Saturday 31 December 2011

Castello cheese review

the four cheeses we bought with our vouchers.
I got a wonderful tweet from Castello a few weeks back wanting to know if I wanted to firstly give a new home to a castello slate cheese board, and secondly to sample their cheeses.

Well how could I possibly say no to such a generous offer? So I said yes, and I'm very glad I did.

Now whilst I am not a huge cheese eater being lactose intolerant my husbands second passion in this world is cheese, wont tell you what his first after 18 yrs its not me so put your smutty minds back in the gutter

The slate cheese board and marker (to write on board)
Must admit I have never bought soft cheeses before, oh is into harder or crumbly cheeses and has his favourites that I buy him just for eating and others I buy for using in meals.

But both of us were well impressed with the soft creamy white cheese, it was a mild creamy cheese that went nice with oat cakes and peach slices. You are told that you can eat the soft white rind but it did not appeal to me though oh did eat it.

We also had the black pepper halo, which is the same creamy cheese but with a coating of peppercorn, oh said this one was to die for, and was really nice with meat and potatoes as well as on a cheeseboard. Was too much for me, the peppercorns in my opinion were just too much, but then Im not a pepper lover.

Next up we had a blue soft creamy cheese , this did not appeal to me at all and I did not even try it, and oh just took one small piece and did not like it, it was in his opinion harsh and bitter, but a friend of mine loves it so she willingly gave it a new home. It is your typical blue veined mouldy cheese, now while I appreciate all cheese is a mould I don't like my cheese to remind me of that (bit like yoghurt really).

Lastly  we had more what I would buy as cheese a harder one, Reserve Herrgard now the picture they have up you would think the cheese was an edam type, but no it is a hard cheddar type, and ours had no holes in what so ever,  but very very pleasant it was too. The first taste that hits you with this one is salty, you then get through a nutty flavour. It is a very medium cheese with a pleasant after taste. I have used this with oat cakes so as not to swamp its flavour, and last night I had some cut into tiny little cubes with peach and raisins. Must admit if on the future I am buying cheese to eat I would go for this one again. Havent tried this as toasted cheese yet but seems to nice to waste melting it on top of bread.

  I was provided with these products for free as they are promoting themselves, the findings are my honest thoughts and I did this blog post as I wanted to and was not part of the deal.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Boxing Day 2011

my 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren

 I work in a hospital and as I work weekends and Christmas day fell on a Sunday I was working on Christmas Day. I came home and had a fairly normal meal prepared by daughter No2 who had invited herself over for the duration and we then unwrapped our presents to each other.
my great niece E reading her new book

So on Monday I got to celebrate Christmas with daughters No 1and 2, the two grandchildren and a pleasant surprise of my oldest nephew and niece and my youngest great niece, and how lovely it was to see them.

daughter No2, nephew Carl and great niece E.

When the children were all young my sister and I stay at opposite ends of the country and when the children were growing up we (sadly)saw very very little of each others children. My sister and her husband use to work long long hours holding down jobs and starting up their own business and they only closed down the business for 2 weeks over the Christmas period which is when they went away on a family holiday. I think the last time we got together as a family was over 20 yrs ago. Some of us did meet up for my mums 60th birthday party, which due to an accident I didnt make, and then my mothers funeral 10yrs ago, so this is really the first time I have seen my nephew and niece as adults.

after the great unwrapping

 We all got together at daughter No 2's house as it the best size and design to hold us all in comfortably, and the guests are staying there for a few days so it made sense.

Carl and E
 We had a pleasant day exchanging gifts and catching up, plus getting to spoil my great niece, E who is 14months, seems so long ago since Bob was that age.
my niece with her niece E

Bob reading E's new Gruffalo book

So thanks T for a very nice dinner, and here's hoping this generation of cousins may see more of each other than the last lot did.

Sunday 25 December 2011

A Merry Chistmas one and all

Thank you to all my friends, family, readers and followers for being here and making my blog worth while, without you all it is fairly pointless.

Just want to say to each and everyone of you

And look forward to more laughs, fun and comments next year

Silent Sunday 25th Dec

Saturday 24 December 2011

Making Mince pies for Santa (and other things)

When my own children were young we always had a Christmas tradition of making home made mince pies so we could leave some out for Santa.

top hats

making top hats
Dependant on the varying ages and stages they all helped in a fashion they could, be it rolling the pastry, cutting the shapes, putting in the filling, putting on the tops, brushing with milk and sprinkling a wee bit of sugar. You could never have sold them in a posh establishments as some bits of the pastry were thicker than others, some had more filling than others and some lids didn't fit exact, but none of that mattered, the fact was they all enjoyed doing this as a family activity and Santa always ate what was left out so they must have been good enough.

