Sunday, 31 August 2014

My Sunday Photo

Our son has been so lucky this week to be testing and reviewing a fantastic Kettler Nitro Extreme go-kart.  While I type up the review, this picture made it onto the cutting room floor, but I didn't want to let it go entirely.

It sums up a week of going to the park all the time, timing him doing laps of the climbing frame in his favourite new toy.  His record at the moment, is 11.62 seconds, although I'm sure he'll beat it later!

Linking up with One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Coombe Mill for Country Kids.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 29 August 2014

Christmas #WotW

My word of the week is controversial at this time of the year!

I love Christmas, and think about it all year round.  I get so excited thinking about it that I'm rarely organised and last year we ended up in ToysRUs a few days before Christmas day.  Ridiculous!

This year, I was thinking about blogging all the things I've been planning, making and doing in preparation for Christmas.  Hopefully to keep me organised.  I settled on posting once a week as roughly enough to keep me busy without being overloaded.  And then I wondered if other bloggers might do the same.  Would it be worth starting a linky *gulp*?

What do you think?

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Oxford notebook review and giveaway [now closed]

It's back to school time, and parents and students everywhere are stocking up on essentials.  We've been out buying uniform, shoes and stationery.  I love stationery and always get carried away.

In WHSmith, the Oxford project book below caught my eye.  I've used Oxford project books before and know they're great quality.  I'd be lost without my many notebooks, which contain my many lists for staying on top of working, family and blogging life.  This A4 lined project book is top notch, and really useful not just for forgetful, list-mad people like me, but also teachers, bloggers and working people who need to keep track of life. 

This project book is filled with '200 pages of the finest quality paper at 90GSM' (that's the technical way of saying good quality!).  I love that the three coloured dividers are repositionable within the book, which is a great way of helping me keep track of not only where I am, but also organising different areas of life and lists.

200 lined pages at A4 is a great size too, and will last me ages.  Now I have no excuses for forgetting anything!

And the reason this book in particular caught my eye?   The competition!

Oxford Notebooks and its sister brand Elba Filing, are holding a great competition with its notebooks and filing products at the moment.  Entering the unique code printed on the inside of the promotional slip into the brand's site means you're entered into a daily draw to win a pair of Converse trainers.  The trainers come in the form of a £50 Office voucher - much easier to post!  The competition closes on the 8th November, so there's plenty of chances to win by entering a code everyday.

The nice people at Hamelin (parent company of both Oxford Notebooks and Elba Filing), have given me a lovely new Oxford project book to giveaway, which contains a brand new code to enter into the 100 pairs of Converse in 100 days competition.  You can't say fairer than that!

To be in with a chance of winning, please complete one or more of the Rafflecopter options below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be shipped to a UK address.
  • Competition runs from 28th August 2014 until 23:59 on 2nd September 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  The prize is one Oxford project book with new code for entry into the 100 pairs of Converse in 100 days competition.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 19th September 2014 and asked to confirm their delivery address within 48 hours.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen.
  • I'll do my our utmost to get the prize to the winner within 14 days, but can’t guarantee it.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition. The winner will also be announced on Twitter.
  • Judge’s decision is final.

Disclaimer: I purchased an Oxford project book, and was given one to review and giveaway by Hamelin Brands.  As ever, all view are my own.

Win competitions at

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Slow cooker Chinese fakeaway - hot and sour chicken and prawns

I love Chinese food and it's quite simple to make in a slow cooker, although it's something that does need slightly less cooking than most of my slow cooker recipes.

This Chinese fakeaway hot and sour chicken and prawns* tastes even better than you get at your local Chinese. Put it on in the afternoon and it'll be ready once the kids are in bed, and you won't even need to go out in the car to collect it. Perfect.

I threw chicken and prawns* and a lot of different veg into the slow cooker, but you could simplify it with just chicken or prawns*, and one or two veg. Once the sauce is there, you can just experiment. I'd love to know how you get on!

