Friday, 30 January 2015

Help! I'm a Granny and Galaxy Quick Reads - Book Reviews

Help! I'm a Granny

Two years ago, I made the generation leap and became a granny to my adorable little grandson Ted,  my eldest son Joe's little boy.  Becoming a granny was in equal measure quite a shock (I was only 43 and it seemed like only yesterday that Joe was being peeled off of my legs by his infant school teacher because he didn't want to leave my side) and an absolute joy!  Seeing my own little boy (OK 26 isn't that little, but he'll always be my baby) becoming a father and making a life of his own in the big wide world, really puts the passing of time into perspective.  Ted's arrival into our family came when my own youngest child Freddy was only 3 years old, so I was juggling being a mum to my own little one with becoming a granny.  So I was never going to be the old school Nana, sat in her rocking chair knitting baby blankets for my grandbabies.  Instead, the generation gap blurred and we all muck in together in our big, crazy and exceptionally wonderful extended family that is filled with love and laughter!

Finding out that you are going to be a grandparent and making that mental transition into your new role can seem a bit daunting at times. Knowing how best to be supportive and offer advice without interfering can see you walking a fine line at times.  Defining your role, especially when there is another Nana on the scene, who in our case lives in the same town as my son, his fiance and Ted, who gets to see them much more than I do as I live 2 hours away, can take some soul searching. Wanting to be more involved is difficult when distance is part of the equation. But I know that the part I am playing in my grandson's life is every bit as valuable, and the relationship I have with Ted is becoming more and more rewarding as he gets older.  Having Ted and Freddy close in age gives me a special bond with my future daughter-in-law, as we can relate to being mummies together.

For anyone else going through the same experience and becoming a first time granny, the book Help! I'm a Granny may prove an invaluable companion.  Written by newspaper columist and agony aunt Flic Everett, it is a comprehensive guide to becoming and being a gran, written in a friendly, light hearted and informal way.  It's like sharing your worries, your guilt and your jealousy with a friend. The real life stories make it feel very personal.

grandparenting, book review

It is laid out in easy to navigate sections with practical lists, true stories, quizzes and instructions. Some of the chapters did seem a little like teaching your granny to suck eggs, but I am still a mum to a little one so haven't forgotten how to feed a baby, tackle a tantrum or pack a changing bag.  But if it has been years since you were a hands on mummy, the bitesize advice may prove invaluable.  There is also a dummy's guide to technology that own my mum would find really useful, explaining the pros and cons of social media and apps for staying in touch.

The quizzes are quite fun.  It turns out I'm a 'Cool Gran' and a 'Rebel Granny'...I'll totally take that!

help I'm a granny

Help! I'm a Granny would make a great gift for any soon to be grandparents or would make a useful, easy reading handbook for yourself when you find yourself about to be a gran. It makes you feel like you are not alone and gives you some different perspectives on the emotions, responsibilities and joys of being a granny!

Hardback £9.99
Publication date: February 19th 2015

Galaxy Quick Reads

If you enjoy reading but are struggling to find the time to get stuck into a novel, then check out the new Galaxy Quick Reads.  Written by best selling authors, they are like their real books, but shorter. They are also excellent introductions into reading, for adults who find the prospect of tackling a full length book intimidating.

The titles are:

Dead Man Talking - Roddy Doyle
Paris for Two One - Jojo Moyes
Red for Revenge -Fanny Blake
Pictures or it Didn't Happen - Sophie Hannah
Out Of The Dark - Adéle Geras

Street Can Bob - James Bowen

reading, Galaxy

Galaxy Quick Reads are bite-sized books written by best-selling authors which cost only £1. They are available from bookshops, supermarkets and online or can be borrowed from libraries across the country. They are also available as eBooks across all major eBook platforms. For more information visit 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Bath Time Fun for Little Ones with the Bathtime Buddies Alphabet Set

A Bathtime Poem

The bath is not just for cleaning and washing,
It's a place for fun and splishing and sploshing!
A place for imagination and play.
A place to unwind at the end of the day.

When little Freddy jumps himself in,
Submerging himself right up to this chin,
Immersed in a sea of bubbly bubbles
Full of magical fun, free from all troubles.
One of the things he really enjoys
Is having some fun and playing with toys.

My little schoolboy is quite discerning,
Enjoying mixing play with learning,
So his favourite toy to get,
Is his Bathtime Buddies Alphabet Set!


Learning how to read and spell,
Is something he is doing well,
His ability just keeps getting better,
The more he plays with the colourful letters.
Making words, spelling names,
Learning while he plays his games!

They stick to the side of the bath,
(And also to him, which makes him laugh!)
The 65 letters can also float,
Like a fleet of alphabetical boats.

And when bathtime is over for another day,
The letters are easy to pack away.
Scoop them up - water and all
Then drain with the lid...this is so cool!
A clean boy and tidy bath post play,
Is thanks to the experts at H & A!

bath, bath toys, letters

Overview: The Bathtime Buddies Alphabet Set consists of 65 lowercase foam letters that float in water and can stick to tiles and onto the bath tub. They come in a storage tub with a holed lid for drainage.

They are fun, educational and there are plenty of repeated letters to make words with.  They float and stick well and are a great value bath toy for little ones to enjoy!

