Tuesday 29 November 2016

Christmas Gift Ideas: Food

I love food (my increasing weight since having E is proof enough of that!) and Christmas is the perfect time to indulge, in my opinion. Diets start in January, right?! I've put together a little gift guide, or maybe bits to include in your own Christmas parties, of food items that would be great for this time of year.


Opies are a family owned company that has been around since 1880. This Christmas you can pick up their Pickled Walnuts which are a must have with cold meats and cheese. I love a cheeseboard at Christmastime but I'm not a fan of walnuts at all. Instead, I opt for gherkins. Opies do mini pickled gherkins which are just amazing! 

If you are making some festive cocktails, the cocktail cherries and sliced lemon are perfect accompaniments to these. 

Christmas baker? Add some Opies Stem Ginger to mince pies, chutneys or even apple based stuffing to give them some extra oomph.

When you think of Christmas, you think alcohol and Opies have preserved some fruits in alcohol for the occasion; Stem Ginger in Famous Grouse and Christmas Fruits in Courvoisier - yum!
Peter's Yard
Peter's Yard are authentic, traditional style Swedish crispbread that are made here in the UK. They are perfect for cheeseboards! Aside from the original flavour that suits any cheese, you can try Charcoal (recommended for Brie and soft goat's milk cheese) or Spelt & Poppyseed (to go with Single Gloucester, Camembert, Wensleydale or Caerphilly). None of the flavours mask or overpower the flavours of the cheese and they are light and crisp in texture - perfect!

In addition to these, Caraway and Pink Peppercorn have been added to the range for this year. Caraway is recommended with a strong, hard cheese whereas Pink Peppercorn is great with a wide selection of cheeses but also a rich pâté too.
Stag Bakeries

Stag Bakeries is one of the most remote bakeries in the UK, being based in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis on the Outer Scottish Hebrides.

I've been writing a lot about cheeseboards but if you want something different, why not try Stag Bakeries 'Something Different for Cheese' Fruit Cake? It is made with raisins, sultanas, currants, dates, cherries and cranberries which are generously soaked for 4 weeks in ruby port and whisky. It is also flavoured with pecan nuts, almonds, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to create a rich, delicious eat.

West Coast Dipping Crackers are available in three different flavours; Chickpea & Garlic (great with Middle Eastern dishes and dips), Green Bean & Ras el Hanout (perfect for tagines and couscous) and Lentil & Biryani (which works well with curry as an alternative to poppadums).

New to the range are Sweet Straws. They are a great alternative to tradtional sweet biscuits and are a cool twist on savoury straws. The flavours available are: Apple & Cinnamon, Blackberry & Basil, Raspberry & Chocolate and Sour Cherry & Vanilla.
Baru are quirky, contemporary Belgian confectionery and even their packaging is cool! This year they have added luxury marshmallows to their collection, all "non-chocolate" flavours; Vanilla Bean, Toasted Coconut, Sea Salt Caramel, Blueberry & Basil, Strawberry & Cacao and Raspberry & Mint.

They use natural ingredients and are made in small batches to ensure high quality. Referred to as clouds due to their soft texture and light eat, they are hand crafted in Belgium to a carefully developed recipe.

Tyrrell's are probably my favourite type of crisp so I was really excited to hear that they were adding a festive flavour to their range. Three Bird Roast is (as you've probably guessed) a trio of roast chicken, turkey and duck. I have to say, Chris and I devoured the entire bag between us in one night and the flavours and crispness are just spot on. At £2.19 per bag, I will definitely be picking more of these up over the Christmas period.

They have also added a very fun flavour to their Poshcorn range - Bellini! This is perfectly popped in small batches at Tyrrell's Court Farm using gold standard kernels. It is perfect for a cosy night watching Christmas movies!
Easiyo's bright red yogurt maker is the perfect way to make delicious, fresh yogurt at home. The brand new design is sleek and stylish yet simple. It has no moving parts or electronics so it's easy to clean and is so compact, it'll fit on your kitchen shelf. 

All you have to do is mix a EasiYo with water, put it in the maker for 8-12 hours and you will have made 1kg of fresh yogurt. There are 30 different sachet flavours to choose from and because it is made in the comfort of your own home, there are no artificial colours or flavourings. Both my children absolutely love yogurt so this would be a great hit in my house!

(This post contains PR samples.)

Monday 28 November 2016

Planting Miffy Tulips for Spring

The children and I absolutely love Miffy so we were really excited to hear that after 15 years of cross-fertilisation and patient cultivation, Dutch tulip breeders have finally produced a variety to represent the Netherlands' most famous children's character.

