Thursday, 28 February 2013

What's In Your Pocket?

We all know the little thrill you get when you put your hand in the pocket of that coat you haven't worn for ages, feel something crumpled up in the corner, pull it out (fearing it may be something that one of the kids stuffed in there) only to discover it is a £20 note!  It's something that feels great. The question is, what would you do with it?  Would you pop it in your purse and let it become one with the weekly housekeeping?  Would you treat yourself to something nice?  Go out for a meal? Would you give it to a homeless person?  Donate to charity?  Buy a bottle of wine?  A big cake?  Or perhaps you'd do something else.

I got the chance to find out what I'd do when Money Supermarket gave me £20 to do whatever I liked with.  £20 for nothing is a nice bonus.  It's not enough cash that you feel obliged to do something sensible, but it is enough to do something nice for someone else or to treat yourself.

I am someone who likes to spread the love, especially where the kids are involved!  So I decided that I would lay on a film afternoon for my children and some of their friends.  They work hard at school, they are well behaved and friendly, and are a very supportive bunch of kids.  It is nice to reward them.

My Shopping List

Frankenweenie DVD  £10.99
2 cheese & tomato pizzas £2.00
1 bag of popcorn £1.00
2 bottles of pop  £2.00
1 bag of carrots £1.00
1 cucumber £1.00
1 tub of hummous £1.00
Charity box in store £1.01

The grand total of my spending was exactly £20.00!  This is £20 that entertained, fed and treated my kids plus six extra children. It gave them a feel good feeling which made me happy too.  That is a very cost effective, fun filled and entertaining thing to do with the money!  It made me feel great to share my little windfall with my children and some of the local kids.

And what exactly did that £20 buy?

Friendships cemented.


Laughter and smiles.

Something they will talk about tomorrow and for days to come.

Making the kids feel valued.

Feeling epic!


Take a look at this video Pocket Some Extra Cash to see the reactions of some lucky people who felt great after discovering £20 in their dry cleaning (planted by  They enjoyed one of life's little wins!

What would YOU do if you found £20 in your pocket?

This is my entry into the #whatsinyourpocket challenge in conjunction with

My Top Three Baby Picks from Casabu

Casabu is the great deals sites for parents, offering daily sales of stylish products from quality brands with prices discounted between 40 and 90%.  Every day you can find a great selection of items for mums, babies and children.  Now I am a granny, I am really interested in all the baby wear deals so I've chosen my three favourite baby buys available today!

shoes, toddlers
Jack and Lily footwear is designed and lovingly crafted for little feet allowing them to grow and develop  naturally.  These Miss Brown boots are gorgeous and fur lined, perfect for this weather!  The RRP is  £44 but you can get them for just £22.50.

baby wear
Bebeloo clothes are designed to bring out the star in any child.  They produce fun styles to create a wardrobe as individual as your child.  I love this seven pack of long sleeved bodysuits, one for every day of the week.  Practical but fun, with the mix of colours and the daily design.  RRP is £32.50, but they are on offer at just £13.

baby clothes
Rockabye Baby sell clothes with attitude for parents who want to bypass cutesie!  This Kid Rocks bodysuit is £19 RRP but is on sale at just £13.

Deals don't last long, but you can find great new bargains everyday.  There are also Flash sales and Pop Up Shops so it is worth keeping a close eye on the website.

Signing up is quick and easy and completely FREE!  Once you are a member you can access the daily sales events online. You can invite your friends to join up too, and when they make a purchase you receive £10 to spend!

Take a look at and discover great deals on some brilliant brands!

*I have been gifted with a £20 voucher to treat my grandson!*

Superfood Smoothie Recipe

I haven't drunk cow's milk for years and have experimented with non-dairy alternatives to find the best replacement for me.  I discovered Almond Milk when it was on special offer in the chiller aisle of the supermarket and I have never looked back. Seeing the brekkie smoothie competition on the Foodies 100 site, in conjunction with Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Milk, inspired me to come up with a recipe of my own using the low calorie and calcium rich milk as an ingredient.

almond milk

Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, yet it is often neglected in the rush of the school run.  So a quick and easy to make Smoothie is a great way of starting the day with a healthy and nutritious boost in drink form.  I always find the problem with smoothies is that you need a supply of fresh fruit to make them.  In my house, if there is a punnet of strawberries in the fridge the kids will eat them in three seconds flat.  Therefore there will be none left over for smoothie making.  So I have overcome this problem by keeping a bag of frozen mixed berries in the freezer. They cost just £1.50 for a 500g bag which will be enough for lots of smoothie making.  That way I always have the ingredients ready and available and it's so convenient as they can be blended straight from the freezer. The coldness of the fruit also makes the smoothie lovely and chilled to drink.

I wanted my smoothie to pack a nutritious punch and contain ingredients that would be health enhancing as well as delicious. The Californian almonds that make Almond Breeze are a superfood, so I used that as a theme for the Superfood Smoothie I made.  I also wanted it to be easy to make as time is so limited in the mornings that I wouldn't have time to peel, weigh, prepare or chop up ingredients.

