Saturday, 30 June 2012

Friendships #Project 52

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life."

Richard Bach Illusions

friendship, family
Childhood Friends
My best friend since Infant School is visiting us.  Over 35 years of friendship creates a bond that lasts forever.  Our children's relationships reflect our own.  Friendships like this are precious.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Lola's Fruit Shop Sudoku for the 3DS

Sudoku For Pre-Schoolers and Young Children

My dad loves to keep his mind active by filling in those complicated numerical Sudoku puzzles in his newspaper.  Now, thanks to a brand new game from BeiZ, children aged 4-8 years old can solve their own fun Sudoku puzzles.  BeiZ specialises in creating educational and non-violent games for young children.

Lola's Fruit Shop Sudoko is available for the Nintendo DSi and the 3DS.  It is a lovely game, that will get the little ones thinking logically, as they help Lola the Panda sort out the fruit in her fruit shop.  Children are challenged to fill in Sudoku grids of 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 with three different difficulty levels.  With clear and gentle vocal instructions, the game is easy to grasp for even the youngest players, but is still challenging for older children as their skills are tested.  Successes are rewarded with gold stars and cheers.  Players get to help Lola stock up her Fruit Shop ready for opening at the end of the game.

Lola’s Fruit Shop Sudoku Key Features:

* Simple Sudoku games with fruit and numbers
* Friendly voice to guide kids through the game
* Easy-to-use child-friendly game design that even the youngest can use
* Several levels to choose from
* Increasing challenge as children’s skills improve

The game is available to download from the Nintendo e-shop for €2.00 or from the DSi Shop for 200 Nintendo DSi points.

I was given a code to download the Lola game for free.

3 year old Freddy was able to play the first few rounds of the easy 3 x 3 grid completely independently and enjoyed naming the fruits and helping set up Lola's stall.  He will enjoy this game and develop his skills as time goes on.  Kizzy who is 9 went straight to the difficult level where you use coloured number squares on a 4 x 4 grid and it kept her quietly occupied and she said it was fun!

This game is really inexpensive and is a great way to occupy young children on car journeys, in restaurants or whilst visiting grandparents!  (If, like me,  you have little ones who can be a handful during such occasions!)  It is colourful, fun and educational. I liked that Freddy could play this on his own, giving him the chance to use the 3DS independently, developing his fine motor skills and logical thinking.   

Lola's Fruit Shop Sudoku is the second Lola game, the first being Lola's Alphabet Train.  It encourages letter recognition and spelling.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Planning A Baby Shower??

Sudocrem's New Baby Shower App on Facebook

I'm thrilled to bits that in a few months time I'm going to be a granny to my son Joe's first baby with his lovely girlfriend Jade.  It's an exciting time for our family and we fully intend to celebrate every step of the way.

baby, scan, baby shower
Baby McDonald

Baby Showers are becoming really popular in the UK and it will be lovely for Jade to have one for our families and friends.  Knowing my future daughter-in-law, who is very creative and loves a good party, she will want to be in charge of planning her own baby shower!  However, the last thing she will want to do is spend hours trying to organise all the details of sending invitations, managing guest lists and sorting out a gift list.  This is where the new Sudocrem Facebook App comes in, allowing you to do all your organising from one place in just minutes!

baby shower, facebook app

It's so easy to do!  You simply enter the event details, filling in the time and place, then send invites to your friends and family via Facebook.  The guests can RSVP directly and also can send messages on the useful comments board.  Guests can also have access to a gift list, making sure that the mum-to-be does not end up getting ten of the same present!!  I know that Jade has a wishlist of some beautiful, quirky baby clothes...this is a great way of letting those who want to buy a gift know exactly what she wants for Baby McD!  The app let's you see all the events you have organised or have been invited to at a glance.  It is very simple to navigate and nicely designed.

babywear, redbubble
One of Jade's Must Haves from

Use the Sudocrem App and You Could Win A Phil & Teds Verve Travel System

To make using the app even more attractive and to celebrate its launch, Sudocrem are giving away a Phil & Teds Verve Travel System worth a whopping £650!  What a wonderful prize for a mum-to-be! To be in with a chance of winning you simply have to arrange a shower using the app.  The winner will be randomly selected from all users on August 20th 2012.  Ten runners-up will also win a Sudocrem goody bag.

So if you are a mum-to-be or if you know a mum-to-be and want to throw a baby shower for them, it is definitely worth using this handy app and being in with a chance of winning the amazing prize!   Good Luck!

couple, partners,
The Happy Parents To Be!!

Make Your Party One To Remember!

How To Save Time Online

I begin this post with a confession...I am a smartphone dinosaur.  My mobile just about manages to text and make phone calls.  It is an app free zone.  I can't even Tweet on the go!  So unfortunately I am yet to experience the joy of using any time saving devices via smartphone apps.  I am so envious of all those phones out there with their technological bells and whistles, but truth be told, I am a little bit phobic about having one!

