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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Packed Lunch Inspiration - #HartleysYourLunchbox Challenge

As the summer holidays draw to an end, I am preparing for my children's return to school. That means getting back into our routines and getting myself organised.

As Freddy is starting Year 3 in September, he no longer gets a free school lunch so making packed lunches is back on the list of things to do. It is important that he gets a nutritious, yummy lunch that will fill him up but is still easy for me to make in the morning.

Britmums and Hartley's are challenging bloggers to come up with some ideas for quick, easy and nutritious lunchbox suggestions.  Hartley's currently have a special promotion on their pots of No Added Sugar Jelly Pots, where you can collect 12 special edition green lids to claim a free lunchbox and some funky stickers to personalise it! Find out more at www.hartleysfruit.co.uk.


lunchbox

Hartley's


Here are some of my top tips for packed lunches:


  • Freddy isn't always the biggest fan of sandwiches. He gets easily bored with eating the same food day in, day out, so we like to offer him alternatives to bread. One of his favourites is corn cakes. Topped with a dairy based spread (such as cream cheese and mushroom pate) and some veggies such as sweetcorn, chopped cherry tomato or red pepper, they are a tasty, filling alternative to a cheese butty! Wrapped in foil, they survive in a lunchbox pretty well.


lunchbox



  • Make it fun!  We don't all have the time or inclination in the morning to create an elaborate Pokemon themed bento lunch for our little ones. However, anyone can take a minute to write a message on a banana! Or add a little note written on a napkin to let your child know you're thinking of them on their first days back. A personal touch like that can help with your child's confidence and remind them of home.



  • Add two or their five a day to their lunchbox or it's difficult to be sure they get enough fruit and vegetables in their diet. Fresh fruit or salad is great at lunchtime: plums, bananas, a pot of grapes or strawberries, a box of raisins, carrot and cucumber sticks or a small green salad are healthy additions. Add some chopped veggies to a sandwich, pitta or wrap filling or cracker topping. A smoothie is another good way of adding to their daily fruit and veg quota.



  • Add a treat!  Hartley's sugar free jelly is convenient, refreshing and flavoursome. It is suitable for vegetarians too. Just don't forget a spoon! 



  • Keep kids hydrated by including a bottle of water with their lunch. Our tap water is not great where we live so we use mineral water instead. Buying individual bottles is a really expensive way of doing it. Buy a big 2 l bottle (35p in Lidl) and pour it into a refillable, sports top drinking bottle and save a fortune across the school year.



  • Buy a small flask and give the children a hot lunchtime meal of soup. A good chunky vegetable or tomato soup and a brown bread roll is perfect for when the weather gets a bit colder.




This post is an entry for Britmums #HartleyYourLunchbox Linky challenge sponspored by Hartley's Jelly.



Friday, 19 August 2016

Back to School with Poundland - great value stationery for students from infants to university

September is fast approaching, which means that the children will soon be heading back to school for the new academic year. It has become a ritual in our household to go shopping the week before school to buy the kids some brand new stationery to start the term, and they enjoy picking out the latest colourful pens, pencils and pencil cases.

Poundland has sent us some of their back to school range to try out. They have products suitable for infant school right through to university. With everything costing just £1, it makes it easy to budget. The range has plenty of appeal, with colourful, vibrant designs adding a fun element to education.

stationery, back to school


For the older kids there are some excellent Nu branded products including their binder folders, perfect for keeping A4 notes well organised. The range accompanies a free app - Nu Notes allowing you to capture, store and organise handwritten memos. You can scan, save and share notes through a unique interface on Android smartphones and iPhones.  The revision cards are very useful, helping you to memorise those all important facts for exams.

Poundland has some really fun products to inspire younger children including their highlighters which look like cosmetic items. The nail varnish and lipstick styled highlighters are fun and quirky. They also have a really funky neon range to add some brightness to the school day.

There are lots of craft, colouring and sticker sets featuring children's film and TV favourites such as Peppa Pig, Spiderman, Finding Dory, The Lion Guard and The Secret Life of Pets. They are perfect for keeping little ones entertained, and are great as the summer holidays come to an end to keep children busy.

For budding artists, Poundland has lots of crafty products including a range of ready mixed paints. The metallic paints come in handy resealable pouches and are ready to use to create some lovely shiny pictures.

Poundland is great value all year round and is the place to shop for lots of back to school essentials. Whatever age your child is, from infants through to university students, Poundland can supply their stationery needs.

                   

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Play Factore - a fun day out for the family in Manchester

Visitors to Trafford Quays in Manchester may well be familiar with the iconic Chill Factor building. Based underneath this is the UK's leading indoor play arena, Play Factore, a state of the art play centre for families to enjoy together. We were invited along to their Summer Holiday Play Factore Rio 2016 event and were thrilled to be able to experience this fun filled venue for ourselves.