Superfood Smoothie Recipe


1 cup of unsweetened Almond Breeze milk
1 good handful of frozen berries ; blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries and redcurrants
1 ripe banana (broken into four)
2 teaspoons of milled Goji Berries 

berries, banana, almond milk


Put in a blender (milk first) and blitz until smooth.
Serve immediately.

blender, smoothie

This nutritious blend of natural superfoods is a perfect way to start the day.  It's so quick, easy and convenient there is really no excuse not to make one!  If you still need convincing, check out the nutritional properties of the ingredients.

Almond Breeze is low in fat and contains bone building calcium.  The almonds are nutrient rich and contain monosaturated fats which helps reduce cholesterol.  They also are rich in plant protein, iron and Vitamin E as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.
Bananas are rich in potassium which is good for heart health.  They also contain vitamin B6 which helps eleviate mood swings and Trytophan which encourages feelings of wellbeing.  Bananas also contain soluble fibre and a prebiotic substance that enhances the body's ability to absorb the calcium from the Almond Breeze.  Along with the slow release of energy, bananas are a perfect addition to a morning smoothie adding sweetness and texture.
Berries bring a nutritional punch of vitamins, antioxidants, essential minerals and dietary fibre to the recipe, as well as a beautiful rich red colour and fruity flavour.
The milled Goji Berries and flaxseed contain Omega 3, fibre and antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals, adding an extra nutritional boost to the smoothie.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Baby Names Infographic

I always enjoy seeing what names are popular and how trends are influencing what we call our babies.  Bounty have produced this infographic showing baby names for 2012.  I was interested to see Kizzie appear in the Unusual Names category, making an appearance for the first time in any list anywhere (although I spell it with a Y)   Joseph and Megan have both finally dropped out of the Top 10 and there is no glut of Freddys or Ellas on the horizon.  Not even the film Ted or the popularity of How I Met Your Mother,  has lead to an increase in baby Teds, making my baby grandson's name quite unique!  Are your children's  names in the lists?

Baby Names Infographic from Bounty

Brought to you by Bounty.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

#WIN Personalised Chocolate from Joyville Made

I loved my personalised bar of Joyville Made chocolate soooo much, that I wanted to share the joy with two of my readers by giving away a code for you to make your very own personalised bar of Joyville Made Cadbury's Dairy Milk Chocolate designed by you!  The code enables you to make your own bar online and have it delivered for free.

cadbury, joyville made

Seeing your own name on the iconic packaging is such a thrill!  My "Wendy Bar" really made me smile when it arrived in the post.  So whether you want to treat yourself or surprise a loved one, you can be assured that there will be joy aplenty in your special bar of chocolate!

To win, all you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below and leave me a comment telling me whose name would you put on your bar of Joyville Made chocolate if you won a code!  Closes at 11.59pm on the 2nd March 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Making Perfect Fajitas

We are big fans of Mexican food here Inside the Wendy House, so we were pleased to try out the Perfect Fajita Kit from Discovery.  Each kit contains wraps, a topping and the cook in spice sachet.  

Discovery, Mexican

The kits are tailored for different tastes.  The Mild Mexican Fajita Kit includes a smoky BBQ flavoured spice mix and comes with a sour cream topping.  The Medium Fajita Kit is spicier and comes with a salsa sauce.

They make it so quick and easy to conjure up authentic Mexican fajitas that all the family will love.  My kids love making up their own fajitas. They are fun and messy!

I made mild Quorn Steak and Mushroom Fajitas by flash frying onions, mushrooms and Quorn beef strips with the spice mix.  We added salad, grated cheese, some salsa and the sour cream topping to make perfect fajitas.  


Discovery have some great recipe ideas for other things that you can do with their Tortilla wraps.  The Tortizza is a pizza using a wrap as a base.  Top it with salsa or tomato sauce and grated cheese and cook for 5-10 minutes in an oven at 220 degrees.

You can also make a Tortilla Quiche by lining a loose base sandwich tin with a wrap.  You can add your favourite quiche filling and top with a mixture of 200 ml creme fraiche, 142 ml single cream and two eggs beaten together and seasoned.  Cook for 25 minutes at 200 degrees.

I will definitely be trying these recipes and when I do I'll feature them in more detail on the blog.

For more details on Discovery's range of Mexican food plus other recipe ideas take a look at the website:

Monday, 25 February 2013

One Direction, The Oscars and Monday Mornings.

I hate the first day back to school after the holidays.  Freddy is not an early riser and during the holidays he loves to lie in until he naturally awakens to the sounds of his sisters and wakes up happy and full of beans.  This morning he was unceremoniously yanked from his slumber and wore the saddest frown that broke my heart.  He has been poorly too with a lingering cough that has refused to shift.  Dropping him off at nursery gave me a heavy heart as his sad little face watched me leave and implored me to take him with me.  It took every fibre of my being not to scoop him up and bring him home for another day of doing nothing together, just enjoying each others' company.  But with the prospect of school beckoning in just 7 short months, I have to get him back into the swing of things.  Monday mornings are never easy.

