20 May

New Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Range, May 2015

Today we were invited to the Good Housekeeping Institute in Central London for a taste of some of the dishes from the new Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range, which will be in store in the next couple of weeks.

Tesco Vegetarian kitchen range

The Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range from Tesco are set to launch some new dishes very soon – and we got a chance to try some today. One was a Mushroom Stroganoff dish, which I skipped – I’ve never been a fan of mushrooms. The other three dishes got a thumbs up from us though. First up was the spicy beanburger. I’ve always been a bit partial to them, and these did not disappoint. There are plenty of vegetables inside and to add the spice there’s some jalapenos, fresh coriander and smoky chipotle chile, not that you’d notice – and H definitely didn’t! They’re well disguised, so if you have a fussy eater who isn’t keen on spicy food, you may well get away with it. We enjoyed these so much we may have had many of them….

Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Bean Burger

Next up which was our joint favourite was the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Vegetable and Cheese crispbakes. Think a bit like an escalope, but full of vegetables without the gushing garlic sauce – and gruyere cheese instead. H claimed she didn’t like gruyere the last time we had it, but scoffed the crispbake in record time without noticing. She really liked this one too, and didn’t spot there were bits of mushroom in there which was good – anything which hides food your child might turn their nose up at is a good thing in my world!

Tesco Vegetarian Cheese Crispbakes

The final dish I tried was the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Vegetable Tikka Masala & Rice. H didn’t like this as she found it too spicy (to that I say : hurrah – more for me!) whereas I really enjoyed it. It had a good sauce, not too drippy and just the right level of spiciness. The dish comes with each part separate, so you can serve them as you wish. This is the kind of dish I’d pick up from a Tesco Metro when I fancy a takeaway – more often than not there are very few vegetarian options available, so I’ll definitely be buying this one.

One that caught my eye which I haven’t tried yet is the Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne – I love the idea of that combination. At the end we were given a goody bag, and inside was one of these so I’ll be reporting back.

Tesco Vegetarian kitchen range

There are ten new dishes in all in the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range, and a wide variety. I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years now, and am happy to see that there’s a good selection available to suit all tastes, and even better they’re only £2.30 in-store.

The Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range will be in-store and online in the next two weeks – keep an eye out! The dishes we tried today all get the thumbs up – especially the bean burgers from H!

We were invited to try out the food, and received a goody bag for attending. All opinions are our own.

19 May

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs is the latest book we’ve been sent as Parragon Book Buddies, and is part of their Gold Stars range.

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs is a book packed full of facts and activities. In fact, had this been available when H started Year 1, it would have been the perfect accompaniment as dinosaurs was their Autumn Term topic. As it was, the book has only come out quite recently – but if you’re looking for something which works alongside learning, this may be your book.

As well as having facts about the dinosaurs, I really like there are sections which show you how to draw them. I have a very defeatist child when she really thinks she can’t do something and doesn’t want to try – Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs has step by step instructions on how to draw various dinosaurs – exactly what a child like H needs!

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Right now H is loving doing mazes and colouring, both of which are in this book – and there are plenty. While the book can’t cover all dinosaurs, it does cover the ones you’re likely to find in the school curriculum – the obvious ones. H enjoyed reading Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs as she enjoys factual books quite a lot at the moment.

The illustrations are nice and bright – the fonts are clear, and the facts are fun. This book is a winner as far as my five year old goes.

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs has a rrp of £7.99 and is available now! Follow this affiliate link to buy a copy of the book here

We were sent a copy of the book for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

18 May

Football Mum of the Year

Two weeks ago we were invited along to Petts Wood FC for an hour-long training session with Casey Stoney, the England and Arsenal Ladies footballer, to celebrate the launch of McDonald’s Football Mum of the Year.

Football Mum of the Year

Football Mum of the Year is an award to celebrate us mum’s who make football happen – and the launch we attended involved H and the other kids having a training session with Casey Stoney – a nice simple training session too. The children had to imagine they were on a pirate ship and complete a few tasks – from kicking the ball from one side to the other, and chasing the ball as Casey rolled it down the pitch, or just running as quick as they could to Casey to give her a high five. You don’t need a field to do these exercises, you can do them at home too – all you need is a brick wall (for kicking balls against) and you’re set! (preferably outdoors)

Football Mum of the Year
I’ve already done a quick writeup about how the experience has changed H – how something plugged in with her again and her love of playing football reappeared. The last two weeks have been quite remarkable. She is now playing football with Carshalton Athletic every Saturday we can make it, and is really enjoying playing again. I’m a Football Mum again! I get H’s clothes ready, I wash them, I do her hair, I make sure her shinpads are clean and I make a mental note I need to get her new tracksuit bottoms and socks because she has grown. Again. I make sure her footwear is the right kind and fits. Oh, and pack a fleece in case it’s windy, and be at the side ready for a quick hug if she falls over and feels sad.

Do you know a football mum? It doesn’t have to be someone who takes their child to football – what about the mums who make sure everything is ready to make it happen for their child? Or someone who helps a club exist maybe? Or even does fundraising. If you know someone, then why not nominate them for the Football Mum of the Year Awards? The winner will be presented with their award on the 2nd September at Wembley! You just need to vote here.

Football Mum of the Year
I grew up watching York City in my teens, and before H was born we went to Tottenham games as often as we could. My dream is to take H to games and her to enjoy them as much as we did. When Shaun first arrived in the UK from Australia, football had to be his sport – even if he resisted supporting my two teams to start with! So poor old H has no choice, but fortunately she seems happy with the teams she has (thank you Harry Kane, five year olds like players who score lots of goals).

Football Mum of the Year

We’ve bought tickets for the Women’s FA Cup Final on the 1st August this year, to take H to Wembley for the first time (she missed the England v Germany game due to being ill) and I know she’ll enjoy it, watching her first big game as a neutral. Let’s not forget the Women’s World Cup this summer too – Casey Stoney has been selected for the team as well, so H has been really proud she might see someone she’s met playing football on tv soon!

Also, I’ve never played a game of football in my life. But that doesn’t stop me supporting my daughter and making it happen. If you know someone else that does that, get nominating!

Football Mum of the Year

Here’s a video which was produced on our morning out – look out for our blink-and-you-miss-it appearance! My interview with Casey will go live as soon as I get a chance.

17 May

Project 365 Week 20

Sunday 10th May. Today was ‘Rainbows Go Global’ at the Girl Guiding South HQ and fun outdoor area, which also happens to be right next to Painshill Park. It was awesome and exhausting. I’d put a picture in, but it involves other kids so I won’t be, so instead you can see the badge I was awarded for going!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 11th May. Rainbows again. The joys of a warm day meant H’s shirt from the previous day was washed and dry, her new badge sewn on. She had lots of fun tonight and I could see a more confident H emerging – she stood up and talked about things rather than being shy. It makes me so happy as she is a shy girl, it feels like a breakthrough. We got home and put on the Matilda soundtrack I’d bought from eBay. She particularly liked that she had the words to read along to on the CD booklet.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Tuesday 12th May. This was easily the busiest day of the week and Sunday was stupidly busy. From rushing to the Osteopath, H’s swimming lesson, PIlates and more, somehow I found the time to also make tea for everyone, even if it was just chopping up vegetables and putting them into the Soup Maker.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Wednesday 13th May. Ocado had Douwe Egbert’s on offer for £4, which included the limited Edition Orla Kiely jars. So I ordered two. I figured if they picked two of the same I might be able to swap one, but if I ordered three and got three of the same that would be tricky. So I saved myself £5 – I’ll still have to buy the other jar at full price, but oh, the pretty!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 14th May. The latest issue of Storytime Magazine arrived. I asked H a question to be met with silence. My baby bookworm was so engrossed in her magazine. Magazine subscriptions are the best presents you can get, I think. H is subscribed to Storytime, Okido and Anorak magazines, and has been getting the free Lego ones since she was born, pretty much!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 15th May. At knitting on Thursday night my friend Katharine gave me a pile of Brownies and Guides annuals – some of which I remember owning back when they came out. H loves them – she’s been engrossed in the Brownies annuals, and has already started asking when she can join. She’s got a Very Long Wait.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 16th May. It was our first Summer School Fair today – it was busy, hot and tiring – four hours on the raffle was not good for my back. I had to pop to the shops afterwards and went to Lidl as I’d heard they had Jeeves in stock – their bargain priced Pimm’s-A-Like – and there it was in all its glory. We had a couple of glasses later on and I can confirm it is just as good as the proper stuff. It also costs half as much, if not more. Bravo Lidl! As they say, ‘Get it while you can!’ – so I did…!

Jeeves from Lidl - their bargain priced Pimms

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

15 May

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon

As you may guess, we do rather like books by Frann Preston-Gannon a lot. They’re written and beautifully illustrated by the author, and the latest book Sloth Slept On is yet another fabulous book to add to our collection.

Sloth Slept On

Some children find a creature in a tree in their garden, and they have no idea what it is. ‘He wasn’t like any other creature we had ever found in the garden. What was he? And where had he come from?’

The children let their imagination try to work out where this animal could have come from, the pictures are so beautifully illustrated and gave us lots to talk about alongside the story. Eventually they do find out it’s a sloth, where you get a page full of interesting facts. I quite like that a sloth sleeps for up to 20 hours a day – that would suit me nicely. It was also good to talk about what we’ve learnt.

Sloth Slept On

Sloth Slept On is a great story which shows children’s curiosity and imagination – as well as them trying to help. The final seal of approval goes to H who sat reading it in her head giggling away. “this book is really funny mummy” she let me know.

So how do they get the sloth back home to where it belongs? You’ll just have to buy the book to find out – it’s available now via Pavilion Children’s Books with a RRP of £10.99. I think it would make a lovely present too.

We were sent a copy of Sloth Slept On for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

Special note – we were sent this book to review ages ago. I mis-placed the book and held the review until I could find it to get some decent photos. Apologies for it being so late!

13 May

Plasticine

I’m a child of the seventies, and for a large part of that time my creative play revolved around plasticine. Seventies plasticine was the kind which didn’t mix into nice colours, and just went brown. Thankfully, things have changed. We have been sent a selection of Plasticine goodies to see what we think.

plasticine box

Plasticine brings back so many memories for me – I remember getting pots full of various colours back when I was young and making loads of things until you couldn’t use the stuff any more. These days things have improved.

The first, most important thing is that Plasticine does not dry out! I wish we’d had some when some friends stayed over earlier this year. Our friend made an elephant head with that similar other stuff that begins with P, but after a week it was crusty and dry – and eventually it had to be thrown away which was sad.

plasticine donatello

The second thing which is also very important, you can blend Plasticine together really easily to mix colours. We put this to the test when H made a Squidgems Donatello Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle model (rrp £1.49) – which came with really easy to follow instructions. Mixing the brown and green for the shell brings out a great shade – see the pictures above.

Next we put the Plasticine to the test with an Animal Creations kit (rrp approx £4) – you add various colours to parts of the plastic legs, tail and head, then blend what is left to make the body. We got a dog and H really wanted to copy the picture on the box – it could have done to be a little bit bigger (my poor eyesight there), but H still got on with it and was pleased with the results.

plasticine animal creations

The thing which appeals the most to me about the Plasticine range we were sent is how affordable it is. H enjoys doing crafty things and liked trying out the range we were sent. We still have some packs to work through, but I know she will have lots of fun – the Fluro (rrp £1.99) looks bright and good for working with, and the Basix range (rrp £0.99) is a perfect pocket money price and a good starter point.

Something we weren’t sent but that caught my eye was this fabulous Morph plasticine kit – after all, who wouldn’t want to make their own Morph? That’s the beauty of Plasticine – there’s such a big range you can make whatever you want!

plasticine

We were also sent the Funtubulous (rrp £6.99) – a tub full of Plasticine and some cutters – we haven’t played with this properly yet, but I know it’s something H will enjoy playing with a lot – probably to make me all kinds of ‘delicious’ food… I like that the kits come with tools which help with modelling. H is rediscovering her love of making things!

We were sent a fine selection of Plasticine products for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

10 May

Project 365 Week 19

Sunday 3rd May.  After the hectic Saturday it was a rainy Sunday so we decided to have an easy one. So we went to Ikea then on to Carshalton Park afterwards for a bit of calm. H was wearing her Nirvana t-shirt and some denim, plus an oversized check shirt and she was in an absolute stinker of a mood – a proper emo-child. We decided it must be her chosen outfit which sent her a bit doolally, as she’s never normally as grumpy as she was.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 4th May. We went to Hatchlands Park, primarily to spend some money which would benefit Clandon Park, but also because the bluebells are out in force right now. It was packed – so much so that we gave up on eating there and decided to go to Winkworth Arboretum which isn’t just up the road, but isn’t that far away. They didn’t have much food there though, but we had enough – plus got to see more bluebells and the azalea steps. Anyway, Winkworth had one of the new ’50 Things to do Before You’re 11 3/4′ books so H got a new one.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Tuesday 5th May. If I don’t take a photo of anything, I’ll take it of my food. So here’s my soup as made in the Morphy Richards Soup Maker (Butternut squash, red pepper and broccoli), and some bread from the breadmaker. I like having machines that do all the hard work for me.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Wednesday 6th May. I am not vegan, but I do eat vegan food, what with having been a vegetarian since around 1983. Fry’s foods are my favourite – their curry pies are amazing. I discovered the coconut oil spray in Tesco so thought I’d give it a try – the two go well together as well!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 7th May. Yeah, that. We did it. H said “you ONLY have to put a cross on a piece of paper?!”

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 8th May. Finally after several months of trying and H getting angry and frustrated, she showed me how to tie a bow on her school dress. She worked it out at school and I’m relieved – she got so cross with herself when she couldn’t do it straight away.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 9th May. We took H to Carshalton Athletic this morning after recommendations for football groups you don’t have to commit to. It’s really close to our house so walkable, but for her first week we drove, mainly as I was sure it was going to rain anyway – it did, but nothing to get wet with! H was paired up with another girl and really got stuck in. When she did Crystal Palace lessons she would often get frustrated by things, but today she was so much happier and confident, and got on with it. She was put in the older kids group too – and her coach said she has good skills, we just need to work on her thinking which was encouraging! The best bit of all? Girls go free. How awesome is that? So we have no excuse not to go.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

10 May

Petits Filous Magic Squares

petits filous magic squares

Today was the ‘Rainbows Go Global’ day for our county Rainbows group, one which has left H and I exhausted. When we got home our food was made for us, placed in front of us and we opened our mouths at the correct time to eat it. Tired would be an understatement. When it came to pudding, H insisted on having ice cream. I was having none of it as I didn’t want to load her up with sugar. Which is where I patted myself on the back at my foresight – I made some Lego Lollies using Petits Filous Magic Squares!

petits filous magic squares

Petits Filous Magic Squares are new, available in Strawberry & Vanilla and Raspberry & Vanilla flavours, with a square of each in each corner. We’re a yoghurt loving family, so when it gets to this time of year I tend to get the lolly moulds doing what they’re meant to. I’ve found fruit juice isn’t playing ball at all right now, but yoghurt works a treat.

Which is where the Petits Filous Magic Squares come into it. One scoop of pink for the feet, a blob of yellow for the trousers, pink for the top, and yellow for the head, then expect a bit of a merge of colours in there somewhere – it’s inevitable. I’m not *that* tidy.

petits filous magic squares

So actually, when H demanded ice cream, I offered her a Petits Filous Magic Squares ice lolly, and that was quite possibly the best option of them all.

petits filous magic squares

“you’re the best mummy in the world!” she said, as she bit the Lego Man’s head off.. I’ll take that!

Available in two delicious varieties, Strawberry & Vanilla Flavour and Raspberry & Vanilla Flavour, the unique quadrant shape of the Petits Filous Magic Squares range creates a new eating experience and allows kids to mix up the magic. Whether they taste one flavour at a time, experiment with a mouthful of each, or totally mix it up, kids will love exploring the delicious new flavours.  Not only is it great tasting, Petits Filous Magic Squares provides calcium and vitamin D for strong bones. Fresh dairy products contain calcium, but not all of them have Vitamin D, which helps absorb the calcium. Petits Filous contains both calcium and Vitamin D which help build strong bones. 

petits filous magic squares

We were supplied with vouchers to buy the Petits Filous – all opinions are our own! One pot of Petits Filous Magic Squares made each lolly.

This post is an entry for BritMums #MagicSquaresPlaydates Linky Challenge, sponsored by Petits Filous.

08 May

Lots Going on at Hatchlands Park

Hatchlands Park has a Sylvanian Families trail, free for kids. H did it and enjoyed it – but remember to take a pen! It’s fun and informative – and gave us a walk through a different area of Hatchlands too. It’s very suitable for little ones too – nice paths though a few trip hazards – but lots of fun!

Hatchlands Park Sylvanian Families trail

The bluebell woods are in full bloom too – Hatchlands Park is famous for the bluebells, and they never disappoint.

hatchlands park bluebells

Best of all though, Hatchlands Park has fairy doors in some trees – there are seven in all. We found five – and it was a good distraction for H who was feeling tired and hungry at this point – expect more to appear at random times!

Hatchlands Park Fairy Doors

“I don’t believe in fairies, apart from the Tooth Fairy” my five and a half year old told me. She still tried to have a look behind the doors – so there’s still some magic there.

A quick play in an empty field with H’s boomerang, and a wander around the grounds, before making our way to the play area with plenty of things to play and balance on, and H was pretty tired.

hatchlands park

Hatchlands Park was rammed when we went – but we luckily managed to find a parking space. I think a lot was due to it being the Bank Holiday, but also I think the fire at Clandon Park just up the road contributed to the numbers. The Sylvanian Family trail was quick, and follows the one track but was well suited for H. The bluebell woods have several pathways to take (hint – the ones along the bottom have the fairy doors, but the best bluebell views are on the longer pathway).

The pony trekking was there again too – but again we didn’t get a chance – next time – we’ll always go back to Hatchlands!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

07 May

Jord Wood Watch

I was approached late last year to review a Jord Wood Watch. I’m the kind of person who is allergic to most watches, so hasn’t really worn one for a long time – but a wooden watch? I was intrigued. Mostly as I wanted to find out exactly what a wooden watch actually looks like!

Jord Wood Watch packaging

Jord Wood Watches are US based, and approached me last year to see if I’d like to review one of their watches. I have a nickel allergy so haven’t worn a watch for years. My Jord Wood Watch is a lovely sturdy one – and it is lasting well. I’ve used it daily and it shows little sign of any wear and tear – especially on the glass face.

When my Jord Wood Watch arrived, I was impressed with the packaging. It’s presented in a stylish way – complete with a wooden tag and little cushion for it to rest on.

The main test of time would be wearing it constantly. At work I’m finding I do take the watch off as I wear it on my mouse hand as the clasp rubs against my wrist, no allergic reaction, that’s just because of the way I sit at work.

I like that the watch is bigger – while it’s a Women’s watch, it has a bit more ‘bulk’ to it – it doesn’t look dainty, it has a good colour and style, and I’ve had comments from people admiring it.

jord wood watch back

The clasp on the back is a very simple one – both sides clip into the middle and are released by pressing a button – you can see on the picture above. I did remove the blue protective plastic, but it does help show how it works. So far it has been nice and strong and hasn’t popped open at unexpected moments, so that’s good. In fact, the only unexpected thing which has happened is H popping it open – it seems it’s quite appealing for a five year old – so it’s wearing well!

I was sent the Fieldcrest Jord Wood Watch – you can find more information about it over here.  It is designed to be a classic midsize watch, and I feel like it’s the perfect size for me.

Jord have many different designs of watch, so don’t rule them out – and especially don’t if you have a nickel allergy like me – six months later and still no reactions which is amazing! The only exposed bit of metal is on the clasp at the back – the other side of the watch face has a wooden back – and it’s usually there where I have the reaction.

Jord Wood Watch

I found my watch was a little bit big, but it was easy enough to remove one of the links from the band (as long as you have some tiny screwdrivers!) – though you can now get your watch custom-sized by Jord before despatch.

I think the true test of how impressed I am with the watch is that I’m still wearing it six months on, I haven’t had a reaction to it, and the face of the watch doesn’t have a single scratch – and there has been plenty of times I thought it might. At around £60ish with the exchange rate, this is a watch which is built to last.

You can find Jord Wood Watches over here – as well as on Instagram where loads of people are uploading their watches.

I received a watch for the purpose of review, all opinions are my own.

Watches Made From Wood