21 Oct

Dinosaur Beach by Frann Preston-Gannon

Dinosaur Beach by Frann Preston-Gannon is out now – we received a copy to review. Last year we reviewed a lovely book by the author, ‘How to Lose a Lemur’ – which we enjoy reading a lot too, so knew we’d enjoy this one.

dinosaur beach by frann preston gannon

Dinosaur Beach by Frann Preston-Gannon is a lovely story. H is currently on gold level at school as far as reading goes (she has just turned five), and we’ve been working on expression and punctuation which this book gives great examples of. I feel this book is ideal for space and expression.

It is a book of few words, but those that are there are engaging – and the pictures tell the story too. H read it on her own to start with, and I asked her questions about what happened. Her understanding of the book and the story was perfect, she was able to describe everything and even used a little bit of numeracy in there (there are ice creams and lollies bought, she worked out the total).

She could identify each dinosaur and found what they did funny – we read it together afterwards and she could barely read it for giggling! Her expression while reading (between giggles) was perfect too.

dinosaur beach by frann preston gannon

Dinosaur Beach tells a simple story with beautiful illustrations, is funny, has a font which is good for reading (NOT comic sans!) and is available now from all good booksellers.

Frann Preston-Gannon was the first UK winner of the Maurice Sendak Fellowship where she spent a month working with him.

We were sent a copy of this book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. We also have Frann Preston-Gannon’s new book for review, ‘The Sloth Slept On’ coming very soon! This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

19 Oct

We Came, We Saw, We Conker Pie’d…

Sorry, terrible pun. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll see we’ve done a few bits with Higgidy pies, the latest being to let you know about their latest competition, to design a pie for them, as part of the Higgidy Recipe Hunt. Obviously we don’t get out of it, and lucky for us we were sent a Lakeland pie dish and blackbird, as well as a personalised rolling pin. So I can now officially reveal, our pie is a conker pie!

A conker pie?!” said most people, as we all know conkers are poisonous. So my disclaimer is, this pie does not contain conkers anywhere AT ALL. But H liked the name, and I’m sticking with it and it’s meant to look a bit like a pie which resembles a conker rather than actually being one.

Shaun is currently doing things dairy free, so you can adapt the Conker Pie recipe accordingly.

Conker Pie

For the pastry –
250g Plain Flour
110g Trex
a pinch of salt
some cold water.

Put the flour and salt in a bowl, and add the Trex (or butter) to the mixture, getting it into a breadcrumb-like consistency. Once you’ve achieved this, add the water to bind it all together, roll into a ball and wrap with clingfilm. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow it to rest.

For the filling –
2 sweet potatoes
3 carrots
one bag of chestnuts – I got Gefen whole chestnuts which come roasted and peeled.

peel and dice the sweet potato and carrot and lay on a baking tray. Roast for around 15-20 minutes. I sprayed them lightly with some Frylight. Slice the chestnuts and put into a frying pan, adding some light curry powder, some cumin and a bit of garlic. Stir together, and once the other vegetables are finished in the oven, add those to the mixture. Finally, get a tin of lentils and add to the mixture, making sure they’re well drained. (you could also use split peas – I forgot to soak them, so I’ll try that next time)

Roll out the pastry. I found it was quite crumbly, possibly due to using Trex instead of butter. Paul Hollywood would not be happy. Actually, we found ourselves saying many times “what would they do on Bake Off?” and remembering. I rolled it to around 0.5cm thickness, with a lot of patching together as it was fairly dry and crumbly.

The filling is ready, but don’t forget the blackbird – put it in the middle of the pie dish to let steam out while cooking, and add the filling around it. Place the rolled out pastry on top, and carefully trim the sides to fit the dish. We also did the fork pattern around the edges for extra conker pie prettiness.

Conker PieFinally, brush the top with milk (we used soya milk) and for the conker-like appearance, lightly fry some pine nuts in the frying pan used for mixing the vegetables until they’re slightly toasted, and put them onto the top of the pastry. Some stuck up and some fell over, but they had the spiky conker-like effect we were looking for.

Pop into the oven for 25 minutes at 180 degrees.

The Conker Pie should be a nice mixture of flavours and crunch without being too overbearing. The only thing I’d say went wrong with ours was the pastry – next time I’ll buy ready made which should make things a bit simpler. But overall it was a delicious pie, dairy free, and full of vegetables! Oh and it made for a nice Sunday dinner too… and there’s enough left for more tomorrow.