To make me feel better about leaving my baby boy, I settled down to watch The Oscars that I had recorded on my Sky planner the night before.  It is my annual thing.  Recording it to watch while the kids are at school, noting down the bits I think the kids will enjoy so they can watch my specially chosen highlights later.  My eldest sister used to love the Oscars, staying up all night to watch them live.  I am not that hardcore but this is my yearly homage to my big sister's passion. However, just to compound my shitty morning, I discovered that I had actually recorded one of the pre-Oscar shows, failing completely to record the main event.  Searching through the listings in hope that the ceremony was repeated in full proved utterly fruitless.  There is a highlight show at 10pm tonight.  It just isn't the same and I feel genuinely sad about it.  By then I will know most of the results and the spark of excitement will be much fainter.  The Oscars always makes me feel close to my sister as I remember her famous Oscar parties and her zest for life.  I feel like I've lost my annual Oscar related opportunity to emulate the one person in the world that I miss everyday.  Sorry Carol.

As ever, when things don't go to plan I resort to carbs.  Half a Bakewell Tart, half a loaf of bread and half a dozen profiteroles later, I am wondering will I ever learn that a cake binge is never the answer?

On a much more positive note, I have had so much fun this week with my girls.  Kizzy's love of One Direction has taken itself to a whole new level after seeing them perform on The Brits.  We made the journey to Sainsbury's to buy the CD and stocked up on other Comic Relief merchandise which was fun.  I have heard the new 1D single at least 300 times in the past few days and mostly jump up to rock out with Kizzy to the One Way or Another/Teenage Kicks mash up.  How thoughtful of them to cover two old school songs so us mums can impress our kids by knowing all the words!

comic relief, red nose day

We've also watched some great films making the most out of our TV which was such a great investment.  We loved Looper.  It was a great watch and had a very cute kid and Bruce Willis in it.  What is not to love?  Taken 2 was pretty good for a silly action film, but Liam Neeson is just so cool.  Madagascar 3 in 3D was an unexpected triumph of feel good, eye-popping cartooniness.  While Paranorman was such a brave movie venturing into a brilliantly dark storyline, which left me moved and in tears. The long awaited return of Dexter to Fox last night was brilliant and lived up to my hopes for one of my favourite TV shows ever.  So it's not all bad.

Ian has what we hope is his final consultation with the surgeon that we hope will be doing his operation on Wednesday.  It has been such a long drawn out and complicated process.  The private health insurance route has been so difficult, but the NHS won't do the operation that he needs to be 'cured' of his problem.  They will only do another quick fix that will inevitably fail after another 12 months.  I just want this over with so we can get on with our lives.

I'm off now to go and pick up my son and I hope he will be happy to see me so I can bring him home for an afternoon of snuggles and Cbeebies.  I'm sure tomorrow will be better!

Children's Picture Books

If you are looking for some great children's books to add to your kids' home library, here are two lovely titles that we have been enjoying together from Harper Collins.

The Runaway Bunny

classic, picture book

This Essential Picture Book Classic has an old fashioned simplicity and a powerful messsage filled with reassurance and affirmation of a mother's love for her child.  When the baby bunny thinks about running away, his mother tells him all the ways that she would bring him back home.  First published in 1942, this is a real classic with gentle magic in its words and illustrations.  The tale of unswerving love and maternal devotion will never grow old.

By Margaret Wise Brown
RRP £6.99 PB

Splat Says Thank You

Splat cat, children's books

Splat is a cat that my children already love and here he is back for a new seventh adventure.  In this title Splat wants to thank his mouse pal Seymour for being his friend, in a bid to cheer him up.  Splat makes a book listing all the funny and sweet reasons that he is so thankful to him.  The illustrations are fabulously detailed, lively and  beautifully humorous.  The text is heart-warming and filled with laugh out loud moments that pre-schoolers will love.

By Rob Scotton
RRP £6.99 PB

Both of these books are available to buy now from good stockists and are also available as e-books.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Visiting Warwick Castle

Over half term we visited Warwick Castle.  Freddy loves castles and magic and swords, so was immediately in his element playing at being Harry Potter or Mike the Knight.  

warwick castle

He loved climbing the ramparts (coping with all 553 steep stone steps!), pretending to shoot arrows from the little windows of the castle and running over the cobbled pathways.

warwick castle

He was fascinated with the exhibitions where he got to touch bows and arrows and wear a helmet (although he wasn't too keen on how heavy it was!)

Warwick castle

He played in the playground which was perfect for little princes and princesses to let off steam.  My favourite moment was when he tried out the stocks.  He really played the part well!  Bless him.

stocks, drunkard

Warwick Castle is a great day out for families who are interested in history.  It really fired up Freddy's imagination and it was a delight to see him engaged in his role play.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 22 February 2013

Photo Books from Vistaprint

Vistaprint is Europe's largest online personalised gifting company, selling a huge range of products for both home and business use.  I was given the opportunity to make a photo book for myself, so I could try out their service and review the end result.  

