Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Sushi Making Fun with Yutaka

Making sushi is Japan-easy with Yutaka

This Father's Day we did something a little different for Ian's celebratory meal. Yutaka, suppliers of authentic Japanese food products to the UK, challenged us to have a go at making some sushi using a selection of their ingredients. Most people associate sushi with fish, but the word actually refers to the sticky rice, which can be paired with any protein, vegetable or fruit to create a healthy dish.

vegetarian sushi

Yutaka make it easy to make authentic Japanese sushi at home, With a great range of products including sushi rice, sauces, vinegar, wasabi paste, black sesame seeds, ginger and nori sheets as well as rolling mats, nigiri sushi moulds and chopsticks, you can have fun and create some impressive sushi using any protein, fruit or vegetables you fancy.

sushi, Japanese food

For our sushi making session, we made some vegan duck style pieces in hoisin sauce, sliced oriental style Quorn chicken fillets and mushroom and spring onion cooked with soy sauce and prepared some cucumber, carrot, asparagus, orange pepper and spring onion. We had soy sauce and rice vinegar dipping sauces ready and laid the table with everything we needed.

Sushi making is great for all the family to get involved with. All the children really enjoyed creating their own sushi rolls and nigiri sushi. Combinations such as vegan duck with spring onion went down a treat. Raw carrot, cucumber and pepper was lovely and fresh. The steamed asparagus was a perfect addition and looked really good on the nigiri sushi.

The colours, flavours and the textures were wonderful. The children learned some new skills, each taking turns at rolling their own sushi rolls and using chopsticks. Being involved in making their own food encourages children to be more adventurous, so even fussy eaters will try something new. Freddy loved the rice with Quorn or mock duck.

sushi, vegetarian sushi

Sushi making is definitely something we will do again. It was such fun to all join in and take turns in making our own flavour combinations using all the ingredients. Sushi is such a versatile dish and can be made vegan, vegetarian or gluten free. It is healthy, delicious and hands on - perfect for a family meal.


Find the leading UK-based Japanese food company YUTAKA at, and discover all the ingredients to make authentic and healthy sushi at home.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bratz Music Festival Vibes #BratzFest

Festival season is underway, giving music lovers the chance to enjoy their favourite bands and to sing and dance with wild abandon while dressed in the coolest festival outfits. To celebrate festival season, Bratz have their new Music Festival Vibes collection, featuring the iconic dolls rocking some awesome festival chic looks.

Bratz Jade, Bratz, festival

Each of the five new dolls come with two outfits and accessories designed to suit the genre of music they are into. We received Jade who loves electro-pop and has a really futuristic, quirky look. Cloe loves American country rock, Sasha is a fan of chart topping dance music, Yasmin is a 70's dancing queen and Reya has a passion for retro jazz.

Jade looks so trendy with her platform boots, see through skirt, stripy leggings and green furry hoodie. Her colourful hair, alien handbag, shades, ear-rings and phone case are all as unique as she is. A multi-coloured ra-ra skirt and alien vest make up her second outfit choice, ready to dance the night away at a funky festival. A really nice touch with the packaging is that the handle doubles up as a multi-coloured fabric festival wristband for the child to wear.

Festival chic and cool outfits are just one part of the festival experience. With the unreliable British Summer Time, festivals often see a lot of rain, so if attending one, it is wise to go prepared with a raincoat and wellies. We've all seen the famous muddy Glastonbury videos and pictures of the floods at Download! Rain is often as much a part of festivals as the music. But rain does not stop play when it comes to festival season!

We were sent a poncho for the kids to pimp using stickers to make it festival ready! So staying dry and being stylish go hand in hand. With sparkly stars and stick on guitars, the poncho was transformed!

Here is little brother Freddy, ready to enjoy the festival experience, whatever the weather!

Bratz, festival chic

Find out more at:

You can follow Bratz at @BRATZ_UK on Twitter and BRATZ UK on Facebook.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Say Cheers with a glass of Barefoot Malbec

This Sunday we will be celebrating Father's Day.  It's always lovely to make the most out of these special days. It's a good excuse for me and the kids to make an even bigger fuss of Ian than we usually do. Father's Day also means he gets to choose what we do all day, including picking his favourite meal. It's nice to have a sit down meal together for special occasions, because often during the week we eat on our laps in the living room (especially now the football is on - we can't miss a match, especially as we have our own family sweepstake running!) This year Ian will be treated to a family cinema trip followed by our favourite Indian takeaway in the evening, served with a good bottle of red wine. Red wine is up there as one of his favourite tipples. A good red is not only delicious, it is also rich in antioxidants making it good for you if drunk in moderation. (That's what the experts say - and who am I to argue with that!!)

