21 Aug

On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking

I’m very short on time daily. Since going back to work five days a week I’m missing my day off to get things done – one of those being baking. On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking is a new book I’ve been sent as part of the Parragon Book Buddies group I’m in – which suits me perfectly due to the aforementioned lack of time!

On the Table in 30 minutes - baking

On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking has sixty super speedy recipes. H and I looked through the book with plenty of ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ and ‘mmmm!’ kind of noises until we agreed on what we’d like to bake. I changed my mind when I bought blueberries earlier today – our recipe of choice was to make blueberry scones.

I’d never thought about making them before – and we eat a lot of blueberries too and have enjoyed making scones in the past. I know they’re quite easy to make, so thought it’d be a good place to start. You need -
250g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
85g butter (chilled)
70g golden caster sugar
115g blueberries
1 egg
100ml buttermilk
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar

Grease a baking tray. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the butter and get the mixture to a breadcrumb like-consistency. Stir in the caster sugar and blueberries. Beat the egg and buttermilk and add that. Roll mixture into a ball (mine was pretty wet so I added more flour). Knead gently and shape into an 18cm round. Cut into eight slices and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes.


baking at home

H enjoyed making these as it involved mess and she got to wear a pinny. I didn’t get to take photos as they involved mess. I like On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking because it tells me what to do and breaks it up into small sections so I don’t get distracted.

Blueberry Scones

So how long did it take? I would say a little over 30 minutes – but mainly due to having H read the ingredients out to me, and help me count them on our scales. Once everything was measured it was pretty quick from there. I can see On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking being a book we’ll get a lot of use from – for the speed of the recipes and the variety in there. The recipes are broken into sections – Quick Cookies, Speedy Small Bakes, Fast Family Cakes and Bars, Presto Pastries and Desserts, plus lots of useful information at the back of the book, and plenty of delicious looking photos which inspire you to give it a try.

We’ve actually tried a few more recipes since I wrote this – all with great success!

I received my copy of On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking for the purpose of review – all opinions are my own.

15 Aug

The Camping Cookbook

The Camping Cookbook is the latest book we’ve received from Parragon’s Love Food range.

The Camping Cookbook

The Camping Cookbook has over 70 recipes which are designed to be cooked when you go camping.

That’s our first stumbling block – with my back camping has been something we haven’t considered at all. Actually, next year I fully intend to do a festival – maybe Camp Bestival if I can get my act together (there was no way we could do it this year). My previous camping experiences have been the Reading Festival, so I’m no stranger to doing it – I just haven’t with a child.

Which is where this book comes in handy – Spicy Fried Eggs? It doesn’t look too tricky, though you need the right ingredients – whereas Campfire Quesadillas are fabulously simple and straightforward. If you want to get a bit more adventurous, how about Parsnip & Potato Rosti? Oh, and don’t rule out desserts either – Crunchy Ginger Apples have already caught my eye.

The Camping Cookbook - Campfire Quesadillas

All the recipes I’ve looked at involve a frying pan and gas stove – camping essentials which you’ll have anyway – they don’t take long and they’re that bit more adventurous than plain old fried egg with beans on toast. I have never made S’Mores, but looking at the Banana and Dark Chocolate S’mores recipe, I think even I could do it… that’s the beauty of this book – the recipes are nice and easy to try.

Would I use these for a festival? The more basic recipes, definitely. Would I use these if I was camping somewhere on a proper campsite? Definitely.

I love the shape of the book -plus it is packed with tons of ideas for breakfasts, mains, sides and desserts which is going to inspire me most of all. There is also guidance on meal planning, as well as camping advice such as essential equipment and where to pitch your tent. I know this is a book I’ll be turning to next year anyway!

The Camping Cookbook is available now!

We were sent The Camping Cookbook for the purpose of review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies group – all opinions are our own.

12 Aug

Summer Is Ready When You Are

42 days of Summer, to be precise. That’s forty-two-whole-days!

So what do you do? Most of the clubs have finished for the term and you’re left with a bit of time – so here’s our top family Summer tips.