Conker Pie

We received some goodies from Higgidy for taking part in this challenge.

13 Oct

It’s a Higgidy Recipe Hunt!

A couple of weeks ago we were sent some goodies from Higgidy as they’re on a recipe hunt. While we’re not quite ready to share our creation (and you’ll know about it when we are), it only seemed fair to let you all know about it too.


The Higgidy Recipe Hunt is on! Head over to Higgidy’s website to find out more

I think it’s pretty exciting – create your own pie, and submit it to Higgidy. Higgidy will then shortlist all the entries into a final three which you can vote for. The winning pie will be available from Sainsburys next spring! The terms & conditions are here.

The best thing is, you don’t have to be able to cook to enter the Higgidy Recipe Hunt – if you have a combination you always wished you’d tried, you can do just that. All you have to do is pop your entry idea onto the form on the page above.

Don’t leave it too long though – you only have until the 26th October, which isn’t very long at all!

We have been sent some pie-making goodies to submit an entry – which will follow very soon! 


12 Oct

Singalonga Frozen at Hampton Court

In the last year our lives have very slowly been taken over by THAT film. Last Christmas we took H to see Frozen, and in the months since it has become her latest obsession. When it was announced Singalonga Frozen would be coming to Hampton Court, and would go ahead whatever the weather, we bought tickets.

Singalonga Frozen

Singalonga Frozen was at Hampton Court and has been doing a tour around loads of interesting venues (alongside other films) with The Luna Cinema – the last night of the season at Leeds Castle tonight (Sunday 12th October).

So what do you need to know? Here’s my handy checklist:

Singalonga Frozen

It is October – it is COLD. Take fleeces, blankets, waterproofs, warm things. There was one tea stand which was reasonably priced, but the queue was long. I’d suggest taking a flask.

We took camping chairs for everyone – even though once the film started the girls all sat on our knees – this was a good thing as it was getting so cold I thought I might faint (this happens a lot) – we warmed up quickly, so it wasn’t so bad.

We also took a picnic. Some people brought in Pizza Express takeouts, but you really could take anything in there.

Benefit makeover

There was a Benefit stand as you walk in – you get your photo taken and if you’re lucky you can win a chance to sit in the VIP inflatable chairs just in front of the blanket area. We missed this, as it wasn’t completely obvious, but it wasn’t a problem.

Ah yes, the seating areas – there’s a flat bit at the front for people with blankets, the inflatable chairs, the VIP areas (approx £25 per person) then the area everyone else can sit. H could see in our regular seats, but sat on my knee and could see even better.

You get the words to the songs! This is good as obviously even though your child will probably know them off by heart, you can bluff your way around it too.

Singalonga Frozen

The only food option was hot dogs – fine if you’re not a vegetarian. If you are, take some food in! They had some granola for sale with the coffee which I did buy, as well as crisps and popcorn.

Merch. There was plenty – I bought H a ring for £1 and a purse for £2. There was pricey stuff and the cheaper ones too, so a good balance.

Benefit were one of the sponsors – you could buy sample sizes of the cosmetics for £2 with all money going to Refuge – I bought a bag. Benefit were also offering £1 makeovers which the girls all had done as well.

Singalonga Frozen

Follow the Luna Cinema on Facebook for information about more events – they’re planning next year already, and I know it’s something we’ll do again. The girls loved it, and despite the cold it was a brilliant night – plus they got to get their photos taken with ‘Elsa’ – we missed ‘Kristoff’ though (I haven’t dared tell H!).

Tickets came in around £15 each, with loads of options available. I’d definitely recommend it if you want to do something a bit different – especially if you’re already a fan of the film! We were also able to wander around the grounds prior to the film starting, although it was the girls who ran around a bit more than we did!

10 Oct

Back to School with Matalan School Uniform

Half term is only two weeks away, and H has been wearing her Matalan school uniform daily – I think it’s time we did a quick mid-term report!

There is a wide variety of Matalan school uniform options online – I ordered H’s when we were in Australia back in August, where I only had use of my iPad. The whole experience was simple enough (although if I navigated away I lost the order, so needed to make a note of what I wanted and order it at once) – delivery was speedy too, despatched within a day of me placing the order which impressed me.  The Matalan website has a School Shop section where you can view the whole range – our local store doesn’t keep everything available online in stock.