Entering Play Factore, I was taken aback by the sheer scale of the play equipment from the UK's largest play frame, complete with tunnels, slides, obstacles and an integral sports pitch to the  40 metre long big red slide, which is Europe's largest. Laser tag, go karts and a zip wire, that runs right across the building, add to the entertainment. A dedicated Toddler Area gives a safe place for the under 5's to enjoy.

The staff at the venue were all so welcoming, enthusiastic and warm and clearly passionate about working at the Play Factore. The atmosphere was buzzing.

play arena


Play Factore is a place where children can burn off all their excess energy and test themselves physically on the play equipment. They can find different routes through the play frame, climbing up netting, clambouring over giant balls and crawling through tunnels. The maze like nature of the play frame keeps it exciting every time you enter.

The play frame is for children aged 5 - 16 years old, but adults are also allowed on to play, which is lovely for families who want to have fun together. Teens have as much fun as the little ones. The big red slide is the thrilling finale with four lanes for whizzing down at the same time. Perfect for a family race. For grown-ups who would rather leave the playing to the kids, there is plenty of seating to relax with a coffee.

                            


The zip wire is a really cool activity for ages 6 - 16 years old, available during peak times at the venue. The wire runs from a tower at one side of the play arena, over the heads of other customers and coming to a stop at the landing pad on the other side of the building. The zip line team give children a full briefing and make sure everyone is safe and secure.

Freddy, who can sometimes get himself a bit overwhelmed by new experiences, absolutely amazed us by totally owning the zip wire!  This was definitely helped by the lovely staff who were so encouraging and boosted his confidence, allowing him to overcome his nerves. It is so good for kids to feel the fear but do it anyway...so character building! He was so proud of himself.

                              


As part of the Rio Event, there were Brazilian dancers and musicians entertaining the crowds and a big screen showing scenes from the Olympics, adding to the fun. Play Factore have various events through the year.

We were treated to some delicious food in one of the party rooms and enjoyed sampling the freshly baked pizzas from the in-house pizzeria restaurant along with baskets of chips, salad, garlic bread, nachos, fresh fruit salad and cookies. It was a real treat and the food was really good quality.

After a fantastic afternoon of playing, Freddy and his big sisters were thoroughly worn out. Play Factore is a brilliant venue offering state of the art play equipment for all the family. It's great to find a place that the teenagers can enjoy as much as the little ones. Everyone can let off steam and have fun.

Peak prices apply during the school holidays and the charge for a 5 - 16 year old is £11.95 for a two and a half hour play session. Adults are charged £3.95, babies between 6 and 11 months are £1.95 and children between 1 and 4 years are £7.95. The zip wire costs an extra £3.95.


Play Factore


You can find out about Play Factore, including their amazing birthday party packages for kids up to 16 years old at www.playfactore.com.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Forest Holidays in Sherwood Forest - perfect for getting away from it all!

I don't think I've ever needed a holiday quite as much as I have this year. We have seen some dark clouds cover our lives, but we try to stay positive, look for the rays of light and hold on to the promise of sunshine. With myself now having health problems of my own, I really needed some rest, relaxation and peace to recharge my batteries.

Forest Holidays has become our go-to UK holiday company when it comes to getting away from it all. Their luxury lodges, nestled in some of the country's most beautiful forests are just perfect for escaping from 'real life' to enjoy some quality family time together.

Having previously stayed with Forest Holidays in Cropton and Blackwood Forest, this year we decided to explore somewhere new and chose Sherwood Forest as this year's summer holiday destination. Located in 3,300 acres of lush pine woodland, Sherwood Forest offers spectacular views and plenty of outdoor activities for families to enjoy.

Forest Holidays


The Forest Holidays Golden Oak cabins are well appointed, well equipped, comfortable and luxurious. They come with a fabulous outdoor hot tub, where you can relax surrounded by the sights and sounds of the forest. Fluffy robes and slippers are provided in the master bedroom, and towels are provided for the whole party.  Eco-friendly toiletries are found in the master en-suite and the family bathrooms. A log burning stove in the spacious, open plan living area warms everyone up when the evenings get chilly.

hot tub

Forest Holidays


The setting of the cabin was lovely. From the patio area we couldn't see another cabin or road, making us feel really secluded in our forest hideaway. Several feathered and furry friends came to visit us. Robins, jays, wood pigeons, chaffinches and a very confident squirrel were regulars, delighting Freddy who got to see them close up.

Forest Holidays

Forest Holidays


The three bedroomed cabin was so light and airy. The big windows in the master bedroom gave the most marvellous views. It was so peaceful in our cabin, it was easy to forget that the world was still bustling away beyond our holiday bubble.