1. Don’t wear a watch.
Why keep an eye on the time? If you’ve spent the day at work and have time afterwards, why not have a walk to the park and have some fun. Go with how tired you feel rather than having to head home because it’s tea time. Enjoy the outdoors while the weather is good like this.

2. Buy a paddling pool.
It has been so warm here – one night on Facebook I commented about how I’d have loved a paddling pool, just for Shaun to reply he had actually gone and bought one. Argos had a 50% sale, and he bought a Chad Valley giant great big thing (I believe they’re called something like Family Swim Centres). There is room for all three of us in there, although it’s a devil to empty! Sitting in the paddling pool relaxing has been great – it isn’t just for kids, it’s for everyone! (although I wouldn’t want to scare anyone while dressed in my swimming cossie)

3. Make ice lollies.
When we went to Legoland back in April I bought some ice lolly moulds, so we’re eating and making them again daily – they’re currently our yoghurt ones, but anything works. The only downside is having to wait overnight for them to set, but all good things come to those who wait, apparently.

4. Make ice cream.
Home made ice cream is a winner – our drum lives in the freezer so we can make it whenever we need to (as it needs to be frozen for 24 hours beforehand) – handy as we’re not very good at planning, but much better at doing things when the fancy takes us.

5. Holiday clubs.

We’re working for a lot of the summer holidays, so H has to go to Holiday Club. We’re lucky though as she gets to go on trips to the cinema, park, our local Ecology Centre, as well as two visits to Build A Bear – she has been to Holiday Club for most of the breaks from school this year; it has been great for having a play and just chilling out a bit. This does mean I can work shorter days all week, so we have a couple of hours to do fun stuff – just because you’re working doesn’t mean you get to miss the fun (even if you do get envious of everyone’s seaside pictures!). Our holiday club costs less than £20 a day and is paid for with Childcare Vouchers – a really good price.

6. Picnics!
A trip isn’t complete without a picnic – and we’re well stocked up with fun things to take out. We’ve always got Bear Yo Yo snacks and Soreen at the ready, and being sent some BN biscuits from BritMums is a welcome addition – at H’s last day of term we sat in the park and shared them with her classmates who all enjoyed them. I hid the chocolate ones, saving them for when we all fancy a biscuit – H just loves having a smily face! We’ve been sent the Raspberry and Chocolate varieties. We weren’t able to take them to Australia with us, so had to eat the lot.

7. Soft Play!
This one is actually a lot easier if you were to be in Australia right now, as all the kids are back at school, while H is on holiday. So I went shopping with my mother-in-law and H went to Soft Play with Shaun (and had the whole place to herself). She managed to tire herself out and we managed to get some birthday shopping done. Added bonus – no screaming kids at Soft Play, and they had a vintage Pacman table!

8. A bit of Family Time.
It has been hard this year to send H to holiday clubs, but having three weeks of time together is fantastic. H’s behaviour has been great, no angry shouting and just enjoying quality family time. Add to that she’s meeting her Australian relatives and it is a wonderful summer, with a whole side of the family she’s getting to know.

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie’s BN. Learn more at http://bit.ly/1mRpMCL

12 Aug

SQ321 to SQ215

If, like us you’ve booked flights to Perth from Heathrow, and you’ve used Singapore Airlines, then it’s possible you’ve gone for SQ321 to SQ215.

SQ321 to SQ215 has 50 minutes between flights. The Changi Airport website says to allow an hour between flights – so you can understand why we’d feel a bit nervous. I’ve missed a connection once before and it’s when you arrive at your destination and the unknown which makes it stressful – that and knowing you’re running late.

Our incoming SQ321 flight was running 20 minutes late – so I’d calculated less than half an hour to get to our second plane. I knew it was do-able but with a well-behaved four year old? Who could say.

As it was, we got to the gate and disembarked – and we started to run like crazy, to find our connecting plane was the one next to us! We did it – we changed from SQ321 to SQ215 in ten minutes! Amazing – the gate was easy to get through and all the x-raying was straightforward. The relief? We couldn’t believe it.

In fact our Perth-bound flight was slightly delayed for the baggage change and left 20 minutes late, but still landed in Perth at the correct time.