Slow cooker Chinese fakeaway - hot and sour chicken and prawns*
Serves 2-4 people, depending how hungry you are

Two free range chicken breasts
Eight-10 jumbo frozen king prawns*
One pak choi
One green pepper
One small tray baby corn
One tray shitake mushrooms
225g tin of pineapple chunks in juice
225g tin of sliced water chestnuts in water

For the sauce
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 red chilli, deseeded
Tbsp soy sauce (I use dark, but light would be fine too)
Two tbsps cornflour
Tsp Chinese five spice
Tbsp sherry vinegar
Tbsp hoisin sauce
200ml veg stock (one veg stock cube)

 First up, make the sauce.  Chop the ginger and chilli as finely as you can, and then mix together with the Chinese five spice, cornflour and all the 'wet' sauce ingredients.

Chop the chicken into bite sizes pieces, and add to the slow cooker with the frozen prawns* and sauce.  Give it all a stir, put the lid on and cook for 3-4 hours.

Chop the veg ready for the next stage.  Slice the mushrooms in half, slice the green peppers, slice the pak choi lengthways and slice the baby corn lengthways too.

After the chicken and prawns have been in the slow cooker for three or four hours, add in all the veg, including the drained tin contents.

Give it all another good stir, put the lid back on and leave for one or two hours.

Once you're ready to eat, give it another good stir and you're good to go.

I serve it with cooked rice and prawn crackers and it's delicious!  Perfect for a Saturday night fakeaway.

Linking up with A Mummy Too for this recipe post.

Link up your recipe of the week

*I have used frozen jumbo prawns in a slow cooker many times without a problem, but if you're young, old, pregnant, or in any way have a sensitive stomach, just to be on the really safe side I wouldn't recommend it.

Monday, 25 August 2014

My Monday photo

It's been a busy weekend and I missed My Sunday Photo, so I thought I'd do a 'my Monday photo' instead.

I love Doctor Who, and was literally counting the hours until the new episode with Peter Capaldi.  I loved David Tennant, and thought Matt Smith was great too.  I didn't know how the producers could top the last two doctors, but it looks like they have!

Did you see the programme?  What did you think of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor?  I'd love to know.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Brief #ThePrompt

This week's prompt from Sara at Mum turned Mom is:

Not long after university, I lived by myself in a house that was purple on the inside.  I loved having my own time, my own space, and my own little corner of the world.  I was there for about 18 months, and now think back with a smile at that brief, but happy period.

And my university days, where I met some of my best friends, spent many an hour in the bar, and definitely not enough time in lectures, lasted three years.  Sometimes it felt longer than that, but now, over 15 years on, I recognise that also as an oh too brief period in my life.

And all those jobs I hated, and even the first one I didn't, didn't really last long.
So why is time elastic?  Periods that feel endless, with hindsight are actually brief.  As my Nan says, the clock keeps on ticking.  Time keeps on moving.

And so this is the time when my children are small.  Sometimes they drive me crazy.  Send me to distraction.  And I'm screaming inside because I don't want to play cars for the fifty millionth time.  Why do some days feel endless, when I know, like the rest of the world with its well meaning advice, that this period of my life is also brief?


Chicco Fit and Fun Monkey Strike review and giveaway [now closed]

I love the idea behind Chicco's Fit and Fun range - toys designed to get kids active, trying, playing and challenging themselves with different sports.  All this encourages important skills like balance and co-ordination.  The whole Chicco Fit and Fun range, including Goal Strike and Fishing Island is designed to be played inside or outside, which is great in summer and winter!

Chicco's Fit and Fun Monkey Strike game is right up my two monkeys' street.  Designed for 18m+, this bowling and stacking game is really thoughtfully designed for flexibility, endurance and most of all fun.  My two couldn't wait to try it out!

We set it up in bowling 'mode' first of all.  The six monkeys come in two parts, and fit really well together.  I love their cheeky faces, and really appreciate the numbers one-six and different colour coding which helps toddler girl become familiar with numbers and colours, and is a good reminder for our son too (we used it as prompts so he could add up the numbers a he knocked the monkeys down).

The bowling ball is hollow and sturdy plastic and at just bigger than a tennis ball is a great size - at 18 months, toddler girl can hold it in one hand, and at nearly six, our son can easily use it too.  It really encourages motor development and co-ordination; the monkeys are stable but slightly weighted to fall easily, but they do need the ball to hit them to knock over. 

