Sunday, 19 October 2014

How we 'celebrate' Halloween #NextHalloween



This year, Halloween will be like every other year. We always have a little Halloween themed tea party and dress up. I think it's nice for the children; we don't do trick or treating, but we do always keep some goodies in the cupboard in case we get any little ones knocking on our door.

As I mentioned earlier this week, we don't 'celebrate' it as such but I'm always up for a good excuse let the kids go crazy and have fun.

I have some decorations squirreled away from last year - we buy most of ours from Poundland because they are cheap as chips, but also good quality.


The tote bags are great - they are obviously intended for trick or treating, but we use ours for a spooky treasure hunt - just around the house or the back garden lit up with coloured solar lights. It's always fun and a way for the children to feel like they haven't 'missed out' on trick or treating.
Food is my favourite part of Halloween - I love making weird and wonderful concoctions and I have to say, everything always goes down well. From 'severed fingers hotdogs', eyeball goo' (jelly) to 'vampire blood' (cranberry and blackcurrant juice).

This are some of my favourites:



Earth Worm Delights, which was a recipe by Kellogg's and contained Rice Crispies, sweets, biscuits and chocolate.... Mmmm!!


I also like to get the kids involved in the party preparations, so I give our activities a Halloween theme in the lead up to the big day - perhaps they might make lanterns or spooky decorations or they might help make some of the food, like these really easy Soreen Headstones.


The dressing up is always the most important to the girls. We have loads of witches costumes, zombies and even black cat outfits in our dressing up box. Baby Girl loves to dress up too and although she's very girlie, she does like to 'mix 'n' match' her styles, shall we say ;)

For example, I was looking at this Halloween T-shirt & Tutu  from Next, and she wanted to finish the look with this very cool Lime Monster Trapper!

What do you think? Cute, huh!

Fashion images ©Next

The girls are really into face painting too. I've used loads over the years but Snazaroo paints are my ultimate fav.

Check these out:



*This is an entry into the #NextHalloween blogger competition as part of the Next Blogger Network.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Homemade Thursday - Healthy after school snack - Cheesy Chia Quesadillas #Glutenfree




I have been sent some amazing Chia products to try (review post coming soon) but today I wanted to share this scrummy recipe from Chia as it makes a scrummy, quick after school snack or light dinner for all the family (or even breakfast if you wanted!)



Before I do, let me tell you some of the benefits of chia for children:
  • One tablespoon of chia provides 100% of their plant-based Omega 3 requirement.
  • One serving of chia gives 25% of their fibre requirement to aid healthy digestion.
  • Chia seeds provide a sustained release of energy to take them from breakfast to lunch.
  • Chia seeds are non-allergenic so will suit all diets.

 

 Ingredients

150g gluten free flour
1 tsp Xanthan gum
3 tbsp black chia seeds
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
1/3 cup water

150g hard goats cheese, grated (I substituted this for cheddar as my children don't like goats cheese)
1 red onion, sliced
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
3-4 small tomatoes, sliced
10g Coriander

Makes 8

Method
  • Mix the flour, xanthan gum, chia seeds, caraway seeds and salt into a bowl.
  • Slowly add the water and mix together with your hands to create a dough.
  • Break into 4 balls and roll out each one on a floured surface until about 2mm thick.
  • In a pan, fry the onions in the oil with the smoked paprika until translucent and take off the heat.
  • In another non-stick pan, cook the first tortilla for about 2 minutes  or until it starts to go brown or bubble, then flip it over.
  • Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese onto half of the tortilla and sprinkle with some onion, coriander and tomatoes.
  • Cook for a further minute and then fold over to create a half moon 'sandwich'.
  • Flatten slightly, then flip over for a few more seconds until golden.
  • Take off the heat and cut in half.
  • Repeat this for the other tortillas. 

Recipe credit: Chia Co.

To find out more about Chia, pop back to the blog next week or visit www.chiaco.com.au


I'd love to see your homemade/handmade posts, please do link them up and share your creations.