So if you happen to find this and find yourself on these flights, if you’re running a bit late you’ll be fine. I’m not sure about when you’re an hour late, but SQ215 might still wait. Don’t quote me on this.

We were on foot in Singapore for five minutes, so you get the idea!

Oh the relief! Fortunately on the way back we have three hours between flights, so things will be much simpler.

Our review of Singapore Airlines will appear on my Airline Hell blog once we return.

31 Jul

Rio 2 on DVD and Blu-Ray

This Monday, August 4th ‘Rio 2′ is released on Blu Ray and DVD. We missed it at the cinema, though have a review copy coming in the post, so will post our thoughts as soon as we can.

However, there are some super cool activity sheets available – which I’m sharing with you now – what do you fancy? Colouring in, or just some facts about the characters? Make your choice – H has chosen her favourite from both – just right click on the image to save on your computer.

Firstly, we have Meet The Gang – an essential, as while H has been really keen to see the film, we don’t know enough about it (other than having some Rio 2 shampoo with Gabi on it upstairs!) – that was enough to make H desperate to see the movie!

Rio 2 - Meet the Gang

and secondly we have a lovely colour in sheet with a Jungle Party featuring Nico, Pedro and Raphael.

Rio 2 - Jungle Party

Rio 2 is available from Monday – you can preorder it from Amazon right now! We’re looking forward to a Movie Night this weekend so we can watch it – in fact, H is extremely excited and can’t wait!

this post contains an affiliate link. 

30 Jul

The Last Minute Holidaymaker

Or what not to forget when you’re going away. Here’s some top tips:

1. If, like us, you’re going to Australia you can get your vistors visa for FREE now. You used to have to pay. Mine came through 30 minutes after applying from here. Don’t fall for the trap of paying for one when they cost nothing. Places like STA Travel charge you £20!

2. We collected two Travelex Prepay visa cards today from the branch near Shaun’s work. This will make things much easier. We can also change our PIN numbers at any Visa ATM which is handy as I don’t want to remember something new this late in the day.

3. We also realised our Nationwide Flex Account could be upgraded to a Flex Account Plus which gives us Worldwide Holiday Insurance as well as free ATM withdrawals throughout the world. We don’t have our new cards just yet so Travelex will cover things if our cards stop working while we’re away and the new ones haven’t arrived. The Flex Account Plus costs £10 a month, but also includes things like Breakdown Cover and phone insurance which we can amend our existing policies to reduce costs. Not allowing enough time for your new cards to arrive MAY be a problem….

4. Online check-in. Up to 48 hours before our flight we can check-in online. This is a big bonus – we’ve confirmed ourselves and chosen our seats, as closely as possible to the exits (thanks to our 50 minute stop in Singapore), meals are ordered so we just have check-in left. Some flights we’ve taken don’t offer it.

Purple Parking logo

5. Purple Parking. We’re lucky enough to be reviewing Purple Parking’s Meet and Greet service, so will report back once we’re home. I like that we can drop the car at the terminal, and that it is there to be picked up when we return - it feels nice and simple with no shuttle buses involved.

6. Keeping H entertained. We’ve put party bag sticker books into her YUUbag so we’re ready – this is the one thing we’ve been really organised with.

7. Overseas phone tariffs. Our networks suck! I’m with EE and Shaun is with Vodafone and both have rubbish tariffs in Australia. Only 3 seem to be any good, where you can use your own allowance overseas. I’m considering unlocking my phone and buying a SIM while I’m out there as it will be less hassle. 100MB of data for 7 days for £20. I think I’ll be looking for free Wifi! (or 500MB for 7 days for £40 – shocking).

8. Wifi on the plane. Of course I’m going to try it - if it doesn’t cost much. Also, we can connect our iPods/iPads to our in-flight entertainment system – that might be essential for H!

9.  Top tip from my friend Louise – if for some reason one of our suitcases should go astray, we should pack a few of each others clothes in each case. This would never have occurred to me had she not said – makes perfect sense anyway!

10. Make sure your suitcases still close….!

26 Jul

The Hueys in None the Number by Oliver Jeffers

Two things – we LOVE Oliver Jeffers books, and we LOVE The Hueys series too. H likes them as her grandad in Australia is nicknamed Huey, so while the story is nothing to do with him, it’s a memory, an association. The newest book The Hueys in None the Number is a slight change to the usual story.