Toddler girl loves to knock just one over and retrieve it to play, but our competitive son likes to try and get a strike every time (trickier than it seems)!

The monkeys are multi-functional too, and can be stacked and played with in loads of different ways.  They're a great size at around 15cm high and 10cm across and are a vibrantly coloured sturdy plastic build.  Toddler girl loves to grab the top half of the monkey and try and build a tower.  The monkey faces and white cup bottom are also great for water, sand or even bath time play.

I love that toddler girl and our son can play together and enjoy it.  It's flexible and study enough to engage them both, get them moving and laughing together.  Our son loves to stack the cups and rebuild the pins when they've been knocked down!

This is such a flexible toy that is great for all ages.  It's strong and sturdy enough to be played inside or out, and is multifunctional to guarantee it will be played with loads.  It's brilliant value too - with an RRP of £14.99 you really can't go wrong.  Ours hasn't been put away yet, and is definitely a favourite with both kids.  We love it!

Would you like to win your own Chicco Fit and Fun Monkey Strike?  Complete the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.  Don't forget to tweet everyday for even more entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Family Fever
  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be shipped to a UK address.
  • Competition runs from 21st August 2014 until 23:59 on 1st September 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  The prize is one Chicco Monkey Strike toy.  Chicco may substitute for product of equal or greater value in the very unlikely event the prize is unavailable.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 10th September 2014 and asked to confirm their delivery address within 48 hours.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen.
  • Winner's details will be passed to Chicco's marketing and PR team, so the prize can be shipped.
  • We'll do our utmost to get the prize to the winner within 14 days, but can’t guarantee it.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Judge’s decision is final.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Close friends - when distance doesn't matter

Our son and I went camping for a couple of days at the weekend.  I took him to stay at a friend's house that I went to university with.  It was the annual get together of the circle of friends I was in at uni.

We are lucky that one of our friends had a very big field for a back garden - here's base camp, with supplies:

Isn't it weird how when you're really good friends with people, time and distance don't really matter?  All of us are scattered around the country now, some married with children, others not.  We have different types of jobs, different lives now, and yet, we're still the closest of friends.

It used to just be the girls, then it became the girls with their boys (now husbands mostly!), and now it's the girls, boys and children.  Even the kids get on really well and played happily together.

Between all of us, conversation is easy and silences comfortable.

I am so lucky to be able to call such wonderful people friends. x

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Time by Jungle - #TuesdayTune

Radio 6 is where I go if I want to hear some new music, and over the last few weeks this has been played quite often.

"I'll run all night,
don't let me.
Just let it out,
time and time and time and time again."

It's another summer anthem that it is impossible not to move to.  Laid back, funky, but uplifting, I love it.

I'd love to know what you've been listening to this week..

Monday, 18 August 2014

Family life is...

Looking through the pictures on your camera, and wondering why you took a blurry picture of some gravel.

And then realising your son had the camera for a good 10 minutes earlier on.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Volume #WoTW

I love words which can be interpreted in many ways - my weeks are rarely linear.
Our son is loud, and this week I seem to have been asking him to turn the volume down even more than usual (and that is a lot!).
The volume of terrible news seems incredibly high this week.  I hate burying my head in the sand, but this week I have been unable to hear anymore about war, depression, politics and celebrity.  I have definitely tried to reduce the volume of negativity in my head.
And finally, I've been working through a volume of blog posts and actions I haven't had the time to do for months.  Tagging - check.  Images - check.  Thinking of ways to take my blog to the next level - check.
I'd love to hear how you interpret volume for your week...
Linking up with Jocelyn at The Reading Residence for word of the week.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Seriously delicious breakfast pudding - yoghurt, fruit and granola

I often see fruit, yoghurt and granola as a 'luxury' breakfast option.  They're so delicious our son likes to call it 'breakfast pudding'!

They are so simple and cheap to make and really are delicious.  They take seconds too!  I use fat free natural yoghurt, and the granola just sweetens it enough to take the edge off.

Seriously delicious breakfast puddings
Serves two

Four tablespoons frozen summer fruits
Four tablespoons fat free natural yoghurt
Two tablespoons granola (the Aldi tropical fruit crunchy granola is absolutely delicious and well worth a trip to the store for)

I re-use Gu pud glass ramekins to make them look posh, but any small bowl will do.

Defrost the frozen fruit in a microwave for about 30 seconds, stir and then microwave again for another 30 secs.  Mash it up very slightly, and don't throw away the juice!

Put two tablespoons of fruit in each ramekin, and then layer two tablespoons of yoghurt on top.

Top with a tablespoon of granola, and pour any remaining juice on top.  Tuck in pretty quickly, before the granola goes soft.  Yum!

These make a great breakfast, or we sometimes have it for pudding after tea.  Our son, who is always hungry, has been known to ask for it as a snack!  Enjoy :-)

Monday, 11 August 2014

The British Tag - #12 questions

The lovely Charlotte at A much prettier puzzle recently tagged me in the British tag.. 12 questions originally created by Sammi from Beauty Crush all about the best culture in the world - the culture of Great Britain.

Here goes..!
1. How many cups of tea do you have a day? + How many sugars?
I'm actually not a big fan of tea, and don't normally drink it... if pushed I'd probably say I have one a day, usually in the evening without sugar, although with some chocolate ;-)
2. Favourite part of your roast?
Definitely the yorkies - is there any other part of a roast?
3. Favourite dunking biscuit?
Rich tea - the trick's in dunking them for *just* the right amount of time so they don't fall into your mug.
4. Favourite quintessentially British pastime?
I do seem to talk about the weather a lot.  It improves my day no end to know what the weather's doing, and don't we all love to moan when it rains, when it's too hot, too cold etc?  We never have the 'right' weather in this country!
5. Favourite word?
Juxtaposition.  Doesn't it sum itself up so well?  It's a lovely word to say too.  I wish I got to use it more (I guess that's a bit sad really!).
6. Cockney rhyme slang?
I don't know if it's 'proper' cockney rhyming slang, but my husband refers to our kids as the 'bin lids'.  How wrong is that?
"Is the bin lids' tea in the oven yet?"
7. Favourite sweet?
I am totally in love with Willie's Cacao chocolate.  Although it's not strictly a sweet, it is made in Devon from Willie Harcourt-Cooze's Venezuelan cacao beans and I love it.
8. What would your pub be called?
This is a really tricky one!  Probably something along the lines of 'The Sleepy Hollow' - because I love to curl up in front of a warm fire in winter and have a nice snooze.
9. No.1 British person?
This is another tricky one - it depends in what context!  If I had to pick one, I'd probably go for Chris Evans.  Full of life yet with hidden depths, can often be found down the pub and does a pretty good job of getting me out of bed every week day.  I think he's great!
10. Favourite shop / Restaurant?
My absolute favourite restaurant is the gorgeous and boutique restaurant at Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds.  Before kids, husband and I used to go there... we will return when both ours are old enough to leave with grandparents for the night.
11. What British song pops into your head?
It's Been a Hard Day's Night by The Beatles.  Our son recently visited Liverpool and saw The Cavern and a statue of John Lennon.  He's been asking about The Beatles since, and for some reason this song has stuck in my head!

12. Marmite?

Of course, what's not to like?!

Next up

I tag the lovely Elfa at Californian Mum in London, Sara at Mum Turned Mom, Emma at Bubba Blue and Me, Julie at Mama Owl and Alison at A Fine Piece and a Blether.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

My Sunday Photo

Our son loves table tennis and was so pleased to see some Kettler table tennis outdoor tables at CarFest North last weekend.  He spent ages playing with his Dad, and only stopped when it rained!

Husband thinks this foldable Smash 11 Kettler table would look perfect in our garden, and folded away would fit perfectly in our garage over winter.  Ermm...!

Linking up with One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo.


Disclaimer: this is an unsponsored post, we just really like the look of this table!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Lessons from kids: dealing with challenging situations

This week's prompt from Sara at Mum Turned Mom is:

I love the way my kids deal with challenging situations.  I often think that I could learn a lot from it.  I'm great at avoiding challenging things for fear of failure... but if my kids did this they would never learn to walk, talk, read, write or many of the other things we all do everyday!