I love photo books.  They are such a creative way to organise favourite images into a beautifully bound book which will last forever.  They are also an ideal gift for loved ones.  Whether you are using old family photos or your latest digital captures,Vistaprint allows you to preserve your pictures using different backgrounds, layouts and added text.  

Vistaprint photo books are available in small, medium, large and extra large formats and come with leather, canvas or photographic hard covers.  Pages come as standard or can be upgraded to glossy finish.  Prices start at just £11.99.

The website is really easy to use.  I used the online editor version where you can work online, selecting photos from your computer to edit and create photo books of up to 70 pages.  There is also a download editor with advanced editing options giving more freedom, with special effects, masks and filters which creates books of up to 120 pages.

It is easy to place images on the page and make the book look how you want it to.  You can rearrange them and add text and change the backgrounds until you are happy to save your creation.  Alternatively you can auto-fill and let the editor make your book in a single click.  Ordering is easy.  You can upgrade to glossy paper, different cover finishes and a lay flat option.

Your finished photo book is a completely bespoke, personalised and individual creation that makes such a thoughtful gift.  With Mother's Day approaching, why not make your mum a book filled with her favourite family photos.  It would be a treasured gift that would last forever.

photo, personalised gifts

There are various postage and delivery options and the book arrives well packaged to your door.  I was delighted with the end result.  The A4 size, photo covered, glossy paged book is gorgeous.  The Chic Black background that I chose as a theme looks really effective against the photos.  I was very impressed with the whole experience.  Everyone who has seen the book has commented on how nice it is and how lovely the thick and glossy paper is - well worth the upgrade!

The total cost of my 21 x 28 cm photo book with the glossy paper and a photographic cover was £23.73, which is a very competitive price for such a lovely , bespoke photo book.

For more information and to order your own personalised photo books or other gifts visit

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Win Fill & Go Bottles with the BRITA Drinking Water Challenge

One of the easiest ways of improving your well being is to keep your body well hydrated.  One of the best ways of doing this is to drink water.  Water is cheap, has no calories and no added ingredients.  It is recommended that we drink 1.2 litres of water a day, which will enable our bodies to function properly, improving the skin, increasing energy levels and staving off hunger pangs.

Tap water is the best choice as bottled water is expensive, environmentally unfriendly and bulky to store.  However, tap water can taste a bit yuck!  It is also difficult to keep track of how much you are drinking.  There is a handy solution available in the form of convenient jugs and bottles which allow us to filter tap water at home and on the go.  The BRITA Marella jug and the funky Fill & Go bottle are ideal and make it easier to reach your target.

I was challenged to take part in the BRITA Drinking Water Challenge, to drink the recommended 1.2 litres a day and to see if I felt any better for doing so.  I was supplied with the jug and a Fill & Go bottle.  Keeping the jug topped up in the fridge provides a constant supply of freshly filtered and chilled water to drink.  The Fill & Go bottle is brilliant.  You can keep it on your desk or take it to the gym or in the car on long journeys.  Fill it twice a day and enjoy filtered water on the go for just a few pence a litre.

BRITA, water

I am not good at drinking water.  I end up with coffee or Pepsi Max instead.  Neither are particularly healthy options.  But having the Fill & Go bottle by my side has really encouraged me, reminding me to drink water instead.  It tastes good too and is instantly refreshing and rehydrating.  I forget how good drinking water feels!  

I have found that I do definitely feel better.  The most noticeable thing is that I get less headaches.  I know that dehydration is a cause of these but I put it down to being tired - and usually grab a Pepsi Max to wake myself up.  It's a vicious circle!  Drinking water also helps with the healthy eating.  I feel less peckish and feel more in touch with my body.  My skin feels more hydrated too.  My skin looks better too as the bags under my eyes look less prominent.  It is just so easy to make this improvement when you put your mind to it!  I feel ashamed that I neglect my water consumption in favour of Pepsi Max, even though I know that it is just chemicals and caffeine and does my health no good.  Switching my addictive Pepsi craving for water is a really positive step towards improving my health long term.

If you want to join the challenge and see how much better you feel after drinking the recommended amount of water a day, I have an excellent giveaway for you! TEN of my readers can win their own BRITA Fill & Go bottle worth £14.99 each to make drinking water so much easier and tastier.  Simply fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below.  Good luck!  It closes at 11.59pm on the 2nd March 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
ThePrizeFinder - UK Competitions

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My Girl Talk Cover Girl

Kizzy recently won a competition in Girl Talk magazine, the prize being to join the team and try her hand at being a journalist on her favourite magazine.  We went down to their offices in Hammersmith on Monday for Kizzy to live out her dream job for one wonderful, action packed day.

With a tight schedule of exciting opportunities to work through, Kizzy embraced the role and got stuck in to the challenges.  The first job was to go to Disney's HQ and interview the Disney Channel's "Get the Look" presenter Electra Formosa.