However, I am glued to my laptop on a regular basis and consequently save time using the internet to do various tasks from the comfort of my sofa (to free up more time for the fun stuff!)  It's not that long ago when, if we wanted some information, we'd have to head to the nearest reference library or pour through the Encyclopedia Britannica for answers.  Nowadays, knowledge is at our fingertips thanks to Google, IMDB and Wikipedia.  The time saved from this alone is staggering when we stop to think about it.  Also, the days of writing letters and walking to the Post Office to buy stamps and post them before waiting 2 days for them to arrive at their destination is virtually over since the advent of email.  But the technological era has also given rise to other ways of making the most of your time. 

One of my most used time saving sites is Quidco.  Whatever I want to buy, products or services, Quidco has a comprehensive list of stockists or suppliers complete with links direct to the sites.  This alone saves a lot of time spent Googling and researching companies.  In addition to that, they also feature special offers including cashback and voucher codes, so you don't need to shop around for the best deals, again saving valuable time!  They also feature sites such as Compare the Market and which makes short work of trawling the net for insurance quotes.

Online banking is an absolute godsend for checking your balance, handling direct debits and making transfers.  My nearest branch is 17 miles away from my home so being able to manage my finances online saves me so much time.  No more queuing behind the elderly gentleman paying in his month's savings in coppers (that is actually what my dad no disrespect intended to the frugal minded older generation!)

I do so much of my shopping online.  From everything from DVDs, books, gifts, music and clothing, online shopping saves time.  Not only do you get to browse entire ranges, back catalogues and new lines, you can get them delivered to your door.  I don't need to spend time scouring shops for specific items...I just search online and bingo! I also love being able to send gifts directly to their recipients...I don't even have to worry about wrapping and posting.  Hours of my time have been saved thanks to internet shopping.   More time for me!

The CBeebies website is my favourite tip for saving time.  Putting my nearly three year old son in front of the computer with this safe and educational website at this fingertips, means that I can get on with any other task in hand for a while.  He is absorbed, entertained and learning....I have a few minutes where I'm not being relied on for 100% of his attention needs.  Win/win!!

I love how the internet is constantly making our lives easier, maximizing our time and energy.  New initiatives such as the British Gas Online Account Management System, promise to make managing our utilities so much simpler, saving time online.

(Of course though, we must all be careful that we don't use all our saved time obsessing over making amazing boards on Pinterest or all our good time saving work will be undone!!)

This is my entry for the BritMums #BGSaveTime Linky, sponsored by British Gas. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Things That Make Me Smile!

Reasons To Be Cheerful This Week

This week has seen two really fabulous pieces of news come our way.  Firstly, after over two months of being on redundancy notice, Ian's job is now officially safe.  Someone else taking another job made enough room for manoeuvre to save Ian's role (although the other bloke up for redundancy with him is not so lucky.) So for now we can breathe again!

Secondly, my gorgeous daughter Megan has graduated with a high 2:1 in Business Marketing and Management.  She's got some interviews lined up for internships and marketing roles and intends to carry on living in Manchester.  I'm so incredibly proud of her; her ambition, her tenacity and her drive.  She refuses to take a backward step, always looking onward and upwards, however hard that is.  Plus she is a wonderful daughter!

Thirdly I have made some top buys this week that have made me very happy!

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

I bought this book as my summer read, but read it in two days because I couldn't put it down.  S J Watson is actually a friend of one of my friends, who is credited in the acknowledgements.  I've seen him chat on Facebook with the author at the time the book was released and have had an interest in reading it ever since.  I finally got around to buying it this week and I'm so glad I did.  

It is a tense, psychological thriller revolving around a woman with a rare form of amnesia following an accident.  In an attempt to piece together her life, in which she is unable to make or store new memories, she begins to write a journal which she re-reads every day.  She soon realises that she is not being told the whole truth.  As the story progresses we share her doubts, her fears and her confusion in this brilliantly written book.  I loved how the plot unravels through her suspicions, as written in her journal, giving us clues and doubts alongside plausible explanations for everything that happens.   Forget Christian this instead!

SJ Watson, literature, book, reading  

Festival Wellies From Primark

We have booked up to go to The M Fest Family Music and Food Festival in Leeds.  Given the unpredictability of British Summertime, we have prepared ourselves for all eventualities...from sun cream and sunglasses to wellies and waterproofs.  I was so happy when I found these cute little boots in Primark for just £10!  They are comfy and more usable than full length they are girly with a leopard skin print design and a bow!  I'll be rocking that festival chic look!

wellies, Primark,

My last reason to be cheerful this week is the fact that Ian has a good friend with a great allotment who is kind enough to share!  We received a huge bag of rhubarb, a fraction of which I have photographed here!  I predict a plethora of crumbles and syllabubs ahead.

rhubarb, crops, allotment

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

My Daughter...The Graduate

My daughter Megan has always been a clever girl who has excelled in an academic environment.  She was so bright that she skipped an entire school year, going to secondary school when she was 10 and got a place studying Business Management and Marketing at the University of Manchester when she was just 17.

I still remember the day we dropped her off at her Halls of Residence to begin her three year stint as a university student.  I recall the tears that I cried as I drove away leaving my little girl on her own for the first time in the big city.  I needn't have worried though.  My girl did us proud and took to life as a student with the same tenacity that she applies to everything in her life.

