real nutritional boost. Even if you have a child with a small appetite, the seeds will provide a rich dose of essential nutrients in just one spoonful. They are a pure and 'clean' food, which is completely natural and free from the nasties associated with processed foods.

To encourage children to eat chia seeds, The Chia Co have come up with some dairy free, vegan breakfast products, Chia Pods and Oats + Chia, which are a great way to get kids to enjoy a healthy start to the day. I received some samples to try.

the chia co, chia seeds

Chia Pods are ready to eat pots of chia seeds and coconut milk naturally flavoured with fruit; banana, mango or blueberry, or with vanilla bean and coconut sugar.  They are conveniently packaged in individual pots with a spoon in the lid, so they can be enjoyed on the go or popped in a lunchbox. They are mild tasting and naturally sweetened, and have the consistency of a thick jelly and resemble tapioca pudding in appearance.  There is a slightly crunchy texture, as you eat the Chia Pods, from the seeds. Chia Pods are quite an unusual product in both texture and appearance, and in such may take some getting used to.  But the wholesome ingredients and convenience makes them well worth a try.  Each pot contains 100% of your daily intake of Omega 3 and 25% of your fibre.

the chia co, chia seeds

Oats + Chia are individual single serve sachets of wholegrain oats, sun-ripened chia, real fruit and coconut oil.  You just add 120 ml of hot water to make a hearty, fruity porridge.  It comes in Banana and Mango, Mixed Berry and Apple Spice flavours.  

chia seeds, porridge

The porridge is thick with a lovely texture and the fruit bits add a juicy burst of flavour.  Perfect as the weather starts to change, giving a great, wholesome and nutrient packed start to the day.  I loved the convenience of being able to make such a nutritious porridge in super quick time and the fruity flavours were a big hit.

the chia co, chia seeds, wholefood

Chia Seeds make you feel better on the inside, giving you more energy and providing lots of your daily intake of nutrients.  Eating one of The Chia Co breakfast products or sprinkling the seeds onto or into your own dishes, gives your family's diet a real boost. 

Chia Pods are £2.59 each and are available from selected Tesco and Costco stores. Oats + Chia are £5.00 for a five pack and are available from Ocado.  150g packs of white or black Chia Seeds are £4.79 each from selected Tesco and Costco stores.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Banana and Date Loaf Recipe

Banana and Date Loaf  is a great recipe for using up over ripe bananas.   So when we were left with a fruit bowl full of brown spotty bananas, it was the perfect choice!  The fruit make the cake so moist and the dates give an indulgent almost fudge-like flavour. A sprinkle of demerara sugar on top gives a crunchy sweet crust that is delicious.

cake, recipe


100g Kerrygold* block butter cut into cubes
225g self raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
125g stoned chopped Medjool dates
2 ripe bananas mashed
2 free range eggs
2 tblspn maple syrup
1 tblspn demerara sugar

cake recipe


Line a 2lb loaf tin with a greaseproof paper liner.
Rub butter and flour together.
Stir in caster sugar, dates, banana, beaten eggs and maple syrup to make a soft batter.
Spoon into tin.
Sprinkle demerara sugar over the top.
Cook in a pre-heated oven at GM3 for 1 hour.

*Kerrygold is having an exciting makeover for 8 weeks from October 1st, as Orla Kiely has redesigned the packaging giving it an iconic new look.  Inspired by the colour palette of a lush Irish meadow, the use of faun, green and cream complements Kerrygold's iconic green and gold signature colours.

In addition, Kerrygold is offering the chance to win Orla Kiely kitchen items every week as part of an on pack promotion running across the limited edition packs. These prizes include cake stands, butter dishes and cake tins which can be won by visiting the Kerrygold UK Facebook page (

We received a voucher for a pack of Kerrygold butter to use in this recipe.


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