The Miffy tulip is deep red in colour and it is a perfect match to the shade that Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna used in the much loved storybooks over 60 years ago. The cultivation process started in 2001 when tulip breeder Ligthart Bloembollen cross-fertilised two varieties to achieve the right shade and form required, then it was a question of waiting for vegetative reproduction to take place.

By 2014, Ligthart had created a cultivated area of 50m² at which point the company sold the variety under a code name to a company called Pennings de Bilt in Breezand. They are now aiming to increase the area to supply enough Miffy bulbs for sale at retail in 2017/18.

Marja Kerkhof, MD of Mercis, Dick Bruna's publishing company said, "We are nearing the end of a long, special journey working with some of our country's most talented tulip growers to produce the special Miffy tulip. I am looking forward to the moment when the variety is on sale to the general public, which hopefully will be next year."

This year, there are only 2,500 Miffy bulbs in existence and we were really lucky to receive a pack of five bulbs to plant ourselves! We don't have a proper garden with grass so the children don't really have a lot of gardening experience, although C does like watering the flowers at preschool when he needs a little break from the noise levels indoors. Luckily, we didn't need a grass area to plant these and we decided to use little pots instead.  

Both children had so much fun getting messy with the soil, popping their tulip bulbs in and topping with more soil. C has been a little impatient and keeps asking if they've grown yet! They both are enjoying taking care of their little plants and making sure that they are watered daily. I will be sharing their changes over my social media accounts so please keep an eye out - I'm so excited!

We received a copy of the Miffy's Garden book too which I think is getting them even more excited. I think they've caught the bug now and we will definitely be making sure we plant some more bulbs of different varieties.

Some of the 2,500 Miffy bulbs have been planted in the world famous Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. It will be open from March 23rd until May 21st 2017 and you will be able to see them growing in the Keukenhof's Walk of Fame and also in the Miffy garden located in the park.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Look in my Letterbox #78

It's Saturday so it's time for a new edition of Look in my Letterbox! I've received some lovely items this week but I have some wins that I've been waiting on for ages and they don't seem to be coming - boo!

Here's what came this week...

Tresor Paris bracelet
How gorgeous is this?! Tresor Paris have lots of instant win games on Facebook and I was lucky enough to win one worth £149!
The Jungle Book DVD
I didn't get a chance to see this movie in the cinema but I thought the casting was amazing so I was so chuffed to win a copy!

Nuby bundle
I love Nuby products so I adore this bundle!

Avengers pyjamas and advent calendar
I won these from an early advent competition with Character UK. C loves the Avengers so they are perfect for him.

BRIO Rescue Set
We love BRIO products so we were thrilled to review this set. I've already published my review so if you missed it, you can read it here
Milkshake DVD
C loves watching Milkshake before preschool every morning so he was delighted to see this arrive for him.

Christmas present
Casdon sent the kids a Christmas gift! It only arrived this morning so we haven't yet unboxed it. I will be videoing the unboxing so keep an eye out for that.

Did you receive anything nice this week?
Friday 25 November 2016

BRIO Rescue Set - Review

This month at preschool, C's topic of learning is 'People Who Help Us'. C has always been a massive fan of the emergency services and is constantly changing his mind between wanting to be a firefighter and policeman. BRIO recently sent him the Rescue Set to review so it was perfect timing to tie in with his current school subject.

If you aren't familar with BRIO, they have been creating wooden toys to encourage imaginative play since 1884. This Rescue Set is a mixture of wood and plastic which is a bit odd but I understand why they've done it.

C has owned quite a few different types of railway tracks and I always dread building them for him. I always go wrong somewhere, mess the whole thing up then end up getting Chris to build it. This set contains 30 pieces and I have to admit that although very little of it was train track, that same feeling of dread washed over me. I needn't have worried though and it only took me around five minutes between looking at the instructions and the photograph on the box.

The truck, track and trees are all made of wood. The firefighter figures, fire engine, fire station, crossing and bridge are plastic and the fire is a rubber material. 

C was so excited to get playing, especially when I showed him that pressing the yellow button on the top of the fire truck made the siren go and the lights flash. For a little track, there is so much fun to be had. C was placing the fire at different areas then making his fire engine speed out of the station and go around the track. The door of the station can be opened and shut and the ladders on the engine can move to reveal a hose. The hose can be extending by pulling (and it can fit perfectly in the firefighters hand) then retracted easily by twisting the yellow plastic that it's attached to.