It wasn't always easy for her.  She had some problems including some issues with her health which lead to her missing a lot of her second year studies.  I must admit that I wasn't sure that she would continue with her degree at this time, and even told her that there would be no shame in stepping out of the situation for a while and picking it up again at a later date, especially as she was a year ahead of herself.   But she fought back.  Like she always does.

Today, my daughter received notification of her final results...a 2:1!  I am incredibly proud of her and her achievements.  It's as simple as that.

I know good things are heading her way!

graduate, student, daughter

Gorgeous Children's Bags From Pink Lining

Pink Lining's Spring/Summer Range For Kids

Pink Lining have a new range of  gorgeous children's bags for this season.  Featuring the cutest characters Little Ladybird and Robbie the Robot, they will be a hit with children and parents alike.  With bags suitable for travel, school and home, the range is both practical and beautiful!

We were sent a Robbie the Robot Overnight Bag which arrived cutely packaged in pink tissue paper with a ribbon!

The Practical Bit

The zip-up overnight bag has a wipe clean soft laminated coating which is environmentally friendly, food safe and made without plasticizers or chlorine.  The bottom of the bag and the front pocket are heavy duty cotton. The double handles are securely stitched  and comfortable to hold.  Metal studs on the bottom of the bag help prevent scuffing when the bag is set down.  Handy zipped pockets provide secure storage spaces for bits and bobs!

The Fun Bit

The cream coloured fabric is decorated with a really fun, colourful and quirky robot design.  The front pocket has a beautiful appliqued Robbie the Robbie on it.  The character is very detailed with dials and buttons on his tummy, pincer hands and a friendly face.  3 year old Freddy loved the bag and we are looking  forward to packing it for our weekend away for his birthday next week!  It is spacious (42cm x 26cm x 22cm) and the zip up pockets will be very handy.

Just look at these photos showing the detail and the design on these incredibly cute overnight bag!
Pink Lining, bag, travel

The Overnight Bag is £40. Lunchboxes, Picture Satchels, Toy Bags and Wheelie Cases are also available in the Robbie the Robot design.  You can shop for these and the Little Ladybird designed bags on the website.

Cooking Italian With Cosi Com'e Tomatoes

Fresh and Long Life Preserved Tomatoes For Healthy And Contemporary Cooking

Cosi Com'e is a range of top quality small tomatoes, harvested when ripe by hand and preserved in glass jars to keep the perfect smell and taste of the crop all year round.  Grown in sun drenched Italian Piana del Sele, only the best variety of small tomato is cultivated in a natural way focusing on quality and respect for nature.  The delicate preservation method retains the original sweet taste and smell and keeps the antioxidant and vitamin content of the tomato.  Nothing is added because simplicity brings their goal of excellence to the beautifully bottled product.

I was sent a gift box of Cosi Com'e Tomatoes to try out.  They look so different to the usual boring cans of tomatoes that I buy.  The colours are vibrant and they come either whole in water or juice or come as a puree.  The product simply shouts quality and I felt inspired to cook up a contemporary Mediterranean meal just looking at them!  They cook in just 4 minutes making them a quick and easy authentic ingredient in a host of recipes.

Red Datterino tomatoes come whole in water. They are perfect with vegetable and seafood dishes.  They can be eaten cooked or uncooked, skewered with mozzarella and basil or eaten whole as an appetizer.  In juice they are perfect for making pasta sauces with a rich, sweet flavour.  Pureed, it is perfect for making appetizers and sauces.

Yellow Datterino tomatoes come in water or in juice.  They are great with pasta and rice dishes, for canapes or to garnish pizzas.  They can be pureed to make a yellow sauce with carrots or yellow peppers adding colour and sweetness.  The yellow colouring is very vibrant and interesting.

Pizzutello Tomatoes in juice are slightly acidic making them perfect for sauces and main courses, especially spicy dishes where the bold flavour and rich smell hold up well.  When pureed it has an intense and tasty flavour for pizzas, gazpacho and sauces.

I decided to make an Italian dish using the Cosi Com'e tomatoes.  I loved the idea of serving the Red Datterino Tomatoes in Juice with spaghetti for a fresh, healthy, quick and easy, contemporary meal.  The result was a rich and sweet tomato sauce that was simply delicious with whole juicy tomatoes that were sensational, fragrant and tasty!  The addition of salty Feta complemented the meal perfectly.

Datterino Tomato Sauce Recipe.

1 Jar of Datterino Rosso
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 tblspn Olive Oil
1 teaspn dried basil or a handful of fresh basil

Fry the chopped onions until soft, add garlic and fry for 3 more minutes.  
Add herbs and jar of tomatoes.
Cook down for about 8 minutes.
Serve over freshly cooked spaghetti and crumble over some Feta cheese.

Find out more and buy from the e-shop at

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Mario Kart 7 Review

Mario Kart 7 is the glorious 3D racing game for the Nintendo 3DS.  It's fast, furious, fun, addictive and fantastic to play!

New tracks allow you to glide in the sky or race underwater on the sea bed for the first time in Mario Kart history, adding a whole new dimension to the racing game.  You can choose from your favourite characters or even use your own Mii to drive.  New characters include Metal Mario and Lakitu.

