Monday, 17 February 2014

Phase Eight Chic

Phase Eight are asking bloggers to come up with their favourite London Fashion Week Outfit, so here is mine.

Two of the current trends that I love and used as inspiration for my outfit were blooming florals with bold motifs and sheer fabrics. I picked out the Rebecca Bloom dress because despite being gorgeous I felt it was striking with the floral design, yet elegant. The floral belt draws the eye to the waist which being a pear shape is exactly what I want in a dress. I paired it with this lovely chiffon bolero which will keep me warm without drawing the eye away from this stunning dress, plus sheer fabric looks very elegant on. Every girl loves a matching shoes and bag combo and I am no exception, and I think the Lucia weave really brings something quirky to the outfit. Finally for the jewellery I picked and elegant pair of Romy earrings and this lovely Macey necklace which I could see myself wearing over and over again. I love the way this outfit works together in harmony around the dress without one part over powering the next, its definitely the glamourous yet elegant fashion statement that I would choose, I hope you like it too.

Phase Eight Chic

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Castles made of clothes

We all love the beach in our house, the only problem is that we don't live anywhere near one! The other day whilst playing my son came up with this great idea - clothes castles. He is three and his imagination always amazing me, and this idea of his was no exception. He basically found an empty bin and stuffed it full if clothes, packing it down (like you would a sandcastle) then he tipped it out creating his very first clothes castle. He then grabbed my phone and took a picture, this one (thats why its a bit blurry). Cool idea huh?

The possibilities seem endless! It does mean we have clothes everywhere but being honest that's no different from usual. I at least once a day stuff his clothes back in his wardrobe. I say stuff because this is what I actually do, I gave up on neat piles a long time ago as the only person it was frustrating was me! I have embraced the fact that his clothes come out daily, so why not do something creative with them? So why not have a go too? 

What creative play ideas do your little ones come up with? I would never have thought of this one myself!

To you it may just look like a pile if clothes but I know to my son he was really proud of his clothes creation. It's these small imaginative and creative moments that we should be celebrating! 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Pastel Beauty, Hidden Passion - Valentine Inspired Outfit!

I love new concepts and ideas and I recently came across a new website called Grabble. Its a bit like Pinterest because you can 'grab' clothes that you like from fashion websites and store them in albums to create outfits on a board, or store your must have items in a wishlist. Whats also quite exciting about this fashion focussed website is that when one of your items goes into the sale, Grabble will email you and let you know - sounds fab to me.

So I got stuck right in creating my first board for EtailPR a Valentines inspired outfit. Pastels are really big this season so I went for a pale pink theme, a subtle and yet elegant reference to love as the meaning behind the colour pink is unconditional love and nurturing. I just love the ASOS Skater Coat with zip front and ASOS Origami Bonded Mini Dress as they give such a fantastic shape and I could see myself wearing these over and over again. As its Valentines day I really wanted a little twist with my outfit, so I opted for a Mimi Holiday Raspberry Ripple Fuller Bust Bra and Thong in a fantastic hot pink colour! Have a look at my Pastel beauty, hidden passion board below for my full outfit with accessories:

Being honest I was really surprised at how easy Grabble was to use, and once you have added the 'grab' button to your bookmark bar you are ready to start grabbing! It is definitely a site that I will be using again to collate my fashion favourite's as there is nothing more frustrating than seeing a piece of clothing you love when you are browsing. Then when you finally decide to buy it you can't quite remember where you saw it. This way you can 'grab' it when you see it, making it really easy to click on it when you want to buy it, and build your outfit around that one special piece too, perfect. So why not have a go? I would love to see what outfits you put together.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Rocking it up with Pink hair!

Life in a Break Down and CoolBlades are asking bloggers about what they think the biggest hair trends of 2014 will be. Anyone that has seen my posts over the last few months will know that last year I chopped all my hair off and I love it shorter, but I always feel like there is something missing. Having gone blond, shorter and quite funky with my cut, I feel that what I really need now is something to really make it zing. That extra something that makes people look again, captivated by the colour peeping through at them - pink!

I love this short blond cut with the pink highlights coming through - watch this space this might be the one for me!
I have always had this thing for pink hair and so I am going to go out on a limb and push with everything that I have that pink hair is definitely the way to go in 2014! Lets rock those pink highlights, twist in the pink into our scruffy up-do's and pink it all up. I am not talking pale pink, thats been and gone with Helen Mirren but something vibrant, bright and dark - raspberry pink. I have been inspired by this image of Perrie Edwards from Little Mix as I love the dark pink coming through at the bottom. Its elegant rather than overstated and I think it looks incredible!

