Monday, 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012 - Hello to 2013!

Following an eventful 2012, we have thankfully survived the Mayan end-of-world predictions and are now poised at the threshold of a brand new year, 2013.

2012 has seen a lot of changes, some good, some not so good.

There have been some devastating tragedies that have made me take stock of my own life and hold my loved ones a little closer. I have shed so many tears and felt such sadness at times.  But there have also been some wonderful experiences, brilliant opportunities and joyous events that we have celebrated. I have laughed hard and had such fun making memories.

These days, I am not one to dwell on the negatives.  I finally see that the glass is never half empty ... it's always got air in it so the volume of liquid is irrelevant, it is always full!!  Life is so very precious.

I have learned a lot in 2012.

My family has been the cornerstone to my happiness this year.  I am so blessed to have really great parents who we are able to lavish love and attention on during their fortnightly visits.  The kids adore them and I am so happy to have seen the relationship between my mum and dad and my children flourish in 2012.  Making memories that they will cherish forever is something very special.

I have a wonderful nephew and niece, Tom and Kate, who mean the world to me.  I have been lucky enough to see them both this year and meet their respective other halves, Ashley and Mike.  I wish all four of them an amazing 2013 filled with everything they wish for.

I am so thankful to all the other people that have helped make 2012 so special for us all.  I hope to continue to surround myself with their love and friendship in 2013.

My own children make me proud everyday.  They are amazing and I am so honoured to be their mother.  They inspire me to do better.  To be better. They define me.  I adore each and every one of my wonderful children.

Finding the right college for Ella and the right nursery for Freddy has been a huge factor is ensuring my kids' happiness this year.  Being empowered to make changes has been so beneficial to us all.  No longer will I ever sit back and accept situations. Things don't have to stay the same.  If something isn't working, we can change it for the better.  Anything that allows negativity into our lives does not need to be tolerated.  I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that my loved ones are happy.

My marriage is a gift that I am blessed with.  The relationship I have with Ian is the thing that keeps me grounded, gives me confidence and strength.  By nurturing our relationship we become better people and better parents. I love my husband who is my best friend in the whole world.

The arrival of our first grandson on December 17th has changed the dynamic of our family in such a positive way, bringing such joy to myself and Ian, as well as to his doting aunties and Uncle Freddy and to his great grandparents who were all so delighted to meet him.  Baby Ted is a beautiful boy.  Seeing Joe as a daddy fills my heart with love and pride. We have so many wonderful adventures awaiting us in 2013.

I am entering 2013 with a happy heart and a positive outlook.

Happy New Year to everyone. x

family, friends

Scotch Mystery Gift Challenge #8

Here is the eighth clue in the weekly Scotch Mystery Gift Challenge.  Simply submit your guess on their Facebook app for your chance to win a beautifully wrapped gift from Scotch.

If you got a new iPod for Christmas, you'll be needing one of these as an alternative to headphones!

I am working with Scotch throughout the festive period to bring you the clues to their Facebook challenge.

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Day Out in Salford Quays

Last week we were invited to visit Salford Quays in Manchester to explore some of the attractions that make this such a great venue for a family day out.  We had a very hectic schedule with visits to Ordsall Hall, the BBC, The Lowry and Old Trafford.  In typical Manchester style, the weather was miserable, wet and windy, but it didn't spoil our enthusiasm for a fabulous day out.

Ordshall Hall

Salford Quays

Hidden in the heart of Manchester stands this Elizabethan manor house which is beautifully preserved and lovingly restored to showcase its former glory.  We were given a private tour where we got to see the bedrooms, the kitchen, the servant's quarters and many original features, some dating back to the 1600's.  There was a lot of interactive elements to the tour.  We got to try on some old armour and experience some of the techniques that would have been used in an Elizabethan kitchen.  We even learned about the ghosts that are said to haunt the manor.  A room full of interactive games and activities was a big hit with the children who enjoyed getting hands on with history.  Freddy was really excited walking around the building and trying out things such as turning a spit roast and grinding spices.  He was enjoying being a little historian and discovering the story of Ordsall Hall.  Ordsall Hall has a lovely little coffee shop where we enjoyed a coffee and a cake!