If you would like to link up anything 'homemade' that you've blogged/pinned/instagrammed then please do so at the bottom of the post! This doesn't have to be food. It can be needlework, crafts, paintings, woodwork.... you name it!

It can be an old post or something new.... it's all about sharing ideas and inspiring each other!

I would love you forever if you would either grab my button (below) or text link back to me.

Homemade Thursday


You can link up anytime between now and 19th October 2014 and then the next Homemade Thursday linky will open on the 23rd October.

To read more about Homemade Thursday please look here.

‘Because I am a Girl’ - face up to violence against girls #Faceup




As a mother of 3 girls, it rips my heart out to think that there are girls across the globe who live in fear. Girls who are voiceless; subjected to violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM)... Almost incomprehensible. But it's very, very real and happening to girls every day.

I look at my own daughters and I am thankful that they were born into a society that keeps them safe; a family that keeps them safe. I can't imagine the terror of a girl as young as 7 being subjected to mutilation like Mary from Mali, or Myness from Malawi who escaped a forced marriage to an alcoholic husband at just 13 years old. These girls are similar ages to my eldest daughters. It's heartbreaking. It's unnecessary and it needs to be stopped.

The silence needs to be broken and this is why Plan UK have launched #Faceup; a vital part of their ' Because I am a girl' campaign that is helping to do just that - break the silence on FGM, child marriage and other forms of violence against girls and ultimately, help end it altogether.

How does #Faceup help?

The voices of girls who suffer the consequences of this violence are not being heard, so with the help of well-known faces and the strength of the public alike, their stories will be heard - they can't be ignored anymore.

The support of people like you and me, helps Plan UK to put pressure on the governments and decision makers to make changes that will benefit girls just like Mary and Myness.

Credit: Plan UK

To show your support, please download the #Faceup app which digitally places the words “I’m putting girls’ rights where they can’t be ignored” on a photo of your face and adds this to the Plan UK online gallery of supporters.

You can also hare your photo on social media with the hashtag #Faceup and join the 'Because I am a girl' campaign by signing up here.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Simple Spooky Edible Headstones for Halloween



I can't believe it's October already! Halloween is just around the corner as although we don't celebrate it as such, we use it as a good excuse to dress up, have fun and get creative.

I've been thinking about food recently (wow, there's a surprise!) and mentally planning some Halloween ideas. I think we will be making a melon brain again this year, but I wanted to get the kids more involved so I have been thinking about easy, child-friendly recipes.

As you have read before, my children love Soreen and as it's so squidgy, it's perfect for moulding into shapes for spooky cake pops or using as a base for gory desserts, etc.


We were sent some of the Halloween themed Soreen lunchbox loaves to try and I think I've come up with a dead easy (sorry!) Halloween foodie activity that children will love to make, and eat.

Spooky Edible Soreen Headstones


You need:
  • Soreen Lunchbox loaves in Toffee Apple Scream and Chocolate Scream varieties (although any mini loaf will work)
  • Something to decorate the plate your headstones sit on -  We used Dr Oetker Popping candy Sprinkles (alone and on some natural yogurt), but you can use absolutely anything you like - chocolate sauce,  custard with a few drops of food colouring, Food coloured dessicated coconut....Whatever you fancy.
  • Writing icing
How to make:
  • Simply cut the loaves in half. I cut them at an angle to make them look they they are old, sunken headstones.
  • Decorate each one with writing icing. The kids drew crosses or wrote RIP.
  • Stand them upright on the base of your choice  (see above for ideas)
  • Enjoy!
 

These spooky mini Soreen loaves are delicious! We favoured the chocolate ones!! YUMMY!! 

I also noticed whilst looking on the Soreen website that they have a Halloween competition running where you can win a year's supply of yummy Soreen squidgyness!! Definitely worth a go!