There are 32 courses to race on including 16 retro courses from previous games.  This gives fans of the original games a real blast from the past!  The 16 brand new courses for Mario Kart 7 offer all the excitement and high octane fun with some extra twists and turns along the way!

The game plays beautifully.  The top screen shows all the racing action in eye-popping 3D as you collect power-ups and coins, while racing across land, sea and air.  The bottom screen shows a map and your position and race data.  The controls are easy using the circle pad to steer.  Even 3 year old Freddy was able to have a go at racing and thought it was brilliant!   The vibrant, colourful graphics and upbeat music make it a joy to play.  You can easily switch between the 3D and 2D graphics.

You can customize your kart however you like. The tyres, chassis and gliders can be customized to suit your racing style.  Some options are built for speed, others are cute and cuddly and pure fun!   There is an option to use motion control to steer, putting yourself in the driving seat using the console as a wheel. 

The power-ups offer an element of real fun to the races.  Fire Flower allows you to throw fire balls at opponents.  On more than one occasion we were unexpectedly blasted with a Blooper that impaired our visibility by shooting ink all over our screen.  It looked fabulous in 3D and never failed to make me jump!  The Blue Spiny Shells can make you lose a race in an instant.  You cannot be sure of a win until you have crossed the finish line!

Mario Kart 7 can be played in single player mode or you can use the multi-player function via broadband to play with other racers worldwide!  You can play up to eight players locally using wi-fi.  It also uses Streetpass to exchange data with other Mario Kart 7 racers in your vicinity.  These features add to the excitement of Mario Kart 7 and pushes the gaming experience to its peak. My children are however most content with getting to grips with the game before competing against other racers.  They are happy to try and improve their ranking while playing solo, but it's good to know that the option to take on other racers is available when they are confident enough!

Mario Kart 7 is cram packed with action as you glide over ravines, propel your kart underwater and steer around the landscapes.  The courses are great with some retro moments to evoke memories of the Nintendo 64.  There are cups to be won in Grand Prix mode, keeping the challenges fresh.  Other modes and difficulty levels and the multi-player options will keep Mario Kart 7 a game that you will want to play for a long time.  Whether you are a hard core competitive gamer or just someone who enjoys indulging in a spot of gaming just for fun and relaxation, Mario Kart 7 is a perfect choice!

Check out details of Nintendo's Mario Kart 7 "Britain's Fastest Family" Tournament for your chance to win a Honda Jazz Si and other great prizes!!  Do you think you're fast enough??

Britain's Fastest Family Competition

Nintendo Launches Search for Britain's Fastest Family


Things are really heating up this summer (sadly I don't mean the weather!) as Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS sweeps the nation.  Nintendo is on a mission to find Britain's Fastest Family in the biggest family gaming tournament with this fun, family racing game!

Whoever is crowned Britain's Fastest Family will become the proud owners of a stunning new Honda Jazz Si -as well as a limited edition Mario Kart 7 trophy and a host of other incredible prizes.  With all this to race for it is time to get practicing!

The Mario Kart 7 Britain's Fastest Family Tournament will run across England, Scotland and Wales offering all Mario Kart 7 fans the chance to compete to get the fastest race times.  Regional heats will take place throughout August at thirty chosen HMV stores, but only the fastest will gain  a seat at the grand finale in October to be in with a chance of winning the amazing prizes.

Family ties will be tested to the max as the competition is made up exclusively of family teams.  Old and young players will join forces to see off intense competition via a mix of blistering speed and ruthless strategy.  Expect no-holds barred racing as Mario Kart 7 offers the ability to glide in the sky, speed over land and race  on the sea floor in glorious 3D.

So get practicing and find your fastest family team members whether it is dad and daughter,  mum and son or  even gran and grandchild!  (Each team of two must include at least one adult over the age of 18 along with a second family member with an age gap of at least 10 years and be multi-generational.)

For more information and to register visit

Monday, 25 June 2012

Chokablok Chocolate

Chokablok - The Chunky Chocolate Bar 

The makers of Chokablok Ice Cream have launched a range of chunky chocolate blocks chock full of goodies and sweet treats.  Available in four flavours, they are generously loaded with yummy toppings making them an indulgent and decadent treat that is very interesting to look at.  We were sent some to try.

chocolates, Tesco

Cookie Crumb Mon-Star – Creamy white chocolate with shortcake biscuit balls, dark cookie crumbs and milk chocolate stars.

Gold Digger Dynamite – Milk chocolate caramel cups, chunks of sweet honeycomb, surrounded by swirled milk and white chocolate.

The Chocolate Extremist – Smooth milk chocolate swirled with rich dark chocolate, crunchy brownie pieces and milk chocolate malty balls.

The Rocky Road of Love – Milk chocolate with dark chocolate hearts, shortcake biscuit balls and mini marshmallows with a drizzle of dark chocolate.

The Chokablok chocolate makes for a festival of sweetness with different flavours and textures battling for supremacy on your taste buds.  The result is a confectionery explosion in your mouth that will either delight you or set your teeth on edge.  The kids loved tucking into the chocolatey treats, making short work of a bar.  Sweet toothed chocoholics will love them!  However Ian, who is more of a chocolate purist, found them way too sickly for his palate.  