BBC Studio Tours

BBC, Salford Quays

The BBC have relocated many of their operations to Media City in Salford Quays. The BBC offer tours where you can get to take a peek behind the scenes and even have a go at presenting!  Kizzy and I went on an Interactive CBBC Tour for kids aged 6 and over.  We had a guided tour across the buildings where we saw the Blue Peter studio, a radio drama sound stage and various props from BBC programmes.  Kizzy had a go at presenting Newsround, reading the weather and being a CBBC presenter.  She also got to take part in a diddy Dick and Dom play.  She loved seeing herself on a TV screen and using the autocue machines.  It was really interesting to go behind the scenes and we were able to take a look into the BBC Sports studio where everyone was hard at work.  It is a fascinating place and we loved the hands on experience.  Kizzy really enjoyed feeling like a TV presenter and was fascinated by the technology used such as the green screens.  She was also very interested to find out about the use of widescreen cameras to make the tiny Blue Peter studio look really impressive onscreen!

The Lowry

Salford Quays

The Lowry is an arts and entertainment complex set in a stunning waterside location.  There is a lot for families to do including theatre shows, activities and art galleries.  There are also plenty of temporary exhibits to enjoy such as the National Portrait Gallery Comedians exhibition.  We stopped there for lunch followed by a guided tour of the Lowry Collection.  Kizzy was enthralled by the 'What's in a Picture?' session where she was guided through the process of 'reading' one of Lowry's works.  The insight into his life, his work and  his personality was really interesting.  Unfortunately we were really pushed for time and had to dash off, but the Lowry is definitely somewhere I want to explore at my leisure.  It is free to enter and many talks and activities are available which help bring the collection to life.  There are also creative workshops for young children to enjoy.  Kids can borrow a rucksack filled with games, puzzles and activities designed to take them on an adventure as they explore the art on display in the magnificent building.  It is a really family friendly venue with easy access, changing facilities and with kids well catered for in the cafe.  There are some really good shows coming to the theatre next year including Horrible Histories and Sleeping Beauty On Ice.

Old Trafford Museum and Tour

Salford Quays

Across the water from the Lowry stands the football stadium of Manchester United.  We had a 15 minute walk through torrential rain to get there but we soon warmed up when inside.  The stadium has a museum and holds guided tours.  We had a walk around the three floors of the museums looking at memorabilia, trophies, paper cuttings and football shirts from Man Utd's history.  Freddy loved looking at and handling the exhibits that included an old leather stitched ball and steel toe-capped football boot.  There was a really moving tribute to the Busby Babes who were involved in a plane crash in Munich which killed some of the team's most promising players.  The tour lasts an hour and takes you around the stadium, the changing rooms, the player's lounge, the tunnel and the stands.  Unfortunately, Freddy needed a wee half way round and we had to cut the tour short to find the toilets!  We made our way back to the Mega Store which sold loads of Man Utd merchandise.  Fans will love this experience.  It was very interesting, especially seeing the pitch in all its glory, but it is probably more suited for older children.

We finished our trip with a visit to the Lowry Outlet which is a shopping mall on Salford Quays.  It has loads of shops and restaurants and we enjoyed a hot chocolate at Costa before heading back home, exhausted after our family day out at Salford Quays.

Warner Bros Festive Films

Warner Bros know exactly the sort of thing I like to find in my Christmas Stocking.  Nothing beats a good Blu-Ray as a gift and this Christmas they have sent me The Dark Knight Rises and New Year's Eve.

Batman, New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve celebrates love, hope, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts, with intertwining stories told amidst the pulse and promise of New York City on the most dazzling night of the year.  With an all star cast, it is a feel good movie that is perfect for this time of year.  It's a fabulous seasonal chick flick with an excellent soundtrack.  My eldest daughters really enjoyed watching it in the run up to Christmas and it got them into the spirit of the season.  It was funny, moving and entertaining in equal measure.  We enjoyed spotting all the A-list stars in their roles and particularly loved Ashton Kutcher and Bon Jovi!  This film is exactly the sort of film we love to sit down and watch together!  We thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Dark Knight Rises is the final installment to the gritty superhero trilogy.  Batman has gone from hero to fugitive after taking the blame for events that was for the greater good of Gotham City.  Eight years on he is a shadow of his former self.  The arrival of hulking masked man Bane threatens to destroy Gotham.  Can a broken, tortured superhero find it in himself to get back to his former glory and save the day?  

The action scenes are immense!  The appearance of Anne Hathaway as Cat Woman is a revelation. The back stories are interesting, the emotional content of the film is powerful and the villains are as ever amazing.  The story is very dark and heavy, but the over-riding theme of heroism and the emotional conflict of Bruce Wayne is a great portrayal of the human spirit.

Both films are available to buy now from stockists such as Amazon and both are well worth a watch!  