Forest Holidays


In the evenings, we were able to sit on the big corner sofa and play card games or watch the Olympics coverage or on demand movies on the cabin's TV.  Spending time away from our smartphones, iPads and laptops was great. It gave us time to all connect and do things together uninterrupted by Facebook notifications!

Forest Holidays


The Forest Retreat was a short walk from our cabin. It is the hub of the resort where you can enjoy a hot snack or light meal, get a drink at the bar, meet the team, book activities and shop for both essentials and luxuries. We enjoyed a freshly baked pizza and wedges there one lunchtime before going on a walk into the forest. 

Forest Holidays


There are lots of gifts and toys available in the shop. They sell some lovely t-shirts, and we particularly liked the slogan "Forests, Treetops, Adventure, Wildlife, Mud and Fun" which pretty much sums up our experience of Forest Holidays.

Forest Holidays


The Forest Holidays resort is a short walk to Sherwood Pines Forest Park where you can experience the outdoors, explore, play, cycle and walk. They have some really excellent play areas for the kids and a number of trails to walk. We went on the Friend or Foe trail, which celebrates the mini beasts of the forest, asking children to decide if insects are useful to us or whether they are our enemies. Freddy enjoyed reading the signs around the trail and deciding whether the bugs were good or bad for humans. It was really thought provoking and made him respect the roles of bees, earwigs, butterflies and dung beetles!

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest


There is so much to explore in the forest, we spent hours walking and discovering our surroundings. Sherwood Pines also offers Go Ape, cycle and segway hire and has a cafe and visitors centre. We loved our time exploring the woodland and we were so lucky with the weather. Discovering forests and woodland is something we love to do as a family, making Forest Holidays the perfect choice for us.

Forest Holidays


We enjoyed a midweek break from Monday to Friday at Sherwood Forest. We spent our days walking in the fresh air and relaxing in the hot tub. We made nettle tea using the nettles that were growing in the woods and collected pine cones and leaves. It was relaxing and peaceful. Perfect! Just what I needed. The tranquility of the forest felt like a million miles away from home and for a few days I was able to forget all my worries.

Sherwood Forest


As we were in Sherwood Forest, we embraced the stories of Robin Hood. We bought Freddy an archery set from the Forest Retreat and Freddy soon became a dab hand at shooting his arrows at various targets. Forest Holidays offers archery lessons as an activity for anyone who wants to learn how to do it properly!

Forest Holidays


You can find out about Forest Holidays, their nine beautiful locations and their range of cabins at  www.forestholidays.co.uk. We really enjoy our stays with Forest Holidays and like the benefits of holidaying in the UK, especially for short breaks. We can highly recommend them!


We were offered a discount in return for this review.

Fun for kids with Persil Wild Explorers app

This summer, Persil has partnered with The Wild Network to introduce the new ‘Persil Wild Explorers’ app, an absolutely free resource packed with over 100 exciting ideas to encourage kids and families to play, learn and get dirty outdoors - whatever the weather!

app,


Activities can be filtered by time, age and location so you can find the perfect activity to do together. Whether you are at beach, in a park or in your garden and whether you have 10 minutes or an hour to spare, there are loads of great ideas for fun things to do. You can also track and share your wild time adventures, so you know exactly what fun things you have done together. 

The activities are all good wholesome fun and don't cost the earth. There are endless play opportunities in the great outdoors from flying a kite to den building to bug hunting to playing conkers. Kids will love crabbing or making artwork out of shells on the beach or enjoy some physical parkour style free running in the woodland. Not only do they get fresh air and exercise, they can get creative, use their imaginations and learn important skills. Many of the activities raise children's awareness of their surroundings and teaches them about nature.

The Persil Wild Explorers app, gives families the ideas and inspiration to get outdoors and embrace playtime, giving kids freedom, fresh air and fun and if you get muddy, Persil will take care of the dirty laundry!

We've just come back from our summer holiday, where we stayed in a lodge in Sherwood Forest, giving us the perfect opportunity to download this app giving us some ideas for things to do. I loved the idea of Leaf & Plant snap, which uses fallen leaves instead of a deck of cards. The forest was the perfect setting for this game!



The 'Surprise Us' feature chooses a random activity to enjoy, so we tried some completely new things including forest parkour and 'fun in the rain'. It's a great way to discover something a bit different.