This week, I've noticed:
  • When toddler girl falls over, she gets straight back up again
  • When son spells something incorrectly, he laughs and asks for help
  • Watching us talk is toddler girl's favourite thing - she loves to practice saying 'apple'
  • When a friend came over and didn't want to play cars with our son, they changed what they were doing straight away with no fuss.
Isn't it easy as an adult to over analyse things and wonder what motivations are, worry about consequences, become stubborn and refuse to compromise with other people?  To turn challenging situations into something even harder with psychological barriers?  This week, my kids haven't done any of that - how wonderful.

I'd love to know how you handle challenging situations, and if you'd like to change your response to them.


July's been and gone..

July really has been and gone.  I feel late with this post as we're already in our second week of August!

July was another busy month for us, here are a few highlights:
  • Baby girl becoming toddler girl, a definite watershed moment
  • Our son graduating from reception and an emotional PPT
  • A first wobbly tooth, he's growing up every day
  • The view from the Shangri-La, and sheer relief the day was over
  • Our son's first few days away, it felt like a holiday but oh, I missed him so much
  • Toddler girl "apple" "purple" "cheese" - and loving her books so much
  • Feeling exhausted, all the time.. every second
  • Bathtime tantrums from an overtired girl..  Sit down!
  • Hunter wellies, love my new Hunter wellies!
I'd love to hear what you've been up to over the last few weeks.. have you had any watershed moments?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Staying in a Yurtel luxury yurt at CarFest North

I know, I know, part of the fun of festivals is the camping part.. but my life right now means I need a decent bed, nice loos and a decent shower every day in order to function.

This year was our third time at CarFest North, and we booked the luxury yurt with Yurtel way back when I was lucky enough to get our festival tickets.

At first glance, it seems pretty pricey to stay in a yurt, but over the weekend it's three nights with a great breakfast for all four of us included, really close parking, a golf buggy to help with luggage, fantastic and friendly service, very nearby access to the main festival in Oulton Park and other great perks. So I think it's well worth it. 

Here's our yurt - it's a great size with a large double bed, inflatable single for our son and space for a travel cot for toddler girl too.  There was a decent amount of room between each yurt too - much more than the main campsite!  We also had lights and a plug socket.  The table, chairs, hanging storage were included too.  All the beds were made with immaculately clean good quality sheets and we had a towel each - this really saved on the packing space!


There was a gift basket with lots of really useful items - the ponchos were really needed on our first day and those marshmallows didn't last long!

And the best thing about the yurt was the view out of the roof as it got dark.

The Yurtel secure site had great features too.  The large marquee housed reception, dining area, bar and 'hanging out' area.  Again everything was immaculately clean and staff very welcoming.  The breakfast (included in the yurt price), was made up of cereals, yoghurts with fruit and muesli, fruit plus cooked options (husband loved the chorizo, potato and egg hash).  They were all top quality and absolutely delicious.

Right next door to the marquee hanging out area was a cinema tent, designed for young guests.  Rugs on the floor, large cushions and a DVD player (with selection of DVDs) ensured lots of parents had some peace to enjoy a quiet drink.  Our son went in there and I loved that we could see him coming and going from the marquee.

The bouffantery was also very welcome - a marquee with rugs, hair dryers and mirrors.  I know it's not about what you look like, but a hairdryer can make all the difference to my day..

The Yurtel site also had a 'private' view of the Oulton Park track and we spent a long time watching the cars leave the site at the end of the festival.  It was a great view, really close to the pit lanes.

And the all important facilities.  There were loads of showers and luxury toilets; I didn't have to queue at any time for either.  The toilets were completely spotless all the time, and the showers were clean too.  It wasn't the hottest shower in the world, but the pressure was good and it made all the difference to every day over the long weekend.


The thing these pictures can't tell you is how helpful, welcoming and generally great the staff were.  Despite the rain on the first day, the guy helping us transport luggage in a golf buggy was really cheerful.  The marquee reception and waiting staff were quiet, unassuming, but great at anticipating needs.  Any queries were dealt with swiftly and appropriately.  We had a great few days at the festival, and loved staying with Yurtel so much.  It was worth every penny and we will definitely be back.

Disclaimer: I paid for our stay with Yurtel, and Yurtel was unaware of my intention to blog about our stay.  As ever, all views are my own.