The Swagbucks Challenge Is Over

For the last few weeks I have been battling it out in the Tots 100 Swagbucks Challenge and I am really happy to announce that I am the winner!  It wasn't easy, but with some dedication and a bit of effort I earned over 19,000 Swagbucks which equates to over £100 in Amazon vouchers!  Not bad going for about half an hour to an hour a day whilst I was online, filling out surveys and watching videos.  As the challenge winner I win an extra £250 on top of the voucher that I earned which is going to be a huge help this Christmas.

Even now the challenge is over, I intend to continue using Swagbucks to earn rewards that I can redeem for vouchers.  I am going to save them up for my Christmas 2013 fund!

Swagbucks really is a great way of earning a little extra just by dedicating a bit of the time you spend online to completing tasks.  A daily survey along with a few extra Swagbucks earned by watching videos, playing games, taking part in polls and doing internet searches using the Swagbucks search engine, allows you to reach your daily target putting you on track to earn valuable rewards.

When other people sign up using your referral link, you get matched points for the Swagbucks that they earn by doing searches.  It is a great way of earning extra Swagbucks and helps build a community where you can share tips and hints which helps everyone get the most out of Swagbucks.  You can sign up using my link at and I'd be happy to help anyone out to get started!

I would recommend this reward scheme to anyone who spends time online and who has some spare minutes that they can use to dedicate to earning Swagbucks.  On a good day it is really easy to hit your target and this earns you bonuses.  Some days are not as easy, but every single Swagbuck earned helps your total grow until you can redeem them for rewards such as vouchers for stores such as New Look, M & S or Amazon.

It is free to join Swagbucks so there really is nothing to lose by giving it a go and hopefully earning some extras for your family in the process!

Scotch Mystery Gift Challenge #7

Here is the seventh clue in the weekly Scotch Mystery Gift Challenge.  Simply submit your guess on their Facebook app for your chance to win a beautifully wrapped gift from Scotch.

An essential for keeping the kids occupied whilst on those long car journeys! 

I am working with Scotch throughout the festive period to bring you the clues to their Facebook challenge.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

My Son and My Grandson

Seeing my son Joe cradling his own son Ted in his arms was simply a perfect moment.  The look of love and pride on Joe's face reflected my own feelings for him that I have felt from the very first moment that I held him in my arms 24 years ago.   

Now my own son is a daddy to his own dear little boy, he finally understands the depth of emotions that we as parents feel. He now truly understands how I feel about him.  It is overwhelming to share the emotions of parenthood with your own child.  Watching him walk the path that I have walked since the day he was born.  Knowing that he would do anything for that little boy, as I would do anything for him.

As a new generation of our family is born, I feel so blessed to have my five wonderful children and my beautiful baby grandson in my life.  It's the beginning of a whole new adventure for us all.

relationship, fatherhood
My Son and My Grandson
Little Ted has his daddy's profile; his nose, his brow and his chin.  Looking at his lovely little face is a lot like looking at Joe's baby photos!  I can't wait to watch him grow up and see the relationship between my son and his little boy develop. I feel like I've done my job, equipping my own child to become a parent and I am just so proud of how he is coping in his new role. 

motherhood, son, baby
Joe As A Baby!

Little Ted is going to be surrounded by a very loving family with lots of aunties and uncles on both sides ready to lavish love and attention on him.  Freddy is so proud being an uncle.  It is wonderful to witness everyone take on their new position in the family!  Ian and I are looking forward to being grandparents to this lovely little boy, our first grandchild.  We are truly honoured to have such a wonderful family.

baby, family
Kizzy, Ted and Freddy

Friday, 21 December 2012

Nook HD Tablet Review

I have been sent a Nook 7" HD Tablet for a three week trial courtesy of Barnes and Noble.  My family have never owned a tablet and I am not the greatest gadget geek.  I sometimes find it hard to make technological changes as I get really attached to the gadgets I use and grow to love.  I have only just got my first Smartphone!  So I am testing this as a complete novice, with an open mind and as a mum, so instead of comparing it against other tablets' specs, and getting all techy, I will be focusing on how the Nook fits in to our family life and what fun things we can do with it.

Barnes and Noble are a US based bookstore and the largest online bookseller in the world. They are also the producer of the Nook family of devices which offer a range of fantastic value readers and tablets. The Nook HD tablet, which we are trialing   is an e-reader that also has internet capability through built in wi-fi.  It has access to the Barnes and Noble shop giving a choice of 3 million books to browse plus loads of movies, magazines and apps.  There are no annoying ads, just a very intuitive and user friendly shopping experience.

