Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Keeping Pets Safe this Christmas

Some lucky cats and dogs have been treated to one night in ‘Pet Heaven’ by Vets Now, the out-of-hours emergency vet provider.  The fun experience was created to help raise awareness of the increased danger pets face at Christmas and you can watch the cute videos of the cats at a Catnip Bar and the dogs enjoying a Dog's Dinner!


Vets Now sees a 41% increase in pet emergencies during the holidays, however half of all pet owners don’t have an emergency plan and wouldn’t know what to do if their pet fell ill over Christmas.

According to a survey for Vets Now, a third of pet owners will experience an emergency over Christmas, with many cases caused by pets eating novelty festive items or harmful foods. 5.5 million pet owners will unknowingly feed their pets something dangerous this year and 90% of pet poisonings will happen in the home. It is important for pet owners to know how to keep their furry friends safe.

Vets Now has created an emergency pet plan which owners can download for FREE to ensure heaven stays a place on earth for their furry friends.:

The top ten festive hazards for your pets at Christmas:

1. Chocolate - chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which is severely poisonous to cats and dogs.
2. Mince Pies and Christmas Puddings - all grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are toxic to dogs.
3. Blue Cheese - contains a substance called Roquefortine C which dogs are extremely sensitive to.
4. Tinsel – dogs eat tinsel, which can cause dangerous blockages in the stomach.
5. Salt Dough Ornaments - the mix of flour and salt with water can cause a potentially fatal salt toxicosis if ingested by any pet.
6. Poinsettia, Mistletoe and Ivy – are all mildly toxic to both cats and dogs.
7. Wrapping Paper - while toxicity is low, eating a large amount of paper could cause an obstruction in the stomach.
8. Snow Globes - imported versions can contain antifreeze, which can be fatal for a cat
9. Candles - can burn paws and curious noses. Tails can also knock candles over, which could cause a house fire.
10. Alcohol - can cause severe liver and brain damage. As little as one tablespoon can lead to serious problems for cats or dogs.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Do You Want to Build a Primula Snowman?

I am a mum of five, auntie of eight, great auntie of one and nana of two, so over the Christmas period I am expecting to see plenty of little people coming to visit. Children, generally speaking, are happy if they have full bellies and have something fun to do, so I have combined both of these things and come up with an edible festive activity! 

Using Primula Cheese, I have made a DIY sandwich-making activity for kids to enjoy, which I've called "Do you want to build a Primula snowman?"  Bento lunches have increased hugely in popularity and children love to see favourite characters recreated using food, but I thought making it an activity for the children to do themselves added to the enjoyment. The fact that the children get to use the bits and bobs to create their own snowman, makes this a lot of fun and it uses their creativity. 

It is so quick and easy to prepare everything and you can use up any odds and ends of salad, fruits, vegetables, veggie meats or cheeses that you have. At Christmas, I always have lots of stuff in the fridge so it's easy to find enough goodies to use. Even the fussiest of little eaters will want to get involved! It's a great way to entertain and feed children at the same time - perfect for when you have unexpected visitors with children and want a few seconds peace and quiet!

I let 7 year old Freddy make his own Primula snowman and he loved creating it and then eating it. I think he did a great job and he said it was nice to be able to make his own snack and he thought the snowman looked really cute. He gave it a big thumbs up.

Primula, Christmas


sliced bread
Primula cheese
vegetarian sliced ham

Primula cheese

To prepare:

Using two different sized circular cookie cutters, cut out rounds of bread.
Spread each circle generously with Primula cheese.
Prepare cucumber sticks, strips of veggie ham, carrot triangles and raisin pieces.
Arrange on a big plate.
Give each child their own plate and let them make their own snowmen with raisin eyes and buttons, cucumber arms, a veggie ham scarf and a carrot noise.
Enjoy having happy children!

bento lunch, snowman, Primula

Merry Christmas

I am a member of the Primula Blogger Club, which is a paid partnership.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

After Eight Brownies Recipe #AfterEightBakes

After Eights are such an iconic part of the Christmas festivities. We've always loved the yummy mint chocolate thins after our Christmas dinner. We've even played the game where you put one on your forehead and, without using your hands, have to get it into your mouth! But this year I've used them in a new way as an ingredient in some festive #AfterEightBakes.

After Eight kindly sent me a 300g box and some baking ingredients, challenging me to create a family dessert. I have made After Eight Brownies, a rich, chewy chocolate brownie with a layer of melted, minty After Eights running through the centre.

After Eight Brownies

Christmas, recipe, After Eight


150g Dark Chocolate
125g Butter
100g Self-Raising Flower
2 Free Range Eggs
200g Light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
300g After Eight Mints


Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted.
Allow to cool.
Whisk the eggs and sugar using an electric whisk until thick and foamy.
Stir the melted chocolate mix into the egg mix and add vanilla essence.
Sieve in the flour and fold in.
Pour half the brownie batter into a tin (12"  x 9 ") and top with a layer of After Eight mints.
Pop into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes.
It is ready when the top looks papery and a cocktail stick comes out sticky but not wet.
Sprinkle with icing sugar and cut into squares when it has cooled.

How I got £200 of Christmas shopping for free with Swagbucks

In October, I decided that I really needed to get on top of my Christmas planning. With so much to do and with time pressing on, I needed make a start on my Christmas shopping. Money is always spread thin at this time of year, and so my mind cast back to the success I had had with Swagbucks a few years ago in a Thrifty Blogger Challenge that I'd taken part in.

Swagbucks is a free to join website where you can earn vouchers for doing things online. From taking surveys, to watching videos, to searching the web, to taking part in special offers to shopping online, you earn Swagbucks that can be exchanged for vouchers for shops such as Argos, Amazon and Currys. Swagbucks have been rated the #1 site to make money online by MSE and have given away over $350 of rewards globally. There is good money to be made for dedicating a little time to the Swagbucks site each day.