The 100g square bars are available in the confectionery aisle at Tesco, so you can treat yourself while doing your weekly grocery shop!

E-Cloth Green Clean Challenge Part 4

Ever since starting the E-Cloth Green Clean Challenge, my eyes have been opened to the benefits of ditching chemical cleaners in favour of natural alternatives or simply using e-cloth products with water to tackle household cleaning jobs.  It is amazing how good a job you can do without having to resort to using products that can damage the environment and cause potential harm.  Plus you can save money.  Going green with your cleaning really is a good choice to make.

By using the e-cloth range I've got sparkling stainless steel and glass in my kitchen.  My work surfaces are hygienically clean.  My bathroom mirrors are shiny and my sinks and taps are looking good.  My laminate and tiled floors are being kept clean with the e-cloth mop.  It's all very quick, easy and effective!

This week I'm focusing on washing up.  We used to have a dish washer but decided that after our two eldest  kids left home, that we should go back to washing up by hand as we were creating far less dirty plates etc.  I believe that our decision has reduced our water and electricity consumption, plus we no longer need to buy expensive dishwasher products.  Could we go any greener?

E-Cloth has a Washing Up Pad which is a good sized pad with a cloth side and a scouring side.  The scouring side is for scrubbing off stuck-on food and stains, while the cloth side cuts through grease and grime using just water.  They also have an E-Towel for super fast, streak free drying up.

e-cloth, washing up

We have been using the Washing Up Pad to tackle our washing up.  For lightly soiled crockery or glassware, it works brilliantly with water alone.  When washing up greasy pans it worked really well with a squirt of environmentally friendly washing-up liquid.  I must admit that having the lemon scented  bubbles made it feel more satisfying, because that is what I'm used to.

Washing Up

The abrasive side was really good for scrubbing away burned on food and stuck on stains.  It was excellent on my husband's stained coffee mug!  The size of the pad is excellent for making short work of washing up and it feels very sturdy in your hand.  I hate scouring sponges where the abrasive section peels away or disintegrates with use.  The pad is still perfectly intact.

Using just hot water and the pad for much of our washing up is working really well and has made our bottle of environmentally washing up liquid, which we use for greasy plates and pans etc,  last much longer.  This is very cost effective.

The E-Towel is a tea towel that is made with a material with super absorbent fibres that is four times more absorbent and effective than regular cotton drying up towels.   It came in a Country Classic design and was 70 x 40 cm in size.  I didn't really appreciate just how poorly cotton tea towels perform until using this!  Just one wipe leaves things dry, streak free and grease free.  It is exceptionally good on glassware.  I hate it when glasses get smears and white residue on them from being washed up.  The e-towel literally left them crystal clear, completely dry and sparkling with one quick wipe!

e-cloth, drying, tea towel
Drying Up

The packaging says you will never use an ordinary tea-towel again.  I can see why!  It also wipes down surfaces to a dry, streak-free finish with a single, once over!  It is definitely a very effective cloth!  Ian was really impressed with the e-towel as it cut the drying up time down considerably and left everything completely dry ready for putting away in the cupboard.

The Washing Up Pad is £2.99 and the Country Classic Tea Towel is £4.99.  A small price to pay to revolutionize the way you wash up!

Find out more at

Friday, 22 June 2012

Our Second Honeymoon at The Gilpin

Some time ago, we entered the Gilpin Hotel's 25th Anniversary Competition and were delighted to be chosen as one of the twenty five lucky couples to win an overnight stay in their Lake House.  On Wednesday we headed off together for a long overdue second honeymoon in the Lake District.  Leaving Megan in charge of the kids, we were able relax and spend some quality time together for the first time in years!!

Lake District, relaxing

A day of unexpected sunshine was a real bonus!  As soon as we arrived we got into our swimming costumes, put on our robes and slippers and headed out to the beautiful lake.  We lounged on the wooden jetty, relaxed in the outdoor hot tub and had an amazing afternoon tea on the veranda.  It was just perfect!

Lake District

Gilpin, hotel

We were chauffeured to the hotel for a five course meal with champagne, canapes and wine matching in the evening.  Most of the food was absolutely exquisite, but I did discover that I don't have a cosmopolitan palate when it comes to desserts.  Strawberries with basil puree and a red pepper sorbet did not work for me...even though it looked Masterchef beautiful.  I am intrinsically a crumble and custard kind of girl!

food, fine dining,

We went for a lovely walk in the woodland as night fell.  The lake looked beautiful.  It was so peaceful and tranquil.  

Our suite had views over the lake, an enormous comfy bed and an amazing bathroom.  Full advantage was taken of it all.  

Next day saw a full English veggie breakfast served in the conservatory.  This was followed by a 30 minute filmed interview which is the second stage of the anniversary competition, where we were quizzed over our relationship, family and thoughts about holidays and special occasions.  It was actually really fun and Zoe, the hotel owner was so warm and friendly we pretty much forgot that there was a camera pointing in our faces.  Goodness knows what drivel I spouted!!  