I love that Matalan stock longer-length skirts – H is a tall girl (she grew over 2cm this summer!), has only just turned 5 and is quite skinny – she’s already wearing a lot of size 6 clothes. Alas, they don’t seem to have longer length trousers, which I would definitely have bought.

So here’s what was in the order :

Matalan Uniform

Two Empire line pinafore dresses £6 each, age 6. I love these – the style makes us think ‘Wizard of Oz’ with a little cross across the back – which can be a bit tricky on PE days so we tend to wear them on the days she doesn’t have it. I went for age 6 which fits her perfectly.

Matalan Uniform

Two Gingham Dresses with tie belt at £6 each. These look identical to the ones on H’s school uniform website and cost £6 each. They wash well too – with the warm weather and the fact they can wear summer dresses up to half term I bought age 7 so hopefully they’ll last for the summer as well – though who can tell with the speed she’s growing.

Two Girls Scallop Edge Cardigans, age 6-7 at £6 each. I like plain cardigans with summer dresses – the school ones come in a sweatshirt type material which is often too warm for hot weather. So far the cardigan is washing well as well.

Matalan Uniform

Two Girls Longer Length Box Pleat Skirt, age 6 at £5.50 each. As said before, I love there’s a longer length available. There is an adjustable waistband too – ideal as H is tall and skinny! Matalan, please consider doing longer length girls trousers too!

Finally, I bought two packs of Polo Shirts, which come in packs of 3 at £5 each. Her older polo shirts are getting small, so these are ready and will probably be in daily use after half term.

The total cost of the Matalan School Uniform came to £59. I had a £50 voucher which took it down to £12.95 including shipping. Everything was in stock, despatched quickly and well packed – and has washed and ironed well over the last six weeks. We’ve had a few tumbles  in the playground and so far no holes which is a very good thing.

I would highly recommend Matalan School Uniform – it is priced well – I need to look at their shoes next, as H has moved up a size (sighhh, stop growing..!!) and is learning to tie laces – they have some lovely looking brogue-style shoes – plus she’ll probably need some new plimsolls soon, and at £2.50 you can’t complain!

I was provided with a £50 voucher for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Photos were taken when the uniform originally arrived and are just a guide.

09 Oct

Parents Nearby

Parents Nearby is a new free app to help you meet other parents, hopefully with similar interests. I’m interested in the app, and always wanting to make friends. This sounds ideal for me – I had to give it a go.

Parents Nearby logo

Before H was born we signed up and did NCT classes – mainly for the social aspect. A lot of people sign up with the NCT and have friends for life. A lot of people have a great social network from postnatal classes. I would honestly say, for H’s first two years of life I had an amazing social network – NCT friends who would meet weekly and other mums I’d see on regular occasions too; however, these days I only see one of our NCT group. These days my social circle has shrunk quite a lot.

I have my regular knitting meet up every month, and I have occasional social evenings with my mum friends which is great, but I would love to meet like-minded people, as often the one thing you have in common is your children but nothing else. Parents Nearby makes this much easier. Thomas Souza created the app after spending a year as a Stay at Home dad, to help people with similar interests find each other.

You can connect your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles to the app, and from that information it will let you know about other parents in the area – who have also signed up. I’m shy. I’m terrible at making the first move to meet someone and had to get out of my comfort zone when I’ve met other mums in the past. But I plucked up the courage and signed up – one of the first people I saw was my friend Leanne! So that was nice, as when you know someone it makes things easier.

My next step is to contact someone, to make friends and broaden our social circle. I’ve often found London a big, unfriendly place and know it is somewhere that I’m terrified of being alone. Apps like Parents Nearby are doing something about it – if you are struggling to make friends too, this may be the answer.

Don’t take my word for it – here’s some feedback from other users.

  • ‘I’m in touch with 4 parents in the area already, half I contacted and half contacted me’ – Rosa
  • ‘I love the idea – ingenious. It could do away with the need for NCT classes for a lot of people’ Ellie
  • ‘Already spoken to a dad who’d like to meet up’ - Justin
  • ‘I have been contacted by one parent. I only joined last night, so that is pretty good!’ - Natalie

You can download Parents Nearby for free, it is available at the App store, and at the Google Play store. I highly recommend. It has a really simple user interface and works well. Parents Nearby website can be found here.