So for the last ten weeks I have been doing daily Swagbucking. As someone who spends a lot of time online, it's easy to incorporate Swagbucks into my daily routine. I've taken daily surveys, watched lots of videos (mostly film trailers) and  used the Swagbucks site to search the internet. I've done a few special offers, taken part in promotions and completed some of my Christmas shopping through the site, earning a percentage of my spending back in Swagbucks cashback.

Each day, Swagbucks gives a daily target, which I use to motivate myself. Meeting the targets earn you bonuses. These really add up over the month. Some days I smash these targets, other days can be slow, but I always persevere.  I have the app on my mobile too so I can use Swagbucks on the go if I'm away from home, which is particularly helpful for hitting those targets!


I have been absolutely overjoyed to have made £200 in Amazon vouchers in just over two months. This has covered a huge chunk of my Christmas spending. As well as doing Swagbucks for myself, I recommended it to my daughter (who is away at university) and my niece (who is getting married next year and trying to save money), who both benefited from earning some extra cash for Christmas shopping. They both earned in excess of £100 each. Knowing I helped them pay for pressies has made me feel so happy! As I referred them, I earned a referral bonus, boosting my own total. So sharing the Swagbucks secret benefits both you and your friends.

You can find out about the latest promotions on the Swagbucks UK Facebook page, on the blog and via email, so you can stay one step ahead when it comes to earning those valuable Swagbucks.

From Wednesday to Friday this week, Swagbucks have a huge promotion on their online shopping. The cashback is being quadrupled, making the site the most generous cashback site out there! So simply by shopping for any last minute Christmas gifts online at your favourite stores such as Argos, Boots, The Body Shop, M & S or, you will earn a top rate of cashback. Holiday companies such as Thomson and First Choice also offer generous rates of cashback, great for anyone planning their summer holidays. So today is a great time to start your Swagbucks journey.

If you want to take a look at Swagbucks and sign up (just an email and password required) you can use my referral link here: or click through the banners. You can earn some spending money for the January sales!


Monday, 12 December 2016

Nine Lives out on DVD plus some Cool Cat Facts

This Christmas, treat the family to the new feline caper Nine Lives, which follows the escapades of a businessman who becomes trapped in the body of the family's new pet cat. 

Tom Brand, a successful billionaire businessman has grown distant from his wife and daughter. Obsessed with developing the highest building in the Northern hemisphere, he arrogantly pursues his career at the expense of those around him. When he forgets to buy his daughter Rebecca a present for her 11th birthday he rushes off to try and find the gift she most wants, a pet cat. He finds himself in a mystical pet store run by eccentric owner, Felix Perkins (played wonderfully by Christopher Walken). He has the perfect pet for him: fluffy feline, Mr. Fuzzypants.

Kevin Spacey

On his way back to his daughter's party, Tom is called to his tower block, where he and the cat are involved in a freak accident. Tom regains consciousness to discover that his mind has somehow become trapped inside the body of the cat. He watches as his body is wheeled away into an ambulance in a coma. 

Mr Fuzzypants comes home to live in the family home and it takes Tom some time to adjust to cat life, resulting in some very funny moments. Tom quickly realises that occupying the body of a pet cat can be a blessing as he gets to spend more time with his family and gets to know his daughter. He soon learns what is important in life and is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for his loved ones.

Nine Lives is a purrfectly heart-warming tale about the importance of family and our furry friends.

NINE LIVES is out to own on Blu-ray & DVD from 12th December, 2016, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

The Nine Lives DVD will make a great gift for the cat lover in your life. How about creating a gift basket containing cat goodies and a copy of the DVD?

Christmas gift idea

Cool Cat Facts

To celebrate the release of Nine Lives here's some cool cat facts courtesy of the feline charity Cats Protection.

SLEEP – Cats sleep upwards of 15 hours a day. They laze about a good portion of the day and expend their energy in bursts nearer dawn and dusk as that is when they typically hunt.

KNEADING – Cats knead or paw at the ground when they are happy in a habit leftover from kittenhood.

TOMS AND QUEENS – A male cat is often referred to as a ‘Tom’, while a female cat is called a ‘Queen’.

HEARING - Cats can hear sounds up to 77,000 Hertz, even higher than dogs and much higher than humans. Most cats will respond to noises their owners can’t even hear.

KINDLE AND CLOWDER – A ‘Kindle’ is a group of kittens and a ‘Clowder’ is a group of adult cats.

LANDING ON THEIR FEET – All cats carry an incredible ability to right themselves in mid-air and turn to land on their feet when falling. Handy for learning to climb trees.

HEIGHTS – Cats like finding high perches where they can survey their surroundings from above. Cats Protection suggests making sure your cat has access to resting places that give it a good view of the rest of the room.

HEAD RUB– Cats say hello to each other by rubbing their heads or side of their bodies on each other. So if they do this to you, they like you!

SUNBURN – Cats can get sunburn. Most cats love to laze in the sunshine, but light-haired cats are susceptible to sunburn. Cats Protection suggests asking a vet for recommended non-toxic sun creams that are safe for furry felines.

cats, feline

Family Films for Christmas - Swallows and Amazons

Growing up in a time before DVDs, games consoles, big screen TVs, the internet, iPads and smartphones, childhood was far more simple. Days were spent out of doors from the early morning to when the sun went down (only popping home for our dinner). We'd play in the woods, in the field or by the river. Life was more innocent, we had more freedom and we never even thought to question our safety.

Watching the new Swallows and Amazons movie, I found the way that the children enjoyed their freedom very familiar and quite nostalgic. Although it is set four decades before my own childhood, so much of the adventure resonated with my own inner child. Exploring new places, building camps, making fires, playing with bows and arrows and being free to play all day long, are things I remember fondly!

The film is very charming and enchanting, reflecting an innocent era of time gone by. Swallows and Amazons is an adventure set in 1935, based on the classic children's novel by Arthur Ransome. It harks back to a time where imaginations were the only things that kids needed to play.


While holidaying in the Lake District, the Walker children become embroiled in an exciting and unexpectedly dangerous adventure. To entertain themselves, the four children decide to set sail to an island in the middle of a lake, onboard a boat called the Swallow. Thinking that it is a deserted island, the children claim it as their own and set up camp. However they soon realise that somebody else has been there before. They meet two other children, who captain their own pirate boat, the Amazon, who have already laid claim to the island. This leads to a battle between the Swallows and the Amazons for control and supremacy over the island.