Suitable for ages 3+. Available in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco & Wilko  RRP £3.30

bath toys, bathtime, h and a

Shake Up your Wake Up with Nestle Cereals #BreakfastWeek

Nestle are celebrating #BreakfastWeek by inviting us all to shake up our wake up and make breakfast times more fun.  They want us to get creative with the kids and mix and match our cereals to make a yummy concoction to start the day.  Not only will this encourage kids to get involved with preparing their breakfast, it will ensure they enjoy a nutritious start to their morning.

Funnily enough, breakfast cereal concoctions have been a 'thing' here Inside the Wendy House for as long as I can remember.  Why have one type of cereal when you can have two or even three?  There is so much choice and with every green bannered box of Nestle breakfast cereals, you know you are getting wholegrain goodness and at least five vitamins and minerals.  You really can't go wrong.

Freddy's favourite, which he has every morning is a Cheerio and Shreddies combo with cold, almond milk.

So, here I give to you Freddy's Nestle Cheerio and Shreddies combo:

Freddio's Shreddio's!

Nestle cereals

Kezia went for a mix of Curiously Cinnamon and Cookie Crisp, served with a splash of cold almond milk (or eaten dry from a bowl as a tasty brekkie on her way to school along with a drinkable yogurt for a hearty breakfast on the go!)

Kezia called her combo:  Sugar and Spice.

Nestle, cookie crisp

Chickpea Scotch Egg Recipe #vegetarian

I have been challenged by British Lion Eggs to come up with a family recipe using eggs as the main ingredient. As a vegetarian, eggs play an important role in my family's diet, being a good source of protein, vitamin D and iron.  I love how versatile they are and that they can be added to so many recipes in so many different ways

This is a recipe for vegetarian Scotch Eggs using a chickpea falafel style mix to cover hard boiled eggs, before coating them in golden breadcrumbs and oven baking.  I usually use a vegan sausage mix to make Scotch Eggs, but this recipe creates a much lighter Scotch Egg with a pleasant hint of warming spices.  Oven baking makes them less greasy than their deep fried counterparts, and keeps the calorie count down.  They are perfect served hot as part of a meal, or can be served cold for a picnic or a buffet.

vegetarian, recipe, eggs


4 free range British Lion eggs
1 400g can chickpeas (drained)
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons parsley
ground black pepper 
pinch salt
2 slices wholemeal bread as crumbs
1 egg beaten
golden breadcrumbs


Boil eggs by placing in cold water, bringing to boil and boiling for 5-6 minutes.
Remove from heat and transfer to sink.  Run cold water into the pan until cool.
Put chickpeas, onion, garlic and seasoning into food processor and blitz.
Add breadcrumbs to thicken using the pulse setting.
Shell the eggs and wrap a quarter of the chickpea mix around each one. (Flour hands if it gets too sticky!)
Dip covered egg in beaten egg and then roll onto a plate of golden breadcrumbs to coat.
Cook at GM6 for 15 minutes.

vegetarian, eggs

I only ever buy eggs which are free range, where the hens are well looked after and given freedom to roam outdoors.  I also look out for the British Lion safety mark which guarantees the egg has been produced in accordance with a strict code of practice (which has virtually eradicated salmonella in the British egg industry).

To find our more information about using eggs, such as advice on eggs and pregnancy, egg safety, recipes and nutritional information visit the British Lion Eggs website at

eggs, egg safety

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Helping Freddy to catch up at school with Lexia

Freddy has recently helped review a series of reading and writing workbooks from Lexia.  I try and do some home learning with Freddy on a regular basis, because he is still struggling a little with learning to read and write.  His first year at school was hindered greatly because of a misdiagnosed eye problem resulting in him being unnecessarily patched.  Poor boy couldn't see a thing for three hours a day, and then had strained eyes all afternoon.  It didn't help him take in the visual cues needed when embarking on learning to read and write. He is now in year one and the penny is starting to drop, but he is still playing catch up.  Aside from being behind when it comes to reading and writing, Freddy is a bright spark.  He can tell you how an aeroplane flies, he can explain why tunnels are round and he can discuss the effect of gravity!  So I have no worries about him academically as a whole.  He is just playing catch up in reading and needs a little help to get there.

As well as making workbooks, Lexia has an online home reading course, which Freddy has been given three months access to.  The programme has two elements, the Lexia Reading software itself plus an ongoing pro-active support and advice service.  Progress reports are given to keep parents updated as to their child's usage and progress.  The course is suitable for pre-schoolers through to teens, with each child assessed before being given an individual personalised program to follow.

The Lexia Reading software is a phonics based program taking the form of interactive games with fun animations.  It covers a range of reading skills including phonological awareness, phonics, sight word recognition, sound-symbol correspondence, word-attack skills and comprehension.

Freddy was really eager to get going with his Lexia home reading course, which in itself is a really positive thing.  He loves using the computer, and he finds it much more appealing than using a pencil and paper!  Getting him to sit and write can sometimes prove a bit of a battle, whereas using the computer is seen as a fun activity.