05 Oct

Funky Giraffe

Funky Giraffe is a lovely company that I’ve only recently discovered. They specialise in items such as bibs, socks and burp cloths. Funky Giraffe aim to produce gorgeous items that function well for families.

I was lucky enough to be sent a selection from the Funky Giraffe bib and burp cloth range. As you can see from the picture the designs are ever so cute! Check out their website for more.

Funky Giraffe - Bibs and burp cloths front

On receipt I found the bibs to have a thin cotton front and a thin fleecy type backing. The backing is so soft and feels like something that would be very gentle to a baby’s skin. Both materials are thin and consequently feel like something that would dry super quick….. a must with a potentially sickie baby.

Bibs and burp cloths back

I’ve never owned a burp cloth before, having always been a muslin kind of gal. With my older son being a ridiculously sickie baby, this consequently meant that our collection is huge (40 muslins easily!!!!). This means I was very curious about the cloths and whether they’d be a better option and, lets face it, a cuter one. The cloths remind me somewhat of a mini oven glove, without the glove part. They are thicker than the bibs but with the same lovely fleecey backing.

Burp cloth back

The bibs are a great size, they fit little one really well and should last for quite a while. I really like the burp cloths too. The only comment I would make with these is that, as the cloths cover less width area than a muslin, you would need to be careful with placement. However I’ve had no issues with placement myself and love that these are a much more attractive option than my boring old muslins. We’ve not had any major vomiting yet but what we have had has been soaked up well by the bibs and cloths. On washing the designs are of high quality, have stayed firmly attached and show no signs of shifting any time soon.

I have to say I love these products. On checking out the website the selection they offer is excellent, all with free postage over £7. The bibs and burp cloths I tested are £4 each. There are also great deals on too with 5 bibs for £11.25 and 10 for £20, all so incredibly exciting I had to tear myself away! I have a number of baby showers coming up and Funky Giraffe would make an excellent present option and is something I would thoroughly recommend to anyone.

I was sent a selection of products for the purpose of review – all opinions are my own and honest.

01 Oct

Clearing the Clutter Before Christmas

Joanne Mallon has set a challenge – and we’re in! A proper pre-Christmas clutter clearout – and it’s something I need to do badly.

Now H is five we have so many things we don’t need any more. She isn’t going to have a little brother or sister so space needs to be made – and I need to get rid.

Getting rid of baby things is hard. It’s like saying “that’s all folks!” and facing reality – I don’t get as many people asking these days “will you have another do you think?” so I must be starting to look (or act?!) my age a bit more maybe.

Things I need to shift.
Our lovely Maclaren Techno buggy. So many people request one on FB groups, ours comes with all the extras, I try for £50 and they tell me it’s too much. Sob.
Fisher-Price sit to stand microphone. I drove all the way to Crawley to buy this, as it was for sale at ELC – for £25. It took me almost two hours to get there and back, and probably almost as much petrol. It was much loved – H played with it so much when we got it.
Fisher-Price infant to toddler rocker – this lasted years – it made a great seat until H decided she wanted to fasten herself into it again, and I knew she was way too big. See also – the pink bumbo which she would sit in (last year!) and crawl around on all fours like some crazy snail child.
A Little Life Infant backpack carrier. As good as new, pretty much. Nobody wants it. I don’t want to give it away.
Oh, and the Ozbozz scooter I bought, which was obviously too small for H, but she took it outside once assembled to skate on it, so I couldn’t take it back. Nobody wants that, not even for £10 – and it was used for about 30 seconds.

There’s so much more, but practical things like that… I could ebay them (and may well resort to doing that) but I’d much rather sell locally. The only problem is nobody seems to want them.

Then there’s her clothes. So many clothes all carefully washed and bagged up into ages, doing nothing. They need to go, we need the space. They’re just clothes. I didn’t keep her first outfit or anything, there is no emotional attachment.

I think her cot is in the loft too.

So yes, we have a lot of things to get rid of. I also have a large pile of CDs that I need to get to Music Magpie to help raise a bit of cash towards Christmas. I sorted out all my old clothes and they were left in a pile in our closet for about six months until Shaun took them to the clothes bank at the end of the road.

So I’m setting myself a challenge. I need to make space. Things need to be sorted out and it needs to be done now. So I want to get rid of one thing a week – be it giving it away or selling it. There is a public photo album on my FB profile which has everything that needs to go. I just need to make a start.

So here goes…

30 Sep

SCREAM! It’s Soreen!