The Persil Wild Explorers app is available to download now absolutely free on iOS and Android, allowing parents and their children to:

  • Explore family-friendly activities for different locations
  • Discover an activity for any weather condition
  • Find outdoor play ideas ranging from 10 minutes to hours of fun
  • Uncover activities for explorers of all ages
  • Track Wild Time adventures


For further information and for more ideas on getting outdoors and getting dirty, visit www.persil.co.uk.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Little Moments of Adventure - Adventurous Pairings with Primula Cheese

My family has loved Primula for years! The squeezy tubes of real cheese are perfect for keeping in the fridge to make yummy cheese spread sandwiches for the kids' lunches or to squeeze onto crackers for a quick snack or to use as a tasty dip for carrot sticks. As a busy mum and nana, Primula is just so convenient and always a hit with the little ones.

I am delighted to be a part of the Primula Bloggers Club, working with the Primula brand, creating recipe ideas for delicious snacks made using their products. The tubes of real cheese combined with real added ingredients in delicious flavour combinations, inspire creativity in the kitchen. Primula isn't just for sandwiches or crackers, it can be the perfect addition to some rather sophisticated snacks!

Primula, cheese spread


This month, I have been challenged to come up with an adventurous Primula pairing: an unexpected food combination with ingredients that complement each other perfectly. This adventurously paired snack is something for the grown-ups, who at the end of a busy day want to sit and relax with a tasty supper for two and a glass of wine. Knowing that the children are all tucked up safely in bed, this is the time of day for adult conversation, relaxation and enjoying some quality moments together. It's these little moments when we can step away from our busy routines and enjoy the simple things in life.

The snack I made reflects this chilled time of day, bringing an adventurous pairing of Primula Cheese and artichoke to enjoy during these little moments together. A lovely snack for treating ourselves, while taking time out of our busy schedule: Primula Cheese and Artichoke Tarts.

cheese recipe


The combination of creamy, cheesy Primula topped with flavoursome garlic mushrooms, spring onions, red pepper and quartered artichoke hearts, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped herbs on a crisp puff pastry base, is truly delicious. The fresh flavours are ideal for summer using some lovely seasonal vegetables and it is delicious served hot or cold.

Primula Cheese and Artichoke Tarts


recipe, vegetarian



Ingredients

1 sheet of puff pastry
1 tube of Primula Cheese
4 drained canned artichoke hearts
6 button mushrooms sliced
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 half of a small red salad pepper sliced
1 jumbo spring onion sliced
olive oil
pinch of dried mixed herbs

Method

Unroll the puff pastry sheet and cut it into four equally sized rectangles.
Score a line around the edge of the pastry rectangles 1cm inside.
Place on greaseproof paper on a baking tray.
Squeeze a quarter of the Primula Cheese onto each pastry rectangle, spread leaving the edges clear.

cheese tart recipe


Thinly slice the pepper and the spring onion.
Cut the artichoke hearts into quarters.
Meanwhile, gently fry the sliced mushrooms and crushed garlic in a little olive oil until well cooked.
Arrange the vegetables equally onto the cheese covered pastry rectangles.

veggie recipe


Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle over the herbs.
Pop into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.

recipe


This post has been written as part of the Primula Blogger Club, which is a paid for partnership.





Friday, 5 August 2016

Competition to find the ultimate Digital Kids vlogger

Is your child a YouTube addict? Do they dream of being the next Zoella or DanTDM? I know my 7 year old Freddy would love to make a living vlogging on YouTube, he can't get enough of his favourite YouTubers tuning in everyday for their latest videos. It really is a dream job!

The dream may just become a reality for three budding young vloggers as there is an exciting competition, created by the Digital Kids Show, where entrants are in with the chance of a lifetime in their search to find the next big YouTuber. Three finalists will be reporting live as official vloggers of the Digital Kids Show bringing all the action to fans across social media.

vlogger competition


The official vloggers will get to interview their favourite stars – from hugely popular YouTubers including AshDubh, Tomohawk, Nettyplays, Amy Lee, SmallishBeans, EthanGamerTV and LDShadowLady, as well as children’s TV favourites, Dick and Dom and Mr Bloom. They’ll also get to pick up some industry secrets on how to create an engaged YouTube channel with hints and tips from the YouTube stars.

To be in with a chance of winning, children (with the help and permission of their parent/guardian) have to create a short video to say why they want to be the ultimate Digital Kids Vlogger and who they’d love to interview.

Each winner will win VIP passes for them and their family to attend the show and a £100 gift voucher.

Videos need to be uploaded to the Digital Kids ShowYouTube Channel, by the competition closing date of 31st August. Winners will be announced on the 5th September and must be available to report live from the show on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 October 2016 at the Digital Kids Show EventCity in Manchester.

It will be a really fun project to do during the summer holidays with the kids, and who knows, it could be the first step on the path to a very lucrative future career! 

The two-day event is the first of its kind bringing to life the exciting digital world in a fun and friendly format for children, parents, teachers and those responsible for children.


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