It was so lovely to be with Ian, on our own in a gorgeous place.  However, I was glad to get home to the kids who were all perfectly fine and happy without us!  I look forward to spending more days with my husband as the little ones get older.  We have had a taste of what we have to look forward to in the future...and I liked it!! 

Check out the Gilpin's Facebook Page.  It would be a fantastic venue for a romantic retreat, a family party or a special occasion.  Our video will be appearing on there very shortly in the final stage of the competition!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My Babysitter's A Vampire

Tweens who love the Disney Channel, are going to love the latest comedy horror film "My Babysitter's A Vampire".  Another addition to the ever growing and hugely popular vampire franchise, the movie features geeky 14 year old Ethan and his best friend Benny.

After they fail to babysit Ethan's sister Jane properly, their parents hire a professional babysitter, the beautiful yet mysterious Sarah.  Unbeknownst to them she is a fledgling vampire!

The boys discover her secret when they see her eating a rat!  She enlists them to help her save Erica, the real babysitter who has been lured away by vampires who are planning to takeover their home town of Whitechapel.  Lead by Jesse, Sarah's ex-boyfriend, the vampires are looking for revenge on the ancestors of the townsfolk who ridded Whitechapel of vampires in the past.  Using the new vampire film Dusk 3 as a cover they are turning local teenagers into real life vampires!!

Along the way the boys discover some of Whitechapel's secrets and find out that they might have supernatural powers of their own. Their discoveries help them in their quest to stop the vampires from taking over.  Will they save the town??

The film is a prequel to the hit Disney Channel series.  Kizzy really enjoyed watching this movie and really enjoyed the comedy element.  She said it wasn't too scary and the vampires were cool (the film's a PG)!  She thought Benny was very funny.

My Babysitter's A Vampire The Movie is out on DVD on June 25th and includes a bonus of the  complete first full episode of the TV series.  Definitely one for the older kids!

Monday, 18 June 2012

DIY For Less With Aldi

This week, while stocks last, Aldi are selling a great range of DIY products as Special Buys.  So if there are any jobs pending in your home, it's a perfect opportunity to buy everything you need to do it yourself whilst saving some money in the bargain!

Aldi sent us some of the DIY goodies to take a look out.  They arrived this morning, so I'm planning all the jobs that Ian can do around the house this weekend!

DIY, jobs, decorating
My Handy Man
The Cordless Multi-Function Tool is a saw, cutter and sanding tool with a Lithium Ion battery.  It includes four different cutting blades and twenty sheets of sanding paper so it is ready to tackle a whole host of jobs.  It is also compatible with Bosch accessories.  Costing just £39.99, it comes with a three year warranty for complete piece of mind.  You don't get that with big brand names!

DIY, Aldi

The 9" Roller and Tray Set is just £2.99 and includes two sleeves.  It makes light work of painting the walls or ceiling.

DIY, Aldi

The Premier Brush Set is made with 100% pure black bristles and is perfect for corners and edge work.  For just £2.69 you get a 1", 1.5" and a 2" brush.

The Kitchen and Bathroom Paint costs just £7.99 for a 5l tub.  It is a hard wearing, matt emulsion with a protective film to prevent mould making it perfect for a kitchen or bathroom walls where dampness can be a problem.  It is a great DIY tip to freshen up a room by giving the ceilings a coat of white paint.  It really gives the room a lift. Knowing that this paint can also help prevent mould is a real bonus!

DIY, brushes, roller, paint

Other products that Aldi have for sale include an Electric Tile Cutter for £29.99.  I wish I'd had one when I tiled the splash back in my old kitchen.  I broke so many tiles!  This would have been an excellent tool to help with that job.

Scrapers, Hot Air Guns, Wrenches, Spacers, Safety Gear, Grout, Tile Adhesive and a Two Step Stool are among the other products available as Special Buys this week at great prices.

But hurry...while stocks last!

For more information on their weekly special buys go to

Why? Why? Why?

Why??  It is the word guaranteed to drive you mad when asked a dozen consecutive times by a small child eager for unanswerable answers.  It is a classic Eurythmics song.  It is the mantra of an inquisitive mind thirsty for knowledge.  It is also the theme of a meme that I have been tagged in by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews

These are the eternal 'why' questions that plague my thoughts on a regular basis.  (Any answers will be gratefully received!)

  • Why does my mind still think I'm 18 while my body thinks I'm 50+?

  • Why, when I brush my hair, do my brown hairs fall out while the white ones stay firmly put?

  • Why does it take me a month to lose half a stone, but 3 days to put it back on?

  • Why can I remember in intricate detail the script of Dirty Dancing but I can't remember where I put my car keys this morning?

  • Why is there always a wizened lemon lurking in the back of my fridge...even if I haven't bought any for months? 

  • Why does hot chocolate not actually taste like chocolate?

  • Why do people always think that vegetarians must miss bacon?

  • Why does treading on a discarded piece of Lego hurt so damn much?

  • Why, however diligent I am with my laundry, do I always end up with odd socks in the airing?