Perrie Edwards from Little Mix
I put together this Pinterest board capturing the essence of my thoughts on pink hair from going big and colouring all over through to a short blond cut with hints of pink popping through at the front. Overstated or subtle I think that rocking out the pink locks is definitely the way forward in 2014!

I hope I have inspired you to rock it up with pink hair in 2014, why not try it? What do you want the trends to be this year? 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Bathtime fun with Nemo Bubbles

H&A and Tots 100 are looking for a Bathtime Time Fun Squad and as a result they sent us some Nemo bubbles to try out in our bath. We couldn't wait to try them and my youngest was very excited about Nemo being on the bottle, I have never seen my two boys run so quickly to jump into the bath!

I am usually cautious when it comes to bubbles as both of my boys suffer with eczema but I was keen to try the Nemo bubbles as they are hypoallergenic and dermalogically tested and they love bubbles. My youngest squealed with excitement as he helped me run the bath and all of the bubbles started to foam up in the bathtub, I have never seen the pair of them move so quickly and fight to be the first in. As a child I loved bubbles too and one of the things that I loved to do was put on bubble beards and its a family tradition that we like to continue…

Chin Curtain
Full Santa!
Half hearted!
Kiss a big beard!
We also thought that it would be fun to add some colour to make the bubbles really pop! I had some purple powder dye that I use for making bath bombs with, so I knew it wouldn't stain my bath but it really turned the bath purple (make sure you do a tester with your dye if your not sure if you want to do the same too)! More excitement ensued, and my youngest enjoyed grabbing the bubbles and covering his arms with them and then Thomas the tank engine had to make a treacherous trip across foamy ledge. It was a mission of great danger and he had to push his way through a lot of bubbles but he finally made it across! Phew!

Thomas on foamy ledge!
The Nemo bubbles are great and being hypoallergenic has meant that both of my boys can finally enjoy some bubble action without me having to worry about their skin. Like all bubbles if you put too many in they can make the bath more slippy than without but thats easily resolved with a non slip mat to line the bath. I found the best way to get the most bubbles is to put the mixture in as your running the hot water in, that way you don't need very much mixture to make the most of your bubbles. The packaging is really fun and my youngest loved that Nemo was on the front. Overall a great product that you should try - plus I would love to see your mustaches and beards!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

My Wardrobe Makeover

Last year I was given the incredible opportunity to be involved in the pilot episode for a makeover TV program, it was never aired because it was the pilot and so only 10 minutes long in total. Being honest I was slightly relieved when I found out it would only been seen by a handful of people as it felt like such a personal experience to share on such a worldwide scale. I first wrote about my makeover experience on an earlier post about one of my memories that really mattered from 2013, and I wanted to share in more detail about my experience with you all. If you want to read my first post you can here: Moments that Matter. The first picture you see is me after the makeover and interspersed throughout the rest of the post are pics of new wardrobe bits so you can see more of what it looks like now, and hopefully be inspired.

This is me after the makeover still in the studio where we were filming! 
It all started when I saw an advert on Mumsnet from a TV researcher looking for people who had got stuck in a rut with their wardrobe and didn't know where to start with changing it. I immediately felt like that described me perfectly. I found myself in this ongoing cycle where having not lost my pregnancy weight totally and returned to the size I had been, I just thought I would make do. Make my wardrobe cope, and I did that by just buying the odd navy item here, a brown one there and some black. As after all black is supposed to be sliming and that way I knew that whatever I brought would go with what I had. I had grown my hair out to make it easier to manage with a baby and a toddler and I had opted for baggier as being better to hide behind.

I don't usually wear heels but its nice to every now and then
when you don't have the school run to do!
I messaged the researcher explaining my current predicament and was surprised to get a fairly prompt response which was followed by a Skype call. I will admit it did seem a but strange to confess my fashion faux pas to a stranger but all the same I needed to break the cycle of dullness that I had become.  Within a few days of initially being contacted by the researcher it was confirmed that they wanted me to be a contributer for the new show and arrangements were made for me to spend three days in London the following week, and a day of filming in my own home with my friends and family too.