The Nook HD tablet looks good.  It is sleek, light and thin and feels nice in your hands with its ergonomic design and smooth curved edges.  The touchscreen is very easy to use with just the right level of sensitivity.  The display is in high definition and it really is crystal clear, even when you zoom in.  There is no glare from the screen, making it a perfect e-reader.  The view when watching videos is great, even when viewing at an angle.  The 7" screen is a good size for reading, watching films, browsing the internet or playing apps.

Nook HD

The Nook HD has an excellent feature allowing you to create up to six user profiles.  Adults and children can each have their own profiles allowing them to design their own personal device experience.  Every profile can   build a private library of e-books, movies and apps.  Profiles made for kids have built in controls and extra parental controls help create a completely safe experience.  For example, children's profiles can be set up so they can only access age appropriate materials, cannot make purchases in the store or surf the web.  This makes it really good as a family tablet where multiple people have access to it.

Nook HD

We set up profiles for myself and Freddy aged 3 and Kizzy aged 10.  Each profile is personalised with an icon which is displayed on the home page making an individual experience for each user.  Opening your profile takes you into your own Nook library.  Apps, books, music and movies that you have stored are shown clearly on your page.  A carousel displays everything visually and you can spin through it to see what you want at a glance.  Icons can also be displayed as buttons, making favourite apps easy to find, especially useful for young children.  It really is very user friendly and intuitive.

Nook HD

The Shop is immense!  With books, magazines, apps, newspapers, films and TV and a dedicated children's section, there are literally millions of items to browse and purchase.  Many are free to download and you can often sample  titles before you commit to a purchase.  Each section is further sub-categorised for easy browsing and a search facility helps you pinpoint exactly what you are looking for.  Each item has an overview giving a good synopsis, reviews and  'More Like This' suggestions.

Nook HD

The Magazines range is extensive.  You can buy one off editions or subscribe to the title.  Free 14 day trials are available.  Cosmo, Star, Best, Reveal, Elle, SFX, Men's Health and  What's On TV are just a handful of big name mags available in this easy and convenient format.  There are also international titles available.  The HD screen gives you a crystal clear image of the pages with pin sharp photos.  Nook allows you to scrapbook favourite pages and catalogue them in one place for easy access.  Perfect for recipes or for interesting articles.  I love how environmentally friendly it is to read magazines and newspapers this way.

Nook HD

The book shop has completely up to date titles categorised for easy browsing.  They download in seconds ready to be read on the 7" screen.  I have owned a Kindle and did not get on with it very well.  However, the reading experience of the Nook is very different.  The contrast between the wording and the background is far more book like and authentic.  I found it very pleasing to read on it.  Kizzy, my resident bookworm, has been testing it extensively with some downloaded children's books.  She really loves it and can handle the tablet easily.  It is light enough for her to hold it for extended periods.  She really liked that you get to 'turn' the pages rather than use a button to get to the next page.

Nook HD

There is a big range of Android apps to download.  With favourites such as Angry Birds, Froad and Fruit Ninja, Freddy my technophile pre-schooler was happy!  The games work really well on the larger screen.  Freddy also had access to some kids' books on his personal profile so could access them himself.  With modes such as Read by Myself, Read and Play and Read and Record the Nook will grow with him as he learns and develops his reading skills.  The Nook is robust enough for him to handle and light enough for him to hold easily.  I am amazed at how naturally he can use it.  Little ones are just not afraid by gadgets!  There are some great apps for all ages.  The Crosswords game is good for the old grey matter!  It gives you a daily puzzle and the format works really well and is a fun activity for grown-ups to enjoy when we have a spare few minutes in the day.

Nook HD

The Nook has high speed web browsing with a multi-tab browser.  Email addresses and diaries can be synched so you can keep yourself organised with the Nook.  It has 16GB of storage (13GB available for user content) which can be extended with a Micro SD memory card  plus it is connected to Nook Cloud to save online purchases for free.  The battery gives ten and a half hours of reading time which gives plenty of time to use it on the go. It also has Bluetooth connectivity.  All these features make the Nook HD a fantastic choice to meet your tablet needs.

Another very attractive detail is the price.  The Nook HD 16 GB tablet is currently available in the UK in Argos for £189 which is extremely competitive in the tablet market.  It has many features which make it very family friendly such as the individual profiling allowing each user to have their own private library of age appropriate content.  It is thin and lightweight and extremely user friendly.  Definitely a good value choice for a family tablet.