cutting out the pastry
We did this a few years back at Uncle S's request as he was feeling fed up at not having a job and he remembers enjoying it as a child, so we decided to cheer him up and a baking session was organised. We didn't involve Bob in this activity but myself, Auntie T, Uncle S and I made mince pies and home made pizza, and it was a messy but fun afternoon.
the finished mince pies

Our reindeer
I made some cakes yesterday for Fifi and Auntie T to decorate up as Rudolph copying an idea I saw somebody else post over on Facebook. Just a chocolate came with chocolate butter icing with 2 raisins for eyes, a craisin for his nose and some curly wurly for antlers

So carrying on this tradition we decided that Auntie T would bring Fifi and Bob round at 2.30 in time for me coming in from work and Fifi and Auntie T are going to make mince pies. Due to time constraints we are using Jus-rol ready rolled puff pastry.

stirring the crispie cakes

Now as we cant let Bob near this procedure as he cannot handle these type of products without making him ill, and as I don't think his mummy will be to pleased if we end up in A&E on Christmas Eve. So Bob and I are making Bob friendly top hats and chocolate crispie cakes.

I guess some never made it to the cases
the finished crispie cakes
watching the dvd
We also made pizza for Bib using a roll and cheezley cheese and tomato, and sat with pizza and juice, mince pie and chocolate crispie cake and watched  Muppets Christmas Carol before taking them back home so they can go visiting other relatives to pick up and drop off parcels. The two of them really didnt sit still for a second and Bob was whistling and clicking his fingers as he jigged about to the music, but what else do you expect from a 5 yr old on Christmas Eve?

The kids had a ball, they happily went home with stuff to leave out for Santa, gave them something to do to help pass a few hours for them, gave mummy a few hrs peace, and gave me a few hrs of fun, its just so nice to be able to do this sort of thing with them.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

The Gallery week 85

This weeks theme thrown down by Tara at Sticky fingers is: Christmas of Yesteryear.

This is a chance for you to dig into your dusty old albums and air those embarrassing old photos!
It can be last Christmas, one from your childhood, one before children, one from your mum's childhood even.
me pointing at the camera probably ( a novel item back then)

Well one of the few photos I have of me as a young child just so happens to fit the these nicely. This picture was taken Christmas 1962.....way way way back, long before colour pictures became the norm.

I was 3 yrs old just 4 weeks before Christmas, and know at the time we were actually stationed in Germany and I'm sure from the doors and their handles this must have been taken there as it does not look right for my grandparents house.

My mother ( or half of her) can be seen as well.

  Really don't remember anything about it, but I have to laugh at the huge big tree in the corner....was that really what we use to call a tree? My how things have changed!

my sister and grandfather

In this picture of my big sister ( 13 months older than me) is  my paternal grandfather. Have put up both pictures just so you can see the lovely matching skirts, the beautiful hand knitted cardigans and what about the gorgeous matching hairstyles.Note the budgie cage as well

Cant really make out much of what we had as presents, but certainly not the piles and piles of things my children got and my grandchildren get, but what you see was for three of us as my big brother would have been five at the time.

Monday 19 December 2011

Bugs Observation Dome by Asco Educational

I was fortunate enough to be sent out a bugs observation dome by Asco Educational to do a review on on behalf of The item sells for £10.55 (+VAT).

The item is a smallish clear plastic dome, with the base about the size of an average tea plate and stands 6 inches tall to the top of the dome, and 8 inches to the top of the observation tube.

Now we have got this item in the middle of December and we could not find any bugs under the bark or the stones in the garden, so as the item is just intended to magnify whatever you put in we rounded up a few strange objects to see the detail in them. One of Bob and granddads favourite pastimes in the summer is bug hunting so this will come into its own then.

We used a piece of hairy knitting wool, was the nearest thing I could find to a beastie with hairs on its legs that we could magnify. We also looked at a 1p piece, which Fifi thought the portcullis looked like a waffle, a 2p piece, a piece of onion skin, a piece of carrot skin, and a frond of a cacti plant we have ( a none prickly type).

The door to the dome was a good size and Bob, who is a small 5, managed to get his hand right into the dome, and it measured 4 inches tall, more than half the height of the dome. It has a handle on to allow for easy sliding up and down making it easy to pop the beasties in and encloses them so they cant escape. The downside of this being there are no air holes on the item and therefore if you forgot about the beastie he may suffocate.

The item did not come with any tools to either pick up beasties with or anything to keep/carry them in until you are ready for them.

Once your beasties ( or pieces of hairy wool) was inside the dome it could wander anywhere and still be seen as the observation tube rotates through the full 360 degrees, and it is height adjustable, goes right up to the top of the dome, and goes right back to ground level, and the grandkids thought it was hilariously funny that if they bashed it down hard and quick they could squash the beasties with the tube - thankfully we only squashed inanimate objects.