The Hueys in None the Number

The Hueys in None the Number is a Counting Adventure by Oliver Jeffers, the third in the Hueys series from Harper-Collins Kids.

‘the thing about the Hueys was that they loved numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3…. Wait! Is ‘none’ a number?’
Which is the basis for this story. See, we are all taught the numbers starting from 1, but when it comes to ‘none’, what exactly is it? It’s a counting conundrum, that’s what!

In true Oliver Jeffers fashion, The Hueys in None the Number is something you work out for yourself – and at the end of the book there’s a little bit on what ‘none’ actually is. In the meantime, throughout the book there’s plenty of examples of what numbers are – ‘but when you take them all away…. you get NONE.’ There is less story for this one, but it provokes a lot of thinking which I think is a good thing now H is reading fluently at school.

The Hueys in None the Number

H enjoys reading this one – another she’ll happily take away and read in her head. I asked if I could read it to her, and she said she’d prefer if I read it in my head! Fair enough. I’ve caught her a few times reading it, and have now asked the question ‘is ‘none’ a number?’

She says no. I think we’ll be reading the book together again, and the discussion will probably continue into the night! It’s a good discussion point – especially as she’s doing a lot more thinking with numeracy as she heads into Year 1.

The Hueys in None the Number is available now from all good booksellers.

We were sent our copy for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own and honest. The link is an affiliate one.

21 Jul

Elmer is 25 Years Old

Did you know the patchwork elephant Elmer is 25 years old? We didn’t realise – in fact, truth be told I didn’t realise the Elmer books were available in longer form! Fortunately Andersen Press sent us a copy of Elmer and Elmer and the Monster, a new title in the series.

Elmer is 25 – and a firm favourite in our house – we have a lot of the books (and a toy) but in the hardback baby editions - so I was pleased to find the books are available for older readers too – especially when they do the reading themselves. (We already own David McKee’s ‘Not Now Bernard‘ – a favourite of ours) So when two books arrive in the post they’re promptly whisked away and read by my four and three quarter year old, who then refuses to tell me what they’re about afterwards, just saying “they’re good”!

Elmer is 25 Reading

So I asked her what the books were about. We know the original Elmer story, where he gets tired of being different and disguises himself as a grey elephant – until he realises he can’t change himself. The book has a lovely story behind it – about not changing how we are and accepting the way we are – and this version is a book H reads a lot. On her own. Without me. (which is so different to our baby books!)

Elmer is 25

Elmer and the Monster is a brand new Elmer story. When Elmer and his friends hear a loud roar in the jungle they are convinced it’s a monster. Elmer is the only one brave enough to see what it could be. So what is it then? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Elmer is 25 Monster

Again, H took the book away, giggling in the corner as she read to herself, which was lovely. Both books are regularly read now – there’s a good mixture of pictures and words which are great for her reading level (Turquoise) – and as she heads into Year 1 at school I know these books will remain favourites – with David McKee’s illustrations so bright and colourful they’re visually appealing.

Elmer (in paperback) currently retails for £6.99
Elmer and the Monster (in hardback) currently retails for £11.99

So Elmer is 25 and to celebrate the anniversary, there are activities all through the summer – Andersen Press are making available a limited signed version of the first Elmer book. There will be new Elmer products available at UK retail. Greenwich Park has an Elmer bench as part of National Literacy Trusts ‘Books About Town’ project. Look out for more at Andersen Press’s website.

Both books were sent to us for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links. 

20 Jul

Fancy Winning a Higgidy Picnic?

Higgidy picnic pack

We’ve got a fabulous giveaway with Higgidy – and oh how we love our Higgidy pies – do you fancy winning a picnic bag with some coupons which can be redeemed against Higgidy picnic essentials? Then read on for more!

Higgidy logo


What could be better than a picnic in the park on a summer’s day? To celebrate picnic season Higgidy are giving you a chance to win a special picnic bag filled with coupons that can be redeemed against picnic essentials such as Higgidy’s sausage roll range! To be in with a chance, just enter your details below.