Get the Look, Disney
Kizzy and Electra

She was a really lovely, engaging girl who was generous with her answers to Kizzy's interview questions.  She offered some great advice to Kizzy about style, fashion and how to get celebrity looks.  I was proud of Kizzy who was very good at asking the questions that she had written herself and rehearsed beforehand!

Going into the fashion cupboard  at Girl Talk was a dream come true for my mini-fashionista.  She poured over racks of clothing and through drawers of accessories.  She was challenged to style herself as a Girl Talk cover girl and was very true to her own style when she picked out the outfit that she wanted, which included a gorgeous Boden jumper with a pearl-edged collared blouse underneath.

Girl Talk

model, Boden

She looked beautiful and confident as she took part in a photoshoot.

The photos were then used on a mock up front cover which Kizzy helped to design.  She chose what was going on the front alongside her photo which included her favorite Disney and Nickelodeon characters, her top fashion picks, the headlines and of course Harry Styles saying "I heart Kezia!"  She had so much fun doing this and loved seeing the finished result take shape.

magazine, Girl talk

On the way home after her day at Girl Talk, Kizzy was buzzing with ideas to further her interest in fashion, make-up and styling.  She has ideas about working harder on her blog and building a body of work that might help her get to her dream job one day.  It is lovely hearing her so enthusiastic about something.  I love that although she is an academic child who does well in school, that she isn't afraid to think about pursuing a path in a subject that she loves.  I am proud that she is a free-thinking individual who knows her own mind.  She talked at length to the editor of Girl Talk about what she wanted from her magazine reading and gave ideas that would empower young women rather than pigeon hole or stereotype them into traditional roles.  She really has a strong personality that I am sure will hold her in good stead!  She isn't afraid of being herself, even when that means going against the norm.

This wonderful prize that Kizzy won has been so much more than just a day out.  She has been inspired and excited about the fashion and media industry, what it means to be a girl in the 21st century and about her own future.  I am so proud of my daughter!

Tree Fu Tom Toys

We were lucky enough to take part in a Tree Fu Tom Twitter party yesterday.  The toys we received, to be tried and tested by a team of party goers, deserve to be reviewed in their own right because they really are quite excellent.  They inspired some very imaginative role play and got the kids up and moving.  Sometimes, toys that are based on a TV show can be a disappointment in terms of play value and quality, but these toys from Flair really hit the mark.

tree fu tom, flair

The Tree Fu Tom Rap Mat RRP £24.99 is a colourful, electronic dance mat.  It has coloured sections that correspond to a light up panel.  As the coloured lights come on, players have to put their feet on the corresponding section of the mat.  At the same time, Tom's voice gives vocal commands to add to the magic moves.  Little ones get up and active to the Tree-Fu fun.  Listening skills and gross motor skills are developed, as children follow the commands.

Tree Fu Tom toys

The Holopax is Tom's wrist worn gadget that gives children the chance to dress up like their favourite Tree Fu hero.  The Holopax uses lights and sounds and includes 25 phrases from the characters in the show.  It is a sturdy toy with an adjustable strap.  It has an RRP of £16.99.  Although it is a cute, novelty gadget, it is really just a toy for dressing up and for role play.  It doesn't give commands like the Rap Mat and so the play value is restricted to the child's imagination.  For this reason, this is my least favourite of the range, although Freddy loves wearing it and pressing the button which triggers the flashing lights and sounds.  He thinks it is great!

Tree Fu Tom

The Flying Squizzles are a new take on the frisbee.  Priced at £3.99 they are a great toy for active play.  They are made of foam, making them safe, and can be thrown in a game of Treetopolis's favourite sport where scoring a Mega Triple Wing scores you extra points.  They fly very well through the air and although they are safe, I would recommend them for outdoor use if you have a kid with a right arm like my son!  He has got a real throw on him and I had a donk on the head at the hands of him armed with a Squizzle.

Tree Fu Tom

The Tree Fu Tom figures are probably my favourite toy in the range.  Priced at £4.99 each  there are five to collect: Tom, Twigs, Ariela, Squirmtum and Zigzoo.  They each come with a removable base and an accessory in their blister pack.  I was very impressed with the quality and the beautiful detail of these figures.  They are really lovely and will inspire hours of imaginative play based on Tree Fu Tom's adventures.

Tree Fu Tom

For £7.99 you can get a deluxe version that includes a bigger accessory such as Tom's leaf skateboard,  Twigs's opening acorn or Ariela's ladybird and lasso, plus some free-standing foliage that makes scenery for games to take place around.

For £12.99 there are playsets available such as ZigZoo with his vehicle.  These give extra play value with extra, larger accessories for the figures to interact with.  All the figures and accessories within the range are compatible so children can build a collection of  their Tree Fu Tom favourites.  Fans of the show will be delighted with them.

Tree Fu tom

The Tree Fu Tom range of merchandise also includes a set of books including sticker books, 3D colouring books and story books.  There are also two DVD's Volume 1 Tree Fu Go & 2 Tree Fu Magic so children can watch Tree Fu Tom whenever they want!