I felt the item would have benefited  from a light up base as time the child leant over the dome to look into the tube they were obscuring a lot of the light.

Fifi felt the item wasn't overly exciting, but feels it will be more fun with proper beasties. I would say the item is suitable for 5-9 yrs old, any younger than that and they probably not able to grasp the concept of using one eye to look, any older and the will not find it interesting at all.

Here is a video of our findings.

This item was supplied to me for the purpose of this review, but the findings are an honest reflection of what we found

Sunday 18 December 2011

GOSH share Disney memories appeal

I saw this earlier on over on Loquax, it was originally posted in back in September but is still very current and running.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is trying to raise £1million with the help of us the general public, but at no cost to us the general public. This event is being sponsored by Disney, and it is very very simple all you have to do is share YOUR favourite Disney memory with the rest of us.

Disney are donating £1 for every memory that people share, so looking for 1 million people to share their first/best memories of Disney. But for the month of December they will donate £10 for each memory. So come on why would you not want to click a link and write a sentence, not a bad rate of reward for a minute of your time.

Now come on we can all think of something, it literally only needs to be 1 sentence, but feel free to do what I am doing and write a blog post and tell the whole world about it. I did a google search looking for information on this appeal and came up with lots written when it was first launched but nothing more recent that that.

 Peter Andre has got involved and he went along and visited the hospital. met with staff and patients and this article here tells you more about this wonderful need for fund raising.

You can share your memories in four different ways.
1) Share your first Disney memory at, its a simple click and a simple comment

2) email it to

3) tweet it @_DisneyMemories.

or 4)  pop over to Facebook and like the page and leave a comment here

Next I would love it if you would share your memories and circulate this to as many people as possible so we can help them towards reaching their target.

The memory I shared was literally

Bedknobs and Broomsticks has to rank up there in my all time favourite memories. MY son loooooved this film, and the rest of us would sit with tears of laughter rolling down our faces at him laughing at the football match. He would sit in fits of giggles and rewind the tape and played that bit of the film to death.

and here for you lot is that clip. come on have a laugh then help spread some Christmas cheer.

Friday 16 December 2011

Why my cakes are nutritionally good for me

I tweeted a picture of my cakes the other evening to a few friends, and told them these were the cakes I had made to put up onto (my sponsor) Healthy Supplies web site that I write recipes for. One of them came back and said how can anything that loaded with cholesterol be healthy?

Just because they look unhealthy it does not mean they need to be. I pointed out to Linda that they are dairy/egg/gluten/wheat free and therefore are very healthy with little cholesterol in them.
Dont think she believed me, but let me point out how healthy the ingredients are that I use. So Healthy Supplies means you wont get this one on your blog site.

These cakes consist of 110 ml of rape seed oil which is full of Omega 3,6 & 9 + vitamin E and has one of the lowest saturated fat contents for a culinary oil, and has no cholesterol in what so ever.

To that I added 125g of Xylitol which has a low GI and wont rot your teeth like normal sugar. 

What are the other health benefits of xylitol?

First, you are doing your body a big favor by substituting more xylitol for sugar in your diet. While xylitol is just as sweet as table sugar (sucrose), it has about 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbohydrates. Xylitol also won’t raise your blood sugar like regular sugar does, putting tremendous strain on your system, causing negative health effects.

To replace the eggs I used ground Flax seed which again is an excellent source of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids (EFAs) that assist with basic bodily and mental functions. Flaxseed (like many of the foods I eat) can help to reduce cholesterol level.

Next up came a mixture of gluten free flours  first 100g of brown rice. The good: This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a very good source of Manganese.

50g tapioca flour which is not really the best choice going as it is low in both fibre and vitamins but good for essential minerals but it is a nice light powdery flour that helps to add to the overall lightness of the product. 

Next I added 50g buckwheat flour which is again an excellent nutritional flour that is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber and Magnesium, and a very good source of Manganese.

lastly I add 40g potato flour I put this in to help the binding as tapioca flour has low binding abilities. Nutritionally  This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin B6.

I sieved all the flours together, and added a teaspoon Xanthan Gum and 1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder during the sieving process. I added some lemon extract for flavour and then cooked them.

Once cool I made a "butter" icing using unhealthy icing sugar and vitalite which is naturally rich in Vitamin E, is virtually trans fat free and contains no hydrogenatated oils. Sunflower oil is light in taste and appearance and supplies more Vitamin E than any other vegetable oil.

So there you go as far as cakes go they are healthy, nutritional, low in bad fats and high in good. Well thats my excuse and Im sticking to it.