I was impressed at how user friendly the program was and Freddy was able to complete his assessment completely independently before being placed at the appropriate level for his ability.  The animations and the theme of the program are very appealing, but this does not distract from the actual content, which I found to be excellent.

home education, reading, phonics

We have tried other online reading programs before, but I have always been frustrated by the fact that if a child got something wrong they would not be told why.  A wrong answer would just mean losing a point and the game would move on without the child really understanding why.  Lexia's home reading course has an excellent function which, if a child makes a mistake, goes on to offer further help.  It lets children look at things another way, simplifying the task until the knowledge is consolidated.  Freddy struggles with sight word recognition of high frequency words, and this function really helped him to recognise the words - their shape and their letter formation.  He was able to continue the task and he really understood what he was learning. I was very impressed by his determination to get it right and the program's ability to recognise that he needed extra help before moving on.  I also really like that children can see their progress and know how far through the level they have gone.

We are only one week into the Lexia home reading course and already I can see Freddy's confidence increase and his enthusiasm for the course is still strong.  Just 20 minutes three times a week can help a child's progress, and I am hoping that by the end of the three month programme, Freddy will have a skill base that will put him on a par with his peers.

I will continue to update my blog regarding Freddy's progress.

If you want to check out the Lexia products you can visit the website at

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Save money on baby essentials at Aldi's Baby and Toddler Event


Having a baby or a toddler does not come cheap!  The seemingly never ending need for baby wipes, nappies and other baby related paraphernalia can really add up, but thanks to Aldi's Baby and Toddler event, parents can save  money on a whole host of essentials.

On January 29th, Aldi stores will be selling a great range of baby and toddler items, all at low prices. 

Mamia is Aldi's award winning baby range that is available in store everyday.  Their nappies and wipes are much cheaper than the big brands on the market, but perform every bit as well.  Mamia also sell a range of 100% organic baby food at great prices.  Saving money on baby essentials does not mean having to compromise on quality when you choose Mamia. 

Mamia, babycare

During the Baby Event there are some specialbuys on a range of baby essentials and equipment in store.  You can pick up a twelve pack of sensitive baby wipes, each containing 64 wipes for the special price of £5.99 making them less than 50p a pack!  And remember, Mamia wipes have won awards for their quality, so this is a great buy that will keep baby clean for weeks.  I still use baby wipes for when we are on the go, for mopping up messy hands and faces, for make-up removal and even for cleaning my leather sofa!

Other bargains include bath toys, baby bottles, cups, socks, tights, blankets, towels, clothing, bibs, dummies and toiletries (including top branded products such as Sudocrem 125g pot for £2 and Calpol 100ml bottle for £1.99). Many everyday essentials are available at low prices.

Other specialbuys include:

Hauck buggy for £22.99
Lindam stairgates for £14.99
Mamia Comfort Baby Monitor for £19.99
Avent Electric Steam Steriliser for £19.99
Mini baby food blender for £8.99

There are also some absolutely gorgeous Very Hungry Caterpillar gift sets available for just £14.99, each set containing different products such as a money box, photo frame or tableware. They would make great gifts for new babies, christenings or birthdays.

Specialbuys are available from January 29th while stocks last.

Novelty Valentine's Day Gifts from Toxic Fox

Valentine's Day is the one day of the year where everyone has the excuse to unleash their inner romantic.  Immersing yourself into the saccharine sweetness and sentimentality of the day is wonderful if you are happily in love, but what if you're not?  Maybe a dozen red roses or a heart shaped box of chocolates isn't an appropriate gift for your other half.  Perhaps you are more interested in something more risque or would prefer to buy a novelty gift, and have a bit of fun with your Valentine's gifting this year.

Toxic Fox has a selection of crazy and unusual gift ideas that may just fit the bill when it comes to buying a gift for your significant other or for yourself this Valentine's Day.  Some of it may not be to everyone's taste but if you are looking for something that is a bit off the wall then you might find the perfect prank or novelty.  They sent me a couple of their quirkier, alternative Valentine's gifts to test out.

Personal Revenge Voodoo Doll 

For the jilted on Valentine's Day - "Don't get mad - get even!"  Featuring nine uncomfortable revenges ranging from constipation to halitosis, this voodoo doll comes with ten pins and can have a photograph attached to its face to personalise the experience.  Personally, I'm not one to mess with the occult, black magic or voodoo (I've watched too many horror films where dabbling in the unknown has opened up a very evil can of worms), but my daughter thought this little doll was 'cool'. I guess it could be a good device for getting rid of your own negative energy after being cheated on by a bad boyfriend - and is definitely better than causing criminal damage to his property or inflicting GBH on him in person.  

At £4.99 it is a well priced unique, novelty gift with a difference.

Toxic Fox

Stress Balls

If your other half is driving you nuts, these stress balls may well provide you with the relief you need. You can crush them, prod them, squeeze them and poke them to offload your tension and send a clear message to the man in your life.  You get all the satisfaction of having him by the balls, without actually damaging his family jewels!

Toxic Fox

These stress balls are strangely comforting to cup and squeeze!  Inside is a gel liquid with two rubber balls suspended within it. You can squidge them, twist them and generally take out all your frustration on them!

Toxic Fox

Freddy found the Stress Balls and with all the innocence of a child gave them a squeeze or two before announcing that he wanted to take them in for Show and Tell this week.  Not sure how his teacher would react to that!  Needless to say, I steered him in another direction.