  1. Post your whys – as few or as many as you like. 
  2. Link up your post to Mummy Central, and it would be great if you could leave a comment too. 
  3. Tag 5 bloggers to keep this going. 
  4. If you’re not a blogger, leave your whys as a comment below. I'd love to read them. 
  5. Show your support by reading a few others and commenting on them.

Do Something Amazing Today for #ShareNiger

Cybher 2013

I am proud to be part of a group of bloggers, co-ordinated by Merry from Patch of Puddles, who have come together to help sponsor a number of children whose lives are being adversely affected by the food crisis in Niger.  World Vision run a sponsorship programme where £22.80 a month can help transform the lives of these children and their families bringing food, education, healthcare and hope to the poorest communities.

In this economic climate, many of us are feeling the pinch, but by joining together we can help out by donating whatever we can afford.  By giving just £1 you can make a difference, bringing the total donated  closer to the sum required to sponsor ten children in the village Sian To visited, where she witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by this crisis.  Together we can bring hope.

If you want to be a part of something amazing you can donate here.  Doing it together means that whatever you can afford to give at this time will make a huge difference.  So whether you wish to contribute a monthly donation or just give a one off payment to the cause, every single penny counts!

It feels good knowing that you can help make a positive change to someone's life!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Daddy Of All Breakfasts

Aldi challenged us to cook up the Daddy Of All Breakfasts using some of Aldi's great priced products.

We were sent the beans, bread, orange juice and eggs to make a delicious Father's Day breakfast.  (We just added the veggie bacon and sausages, mushrooms and hash browns!)  So Kizzy got to work to make a fry up for Ian's breakfast.  Here is a video of how she got on!

Ian was very impressed with his breakfast, as made by Kizzy.  She did a really good job with just a tad of supervision.  Everything tasted delicious.

We love the Del Rivo Orange Juice (£1.29) which is full of bits like real freshly squeezed juice.  The Corale Beans (32p) are every bit as good as the top brand beans.  The Mervale Free Range Eggs and the Village Bakery bread (49p) were both really good too.

Best of all, switching to Aldi's brands can save you a whole heap of money on your grocery shopping without compromising on quality!

breakfast, beans, bread, eggs, orange juice

Ian said "It really was the Daddy of all Breakfasts!"

Disclosure:  We were sent the groceries and a camcorder to record our Father's Day video from Aldi.

Happy Father's Day

Three generations of fathers.  The three men in the world I love the most.  I am blessed to have you in my life.  

My Daddy

My Husband Ian

My Son Joe (now 24 and soon to be a daddy!)

I love you all. 
Happy Father's Day.

Silent Sunday #Project 52

photography, snap, toddlers

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Friday, 15 June 2012

Coffee Muffin Recipe

Coffee Muffins For Father's Day

The two most important and amazing men in my life (excluding my two precious sons!!) are my Dad and my husband/baby daddy Ian.  Father's Day is the time to honour their role in my life and the best way of doing so is through the medium of cake!

Both of them love coffee is after all a manly flavour!  So in honour of them both I have made my totally delicious Coffee Muffins.  They are the lightest muffins ever and the fudgy  icing is just a little taste of coffee heaven.  Here's the recipe in case you want to make some for the man in your life too!

Coffee Muffins

home baking, cakes


150g butter
150g unrefined sugar
3 egg whites
4 egg yolks
1 tblspn hot water + 1 teaspn coffee granules
150g plain flour
1 teaspn baking powder

1 1/2 tblspn milk
knob of butter
200g icing sugar
2 teaspns coffee granules

half walnuts and chocolate covered coffee beans to decorate


  • Preheat oven to GM4 and line muffin tin with paper cases.
  • Melt butter and sugar in saucepan , bring to boil and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly.  Leave to cool.
  • Whisk egg whites until stiff.
  • Add egg yolks and coffee to sugar/butter mix.
  • Stir in flour and baking powder.
  • Fold in whisked egg whites.
  • Spoon into muffin cases and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  • When cool make icing by heating butter, coffee and milk in a pan then remove from heat and beat in icing sugar.
  • Pipe or spread on top of muffins (add a drop more milk if too thick) and top with a walnut half or a chocolate coffee bean.

cake, baking, muffins
Step by Step Photos

E-Cloth Green Clean Challenge Part 3

Oven Cleaning The Green Way!

I've been challenged to switch my chemical cleaners in favour of natural alternatives and harness the cleaning power of water with e-cloth's great products! Up until now, most household cleaning products have been easily exchanged.  I am amazed by the effectiveness of vinegar solution as a cleaner for most surfaces when used with a general purpose e-cloth.  Environmentally friendly laundry tablets and washing-up liquid are just as good as my usual brand.  Going green is proving so much easier than I thought it would be.

But this week, I needed to turn my attention to the interior of my oven.  This is a horrible job!  Chemical cleaners are so harsh.  They stink out the house and are terrible for my hands.  They are generally very expensive and also don't live up to the promises on the packaging.  All in all...this makes oven cleaning very high on my list of least favourite jobs!

The e-cloth hob and oven pack consists of two clothes.  One is heavy and slightly abrasive for tackling burnt on grease.  The other is a light cloth for shining up the stainless steel and glass.

