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Monday, 28 February 2011

Magpie Monday - charity shop finds from my weekend away

I went away for the weekend for the first time ever without the children. I was in Kent visiting my brother.

I was quite excited that I had never visited his town before so was looking forward to what treasures I might find in the charity shops there.

On the whole, my trip was disappointing charity-shop wise (although wonderful in every other way!)

My first port of call was an animal charity shop which smelt like a dog kennel. It was dark, dingy and disorganised with a poor range of products. The next two shops were not much better so very unusually, I only have one purchase to report this week. This was a bundle of Match Attax Trading Cards that I knew my son would love and that they were practically giving away. I got loads of packets of them for just £1 in total.

Part of my weekend away included having a funky new haircut. When I returned to my brother's, I went to the loo and wanting to admire myself noticed there was no mirror in the bathroom. So I bullied him into taking me to the British Heart Foundation Furniture Shop he had told me about.

This place was amazing - just as much fun as looking round Ikea but with cheap and cheerful price tags. It was an Aladdin's cave of tables, chairs, wardrobes, beds, magazine racks and the like. Some genuine antiques, some retro reminders and some modern wonders.

We went to the bedroom departments and found a large and wonderful mirror for £10. Perfect!

I now want to hire a van and travel back down there to buy a Mexican style bedroom suite and a huge bookcase amongst many other things ....

Me and My Shadow

Pancake Recipe from Loseley

JOIN YOUR MOTHER AND LOSELEY FOR SOME PANCAKE THROWING ON SHROVE TUESDAY, 8 MARCH



It’s one of the most exciting days in the culinary calendar and a chance for you to show off your skills to the rest of the family on this year’s Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday. Loseley Chilled Foods is here to help with an utterly delicious recipe of Mini Pancakes with Loseley’s Rich and Creamy Plain Yoghourt, guaranteed to help perfect the pancake toss!



So, whether you plan to turn the kitchen into a pancake pantry or a berry haven, Loseley’s scrumptious combination is easy to whisk up in an instant. For a more healthy twist, why not substitute fruit and berries, or even Loseley’s Caramelised Pear and Creamy Fudge Yoghourt for the golden syrup.



Loseley has always been proud of its naturally fresh and tasty products made from the finest quality ingredients. You can indulge yourself with four flavours: Raspberries and Jersey Cream, Strawberries and Jersey Cream, Caramelised Pear and Creamy Fudge, and a Rich and Creamy Plain Yoghourt. All come in individual 150g pots and are gluten free, with no artificial colours or flavours.



Loseley Chilled Foods are available from the chilled cabinet of local independent grocers, Morrisons and Waitrose. Visit www.loseley.com for more information.



Mini Pancakes with Loseley’s Rich and Creamy Plain Yoghourt




A perfect recipe for children to follow and very tasty with oodles of fruity goodness.

Serves: 4

Suitable for vegetarians



Ingredients

* Self-raising flour, 110g (4oz)
* Salt, pinch
* Golden caster sugar, 15g (½oz)
* Egg, 1 large
* Vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon
* Loseley’s Rich and Creamy Plain Yoghourt, 150g (5oz)
* Milk, 2 tablespoons
* Vegetable oil, 2-3 teaspoons
* Fruit and berries or golden syrup, to serve

Method

1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Crack the egg into the middle, and then add the vanilla extract, Loseley’s Rich and Creamy Plain Yoghourt and milk.

2. Beat together with a wire whisk to make a smooth, thick batter. Next, heat a pancake pan – ideally, it should be very heavy with shallow sides.

3. Add a few drops of vegetable oil. Turn the heat to low, then drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot pan, allowing room for them to spread.

4. Cook over a medium heat until bubbles appear and the surface of the batter just begins to set – this will take about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes over with a palette knife to cook on the other side.

5. Cook the pancakes until golden brown, and then lift out onto sheets of kitchen paper. Keep them in a warm place whilst you cook the remaining batter, adding a few drops of vegetable oil into the pan when needed.

6. Serve the pancakes when they are warm, overloaded with fruit and berries or drizzled with golden syrup, or even a tablespoon of one of Loseley’s Yoghourts – why not try Caramelised Pear and Creamy Fudge.

Tell Mum you care and raise money for cancer charities

Tell the World What Your Mum Means to You…

Holly Willoughby leads the nation in declaring love for our mums with our Mother’s Day messages

Holly Willoughby is urging sons and daughters across the UK to give their mum a Mother’s Day to remember by telling their mums- and the nation- just how much they mean to them via Hallmark Cards’ virtual ‘Mums Wall’ with the most ‘liked’ messages turned into bespoke Mother’s Day cards.

Hallmark Cards is asking adults and children alike to declare their love for their mum online, hoping to hear the nation’s most funny, memorable and touching tributes on what makes their connection with their mum so special.


The campaign is part of the company’s annual Cards for a Cure™ initiative which, by Mother’s Day, 3rd April 2011 will have donated over a whopping £1 million to breast cancer charities to fund vital research into the disease.


Mum and mum-to-be Holly kicked off the ‘Mums Wall’ by completing the sentence ‘My mum means the world to me because…she is everything I want to be’ and is hoping everyone will follow in her footsteps by uploading their very own inspiring messages.


Speaking about the initiative, Holly said: “As a mum and mother to be, I know how important it is to make mums feel special on Mother’s Day. I am really pleased to be able to mark the launch of the nation’s messages to mum with the first message dedicated to my very own mum.



“Mums mean so many things to so many people, so this is the perfect opportunity to tell your mum why she means the world to you, as I have, whilst supporting such a worthwhile charity as Breast Cancer Campaign. Love you mum!”



All online visitors are also urged to ‘like’ the special mum message of their choice, whether it’s one that brings a tear to their eye, makes them smile or just has a silly picture they like! The top five favourite mum messages as voted by the public will then be turned into an exclusive Hallmark Mother’s Day card for 2011, with the winning message receiving a weekend away for them and their mum and the chance to spend some special time together.



The one-of-a-kind cards will be designed in exclusive graffiti artwork for a Mother’s Day card to remember. Graffiti Workshop UK, an educational graffiti group, will be using their specialist skills to turn the online mum messages into the money-can’t-buy cards.



Stuart Taylor from Graffiti Workshop UK said: “This is such an exciting initiative for Graffiti Workshop to be involved in and is a fantastic opportunity for the youth groups that we work with. We’ll make sure that we produce five unique cards your mums will be delighted to have for Mother’s Day!”



Hallmark Cards annually contributes £1/4 million to Breast Cancer Campaign and Action Breast Cancer, a programme of the Irish Cancer Society, as part of its Cards for a Cure™ campaign for Mothers Day. This is the fifth year of the initiative. The money is contributed independent of card and gift sales and is used to fund vital breast cancer research at centres across the UK and Ireland.



Tamsyn Johnston-Hughes from Hallmark Cards said: “Our Cards for a Cure™ campaign is something that we are extremely proud of and it has been a hugely successful initiative. It is fantastic to reach the £1.25 million mark and to know that all of the money donated to date has, and will, play such an influential role in breast cancer research projects being undertaken throughout the UK and Ireland.”





Other celebrities who have added their mum messages to the mums wall include tennis ace Greg Rusedski and Coronation Star Sue Cleaver, AKA Eileen Grimshaw as well as the man behind Reggae, Reggae sauce, Levi Roots.



Those eager to follow in their footsteps and see what message they have added for their mum visit www.hallmark.co.uk to upload their very own mum message.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Make lollies this Half-Term with Carnation

Fabulous Strawberry Milk Lollies

Makes 8

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Freezing time: 4 hours, or overnight

Lolly Ingredients

200g Carnation Condensed Milk Light

275g (10oz) fresh strawberries

100ml (3fl oz) cranberry juice

Decoration

40g (1½oz) milk or white chocolate

2tbsp sugar sprinkles

You will also need:

Ice lolly mould

Method

5. Whiz the smoothie ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.

6. Pour into the ice lolly moulds.

7. Freeze until solid.

8. To finish, melt the chocolate, un-mould the lollies by dipping the tray briefly in hot water and dip each lolly in the melted chocolate and then into the sugar sprinkles. Serve immediately or keep in the freezer for about 1 week.

Tips

o Ice lolly moulds vary in size and shape, adjust the recipe quanities accordingly.

o Add a more fruit juice to this recipe and chill down for a luscious drinkable smoothie!

o Try your own combinations – we like:

o Cranberry juice with fresh raspberries and/or strawberries

o Orange juice with fresh mango and pineapple

o Apple juice with blackberries

o You can also do layered lollies – try freezing one flavour first then top up with another flavour! Add the sticks with the second layer.

Fizz your way a great Half-Term

FIZZ YOUR WAY TO THE GOOD LIFE

At Half Term, we’re all looking for small ways to spend less whilst having lots of fun too.

Sodastream is one way families can have fun and save money at the same time, by using ordinary tap water to make great-tasting sparkling soft drinks and fizzy water at home. And with the average Brit drinking 229 litres of soft drink a year* there’s a lot of money to be saved.

Now there’s a whole host of Sodastream flavours available – from brand new flavours like Pink Grapefruit and Red Berry to favourites such as Cream Soda and Cherry as well as a naturally-flavoured Clear range.

For those who like an added boost to their day, Sodastream’s own energy drink Xtreme works out at a fraction of the cost of a leading brand - £0.12p for a standard 250ml serving versus £1.35 - an extreme saving! There’s also a sugar-free version of Xtreme for detox fans, which has all the benefits but is sugar free. Brand new for 2011 is an Isotonic Blueberry [to aid rehydration] – there’s something to suit every taste bud and mood.

And if you’re simply a fan of sparkling water, the saving could be even more, using only water from the tap and producing zero energy wastage in the process.

Our family love using Sodastream and we highly recommend it as an affordable way to have lots of fun in a very refreshing way.

Hotel and Hamleys Family Treat

The award-winning Hilton London Metropole has partnered with Hamleys,
one of world’s finest toy stores, to create the ultimate guest
experience for families with the launch of its new ‘Hamleys VIP’
package.

Traditionally known as one of Europe’s largest conference and
meetings venues, the 1054 bedroom hotel is looking to increase its
appeal to families, having recently completed an extensive refurbishment
of its bedrooms and public areas in the hotel’s west wing.

The package consists of a personalised VIP tour around Hamleys flagship
store in Regent Street, worth £100, and accommodation in a newly
refurbished Superior Room for a family of four. Each Superior Room
boasts two double beds and two 32 inch LCD TVs for independent viewing,
video games and in-room kids’ movies. Breakfast is complimentary and
children up to the age of 10 eat and drink free from the children’s
menu in the hotel’s Fiamma restaurant.

Avner On, general manager of the Hilton London Metropole, said, “The
hotel is an award-winning conference and meetings destination, but we
also have a lot to offer family and leisure travellers with our central
London location, large rooms and leisure facilities.

“Many families staying in London see Hamleys as a key destination so,
with great links across central London and a short distance to Regent
Street, it made sense for us to partner with Hamleys when designing our
new package. Both brands offer quality and expertise so, for us, it’s
a perfect partnership.”

The package is £275 per room per night, for two adults and two children
up to 17 years and is available until April 30th 2011.

To book, please contact the reservations team on 0207 616 6500 / email
reservations.londonmet@hilton.com. For more information visit
www.hiltonlondonmet.com/hamleys



The VIP is available Monday to Saturday only - available from 1st
January 2010 to 30th April 2011. VIP Tours can only be taken at one of
the following sessions; 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm.

The rate is based on two adults, two children aged up to 17 years. A
rollaway bed is available for a third child, dependant on availability
at the time of booking.

London Days Out for Half-Term

What's going on at the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and
Kensington Palace in the February half-term?

Details below:

Enchanted Palace, Kensington Palace - Open Daily

Hampton Court Palace - 19th - 27th February

Paintings around the palace
Join us this half term to hear the amazing stories about the artists
who painted the magnificent portraits in the palace and the people they
painted.

Follow the portrait trail and join arts and craft workshops.

For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk

All the King's Fools
Come to Hampton Court Palace at half term and learn about the lives of
jesters and fools in the Court of King Henry VIII.

For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk


Tower of London

Historical re-enactments at the Tower of London
: Life in the Medieval Palace

Come and meet knights, ladies and other members of the household of
Edward I and find out what life was really like in this magnificent
palace.

Event takes place in the Medieval Palace between 11.30 - 15.30

For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk

Fit for a King

See five hundred years of spectacular royal armour, offering a
fascinating insight into the personalities, power and physical size of
England’s kings. The skill of the royal armourers was to combine
practical protection for tournaments and battle with breathtaking
designs and decoration, all Fit for a King.

Entrance to this spectacular new exhibition, presented in the White
Tower, is included in your standard admission ticket to the Tower

For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk

Viking Festival in York

We love York and we love the Jorvik Viking Centre. They currently have a special Vicking Festival ideal for Half-Term.

Sarah Maltby from York Archaeological Trust, owners of JORVIK Viking Centre and Festival organisers, “Whether you want to get your hands dirty, live like a Viking or meet some world-class authors, then come along. There’s something for kids of all ages – big and small.”

For the full nine-day Festival programme, venues and prices visit www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk/viking-festival.

Essential Reading from Frommer's for school holidays and more

Frommer's have anexciting Free days out guide called Britain for Free - it's a great all year round book and an inspiring, funny and honest account of the best of Britain's museums, parks, galleries, wildlife, eccentricities and downright oddness.

Packed with over 300 attractions, this book shows readers how to get the most out of their free time without spending a penny. The authors have trailed the length and breadth of Britain (with children in tow) to track down and test the best attractions and undiscovered experiences. Covers all regions of Great Britain

Half-Term indoor and outdoor ideas from Louise Bruce

My name is Louise Bruce, and I used to love doing special 'themed' days for the kids when they were younger.

I would ask them to look through a book about different countries around the world and choose a country each. Then, say one of them chose Italy, on the 'Italy day' we would cook food from the country, draw or paint the flag, dress up in Itailan traditional clothes (or as near as the dressing up box would let us!...) and generally learn a bit about the country. My kids loved doing this. Mainly I think because they got to choose the country but also because, as we know, kids just want their parents to spend time with them, focussing on them, and this ticked all those boxes nicely. I think we learnt a few words from the language too. Aged 4-8

During other half terms, when they got older, I would buy cheap frames from £1 shops and we would decorate them and take a photo, print it out and put it in the frame.

I also used to buy cheap oil painting sets, give them books of famous works of art and ask them to copy one each. My 19 yr old still has her pic of Marilyn Monroe in her room and my son did a caricature of Maggie Thatcher!

Another year I set them the task of teaching the dogs a trick (yes, you need one dog per child!) I gave them some cheap cut up ham, gave them ready printed out instructions I had got from the internet on how to teach basic commands, and set them too it. Brilliant fun. Dogs so stuffed with ham after an hour they gave up but still good fun!

With thanks to Louise Bruce who owns a PR agency in Cheltenham, www.bigredboxpr.com

Half-Term for Footie Fans at Chelsea

Chelsea Football Club’s Stadium Tours and Museum is an award-winning attraction making a superb day out for families and tourists.

The fully guided tours take you behind the scenes of one of the world’s greatest football teams, including access to the players’ tunnel, dressing rooms and press room. The museum is another fantastic attraction, paying tribute to over a century of history at the club with a host of exciting exhibits, sights and sounds for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

As well as the basic stadium tours, Chelsea FC offers special Trophy Tours, Platinum Tours, Tour and Lunch Packages, Gift Packages and Children’s Parties. For further information on each particular package do let me know.


Basic information

Chelsea FC Stadium Tour

The behind-the-scenes visit to the home of 'The Blues' is a fun, informative and interactive experience perfect for families.
A guided tour of Stamford Bridge will lead you into areas usually reserved only for the players. The tour lasts approximately one hour and includes:
- The Chelsea FC Home Dressing Room
- The Visitor Dressing Room
- The Press Room
- Pitch-side and Managers Dugout
- Television Interview Rooms
- Walk through the Players Tunnel

The Stadium Tours and Museum are open all year round, excluding home match days and the day prior to a Champions League home fixture.
Monday - Sunday: 11.00, 11.30, 12.00, 12.30, 13.00, 13.30, 14.00, 14.30 and 15.00


Prices for Pre-Booked (Online/Telephone) Customers:
Adult £15
Child £9 (Under 5s are free of charge)
Concession £10 (Senior Citizen and Student with valid ID)
* Please note there will be £2.50 admin fee on all telephone orders.
Prices for Customers Paying on Arrival:
Adult £16
Child £10 (Under 5s are free of charge)
Concession £11 (Senior Citizen and Student with valid ID)


Museum Only
Monday - Sunday: 10.30am - 4.30pm (Last entry 4pm)
Adult £6
Child £4
Concession £5

Dartington Crystal Day Out at Half Term

Dartington Crystal - award winning Visitor Centre – Torrington, Devon, EX38 7AN

See and hear the fascinating story of over 40 years of Dartington Crystal
Learn the history of Dartington Crystal in the Audio Visual Theatre and then follow the Dartington Timeline from 1967 to present day
See how the first pieces of glass were made in our museum section
Watch our talented expert Master Engraving demonstration create award winning works of Art; Choose a special piece for yourself or loved ones and have it personalised with a personal message or motif. You can watch the live demonstration of glassmaking and try the many hands-on activities we have to offer...

Enter the Factory Experience and watch our award winning craftsmen at work from the elevated viewing platform - watch carefully as they work together, transforming hot molten crystal into elegant shapes, perfecting an art that's 3000 years old

Working Times
Monday - Friday* 9.30am - 4.00pm (last entry to factory 3.15pm)
*Factory Experience (only) closed on Bank Holidays

Prices
Because of seasonal variations in the availability of some site elements it is best to contact us for admission prices prior to your visit at 01805 626242 or contact us here.
Admission price includes entry to the Visitor Centre and Factory Experience.

Fun and Science at Willows this Half Term

Willows Farm Village near St Albans, Hertfordshire is gearing up for a busy week with newborn lambs arriving during the school holidays. Daily births are expected throughout the annual February Frolics event (19 – 27 February 2011) so visitors can watch and learn while Tuck the shepherd explains all about the lambing season.

Farmer Andrew Wolfe says “We’re expecting about 60% of our ewes to have twin lambs and a further 20% will have triplets, so there will be plenty of newborns to see. The lambing season is a hectic time of year for Anna and I with very little sleep as we’re on call 24 hours a day to check on the ewes and to help out with the births.”

New for February Frolics in 2011 is Mad Science who will be putting on live shows for the whole family to enjoy. The show includes real experiments performed by Mad Science Scientists that have been inspired by farming. They will ‘make mist’ appear just like in the fields very early at this time of year as well as show how to get a hard-boiled egg though a hole that is smaller than the egg without cracking it!

Andrew adds: “Our February Frolics event is designed to be both fun and educational, plus with loads of adventure play it’s a great way for the kids to get active too. It will be the last chance for visitors to enjoy our synthetic magical ice rink which closes on 27 February to make way for our springtime activities.”

A lambing event wouldn’t be complete without Bo Peep, and children can explore the farm and take part in Bo Peep’s fun search for her lost sheep and complete the answers to a quiz to win a prize.

February Frolics has something for the whole family and for all weather conditions. Outdoors there are Fun Fair Rides, Tristan the Runaway Tractor and acres of adventure play, with Woolly Jumpers and Captain Chicken’s Egg Dodge providing under cover activities.

Background Information

Willows Farm Village used to be a working farm but is now one of the biggest leisure attractions in Hertfordshire.

Visitors to Willows can enjoy entertainment, education and fun for the whole family. (Note some animal attractions and outdoor activities are seasonal).

Animal attractions include; Farmyard Favourites, Falconry Centre, reindeer, wallabies, a Sheep Show, Daft Duck Trials and Sheep Racing.

Outdoor activities include; Woolly’s Workout Agility Play Trail, Build ‘n’ Play sandpit, Tristan the Runaway Tractor, Panning for Gold, Country Fun Fair Rides, Inflatable Bouncy Haystacks and Super Slide, Tree House adventure, Leaping Lily Pads Trampolines, under 5’s play area and Lakeside Walks.

Indoor activities include; Woolly Jumpers (play barn featuring ball pools, slides and active play), Woolly's Showtime Theatre which hosts children’s shows and Captain Chicken’s Egg Dodge and Young Chicks Activity Area.

The Farmhouse Restaurant and Woolly Jumpers Coffee Shop offer a wide range of food for visitors.

Willows Farm Shop, on the same site as the Farm Village, works with local producers to provide a wide range of goods with its own butchery counter, delicatessen, fresh fruit and vegetables, breads, cakes and drinks.

Incredible AMF Bowl and Hollywood Bowl Half-Term promotion

AMF Bowl and Hollywood Bowl, which covers 45 sites across the country are running a great value promotion over half term aimed at families. As part of their Incredibowl promotion, kids can eat, drink and bowl from £4.25 per person, with adults able to eat and bowl from just £9.95.

My family visited Hollywood Bowl on Sunday morning. We were booked in for a 11am start and were disappointed that the staff on reception did not seem to know that we were expected. A manager was called who did ensure that we were given a lane for bowling quickly.

However, I still felt there was a bit of lack of customer care in that there seemed to be an assumption that you should know how to go on. This was my first visit to a bowling venue in about 20 years so I was fairly clueless. Ideally, it would have being nice to have someone telling you how to get your bowling shoes, how the game would work, what weight balls were best for different age groups and so on.

We are the sort of family that make the best of things so we worked things out for ourselves and got down to the game. I can highly recommend ten pin bowling for families that have different age groups. There were lots of people there with three generations happily enjoying a fun day out.

Our food order went well and although obviously not cordon bleu (and who would expect that anyway?), the food was tasty and well received.

There were amusement arcade machines in the building too so I would advise families to budget for that as well as the promotion costs. "Can I have a pound for ...?" soon mounts up with so many shiny, noisy machines to choose from.

We visited the toilets and I was disappointed not to find toilet roll available in my cubicle but did find some elsewhere.

Overall, a positive couple of hours was had by all and we would return for a great fun experience for all the family.

Playmais - Half-Term fun for indoor creativity

PlayMais – the ultimate in playing nice!





Award winning craft sensation PlayMais is here! Introducing an eco-friendly, green and fun new modelling material. Play with it, build with it, create with it, you can even eat it!

PlayMais is a revolutionary craft toy using 100% natural ingredients. Sweetcorn and plant dyes are moulded into colourful building material, which, using just a dab of water, stick to each other. Like all simple ideas, it’s brilliant! Once you start you can’t stop – this is THE ideal crafting toy for young artists!

Not only is PlayMais fully biodegradable and eco-friendly, all of the packaging and box contents are too – even the cutting tool in each pack is made from the cornstarch!

My family all loved Playmais and getting them all to like the same thing takes some doing. Playmais is brightly coloured and stimulates the imagination. As a busy mum, all too often I set my children up with activities whilst I get on with other things. However, I found myself getting really involved in the creative process with my children when trying out Playmais. Even Daddy got involved on his return home from work being quite proud of his efforts in building a jungle with the kids.

There really is no end to what you can make with Playmais. The only limit is your own imagination. It is so easy to use, just requiring water for sticking so no messy glue or anything like that.

We are so keen on it that we have set up a special area in the kitchen so we can leave our Playmais models on display.

We were also impressed with Playmais' eco-friendly credentials.




PlayMais has already won awards in its native country Germany, and is taking the UK market by storm, currently holding accolades from the NATLL Good Toy Awards, the ToyTalk Awards and Creative Play.

With a pack to suit everyone, PlayMais is available in a variety of sizes and themes. Generic boxes come in sizes Small, Medium and Large, and there are also Basics buckets containing 500 and 1000 pieces whilst the themed packs include Animal Farm, African Jungle, Deco, Safari, Princess and Sea World.

PlayMais is available now from John Lewis, Amazon and all good toy shops and retails from around £4.99 to £19.99. For more stockists go to www.topbananatoys.co.uk and click on the Playmais icon

Celebrate St David's Day at Colwyn Bay

St David’s Day Festival, Colwyn Bay
Date: 1st – 5th March 2011
Admission for events: FREE - £6




Five whole days of celebrations dedicated to the Welsh patron saint. With music, drama, sports, arts and crafts, and a great big St David's Day concert.

Events throughout the week include the St David’s Day parade, St Paul’s Church choir concert, drop in Welsh lessons, walks and food and drink festivities.

Where: In and around, Colwyn Bay and Llanrwst
www.visitllandudno.org.uk
01492 577 677

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The World's Wildest Quiz for Half-Term indoors

The weather is set to be a washout, with as much as 8cm (3in) of snow anticipated in Scotland and Northern England, and torrential rain forecasted for Southern parts. So keeping kids from going stir-crazy could be a big challenge this week! With this in mind I wanted to send you information about itvWILD’s The World’s Wildest Quiz.



It features;

· Live-action presenters Tim Dixon and Emma Lee from CiTV

· A 3D virtual studio

· Three levels of difficulty catering for the whole family

· Challenging interactive tasks

· Multiplayer Facebook-enabled social game play

· 1,500 questions covering every aspect of the animal kingdom



Topics cover all things ‘wild’, from animals to the environment. A great way for families to have fun and learn it’s free to play. A great way to keep kids entertained during the half term.



The World’s Wildest Quiz is part of www.itvWILD.com, a website that offers the general public free access to 1000’s of clips of wildlife and natural history content (one of the largest wildlife and natural history programming libraries in the world!). It is the natural history hub for the entire ITV network, offering exclusives on new shows and clips from ITV’s famous nature archive, including Survival, Lion Country and Cheetah Kingdom.

Magpie Monday - new yesterday and second hand today!

OK, so it is really Tuesday but I missed out on doing my Magpie Monday yesterday due to Half-Term stuff.

So what have I acquired this week on my trip to charity shops?

This week, I have focussed on books and factual ones at that. I am going to set up a new blog shortly and these books are all part of my planning and research so watch this space. If I told you the titles, it would spoil the surprise of my new blog when it goes live.

I can tell you about the Susan Jeffers book I found though. Have you heard of her book called "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!"? I always buy self-help books as I know I have a long way to go on the path to enlightened human-being status. I don't always read them cover to cover in 24 hours as I did with that book. It is written in down-to-earth terms and has helped me with its simple philosophy time and time again.

This week, I bought a book by the same woman called "Freeing Ourselves from the Mad Myths of Parenthood". Well, that has to be worth a read, right?

I also bought some glasses as I needed some "it doesn't matter if they smash" ones for juice. I bought about six zillion plastic soldiers and vehicles to entertain the boys and am sure my feet and myself will live to regret that purchase.

From Netmums, I acquired a whole new wardrobe of clothes for £55 which may sound a lot but works out at less than 75pence per item. It also marks a little move towards me getting my flagging groove back with some stylish clothing.

Finally, I bought a mug which might say way too much about me. It is in Fifties style (I adore all things Fifties!) and is of a woman in a kitchen with two messy children. She is saying in a speech bubble "I child-proofed the house and they still got in!". In Half-Term week, I am sure many of us can sympathise with the sentiment.

What are your bargains this week?

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Get baking with children this Half-Term

With rotten weather this Half-Term, why not bake with the children and make these heart shaped Millionaires shortbread - crumbly biscuit sandwiched with caramel and drizzled with dark and white chocolate.

Makes 18 biscuits

Preparation time: minutes

Cooking time: minutes

Ingredients

125g (4½oz) butter, softened

55g (2oz) caster sugar

½tsp vanilla extract

140g (5oz) plain flour

Half a 397g can Carnation Caramel

55g (2oz) dark chocolate

55g (2oz) Nestlé Milkybar

Method

1. Preheat oven to 170°C, (150°C for fan ovens), Gas mark 4.

2. Cream butter and sugar with the vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the flour and mix well. Chill the dough for 10 minutes.

3. Roll out on a floured surface to 3mm thickness and cut out biscuits using a 3cm heart shaped cookie cutter (it should make 36 hearts, if you keep rolling and cutting).

4. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes.

5. Leave to cool.

6. To serve, spread some of the caramel onto half the biscuits and sandwich back together with the remaining biscuits. Melt the chocolate in separate bowls. Drizzle the chocolate over the biscuits and leave to set.

7. Enjoy with tea or coffee or pop one in your lunchbox for a special treat!

Tip

You can freeze the dough if you don’t want to bake it all at once. Wrap tightly in a double layer of cling film – it will keep for about a month.

Monday, 21 February 2011

VTech entertains children this Half-Term

Spring half term is upon us and with the cold weather outside parents will be looking for indoor activities to keep their kids busy. Luckily VTech has a range of interactive toys to keep kids entertained but still learning this half term…


VTech Storio (3-7years) – the world’s first animated E-Book Reader for children. This interactive innovation has revolutionised the way that children read. It features a super-easy touch screen that is used to navigate through a range of exciting and well loved stories, such as New Winnie the Pooh and Kung Fu Panda.

Storio encourages children to read along with their favourite characters whilst developing understanding of letters, vowels, phonics and more. What’s more there are parent-friendly extras to help monitor your child’s development.

RRP: £59.99

NEW VTech Storio Storybook Cartridges (3-7years) £16.99

MobiGo openVTech MobiGo Touch Learning System (4-8 years) is the next generation of portable learning, featuring a touch sensitive screen which encourages children to tap, spin, flick, drag and drop within the game play. Slide the screen up to reveal a keyboard and cursor to practice typing skills. Make your child’s half term with this compact unit for fun, hands on gaming and age appropriate curriculum learning.

RRP £49.99

Saturday, 19 February 2011

5 things that make me feel good

This post is part of a blog hop thingymijiggy started by Scottish Mum and I am requested to tell you 5 secret passions that make me feel good.

1. I love my lifelong affair with boots. I hate shoes and think I am missing whatever gene makes women adore shoes and waste so much money on them. Boots are a different issue. I don't like high heels but apart from that I don't think there are any bad boots although I am yet to be totally convinced of the appeal of Uggs. I like leather in whatever colour with patterns or plain, with chains, with studs, whatever. Look forward to the day when I can strut my stuff in some thigh high ones.

2. I love the way that despite being obese, I went on a boudoir photoshoot and threw myself into the whole event with gusto. There is something inside me that is very different from the shy and pretty boring person that presents to the world who even gets on my nerves. I like that inner self and wish it would come out to play more often.

3. I love my deep passion for books. Even when finding time to read is difficult, I enjoy being surrounded by them and ensuring my children are too. I would love a room dedicated to books with shelving all around the room. Maybe my own book will appear on your shelf one day?!

4. I love cookery and prefer proper creations rather than meals that are just made for bodyfuel purposes. I like to make sauces with twigs and herbs. I love to bake - I always find it sort of spiritual and am never quite sure why. Baking connects me to my mum and generations of women before her. I am passing the skills on to my own daughter (and my sons).

5. I love my pets. Always a dog fan, I now find myself as a late convert to the cuddlesome nature of cats. I have three now and they are lovely. So we have 3 dogs and 3 cats but in one or two week's time we are expecting a number of new additions too. I talk to my animals, I hug my animals, they are part of my family.

I hope I have done this right and that the mum who came up with the idea tells me off if I have got it all wrong.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Reasons to Be Cheerful

It is always lovely to get to Friday with another weeked enjoyed and survived and then to remember that it is time to record Reasons to be Cheerful as part of the wonderful initiative and blog hop from Mummy from the Heart.

Here are my reasons ...

1. Although I lost my Mum in September 2009, I still have my Dad and he know lives with me. He is fabulous in so many ways and it is great to have his company and feel less isolated. His conversation is interesting, his humour is infectious and he takes me out and about too. Please scroll down to the next blog post where I tell you all about my Dad's continuing learning as he gets to grips with computers.

2. We are having a little boy to stay with us this weekend. He is my husband's grandson and a great friend to my three children (his Aunty and Uncles lol!). I am also cheerful that I am not yet a Grandma despite what my darling step-daughter would have you believe! We are going to have fun this weekend pottering about, letting the children rampage and going on a VIP trip to Hollywood Bowl. Meanwhile, my step-daughter can have a little post-Valentine's fun with a child-free zone. I have sent her some little gifts to help her along with that.

3. Finally, I am really enjoying my new-found love of cats. We got one and then another two. We are not the sort of people to do things by halves. So now we have a ragdoll, a ginger and a moggy. All very beautiful and sweet. I was worried about the Ragdoll as she was very shy on being rehomed here but my Dad took her into his space and now she is very well settled in.

Although I am exhausted (must get to the GP at some point about that), there are loads of reasons to be cheerful this week including plenty of sleep-ins next week with Half Term imminent.

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend and Half Term.

Dad and computers

My Dad is 83 years of age or 83 years young depending on how you look at things.

He lost my mum 18 months ago and has moved in with me and my family. He has his own indepedent space in our annexe with a bathroom, kitchen, lounge and bedroom all to himself.

Dad retired just as computers were coming into the workplace. In his time, his office was packed with buff coloured cardboard folders. It was not about spreadsheets and databases back then.

Dad has tried to get to grips with computing recently using a netbook which my brother gave him to play with.

In the afternoon, he will settle himself down at the kitchen table and attempt to email my brother. It is not always convenient to me (and I do feel guilty for saying that) but he will sometimes struggle and need my help. Usually it is fine and I am happy to help but sometimes I wish he would ask when would be a good time for him to go on the computer if he is going to need my help. Yesterday, he asked me to come and look something just as I was in the middle of an internet shopping order. I could not leave it as I was just about to go to the checkout and needed to concentrate. When I said that, I think he thought I was being difficult.

Last night, my Dad came into our lounge with various catalogues saying he needed our advice. I said he must be hard up if he was needing our advice. He chuckled but then told us he wants to buy a new computer for himself.

My first advice was not to bother as he can borrow my laptop whenever he wants. He said he knew that but he did not like to use mine as that deprived me. Dad is the most gentle and kind man you could wish to meet. He really thinks about others in a quiet and caring way. He knows I live for my laptop and my blogging.

Him Indoors reckons he knows all about computers (and actually does sickeningly) so he spoke to Dad. It was like listening to someone speaking a foreign language to Dad as Him Indoors banged on about internet access, routers, games and so on. I tried to translate for Dad.

So Dad has his heart set on a new computer so that he can look up websites about the Navy and send an email now and then.

At 83 years of age, that is his right and amazingly impressive.

I cannot see me taking on a whole new interest and world at such an elderly age but I am really pleased I have a Dad that does.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Giveaway ending today - FREE day for your child at Sport Camp this Half-Term

WIN A FREE DAY FOR YOUR CHILD AT A FIT FOR SPORT HALF TERM CAMP

Keeping children entertained and active during the holidays can be a real challenge, that’s why mums arcade is pleased to offer you the chance to win a free day for your child on a Fit for Sport healthy lifestyle half term camp.

Fit For Sport, the UK’s leading healthy lifestyle activity provider, is hosting a camp during the February Half Term at twenty eight different venues across the UK. Every day the kids will experience a wide range of activities including a taste of different sports, games, keep fit activities, arts and crafts and healthy lifestyle education. Not only will they use up all their excess energy but at the same time have fun, meet friends and learn new skills.

Kids camps are for children aged three to twelve and will be running from the 21st to 25th February 2011. Typically, half term camps run Monday to Friday from 9.30am until 4.30pm and some run extended days from 8.30am until 5.30pm. All Fit For Sport Kids Camps have met OFSTED regulations and activity leaders hold nationally recognised qualifications. Visit www.fitforsport.co.uk for more details and to find your nearest camp.

To be entered into the prize draw to win a day place for your child at a Fit For Sport half term camp just follow this blog and answer the following question:

Name three activities available at a Fit for Sport half term Camp

Entries must be with us by a comment on this blog or over at http://mumsarcade.wordpress.com and the winner will be notified by telephone early on 18th February so please include a telephone number with your entry.




Terms and conditions –
- No cash alternatives apply
- The prize has to be redeemed by 25th February
- Some half term camp activities may incur extra charges
- Fit For Sport conditions apply

Half-Term Event for Cupcake Lovers

The Icing on the Cupcake

Delight your child this half term with a visit to Fortnum & Mason, the quintessential English store, situated in the heart of London's Piccadilly. On Wednesday 23rd February (2pm), the First Floor Demonstration Kitchen will play host to a fun afternoon where children can learn how to decorate cupcakes like a professional, courtesy of vanilla and flavour extract specialist - Nielsen-Massey.

Children will be given the opportunity to decorate delicious cupcakes from MasterChef semi-finalist and Nielsen-Massey’s very own ‘Cupcake Queen’ - Harriet Jenkins. The cupcake class will demonstrate to children how to pipe various icing techniques including the much sought after ‘rose’ effect. Your little one will also be given plenty of opportunity to join in and help create beautifully decorated cupcakes. Harriet will be sharing her tips and techniques on decorating cupcakes using everything from yummy sweeties to edible rose petals, all from Fortnum’s Food Hall. Children will also be taught the importance of using the best quality ingredients, and in particular, why Nielsen-Massey Vanilla and flavour extracts are the ingredients to choose when baking.


• For further information about Nielsen-Massey, visit www.nielsenmassey.com
• For further information about Fortnum & Mason, visit www.fortnumandmason.com
• The Fortnum & Mason demonstration kitchen is located on the first floor
• The Nielsen-Massey Cupcake Demonstration will last from 2pm - 4pm

Tips on choosing Half-Term Activities

TOP 10 TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE RIGHT KIDS ACTIVITY CAMP THIS HALF TERM


With half term just around the corner it’s time to consider your options when arranging your childcare. So many companies now offer some kind of holiday club but how does a parent make the choice of where to send their kids?



The UK’s leading Healthy Lifestyle Activities Provider, Fit for Sport, has been working with children and sport for more than 20 years and runs over 30, OFSTED registered, activity camps which cater for 54,000 children, aged three to twelve, per year. To find out where Fit For Sport activity camps are running in your area visit www.fitforsport.co.uk.



At Fit For Sport activity camps kids will experience a wide range of activities including a variety of different sports, games, keep fit activities, arts and crafts. Not only will they use up all their excess energy but at the same time have fun, meet friends and learn new skills.



Craig Jones, Operations Director at Fit for Sport has more than 14 years experience in working with children and was once a PE teacher himself. To help parents make an informed decision here are Craig’s top 10 tips for choosing a holiday club this half term:



1. Do your research - How long has it been running and is it on any of the Government’s registers such as OFSTED?

2. Who will be looking after the children? It is a requirement that group leaders at holiday camps should have a Level 2/3 qualification (dependent on the activity and age of the children) in Activity, Working with Children, Childcare or Play

3. Are the children split into age specific categories? Children have different stamina levels at different ages, so it is important that they are split into groups that will allow for this.

4. How many children are in each group? It is worth knowing how many children are in any one group. For Good practice a group of children should be 24.

5. How much does it cost? Check how long the day actually is so that you can work out an hourly rate and compare it to other holiday clubs.

6. Is anyone else using the venue? If the venue is being used by another provider then ask to see the procedures they have put in place to handle this.

7. Is there a settling in procedure? Ask how the holiday club settles children into the sessions.

8. What security measures are in place? Children should be signed in and signed out by a carer or parent at the beginning and end of every session.

9. Check out the activity programmes - Children need to have variety to keep them engaged so check to see what the days involve

10. What questions have they asked you? There is certain information that is vital such as date of birth, allergies, special needs, emergency contacts.



To book a Fit For Sport activity camp for your child this half term and for more information about Fit For Sport visit www.fitforsport.co.uk or call 0845 456 3233.

James Martin's Stir Fried Salmon and Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Egg Noodles

JAMES MARTIN’S STIR FRIED SALMON AND PURPLE SPROUTING BROCOLLI WITH EGG NOODLES

Serves 4

Preparation: 2 minutes

Cooking: 5 minutes

Ingredients:
2 x 180g cans John West Skinless and Boneless Red Salmon, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
600g purple sprouting broccoli 4 spring onions cut into 1-inch slices
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
½ cup water
100ml black bean sauce 10g coriander leaves
To serve 200g egg noodles






Method:
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed wok over a high heat and stir fry the broccoli stems, spring onions and chopped ginger with ½ a cup of water for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the black bean sauce and the coriander, then the John West Salmon and stir over a heat for 1 minute. Remove and serve with noodles or rice cooked as per the instructions on pack

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

James Martin's Mackrel in Black Bean Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 x110g cans John West Steam Cooked Mackerel Fillets (Natural – with no added brine)
225g chopped pak choi
125g black bean sauce
1 onion peeled and diced
1 red chilli finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil


Method:

Place a pan over a medium heat, drizzle a little oil in and add the onion along with the chilli.
Allow to cook for 2 minutes then add the pak choi and cook until it starts to wilt. Add half of the black bean sauce and cook for 1 minute, remove from the heat and set to one side.
Place a pan over a medium heat and add the John West mackerel then pour on the remainder of the bean sauce and bring to the boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat.
Place a pile of the pak choi in the centre of a plate and then arrange the mackerel on top.
Drizzle a little of the sauce around and serve

February at Holker Hall in Cumbria

Frolicking February Fun at Holker Hall in Cumbria

For the first time during spring half term, Holker Hall & Gardens will be offering visitors a sneak peek of what the spring season has on offer at one of Cumbria’s finest stately homes.

Opening daily from Saturday 12th until Sunday 27th February, Holker Hall is the perfect location to get out in the fresh air and shake off the winter cobwebs with family and friends.

A fun packed fortnight of activities awaits with spring nature hunts and guided walks around the gardens and parklands. From Wednesday 23rd to Sunday 27th February, families are invited to take part in ‘Art from the Woodland’, a spring inspired nature hunt for all ages. Families will be taken on a guided walk through Holker’s beautiful parkland to discover ancient trees, mysterious woodlands and spot the early signs of spring, collecting seeds, bark, leaves and anything they can along the way to create their very own nature collage. Finish off your visit with a trip to the Holker Courtyard Café where a special half term menu will be on offer.

Event dates and times:

Springtime Puzzles & Crafts: Saturday 12th, Sunday 13th, Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th February. Drop in sessions 10.30am-12noon & 1pm-2.30pm

Art from the Woodlands: Wednesday 23rd - Sunday 27th February. Pre-booked sessions 1.30-3.30pm

Family Garden Tours: Thursday 17th – Sunday 20th February. 11.30am and 2.30pm
Spring Garden Quiz: Free with garden ticket, available daily from Kiosk.

The hall will be open from 11.00-4.00pm and the gardens from 10.30am-4.00pm. Entrance to the Hall & Gardens is £11.50 for adults, £10.00 for concessions and £6.00 for children (6-15.) A family ticket is £29.50. Groups of 10 or more people will benefit from reduced rates. To find out more information about Holker Hall & Gardens or to book group tickets call 015395 58328, email info@holker.co.uk or visit

Half Term offers at the Chill Factore

SAVE UP TO 40% AT CHILL FACTORe THIS HALF TERM


Families visiting Manchester’s Chill Factore this half term are in for a pleasant ‘snow-prise’, with up to 40% off snow activities.

Special offers include up to £20 off family tickets on snow activities – whether trying skiing or snowboarding for the first time, whizzing down the slopes in snow tubes or on the ice luge slide, or exploring the magical children’s snowplay area there’s something for everyone at Chill Factore.

And if you can’t choose which activity to have a go at, newly launched Day Packages offer kids a real taste of the Alps, just off junction 10 of the M60! Including both Ski and Snowboard Taster lessons and 45 minutes on the Luge ice slide, the Day Packages give families more than three hours on the slopes and save a family of four (two adults, two juniors) more than £120 on standard prices. Just for good measure, the price includes clothing hire too!

For the ultimate half term day out, there are also a number of other family activities at Manchester’s indoor real snow centre this half term. Activities include face painting and appearances of Chill Factore mascot, ‘Chille the Snowboy’. There are also some great food offers at restaurants within the Alpine village, with ‘kids eat free’ at Chiquito’s, family pizza deals in the Mont Blanc restaurant and a Nando’s meal prize up for grabs in Chille’s fun quiz.


For bookings and more information on the February half term offers at Chill Factore, visit www.chillfactore.com or call 0161 749 2222. Advance booking is strongly recommended on all activities.

Compton Acres for Half-Term Animals Fun

Animals to be spotted at Compton Acres this February half-term

Children visiting Compton Acres this February half-term will have to keep their eyes peeled for owls, deer and foxes as they explore the historic Grade-II listed gardens at the leading Dorset attraction.



From Saturday 19 to Sunday 27 February, 10am to 4pm, Compton Acres will host an animal trail, challenging mini adventurers to find an array of hidden creatures in the 10-acre gardens. Equipped only with a map, children keen to discover the animals will journey through wooded valleys, under towering trees and travel as far as Italy and Japan in the attraction’s themed gardens.



After the children have searched Compton Acres’ historic gardens for hidden creatures, they will be able to make a stop at the attraction’s model railway and join in with a wildlife quiz. Families can then relax within the Sorridi restaurant or enjoy shopping at the Ark shop or the craft and garden centres.



Kaye Merna, managing director at Compton Acres, says: “The gardens provide an ideal setting for a fun and educational hunt. It provides a great opportunity for children to explore the variety of gardens at Compton Acres and we look forward to welcoming families during half-term.”



For further information about Compton Acres please call 01202 700778 or visit www.comptonacres.co.uk.

Hiking in the Lakes this Half-Term

Let HandiHikes point the way in the Lakes


With springtime just around the corner, it’s time to blow away the cobwebs and get some fresh air. The UK is blessed with amazing countryside and one of the most popular destinations has now become even more accessible thanks to the launch of HandiHikes.

HandiHikes is an innovative new range of 18 compact, waterproof hiking guides featuring 60 of the best walking routes in the Lake District.

Perfectly-portable and easy to use, HandiHikes mean that you don’t need to be a seasoned hill walker to enjoy the beautiful scenery and famous routes of the Lake District, safely. Each HandiHike guide combines Ordnance Survey® 1:25,000 Explorer mapping data with detailed guided routes and plenty of tips about how to navigate and stay safe in the hills, to create the ideal hiking companion.

No more struggling to fold a large map in a howling gale, each cleverly folded, pocket-sized guide features a carefully selected area of mapping with a number of the best routes, all clearly marked and annotated with advice on everything from where to catch the best view to where to go for a cup of tea at the end.

HandiHikes are the brainchild of keen walkers Kate Foley and Andy Lowe.

Fed up with carrying large maps and guidebooks, in order to experience the benefits of both, they came up with the idea of combining top quality mapping data and detailed guided routes on a single sheet of tough, waterproof plastic which effortlessly folds away to fit neatly in you pocket, making it fully weatherproof, and nice and easy to use on the hills.

Andy says: “We asked ourselves, what exactly do you need to enjoy a day in the great outdoors? A decent waterproof map, some good directions, an idea of what to carry with you, some tips on safety and navigation, like how to read a map and use a compass, and of course, a few recommendations for a pint or a good cup of tea at the end. We wanted to create a walking companion that provides all this in a modern, user-friendly format. The result was the HandiHikes product.”

“We believe that you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy the iconic walks of the Lake District. HandiHikes are easy to use, helping you to be safe in the hills, whether you’re an occasional walker or an experienced hiker.”

HandiHikes Lake District series covers 60 routes across 18 guides including walks from Keswick, Grasmere, Ambleside and Great Langdale, and climbs up famous peaks like Helvellyn, the Fairfield Horseshoe, Great Gable and Scafell Pike. Covering more than 400 miles in total, the routes range from gentle walks to more demanding mountain climbs and there is plenty of information to make sure you know what to expect.

HandiHikes cost £4.99 (RRP) and a proportion of every HandiHike sold is donated to Mountain Rescue.

HandiHikes are widely available from good walking shops in the Lake District and online at www.handihikes.co.uk or from Amazon www.amazon.co.uk. Visit the HandiHikes website www.handihikes.co.uk to see a full list of routes covered and to learn more about the products and about Kate and Andy.

Not too late to have a hot date with your Valentine

If you are all loved up or your Valentine's Day did not go according to plan, here are a few ideas for a hot date this weekend.

Whether new-to-love, budget conscious, extravagant or shy, this year take command of Cupid’s arrow and shoot for
a unique and romantic date that goes straight to the heart.

For inspiration, Président Cheese provides the following Top 5 Dates to
get every kind of Romeo and Juliet thinking outside the chocolate box…

1 The Temptress of Taste: A chocolate box has long been the food pinnacle of Valentine’s Day gifts, but it’s not exactly original. This year,
trade choccies for cheese which is an excellent source of the chemical
serotonin that controls our positive love-inducing emotions. There is
nothing more romantic and intimate than a shared selection of cheeses and
bottle of wine. The trick is to go for elegant and indulgent cheeses, such
as Président Brie or Président Camembert , which will give you that
romantic serotonin hit in a mild and creamy bite.

2.The Adventurous Aphrodite: Valentine’s Day should not automatically
equate to a suit and tie or heels! If you and your partner enjoy the great
outdoors, there’s no reason why you can’t say “I love you” whilst
bungee jumping off a cliff or rock climbing at your local sports centre.
Jump online to find the nearest adventure sports outlet and get moving!

3.The Budget-Conscious Beau: the Beatles said “money can’t buy love”
– and they were right. It doesn’t require much thought to hand your
credit card over at the jewellery store! Time spent creating a homemade
card, CD compilation of your favourite songs or IOU booklet full of massages
and cups of tea will be testament to how much your Valentine means to you.

4.The DIY Devotee: Nothing says “je t’aime” like a Do-It-Yourself
romantic evening in. Dress up your living room with candles and roses to
make the perfect at-home setting for a romantic meal. Be a French
‘Romantique’ and include wine paired with a yummy platter of elegant and
indulgent cheeses to share (see Tip 2!).

5. The Extravagant Love Emperor: With Europe on your doorstep, why not take a trip to France and enjoy an evening or two in the city of love with the masters of good cheese?

So do you have plans this weekend and will you make time for love?

Alton Towers for Half-Term

Escape to the Alton Towers Resort this February Half-Term and enjoy an early preview of some of the Resort’s most famous family attractions before the main season even begins!

The Alton Towers Theme Park is opening with a fantastic selection of rides and attractions from 19th-27th February including adrenalin-pumping rollercoasters and family fun.

Half-Term Creativity at Chessington World of Adventures

The UK’s leading children’s activity franchise: The Creation Station,
has today announced it will be inspiring families by providing activities at
Chessington World of Adventures Resort during a week of African Adventures
from 19th – 27th February.

Amongst the wilds of Chessington’s Zoo, SEA
LIFE centre and safari hotel, adventurers can immerse themselves in African
culture with face mask painting, amazing African animals, clay bead
jewellery making and African collage design.

“We are ‘wildly’ excited to have been selected to run the activities
at Chessington World of Adventures Resort during the spring half term
holiday!” confirms Sarah Cressall, founder of The Creation Station.
“Between 10am – 3pm every day, we will be taking families on an exciting
journey of discovery, using arts and crafts to explore African culture, to
engage children at their own pace and developmental stage to create their
own amazing artwork.

“We will be helping children make recycled beads based on those made by
the Buutiti women beaders of Kampala in Uganda as well as clay beads to
create body jewellery,” explains Cressall. “In addition, we will be
providing templates to help children make painted African masks according to
traditional style.

In conjunction with Chessington World of Adventures Resort, The Creation
Station will also be running a prize draw for families who join the
programme of drop in activities to win a day pass for a family of four.

Chief Explorer at Chessington David Smith said: “We’re really excited
to be holding our African Adventures week for the first time and with our
Wanyama Village & Reserve full of African animals and a safari hotel plus
The Creation Station on-hand to deliver some inspirational activities, this
is sure to be an action packed week for all the family.”

The Creation Station is a family-friendly, franchise on a mission to
inspire children’s imaginations providing part-time franchise
opportunities for those who want to achieve a flexible and rewarding work
life balance, delivering The Creation Station experience through Art and
Craft Classes, Birthday Party and Event Entertainment. The Creation Station
works with over 30 mums across the UK whose franchises fit perfectly around
their family commitments.

For further information about The Creation Station visit:
www.thecreationstation.co.uk

Monday, 14 February 2011

Get fruity with Pink Apple for your Valentine's Day Menu

Pink Lady® Apple Valentines Menu


Love is in the air with Valentines Day fast approaching, but with the cold weather and gloomy economic climate set to continue, a cosy romantic night in sharing delicious home made food will likely be the celebration of choice for many couples this Valentines Day. And what better ingredient to base an indulgent but affordable three course meal around than Pink Lady® apples, the apples raised with love?

It takes over 200 days of tender loving care for each Pink Lady® apple to grow from pip to perfection. Growing them longer on the tree allows them to develop their distinctive pink blush, sweet flavour, crisp texture and champagne-like taste, all of which make them the perfect ‘core’ ingredient for a homemade Valentines meal for someone special.

So why not spread the love this Valentines Day by making the ultimate homemade Valentines meal.

STARTER - Goats cheese and Pink Lady® salad
Serves 2

You’ll need:
• 2 Pink Lady® apples, cored and chopped
• 80g crumbled goats cheese
• 2tbsps sweetened dried cranberries
• 6tbsps fresh parsley leaves
• 4tbsps reduced fat French or vinaigrette-style dressing

What to do:
1. Mix together the Pink Lady apple, goats cheese, cranberries and parsley leaves
2. Dress with the vinaigrette and serve

Valentines tip: Serve this dish up on a sharing plate to help create an intimate atmosphere from the start


MAIN COURSE - Pink Lady® Apple Pork Chops
Serves 2

You’ll need:
• 4 lean boneless pork loin chops, 100g each
• 1 sliced onion
• 200ml clear apple juice
• 2tsps chopped fresh thyme
• 2 large Pink Lady® apples
• 2tbsps lemon juice
• 15g cornflour
• 2tbsps cold water
• Pepper

What to do:
1. Place the chops in large heavy based frying pan with the onion, apple juice and thyme. Bring the apple juice to the boil, cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently until cooked – about 15 minutes – turning the pork over half way through.
2. Meanwhile peel the apple, core and cut into 5mm circles, tossing in the lemon juice to prevent browning.
3. When the pork is cooked, add the apple slices and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Blend the cornflour with the water and stir well into the apple juice to thicken the sauce. Simmer for 1-2 minutes or until the apples are just tender (don’t be tempted to use apples other than Pink Lady as they won’t keep their shape as well and will spoil the look of the dish)

DESSERT - Spiced Pink Lady Apple Tarte Tatin
Serves 6

You’ll need:
• 2kg Pink Lady® apples
• Juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons
• 125g unsalted butter, slightly softened
• 125g caster sugar
• 20 cloves, crushed
• 1 nutmeg, finely grated
• 200g puff pastry

What to do:
1. Smear the butter over the base and sides of a cold pan and sprinkle over the sugar. Give the pan a shake to even it out, then sprinkle over the cloves and nutmeg.
2. Roll out the puff pastry in to a disc, about 2cm wider than the rim of the pan, and leave to rest in the fridge on greaseproof paper.
3. In a bowl, roll the Pink Lady® apple halves in the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water. Shake off any excess juice, and arrange the pieces in the pan, standing on their sides, in concentric circles, embedding them into the mix. Pack the apples in tightly and put the pan on a fierce heat.
4. Move the pan around on the flame until a deep, rich caramel colour has developed evenly. This process can take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the pan and heat.
5. Leave the pan to cool, and drop the disc of pastry on to the apples, allowing the edge to hang over the sides of the pan. Place the pan in a pre-heated oven (Mark 7, 220 C, 425F) and bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely risen. Remove from the oven and rest for a minute. Turn out onto an inverted plate to find a perfect golden circle of apples. Serve warm, with a bit of double cream or vanilla ice cream.

Valentines Tip: Those looking for extra Valentine’s Day brownie points from the first meal of the day should try surprising their Valentine with a delicious and healthy breakfast in bed: a Pink Lady® Smoothie.

Pink Lady® Apple Smoothie
Serves 1

You’ll need:
• 1 Pink Lady® apple, core removed and roughly chopped
• 1 kiwi, peeled and roughly chopped
• 1 banana, peeled and roughly chopped
• 2cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
• 2 teaspoons of runny honey (optional)
• 200ml cranberry juice
• 150ml natural yogurt (bio or soya can be used)
• 4 ice-cubes, to give you a chilled smoothie


What to do:
1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blitz for 30 seconds, or until smooth.
2. Pour into a glass and drink straight away.

For more delicious recipes and information visit www.pinkladyapples.co.uk

Valentine Soup helps British Heart Foundation

If you are wining and dining your loved one tonight in the home, why not support a great cause at the same time.

February is National Heart Month and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has joined forces with New Covent Garden Food Co. to create a Ltd Ed’ February Soup of the Month - Heart Warming Soup: Tomato, Chunky Vegetable & Lentil, to help raise £10,000 for the charity.

In devising the new recipe for Heart Warming Soup, the dedicated chefs at NCG have worked hard to create a steaming bowl of goodness, containing juicy plum tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and celery, plus lentils. What’s more, the soup is a very tasty way towards getting your five-a-day, and also scores green across the board for fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt using the traffic light labeling system.

Valentine Biscuits from Loseley

Ingredients

* 125gLoseley Summer Meadow Butter
* 170g caster sugar
* 1 egg
* 230g plain flour, plus 2 tsps
* 30g self-raising flour
* 5 tbsp desiccated coconut
* 1 egg white
* 240g icing sugar, sifted
* 2tsp lemon juice, approximately
* Pink food colouring

Method

Cream Loseley butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and then stir in sifted flours and coconut. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll between sheets of baking paper to 4mm thickness. Allow to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Cut out heart shapes with a 5 cm-wide cutter and place on tray 1.5 cm apart. Bake for about 10 minutes or until pale gold. Cool on a rack. Place egg white in a bowl. Add half the icing sugar and combine. Stir in remaining icing sugar and 2 teaspoons flour. Add enough lemon juice to make a thick, spreadable icing. Tint with food colouring and spread on biscuits. Set at room temperature. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 40 biscuits

Loseley Summer Meadow Butter is packed in a 250grm tub and costs £1.29p.



Loseley Chilled Foods are available from the chilled cabinet of local independent grocers, Morrisons, Waitrose and now Iceland. Visit www.loseley.com for more information.

Valentine' Cocktail - The Lovers' Cup

Fancy a tipple with your loved one to celebrate Valentine's Day? Try this one courtesy of Southern Comfort.

Place the following in a cocktail shaker.

75ml Southern Comfort

35ml lemon juice

30ml raspberry liqueur

30ml sugar syrup

Shake well. Pour into a large glass (big enough for two!) filled with ice cubes. Top with champagne.

Garnish with a pink rose and 2 straws.

This recipe was created by master mixologit Giles Looker, Soul Shakers.

http://southerncomfort.co.uk

http://facebook.com/southerncomfort

Sainsbury's Chocolate Chip Shortbread Biscuits

Sainsbury’s Chocolate Chip Shortbread Hearts

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Makes about: 12

Ingredients:
125g butter
55g caster sugar
1 tsp Taste the Difference Madagascan Vanilla extract
180g plain flour
1 x 100g Taste the Difference Cooks Belgium Dark Chocolate,
(finely chopped)


Method:
• Heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C, 375°F/Gas 5.
• Beat the butter, sugar and Taste the Difference Madagascan Vanilla extract together until
smooth.
• Stir in the flour and 75g chopped chocolate to get a paste. Turn on to a work surface and
gently roll out until the paste is 1cm thick.
• Cut into hearts and place onto a baking tray. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
• Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a
wire rack.
• Place the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until
melted. Drizzle the melted chocolate over some of the hearts and leave to cool.

Magpie Monday - my week in charity shops

Shopping at charity shops is one of the highlights of my week. I like looking at such a diversity of clothing, books, bric a brac, furniture and toys. I enjoy going round and marking all the "possible" purchases in my mind and then going back and snapping up the things I really want or need.

Usually, I go on Saturdays but my first foray this week was on Friday when my Dad took me to a local town as he was collecting a pair of glasses so I went along for the ride. There are two ideal towns to charity shop in. Posh towns have lot of expensive, worn-once designer gear from the ladies who lunch. Poor towns give their stuff away for ridiculously low prices. Friday's town was in the latter category.

Dad went off to the opticians telling me to "take as long as you like". It is a shame my Dad is my Dad as he would make the most perfect partner. Mind you, he was exceedingly well-trained by my late mother!

I looked around the charity shops such as Scope, Care and Repair and the Hospice Shop enjoying not having children pulling me towards the toy area. I identified possible purchases of paintings of beachhuts and lighthouses. I have a bit of a thing about both. There were just 75 pence each and framed too. I toyed with the idea of trying on some obviously expensive when new walking boots for £3 but in the end, could not be bothered.

I did not want to keep Dad waiting too long so wondered if I should try Age UK or not. In the end, I decided I would do Age UK but sacrifice Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation.

Now something I have never seen in a charity shop before is the sign "Free glass of bubbly with every transaction". I went in and there was a merry riot going on with the staff clearly what my mum used to call "market merry". They were celebrating the shop becoming a pound shop where everything will be a pound or less from now on. I chose a pink cardigan for the inevitable £1, one of those wrap around ones, lovely.

I picked a Hans Christian Anderson book for my children. It was marked as both 49 pence and 99 pence. The inebriated woman behind the counter said I could have it for 49 pence or could have 3 books for 99 pence. A no-brainer so I chose a lovely picture book hardback too and also "The Girl's Guide of how to be the best at everything".

I am claiming the award of being the best charity shopper I know. Having said that, I think I am under threat from the other participants in Magpie Monday. Read their stories too.

Why not link up with Magpie Monday and tell the world about your finds?

Me and My Shadow

Saturday, 12 February 2011

How should I respond to an invitation to go away for the weekend?

My brother has asked me to go and stay with him for two nights in a couple of weeks. It will be a weekend so does not clash with my husband's work.

The plan is for me to go to London and Kent during this weekend with possibly the dazzling prospect of a trip over to France thrown in too. I may go to the theatre, have a full body massage or similar and my Dad and brother will cover all the costs.

To put this in context, I have never being away overnight apart from with work occasionally or when I was visiting my terminally ill mum. I guess both of those were OK as easily justifiable. It did not stop me feeling guilty or wondering if my partner would cope with the demands of three active children.
And yes, dear readers, I know I have to cope with it all on a daily basis.

Of course, it is tempting to throw caution to the wind and take off for 2 days of me time. I don't get much of that to be honest and I do think not having time to myself to do my own thing affects my mental wellbeing adversely.

I am sure I would enjoy myself as it is clear that I can call the shots as to what I do and where I go. When did that last happen?!

My worry is that I will be made to feel guilty about going or even just feel like I am being an inadequate mum by taking up this opportunity. My husband will not cope like I do and probably greet me with a litany of every naughty thing the children have done since I went away. I will then wonder if it was ever worth me going away in the first place.

However, if I capitulate and don't go, when will I ever get a break? In 13 years time when my youngest son turns 18 perhaps?

What do I do? What is the right thing to do for me, for my husband, for my children?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful 1 2 3

Here are my Reasons to be Cheerful.

1. I am smelling lovely after a long and relaxing bath. One of the lovely thing about all the children being in school is that I can do such simple things which used to prove so difficult when they were at home during the day.
I had lovely Radox bubbles and washed my hair with shampoo from Little Organics. I took my time and breathed in lovely aromas. I relaxed.

2. I am dressed in new clothes sourced via Netmums. I have a tiger skin type top on and new jeans. Better still, they are in a size down from what I was wearing last year. Why am I dressed to impress? I am going out with my Dad for the day for a fish and chip lunch (probably his treat) plus a shopping spree.

3. I have 4 companies asking questions about sponsoring me to the Cybermummy Conference. Please see the post below. I know I will do a great job for whoever ends up as my sponsor showing real commitment and flexibility.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Are you the special brand that will sponsor me to attend Cybermummy?

Are you a very special brand and keen to get your message across to mums across the UK?

Imagine having an ambassador for your brand at a major parenting event. Someone committed to networking with mums and dads on behalf of your brand. Someone who can wear your brand's clothing, hand out leaflets and share product samples if desired. Someone who will promote your brand via the mums review site, Mum's Arcade, and on this blog. Someone who offers a total of 12 months of free advertising.

June 25th 2011 is an important date in the parent blogging world. It is the date of the Cybermummy 2011 Conference - the UK's premier blogging conference devoted to parent bloggers - and is to be held at The Brewery, London.

I would love to attend the Cybermummy 2011 conference to represent this blog and Mum's Arcade the independent reviews site for mums in the UK. Therefore I am looking for a special brand to become my sponsor.


I am looking for one or two sponsors who can provide the following:

* Cybermummy 2011 ticket - £100
* Travel Expenses - approx £100


TOTAL: approximately £200

In return the sponsor will benefit from a package which might include;

* Announcement of the sponsorship on both blogs and Twitter
* 12 months of FREE advertising on both blogs - details to be discussed
* Promotion of recipes, surveys, competitions and consultations
* Promotion of any charity campaigns supported by the sponsor
* A text link in all related Cybermummy posts in 2011
* Advertising and product distribution at the Cybermummy event
* Sponsorship related tweets on Twitter inclusive of agreed hashtag
* Sponsorship related mentions on Facebook
* Facilitation of linkages with other mummy bloggers



I blog about a wide range of life issues and I have promoted a variety of concepts, products and services for a diverse range of organisations. I have a large social media presence, reaching out to bloggers from all communities and also the non-blogging community.

Some interesting statstics:


* Twitter followers - 1094 and rising
* Blog followers - 174 and rising
* Listed on the Tots100 Parenting Blog Index

More about Me;

I was born in London and brought up in a Yorkshire market town. I am a Cambridge University law graduate and trained in the art of clear and concise communication. I have promoted products, services, events and concepts for a diverse range of organisations in the private, public and voluntary sector. I am experienced in writing and in media relations.

I am a huge fan of Twitter and know how it can be harnessed for promotional purposes reaching out particularly to mums who make so many of the purchasing decisions in families. They are also very good at stimulating word of mouth lol.

I have walked on fire, won a Cosmopolitan Magazine Award and taken part in a boudoir shot in my time.

I am mum to three children aged 5, 6 and 10 years.

I live with my husband, children and elderly father in a small village in Yorkshire living the smallholding dream.




So what are you waiting for? You can get in touch by emailing me on mums-the-word@live.com

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

News from Boden and a Clutch Bag Giveaway

Read this post and then pop over to Mum's Arcade, the reviews site for Mums to check out our giveaway of a Boden clutch bag worth £69.00. http://mumsarcade.wordpress.com


The rumours are true. In fact you could say we’re about to drop. February
2011 sees the launch of the ‘Boden bump’. Our first Maternity wear range
is bristling with the beautiful prints, colours and details our customers
have come to know and love.

You’ve only got so much time to celebrate your bump. So why not go wild
with our wonderful Ruffle Front Dress? It’s the perfect way to dress up
when you’re going somewhere smart or hosting that long awaited baby
shower.

Our range is designed to grow with you during your pregnancy. And as
there’s still plenty of animal print prowling the high street, why miss
out when you’re expecting? Our Crossover Tunic has an adjustable grosgrain
tape just above the waist so you can give yourself more room to move as you
need it.

You may discover that you can’t expand your empire without expanding your
empire line. So our Printed Gathered Tunic has pretty pleats which flare out
over your bump. Add a seriously uplifting print and feminine ¾ sleeves and
you’re ready to take on the world.

There’s no need to sacrifice on style this Summer. Our spectacular Summer
Maxi is a drapey, double layer dress that is both stunning to look at and
incredibly comfortable. You can adjust the pretty grosgrain tape under the
bust by using the ties at the back.

There’s plenty more in our new Maternity range to take you through to
D-day including tops, tunics, jeans and jeggings. Boden Maternity is just
one of the exciting online-only ranges coming your way in 2011 that show we
are more than just a catalogue.

Asda Scheme offers families a Sporting Chance

ASDA'S SPORTING CHANCE SCHEME OFFERS A RECORD NUMBER OF FREE SPORTS SESSIONS TO FAMILIES

Families across the UK will benefit from a record number of free sports sessions this February and throughout the school holidays this year, thanks to Asda’s Sporting Chance initiative.

Now in its fourth successive year, Sporting Chance gives youngsters across the UK access to over 100,000 free sporting sessions throughout the school holidays. From February 5th in Scotland and February 12th in England, the initiative aims to get kids trading in the sofa for sports such as football, hockey and even dodgeball.

Over 89,000 families used the scheme in 2010 and each session is completely free and is designed to help parents keep children both entertained and active during the holidays.

Simply pick up a voucher from your nearest Asda store (no purchase necessary!) and enter your postcode on www.asda.com/freeactivities to find local sporting venues taking part.

Fiona Campbell Reilly, Head of Asda in the Community, says: “We’re aiming to make Sporting Chance’s fourth year the best yet and that means making sport affordable and accessible to families. We want to encourage more families to take advantage of the free sessions available in their local area and encourage local sports providers to get in touch if they want to join the scheme.”

Italian Chocolate Trifle Recipe

ITALIAN CHOCOLATE TRIFLES


Serves: 6

1 litre carton Oatly Chocolate
50g cornflour
50g plain chocolate, roughly chopped
18 sponge fingers
90ml medium strong coffee
250g carton raspberries (you can also use drained bottled/canned or frozen raspberries once defrosted)

To decorate:
50g plain chocolate, grated

1. Pour a few tablespoons of Oatly Chocolate into a pan, add the cornflour and blend together. Add the rest of the Oatly then place over the heat and bring to a simmer stirring all the time. When smooth and thickened, remove from the heat, add the chocolate and allow it to melt, stir until combined. Set aside to cool.
2. To assemble, divide the raspberries between 6 sundae glasses or bowls.
3. Spoon over some of the chocolate custard to cover the fruit. Take the sponge fingers and quickly dip in the coffee, then arrange over the custard, you may need to break some in half to fit the glasses. Spoon over the remaining custard, chill to set.
4. Scatter over grated chocolate just before serving.

Preparation time: 20 minutes including cooling time approx 30 minutes
Chilling time: 4 hours

Tip: You can ring the changes by using drained, canned or bottled cherries instead of raspberries.


Nutritional analysis per serving:

313kcals
4.5g protein
8g fat (of which 3g saturated fat)
57g carbohydrate (of which 36g sugar)
Trace salt

Blogging versus Parenting

1. You can take a day off from your blog

2. You can do blogging in the way you want when you want to

3. You might get an award for blogging

4. People say nice things about your blogging skills

5. Blogging is therapeutic

6. A blog can't give you a kiss and cuddle

7. A blog won't say it loves you

8. A blog won't make you laugh

9. A blog won't play, cook or do craft with you

10. A blog won't tell you that you are the best mum in the world

11. A blog like children is for life not just for January

12. Parenting and blogging are satisfying

13. Parenting and blogging can introduce you to new worlds and people

14. Parenting and blogging can both be achievements and make you proud

15. Parenting and blogging are both things I would not be without

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes recipe

Vanilla Cupcakes

Sink through sweet creamy icing into soft sponge – super easy to make and endless different ways to decorate!

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)

Makes 12

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15-18 minutes

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

125g (5oz) plain flour

250g (9oz) Carnation Condensed Milk

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla extract

85g (3oz) margarine or butter

1½ tsp baking powder

Frosting:

200g (7oz) icing sugar

55g (2oz) margarine or butter, softened

few drops vanilla extract

1-2tbsp Carnation Condensed Milk

sugar sprinkles or cake decorations, to decorate

You will also need:

12 hole muffin tin and muffin cases

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4.

2. Place the flour, condensed milk, egg, vanilla extract, margarine and baking powder in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy.

3. Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for approximately 15-18 minutes until springy to the touch and golden brown. Cool slightly then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

4. Beat the icing sugar, butter and vanilla with enough condensed milk to bring the mixture to a soft consistency. Spread or pipe onto the cakes. Decorate as desired.

Tips

· There are endless ways to decorate your cakes – find natural colourings, shimmery edible glitter and sprinkles in all good supermarkets and specialist cake shops.

· For a really special occasion; decorate with sugared rose petals by simply dipping fresh rose petals in egg white, dusting with sugar and leaving to dry out overnight.

· For a chocolate frosting – beat 3tbsp cocoa powder into the icing listed above.

· See our little lemon fairy cakes for lemon water icing or try orange and lemon zest and juice.

· If you want to make smaller cakes – place fairy cake cases into bun tins – this mixture should make 15-18 fairy cakes. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Smoked Haddock and Leek Risotto Recipe with Riso Gallo

SMOKED HADDOCK AND LEEK RISOTTO

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 litre/1 3/4pts fish or chicken stock
700g/ 1 1/2 lbs smoked haddock fillet
1 tbsp sunflower oil
50g/2oz butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 whites of leeks, trimmed and sliced
320g/11 1/2oz Riso Gallo Carnaroli Risotto Rice
1 bay leaf
wineglass dry white wine
2 tbsp double cream (optional)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground white pepper


Method
· Make sure stock is hot.
· Place haddock in a pan and cover with boiling water. Simmer for around 5 minutes, then take off heat. Leave to cool.
· Heat oil and butter in a pan and fry onion and leek over gentle heat to soften but not brown. Add Riso Gallo Carnaroli Risotto Rice and bay leaf and stir to coat in the mix. Pour over wine and cook, stirring until absorbed.
· Gradually add stock a ladle at a time, stirring. Only add more stock when the previous ladleful has been absorbed. Continue until almost all stock is absorbed, and rice is tender, but still with a bite. (Stir in cream if using).
· Flake haddock and stir into risotto with the parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Serve immediately.

Create the Ultimate Winter Recipe and Win a Culinary Treat with the Diablo SupperClub

Online foodie destination, The Diablo SupperClub is calling all food and wine fanatics to share their ultimate winter food and wine match for a chance to win a fantastic culinary experience at the Waitrose Cookery School.

With the Winter season well and truly upon us, The Diablo SupperClub is on the hunt to find the UK�s best seasonal recipe matched with a Casillero del Diablo wine. Whether it be a hearty soup or stew, a robust roast or exotic curry, this is not only a chance to showcase your culinary skills and wine matching know how but an opportunity to win a truly fabulous cooking experience.

The top six recipes, as selected by the expert Diablo SupperClub team, will need to encapsulate winter culinary pursuits and warm the very cockles of our hearts! The creator of each of these delicious recipes will be invited to the state-of-the-art Waitrose Cookery School in London, to create and enjoy a sumptuous three-course dinner, which will be accompanied by a wine tasting courtesy of Casillero del Diablo.

Having opened in November 2010 the Waitrose Cookery School is all about learning skills, exploring flavours and being inspired by some of the UK�s top chefs, making it the perfect venue to celebrate culinary creativity in true Diablo SupperClub style!

To Enter a recipe and wine match and be in the running to win this memorable prize, simply visit http://supperclub.chileanlegend.com and upload your recipe along with a photo of the finished dish.