It was a really big thing for me to do and I found it particularly hard being a full time Mum usually, to have three full days in London, leaving the house before my husband. It was very strange being on the train on my own, it felt empty and yet peaceful and I managed to read a whole book during the week. Something I love to do but hardly ever get the time to do. I was also reminded about what it was like to be independent without children in tow, finish my conversations without being interrupted half way through by a whining child and to drink my cup of tea whilst it was still hot. I drunk in the quiet peace, realizing that whilst my wardrobe might be in dia need of help I also needed to make more time for me to have some me time. Interestingly one of the things that struck me the most later in the week was watching back the footage of my Mum speaking when she eluded that I had become so focused on my children that I had forgotten all about me. I think she hit it on the head.

This is a glimpse into my wardrobe now - lots of block colour and I never considered wearing white before!
The first day of the process was weird, I met the team who I would be working with all week, was given a brief idea of the what the concept of the program would be - you are what you wear, thinking about clothing with the help of a psychologist and a stylist. I spent all day blindfolded in Debenhams changing rooms being helped to try on clothes, which was very strange. I had no idea what I was trying on, and I found it quite disorientating to stand without being able to see in heels, something I don't usually wear. I laughed a lot, and the suspense of what had been chosen for my new wardrobe then hung in the air all week for me to discover later.

The second day was at home and the filming crew came to my house to film us in our home environment. My boys were not camera shy, and my eldest was very keen to show off his balance bike as he whizzed down the street, and my youngest dug out a plant pot full of dirt in the garden turning to smile at the camera every now and then. The director asked me what I would usually do if my youngest was playing with the dirt and was shocked with my relaxed approach of "I would let him play". They also filmed my Mum, husband and three of my friends talking and answering questions about me. I was pretty nervous about this bit and what they would say, but it was very tastefully edited and I think they pinpointed the issues on the head; I had lost time for me, my clothes were not vibrant like my personality they were just functional and make do, and I had just got lost in my own wardrobe not really sure how to change it.

The third day was in London again and I met the psychologist Linda who made me think more about how I had got into this brown, blue and black rut. My time with the psychologist was really valuable getting me to really think about it all. It had already become very apparent to me that one of the biggest things was that I had become so focussed on my two boys that I had not left myself enough space to be me and think about myself. I no longer had time in the morning to think about my outfit for the day, so I just threw on what I felt comfortable in; jeans and a baggy blue top. I no longer felt like me but I didn't know how to change that. What I saw in the mirror was not someone I wanted to be, nor did it reflect who I was, but I wasn't sure who I was anymore.

The fourth day was a day at home which was much needed with my boys, I had missed them. I needed this makeover but at the same time it was heart wrenching to be so far away from my boys everyday, arriving home just as they were settling down for bed. I felt refreshed and inspired but also so far from normal life.

I love these boots! and you can't really see but the jeans have
coloured strip down the side which make them look really
flattering on, plus they are very thin denim.
The final day, the fifth day of filming came. It was the day that the whole week had been building up to, my earliest start into London rising before the boys were even up, and the day where I would get made over and finally get to see my new wardrobe choices. Arriving in London I found the location where we would be filming, the most unglamorous looking warehouse I had ever seen at the top of three flights of stairs, to be led into a room teeming with sofas and household items of all different types. Not what I had been expecting at all! In the afternoon still unable to see what was fully happening the hairdresser arrived to transform my hair, I knew they would cut it shorter and I was ready to see it go. The makeup lady also worked her magic and then finally I got to try on outfits before the final reveal where my husband, boys and my Mum would be arriving to watch. I was nervous, apprehensive, excited and I had no idea what was in store.

They picked three main outfits for the big reveal, all with heels which I spent quite a while trying to practice how to walk in for the camera. A dress that looked smarter and would work for a party, a more casual coat dress and a pair of red trousers and a white blouse. I really liked all of the looks they gave me and they gave me the red trouser outfit to bring home. It was a fantastic experience and just what I needed but I left feeling a little tired and empty. I didn't get the full wardrobe overhaul that I needed just a new pair of trousers, and I didn't mean to sound ungrateful but I had spent a whole week learning to hate my blue, black and brown wardrobe and I couldn't and wouldn't go back to that. (As a side note if it had not been a pilot I would have been allocated a capsule wardrobe - it just wasn't clear from what they said to me initially that this wasn't going to happen). After sleeping on it I still felt very weirdly about the whole process and I was pretty teary about it all. My husband had reminded me that I had got a lot out of the process and there was no reason why we couldn't just go and take the learning with us and buy me some new clothes. I love my husband.