The only thing I have noticed that it doesn't have that some other tablets do is a camera.  For me that isn't a problem as I prefer to use a 'real' camera for my photography.  Photos can however be put onto the Nook HD to be viewed and to use as profile pictures.

It is a great device to use for long journeys with the kids.  You can watch videos on the go, read or play on the apps.  Freddy is able to use it with ease and enjoys it until he gets stuck playing Froad!

Nook HD

We are enjoying having the Nook to play with and it is very popular in our house.  Its versatility and the individual profiles have created a personalised experience for each of us from 3 year Freddy to myself.  I like how useful it is and how it has revolutionized our choices when it comes to reading.  I am impressed with how user friendly it is and how easy it is to navigate. The only real problem we have encountered is whose go it is next!

Find out more at Barnes and Noble's website.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Hand Print Angel Christmas Cards

I love doing Christmas arts and crafts with the children.  This year we have made hand print angels using 3 year old Freddy's lovely little hands to make prints for the body and wings.  They make a lovely keepsake, and a perfect card for grandparents and other loved ones.

It's really easy and lots of fun to do!
  1. Put some poster paints onto plates.
  2. Using one colour, paint the hand and make a print onto the paper.
  3. Wash hand!
  4. Using another colour, paint the hand and make two prints, one on either side of the first one, to make wings.
  5. Using their finger, the child can make a circle by swirling a blob of paint for the face.
  6. Use little fingerprints to make the hair.
  7. When dry, put on some stick on googlie eyes.
  8. Draw on a smiley mouth.
  9. Cut out and stick to the front of a card.
Christmas, art

I love this activity because pre-schoolers are able to do the majority of the artwork themselves with just  a little guidance. Keeping hands clean between colours is really important!  Freddy really enjoyed making his cards with a little help from daddy.  It is such a fun craft idea and the end result is a lovely way to preserve their hand prints forever.

Here is one we mounted on some funky leopard print card, his Nana's favourite design!  I think she'll love it!

Christmas, cards

Or you can use plain white card and let your pre-schooler brighten it up with some stick-on stars or glitter!

Christmas, cards


Another craft project that Freddy loved doing was making footprint Rudolphs.  He loved the squishy squashy feeling of paint between his toes!  He then used his thumb print for a nose and finger painted antlers. Googlie eyes finished the pictures!

crafts, Christmas

This is my entry into the Moneysupermarket Christmas Card Craft Off.

Jordan's Super Berry Country Crisp


Baked with British wholegrain conservation grade oats and mixed with freeze dried blackcurrants, cranberries and blueberries, Country Crisp clusters are a delicious, crunchy cereal from Jordans.  The tartness of the berries and the sweet, oaty clusters compliment each other very well.  The clusters don't go soggy in milk.  Personally I like eating them straight from the box!

Jordans, cereal

They contain nothing artificial and are suitable for vegetarians.

Jordans don't only make yummy cereals bursting with goodness, they are also passionate about preserving the British countryside. They are committed to keeping the countryside flourishing.

The Super Berry Country Crisp is available in Tesco and Waitrose with an RRP of £2.69.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Miss Santa Fancy Dress

Kizzy has been sent a Smiffy's Miss Santa costume from Joker's Masquerade.  It is a large size kids' outfit for ages 10-12 (she is just 10).  It comprises of a tutu dress and fur trimmed bolero.  The top of the dress is like a boob tube with an elasticated top.  It has buttons, a belt and trim printed onto it.  The tutu is made up of six layers of stiff net in red and white.  The little bolero top has a faux fur collar and puffed sleeves.  A matching headband with a satin bow is also included to complete the look.


Kizzy is tall for her age, so the skirt was very short!  I'd suggest wearing it with black leggings or cycle shorts  to preserve modesty and keep warm!

Christmas, fancy dress

The outfit is very cute and pretty, with definite tween appeal.  It is a grown-up option for dressing up for young girls who have outgrown babyish costumes.  It offers them something between childish fancy dress and grown-up outfits.  However it is quite revealing with its super short skirt and clingy top.  Maybe it's a little bit too grown-up for some people's tastes.  But Kizzy loves it and looks gorgeous.  She is happy to wear it as a top with black leggings underneath which works well and looks very cute and festive for Christmas parties.

It costs £16.99 which is a reduction of 17% on the RRP.

Miss Santa, Christmas, Smiffy's

This and many other fancy dress outfits and accessories for all occasions are available to purchase online. Jokers' Masquerade fancy dress outfits are fun to wear and perfect for parties, nights out or special events.  There is still time to order for Christmas and New Year!