Barefoot Wine have a delicious addition to their range of wines and we received a bottle of the new Californian Malbec to sample. The Barefoot brand brings an element of fun and freedom into the wine market, promoting the idea that wine tastes better in a tee than in a tux!  Their new world Malbec red wine is an affordable crowd pleaser, perfect with or without food.  Malbec has recently risen in popularity having characteristics similar to a Merlot, making it an easy to drink and versatile red.

The Malbec red wine looks and smells lovely from the moment it's poured, with a rich, red colour. It is a full flavoured wine which is smooth and goes down easily with an instant warming effect. The flavour is reminiscent of dark berries with a hint of vanilla and a toasted oak finish. Ian and I enjoyed this wine very much. It is just the sort of red we love to drink together.

red wine, Californian wine

Barefoot have a range of red, white, pink and bubbly wines, which is perfect for any special occasion. Any of them would make a great gift for dad this Father's Day, or would accompany a special meal.

Barefoot wines are readily available in supermarkets and convenience stores and are sold in many pubs and restaurants nationwide. The Barefoot Malbec is currently available in Sainsbury's for £7.00.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Delicious Cheese & Vegetable Bake Recipe with Cathedral City #CheeseRules #LoveCheese

Love Cheese? Welcome to the Club!

Cathedral City, the nation's favourite Cheddar, has recently undergone a relaunch with brand new packaging and a new advertising campaign starring David Jason, based on those unwritten rules of cheese that Cathedral City fans will totally relate to. Cathedral City's distinctive, smooth creamy Cheddar is made using milk from dedicated West Country farmers in their Cornish creamery, making it the perfect cheese for cheese lovers, however they enjoy it.

From watching bubbling cheese in the oven, to eating that last awkwardly shaped bit of cheese when grating, to nibbling the crispy edge bits on a freshly baked lasagne to making multiple visits to the cheeseboard at a party - these are all habits that cheese lovers find irresistible. And with 66% of people surveyed by Cathedral City admitting to always having cheese in the house, there are lots of us who enjoy eating cheese in our own unique quirky way! 21% of people said they would choose cheese over social media, that sums up just how deep our nation's love affair with cheese really is.

Cathedral City Cheddar

I have to confess to being someone who finds it hard to go to the fridge without cutting a thin slither of cheese off the block to pop in my mouth. And those crispy bits that drip onto the grill pan when making cheese on toast are just too tasty to ignore. And the browned cheesy topping on a lasagne, a cheese topped shepherd's pie, nachos or enchiladas is just too delicious.  Italian dishes such as pizza and pasta have toppled curry as our new national favourite dish, thanks to their indulgent cheesiness.

My favourite cheese rule concerns cheese sauce. You can never put enough cheese into your cheese sauce, because the tastier the better! A rich, flavoursome cheese sauce makes any meal even more delicious. Just think of macaroni cheese or cauliflower cheese. Perfect comfort food.

Cathedral City Cheddar

What are your cheese rules? What do you find irresistible about Cathedral City Cheddar? I'd love you to leave a comment and share the cheese love!

In honour of the Cathedral City Cheese Rules, here is a recipe for a delicious family meal that includes a delicious mix of seasonal vegetables enrobed in a rich cheese sauce topped with Cheddar cheese and baked until golden brown.  One of the best things about this recipe is that you can adapt it to include any of your favourite vegetables, or to use up any veg left in the fridge if you are looking for a frugal meal time idea. A perfect dish for lovers of yummy cheese sauce.