Shopping with my husband was great and the staff in the changing room were amazing (they found me these fab black heels you keep seeing). For the first time in years I knew what I wanted, I needed colour that reflected me - bright and vibrant. Skinnier trousers were something I had always avoided having big hips but the stylist Darren had taught me that flared trousers and jeans like I had been wearing only drew the eye to them, so tapered trousers it would be. I also needed to buy tops with shape and think about outfits not individual items. It was a really successful trip and my husbands wallet was considerably lighter, this was the start to my new wardrobe.  In some ways I am glad that I put together my new wardrobe pieces rather than the stylist because as a busy Mum of two boys I don't think he really understood the practicalities of what that means clothes wise. I can't wear heels when I am chasing after a three year old riding his bike so fast down the street I can't keep up. Nor is a dress very good for scrabbling around the floor in to pick lunch off the floor. I can however wear a nice pair of tapered trousers with a pretty top and shaped cardigan and a funky pair of boots. During the week of filming I spent most of it wearing spanx which are great for pulling you in for the camera but not something I want to wear everyday!

Then I needed to sort out my hair. I am the sort of person that is all in or all out, I don't really ever do half way, in the middle and thats exactly how I had come to view my new hair. I had been ready for them to chop it all off but instead it was mid-length, not long or short, just in-between. To add insult to injury they had added in a few hair extensions that were pulling on my head, painful even. I desperately googled how to get them out as two days in, I was ready to rip them out of my hair. I didn't, but all the advice also pointed to getting them removed professionally. When Monday morning came by I booked the first hair appointment I could get, removing the extensions and chopping it shorter into a bob. I have since had it cut again even shorter as you can see in the pics!

I am honestly not quite sure what happened in my mind, but with my new hair and looking into the mirror I finally felt like me again, I felt as if I had been hiding behind a dull exterior for too long and I had suddenly been freed. Its funny, I never expected that I would feel like that. Six months on I have cut my hair even shorter and I wonder why I didn't do it earlier. I have re-kindled my love for reading and try to get that much needed quiet reading and refreshing time I need. I also put in time to paint my nails and pamper myself with home beauty things too. I still don't have time to think about what I wear in the mornings, but thats ok because in my head I have put together a series of outfits, so I don't have to put it together right there and then. This experience for me was a fantastic one and I would do it again tomorrow.

The things that I have learnt are these:
- I need to find sometime to be me! I love my boys but to give them my best I have to put some time into giving me some time too.
- Tapered trousers are great but they show up the dirt very quickly (when you have two mucky children) so thin skinny jeans are a really good option for me. Not the thick heavy denim but light and stretchy, and not too tight but flattering.
- I need to think in outfits, if I find something new I have to be able to place it in an outfit in my mind wardrobe.
- Think about colours that go well together and don't be afraid to try on something that you wouldn't usually buy. I have ended up with lots of things I wouldn't have dreamed of trying on before!
- Find brands you like and know the sizing of them then you can order new things from them knowing how they will fit and work in your wardrobe. It also means you can look in their sale stock when you need to refresh.
- Don't be frightened of colour and new things

Everytime I buy something now I have a perspective on it all. Since buying my new wardrobe I am still working out what works best for me. I have this fantastic Kalico jersey cardigan which is vibrant pink and its become my staple item. I like it because it doesn't need ironing, I can just wash and wear it and the shape of it really nips me in. My only problem is that I wish I had brought two, I have worn it so much.
This is the cardigan - the detail around the waist really nips me in!

I really thought at the beginning of this process that I didn't know where to start and that I needed a makeover show to change my wardrobe habits, and perhaps I did. In reality though I just needed some time to get my head around me again, re-vitalize my habits and buy some new clothes, but not just mindlessly buy clothes but make considered outfit choices. Its these outfit choices that have made up mind wardrobe so that when I have no time to think I already have the perfect outfit planned out in my head not just random articles that I somehow throw together.

I genuinely have never felt better about myself and I still haven't lost those extra few baby pounds yet I still feel good. When I wear colour I feel vibrant and bright just like the clothes I am wearing, I feel like my clothes reflect me and my personality. I am sure that there are many women who have fallen into the same wardrobe lull that I did, and I want to encourage you that you don't need to stay in it and you don't need a makeover show to change your habits. You could start with one outfit and work up from there, there are also lots of shops that do personal styling sessions now too which would be a good start.

My only advice is be true to you if your a busy Mum like me don't pick heels you can't wear all day, but also don't be afraid to try something new; a blouse, a different print or colour, some tapered trousers? The possibilities are endless.

My Little Explorer

My youngest son is 22 months and the last year has been an exciting time for him. Looking back I had forgotten just how much developmentally you pack into being one. From learning to walk through to his ever expanding vocabulary there are so many different skills that he has been absorbing and learning. One of the moments that really matters that I wanted to capture in this post is his love for adventure and exploring. If he can be outside he will be. Countless times I have found him outside poking sticks into plant pots, digging out the dirt and throwing it everywhere. For me this love to explore and play getting himself really messy is important and will shape who he will be in the future.

Even in the winter months I wanted us to be outside as much as possible, I hate the cold but I hate depriving my kids of exploration more. So with lots of layers and full waterproofing we often went out, collecting leaves, finding conkers, talking about acorns. As parents it is so easy to get busy doing things, to become routine about what we do with our children and when we do it. So thats why this outdoor exploration has been so important this year, because it was not just about my sons development but it was also about me challenging my expectations of being a Mum and allowing my children to play outside.

Our conker hunt was one of my favourite of all of our outdoor adventures because my eldest son led the way following on the trail of conker trees. We spent hours wondering around, kicking back mud and leaves, rummaging around to uncover a huge range of shiny conkers. Each one was different and each one they found brought with it so much joy and excitement. For my youngest this was at the point he had become a confident walker and he was very pleased to be allowed to roam around hunting too. He kept looking at me for encouragement with such a twinkle in his eyes. For me this is what being a kid is all about, learning by exploring.

I am secretly hoping for snow in this new year, my youngest was too small last year for it but being such an outside explorer I think he would love it! Outdoor play for me is a moment that matters from last year and I hope that it will matter this year too as we move full swing into it.

This post is my entry for the Moments that Matter giveaway hosted by Emma and 3 with Lloyds Bank. So why not get yourself a little explorer for 2014 to make new memories with!

Good Building

Anyone that knows me will already know that I am not much of one for housework, I only do it when needed. Instead I love building with my boys. Whether it's trains or a duplo tower block I am right there with them building. Up until recently my youngest had been very destructive when my eldest was building as most one year olds are. But all of that changed in mid 2013. We have moved into the era of having two builders to please as they give me orders about what they want where. I have also started to build much bigger than we had been so that both boys can play but still have their own space to play in.  This saves arguments of a single piece of track and keeps me sane!

I am sure that there are many parents that don't think building is anything special but for me it is. My husband loves coming home and seeing an amazing and carefully crafted track on the floor. Or  if it doesn't survive that long (which it doesn't always) a picture from my phone! Everytime we build something there is excitement as we create something new and not seen before by the eyes of my two boys. Then the imagination starts and this is what really makes building such a moment that matters for us. I love to watch the imagination run wild as a car garage appears and the train brings the sick animals into the car garage because there is no room at the vets. Then the ambulance helicopter flys in to airlift one really sick cow out except that the pilot takes it too close to the ground and it gets eaten by a dinosaur! This incident actually happened in our playroom not so long ago! Imagination and freedom to believe it is so important when your are playing with young minds. The concentration is also incredible as I hear them talking in the voices of the characters and solving problems. 
We have lots of toys to choose from but I love that both boys now want to work together to play with these toys again and again. I am always going to think fondly of these building times with my boys. They have learned so many skills in the process from coordination, imagination through to negotiating their own space.

The reason why this building time even though such a simple thing is so special and so memorable to me, is the time we spend together doing it. We all like quality time, where we are all focused on building the same thing, with the same goal. Sometimes the concentration as my boys are moving and securing their pieces into place is incredible to see. For me thinking back to my childhood one of my earliest memories is building a duplo tower so high that we had to wedge it against the ceiling to keep it standing up. I can picture the tower in my head and endless hours I spent building and crafting myself. I hope that my boys too will think back to this precious time together and think fondly of the amazing train tracks we built and the fun we had together doing it. For me this is what being young is all about, having fun and using your imagination, challenging yourself to come up with new creations each time you start the designing process anew.

I hope that we continue to build building memories long into 2014 and beyond. I am sure the time will come when my boys want to build more complex and difficult things that will be beyond my understanding and help, but for now I am enjoying building with the toys we have and capturing moments that matter with them.

This is my entry into the moments that matter giveaway hosted by Away with the Fairies in association with Lloyds Bank. I hope it has inspired you to do some building too!

Muddypaws' New Friends Review

As one Parragon Book Buddy's we have sent been a new book to have a look at: Muddypaws' New Friends written by Steve Smallman and illustrated by Simon Mendez.