Our Gingerbread House

I am not the most talented or creative cook out there, but I do love baking with my kids.  I've always wanted to try to make a gingerbread house with them but figured it was a bit out of my league.  When I saw that Lakeland were selling silicone moulds I had to get myself down there to buy myself one.  I was a little bit ridiculously excited at the prospect of building a little house with Ella, Kizzy and Freddy out of gingerbread and sweeties!

We followed the recipe on the pack and pressed the dough into the moulds before cooking it.  It was easy enough for me and my team to do!
gingerbread, Christmas

When it was cool we turned it out and stuck it together with some thick icing.  We only had a few slight subsidence issues!  When it was set solid, I set Kizzy and Freddy loose on it with chocolate buttons and Jelly Tots and a tube of icing.


They really enjoyed doing it and had so much fun.  I loved Fred's colour co-ordinated windows!  

Breaking it apart to eat was just as enjoyable and it tasted really good.  This is definitely going to be a new family tradition!

Lakeland, Christmas

Monday, 17 December 2012

Postcards From Santa

When I asked Kizzy, aged 10, to draw a postcard showing Santa on his travels, she immediately chose his destination to be France.  It is one of our family's favourite holiday places and we have enjoyed many a wonderful week together there.

Kizzy decided to make a funny card showing Santa and Rudolph faced with some local, French gastronomic delights!!  Santa has also swapped his usual headgear for a French beret in keeping with the traditional apparel of the locals!

Christmas cards

Here is her finished design:

cards, France, Santa

This is our entry in the Postcards from Santa competition from

Scotch Mystery Gift Challenge #6

Here is the sixth clue in the weekly Scotch Mystery Gift Challenge.  Simply submit your guess on their Facebook app for your chance to win a beautifully wrapped gift from Scotch.

Comes in a wicker basket and promises to be full of festive treats! 

I am working with Scotch throughout the festive period to bring you the clues to their Facebook challenge.

Pictionary Review

Pictionary is the quick sketching, crazy guessing game from Mattel.  For ages 8 and up and for 4 to 6 players, Pictionary is the perfect family game to play together. There are two levels of play with junior cards for the younger players to use so everyone can join in.

Each team moves around the playing board, landing on coloured squares.  Each square corresponds to a category on the playing cards.  Players have to attempt to draw whatever is on the card for their team mate to guess to keep control of the dice.  First time to get around the board wins.  There are three starting points so you can choose to play shorter games.

Mattel, family game

You don't have to be a great artist, in fact the worse your attempts, the funnier the game.  Being on the same wavelength as other players helps.  You have to sketch against the clock using the timer.  The categories include people and places, actions, objects, difficult words and miscellaneous.  Some words or phrases are really tricky and as the seconds tick by the tension rises...especially when your other half doesn't guess the brilliant illustration that you do for the word "Export"!!!

This game really is a lot of fun and I like the fact that 10 year old Kizzy could play alongside the grown-ups.  As long as the child is a competent reader then they can join in.  We really enjoyed our game of Pictionary and I'd definitely recommend this as a family must-have!

Wizards vs Aliens Review

From the creative force behind Doctor Who and Torchwood, Russell T. Davies, comes a brand new series, Wizards vs Aliens.  The series is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from December 31st 2012 and episodes are available on iTunes now, courtesy of  Freemantle Enterprises.

DVD, Russell T Davies

The CBBC's fantasy adventure follows 16 year old Tom, who seems like a normal teenager but is actually a wizard who secretly uses his magic to excel at football (as any modern day wizard would!) .  His secret is safe until the alien Nekross arrive on Earth looking to devour magic and keen on causing chaos.

Tom's geeky friend, science super-brain Benny, helps him take on the challenge of stopping the evil alien attackers.  Can the two unlikely heroes succeed or will the Nekross consume all the magic of Earth with disastrous results for the planet?

Kizzy, aged 10, has been watching this series as we were sent a copy to review.  The show has a young cast who give a great performance in this exciting sci-fi story.  They are determined to defeat the marauding Nekross who are set on destroying the wizards to sate their own appetites.

Kizzy says the story is really thrillng and has her on the edge of her seat.  There is humour entwined into the drama which she enjoys.  The story also contains some sad elements and has some dark parts, but Kizzy said it isn't too scary!  The King of the Nekross (voiced by Brian Blessed)  is a horrible, mean character who is intent on destruction.  Kizzy particularly loves to hate him!

The combination of magic and science is a really refreshing combination giving a young audience a sophisticated series to enjoy with all the creative genius of Doctor Who and Torchwood in a format that they will really enjoy.  Kizzy is riveted to the series and loves the characters of Benny and Tom.  Wizards vs Aliens will really appeal to fans of the Sarah Jane Adventures which was a Doctor Who spin off for kids.  Kizzy loved that series and says that Wizards vs Aliens has a similar feel to it.

The effects and the settings are really good for kids' TV and the characters are great.  It's nice to see a well made children's TV series that doesn't patronise kids.  It is a very entertaining series with good storytelling  and Kizzy gives it a big thumbs up.

The show has a certificate PG and has 12 episodes which gives 360 minutes of great family entertainment.
The RRP of the DVD is £24.99 or £29.99 on Blu-Ray, however Amazon is selling the DVD for £17.99.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Quorn Enchiladas Recipe

Our homemade Quorn Enchilada recipe is a favourite with my family.  It is an evolving recipe that has been adapted over the years.  When I received a selection of Gourmet Garden herb and spice tubes, I was excited to put them to work in my recipe to add the benefit of the fresh purees to flavour my filling!

herbs and spices

Filling Ingredients

2 sliced onions
3 teaspn Gourmet Garden Garlic
1 teaspn Gourmet Garden Chilli
1 teaspn Gourmet Garden Coriander
150g sliced mushrooms
1 pack Quorn pieces
1 head of cooked fresh broccoli cut into florets
1 can of pinto beans

vegatarian recipe

Sauce Ingredients

Small carton chopped tomatoes
1 teaspn Gourmet Garden Chilli
2 teaspn Gourmet Garden Garlic
small carton of single cream
1 egg


8 Corn Tortilla Wraps
Mexicana cheese to top


Fry the onion.  
Add Gourmet Garden chilli and garlic and fry for 3 minutes.

Gourmet Garden

Add sliced mushrooms and Quorn pieces.
Add the brocolli florets and pinto beans.
Cook until everything is soft and cooked down.

Meanwhile put tomatoes and Gourmet Garden chilli and garlic in a saucepan.
Heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly and add cream.
Beat in egg.

Fill the wraps and roll up.
Place into ovenproof dish.
Pour over sauce.
Top with grated Mexicana cheese.

Cook in a pre-heated oven at GM 6 for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.

Serve with creme fraiche and refried beans.


Decorating Gingerbread Christmas Trees #Project52

We have been making and decorating gingerbread.  Freddy has been enjoying helping out with the mixing, rolling and icing.  He has also enjoyed helping out with taste testing!

home baking

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday - Sprouts

Silent Sunday

Friday, 14 December 2012

'The Motherhood' Rap

If you are a mum, you will relate to this video!  "The Motherhood" is a sharp witted rap about the trials and tribulations of being a mum.  The humour is extremely well observed and has a refreshing frankness that had me nodding my head in agreement more than once!

As mums we all live in the 'hood' with our 'babes' where we wipe noses, clean up sick, eat leftover food, rake nits, do school runs and bake fairy cakes, having given up our bodies, often compromising on our style and losing a lot of our pre-baby freedom.  The clever wording definitely seems to understand and convey the life of a mum! This rap both celebrates motherhood and sympathises with some of the things us mums have to go through such as sleepless nights, doctor's queues, expressing milk and having episiotomies!  It is a no-holds barred account of motherhood.

This really is a funny video that speaks volumes to me as a mum.  I particularly love the line "I'm flooding up your timeline with my baby news" ... guilty as charged!  And when my grandson is born I'll have even more baby related posts and photos to share across social media so watch out! 

The kids in the video are really cute little scene stealers.  The little boy pours a pot of fromage frais into his mum's laptop in one scene in the video.  This is something that is all too often an almost reality in my house.  Just last week we had an orange juice spilled into Ian's work laptop - oops!

This is an engaging and very funny video with attitude that really does tell it how it is.  It's well worth a watch!

Brought to you  in conjunction with the Fiat 500

Swagbucks Update - My Warts 'n' All Summary

Today is the last day of the Tots 100 Swagbucks challenge.  I have spent 3 weeks conducting searches, watching videos, filling out surveys, playing games and performing tasks.  I've done some Christmas shopping online and even dabbled with a casino website (never, ever again on that one!!)  For doing all these things, I have been rewarded with enough Swagbucks to add £100 of Amazon vouchers to my Christmas spending fund.  That, by anyone's standards, is pretty easy money!