It is always a good day when a box arrives in the post which has the word ‘Soreen’ printed upon it – I used to eat the regular malt loaf when I was a little one, and now H also loves the stuff. Even better, Soreen is low in fat and high in fibre, plus some are low in saturated fats – ideal if you’re like me and need to keep an eye on them due to cholesterol problems.

Soreen Scream

We’ve been sent a few new varieties, including the Toffee Apple Scream variety (which is also available in chocolate from most Asda stores) and the new Orange loaf, which is available from most Sainsburys stores (see link above).

I’ve never seen the Scream variety before – they’re in handy lunchbox size, and perfect for those snacks between school and heading out for an activity – and of course perfect fun for Halloween.. I’m now trying to think of a good way to use them on the big night… I quite fancy trying to coat the Orange Soreen in Milk Chocolate for Christmas… mmm!

Soreen Scream H

I allowed myself a whole slice of the Orange Soreen (well, I have pilates tonight so I won’t be eating until 8pm!) – I love that the loaves contain slow-release carbs, so I tend to stay fuller for longer – seeing as my rumbly stomach tends to sound like it’s singing…

Scream Soreen and Orange Soreen are available in stores now. Having been allowed to taste both by H (so kind…) I can confirm both are damn fine too – don’t leave it too late!

We were sent a selection of Soreen products – this review is just me letting you know they’re available, and is our own opinion.

29 Sep

After School Chefs with Birds Eye

Year 1 has kicked in properly now, which brings afternoons rushing home from school then heading out to various activities – and also that mad rush between finishing school, having a snack, going to an activity then having no more than twenty minutes to get the evening meal ready. We’ve always made a point of eating together as a family in the evening, so when Birds Eye started an After School Chefs challenge, I knew it was right up our street.

We’re lucky that H isn’t a fussy eater – she will generally eat whatever is put in front of her. I have a fairly set routine of food I cook which could do with a tweak. Fortunately Birds Eye are here to help. I was having a browse around the After School Chefs recipes and came across this one for Waffle Nachos – so simple and the perfect food when you’re in a rush. Even better, we have everything in our food cupboard. Here’s the recipe :

birds eye after school chefs waffle nachos

So how did we get back into our routine? It helps doing activities every night – the earliest one starts is 4.15, the latest 5pm. School dinners are on a three week rotation, so I need to make sure our evening meal is properly planned – I have three ‘meals not to cook’ lists so I can stay on top of things as last year I’d often put the food on the table only to find H had it during the day as well.

Towards the end of the week I have more time, so cook things which take a bit longer, for example, a risotto. The start of the week is quicker foods like stir fry, soup or spaghetti bolognese. I’ll often mix vegetables that cook quickly (like courgette) with frozen vegetables when I’m pushed for time.

We were given £20 in vouchers to try some Birds Eye foods to take part in the After School Chefs challenge – and from that I chose both types of potato waffles (large and small) – they’re low in saturated fat which is good for me with my cholesterol issues, plus they cook quickly. I chose some soya beans, petits pois and sweetcorn, as well as some field fresh vegetables which all come in resealable bags – handy as our freezer drawer often has stray vegetables tucked in the bottom thanks to badly fastened bags!

Birds Eye After School Chefs

Shaun chose some chicken and fish dishes from the Inspirations range for him and H to share. Being vegetarian I was disappointed that Sainsbury’s Cheam didn’t have any of the Birds Eye vegetable options in-store, considering what a huge store it is. The chicken cooked quickly and both Shaun and H ate it all, and confirmed it tasted delicious!

My top tips for quick meals after school –
– if you don’t have long to cook and get your meal to the table, don’t rule out frozen food. Frozen vegetables cook quickly – you could probably knock up a quick pasta dish in less than ten minutes. Even better, get your child to become one of the After School chefs and help! (supervised, of course)
– pre-bought food to prepare is always a quick option – pad it out with fresh vegetables if you feel like you need to add more. I often do that with my stir fry kits.
– If you have a few vegetable leftovers in the fridge, make a chilli – I always have some Taco Shells in the cupboard for chilli leftover emergencies!
– trying to fit in reading for school as well as making the meal, after getting in from some activity? Get your child to read at the table, where you can hear them – we have a hatch from our kitchen to the main room and will often do our daily read there. See also : practising recorder… that’s always handy when the dishwasher is on ;-)

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook Page.