I took a sadistic pleasure watching Ian squirm every time he saw the Stress Balls being squeezed to near bursting point!  He now knows that it is in his best interests to never get on the wrong side of me.

Toxic Fox, stress balls

The Stress Balls are £4.99 and are a fun novelty gift idea!

Find these and other novelty gift ideas at the Toxic Fox website.  They also have a great range of personalised gifts and romantic gifts if you want something a bit more cutesy or sentimental for your Valentine.

Toxic Fox are offering readers a code to get 10% off any Valentine's gifts (except those that are included in the 3 for 2 promotion).  Just use the voucher code TFLove to receive the discount (valid until 15th Feb 2015).

Monday, 26 January 2015

A Burn's Night Veggie Haggis Wellington

Every Burn's Night we embrace the tradition of enjoying a haggis, tatties and neeps together (it must be the McDonald blood that courses through my family's veins!)  Being vegetarian is not an issue because I have a fabulous recipe for vegetarian Haggis packed with veggies, lentils, beans, nuts, spices and oatmeal, that is absolutely delicious.  Not a scrap of offal or a sheep's stomach in sight!

This year I decided to try something a little bit different and encase the haggis mixture inside puff pastry.  I topped the haggis with some grated Wensleydale cheese to keep it moist and cooked it at GM6 for 25 minutes.  It made a delicious change served with creamed potato, mashed swede and vegetables. It was also fabulous served cold.

Burn's Night

I still remember being in grammar school and having to learn the Robert Burn's poem "My luve is like a red, red rose".  I can still recite it to this day and my rendition of it is my Burn's Night party piece, much to my kids' amusement (especially when I recite it with an attempted Scottish lilt!)

I really enjoy celebrating special days throughout the year and serving up themed meals for my family's dinner.   It makes me more mindful of the passing days and punctuates the year with plenty of memorable family occasions.  It's all done light heartedly with plenty of laughter and fun, but it still lets the kids learn about special events, other cultures and different cuisines.

I'm looking forward to sharing plenty more recipes and family occasions right here on my blog throughout 2015.

Vanish Gold for Whites - three shades whiter whites

Crisp, dazzlingly white washing hanging on the line, blowing gently in the breeze is an evocative image of laundry perfection.  Unfortunately, the reality is often very different. Greying, dingy whites, often peppered with stand out food stains are more likely to be found in my laundry pile.  Kezia's white shirts started off so crisp and white, but over time the brilliant whiteness has given way to dull discolouration.  It's the same for white school socks and Freddy's vests.

Thankfully, I have joined the Vanish Blogger's Club in celebration of the launch of their latest innovation - Vanish Gold for Whites.  It can help get dingy whites up to three shades whiter and can remove stains in just 30 seconds.  No longer the bane of the laundry pile, my whites will soon be dazzling again!

Over the next couple of months, I'll be celebrating my whites and finding out how the Vanish Gold for Whites can reverse the process of greying.  I'll also be discovering how it can help keep whites looking as good as new for longer in the Bed Linen Challenge.  I'm very excited to test this product and hopefully it will revolutionise my washing experience and help keep my family looking smarter in their whites!

I'll be blogging all about it, here Inside the Wendy House!

Let's hope I get Kezia's white school shirts as sparkling as her smiles!

whites, shirts, school girl

Friday, 23 January 2015

Using Frozen Food - Convenient, versatile, healthy and cost effective #coolcookery

When it comes to convenience in the kitchen, frozen food is one of my favourite go to ingredients.  It comes ready to use straight from the freezer and you can use as much or as little as you need.  The variety of frozen food available goes way beyond ready meals, pizzas and frozen chips, you can also buy a huge amount of vegetables, herbs, fruits and Quorn products (plus of course meat and fish) to use in recipes to feed the family, and the freezing process retains more nutrition in fruit and veg than when bought fresh.

frozen, Iceland
Frozen food - versatile, convenient and cost effective

Using frozen fruits and vegetables takes away a lot of the hard work with produce peeled and chopped and ready to use straight from the bag.  Peppers, mushrooms, spinach and onions are so easy to incorporate into meals.  Just use what you need and save the rest for another day meaning there is no waste. This makes it really cost effective and research shows that families could save up to £250 a year by making the switch to frozen!

No More Chopping or Peeling!!

Frozen mashed potato is so convenient.  Frozen into small chunks, you microwave the amount peeling, boiling or mashing required.  As it only contains potato, butter and milk, it is exactly like the mash you'd make from scratch.  Frozen mixed vegetables provide a selection of different veg to add colour, bulk and nutrients to favourite family meals.  Frozen chopped onion is brilliant to use, as no peeling or chopping means no tears!

frozen food

The British Frozen Food Federation and Britmums have challenged me to come up with a Cool Cookery recipe for a family meal made using frozen foods.  I made a Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie using frozen sliced mushrooms, chopped onions, mixed vegetables, chopped garlic, mashed potato and Quorn Mince.  Using frozen food cuts down the preparation time, creates no waste and makes it quick and easy to make a nutritious and delicious family meal.  Great for when you are in a hurry.