For a TV tie-in, these toys are very well made, well conceived and fit well with the ethos of the TV show which inspires youngsters to get up and get active and join in with their favourite characters as they make Big World Magic to save the day.  Find out more about these Tree Fu Tom toys at Flair's website.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Today's A Tree Fu Tom Day!!

At last, after a long few weeks at school, the half term holidays are here.  Today we are celebrating with a day of Tree Fu Tom related fun here Inside the Wendy House.

To begin with and to get us into the mood, we are watching the new Tree Fu Tom DVD: Tree Fu Magic 6 Adventures in Treetopolis.

DVD, CBeebies, Tree Fu Tom

The action packed adventures encourage kids to get up and active as they help Tom create spectacular Big World Magic by performing Tree Fu moves to help save the day.  With his best friend Twigs, Tree Fu Tom encounters the naughty Mushas, a colony of hungry bees and takes part in an epic underground rolling race in the magical land of Treetopolis in these six exciting episodes.

The Tree Fu Tom : Tree Fu Magic DVD is available now for £9.99 RRP. (Certificate U).

Later on today our Tree Fu Tom day will continue with a Twitter Party between 4 and 6 pm where a posse of Tiny Testers will descend upon our home to test out the latest Tree Fu Tom toys and take part in some fun competitions.  Everyone can join in via Twitter by following @Tree-Fu-Go and #treefutomtoys and there are some great prizes to be won!

Tree Fu Tom

The Tree Fu Tom toys are brand new for Spring 2013 and are from Flair plc.  There are figures and playsets along with some great role play toys like the Super Holaplax and Magic Moves Rap Mat.  The foam Flying Squizzles are great for throwing in your own game of Treetopolis Squizzle.  Tree Fu Tom fans will love this range which brings their favourite show to life!

flair plc, Tree Fu Tom

We are excited to be taking part in the Twitter party tonight along with other bloggers up and down the UK where we will be sharing news and photographs of our own parties.  But for now I have Twigs pizzas, Tree Fu Tom cupcakes and Ariela's veg and dips to prepare.  We have quizzes and colouring in activities to sort out and are ready for our own Tree-Fu-Fun!!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Cute Cupcake Recipes

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so I made some love-themed cupcakes for the family to enjoy. They went down very well and even though I say so myself were pretty damn yummy!!

Best of all though, they were really easy to make.  Although they were very different cupackes, one batch of Pink Vanilla Cupcakes and one of Fruit Topped Chocolate & Chantilly Cream Cupcakes, they started their journey to cakedom in one bowl of mix that was split into two and then had the different flavours added.  It makes bulk cooking so much quicker and easier, and they can go in the oven at the same time.  

Although they were for Valentine's Day, they could be easily adapted to suit any occasion.

The basic mix was an all in one whisked method recipe that makes 24 large cupcakes.

8 oz  baking liquid (Stork or Flora)
8 oz self-raising flour
8 oz golden caster sugar
4 free-range eggs

Then, divide the mixture in two.

Pink Vanilla Cupcakes


Add a drop of pink food colouring gel and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to half of the mix.
Cook at GM 5 for 10-12 minutes until springy to touch.
Pipe on swirls of pink buttercream. 
(6 oz icing sugar, 3 oz softened butter, teaspoon vanilla extract and a drop of pink food colouring gel.)
Top with a Haribo love heart sweet and a heart shaped cake topper to finish.

Fruit Topped Chocolate & Chantilly Cream Cupcakes


Add one tablespoon of sieved cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of milk to the other half of the mix.
Cook at GN5 for 10-12 minutes until springy to touch.
Top with Chantilly Cream (whisk 8 fl oz of double cream until almost stiff, then whisk in 1 tblspn icing sugar)
Decorate with quartered strawberries and blueberries and finish with a cake topper.

Win A Family Holiday With Al Fresco Holidays

'My Fantastic Journey' Competition

Al Fresco Holidays is a luxury outdoor holiday provider with parcs all across Europe. They specialise in providing fun, activity filled holidays for families in great locations at 55 parcs across France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Croatia and Austria.

We were lucky enough to experience Al Fresco Holidays for ourselves last year when we stayed in their Cote de Nacre parc.  It was fabulous.

Al Fresco

If you would like the chance to win a holiday to an Al Fresco parc of your choice, there is currently a great competition for budding young story writers aged 6-12 years old. 

Al Fresco Holidays has teamed up with children's book author, Jeremy Strong, to launch this fantastic competition for children to express their writing skills. Reading and writing is key to children's development, so a competition like this is a fun and interesting way to encourage children to use these skills. A perfect activity for this half term perhaps?!

This year the theme of the competition is 'My Fantastic Journey' and asks children to use their imagination to write a story about a fantastic journey to be in with the chance of winning this fantastic family holiday. Every day a random entry will be uploaded to the kidz blog on the Al Fresco Holidays website. The top five will be judged for the chance to win a holiday to an Al Fresco parc of their choice and all will receive runners up prizes.

The competition is open  until the 31st of March and is open to children aged six to twelve. Entries must have a word limit of up to 500 words. Further information of the competition can be found on the Al Fresco Kidz blog, along with Jeremy Strong's short story which he wrote exclusively for Al Fresco Holidays, Joe's Unusual Journey.