There is so much imaginative play to be had with this set and C has played endlessly with it. I particularly like that the track isn't flat, parts of the track are resting on the rocks meaning that he has to push his vehicles uphill. Sometimes C can play a little too vigorously meaning that he'd knock the track off so I'd have to fix it over and over again. A little annoyance but not the end of the world. It is so well-made, sturdy and the detailing is fantastic, I can definitely see lots of play happening with this set over the coming years.

The BRIO Rescue Set is suitable for children aged 3+ and retails at £79.99. You can find out more about the full range at the BRIO website and you can keep up to date on Facebook and Twitter.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)
Tuesday 22 November 2016

The Magical Christmas Experience at Titanic Belfast

On Saturday the four of us attended The Magical Christmas Experience at Titanic Belfast. I only saw it advertised on TV eight days before and straight away I was on the website to find out more. 

At four and two, C and E are very excited about Christmas and Santa and I felt that at a price of £15 per child and £4 per adult, it was very reasonable. The event runs from November 18th until December 23rd and when booking you can choose a date and time that suits you. We went on the second day, November 19th at 10.30am. Our reason for choosing that date was simply because Chris was off work and we wanted to go when it was reasonably quiet so 10.30am on a Saturday seemed perfect. I spoke to the kids a lot about it and they were so excited to see Santa, C even requested to wear his Christmas jumper to show him.

We arrived and we went into an entrance between black drapes. In front of us was a kind of check-in desk and to the side were two massive candy canes either side of the entrance to the actual experience. I'm really annoyed with myself that I didn't catch the name of the man at the desk because he was so lovely and great with the kids and really helped kick off the excitement for them. Firstly, he was dressed as an elf which I'm sure the kids thought was really cool and he asked their names, jotted them down in his book and had a few little jokes with them. I really liked him and thought he was fantastic. He gave each child a pencil and sheet of paper with a map of what to do and told them to look out for the reindeer stickers as we walked around and tick them off as we go. With E still being in a buggy when we go out, I loved that there was a little space for me to store it as we went around. There was also the opportunity to have juice, tea, coffee and cookies.

When we entered the experience, it was set up like a little old fashioned town with a lane to follow to each activity. Our first stop was writing our letters to Santa. We sat at a little picnic table and the kids got writing on templated sheets addressed to Father Christmas. At the bottom you can write your child's name, age and your email address, I'll speak more about this later. The children then ran over to post them in the postbox to make sure Santa received them and knew what they wanted for Christmas.

We then made stops at the dress up station, where you could try on traditional clothing (C was very taken with the top hat!), mini cinema where the kids adored the massive beanbags and cartoons shown on a big screen, decoration making where they glued eyes and a nose onto lollipop sticks to make a Rudolph tree decoration and a stop for giant versions of Jenga, Hoopla and Noughts and Crosses. We skipped on the storytelling unfortunately as C would never sit still for a story!

Once we had been to all the stops and found all the reindeer stickers, C and E's names were called - Santa was ready to see them! We made our way to the Old Curiosity Shop where we knew Father Christmas was waiting. Before we could enter, a lady dressed in traditional clothing had a massive 'Naughty or Nice' list and asked which list the children thought they were on. She had a look and happily said that they had been good all year and Santa did in fact, have their names on the Nice list. Both of the children were so happy. I really liked this lady. She stayed perfectly in character and acted like she was so happy and excited for the kids. She ushered us over to a spot in the middle of the room and told the children to close their eyes - it began to snow! Of course, it was a snow machine but the joy in C's eyes is something that I will never forget. I am so glad she had recommended that I take a photograph.

Now it was time for our Santa visit. C knocked the door and went on in, full of confidence, with E following shyly behind. C was totally blown away and got straight into a conversation with him. He showed off his Christmas jumper just like he wanted to and Santa even sang Jingle Bells with them. He really gave them a lot of time and we didn't feel rushed at all. C, who is usually shy with strangers, had no problems at all with jumping up on Santa's knee for a photograph. E did get a little freaked out but she is only two and had been a bit ill with a fever the night before so I had to sit her on my knee. The photograph was definitely the best part and C's little face is wonderful.

The kids came away with a toy each and little bags of sweets and we got two photographs with Santa. They had an amazing time and I do think it's got them excited for Christmas. When I first left, I did feel a bit like almost £40 for the four of us was a bit much for what it was but once I thought about how much a single visit, photo and present for each child alone would cost at a regular shopping centre combined with how amazed my children felt after it, it was totally worth it. Two days later, I received a reply to C's Santa letter to my email address in PDF form for me to print for him. Chris received E's one. Both letters mentioned the items that the children had asked for. I will definitely be printing them off and adding them with the post a little bit closer to Christmas.