frozen food, quorn

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie


1 cup of frozen chopped onions
1 cup of frozen sliced mushrooms
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
1 teaspoon frozen chopped garlic
1 bag of Quorn Mince
1 teaspoon Marmite
1 teaspoon chopped Basil
ground black pepper
1 vegetable stock pot
150 ml boiling water
1 bag of frozen mashed potato
grated cheese (optional)


Gently fry the onions and garlic, add the mushrooms until softened.
Add the Quorn mince and continue to cook until it is cooked through.
Add the frozen vegetables, the stock pot, seasoning and boiling water.
Simmer for about 10 - 12 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated.
Meanwhile, cook the mash according to instructions.
Put the cooked Quorn base into an ovenproof dish and top with mash.
Grate over some cheese for a tasty topping.
Cook at GM6 for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with frozen green beans, cooked according to the pack instructions.

frozen food, vegetarian, Quorn

Another meal I made using the frozen produce was a One Pot Mexican Dish incorporating frozen Quorn fillets, chopped onion, sliced mushroom, garlic, chilli, sweetcorn and mixed peppers.  As all the preparation was already done I just had to throw in a can of Pinto beans and a pack of Mexican rice (cooked according to instructions) and we had a super quick and easy meal, that can be eaten as is or served in a wrap with grated cheese.

frozen food

I am definitely an advocate for the use of frozen food as you can tell from my freezer (pictured below).  Frozen vegetables are often more nutritious, come ready prepared, are very convenient, last for ages in the freezer (which can result in a lot less waste than when using fresh produce) and are extremely versatile. It is a great idea to keep your freezer stocked up ready to make quick and easy family dinners. With big bags of vegetables costing just 89p in Iceland, they are a really cost effective way to get your family their five a day.  You can easily throw a handful of frozen vegetables into curries, stews, bolognese sauce or pasta dishes.  With a well stocked freezer, quality ingredients are always at hand and ready to use!

freezer, frozen
A well stocked Freezer!

I’m working with BritMums and highlighting the versatility, economy and nutritional benefits of cooking with frozen food. All opinions are my own. For recipes and ideas visit 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Smoky Chipotle Scrambled Egg Recipe

I love scrambled eggs, they make such a quick, easy and nutritious meal.  Using the Happy Egg Co free range eggs, I know that the birds are well looked after and are happy hens, which is very important to me as a consumer.
free range eggs

The happy Egg Co have challenged me to come up with a twist on ordinary scrambled eggs, using a vegetable, a herb or spice and a surprise ingredient.  So I have come up with a scrambled eggs recipe with a Mexican flavour:  Smoky Chipotle Srambled Egg using pinto beans as my surprise ingredient.

eggs, Mexican food


knob of butter 
half a chopped onion
3 mushrooms chopped
1 heaped tablespoon sweetcorn
1 heaped tablespoon tinned Pinto beans
2 eggs
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon garlic granules
splash of smoky chipotle chilli sauce 

egg recipe


Put a tablespoon of butter in a pan.
Fry the onions until softened, add the mushrooms and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes.
Add the beans, sweetcorn and seasoning.
Beat the eggs in a bowl.
Add to the pan and mix until cooked.

free range eggs, egg recipe

You can enjoy it as it is or for a heartier meal you can serve the Smoky Chipotle Scrambled Egg in a warm wrap with a blob of salsa and some grated cheese.  It is delicious, hearty and nutritious!

quick meals, egg recipe

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sodastream - making water exciting!

A recent study commissioned by SodaStream revealed that 45% of UK parents don’t give their kids water at mealtimes. Almost half said the reason was to avoid the additional stress that this would create at the dinner table.

The study revealed that 55% said it was because their children prefer to drink fruit juices, squash or fizzy drinks and that they find water boring, even though 70% of those parents are aware of the high sugar content in such drinks.

However, the study of 2,000 parents revealed that a staggering 80% want their kids to drink more water and will try tactics such as using novelty cups, straws and ice cubes and have even tried bribing them with treats or money. 45% of parents suggested that one answer to persuading their kids to drink more water was to make it fizzy.

SodaStream is on a mission to get the UK drinking more water by making it exciting, simply by adding bubbles, meaning families can have fun drinking more water this January.


We were challenged to take part in a campaign to get us drinking more water at mealtimes.  I have to admit to being in the 55% of parents whose child prefers juice drinks or squash to plain water. In fact Freddy really dislikes drinking water so I was interested to see that if I let him make his own fizzy water using a SodaStream, whether he would be more inclined to drink it.

sodastream, pop

Being involved in making the fizzy water was something that he really enjoyed doing (kids love that farty sound!), and letting him pour his own drinks also proved fun.  Unfortunately, Freddy was happy doing all this and served us all cups of his fizzy water with our meal, but when it came to the crunch, he simply couldn't drink it. He did try, but it just wasn't going to happen without tears. However, as I think that keeping him hydrated is more important than sticking to principles, I was happy to compromise, adding a small amount of organic cordial to the fizzy water. He drank it with gusto and declared it to be better than fizzy pop!

So for me, I may have cheated a little bit, but this is so much better than chemical ridden bottled pop or neat fruit juice in terms of sugar content.  The fizz definitely makes drinking much more exciting and it's a cheaper and greener alternative to buying bottled drinks,  Mealtimes are happy, Freddy is happy and he is hydrated...I call that a success!  I'm sure that as he gets older he will drink more water, as his siblings all have done, but for now I'm bending the rules a little to keep him as healthy and as happy as I possibly can.

SodaStream has teamed with government public health programme Change4Life campaign as part of the solution to encourage parents to cut down the amount of sugar their children consume by making drinking water fun and exciting.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Lentil, Cashew and Chestnut Nut Roast Recipe

This Christmas, I searched for the perfect nut roast recipe, but couldn't find one that ticked all the boxes.  It had to be a straightforward recipe which didn't contain dried fruit, could be dairy free, was packed with flavour and was moist - not dry. Nut roasts get such a bad press with people likening them to old cardboard, the likes of which are only enjoyed by seventies throwback hippy vegans. But that is just not true. Nut roast can be a delicious, wholesome accompaniment to roast dinner trimmings and is a very versatile base for a range of dishes.  

vegan, vegetarian, nut roast

Taking inspiration from a whole host of nut roast related ideas, I came up with my own recipe, which went down a storm on Christmas day, even with my non-veggie dad who couldn't get enough of the stuff.  I also made it again in the week after Christmas for guests, as a wellington, wrapped in puff pastry and it was equally well received.  It can be made in advance (and frozen before it is cooked), is pretty quick and easy to knock up and can be adapted to suit whatever ingredients/nuts/veggies you have, encouraging a bit of kitchen experimentation.  You can make it vegan by omitting the egg and cheese, or by using a dairy free cheese alternative if wanted.
vegetarian, vegan

Lentil, Cashew and Chestnut Nut Roast

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)

200g red lentils
450ml vegetable stock
1 tblspn oil
2oz mushrooms
1 leek
2 small parsnips
2 carrots
2 cloves garlic
2 slices wholemeal bread made into crumbs
100g cashew nuts
100g whole chestnuts
75g other nuts (I used Brazil nuts)
1 egg (optional - but makes loaf firmer)
1 teaspn garlic granules
1 teaspn sage
1 teaspn thyme
black pepper
75g grated cheese (optional - you can also use non-dairy cheese)


Put red lentils and stock in a pan and cook gently until the lentils are soft, pale and pulpy and the liquid has evaporated.
Meanwhile put all the veggies in a food processor and blitz into small chunks.
Gently fry the blitzed veggies in a pan with olive oil for about 5-8 mins until just softened.
Chop the nuts and chestnuts in the processor.  Process until fine or chunky depending on preference.
Mix together cooked lentils, cooked veggies, nuts, breadcrumbs and seasoning. (Season to taste...get adventurous if you like and use curry spices or smoky paprika with chilli flakes instead to make the nut roast exactly how you like it!)
Add egg and cheese if using.
Put into 2 loaf tins.  I used oiled foil ones for ease.
Cook in a pre-heated oven at GM 5/190C for about 35 mins until cooked through and golden brown on top.
Turn out from the foil loaf tin and slice to serve with a veggie gravy and roast dinner trimmings.

Alternatively, omit the egg and put filling onto the centre of a rolled sheet of puff pasty.  Join the edges of the pastry to seal in the filling, glaze (use a milk alternative to keep the recipe vegan) and cook at GM5/190C for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

nut roast, vegetarian, vegan

The lentils make a really nice and very nutritious base for the nut roast while the carrot and parsnip add sweetness and a lighter texture.  The seasonings can be adapted to suit personal preferences as can the nuts and veggies used.  You can easily adapt it to make it suitable for dairy free diets or for vegans. I'm really happy with how my experimental Christmas dinner worked out and I hope that if anyone tries this recipe they enjoy it too.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Revamp Your Kitchen with Aldi Kitchenware Special Buys

If you want to give your kitchen a new lease of life, be sure to pop over to Aldi this week for their Kitchen Special Buys.  With a range of fabulous small appliances that will inspire you to cook up some new recipes to tasteful kitchen accessories that will look fantastic on any worktop, Aldi have some excellent value buys in store now.

Kitchen, appliances

I was lucky enough to receive some items from the range to try out.  I received a stylish 4 slice toaster in mint green along with some useful storage caddies.

I am really impressed with the toaster (a matching kettle is also available).  The retro look is really cool and it is covered by the Aldi 3 year warranty.  I have missed having a four slice toaster, so I am delighted to get one back in my kitchen.  It has all the functionality you need including a very useful high lift facility and self centring guide. It has six time settings, a reheat, cancel and defrost button. It cooks toast really evenly and doing four slices at once, has sped up my morning toast making routine!

The toaster and kettle come in four colours, red, black, mint green and cream, to match any decor.  At £19.99 for the toaster and £17.99 for the kettle, this is a great value way to add some colour and style to your kitchen.

Aldi, kitchen

I also really like the Storage Caddy Set, which is a great buy if you want to organise shelves and cupboards.  They are great for holding spice bottles, cake baking ingredients or other little items, keeping them altogether.  They fit into the bottom shelf of my kitchen cabinet and make things so much tidier!  Also really useful for make-up and toiletry storage or for the kids' stationery.  At just £2.49 for two medium or three small containers, they are a great value storage solution.

kitchen, organising

Aldi are also selling an excellent value juicer at £39.99 and a smoothie maker for £14.99, so if you are planning a healthy eating regime they would be very useful.  The Russell Hobbs pressure cooker is a great buy for anyone wanting to make quick family meals at just £22.99.  It comes with a 10 year guarantee and has a 4l capacityAnd the Halogen oven at just £24.99 could revolutionise the way you cook and uses much less energy than a conventional oven.

pressure cooker, kitchen

Here is a list of all the Specialbuys, but remember they are only available while stocks last!

Lock & Seal Storage Containers:   £1.79
Soft Grip Bowl:   £1.99
Can opener:  £1.99
Kitchen Brush Set:  £1.99
Premium Tableware:  £1.99
Storage Caddy Set:  £2.49
Meal Planner and Recipe File:  £2.99
Printed Tea Towels – 3 Pack:  £2.99
Madras Mat: £3.99
Pasta, Biscuits and Utensil Holder : £5.49 each
Small Pan Selection:  £5.99 each
Single Pan Selection:  £7.99 each
Tea Time Accessories:  £7.99 each
24cm Ceramic Coated Fry:  £9.99
Tea/Coffee/Sugar Canisters:   £9.99 set
Omelette Maker:   £12.99
Compact Food Processor:  £13.99
Smoothie Maker:  £14.99
Bread Bin: £17.99
Bullet Kettle:  £17.99
Family Grill:  £19.99
4 Slice Toaster:  £19.99
4L Russell Hobbs Pressure Cooker : £22.99
Halogen Oven:   £24.99
Contemporary Kitchen Mixer Tap : £29.99
Juice Extractor:   £39.99

The Unbeatables - Film Review

If you have kids who love football, The Unbeatables is the perfect film for them!  The Unbeatables tells the story of young Amadeo, a boy with a talent for table football who humiliates the local bully Flash, by beating him at the game.  Fast forward 10 years, and Flash is a soccer superstar (who bears a bit of a resemblance to Ronaldo!) who is hellbent on revenge and set to destroy their hometown and turn the area into a football stadium.  Amadeo may have been accomplished at table football, but he is not quite as accomplished in life and love and Flash's return challenges him to man up in an attempt to save the town, win the girl and discover his inner strength.

When Flash destroys Amadeo's beloved table football, it is Amadeo's tears that magically bring the footballers to life and they are ready to play for his honour.  It is the little lead footballers who steal the show with their witty dialogue and distinct personalities (similarities to real life football legends can't be ignored), as they help lead Amadeo and his team of misfit town folk as they take on the might of Flash in the ultimate football showdown.

football, movie review

The film was originally a massive hit in its home country Argentina.  Being a foreign film, the English dubbing sometimes doesn't quite fit and the dialogue can seem a little odd at times as the script tries to fit the lip synch, which annoyed Ian but didn't bother me or Freddy at all.  The voice talents of Rupert Grint, Anthony Head, Ralf Little and Rob Brydon more than made up for this issue. The Latin American setting with the English references sometimes jarred a little, but again it didn't bother me.  It's easy to suspend your belief and just enjoy the fun and adventure.

The Unbeatables climax is the big football match between Flash's team and Amadeo's team.  It is beautifully and inventively animated and the commentary is spot on. I loved the imagery of the townsfolk as they played for their town, which gave rise to some great visual humour! It is a very long scene with real time action that footie fans will love.  The result is not the predictable ending I expected and it raises some very valuable life lessons about what it means to really win.

The football centric storyline makes this DVD a great watch for young footie fans.  The adventures that Rico, Loco, Skip and the other table footballers get into adds some real magic and excitement into the mix.  The story is quite unique and overall it is an enjoyable, sporty, animated film with a difference.  However, if your kids aren't into football, this film probably won't interest them, Kizzy refused to watch it - but you can't please everyone!!

The Unbeatables is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 9th February 2015, courtesy of Vertigo Films

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

My January survival guide

These Atlantic storms that keep on battering Britain are bringing some terrible wintry weather our way.  It's grey, damp and chilly out there and the school run is proving to be a bit grim, especially when the threat of snow hangs over our heads.  I am consistently fearful that the heavens will open and dump their white stuff on the 3 miles of narrow, winding country roads I have to take to get Freddy to and from school.  It's a scary prospect, and I am forever grateful that I have winter tyres on my car. I am a bit of a worrier so I also keep a tealight and a box of matches in my glove compartment - apparently it can keep you warm if you get snowed in.  I also have a foil blanket and a supply of water (I've done that ever since watching Cujo!) so I am prepared for any unexpected blizzards.

With winter doing its worst to freeze us to the bone, one of the best things we can do is get out our woollies, wrap up warm and do our best to stay cosy in spite of the elements.  I love winter clothes. The bigger, the baggier the better! I have a big collection of oversized, chunky knit jumpers and I regularly 'borrow' something from Ian's collection of super cosy men's cardigans that are my defence against the winter months.  I like nothing more than to pull the woolly fabric around my body and feel like I am being enveloped in a big, warm hug.  My winter clothing colour scheme is a palette of greys, fawns, blacks and browns. (Not that much dissimilar to my summer wardrobe colour scheme if I'm very honest - I clearly have a very predictable attraction to dark and muted tones!)

Being thrifty, I am not one to leave the central heating on 24/7, in fact my older girls mock the fact that my house is sometimes a bit on the cool side.  They both live in flats that are always incredibly warm, anyone would think that they were cold blooded. Me, Ian and the two little ones are acclimatised to the temperature we maintain at home, but my big girls do moan about it. My mantra is 'if you're cold put on another woolly jumper and snuggle under a blanket'.  I think it's much nicer to get snuggly that way...and it doesn't cost any money!

Comfort food is a big part of coping with this season.  But the consequences of indulging in lots of stodgy, carb laden meals does not go well with the newly made annual resolution to eat healthier and lose weight.  To satisfy my desire for tucking into warming, comforting meals, whilst not breaking any resolutions, I make big, hearty stews with red lentils and root vegetables topped with wholemeal, seeded cobbler; homemade apple crumble sweetened with maple syrup and fortified with oats and smoky Quorn chilli packed with beans and veggies served with cauliflower rice.  They all taste seasonally delicious, while being totally nutritious.  Guilt free comfort.

In winter, it is good to get out and get some exercise, especially if the sun is making one of its rare appearances.  It is all too easy to stagnate at home and dream of hibernating, but to get some fresh air and blow away the cobwebs is really good for the soul.  All you need to do is wrap up warm, grab your wellies and head out for some family fun.  Going for a brisk walk out in the countryside is a great way to get the heart pumping.  Having a ramble in the woods or a play in the park is energetic, fun and free.  A great antidote to the excesses and lethargy of Christmas that gets the kids away from their new technological devices and gets me away from the left over Christmas chocolates.

winter, cosy clothes

We may complain about January and the wintry weather, but it definitely has its good points.  The new year gives us all the opportunity for a fresh start filled with optimism and determination. It's the month when all the good TV shows come back on, so I'm happily rewelcoming American Horror Story, Scandal, Broadchurch and the Undateables into my life. We get to buy next Christmas's presents, wrapping paper and decorations in the January sales, saving a load of cash and getting ourselves super prepared in advance. And, as previously mentioned, we get to legitimately enjoy wearing our snuggliest winter woollies and steal our husband's cosy cardies!

I have been compensated for writing this post but retain all editorial control.

TalkTalk Bill Busters

If you are looking to take better control of your finances for the new year,  TalkTalk has put together a list of bill controls and tools to help customers save money. From their speedy payment discount to paying upfront for line rental, TalkTalk homes can enjoy some great savings.

See below for TalkTalk's Bill Busters and discover what advice they are giving customers to make their money go further.

Bill Buster
Bill Buster details
Smart ways to save
Save 10% on your bill with Speedy Payment discount
Pay your bill within 24 hours and we’ll give you 10% off. 
It’s easy and takes just a minute online or on your mobile with MyTalkTalk app.  
Go for this discount every month, or when you need to make that extra saving - it’s up to you. 
10% off with Value Line Rental when you pay up front
Pay your annual line rental in one lump
sum and save 10%. Do it anytime - it won’t affect your
contract length or bill date.
Reduce call costs on your mobile with our new Talk2Go app
Our Talk2Go app lets you make savings on your precious
mobile phone minutes. Re-direct your inclusive landline
minutes to your mobile, pick up landline calls anywhere,
even make calls abroad from your mobile at your landline
rates. Who knew your mobile could be so smart?
No additional charges for our privacy calling features
Unlike BT we won’t charge you for
any privacy calling features 1571 voicemail, anonymous
Caller Reject, Last Caller Barring and Caller Display
View your bills online and save £22.80 a year
Paper billing means administration and postal costs. To keep costs down for everybody, we have to make a charge of £1.99 to cover these costs. 
Online billing is provided free of charge.
Set up calling circle to save on calls
Your Calling Circle is our way of helping you cut the cost of keeping in touch with your friends, family or other numbers you call regularly.
You can add up to 16 different phone numbers to your Calling Circle. Every call made to a number in the calling circle will be made at a discounted rate.
Your Bills, Your Way
Choice of Payment Method
Pay your bill the way you want to. With a choice of payment methods including reoccurring card payment, Keyfob to pay at the Post Office, one off card payment and direct debit (on a day that suits you) , it’s up to you.
Manage your spending with our Monthly usage allowance tool
Our monthly allowance tool lets you limit the amount you spend on calls and movie rentals each month. You can set your own allowance in My Account, so you can stay in control
Usage alerts to help you keep on top of your spending
We’ll send alerts when you reach 50% and 90% of your allowance. So you can keep track of how much you’re spending
Our flexible monthly call boosts will keep your bill in control
Keep costs low and
predictable. Whether you’re chatting away to someone
abroad, or your teenager is spending hours on the phone
over the summer, our landline, mobile and international call
boosts let you add inclusive minutes one month at a time.
Get great value TV with our flexible monthly TV boosts
We don’t believe in long
contracts or expensive subscriptions. We let you dip in and
out of the telly you want a month at a time. It’s TV you’ll be
glued to not stuck with.

For more information visit


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