Good luck!

Disclosure policy

Beautiful Gifts From The Global Market

NOVICA - Supporting Artisans Around The World

NOVICA is an online shop in association with National Geographic.  It gives artists and artisans around the world a global platform to express their true artistic talents and to spur their creativity.  With talented sculptors, painters, jewellery makers, wood carvers and other skilled artists from Bali, Java, Brazil, Central America, Mexico, India, Thailand and West Africa, NOVICA gives us access to beautiful, unique and hard to find items.  They use the infrastructure of the internet to create a bridge between the consumers and the talented artisans from around the globe.  The beauty of this is that communities in the countries can support themselves supported by the worldwide sales of their hand made products.

I was given the opportunity to buy something from the NOVICA website and from the moment I began exploring the products for sale I was taken aback by the range of beautiful objects and the stories of the craftsmen and women behind them. Everything is divided into sections to make browsing easy and gifts start at under $25.

I was particularly drawn to the sculptures originating from craftsmen in Bali and Java.  The stunning, handcrafted treasures are carved from local wood and are simply beautiful.  I just had to order one for Ian for Valentine's Day, "Love In Between",  a contemporary piece formed by two intertwined figures forming a heart at their centre.  A beautiful tribute to an age-old emotion. Hand carved by Kadek Rudyana, who learned to carve as a boy to pay his way through school, it is a wonderful example of how the arts can support poorer communities.  This statuette costs $26.96.


I also loved the "Gift of Warmth" which was a scarf woven by craftsmen using Alpaca wool in Peru.  It is thick, warm and beautifully made.


The NOVICA site is a US site and prices are in dollars.  Shipping is worldwide and you can easily calculate the cost of having your items shipped to the UK direct from the countries they are made in.  There is an option to have all taxes pre-paid making it very straightforward to order in confidence. You can choose to upgrade to premium delivery which takes 3-8 business days.  Foe example, the cost to ship the statue above with premium delivery is $15.95.  Gifts come direct from the countries in which they are produced to your door.

The parcels came beautifully gift wrapped and with a postcard from the artist, connecting you with the hands that made your piece.  A printed gift card is also included which completes the gift perfectly.  Buying from NOVICA is a complete experience that makes you feel a part of the process.  These gifts are really special and Ian was delighted to receive them.



If you are looking for beautiful and original gifts from talented craftsmen from around the world, then take a look at the website  

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine's Day Fun and A Fallen Hero

I know that many people do not enjoy participating in Valentine's Day.  However, all the arguments about the commercialism and resenting being told to be romantic on a specific day don't cut it with me at all. My relationship with Ian doesn't need to be prompted into romance.  We are pretty lovey-dovey 365 days a year anyway.  He is an attentive, caring and demonstrative man.  He believes in love and romance and soul mates.  He believes in sharing the household chores and responsibilities.  He takes the weight off my shoulders. We connect everyday, finding our moments even in the mundane.  We don't need Valentine's Day to keep our spark alive - but we love the excuse to do something a bit special and to include our kids, which makes them feel a part of it all.

Our Valentine's Day history goes back to a snowy February in 1984.  After painstakingly cutting out letters from a magazine to make an anonymous message in the card I had bought him, I cajoled my two best friends to walk the 3 and a half miles to Ian's house.  I didn't realise it was that far as my sense of geography is pretty pitiful.  Had I understood what a seven mile round trip in the snow would feel like, perhaps I would have thought twice about it.  But we made that journey and so begun the relationship with the boy that would later become my wonderful husband.

This year, like every year, Ian took the day off work.  We spent a very nice morning together while Freddy was at nursery. We exchanged gifts and snuggled under a blanket to watch a film together, uninterrupted by anybody or anything - a rare treat!  Our choice of film was the movie Sinister, not a traditionally romantic title but perfect for us and our shared passion for horror.

Afterwards, we picked up our boy, who came out clutching a card he had made us, and went for lunch at Starbuck's. Always a good idea!  Once home I hit the kitchen making Pink Vanilla Cupcakes and Chocolate Chantilly Cupcakes with Strawberries and Blueberries.  That's why I love Valentine's Day.  It's an excuse to make themed food and to decorate the house and interject a dose of loved-up fun into everyday proceedings.

cakes, balloons, flowers

We had a fabulous Mexican feast for five this evening.  All the flowers, homemade cards and balloons are decorating the living room and the girls are watching the gift that we got them "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" on DVD.  Ian is putting Fred to bed, as he always does and we have a bottle of Champagne chilling for later.  It is just perfect.  Knowing that Megan and Joe are also having wonderful Valentine's Days too is just the icing on the heart shaped cake!!