You can book tickets for The Magical Christmas Experience at the Titanic Belfast website.

(We purchased these tickets ourselves and I was not required to write a review, I just wanted to share our experience.) 
Monday 21 November 2016

Dressing for Christmas - Festive Jumpers from Matalan

I love Christmas. It is my favourite time of year, even more so since becoming a mother. There is nothing I love more than giving gifts and seeing the magic on my children's faces when they see what they have received. I go all out, I buy tons of new decorations every year and buy myself and the children festive clothing. I especially adore Christmas jumpers. I know a lot of people can dislike them but I truly think that it isn't Christmas until you have one.

Matalan very kindly sent the four of us jumpers for the holiday season. I love Matalan and it's my first port of call when I need to buy clothes for any of us. I think 95% of my children's wardrobe has been purchased from Matalan so I knew that I would love their Christmas range.

C is four now and I've been recently getting him more into choosing his own clothes to wear so I let him pick for himself and his two year old sister, E. He spotted a gorgeous red one with Rudolph on the front for himself and a fluffy pink one with a cute little penguin for E. He then noticed a "daddy sized" Rudolph jumper so of course Chris needed that to match! I opted for a standard fairisle style grey jumper.

As soon as they arrived, C's little face lit up and couldn't wait to get it on. He immediately noticed a sticker on Rudolph's nose - it plays Jingle Bells when you press it! He honestly thought that it was the best thing ever and actually cried when I had to take it off him to put his pyjamas on. It will definitely be worn a lot in the run up to Christmas - he even had to wear it to visit Santa and show off the song! It has "MERRY XMAS" on the back under the collar and he keeps trying to turn his jumper around whilst he's wearing it so he can read it. Super cute!

E's jumper is very fluffy, comfortable and utterly adorable. She thinks it's great that her penguins wears a hat and scarf just like she does. She's recently been telling us that her favourite colour is pink so it was nice to get a Christmas jumper in that colour, it isn't one you'd traditionally think of at Christmas.

Mine and Chris's jumpers were very warm and cosy and fit perfectly. Chris isn't a fan of Christmas jumpers at all so I did wonder if I'd actually get him to wear it - he kept it all on day and when I queried it he said, "It's keeping me warm." I'll take that as a win! The lovely cartoon style Rudolph of the men's jumper is very fun and the kids love it. I think my fairisle one is very understated and I love the little Christmas trees, baubles and snowflakes. It's sparkly too, how can anyone say resist that?

I absolutely adore all of our jumpers but I have to say that the price is what blew me away the most. Both of the children's jumpers were £10.00 each, Chris's men's jumper was £16.00 and my women's, £18.00. I've seen some online retailers sell single men's jumpers for £54 so having four fantastic quality and great fitting jumpers for the same price is amazing. 

To have a look at their full range of Christmas jumpers, check out the Matalan website. You can keep up to date on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too.

(We received these jumpers for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Saturday 19 November 2016

Look in my Letterbox #77

It's Saturday so that means its time for a new Look in my Letterbox! If you're new to my blog, every Saturday (if I remember to schedule it!) I write about what I received in the post that week. I know I'm not the only nosey person out there and I've had good feedback on it so I love writing it. If you go to my archive you can see past instalments of LIML too.

Here's what I received this week! 

Funko Pop
I won this from Underground Toys on Twitter. Chris is a massive Star Wars fan and we began collecting Funkos earlier this year so I'm chuffed with this win.
 I won this from Areandpops blog. C absolutely hates having his teeth brushed so I'm hoping it will keep him distracted a bit.

Baking book
This was a web win from Cakes and Sugarcraft. Everything looks so good in it so I can't wait to try it out.

Mr Tumble Toys
 Apologies for the terrible photo, I've literally just snapped it at 8pm and lighting is awful so I had to use the flash! I am so excited to be reviewing these with the kids. C actually had been asking for the Mr Tumble Car!

Miffy items
 We received a lovely collection of Miffy books to read and red tulip bulbs for the kids to plant! 

Baker Ross bundle
The children are both so excited for Christmas so this months Baker Ross bundle will go down well!

Christmas presents
A few months ago I won a game for the LeapTV but didn't own the console! I looked into it and thought it would be great for C so I picked it up for Christmas. Argos have an offer on Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom toys where if you spend £30 you get a free Holly Wand worth £12.99. C had asked for the Elf Tree Playset and Rocket so Argos was definitely my first port of call.

CBeebies magazine 
No photo - sorry! But we received our next issue from our CBeebies magazine subscription.

Did you receive anything nice this week?