Higgidy, maker of award-winning pies and quiches, have launched a range of three mouth-watering sausage roll recipes just in time for picnic season. Packaged in picnic basket open-style box, Higgidy’s sausage roll range comes in three flavours: Herby Pork & Pancetta, Roasted Tomato & Pork, and Feta & Red Pepper. They can be enjoyed hot or cold and make perfect picnic food.

Higgidy picnic pack

If you aren’t successful this time, there is still a chance to win instantly by playing ‘Catch a Quiche’ at catchaquiche.higgidy.co.uk. Prizes include quiches, salad, yoghurt, crisps, fruit snacks and ginger beer and high scorers can also win a Higgidy Picnic Pack!

I’ve been playing Catch A Quiche and it isn’t easy. You can have five turns a day as well, so there’s no excuse to not give it a go.

Giveaway Rules – This Giveaway ends on the 1st August 2014. Please respond ASAP if you’re the winner so I can pass your information on to Higgidy’s PR company to arrange delivery – and good luck!

If you are having trouble seeing the whole widget please use this link which will take you to it directly.
Win a Higgidy Picnic

20 Jul

Puffing A Wey at Dapdune Wharf

Puffing A Wey is an annual event held at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford. It is a joint event between the National Trust and the Steam Boat Association (SBA) to showcase their boats.

Puffing A Wey 2014

Puffing A Wey was on last weekend - and Saturday 12th July was the day to get involved. Put it in the diary for next year, as if it ends up a gloriously sunny day it’s the perfect day to get a free ride in a steam boat up the River Wey.

I was surprised it wasn’t busier – Dapdune Wharf is really close to the centre of Guildford, though once you’re there you wouldn’t think so. It’s a pity that Shalford Mill which is also on the River Wey isn’t open for the day, as we’d have gone along there as well – though realistically we probably didn’t have time.

Dapdune Wharf is an area of great historical significance to Guildford and Surrey in general. The Wey was one of the first British rivers to be made navigable, opening to barge traffic in 1653. It links Guildford to Weybridge, where it meets the Thames, moving onwards to London. Also, it’s over 350 years old – enough to blow a small person’s mind when you tell them.

Puffing A Wey 2014

Dapdune also has a surviving barge ‘Reliance’ which Shaun and H spent time exploring (it’s quite low and I didn’t want to risk it with my back!), plus you can also see where the huge Wey barges were built.

Puffing A Wey brings steam boats from around the UK to Guildford – and while the National Trust has a boat which does 40 minute rides down the River Wey (charge £3 per person), the steam boats offered rides for free. We were lucky to get a ride on the handmade boat, the St Aurelia and experienced a fabulous 30 minute ride towards Guildford, then to the other side of the railway bridge at Dapdune Wharf. Not all boats offer rides, it is entirely the boat owner’s discretion. We didn’t have to wait for long either. It felt so peaceful gently chugging along the river (and you’re close to the water, for my deep water phobia I managed quite well!).

Puffing A Wey 2014

It was a really enjoyable day – H loved going on the boat, and we had a good safety chat beforehand in case anything went wrong (it didn’t, but you need to be prepared). Be aware there are no lifejackets, so you are doing it entirely at your own risk. Having said that, we were safe, the rivers weren’t busy, though boats sometimes had to wait for other boats to clear the mooring areas when dropping off passengers.

There were kids activities which kept H entertained – and they were suitable for all ages. Add a nice National Trust cafe with good value food, and decent facilities (and a good sized picnic area), and it was a pretty good day out – what started as a day we thought might be interesting ended being a day which was absolutely marvellous! I’m definitely keeping an eye out for next year’s event anyway.

Dapdune Wharf Lock Model

My highlight of the day apart from the boat ride, was a model of a lock – H has been reading about towpaths in a story at school and I’d tried to explain them, but badly. Having a lock with water in which explains everything clearly made it fascinating for H. I think a trip to Teddington may be on the cards one day soon.

The River Wey and Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf can be found here. I’m going to predict next years event will be July 2015, and would highly recommend. The Steam Boat Association can be found here.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall