Friday, 31 May 2013

Walkers Hoops and Crosses Lunchbox Creations

We try and spend as much time as possible outside when the weather is good, after all we have to make the most of it. This of course often means picnics. It can be quite challenging to come up with original ideas, rather than the same old sandwiches every time, which is why the Tots 100 and Walkers Lunchbox Creations competition is great.

It really got me thinking of how I can make our picnics more fun - while still eating healthily. I'm hoping to get lots of ideas from the other entries too :) Here's my entry.

Our lunch today consisted of homemade falafel burgers with lettuce in pitta bread, with cucumber, carrot and yellow pepper crudites and homemade tzatziki for dipping and of course a packet of Walkers Hoops and Crosses. The carrot sticks made a great board to play noughts and crosses :) We also had Mikado fruit skewers, which went down very well with the little one.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Highfield Happy Hens, Etwall, Derbyshire

Yesterday we visited Highfield Happy Hens at Etwall. I have been meaning to visit for a long time now as I had heard some great things about it, and I love the way it was started.

Over 20 years ago, the owners started inviting homeless youngsters into their home. They needed something for them to do, so they started helping out a neighbour by collecting eggs. They then built their own chicken sheds and it seems to have gone from strength to strength. They now work with both the youth offending service and the education authority.

Highfield Happy Hens now has a farm shop, tea rooms, childrens play areas, crazy golf, animals to feed and you can even collect your own eggs!

Unfortunately when we got up today we were faced with the typical British summer - it was chucking it down! We debated on whether to still go or not, but in the end we donned our wellies and waterproofs and off we went.

There are advantages of the rain of course!

When we arrived we walked into a very welcoming looking shop, which had lots of lovely looking fresh produce, as well as a range of childrens toys. We bought some animal food which was very reasonably priced at 50p for a bag. The tea room was clean and tidy and they had some lovely looking cakes, although we had bought a picnic!

Due to the rain we headed straight to the indoor play area where there were various toys and climbing frames - Sophie particularly liked the tractor sit on ride.

The rain soon eased off and we took this as our cue to head on towards the animals, we passed pigs and sheep then headed up to an indoor barn, which had pigs, goats, lambs and calves which could be fed. Further up the track there were various different breeds of chickens, before reaching the top of the path with lots of free range chickens in a field which we fed. Sadly the weather didn't allow us much time outdoors, so we headed up another track to the big barns where we could collect some eggs. I think this was definitely the highlight of Sophies day - she loved looking for and collecting the eggs! You then take your eggs to the shop to pay for them and they are boxed up.

We then headed back to the indoor play area, where there are a few picnic benches and ate our lunch. It was a shame the weather stopped us using the outdoor play and picnic areas, and spending more time looking at the animals, but we will definitely be back again, hopefully when the weather is better.

Click here to visit the Highfield Happy Hens website

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 24 May 2013

Really cheesy cheese scones.

I often find shop, and even bakery, bought cheese scones are very bland. So here's my recipe for really cheesy cheese scones.

These are perfect served warm from the oven with butter. We often take them out with us on picnics too. I tend to make them in large batches and freeze them.


250g self raising flour
55g butter
pinch of salt
good pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
100g mature cheddar cheese, plus extra for on top
150ml full fat milk


1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees
2. Sift the flour, salt and cayenne pepper into a bowl
3. Rub in the butter, either by hand, or in a food processor, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
4. Mix in the cheese, then add the milk slowly and mix until you have a soft dough
5. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and kneed lightly
6. Roll out the dough to approx 2cm thick, cut out the scones and place onto a lightly greased baking tray. Sprinkle the tops with cheese.
7. Bake for 12-14 mins until the cheese is bubbling on top and the scones are browned. Place on a wire rack to cool

Happy baking! x

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Potty training....

So I think the time has come. And I have no idea what I am doing.....

Sophie knows what the potty is for, but as of yet hasn't used it, she got it out this morning saying 'doo' (poo). So off came her nappy again - she sits on the potty, then gets up and wanders off. Shes been doing this for days now. I'm not sure it has anything to do with her wanting to use the potty, more her current dislike of wearing clothes (who needs clothes!). Shes currently taking off her t-shirt too.

She has on a few occasions had a wee or poo without the nappy on (never on the potty or toilet though) and has got so upset and worked up over it. I'm really not sure she is ready, but when shes asking for the potty, I can hardly say no - luckily I have a carpet cleaner!

For the first time in a long time I feel like I did when she first came home - totally out of my depth - I'd not even thought too much about potty training, maybe that's because of my total denial that I no longer have a baby, but a toddler! And once shes out of nappies, there will be no denying that she really is growing up - I don't think I'm ready for that.

So I am currently sat watching my baby toddler wandering round the lounge in nothing but a pair of socks wishing that time would slow down, while trying to figure out if she really is ready for the potty!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My promise to my little girl...

Dear Sophie,

The moment I saw you, I loved you unconditionally, the best times of my life have been watching you grow into the amazing little girl you are today. You make me laugh, cry, frustrate me and challenge me every single day. When I am feeling sad, you know how to cheer me up. Having you has got me through some of my darkest days, so here is my promise to you.

I will love you unconditionally throughout your life, I will stand by you, support you and listen to you no matter what. I will ALWAYS be your Mum and you will always be my little girl. I will do everything I can to make sure your life is a happy one, and not one day goes by when you don't know you are loved by me at least.

I am sure we will row, thats just part of life, but I will still always be there for you. I don't mind what you do with you life as long as you do something that makes you happy - I won't judge your success on your career, or how you choose to live your life - I will judge your success on your happiness. As long as you are happy, I will be proud of you.

Love Always
Mum xxxx

Friday, 17 May 2013

Black forest cake

This has to be one of my favourite cakes ever - its a very simplified take on the black forest gateaux. I use a cake recipe from Mary Berry, which makes a lovely light sponge and isn't too sickly or chocolatey, then I fill it with tinned black cherries and double cream.

You can of course vary the filling if you don't like black cherries, just use your favourite filling, the cake itself is so yummy it really doesn't matter!


  • 190g/6½oz self-raising flour
  • 150g/5oz caster sugar
  • 2 level tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 150ml/¼ pint sunflower oil
  • 150ml¼ pint milk 

For the filling
  • 300ml double cream
  • Tin of black cherries 


  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease and line with greased greaseproof paper the bases of two 20cm/8in straight-sided loose bottomed sandwich tins.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the syrup, eggs, oil and milk, mix with an electric hand whisk and pour into the tins.
  3. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes springs back when lightly pressed with your fingertips. Turn out on a wire rack, remove the paper and leave to cool.
  4. For the filling, spread the cherries and their sauce on the bottom cake, whip the cream and spread it on top, then place the 2nd cake on top. Dust with icing sugar to finish

Happy baking! x

My first attempt at bread - Breakfast rolls.

I'm branching out! So far my baking career has only extended to cakes, muffins, scones etc, so I thought I should try something new.

Michael bought me a copy of Paul Hollywoods How to Bake for Christmas, and up to now I hadn't used it. I had a flick through and this recipe caught my eye. Michael loves his cooked breakfasts, and as neither of us are good in the morning I thought these would be ideal to grab on the way out, especially when I have to be at work for 8am on a weekend.

Ok so they aren't the healthiest breakfast, but then neither are the cakes I love making so much!

I must admit to being a bit worried about how these would turn out, but I needn't have, even Sophie, who isn't a huge fan of bread and often turns her nose up at a sandwich, eating the filling and bringing me the bread, loved them! She ate 2 for her lunch.

I used the fillings suggested in the book, but you could put pretty much anything in the middle and they would be ideal for picnics too. Maybe try a pizza filling? I imagine Sophie would love that :)

Happy baking! x

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

30 ways to save £1 (or thereabouts)

Like so many other families, since the credit crunch we have had to tighten our belts. I am always looking for new ways to save money and so are the lovely people over at Money Supermarket.

They want to find 1000 money saving tips to help us all, whether it is reducing our outgoings or saving to afford that holiday, new car or house deposit.

 And to help them out here are 30 of my money saving tips :)

  1. Cook meals in bulk and freeze leftovers to reduce waste
  2. Try having a vegetarian meal each week as meat is so expensive
  3. Have one or two really cheap meals each week
  4. Buying frozen veg will help you reduce waste
  5. Try buying supermarket own brands instead of top brands, the quality can be very good
  6. Don't be tempted by buy one get one free offers if its not something you would normally buy
  7. Always meal plan and write a shopping list to avoid impulse buys
  8. If you really can't avoid temptation, then try shopping online
  9. When shopping online, always search the internet for voucher codes for money off or free delivery
  10. Try the budget supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl - we recently tried Aldi and the quality has been great
  11. Buy non-perishable items in bulk to save money - just make sure it is something you will actually use!
  12. Freeze fruit and veg if it is close to its use by date. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies.
  13. Make extra for meals and use for packed lunches, or dinners the next day
  14. Use up veggies that are about to turn in soups
  15. I always make a tomato pasta sauce the day before shopping day and use up whatever veg I have left in the fridge
  16. Use natural cleaners such as vinegar and lemon juice rather than expensive shop bought cleaners
  17. Dried pet food often works out cheaper per meal than tinned food
  18. Make a picnic, grab a football and head down to the local park for a free day out with the kids
  19. Always take a flask of hot water out for the day with you to save on expensive cafe prices
  20. Look on discount sites such as Groupon for cheap days and meals out
  21. Take advantage of kids eat free deals in restaurants
  22. Go to places with a salad bar included in with the price and fill up
  23. Drink tap water or refillable soft drinks, restaurants make a massive profit on drinks
  24. Take advantage of cheap online photo processing deals
  25. You can buy canvas kits online and print your own photos on them, they make great gifts for family too
  26. Make Christmas and Birthday presents for family and close friends, or make up hampers with things you know the recipient loves
  27. Get the kids to make cards for family
  28. Look out for local nearly new sales for kids clothing
  29. Do toy swaps with your friends rather than buying new toys when the kids get bored
  30. Always shop around for bigger purchases, you can get some good deals on the internet and can also use cash back sites and collect loyalty cards

Happy money saving!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Leibster Awards

Wow, I couldn't believe that on just my 3rd day of blogging Ciara from City To Sticks nominated me for a Liebster Award. Thank you!

My understanding of this award is that it helps new bloggers build up their audience and reach new people, and also helps people find new blogs to follow - what a great idea and something I am very grateful of so early on in my blogging journey.

So there are a few rules that go with this award -

  • list 11 facts about yourself
  • answer the 11 questions I have answered below
  • choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate
  • go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award
  • thank that person who nominated you and link back to their blog


11 facts about myself

  • I have worked in both France and the USA
  • I owned horses for almost 20 years from the age of 7
  • I have a massive phobia of spiders - so much so I get panic attacks when I see really big ones.
  • Since starting blogging I have become addicted to Twitter
  • When I was younger I was adamant that I never wanted children!
  • I was always a tomboy growing up and was devastated that my parents wouldn't buy me a Scalectrix
  • I have lived in over 20 different houses
  • I have 4 half brothers and 2 half sisters - all much older than me and grown up and left home by the time I was born, in fact most of my nephews and nieces are older than me!
  • I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up ;)
  • I still love watching The Lion King (and I still cry when Mufasa dies!)
  • I only started baking a couple of years ago but have definitely caught the bug.

 11 Questions

Why did you start blogging?

To keep an online diary of  my life, something for Sophie to see when she is older :)

If you could eat lunch anywhere in the world, where and what would you eat?

Just one place? Hmmm, tricky one, there are so many amazing places that I would love to visit, but I guess it would have to be somewhere hot, to be honest I wouldn't care where I was as long as I had my family with me

Whom, what, where does your blogging inspiration come from?

My family and my love of baking :) The simple things in life that mean so much more to me than any amount of money ever could

What is your favourite quote?

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid - Albert Einstein

What projects are you working on right now?

Mainly this blog, and getting my head around twitter.

What is the best thing about you?

I hate these kinds of questions - I guess I would have to say my loyalty to the people I love

Will you follow the bloggers that you nominate?

Definitely! Being new to blogging I am on the lookout for like minded people to follow and learn from

What makes you giggle?

My daughter! Shes such a comedian.

My 11 nominations 


Bubba Blog
A Frugal Wife
Baked Potato Mummy
Happiness is Homemade
Mummy Endeavours
Thursdays Child, Fridays Thoughts
Mummy Makes Cakes
Little Guys Mummy
Little Capulet
Over 40 and a mum to one
Funky Mamma

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Your best parenting moment?

I never realised just how overwhelming being a mummy would be - I'm not the natural maternal type, but from the moment I laid eyes on my little girl I was amazed by her. For the first 2 weeks of her life we didn't even turn the TV on, we just watched her, whether she was eating, sleeping, crying... you get the picture.

Each and every day she suprises me, she does something new or funny, or runs up and gives me a cuddle unexpectedly, and I was trying to think what our best moment has been - I'm just not sure I can pinpoint one. Of course there are all the firsts - smile, steps, words.

But then there are all the other things she does too, the way she giggles uncontrollably if we sniff her feet (don't ask how that came about!) or the look of absolute surprise she adopts when she opens a present, or we play peekaboo, or when I ask her for a kiss and get a toy tiger launched towards my face!

Then there are the simple things, watching her going up and down the slide, or play on the swings, trying new foods, having her come for a cuddle before bedtime. I never realised just how rewarding the so called mundane activities of everyday life could be.

What has been your best parenting moment so far? I'd love to hear from you :)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A chocoholics dream!

This was another really easy, but very effective cake I made recently. I took it to a friends house for Easter lunch and it went down very well - I was actually really shocked how simple and quick it was.

Starting off with 2 chocolate sponges (any recipe, or if you really aren't into baking you could buy them) I simply sandwiched them together with chocolate buttercream (you can also buy this ready made) - no need to be neat and tidy, you won't see it once its decorated, then I placed Cadburys Chocolate Fingers round the side (you could use kitkats) and covered the top with Maltesers.

And thats it! Everyone who saw it thought it looked great and didn't believe me when I said how easy it was.

Enjoy! x

Somewhere over the rainbow....

I spent a long time trying to decide on a theme for Sophie's birthday cake this year. Shes at an age where she loves everything, but there's no one particular thing that stands out for her. I would say her favourite thing right now is all things princess (or drindess as Sophie would say!) but I wanted to save that for when shes older. So, after coming across a gorgeous looking rainbow cake in a magazine I decided to give it a go. And here are the results :)

I found that this cake was great fun, yet relatively easy to make and looked really stunning when I cut into it. Suprisingly it didn't even take that long either. Everyone loved it so it was well worth the effort.

The cake recipe I used comes from the Good Food website and creates quite a dense cake, which doesn't rise much at all - leaving the layers thin and flat, so ideal for stacking. I did 7 layers altogether, but you can do less if you want.

The following recipe is enough for 2 layers, for subsequent layers, just repeat;

  • 125g butter , softened
  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together using an electric whisk, then separate equally into 2 bowls and add your food colouring. Put in 2 greased and lined 20in round sandwich tins and bake in a preheated oven 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for 12 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Repeat for additional layers.

For the frosting I wanted to use a cream cheese frosting, as with the Good Food recipe, but found the one they suggested came out way too runny, so I used one with butter.

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1200g icing sugar
  • 500g full fat cream cheese

Mix together the butter and icing sugar, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add the cream cheese and mix in. I actually found it easier to split the ingredients in 2 and make 2 separate lots of icing.

When all your cakes have cooled sandwich them together with the icing and then coat. I found it best to do a thin crumb coat first, then a thicker coat afterwards.

Hints and Tips

  •  Avoid using supermarket food colourings - to get the depth of colour to make this cake look stunning you really do need professional food colouring gels or pastes. Even the gels you can buy in the supermarket aren't strong enough, by the time you have added enough to get the vibrant colours you will have altered the taste and consistency of the cake. I used the Sugarflair range of colours and while not the cheapest you only need to use a small amount. I also mixed the orange and purple myself from the other colours
  •  If your cakes rise and dome too much they will need trimming. The easiest way to do that is to freeze the cake first, use a sharp knife and trim the top, then while still frozen spread a thin crumb layer of icing onto your cake
  • To ensure the top of your cake is flat turn over the top later of cake so the bottom is on top
  • Theres no need for lots of decoration on the outside of this cake - it looks so impressive when you cut into it.
  • There are a variety of different icings you could use on this cake. Buttercream, white, dark or milk chocolate grenache, cream cheese frosting are just a few

Sophie turns 2!

When you have a baby, you don't realise how true it is when people tell you how quick the time goes, but I cannot believe that on the 5th of May it was 2 years since the whirlwind that is Sophie came into our lives.

Just a few minutes old

In those 2 years our lives have changed beyond recognition. We've had sleepless nights, tears and tantrums (and thats just us!) Its been a real rollercoaster, but its undoubtedly been the most amazing 2 years of our lives.

3 months old

Its such a cliche, but it has beyond amazing watching our helpless little bundle grow into such a happy, loving, funny and stubbornly independent little girl. She never fails to make me smile, and I find it impossible to stay mad at her, no matter how naughty she is!

1 year old


It was quite emotional thinking that now shes 2 we really can't refer to her as a baby anymore. Shes this little person with her own thoughts and opinions (on EVERYTHING!) but as amazing as she is, I do miss the little bundle that she was.

We had such a wonderful weekend for her birthday. On the Saturday we had family arriving from down south to stay for the weekend - I was pretty worried how we would all squash into our little house, but we managed just fine and it really made it a fantastic weekend for Sophie - she loved all the attention! On the Sunday we had yet more people round for cake in the afternoon. Luckily the sun was out and we spent the whole day in the garden for the first time this year - we really couldn't have asked for a more perfect weekend!

Enjoying her birthday cake aged 2

Thanks for reading x