Cathedral City Cheddar

Cheese & Vegetable Bake Recipe
with Cathedral City


1 leek
1 large potato
1 sweet potato
2 medium carrots
1 head of broccoli
6 white mushrooms
1 onion -sliced
4 asparagus stalks
2 cloves garlic - finely chopped
2 tablespoons of canned sweetcorn
1/2 vegetable stock cube

2 oz butter
2 oz plain flour
1 pint milk
4 oz Cathedral City Mature Cheddar (plus extra to taste!)
ground pepper
pinch of mixed herbs

2 oz Cathedral City Mature Cheddar grated


Peel and chop the vegetables into bite size pieces, slice the onion and chop the garlic. Add the potato, onion and carrot to a pan of water with the stock cube added. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add sweet potato and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add asparagus, broccoli, mushroom, leek and garlic and simmer for a further five minutes until cooked through.

Cathedral City Cheddar

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and stir through the flour. Cook gently whilst stirring for one minute then remove from heat and slowly whisk in the milk, a little at a time. Return to low heat and continuously stir until thickened. Add grated cheese, herbs and pepper and continue to stir until cheese is melted through.

Cathedral City Cheddar

Put the Vegetables into an ovenproof dish and add the sweetcorn. Pour over the sauce and top with more grated cheese.

Cathedral City Cheddar

Pop into the oven at 180 degrees centigrade and cook for about 25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top.

Perfect served with steamed cabbage for a wholesome, hearty and deliciously cheesy dinner that your cheese loving family will love. It's a great way to get vegetables into the diets of fussy eaters.

If you love cheese and want to join in with Cathedral City's passion for Cheddar, you can find Cathedral City on Facebook - Here you can find a quiz to discover just what find of cheese lover you are from a passionate cheese lover to the ultimate cheese worshipper!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Sing Your Heart Out with the Lucky Voice Karaoke App

Who doesn't enjoy a good sing-song? We all love singing along to our favourite tunes and with the Lucky Voice Karaoke app, you can do just that! With thousands of songs to choose from, you can perform hits from musicals, Disney tunes, songs from the eighties, duets, current hits or karaoke classics using your iPad or phone. Perfect for entertaining the kids or for a karaoke party in your own home.

Lucky Voice are offering a 14 day free trial of their karaoke app so you can try it at home for an instant sing-a-long. (After that there is a £4.99 monthly subscription charge giving access to 8000+ songs, which you can cancel at any time.)

Lucky Voice Karaoke App

We are trialing the app along with the Lucky Voice Karaoke kit, which, with the addition of speakers and an internet connection, transforms your home computer or iPad into an ultimate karaoke machine for added fun. The kit also includes a code giving you a month's access to all the songs on the app. The microphones come in a variety of colours.

Lucky Voice

The range of songs available is very impressive. They have everything from Disney favourites to songs from Bollywood to David Bowie's greatest hits. So whether you are a crooner, a wannabe rockstar or a musical theatre lover, there is something that will unleash your inner performer. We had an absolute blast rocking out to classic Meatloaf hits followed by the songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The content is really extensive and there is something for everyone, whatever your taste.

You can create your own playlists from your favourite songs or choose from the featured playlists on the app. You can also queue up what songs you want to play for non-stop karaoke fun or search by artist or song if you are looking for something in particular.

Lucky Voice

The app itself works really well directly from the iPad where you can read the words from the screen and sing along to the songs. However, the kit really enhances the experience and you can add echo effects to your voice and balance the backing track and voice volumes. There are two input sockets for microphones so you can add an extra mic for duets. The kit has a £50 RRP.

Singing is something that is very stress relieving and it can boost your confidence and let you put your inhibitions aside. Singing together as a family is such a fun activity and kids love to entertain themselves with a bit of karaoke. It's great for rainy days, parties or practicing your vocal skills.

Find out more about the Lucky Voice App and the Karaoke Kit at

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

My Son's Wedding - What a Wonderful Day!

Never have I cried so much, laughed so hard, danced so madly or felt so proud. So many emotions. So much love. So much fun. Such a wonderful day. Surrounded by most of my favourite people in the world.

My brave, amazing son defeated the odds to be on his feet at his wedding. His strength and determination allowing him to stand, to declare his love for his beautiful bride in front of family and friends,  just three weeks after major surgery to remove the cancer that had turned all of our lives upside down. Supported by a crutch and with support from his wife to be, Joe said his vows and married his soulmate, his rock and his first love Jade.