This is a review post with foods provided by Healthy Supplies but the ideas and findings are my own.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Vax Rapide Ultra review

I hate, yes hate, my living room carpet with a passion, it is a beige colour and the 14 ft from door to door gets all the muck and mess from the front door at one end of it and from the dog coming in with its muddy feet from the back door ( through the kitchen) at the other. I had asked the landlord 18 months ago if I could change it and was told no, so it has annoyed me for 2.5 yrs now. So having won a gorgeous pandora necklace last month that was not quite me, I swapped it and use the swap to buy a  carpet cleaner to at least make it more tolerable.

I have hired the rug doctor a few times and borrowed another from a friend but at this time of year its impossible to keep it clean so decided I really had to buy one. I always do a lot or review reading before I buy anything, not is a financial position to buy something, decide I dont like it, shove it in the back of a cupboard and buy another as some people do.

So having done my reading, and my research on the cheapest place to buy it I bought the Vax Rapide Ultra as it had good reviews and was less than half this price in Argos at the end of November.

So we wandered off and bought it, and believe me the box is big and heavy and the provided carry handle digs into your fingers like nothing on earth. Luckily enough we bought it in an indoor shopping mall with nice slidey tile floor so I dragged it 2/3rds of the way back to the car, and only carried it once I got outside. Had I pre-planned I would have taken a supermarket shopping trolley with me and pushed it back to the car, but I didnt so hey ho.

When I got it home and opened the box the machine required just the handle to be added, which was done with one very easy clip and that was it done. This machine comes with a  hose and wash tool that can be used to spot clean before you start, to do your stairs with  or to clean furniture. Now by no stretch am I  thick but for the life of me I could can not work out how this is attached to the machine for storage. There is a frame work for the flexible hose and its end attachments to go onto, but mine is in the cupboard under the stairs. The instructions for attaching this is none existent and I thought as you dont actually need it to shampoo the carpet then I was not going to let it stress me. It is easy enough to see where it attaches to actually use it and that will do good enough for me for now but I think they could do with adding a page to their manual.

So what did I think of it in use? Dead easy to set up, take off the water tank, just by pressing a button in the same way as you empty a modern upright vacuum cleaner, filling with water and placing back in. The foot pedal that you press too tilt the machine handle back and the one on the opposite side that switches the machine in and off could have done with being a bit bigger as I found them awkward to operate and the pedal to tilt the machine back needed pressing 3 or 4 times to get it to operate.

The machine is heavy empty but is very heavy time you add 4.5 litres of carpet cleaning solution. It is heavy to push backwards and forwards, but by the very nature of it being heavy it makes very good contact with the carpet. The top handle has a easy pull switch to allow the clean water to be squirted onto the carpet and it has rotating brushes to beat the clean water into the carpet, which loosens the dirt and then helps along with the suction to soak up the now dirty water into a separate 3litre tank. Not quite sure why the dirty tank is smaller than the clean one as you do need to empty the dirty water out before the clean water is finished. It has a very long electric lead on and comfortably was long enough to do the rooms I have.

dog hairs deposited back on the rug
I vacuumed my rooms before I started to clean ( as per the recommended instructions), but was impressed how much more dog hairs this attracted, and then deposited in a lump back on my carpet. Not a problem dead easy to pick up, guess I need a better vacumn cleaner

What did I think of the cleaning abilities? I was very very impressed. The machine does a fantastic job. I took this last week up to an elderly friends house (the couple are both in their 90's) to clean their hall, living room and dining room carpets. Their carpets are a light grey colour and have had a lot of coffee spilt on the way from the kitchen through the dining room into their living room, the great grand children have spilt juice, coke and goodness knows what else over the last 3 years I have known them. Their carpets came up a treat, all the stains came out, the carpet was truly deep cleaned and the pile came up wonderfully. The carpets are only damp time you have finished, they are not left wet.

I would highly recommend this machine, much easier and more efficient than the rug doctors I have hired in the past. Certainly the best home machine I can honestly say I have ever used and would recommend this machine to anybody who may be contemplating buying one.

This is not a sponsored post it is just my thoughts and findings on a product I bought to use in my own home, and I was impressed enough to want to share it with you all.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Having fun with an advent comp win.

the 3 shapes, beautifully finished.
I was fortunate enough to win a pass the parcel prize from the Facebook Marks and Spencer advent comp that has just ended. I won a beautiful set of Decorate your own Ceramic Christmas Tree decorations as seen here. So whilst the children were here last night, we set to to have some fun with them, I decided as we are only putting up a very small fibre optic tree that they can take them home and hang them on their own tree.

the decorations included.

The pack consisted of 3 white ceramic shapes to decorate, 1 star, 1 heart and 1 Christmas tree shape, The shapes were beautifully made, lovely and smooth. To decorate them you have 6 felt shapes in red, grey and white, 15 assorted buttons, 3 wooden snowflakes, 2m twine to attach them to the tree, 3 x 60cm ribbons in pretty patterns, Glue in a nice little bottle with a small nozzle,  and a set of Instructions.The adornments were also of very high quality.

Fifi busy designing
So Fifi picked the heart shape, Bob chose the star leaving
Auntie H with the tree shape. I got them to lay out the decorations on top of the shapes before they actually glued it to make sure they were happy with the layers as there would be no going back.  They then cut the ribbon they wanted to the right size, and glued everything into place.

Bob adding his glue

 The glue dried clear so it didn't show through the holes in the buttons once it was dried,and I must admit they made a lovely job of them. Auntie Hs' was not quite so well adorned as she took what was left over.

the finished results

We were going to save them for Christmas Day as a pressie for mummy but decided they were too lovely to leave wrapped up until the 25th so Fifi wrapped them up this morning and took them home to give to Mummy and F after school today.

They are of very high quality and well worth every penny. There are a few wee pieces left that can be used by the kids in other crafting projects.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Take the Christmas Photocrafts Challenge (#printerprojects)!

I have seen this around various blog sites and thought I would join in.  It is being run in conjunction with Kodax and Britmums .

As a family we love to make stuff, especially at Christmas time.

A few years back we made a set of table mats using our printer and our laminator. We made for mummy, grandma, granddad, Auntie T, Bob and Fifi, they were the only ones going to be there on Christmas day. They made a lovely addition to the meal table, though at the time Fifi wanted her dinner on the mat so a plate would not cover it.

We picked a picture suitable for all, something they liked and would recognise as theirs' without really needing the writing, wrote their names on the bottom and printed them out and laminated them so they would not get spoiled. As we only tend to use them at Christmas the only one I actually have here is my own one for you to see, and you will see where my twitter name comes from  (yes I know its spelt wrong but its a trail over from e-bay days where I tried and tried and tried many names before I came up with one that nobody else had, and spelt correctly somebody else had it), I am a total Winnie the pooh freak.

Yes I realise there are probably copyrights on this that we shouldn't do but we weren't selling them so no harm done

So what is this all about I hear you ask? Read on and see, then feel free to join in.

 I have copied this direct from Kodaks site to make sure I include all the important info

Ladies and gentlemen, start your printers. Our next challenge is here: the Christmas Photocrafts Challenge! #printerprojects

We’ve teamed up with Kodak and two fantastic craft bloggers – Maggy from Red Ted Art and Penny from the Alexander Residence – to highlight how mums and dads can use their printer and Kodak’s cheaper-than-you’d-think printer ink to create gorgeous Christmas decorations, treasured keepsakes and memorable gifts.

Post your best printer craft or photo you’d like to use in a craft to be entered to win cool prizes!

You could win one of four printer or camera packages, including:

2 x a 7.1 Hero All-in-One printer with four packs of A4 photo paper and five printer cartridges each of black and colour ink.
2 x a Kodak M5370 digital camera

To take part is simple:

this competition has closed

Friday 9 December 2011

Sweet mince ice cream

Use to make this years ago for the kids just by getting a tub of vanilla ice-cream (spew yuck hate the stuff personally) and transferring into a large bowl, allowing it to soften and then adding mince from a jar,(yes I know I should make my own in June ready for the big event of the year but I dont.) mixing together and re-freezing and they all enjoyed it very much.

I love sweet mince but do not buy them because they are the one thing I cannot resist no matter how hard I try,  you cant just eat one, it has to be 3 or 4 or 5 or......and as they are full butter recipes then they cripple me for days afterwards.

So decided as I have my gaggia gelatiere ice cream maker I would make some dairy free mince ice-cream.

I have tried this using 2 different methods. First off I was given some Alpro soya custard a while back along with some cream (used here), and wasn't sure of a use for the custard. So as I had bought a rake of alpro soya cream last week as they were on special offer and thought I would combine the two and see the result. I am sure in my internet trawling I had come across an ice-cream recipe that used custard in its ingredients but I cant find it again...anyway...onto the story.

I mixed the packet of custard with a tub of cream and approx 100g mince, this may not look much but this ice-cream matures and the flavour intensifies if you leave it so beware its not too overpowering. I dint add sugar as the custard was already sweetened. 15 mins in the ice-cream maker and it was ready.
LHS is the custard ice-cream, RHS the milk one

second off I decided today to use the recommended recipe from the book Philips sent me, the vegan scoop
The vegan scoop basic recipe is

1 cup soya milk ( works just as well with oat and rice) and I make my own thanks to Nick at uk juicers
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 cups Alpro soya cream
3/4 cup sugar

combine approx 1/4 milk with the arrowroot.
put soya creamer, sugar and the remaining 3/4 milk into a pan and bring to the boil.
Remove from heat and add the first 1/4 milk with arrowroot in, the mixture thickens.
Refrigerate for 2-3 hrs minimum then use mixture in your recipe just by adding flavouring.

Add this mix along with 100g mince and make your ice-cream as normal.

Both very yummy they were too. They stay nice and soft in the freezer, even days later there was no warming up needed, they both scooped straight from the freezer.

Make a nice seasonal ice-cream for anybody as you really cannot taste the milk at all, and would not know it was dairy free.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

having fun with Christmas themed baking

Was looking for something different to do with Bob as regards to Christmas. Why should he not have something Christmassy like every other child going?

As I only have them for a few short hours after school I decided on Sunday that I would make the stuff for them to decorate as we dont have time to make, bake, cool and decorate in a few short hours.

So I made some biscuits, some meringues to make into snowmen and a snowscene to decorate.
The recipes for the biscuits and the meringue can be found over on my sponsoring site Healthy Supplies, and you can also place an order with them to buy the items I used.

I tried two different ways with the meringue to make snowmen. I tried one as a large blob with a smaller blob on top and cooked it like that, and the others I placed into cake cases for the bodies and petit four cases for the heads. These turned out a bit angular but never the less they worked out just fine.

After they decorated the biscuits they finished off the snowmen by painting on faces and buttons with kinnerton chocolate and paint brushes.

Bobs snowmen
Fifis snowmen

The snow scene was made by spreading meringue into a loose bottomed cake tin. It makes a great centre piece for a table. With hindsight I should have made two of these and put fruit and cream in the middle, but we just served it with fruit and Alpro soya single cream that we had available.

The biscuits I cut out using a Christmas tree shape and a star shape.

First up the children melted chocolate with which the stuck on the snowmens' heads. We used kinnerton chocolate so that they could be eaten by both the children.

I then let Bob decorate his first, Fifi made him some icing and we melted some orange carob, and gave him some cake decorations and let him loose.

Once his was finished Fifi made some more icing for herself and we melted some white cooking chocolate for her to use, the white looking more like snow than the brown Bob has to use.


Here are the finished results, and very nice they looked and tasted as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        They loved every minute of it and a great time was had by all.
Bobs biscuits

Fifi's finished biscuits

This is a review post but the findings are my own.

Monday 5 December 2011

Mix Tape Monday - #5

This weeks Mix Tape Monday challenge thrown down by Boo and Me this week is

The first song you bought.
Whether it was in the days of vinyl, cassette, mini disk or CD, before downloads came along buying your very first single or album was quite an event and one that most remember.

Well that is an easy one for me Christie and Yellow River, though I didnt actually buy it until 1971. Video is a bit naff but wasn't really the done thing back then.

Wiki tells you 

"Yellow River" is a popular song recorded by the British band Christie. Written by band leader Jeff Christie, the song was offered to The Tremeloes, who recorded it with the intention of releasing it as a single early in 1970. However, after the success of their then most recent single, "Call Me Number One", and after considering it too pop-orientated for their future direction, they decided to follow it up with another of their own compositions, "By The Way", which was only a minor Top 40 success.
Producer Mike Smith therefore took their vocals off the recording and added those of Jeff Christie. Released on 23 April 1970, it became an international hit, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart for one week in June 1970. In the US, it reached number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
The song is the thoughts of a young man whose time in the army is over, and he is looking forward to returning to his home town in the country on Yellow River. The actual location of Yellow River is not specified. The British video had the group on a barge sailing down the River Thames through London

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Blog prompt - All I want for Christmas

This weeks blog prompt over at Brit mums is All I want for Christmas - well for me that is easy. For the day not to exist, to have it wiped from my personal calendar for good.

That might sound a bit drastic, but to be honest with you I (no matter how hard I try) can not feel jolly, or full of the Christmas spirit of any other expression you can think of. I would much rather it was treated as just a normal day, and not to be made to feel strange or wrong because that's the way I feel. Surely I have as much right not to want it to exist as the rest of you to be excited and hyped up about it? I am working Christmas day again this year, and happy to be doing so, I will go in and act jolly and join in with the festivities because Im expected to but not because I want to.

Whether this goes back to my childhood where being honest with you I cannot remember a happy Christmas day, I do remember getting excited because Santa was coming and my sister and I use to open our stockings which were left at the bottom of our beds at silly o'clock and then go back to sleep till it was up time. But that's as far as it goes.

I do remember only getting Christmas presents every 2nd year as my birthday was too near Christmas and my parents couldn't afford both birthday and Christmas presents for me, so 1 year I got for my birthday the next I got for Christmas ( apart from my stocking). Every body else got both so why should I have been singled out? Its not as though I got more for my present than the rest got so why the difference? I guess I will never know. I am not materialistic, never have been never will be, but to have been fairly treated would have been nice.

I do remember going back to school after the holidays and we were always asked to write a piece on "What I got for Christmas" - well with the lies I told my parents must have been rolling in it.  Having been a parent that has been hard up I do appreciate how difficult it can be but come on  - you don't buy for 3 and leave the 4th out do you?

When my own children were young I made huge efforts to give them nice Christmases and I fought against ever mental block I had to give them a good time. Christmas when mine was young was made a real family time with real family traditions ( that I started and the kids/grandkids are more than happy to carry on). We like a lot had little money, but Christmas isn't about money it is about family, fun, love and warmth.

We made mince pies on Christmas Eve, with each child doing a piece of the work, rolling the pastry, cutting shapes, popping in the filling, and so on till the pies were done. We left Santa a pie out, and he loved them as much as we did (well they were gone the next morning). We sat - well danced and sang to Disneys' sing-along-a Christmas songs and once it finished that meant bed time. We sat in a wendy house and ate rolls and bacon on Christmas morning, played games and sat snuggled up together watching films.

My children loved these times and the 2 eldest are in their 30's now and still talk fondly of the great Christmas days they had and the fun they remember - so I guess I must have done plenty right. So much so daughter No2 is arranging to come here for 48 hrs over Christmas, and yes I am happy to have her as I love all my kids to bits and I am honoured they still want to spend time with me as I certainly did not my parents.

Granddaughter will be along to make mince pies before Christmas and no doubt daughter No2  and hubby will eat rolls and bacon when I am at work Christmas morning and I will come home to a nice cooked Christmas meal and we will all watch a nice Christmas film together, but Christmas past will always haunt me. Sorry Folks but that's the way it is

Review on Bobs Gingerbread Man outfit

he just loved this
Back in October I was lucky enough to win a Halloween costume for Bob and did a blog post on what we thought of it.
So Neal at Fancy Dress outfitters offered to send out a Christmas costume for Bob. Now his mum and I liked the Reindeer costume,  the Robin costume, or the snowman costume but Bob preferred the Gingerbread man costume. 
I was very impressed with this 3 piece costume, it was well designed, well made and well finished. The seams are all well finished and the white decoration is well inserted into the seams. The sleeves have fold back  gloves attached, which makes it easy for the child to use their hands if need be, but cannot loose as they may with separate gloves. The hat has an easy Velcro fastening so a child can get this on and off easily for themselves.

We ordered the 4-6 yr old, and there is a wee bit growth in it for him yet, but it is not too big as to drown him. Look at the size of the grin on his face. We had the video camera set up for something else, well this post here to be exact ,so his mummy just taped this bit whilst she had the camera in her hands anyway  as you will see from the table behind him).

This costume was given to me free of charge for the purposes of this review, but my findings are an honest reflection of my findings

I got to be a Morrisons taste tester

I was really quite pleased to receive an e-mail from Morrisons taste testers to say I had been fortunate enough to be picked to one of these months testers.

This in simple terms really entails getting some food sent out, eating the food and telling Morrisons what you thought of them.

Now I had applied for this this month as it was looking for people having parties and as the 28th Nov is both my birthday and our wedding anniversary and they were supplying party food, so better excuse to try and get picked?

the gift sets

    I was informed that I would get a box of various bits
      and  pieces which included
       Christmas decorations
                            Christmas gifts (him / her / kids)
                          Christmas card pack
                          Morrisons the Best South African Sauvignon Blanc
                          Morrisons Cava Rose
                             Christmas Pudding Cake
                         Morrisons the Best Chocolate Cluster Cake and 
                a video camera
               £40 Morrisons vouchers
the cakes and vouchers

 The form that I need to fill in is very simple, a few boxes to tick and pop in a comment and 4 predefined foods that they picked. I need the video camera to take a some video footage of the gathering and upload them on the comment form. So how difficult can it be?

 So tonight the 3 daughters, along with the grandchildren,came over and the testing began.

The foods we had to test were Morrisons the best beef kofta kebabs  we thought these were tasteless and uninspiring.
Morrisons the best hot salmon blinis these were very tasty and the salmon was nice, but the blinin bit was soggy. We were not sure where the hot bit came is a s they were served cold.
Morrisons mini cheese burgers in a bun, we felt these had too much cheese on for the amount of burger and bun.  Mini cheese and basil pizzas were liked by all but one of us and had a good amount of topping for base.
Chicken yakitori- you could not tell these were chicken, and they were fairly tasteless. We thought the sticks were to long and they tickled you throat trying to eat the eat.