Using just water, the heavy duty cloth picked up a lot of the grease and black deposits from the walls and shelf edges of the oven.  It is far less mucky using the Oven e-cloth than when cleaning with a spray on chemical foam cleaner.  The bottom of the oven had some really stubborn marks. To assist in the job, I made up a paste of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to help shift the burnt on grease. 

Using the bicarb and vinegar paste really helped cut through a lot of the muck.  It fizzed up, eating through the grease.  It was odourless once dried and did not effect the skin at all.  After a quick scrub, a wipe off with an e-cloth cleared away most of the mess.  As it is not toxic, I didn't feel paranoid about any residue remaining in the oven and was happy to cook again straight away.

The end result as you can see was pretty good.  There are some slight burn marks still visible in the enamel, but there is nothing nasty lurking at all.  It was much simpler using the cloth and some bicarbonate of soda paste rather than a shop bought chemical oven cleaner.  The peace of mind knowing that it was 100% harmless was a real bonus...I hate those smelly, expensive, noxious, toxic, psoriasis inducing oven cleaners! 

The oven e-cloth rinsed clean with some hot water and once dried was ready to put away, ready for the next oven cleaning day.  

The polishing e-cloth was really effective in buffing up the stainless steel and glass door.  

I also used the oven clothes with plain water on my microwave which was a much easier job than cleaning my oven.  The  heavy duty cloth lifted off the food spatterings really effectively and the polishing cloth made the exterior shine.

It came up really clean.  The polishing cloth is great to get a smear free finish.  I also buffed up my stainless steel finish fridge freezer, toaster and food processor.  It polished them up easily using no chemical cleaners at all.  Knowing that the e-cloth lifts away over 99% of germs, I am not worried about that aspect of my cleaning.  I am getting a hygienically cleaned kitchen without spending money on unnecessary chemical cleaning it is safer for my family and better for the environment!  There is no compromise involved in going is a win/win situation!

For more information on the products check out

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful....Change!

I've had a bit of a rubbish week.  But even rubbish weeks help you learn valuable lessons.  Life is all about growing as a person and although sometimes things have to change, things will hopefully work out for the best in the long run.  This week has been about this in lots of respects, and we're going through the aftermath and coming to terms with a whole heap of changes as a family.  However, lessons have been learned and for that I'm grateful.

1:  Yet again I've realised how amazing my husband is.  He is a man of integrity.  He puts our family first and I love his simple outlook on situations.  I've been a bit emotionally wobbly recently and he has put everything into perspective for me, making me see things for what they are.   He supports me 100% and just being reminded of these qualities makes me happy.  His job situation is still a bit flaky, but our relationship has never been stronger.

2:  My daughter Megan has finished university.  Three years of studying Business Management and Marketing at The University of Manchester has come to an end.  I'm so proud of her.  She has struggled with her health whilst she has been away and has had some problems that she has had to deal with on her own outside of the protection and comfort of her family.  But she has worked hard and now holds the honour of being the most educated person in our family with a well respected degree under her belt!

She has some recently had some big changes and more are on her horizon.  Times are tough for her right now. The economic climate means everything is more of a struggle but she will find a path befitting her abilities, talents and her personality.  She has got so much promise and potential.  Whatever she ends up doing, she'll make her mark on the world.  I love my daughter and am honoured to be her mum.

3:  Ella has almost finished her GCSE's.  Three more exams to go and she has coped admirably with her revision.  Like her big sister, she is also going through a lot of changes as she is leaving the comfort of her local school to attend a big sixth form college in a town which is an hour's bus ride away.  She has some lovely friends that she will be leaving behind, but they have plans to meet up every week for a catch up.  Ella's not had it easy these past months, but again I am so proud of her of her amazing self-resilience.  She'll be moving onwards and upwards and will have our full support as she takes on the next challenges in her life.

4:  My eldest son Joe is about to move house.  It's never easy!  But it is exciting to think of him and his girlfriend setting up a new home with the thought of their new baby being born into it.  Unfortunately Joe's moving date is the same as the date Megan is meant to vacate her student accommodation.  There will be juggling for us to do in order to help them both!!

5:  Our tickets have just arrived for The M Fest, Morrison's festival of Food and Music (two of my favourite things!!)  It will be Freddy and Kizzy's first weekend festival and it is something that Ian is very keen for them to experience.  It's also across Freddy's 3rd birthday weekend so will be a treat for us all to celebrate his special day!

We'll be postponing his birthday party for a few weeks, but it is something I'm really looking forwards to.  Lots of cake baking, music, fun, friends and family.  It will be fabulous and an opportunity for us to get together and give thanks for all that is good in our life and put behind all the bad bits!

6:  Today I helped sponsor a child in Niger along with a whole host of other bloggers.  This is another example of the good that can be done when the blogging community pulls together.  I'm so proud to be a part of  this!  If you want to be a part of something amazing check out this post from Merry at Patch of Puddles for #ShareNiger  You don't have to give a lot (I couldn't donate too much because of my husband's uncertain job future) but every penny counts.  A one off donation or a monthly payment can literally change the lives of children in Niger.  Together we truly can make a difference.

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart


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