With my gorgeous grandson Ted stealing the show, and with my five beautiful children making me the proudest I have ever been, this wedding gave us all a chance to celebrate something joyous together. After so many months of uncertainty, we were able to simply focus on the positives. Something we all very much needed. 

wedding day, bride, groom

Joe and Jade have become the new Mr and Mrs McDonald. I hope that they are going to enjoy the title and their married life as much as Ian and I have over the years. With all they have been through together already, I know their relationship is solid and their love for each other is strong.

The security, the companionship, the love, the support, the feeling of being a part of something greater than the sum of its parts - a good, strong, happy marriage is truly a blessing.  I wish my son and my new daughter-in-law a long, healthy and happy life together.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Ravensburger Spongebob Squarepants XXL 100 Puzzle

When Freddy was offered the chance to try out the one hundred piece Spongebob Squarepants Puzzle from Ravensburger, he was very pleased. He loves Spongebob and the design on this puzzle features hundreds of characters from Bikini Bottom, making it really appealing and just the right level of challenging. 

Ravensburger XXL 100 Puzzle, Spongebob Squarepants

The 100 XXL format makes this puzzle perfect for his age as the pieces are a good size, making it less fiddly to put together. He isn't the best at doing complicated puzzles, as he has inherited my lack of spatial awareness! It doesn't come naturally to him. So if a puzzle is too hard he quickly loses interest or gets frustrated. This was the perfect level for him, keeping him occupied and allowing him to successfully complete the challenge.

Ravensburger XXL 100 Puzzle, Spongebob Squarepants

The quality of the pieces is really good, they are sturdy and they fit together well. The puzzle is 49cm x 36cm and the finished picture is very detailed with lots of Spongebob fun to explore. There is lots of visual humour to discover and lots of familiar characters to spot. Children's observation skills will be developed as they try to spot their Bikini Bottom favourites including the Frying Dutchman, Barnacle Boy, Mermaid Man, Mrs Puff and Pearl as well as Spongebob, Patrick, Sandy, Mr Crabbs and Squidward. 

Ravensburger XXL 100 Puzzle, Spongebob Squarepants

Freddy was very pleased with himself for completing the puzzle. The 100 extra large pieces make this a good transition from baby puzzles to grown-up ones. Freddy was able to match the pictures and the shapes without getting frustrated and he enjoyed the challenge of completing it.

Ravensburger XXL 100 Puzzle - Spongebob Squarepants

Ravensburger have a great range of puzzles in the XXL 100 format, featuring lots of kids' favourite film and TV characters. You can find them at

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Baby Annabell Brother Interactive Doll Review

My six year old son Freddy is an uncle to my three year old grandson Ted. In November, we are expecting another addition to the family, when Ted becomes a big brother. Learning about taking care of babies and bringing out their nurturing, caring natures is really important when raising little boys. I have always felt that playing with dolls is a good way for them to learn about these things in a natural, organic way through role play. After all, these little lads are tomorrow's dads!

I was really pleased to see that the Baby Annabell brand makes a boy doll, which little boys may relate to better and I received one to try out. Dressed in a blue baby grow and hat, he comes with a bib, bottle and dummy for realistic pretend play.

Boy doll

The little brother doll is a soft bodied, interactive doll who blinks his eyes, moves his mouth, makes realistic baby sounds and cries real tears. You can feed him real water from the bottle, and he will move his mouth as he sucks. If you wind him he will burp! Lie him flat or rock him in your arms and he will coo, then fall asleep and gently snore. When he cries, he can be calmed by having his chest, back or cheek rubbed.

boy doll

The doll's sounds and actions really are endearing and even I felt compelled to pick him up and cuddle him. This doll allows realistic imaginative role play and helps develop responsibility and empathy in children as they care for the doll. 

I love watching the boys have free reign over an assortment of toys, which includes dolls. I'm all for children having a choice of what they want to play with, rather than sticking to gender stereotypes. Even though Freddy loves playing with superhero action figures, trucks and action men, he is also happy playing with this doll, feeding him water and calming him down when he cries his real tears. The babbling, crying and snoring really are lifelike, and the soft body makes him very huggable! Everyone has been quite enthralled by the little Baby Annabell Brother doll.

dolls for boys

The Baby Annabell Brother doll is 46cm tall and takes 4 x AA batteries (which are not included). He is suitable for children aged 3 and up. The RRP of the doll is £49.99.


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