31 Aug

Crisp Sandwiches

It is National Crisp Sandwich week. This is a big deal for me, as a crisp sandwich is something which the Brooks family have as a tradition. Seabrook Crisps, my favourite ever brand of crisps have sent packets to bloggers in order to show off their own fabulous creations. This is mine.

Crisp sandwiches are for Tuesdays. This may sound a bit odd, but that’s how it is. We had a kind of routine with our food, passed down through the generations (well, two that I know of, anyway). These days Tuesdays are stir-fry days and I’m letting my northern roots down big time.

However, talk to me of a crisp sandwich and I’m taken back. My grannie (who died in 1985) used to swear by them, and indeed my Auntie still carries on the tradition. I think they’re both brilliant, and so while this doesn’t win any prizes, really, truly, this is the only way to make a crisp sandwich.

So what do you need? Simple. Two slices of freshly made bread, buttered. Lay the crisps on top evenly, and squash together. That is your sandwich. You don’t need more or less of that. It’s the simplicity of the crisps and butter and bread, the crunch. If you want flavour, choose Cheese and Onion. In my world there are no additions to this sandwich, as tradition dictates. If your crisps are a bit squashed that makes it even easier to cram more on to the bread as well.

crisp sandwich

Seabrooks were our main source of crisps back in the seventies in York. Sure, there were other brands, but us northerners knew which way our bread was buttered (and which potato snacks to put in them).

When a group of us from York moved to Bristol with work back in 1992, we ensured our vending machine had a supply of Seabrook crisps too, so I was able to continue the traditional crisp sandwich at work – you couldn’t buy them in shops in Bristol back then.

I remember being taken to a Cash & Carry in York by my mum and being greeted with a wall of Seabrooks. Obviously I bought a box, and my crisp sandwich addiction continued for as long as they lasted (so not very long at all). While some people are trying to modernise the humble crisp sandwich (by adding cheese and lettuce, guilty as charged), I feel it should be taken back a step, that tradition should continue as it was meant to be. Let the young ‘uns carry it on however they choose, but let them know where it began.

crisp sandwich

So here is my humble crisp sandwich. Unchanged over the years, probably kept the same since 1945 when Seabrooks first existed. No frills, no fuss, no fancy, but plenty of taste. The bread was freshly made this morning – you need your bread to be soft and fluffy and fresh for the maximum crisp sandwich experience. Yum! Oh, you could always serve it with some hummous, carrot and cucumber if you’re aiming for something a bit gourmet… maybe?

crisp sandwich

Happy National Crisp Sandwich week!

We were sent a pack of Seabrook Crisps for the purpose of this post. Everything written is completely true, much to my husband’s disgust. Tsk.

31 Aug

Purple Parking Meet and Greet

Looking for a parking solution when you’re travelling away for your holidays? We got to try the Purple Parking Meet and Greet service recently, read on to find out what we think!

Purple Parking logo

Purple Parking Meet and Greet services are a new twist on their regular parking options – rather than parking away from the airport, dragging your cases to a shuttle bus (and remembering where you’ve parked) and getting to the airport, you can now park within the airport and go.

We had a few options to get to Heathrow (bus, car, taxi), however, I hurt my back six weeks before we went, so dragging a case anywhere wasn’t an option – I had almost 24 hours of flying to do and the slightest twinge could make the experience uncomfortable.

For Purple Parking Meet and Greet you turn up at your Terminal, leave your locked car there, hand over the keys  to the Chauffeur at the Purple Parking stand, and head off for your holiday. We were offered a full wash and valet for £18 on dropping the car off which we declined – mainly as Shaun had given the car a thorough clean inside once we’d heard the word ‘Chauffeur’ being mentioned!

Purple Parking Meet and Greet

It really is as simple as that – and the convenience was something which appeals a lot to me. I was able to get a trolley for our cases, Shaun got them from the car and loaded them up, we handed over our keys and got a booking slip (keep it safe as you need to show it when you return to get your car back!) then all we had to do was make our way to departures to continue our travels.

On our return I spotted our car immediately. We headed back to the same area of the Terminal 3 car park and were dealt with quickly and efficiently. The parking ticket in the car park is validated by Purple Parking so you don’t pay to leave the airport.

I would say we spent no more than ten minutes at the Purple Parking Meet and Greet area – it was extremely efficient and is something I will definitely use again. It’s the ideal service if you want someone else to park your car and bring it back. Given I’m the kind of person who often forgets to write down where we’re parked (I’m thinking Stansted 2004 when we spent two hours wandering around the car park trying to find our car at 11pm), I highly recommend Purple Parking Meet and Greet and we’ll definitely be using it again! I would also say it is a service to consider when you’re travelling with children – the ease of transfer from car to airport takes away a hugely stressful part of the journey.

We were given free parking with Purple Parking Meet and Greet at Heathrow for three weeks for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

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.