Swallows and Amazons

During their adventure, the children also become embroiled in a mystery surrounding a secretive man who lives on a houseboat on the lake. He is hiding a dark secret that finds the children involved in some drama concerning pre-WWII espionage, which lands them in a very dangerous situation. The children need to come together and use all their cunning and bravery against a common foe.

The film has a great British cast with familiar faces such as Harry Enfield, Kelly MacDonald, Rafe Spall and Jessica Hynes in starring roles. The children are excellent young actors who breathe life into this heartwarming tale with their energy and personalities. The locations are stunning, showcasing the natural beauty of Cumbria, the music is lovely and the cinematography is quite beautiful.

Swallows and Amazons introduces this classic tale to a whole new generation of children. There are no dazzling special effects or CGI, instead you have real life adventure and exciting storytelling. There is some edge of your seat action that made us hold our breath, along with some genuinely funny moments.

Overall, this is a quaint, simple, charming film that captures the essence of the original classic tale. It is a breath of fresh air in our hi-tech existence, which reminds us that there is a whole world of adventure out there to  discover. It is a perfect film that the family can enjoy together this Christmas.

Swallows and Amazons lands on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital download from December 12th 2016 courtesy of STUDIOCANAL.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Vegetarian Cheese and Ham Swirls #ChristmasSnackHack

I really enjoy entertaining over Christmas and have a stock of recipes perfect for making quick snacks for unexpected guests (or for treating ourselves over the festive period!) It is reassuring to know that I can knock up something fast and tasty especially when those #LittleMomentsofChristmasChaos occur!

Here is a really simple but impressive festive snack hack that is so easy to make using just three main ingredients including a tube of Primula Cheese with Chives. This recipe for Tear and Share Vegetarian Cheese and Ham Swirls makes a snack that looks amazing and tastes even better. Tearing and sharing is a fun, informal and sociable way to eat - absolutely perfect for Christmastime.

Primula, cheese, vegetarian recipe, Christmas snacks

Vegetarian Cheese and Ham Swirls


1 can of Croissant Dough (makes 6)
1 tube of Primula Cheese with Chives
1 pack of vegetarian thinly sliced 'ham'
egg to glaze


Open the tin of croissant dough and unroll it. It is perforated to make six triangles with each pair of triangles making up a rectangle. Gently press the dough across the diagonals to re-seal the perforations and then cut the dough to make three rectangles.

Primula cheese, croissant dough, recipe

Spread a third of the tube of Primula over each dough rectangle.
Top with slices of vegetarian ham.

Primula, Quorn, snack hack

Roll up from the long side to make a sausage shape. 
Repeat this with the other two rectangles of croissant dough.


Carefully cut into inch slices and arrange in an 8" ovenproof dish. 
Leave space around each swirl for them to rise and expand in the oven.
Any extras can be placed on a baking tray individually (use greaseproof paper to stop them sticking). 
Glaze with beaten egg.

vegetarian, Primula, cheese

Cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for about 12 - 15 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm straight from the dish.

Primula, recipe, cheese

My family absolutely love these Vegetarian Cheese and Ham Swirls. They would work equally well using whatever veggie meats you have in the fridge, so you can adapt them to suit your needs. Just make sure you have a tube of Primula and a can of croissant dough to hand (I always buy a few tins over Christmas for impromptu breakfasts or snacking) and you can make a batch of these in no time at all.

Primula, Christmas, vegetarian, recipe

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The Lowry

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an absolute family classic and something I have loved since I first watched it with my parents many years ago as a little girl. Whenever it was shown on TV, we'd settle down to watch it on TV together. This is a tradition that I have continued with my own children through the years. It is storytelling at its finest. This year though, instead of watching it at home, we've been lucky enough to watch it live on stage.

We were invited to the press night at The Lowry, Salford where we were entertained by a choir singing the songs from the show along with some festive favourites, while we waited in the foyer for the show to start, which really got us in the mood. Starring Jason Manford, Phill Jupitus and Claire Sweeney, this spectacular production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang brings all the excitement, adventure, comedy and emotion of the film to the stage.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

From the moment the show began, my children (aged 7, 14 and 20) were all hooked. Jason Manford in the role of Caractacus Potts is superb, conveying the pathos and emotion with as much conviction as the humour. And he can sing too!  The children in the roles of Jemima and Jeremy are amazing and bring such wide eyed innocence and excitable childish enthusiasm to the story. Such talented kids!

The real star of the show is of course the car and the use of theatre magic brings Chitty to life. The car drives down country lanes, floats on the ocean and flies in the sky! Thanks to some cool special effects technolgy, some clever scenery and the use of projected images, the audience is completely immersed into the production, being transported from land to sea to air, from England to Vulgaria.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The two Vulgarian spies, Boris and Goran bring laugh out loud comedy to the show. With their exaggerated accents, ridiculous disguises and their habit of getting things wrong, they have everyone giggling. Baron and Baroness Bomburst (played by Jupitus and Sweeney) also play it perfectly for laughs and their rendition of You're My Little Choochy Face is a delight! The Vulgarian, child-hating, toy loving dictators are such colourful characters and have some very extravagant scenes. Grandpa Potts is another super character who adds some eccentric humour, warmth and fun to the show.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The songs of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are all so memorable and you can't help clapping or singing along at times. We loved the scene where Truly and Caractacus are dressed as toys to infiltrate the castle during the Baron's birthday celebrations. They sing a mix up of Turning around on a Music Box and Truly Scrumptious, which is just lovely.

Perhaps the darkest character from any family film ever is the evil Child Catcher. He is the stuff of nightmares, taking children away, locking them in a cage and then making them disappear. He was brilliantly and sinisterly played by Jos Vantyler.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

This production is a breathtaking show for all the family, filled with great choreography, funny moments, brilliant music, amazing special effects, wonderful acting and heartwarming emotion. It is recommended for children over 5 (although if you don't attend a matinee, be prepared for the kids to have a late night!)  Freddy at 7 absolutely loved it and we would definitely recommend it for families this festive season. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is at The Lowry until January 15th 2017. 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Lowry, Salford
Tue 6 December 2016– Sun 15 January 2017
7.30pm (Wed, Sat & Sun 2pm)
Tickets: £19.50 - £47.50 (Including booking fees)
Box office: 0843 208 6000

Monday, 5 December 2016

A Festive Breakfast with Santa at Selfridges

This weekend, we started our Christmas activities off in style with a visit to the intu Trafford Centre, where Freddy was invited to enjoy breakfast with Santa at Selfridges. Dressed in his best Christmas sweater, Freddy joined the other boys and girls on a beautifully decorated table nestled in a corner of the shop floor, and began his morning with some festive colouring while awaiting the arrival of the special guest!

intu Trafford Centre

With a Ho-Ho-Ho, Santa Claus arrived looking resplendent in his red fur suit and hat. He took a seat at the table with the children and chatted to them about his reindeer, the elves, life in Lapland, magic dust and other Santa-y things. The children were all so engaged and delighted, it was magical. Freddy remarked at how much he enjoyed having a real conversation with Santa and not just being asked what he wanted for Christmas and whether he'd been good or not. So this experience was really special to him.

The children were each given a box filled with a selection of amazing looking breakfast goodies including blueberries, a sparkly topped boiled egg, toast soldiers, a rainbow cereal bar, a raspberry mousse, a muffin and star shaped pancakes with syrup. Freddy's favourite was a white chocolate and sprinkles covered apple! Everything was so colourful and fun. Apparently, this is what the elves have for breakfast in the North Pole. It certainly made a change from Freddy's usual bowl of Shreddies!!

Once the food was eaten, Santa lead the group of children to an area where they had a Christmas sing song. Santa then gave out some really nice presents to all the children and posed for photographs with them. It really was a lovely way to spend the morning, leaving us feeling very festive indeed!

We followed Santa's breakfast with a good mooch around Selfridges, looking at all their festive things and getting some gift inspiration. Who knew there was a Primark concession in store? So neat and tidy and with a very good range of clothes and accessories. Amazing! And the food hall is the perfect place for picking up some exciting Christmassy foodie bits.

A visit to Selfridges at Christmas promises to be fun, as Santa will be making appearances throughout the store at designated Santa Stops on Saturdays from 12 - 6 pm until the 18th December. Families can share some magical moments or even grab a Santa selfie.

There is lots going on at the intu Trafford Centre over Christmas including The Polar Expedition, a festive fair at Barton Square and the intu Christmas Wheel as well as holiday happenings, pop-up stalls and other exciting things going on in stores. And the whole place is decorated and looking gorgeous. You can't help but get into the Christmas spirit.

Find out more at

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Children's Books for Christmas #StoriesForLife

Books make such wonderful gifts for children. In gifting a book, you are giving a child access to a whole world of imagination. As they enter the pages of a book they are transported to different places, embarking on new adventures and meeting exciting characters. The gift of reading will last a lifetime!

This Christmas I am taking part in the Britmums and Penguin Random House Children's Books Christmas Present Challenge. I have been sent three fantastic books to gift to some of the special little people in my life.

children's books

Girl Online: Going Solo - Zoe Sugg


Zoe Sugg, best known as vlogger Zoella, has released a third novel in her bestselling Girl Online series. The story follows Penny, who accepts an invitation to visit a friend's performing arts school. An opportunity to meet new people and make new friends seems just the remedy that Penny needs as she faces the world on her own.

Zoella's books have proven to be a big hit with many of the YA audience who can't get enough of her fluffy, light, comforting and easy reading style of storytelling. So for her adoring fans, this latest installment will be a fantastic Christmas gift.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down - Jeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney

7 year old Freddy is a very reluctant reader, however the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series is something that has totally grabbed his imagination. Double Down is the 11th book in this bestselling series. Greg's mum has decided that video games are turning his brain to mush and wants him to explore his creative side instead. So, inspired by a bag of gummy worms, Greg decides to get his mum off his back by making his own film. He hopes he might also become rich and famous in the process! But will doubling down on this plan just lead to double trouble for Greg?

Jeff Kinney's humorous and relateable style of writing and the brilliant, funny sketches throughout the book, is perfect to keep kids thoroughly entertained. The pages aren't too wordy making them easy to read.  The series has really captured my Freddy's imagination and he will be very happy to find this latest installment under the Christmas tree this year.

The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop - Clare Balding

Clare Balding

Clare Balding, is more familiar to me as a TV sports presenter, so I was surprised to discover that she is also a children's author. This heart-warming tale tells the story of horse-mad, ten year old Charlie, who accidentally manages to buy herself  a racehorse. When the family farm becomes under threat of being repossessed, Charlie plans to race her horse on Derby Day. She knows he has got what it takes to win and save her home. However, the horse has a problem - he won't gallop and he won't go anywhere without his best friend, a naughty palamino pony called Percy. Can Charlie and her family help the horse overcome his nerves and become the champion she knows he can be?

My 8 year niece is an avid bookworm and this book will definitely be finding its way to her this Christmas.


As a child, I enjoyed the freedom that reading gave me, allowing me to visit far flung places and experience amazing things as I immersed myself in my books. One of the books that I absolutely loved, and which has stuck with me over the years is The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden.


The Diddakoi is the story of a little girl called Kizzy. She is half gypsy and lives in a wagon with her gran and her horse Joe.  They embrace a peaceful life holding on to bygone traditions. This means that she is seen as 'different' to the other children in town and cruelly judged by the adults who interfere in her life 'for her own good'. When her beloved gran dies, Kizzy finds herself all alone in a hostile world. She experiences bullying and loneliness that no child should ever have to endure. This book is written with a deep sensitivity and challenges the theme of acceptance with its gritty realism. Kizzy's indomitable spirit, feisty personality and strength of character will not be beaten, and we are heartened to find that there are good people who want to help this young girl find her way in the world.

I saw a lot of myself in Kizzy. A soulful child who didn't quite fit in. I loved her grit, her refusal to be kept down, her feistiness and her stubborn determination to do what was right for her. Kizzy was my first taste of girl-power!

This book made such an impression on me as a child, that I even named my daughter Kezia (the name that Kizzy is derived from in the book). That is the extent that this book impacted my life. I highly recommend it as a gift idea this Christmas. It is a story that I have already passed on to my own children, a real classic.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Christmas Gift Ideas - Bratz RC Hoverboard

This Christmas, the Bratz dolls are jumping on the latest hoverboard trend. The new range features fully functional RC hoverboards so the dolls can whizz around dressed in their cute helmets and safety gear. Cloe and Yasmin are both available with a co-ordinated hoverboard, which matches their accessories. 

The range combines all the appeal of a Bratz doll with the fun of a remote controlled vehicle. Just like a real hoverboard, the Bratz hoverboard goes forward, backward and in circles and LED lights shine on the board when it is in motion adding to the cool effect. The RC controller is egg shaped and matches the colour of the hoverboard, pink for Cloe and purple for Yasmin.


The set features an adjustable doll stand, which enables Yasmin or Cloe to stand on their light up hoverboard while in motion for realistic hoverboard action. Both dolls are wearing a trendy new, casual outfit, as they adopt their hoverboarding style, accessorised with pink or purple elbow pads, knee pads, and helmet. The fact that they are wearing safety gear is setting a great example to encourage children to always stay safe when playing on bikes, skateboards, skates or even on a hoverboard like Cloe and Yasmin.

The easy to use Hoverboard RC controller allows a range of movement so the board can move forward, backward and complete a full 360° turn. The remote control requires 2 AA batteries and the hoverboard requires 3 AA batteries. So be sure to stock up ready to play.


The Bratz RC Hoverboard dolls are recommended for children aged 5 and up and have an RRP of £39.99. It is a great Christmas gift idea for Bratz fans this year.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Del Monte - Vegan Peaches and Cream Cupcake Recipe #yestothebest

As a child growing up in the seventies, tinned fruit in syrup was something we often enjoyed as a special treat. Sliced peaches, pineapple rings, pear halves, mandarin segments or my personal favourite fruit cocktail were served as dessert, sometimes with some evaporated milk poured over if we were lucky. We loved it. It seemed very fancy to be eating what we saw as 'exotic' fruits all year round.

Nowadays, tinned fruit is still a store cupboard staple, but with greater accessibility to so many other fresh and frozen foods, we have tended to overlook this convenient, versatile and delicious product. Modern tinned fruit often comes in juice making it a much better choice than the syrupy fruit of my childhood memories. It counts towards our five a day giving us nutritional benefits. One portion provides fibre, vitamins and phytochemicals. It is an easy way to get some extra fruit into our family's diet, by incorporating it into recipes, serving it in jelly, in smoothies, using to top cereals or for eating on its own for pudding. Its long shelf life means it doesn't go off and it retains its quality so we can always keep a tin or two to hand in the kitchen ready to use straight from the can.

canned fruit

At this time of year, with Christmas racing towards us, using quality convenience foods in recipes can save us time and effort. It can also inspire us to try new ideas in the kitchen, which is something I always enjoy. Del Monte want to encourage us to start using tinned fruit in the run up to the festive season, by saying #yestothebest. For creating family favourites, both sweet and savoury, Del Monte fruit can be a great addition, needing no peeling or preparation.

I decided to use a can of Del Monte Peach Slices in a recipe for Vegan Peaches and Cream Cupcakes. Del Monte fruit is suitable for vegan diets so they make a great addition to this recipe. The fact they come ready prepared makes them such a time saving ingredient. Anyone who has tried to peel, de-stone and slice fresh peaches will know what an arduous task this is. The only effort required for tinned peaches is to open the can!

vegan cake, tinned fruit recipe

These cakes are light and fluffy and studded with colourful, juicy, sweet pieces of peach, which moisten the sponge. Topped with non-dairy cream and decorated with a piece of peach, they look very appetising. I love the vibrant, glossy colour of the tinned peaches against the pure white cream.

Vegan Peaches and Cream Cupcakes
(makes around 18)


1 can of Delmonte sliced peaches
200g of white SR flour
3 tablespoons of wholemeal self raising flour
200g of golden caster sugar
1 teaspon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use Rice Bran)
1 cup water

1 carton of soya whip cream (dairy free alternative to whipping cream)


del monte

Chop up about 6 - 8 peach slices into small chunks and set aside.
In a bowl mix the flour, sugar and bicarbonate of soda.
Add the oil, vinegar, vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and quickly pour over the water.
Mix together to form a batter.
Add the chopped peaches and fold in.
Put spoonfuls of the batter into muffin cases in a tray.
Cook for around 10 - 12 minutes at 200 degrees C.
Remove from oven when springy to touch.
Cool on a cooling rack.
Cut a few of the remaining peaches into wedges for decoration.
Once the cupcakes are cool, whip the cream according to the instructions on the pack.
Spoon dollops onto the cupcakes and top with a chunk of peach.
Serve immediately.

del monte

Find out more about the Del Monte range of products at Find the Del Monte products in supermarkets nationwide.

Personalised Videos from Santa from Portable North Pole

The 2016 Christmas countdown is on and what better way to celebrate than with a message from Santa himself. Dedicated to bringing the magic of Santa into homes at Christmastime, The Portable North Pole (PNP) website and mobile app is back once again to delight families, with personalised video and call messages. There are some amazing brand new features and content, with exciting new videos to create and calls to organise. 

Message from santa

Each message is carefully crafted to engage children of all ages, creating excitement in the lead up to Christmas Day. With personalisation including the child's name, each video and call is unique and magical.

The Magic Pass for 2016 is £9.99, which includes lots of unlimited premium content.

With the Magic Pass you will get: 

  • Unlimited Premium Videos featuring Santa and his elves, including one for Christmas Eve. Santa will be giving his naughty or nice verdict to encourage little ones to do their best in the hope of making the nice list!
  • The brand new Reaction Recorder to capture your child's look of wonder as they watch the video for the first time (only with the mobile app). 
  • Unlimited Santa Calls with lots of fun call scenarios including some to encourage good behaviour!
  • HD downloads of all your videos. 
  • Storytime with Santa with a new personalised story video for each week in December to keep the magic alive throughout the month.
  • A Santa-Approved Certificate to print for each of your videos.
  • Birthday videos for children's birthdays throughout the year.

This is great value for money and the quality of the videos and calls will delight kids of any age. I love PNP, it is a lovely family tradition to send messages and organise calls to my loved ones. Last year my grandson Ted was excited to get a phone call from Santa on Christmas Eve and my 7 year old son loved receiving personalised videos in the run up to the big day! They really are very special, magical and bring a lot of joy to homes across the world at this time of year.

New for 2016, there is a PNP toy and gift collection, which is exclusive to John Lewis, which includes lovely items such as elf toys, a storybook and a good deeds jar.

Find out more at:

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Christmas Review Round Up - featuring Cuddledry, Peter's Yard and Stag Bakeries


How about this adorable little rubber duckie as the perfect stocking filler for little ones! Cuddleduck is a soft and squishy, 100% safe baby toy suitable for bathtime or for use as a teether. It is made from natural rubber that has naturally anti-bacterial properties and contains no nasties at all. It is shaped for little hands to hold and explore, and for little gums to chew.


The gentle colours and polka dot pattern are stylish. Cuddleduck will look great in any bathroom and provides plenty of playtime fun for babies and children. They come in blue, pink and original polka dot designs and come attractively gift boxed.  At £7.99 they are a lovely little gift this Christmas.

Find out more about the Cuddledry range at

Peter's Yard

Christmas tea always involves cheese and biscuits in our house. I like to get some good quality savoury crackers and crispbreads to complement the selection of cheeses that I buy. I love the Peter's Yard selection boxes for offering a good range of biscuits for cheese that are a little bit different.

Peter’s Yard’s new Sourdough Crispbread selection box gives a great variety bringing together three quality, distinctive crispbreads with differing colours, shapes, textures and flavours. The Selection Box includes Charcoal, Spelt & Poppy Seed and the classic, award-winning Original recipe. Charcoal is recommended for a Brie or soft goats’ cheese; Spelt & Poppy Seed for Single Gloucester, Camembert, Wensleydale or Caerphilly whilst the neutral base of the Original crispbread is a perfect match to any cheese.

biscuits for cheese, crackers

They are made using natural ingredients to an authentic Swedish recipe making a light and crisp textured biscuit. They make a good gift idea for foodie friends who don't have a sweet tooth! Peter's Yard products are available from quality independent retail stores, Waitrose and Ocado and priced at £6.00 for the 265g box.

Stag Bakeries

Stag Bakeries is one of the most remote bakeries in the UK, based in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis on the Scottish Outer Hebrides.

New for 2016 they have produced a range of Dipping Crackers in Lentil & Biriyani, Green Bean & Ras El Hanout and Chickpea & Garlic varieties. These innovative and exciting crackers are part of their West Coast range.

The Lentil & Biryani dipping crackers are made with Mathia flour and delicately spiced with traditional Indian flavours. They work well with curry as an alternative to poppadoms. Or dip into mango chutney or raita for a delicious snack. They would make a lovely addition to a homemade foodie hamper and are suitable for vegetarians.

Indian crackers

Each variety is packed into 80g resealable bags which are available from speciality food stores like farm shops, delicatessens and independent retail stores for RRP £2.30.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Celebrating those Little Moments of Christmas Chaos

Christmas is a wonderful time of year and I spend hours making lists, researching recipes, buying thoughtful gifts and getting myself organised to ensure my family have the best day ever...but that doesn't necessarily mean that things always go to plan!


However well organised you are, sometimes fate just comes along and tramples all over your best laid plans. It's at times like this that you either crumble and burst into tears or you pull up your festive socks and initiate Plan B!

Two years ago I had my house full with all the family joining us for Christmas Day. Making Christmas dinner for twelve people is always a juggling act, swapping things around in the oven to try and get everything cooked evenly and on time. Packing the shelves with nut roasts, stuffing, roast veg, potatoes, parsnips, Yorkies and veggie pigs in blankets is a test for any oven at the best of times. But this year, my oven decided enough was enough. It took me a while to realise that things were not cooking very well and then it dawned on me that everything was in fact getting colder. The heating element had lost the will to live. The oven was stone cold dead!

With twelve people hungry for their festive fayre, panic began to set in. Visions of feeding them Primula cheese spread sandwiches and a bag of crisps went through my mind. (That might be a yummy emergency lunch at other times of the year but not on Christmas Day!) What a disaster to happen on this day of all days!

 However, the spirit of Christmas was with us that day. My next door neighbours, who were away visiting family, saw my pitiful social media updates and came to the rescue. We had a spare key to their house to use in case of emergencies and this was definitely deemed as one of those times. We were told to go ahead and use their kitchen - their double oven was ours for the day. It was a Christmas miracle!

To add to the drama, it was raining. I gathered my troops to help, and clad in their festive jumpers and new slippers, we paired up. One of us carried a partially cooked tray of food while the other held an umbrella over head. There was lots of to-ing and fro-ing as we kept popping back and forth to check on potato roastiness and stuffing crispiness. Goodness knows what our other neighbours must have thought! Eventually, through top teamwork, our dinner was cooked. We carried it all back to our house and we were able to sit down together and eat Christmas dinner as a family. Only slightly later than planned and slightly chilled from being carried down the street in the rain.

When things go wrong, you have to find the humour in the situation. You've got to pull together and laugh about the broken oven or the smashed Christmas baubles or the inappropriately drunk auntie or the bout of ill timed gastroenteritis or the embarrassing moment when you realise you have forgotten to buy a present for one of your guests (yes all these things have happened to me.)

You can't avoid the unavoidable, but there are things you can do to help the day go smoothly. One of my top tips is to do all your food preparation on Christmas Eve. It's a family tradition for us to don our Christmas jumpers, whack on our favourite Christmas tunes and get peeling, chopping and prepping whatever we can in advance. This leaves Christmas morning free for the fun stuff like opening presents.  Speaking of presents - always keep a couple of extra wrapped gifts under the tree, just in case of unexpected visitors. Boxes of biscuits or bottles of wine are perfect choices, because if you don't need to gift them, you can enjoy them yourself. And don't forget to have plenty of batteries and a screwdriver available, so any new toys found under the tree can be powered up or assembled. There's not much worse to a child than having a new toy that can't be played with!

Even if the day does end up going completely pear shaped, remember that the 25th of December is just one day out of 365. Do a re-run on another day if need be. In the future, it's the laughs, the smiles and the fun that comes from being a family that will be remembered. We don't need everything to be perfect to have a great time. Embrace the chaos, keep a laid back approach and enjoy every moment.

Primula have a campaign this Christmas to encourage us to celebrate the big day in all its chaotic glory. They have teamed up with bloggers to share their own tales of Christmas woe alongside some top Christmas hacks to help you survive the day.

You can view or download the 'Primula Little Moments of  Christmas Chaos' booklet for free at Inside you can also find recipes, ideas for games and hints and tips for surviving and embracing the little moments of Christmas chaos!

You can join in and share your own moments of chaos or some of your own Christmas survival plans using the hashtag #LittleMomentsOfChristmasChaos on social media. Together we can celebrate Christmas 2016 without the stress!

Talking Food - Conflagrant Chilli Burrito Recipe

The average adult spends a whole six years of their life talking and thinking about food. As a nation we are obsessed with food, sharing photos, texting, messaging and chatting about the things we eat. However, our vocabularies are a little lacking when it comes to describing the food we enjoy. Words like delicious, tasty, nice and yummy are most commonly used. We also let hashtags (#foodporn) and emojis do the talking when it comes to discussing food on social media, which doesn't come close to describing the flavours, textures and aromas of our cuisine. So Sainsbury's has teamed up with lexicographer Susie Dent to help us evolve our vocabulary so we can improve our food talk and use words to reflect our new and exciting culinary landscape with the "The Sainsbury's Taste Dictionary :101 ways to describe each mouthful".

There are some wonderful words such as mealy, woody, fire-fanged, botanical, slape and lusty, but my favourite is the delightfully descriptive lickerous. Meaning sweet and tempting, it is the perfect word to describe cakes and desserts and one I intend to use more often in the future!

I have been challenged to come up with a recipe and to use Susie Dent's words to describe what I've made. So I've opted for an everyday dish that is a bit of a family favourite, so I can start dropping my newfound vocabulary into everyday conversations. No more 'yummy' or 'tasty' for us!

I've made a spicy and smoky Conflagrant Chilli Burrito, which can be described using some wonderfully descriptive words.

Taste Dictionary

Conflagrant - inducing a hot or peppery sensation
Sapid - strongly flavoured
Ardent - fiery and intense
Alliaceous - with a strong taste of garlic or onion
Lusty - hearty and wholesome

If you want to make my Conflagrant Chilli Burrito, here is the recipe:

Ingredients (makes 8)

8 large tortilla wraps
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 teaspoon garlic granules
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 carton of chopped tomato
1 tablespoon smoky chipotle sauce
Dash of hot chilli sauce to taste
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of pinto beans
1 can of chickpeas
1 pack of microwave Spicy Mexican rice
grated Cheddar cheese


Fry the onion using olive oil in a deep frying pan until golden.
Add garlic and continue to fry for further 2 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and add beans, tomato puree, smoky chipotle sauce, chilli sauce, chilli flakes, smoky paprika and garlic granules.
Cook for about 15 minutes until slightly reduced and combined.
Microwave the Spicy Mexican rice according to pack instructions.
Add to the pan and stir into the chilli.
To assemble, take each tortilla wrap and put a big spoonful of the bean and rice mix into the centre.
Top with grated cheese.
Fold into parcels to make the burritos.
Put in an ovenproof dish.
Top with a little more grated cheese and pop into a pre-heated oven at GM 6 for 15 minutes.

Serve with salad, guacamole, salsa and sour cream for a Mexican feast.

Follow @SainsburysNews on Instagram and Twitter and lookout for the hashtag #TasteDictionary for the chance of winning one of the dictiomaries.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Win a Nick Jr Goodie Bag with Nick Jr Carol-oke

win, christmas, competition

There is a great opportunity for little ones to appear on TV this Christmas with Nick Jr's Carol-oke. Imagine seeing your pride and joy on the screen in the run up to the big day, as part of a festive Carol-oke version of the classic Christmas song Deck the Halls! How magical would it be, watching your child fa-la-la-la-la-ing on Nick Jr?

To enter, upload a video of your little one (aged between 2 and 7) singing Deck the Halls and fill out the entry form for a chance to see your video appear on TV.  Entries need to be received between 21/11/2016 and 09/12/16. Five lucky winners will be selected every week and the winning entries will then be shown throughout November and December on Nick Jr. The first Carol-oke, featuring the first five winners, will be broadcast on Monday 28th November on Nick Jr.

Competition entry rules state that videos must be more than 10 seconds and under 30 seconds long. They must feature just one child per video and must not show any branding (such as on toys or clothing).  There can also be no background music playing. Entries will be judged on how funny, imaginative or creative they are, so have fun with your entry! 

 Click the button below to take you through to the Nick Jr Carol-oke competition page.

As an extra special treat, Nick Jr are offering one of my readers the chance to win a Nick Jr goody bag,which includes a bag, umbrella, colouring book, crayons and a Ready Steady dough kit . It will make a lovely little gift for a child this Christmas. To win one, simply click through the Carol-oke link using the button above to check out the competition. 


Then answer this question using the Rafflecopter entry form below...

What is the missing word? 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

One winner picked at random from all correct entries will win the goody bag. Winner's details must be provided and will be sent to the PR company in order for the prize to be dispatched. UK entrants only. Winner will be drawn after closing date of 12am on Monday 28th November 2016.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Santa at the intu Trafford Centre - The Polar Expedition

Today, we were invited to the intu Trafford Centre to visit The Polar Expedition grotto in Barton Square. Families embark on a magical journey, guided by Eskimo Elves, to meet Santa. This year's grotto is very different to any we have visited before. It really is quite unique.


I'm not going to give any spoilers as to what adventures to expect, but prepare to encounter a host of Polar animals and a cute baby reindeer called Norbert. It is truly magical!  You will meet some fun and engaging characters and can even learn some fascinating Polar facts. The experience contains some exciting technology that will thrill the whole family.

intu Trafford Centre

The grotto has been really well constructed with lots of attention to detail. There is so much to look at in the displays and decorations. This year, the grotto has been made in association with Playmobil and there is a giant Playmobil Santa in the entrance of the temporary building in Barton Square.


The final stage of the journey takes you to visit Santa himself. I thought it was lovely that Santa talked to all three of my children equally and gave them each a gift. He was engaging and warm. (The gifts they received are good quality.) Santa's elf took photographs that were available to purchase in a variety of photo product options.

Christmas, Manchester

Prices for The Polar Expedition are £7.50 for children, which includes a gift and £5.00 for accompanying adults. You can find out more and book at:

Opening Times:

Until Friday 2 December
Monday-Friday 12noon-6pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm

Saturday 3 December - Friday 9 December
Monday-Friday 11am-7pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am-8pm

Saturday 10 December - Sunday 18 December
Monday-Friday 10am-9pm
Saturday 8.30am-9pm
Sunday 9am-8pm

Monday 19 December - Christmas Eve
Monday-Friday 8.30am-9pm

Christmas Eve 8.30am 4pm

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Light Up Christmas with Aldi Specialbuys

The Christmas lights in the major cities have all been switched on and Christmas markets are springing up, up and down the country. This means that the festive season is well and truly upon us. With that in mind, the Aldi Specialbuys that are coming to Aldi stores on November 17th, are perfect for getting our Christmas spirits soaring! They have an incredible range of lights and light-up decorations that will make any home look perfect for the yuletide season, available online and in store.

Christmas, decorations

I received some to try out and am very impressed by the quality, the exciting designs and the price of the products. 

My favourite pieces include the Christmas Tree Snow Globe, which is battery operated with LED bulbs. The crystal-look glass tree has a multi-colour change function and a glitter snow swirl effect. It is mesmerising to watch and the kids love its sparkling, colourful display. At £4.99 it is a real bargain and would be a lovely gift idea for fans of festive frivolities.

Christmas decorations

The Christmas Light Up Globe is a lovely glass cloche on a wooden base. Inside is a bundle of battery operated LED lights that look really pretty. You can choose the plain globe or choose one which also contains mini Christmas trees, baubles or pine cones. Batteries come included so you can set it up straight from the box to bring some light into your life. At £7.99 it's a classy looking ornament.

Christmas decorations, Aldi

The light up canvas wall art pictures depict a festive scene, but have a sophisticated twist having twinkling LED lights integrated into the design. At £3.99 they are a real bargain and make a lovely gift. Choose from Winter Wonderland, Stag, Santa or Festive House. They come complete with batteries and are ready to hang.

Christmas light up canvas

Retro, illuminated, rustic wooden buildings create a charming village scene. There are churches and houses that come with sparkly snow detail and have a soft glow of light shining from the windows. They are really cute and Christmassy and at £9.99 make an impressive display. Batteries are included.

Pathfinder lights help lead the way to your door at nighttime. Choose from Santa, Star, Tree or Ho Ho Ho designs to add some Christmas fun to your garden. They are £14.99 for four, and come with a 10m cable and timer.

Every home needs a 6 foot illuminated inflatable to celebrate Christmas! An inflatable reindeer, Santa, snowman or Christmas tree are available for indoor or temporary outdoor use. They are such fun and just £19.99. They are sure to bring a smile this Christmas.

The Christmas Candle Arch brings festive cheer to the home with its gentle candlelight-like illuminations. Santa's Sleigh, Christmas Trees, Reindeer or Decorative Hearts are available with batteries included for the great price of £9.99.

Aldi, christmas decorations

A set of three decorative presents makes a stylish ornament, featuring 48 warm, white LEDs, an eight function controller and timer. There is a choice of four colours and designs with each set costing £14.99.

Aldi have lots of sets of lights at bargain prices. The 360 LED Christmas Lights set is just £14.99 has eight functions and a timer and can be used indoors or outdoors. 50 cm strings of battery operated garland lights are a pretty way to add some light to a room. At just £3.99 they are a fun addition to your festive decor at a great price and come in a range of designs.

specialbuys, christmas

The range of light up decorations and Christmas lights is excellent for adding some festive flair to your house this Christmas. Remember, the products are only available while stocks last, so be quick if you want to grab a bargain.

Here is a price list of the products that will be available to buy from November 17th:

360 Icicle £19.99
240 Net Lights £19.99
480 LED Cluster Lights £16.99
360 LED Christmas Lights £14.99
Christmas Pathfinder Lights £14.99
24 Giant Icicle Lights £14.99
10m Rope Light £11.99
Twig Lights £9.99
100 Faceted Cone Lights £9.99
Berry Lights £9.99
Decorative Garland Lights £3.99
Battery Operated Lights £3.99
50 LED Outdoor Lightchain £3.99

6ft Christmas Inflatable £19.99
Set Of 3 Parcels £14.99
Christmas Village Scene £9.99
Christmas Candle Arch £9.99
Light Up Christmas Characters £7.99
Holly Effect Topiary Ball £7.99
Christmas Light Up Globe £7.99
Christmas Novelty Snowglobe £4.99
LED Christmas Canvas £3.99
Dancing Flame Candle £3.99
2m Tinsel £0.89
Remote Controlled Sockets £17.99

Outdoor Socket With Dawn Sensor £12.99

See more details on the Specialbuys at


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