We also had a chocolate cluster cake which was very rich and heavy. It was a rich fruit cake with ample chocolate chips in and a very heavy choc chip, chocolate covered nuts topping. We found this cake very rich and heavy and a small piece was sufficient.We also sampled 2 bottles of wine, 1 white which was light and drinkable  and it complemented the blinins nicely. The rose wine has just the right amount of sparkle with a very pleasant after taste.

These foods were provided to me for free, but this post is an honest reflection of our findings. This post was not a necessary part of the foods but I decided to share my findings with you.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Provamel launch ‘Botanical’ yoghurt range

I was approached by a PR company on behalf of Provamel to see if I was interested in trying out their new product and telling you all about my findings.

The press release that was sent with the products is telling us about the new botanical yoghurt. I admit I have not tried them but then I have the capabilities to make my own milk , and then I make my own yoghurt .

Yogurt fanatics will be excited by the launch of Provamel’s new ‘botanical’ range; a radical fusion of natural herbal remedies muddled with delicious fruits, which not only taste great, but are the first of their kind thanks to the unique combination of ingredients.

Hitting the shelves just in time to ramp-up summer-wellbeing, there are two new dairy-free yogurts in the ‘botanical’ range, including: Apple Green Tea (500g) and Lime Lemon Balm (500g).

High in antioxidants, green tea is widely known for its ability to boost metabolism, whilst lemon balm has long been recognised as a great reliever of tension.

Low in fat and rich in plant protein, these botanical-based soya yogurts are packed with aromatic herbs with health benefits all of their own, combined with a mouth-watering flavour brought to life by ripe apples and zesty limes.

The new ‘Botanical’ range will be available at Holland and Barrett and all major health food stores, with an RRP of £1.55.
The additions complement the existing range of soya products in the Provamel range, which includes soya milks, soya shakes, chocolate and vanilla desserts, cream and custards.

 So they sent me out everything I needed to make 2 different recipes. 

First up is a delicious Pavola

Serves: 6


350g Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt
4 egg whites
150g caster sugar
140g light brown muscovado sugar (90g for the pavlova and 50g for caramelising fruit)
the cooked meringue, has cracked a bit
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp corn flour
4 plums
1 pear, sliced                            
120g blackberries
30g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
60g soya margarine


Pre-heat over to 120 ºC/250 ºF/Gas Mark ½
the finished product
  • Using a large, clean mixing bowl and an electric hand whisk; whisk the egg whites until forming soft peaks. Turn the whisk up to top speed and gradually add in the sugars, a tablespoon at a time, until all incorporated. Gently fold in the corn flour and white wine vinegar.
  • Spoon the mixture on to a flat baking tray lined with baking parchment, making a circular shape about 25 cm across.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hrs. Turn the oven off but leave the meringue in for at least 2 hrs or overnight with the door shut - this allows the meringue to dry out properly.
  • Cut the plums in half and remove the stones. Place on a baking tray along with the sliced pear, and sprinkle with the remaining 40g muscovado sugar and dot with the soya margarine before placing under a hot grill for 5-10 mins until sticky and soft.
  • Top the pavlova base with the Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt and top with the plums, pears, blackberries and toasted hazelnuts. 
I made it in a loose bottom tin as I didnt have any parchment. The result gave a pleasant but very chewy meringue in the middle (will do an egg free one for the grandson when I have room in the fridge). I added extra fruit (cos Im sure in a previous life I was a fruit bat) and omitted the nuts as nuts make my mouth itchy. Altogether a very pleasant pudding that would make a light alternative after a heavy main course ( Christmas Day maybe)

And the other recipe was for
Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt Loaf with Dates and Cranberries
Your browser may not support display of this image. Preparation Time: 2 hrs (including rising time)
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Makes: 1 loaf

mixed ready to rise

500g wholemeal spelt flour
7g powdered dried yeast
1 tsp salt
30g dried cranberries
100g chopped dried dates
30g flaxseed
150ml Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt
175ml warm water


Pre-heat oven to 220 ºC/425 ºF/Gas Mark 7
well risen and brown
cooked and sliced
  • Add the flour, yeast, cranberries, dates, salt and flaxseeds to a large bowl and stir to combine.
  • Mix together the yogurt and warm water and pour into the flour mixture. Bring together to form a dough and then knead on a floured surface for 10 mins.
  • Add to a greased 2lb loaf tin and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place for up to 1½ hrs or until it has doubled in size.
  • Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 30 mins.
Now I must admit I have never cooked with spelt flour before, it is not gluten free, and I have only dug my bread maker back out the loft to experiment with stuff for Bob. I als would not have thought to put bread in flour, though experiments I have done with yoghurt in cakes and pancakes has given good results.  I made the dough in the machine and cooked it in the oven. I was surprised at how well it rose, well above tin level, and gave a fairly light resulting bread with a good texture and a very pleasant wholemeal flavour.

This is a review post with the food being provided to me,but is an honest reflection of my findings.