*Review

Monday, 13 October 2014

Degustabox September: Simply Granola Cranberry Flapjacks Recipe



This months Degustabox brought me a lot of joy - all of the products were new to us and we enjoyed every one of them.

As previous boxes, this months had two different selections - one with alcohol, one without. I have both products to show you, but customers would only receive one or the other, not both. There was no 'fridge' item this month, but I think that should hopefully return soon as Degustabox are working hard on this for you all.


One of  our favourite items in the box was the Little Miracles drinks (£1.59 each). These are absolutely gorgeous blends of organic tea and fruit juice. I'd never tried them before, but I'll definitely be buying some more. We received two flavours - Lemongrass tea with orange juice, ginger, ginseng and agave and Green Tea with ginseng, pomegranate, açaí and agave.  Both were really nice and perfect for a 'pick-me-up' drink when energy levels start flagging. All blends are sweetened with agave, less than 90 cals each and contain no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.



Crabbie's drinks are the two products that differ in the boxes this month. Some people would get Non-alcoholic John Crabbie's drinks in one of three flavours, and some would get Crabbie's Alcoholic fruits (£1.20-£1.50 each).

John Crabbie's uses a secret recipe which combines spices, fruits and real ginger to create a refreshing cloudy ginger beer. We had the Raspberry option and it was scrummy!

Crabbie's Alcoholic fruits are a delicious alcoholic fruity drink with no ginger! There are 3 flavours available; Black cherry, Zesty lemon and Raspberry and rhubarb.  Hubby enjoyed the Zesty lemon and I quite fancy trying the Raspberry and rhubarb.


We are no strangers to Elizabeth Shaw chocolates, but we hadn't tried their brand new Dark Chocolate Mint Thins (£2.50). They are AMAZING! Really moreish and perfect as after dinner mints or to enjoy over coffee with friends. They are delicate layers of quality dark chocolate with mint, luxuriously decorated with crunchy mint sprinkles. Mmmm!!

I haven't tried the Burts Lentil Waves yet, but I can't wait to! We received one of each of the 3 scrummy sounding flavours; Sour Cream & Chive, Thai Sweet Chilli and Lightly Salted. Each batch of lentil waves  have been flash-cooked in Burt's Devon kitchen. (69p each)


This gorgeous marmalade was a special extra in my box and it is divine!! It tastes like it was homemade! I'd never seen this is in shops before but Ocado sell it for just £1.59 which is amazing for the quality - I was expecting the price to me a lot more!


Degustabox introduced us to Pick up! biscuits from Bahlsen and we LOVE these biscuits - not  only are they fairly big as biscuits go, but instead of a cream in the middle, they have a mouth-watering slab of with milk or white chocolate. YUMMY!! (£1.69 per pack.)


I grew up with Carnation products in our cupboards, but I hadn't heard of the Carnation Cook with it! range before (£1.65 each). We received two of these so I passed one on to my mum to try.   It's made of fresh milk and as it has less than half the fat of single cream, it makes for a brilliant, healthier alternative when making creamy dishes such as Carbonara, curries, quiches or soups.


We are huge salad fans and probably eat some sort of salad every day, so we do like our dressings! It's always great to 'shake it up' a little, so when we found this dinky pots of dressings from Righteous, we were intrigues to say the least. (all 3 worth £2.19)

They are made using 100% natural ingredients and are a delicious accompaniment to any salad bowl. They contain no additives, preservatives or thickeners and are bursting with flavour. Our favourite was the Lemon and Mustard seed flavour and I'll be buying some more of that one!



Finally, we received a bag of Jordans Simply Granola (£2.69) and although it is delicious to eat with milk or yogurt as a breakfast - I just had to try it in some baking. So I made these quick and easy Simply Granola Cranberry Flapjacks.



Ingredients
  • 250g Granola (I used Jordan's Simply Granola with a hint of honey from this months Degustabox)
  • 100g Butter (I used unsalted)
  • 100g Brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 50g Dried cranberries
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Method
  • Line and lightly grease a square/rectangle cake in or any tin with sides
  • Heat the butter, sugar and golden syrup until the sugar has dissolved
  • In a large bowl, mix the granola and dried fruit. Add the syrup mixture and mix through.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and push down using the back of a spoon. 
  • Sprinkle with Demerara sugar, if using.
  • Score into squares or bars as this makes it easier to cut when set.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour and then cut into bars/squares.
 
Find out more from Degustabox on social media - Facebook and Twitter
 

 *Review

Scarecrows in Emmerdale?


Well, yes I suppose that's not overly surprising given it's set in the Yorkshire Dales where farmland is plentiful, but when scarecrows from Cheshire beat  competition to become McCain’s next Emmerdale star, then it is a little more unusual.

These 'star-crows' from Mobberley in Cheshire have found fame; winning a part on the small screen in the Emmerdale sponsorship ads!


‘The Scarecrow Farm Shop’, created by the Ellison family, made the long journey to London to take part in potato specialist McCain’s first live scarecrow auditions at the Arts Theatre in the heart of the West End. Hopeful wannabes from up and down the country queued for their chance to wow celebrity judge ex-Emmerdale actress Sheree Murphy and a panel of McCain judges. 
Nicola Ech-Channa, McCain Communications Development Manager, said “We loved seeing what the scarecrow contestants had to offer, and we particularly enjoyed the Scarecrow Farm Shop.  Scarecrows are a great British tradition and the festivals put a lot of care and attention into producing their entries - just like we do with all our potatoes.  Each scarecrow was created with its own distinct personality and we are awestruck at the amount of time and dedication put into this. It’s a shame we couldn’t let all the contestants win, and it was a close-run race. The makers of Scarecrow Farm Shop should be very proud to have been awarded first place as it was hugely competitive. It’s going to be great to see how they interact with the existing McCain scarecrow clan!”

Sheree Murphy put the hopefuls through their paces and had a tough choice to make in selecting McCain’s scarecrow stars. Sheree said “I have been really impressed with the creativity and originality of all the contestants - the level of talent has been phenomenal! It was a very difficult decision but the winner has to be The Scarecrow Farm Shop. What left me in no doubt that we had found our star-crow was the level of thought and detail that went into it. I love that these ‘farm owners’ really had products to sell, and I adored the traditional scarecrow elements that were incorporated.”

The lucky scarecrows will appear as extras in an upcoming series of Emmerdale sponsorship bumpers alongside McCain favourites ‘Granny’ and ‘Straw girl’, plus they have won £5,000 for their village festival next year.

You can watch the auditions in the following video:


Cheshire was very successful in the competition; winning 1st place but also another scarecrow - Sarah Jane Sunflower also did brilliantly, taking fifth place.

McCain Foods was revealed as the new sponsor of Emmerdale in March 2014 and much like the popular UK soap, McCain has long established links to farming, having worked with some of its 300 British Growers for three generations. McCain is also the largest purchaser of British potatoes, buying approximately 15% of the total UK crop each year.
The Scarecrow Farm Shop’s makers, the Ellison family, said “It’s a dream come true to win, we can’t thank McCain enough for giving us this opportunity. Now The Scarecrow Farm Shop can share their star quality with the nation. We can’t wait for next year’s festival, our star-crows will receive a hero’s welcome when they return to Cheshire. And the winnings will make our 2015 festival the best yet!”
I'm a big soap fan, and have watched Emmerdale, on and off since I was a child, so I'm looking forward to seeing these talented scarecrows in action!

You can find out more about the winning scarecrow on McCain's Facebook page.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

NEW 'Super Lottie' - a doll designed by a child; the first of it's kind!



There is SO much excitement in my house at the moment as Lottie becomes a superhero!! I can't begin to tell you how much we love this NEW outfit for Lottie!

One of our favourite UK toymakers, Arklu is helping to end the dearth of female superheroes available on toy shelves, with the introduction of a NEW superhero outfit, which has been designed by a child for the multi-award-winning Lottie™ doll.



The NEW ‘Super Lottie’ outfit is the inspiration of six year old Lily, from Ohio, USA, who created the winning design as part of a global competition, independently judged by the Brave Girls Alliance, earlier in the year.

This is the very first time that a crowd-sourced design by a child has gone into commercial production, so it's even more exciting!



As part of her entry, Lily was asked to define Super Lottie’s abilities. Lily’s response was one designed to inspire girls who play with Lottie dolls, to acknowledge and embrace their potential, and accept who they are:
‘Super Lottie has the power to be anything, to do anything, and to make the world a better place. She is unique and special in her own way’.
This  message genuinely moves me and I think it's wonderful that there is a toy intended to encourage self-belief in a child's abilities, worth and to view themselves in a positive way. I always tell my children that they can be whatever they want to be and do anything they want to do - they have the power to make a difference in the world and they are amazing in their own ways, but to have a toy that they can relate to and believe in takes building confidence to another level.

Children learn about themselves and the world they live in through play so I honestly believe that these sort of toys are vital in a child's life. Lottie is a positive role model for children and I can't recommend Lottie dolls enough.

"The competition was a result of a campaign launched to demonstrate that girls can be superheroes too. A poll conducted among parents, demonstrated a severe lack of female representation in the world of super-powers, where of the top female superhero characters popularised by comic creators and film-makers, not one could be identified by 100% of respondents. In stark contrast, four male superhero characters could be identified by 100% of respondents; Superman, Spiderman, Batman and Hulk."


There are many other key features of Lottie dolls that make them unique and these are all the reasons that we love them so much. They became the first fashion dolls to display childlike characteristics; a healthy childlike body shape, childlike clothing (no make-up, high heels, tattoos, etc) and wholesome activities. We love that Lottie is age appropriate and whilst I have nothing against fashion dolls, I truly believe that Lottie's child-like features allow little girls, to enjoy being little girls.

Commenting on the winning design, Lucie Follett, Creative Director at Arklu, says: “It’s great to see how the Lottie message ‘Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You’ has been listened to and interpreted by kids all over the world. Girls WILL be superheroes in 2014!”

Nancy Gruver of Brave Girls Alliance says: "All of the entries showed the strong voices and powerful ambitions girls have, and we are very excited to see the awesome winning outfit available to purchase globally!" 

Lily’s mother, Greta, continues: “Lily loves superheroes and art! She likes to play superheroes at recess… usually with the boys because the other girls won’t. We’re excited to see the reaction by other girls to Lily’s creation and hope that it brings great fun and enjoyment, as well as open their minds to the world of superpowers”.
The doll has also received support from within the comic community.  Sue, who blogs about women in superhero comics at the incredibly popular DC Women Kicking Ass on Tumblr and also maintains Superheroes Are For Girls and This: Moments for Women, is a loud and never-tiring voice for feminism in the cape comics blogosphere, says: "Superheroes are for girls, too. And now with the Lottie doll children can have a female superhero that has realistic body shape. What a wonderful toy."

Lily's design is absolutely beautiful and the gasp that filled the air when Little One caught a glimpse of the new outfit was amazing. We've dressed Lottie in her superhero outfit and ever since, she has been buying saving those in distress and keeping the world safe from 'bad people.'

Little One says she is going to be a superhero when she grows up; one that "makes people better and makes sure they don't get hurt." Love her!! and we love Lottie too!!


The ' Super Lottie' set comes with winged boots, a mask, belt, cape and all in one suit. The materials used and attention to detail is second to none. I think you will agree that Lottie looks incredible - nothing can stop her now! Go Super Lottie - GO!!




Learn more: www.lottie.com



 *We are proud Lottie Ambassadors so we received the outfit mentioned in this post FOC. All opinions remain honest as always.

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