The only blot on the landscape of today was the news about Oscar Pistorius.  He is one of my greatest heroes.  The fastest man on no legs.  The blade-runner.  The first paralympian to compete in the Olympics.  I saw him run at London 2012.  I cried tears of total wonder and awe at this amazing individual as he broke down boundaries, challenged preconceptions and changed history. Now he is being held in custody over the suspected murder of his model girlfriend, having shot her four times in the arm and head.  Early reports suggested that he thought she was an intruder and acted in self defence, but four shots seems excessive even in this scenario.  The fact he has been refused bail and that the police have been called to his address numerous times in the past for domestic disputes suggests something far more horrible. Seeing his arrogant outburst at the Paralympics made me concerned about his state of mind.  Was there some mental health issues or extreme anger issues at play?  Was this a terrible accident or a deliberate act of violence?  Either way, I doubt that my sporting hero will ever be running again.  I'm glad I got to see him run.  I am sorry that his heroic journey has ended in this way.  Whatever the truth is, my hero has fallen.

Olympics, paralympics

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Making Valentine's Day Cards With Freddy

Today Freddy was off nursery as he has a nasty cough.  Having his company meant that we could do some craft activities together for Valentine's Day. As a family, we enjoy any excuse to have a themed day with food and activities planned around the occasion, and Valentine's Day is no exception.  You don't find me and Ian having a romantic meal for two, instead it's family fun for five!

 I dug out all the crafty bits and bobs that were even vaguely heart shaped and let him go wild with a glue stick and some cardboard.  I love the idea of making homemade cards for special occasions.  Shop bought cards are so expensive and I end up binning them, but homemade ones cost nothing and are kept forever.  They are a wonderful record of your child's artistic development, showcasing their creativity.  I have over 20 year's worth of my children's drawings, paintings and cards packaged up in my garage!! (No wonder I have an issue with clutter!)

Freddy is a very active child who runs around, dances, kicks things, throws things and plays hard.  He also has a fabulous vocabulary and a sharp sense of humour and is amazing with technology.  Although he loves educational games on the computer and can recognise many of his letters and numbers by sight, he is extremely reluctant to pick up a pencil or crayon.  He does not like to draw or colour in and makes no effort towards the early mark making that becomes emergent writing.  In fact he can't even hold a pen. He just doesn't get it!  I don't know if it is because he is a confused left-hander (his dad is a leftie) or if his eyes are the problem or whether there is something else going on...or whether it is just a 'boy thing'.  I'm sure once he is at school he'll get into  the swing of writing and drawing, and if not we will be able to work out what the problem is.  But for now, rather than pressuring him into doing something he really does not want to do, I think that doing craft activities is a good way for him to develop the necessary fine motor skills required.  He enjoys it too, so everyone is happy.

Freddy loved sticking the foam shapes, material hearts, paper hearts  beads, sequins and googly eyes onto his design in a display of carefully considered and precisely positioned randomness!

crafts, pre-schoolers

I loved that he made the top heart into a face.  That is a very Freddy thing to do!  So although he wasn't impressed with the idea of signing his name inside the card, which is for his daddy, he stamped his personality all over it and it will be much treasured!

craft, home made card

Quick and Easy Vegetarian Recipes!

I really enjoy making vegetarian meals that my family enjoy.  Quorn plays a big part in my repertoire and I've been getting a bit experimental, coming up with my own ideas for using it.  From hearty slow cooked Italian inspired stews with Herby Cobbler to warm us up in this Wintry weather, to Satay Sticks to accompany our Chinese New year meal, to a Wellington to accompany all the roast dinner trimmings.

Here are my recipes which I hope will inspire you to give veggie food a try, even if it is just for one day a week.  (They are guaranteed to be 100% horsemeat-free!)

vegetarian recipe

4 sliced carrots
1 small chopped swede
2 chopped sweet potatoes
2 chopped potatoes
2 sliced red onions
2 crushed cloves of garlic
carton of tomato passata
1/4 pint boiling water
1 teaspoon of Italian herbs
1 bag of Quorn chicken style pieces
1 single veggie stock pot pod

8 oz flour
4 oz margarine
1 teaspoon of Italian herbs
milk to form a dough

Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker (except the Quorn) for about 4-5 hours.   Add the Quorn and continue cooking for another hour.  Make the cobbler by rubbing the fat and flour together.  Add herbs then make to a stiff dough using milk.  Roll to an inch thick and cut out rounds using a small cookie cutter.  Arrange on top and then finish off in the oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.

vegetarian recipes

Pack of Quorn pieces (defrosted)
1 pack of Satay Marinade

This is so easy and worked so well.  Simply marinade the defrosted pieces in the satay marinade.  Then thread onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water.  Pop in the oven at 200 degrees for 12 minutes.  Serve with veggie Spring Rolls and Vegetable Noodles.

vegetarian Recipe

1 Quorn Roast (defrosted)
1 pack of garlic & herb stuffing
1 packet of SOS Mix (veggie sausage mix)
1 packet of puff pastry

Slice the Quorn Roast in half lengthways.  Make up stuffing and sausage mix and combine.  Cover the Quorn with the mixture.  Roll out the pastry and place the stuffing coated Quorn on lengthways.  Wrap the pastry around and glaze with milk.  Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Slice and serve with roast dinner accompaniments.


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