Sometimes, I'm not going to lie, Swagbucks can be a bit of a pain.  Somedays you get disqualified for every available survey.  Some special offers don't credit.  Some purchases fail to track. However, the customer service is very efficient and nearly every issue I have had has been resolved quickly.  As long as you keep confirmation emails or take screen shots as evidence, Swagbucks earned will be honoured.

There are lots of special offers to get extra Swagbucks which is a great way of getting started, but once you have done all the relevant ones, your potential to earn big quickly goes down.  Unless you like gambling, which is a sure fire way of getting lots of Swagbucks when you sign up and make a deposit to the csasino, bingo or scratchcard sites.  This is not for me though.

I will definitely continue with my Swagbucking, although on a lesser scale.  I will hit my daily targets which basically equates to one survey a day and a few extra bits which will add up to nice rewards throughout the year.  Everytime you hit a target you get a bonus which accumulates and gets credited once a month which is a good way of topping up your total.

Swagbucks UK is still in its early days compared to in America where people are earning huge amounts of Swagbucks and cashing them in for rewards galore.  So getting involved now may prove very lucrative in the long term.

As for the competition, it's still anyone's game.  I am doing well but know that the other challengers could well have lots of points pending which will put them into the winning spot.  Regardless of the end result, I still have a very nice £100 voucher coming my way so I have no complaints!

I definitely recommend Swagbucks to anyone who spends a lot of time online.  It's free to join, it's easy to do and it genuinely earns you rewards.  It takes a bit of effort, but I have genuinely enjoyed some of the more creative surveys I have done.

You can sign up here on my referral link if you want to join the reward scheme.  I'm happy to share tips!

Foodie Friday - Stew with Dumplings

One thing that I love about winter is making stews.  Good old vegetable stews with a dumpling or cobbler topping are just the perfect comfort food on these freezing cold December evenings.  I've been using my slow cooker which has made my life so much easier!  I bung in swede, carrot, onion, leek, sweet potato, potato and parsnip along with veggie stock, rosemary and ground pepper.  About half an hour before the end of the cooking time, I throw in some Quorn pieces.  Then I finish it off for 20 minutes in the oven with dumplings or cobbler. Yum!!

stew, slow cooker, veggie

Toy Story Remote Control RC Review

The Disney Store is magical all year round, but at Christmas something really special happens in my family's favourite shop.  The place is brimming with hundreds of fantastic gift ideas with toys, clothes and other items featuring all our favourite Disney characters.  You just can't go wrong when buying gifts for Disney fans at the Disney Store

We have been sent a fantastic Christmas present for Freddy from the Disney Store, a Remote Control RC with Buzz and Woody.  It is completely brilliant!


We all remember the scene in Toy Story when Woody and Buzz try to get back to Andy whilst whizzing down the road on the back of RC aided by the lighting of the 'Big One' rocket that Sid had strapped to Buzz's back.  Well, with this great toy, children can re-enact that very scene, or create their own hair raising scenarios starring Buzz, Woody and RC.

Disney, toy story

The set includes a brilliantly detailed RC, a Buzz figure, a Woody figure, Woody's hat, road cones, The Big One rocket and a steering wheel motion hand controller.

toy story, RC, Disney

The figures are articulated for positioning.  The rocket fits on Buzz's back and when his wings are out he will be ready for some high octane role play!

Buzzz, Woody

The controller is easy to use with buttons for forwards and backwards movement and a steering wheel action to turn RC left and right.  This makes it much easier for younger children to control.  The car and controller take a total of six AA batteries so be sure to have them available for Christmas day!

Toy Story, Disney

This toy is suitable for ages 3 and up and will definitely be a huge hit with fans of Toy Story.  Like the other Toy Story merchandise available at Disney Store, everything is beautifully designed and true to the Pixar characters from the films. 

We absolutely love this toy.  Toy Story is one of our favourite family films and there is something so wonderful about bringing the characters to life through play, in your own home.  The controls are responsive but easy to manage, even for little hands, which for me puts this above other RC vehicles when buying for a young child.  

Toy Story, Disney

The Toy Story Remote Control RC with Buzz and Woody is a Disney Store exclusive and this is the product details:

  • Toy Story Remote Control Toy Set With Buzz and Woody
  • Buzz Lightyear and Woody action figures
  • Racing car
  • 'The Big One' rocket and 3 x cones
  • Pack measures H23 x W20.5 x L34 cm approx
  • Age 3+
It is £30 RRP but is currently available for £22.50 online with delivery free on orders over £50.  It is also available in store.

Take a look at the Disney Store Website for hundreds of fantastic gift ideas for Disney fans big and small!


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