We always enjoy getting new books to read, and this one with three furry dog friends on the cover looked very interesting. We of course got into reading it straight away to discover more about Muddypaws. A lively puppy, his best friend is Ben and they do everything together, except for when Ben has to go to school when Muddypaws has to stay at home. Then one day, Ben takes Muddypaws to school too - puppy school! At puppy school Muddypaws meets two other puppys Droopy and Patch who become his new friends and they have to learn to sit and fetch a sock. It is a lovely story about making new friends and holding on to old ones too.

Both of my boys have really enjoyed reading the story together, the pictures are beautifully illustrated and both boys love looking at pictures of animals. With my eldest having just started playschool last September we are now at the point where he is starting to make lots of new friends, and this book has helped me to draw out more about who is friends are, and what they do together. For my youngest he blew a kiss to Muddypaws and talked to him the whole way through the story. Whats nice about this story is that both my one and three year old both enjoyed it. The words are a big font size so I am looking forward to when my oldest starts reading and he can read it to himself.

Its a lovely story and makes a perfect story for reading before settling down for bed, and the puppies look so sweet, you will be hooked too as soon as you start reading it.

If you want to buy a copy you can here on Amazon MuddyPaws' New Friends. Or you could download a copy through iBooks here if you would prefer a digital version. Or if you want to find out more about other Muddypaws books (there are 5 in total) in the range you can here: MuddyPaws.

I was sent a copy of the book to review but all of the opinions are my own. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Super fast biking

Last year was a busy year for us in so many ways, but I am so proud of my eldest son for learning to ride his bike. I have this proudness deep inside me as he whizzes down the pavement on it, taking out a few unsuspecting parents on the way. It makes me laugh nearly everyday as he travels ahead of me down the pavement on the way to playschool, going so fast that I am out of breathe by the time we arrive. I tail behind him desperately trying to keep up.

I see learning to ride his bike as a memory that matters for both me and for him, and I hope he looks back at learning pleased about his achievement. For me when I think about biking in my own childhood they are great memories; hours outside in the fresh air, learning to balance, biking with my friends. I had hours of fun in the country air, tackling every type of terrain possible. I hope that learning to ride a bike means as much to my son, and I believe it will do as he is always so excited to find his helmet and then race me down the street. 

We decided upon a balance bike for him having seen other friends kids have great success on them. After copious amounts of research we chose a specialised one with matching helmet, as we felt that introducing a helmet right from the beginning would be the best way to teach safety. I love that the bike already comes with goo already in the tyres so that it can withstand the hawthorn bushes littering our country paths. We opted for no brakes so that our son learned to control the speed himself and although he does scuff his shoes it has taught him a lot about control and learning to leave himself enough time to stop. We brought it a little early for him (age 2) as we were a bit too excited, but this last year he turned 3 he has really got the hang of it, and it seems like nothing can hold him back.

The beauty about a balance bike if you have never seen one is the ability to push yourself along and then glide gaining great speed. When we pass the school age kids at least a year older than my son with stabilizers, I actually feel sorry for them, peddling so hard without actually getting very far, whilst we whizz on past. Without my Phil and Ted's pushchair to push my youngest along in with its air filled tyres I am pretty sure I would not be able to keep up with this super fast biking kid.

My son learning to use his bike really is a memory that matters that I really want to treasure and I want him to treasure too. Its such a valuable skill to learn and I am so proud of him.

This post is my entry into the Memories that Matter competition hosted by Oh so Amelia with Lloyd's bank

My Favourite Winter Warmer

The are asking bloggers to write about their favourite winter warmer recipe. I thought long and hard about which recipe really was my winter warmer recipe, the go to of all of the recipes for myself and the family. It was a hard choice but I have decided to share my recipe for Chilli with you. It's that one recipe that warms you on a chilly day, makes you feel warm and cosy inside and my go to meal that I know all of the family will not only eat but be fighting to sit down to and eat it! It came about after I saw a friend make something similar, and after a bit of tweaking here it is:

Ingredients for the Chilli - Serves 6
1 red onion
2 Cloves garlic 
200g closed cup mushrooms
Tin of Tomatoes
Tin of salad beans (you could use kidney beans instead)
1 Chorizo
400g Beef mince 
Splash of ketchup
Splash of tomato puree
Dash of Soy Sauce, worcester sauce, mushroom ketchup
4 cardamom pods
Dash of chilli powder, cinnamon powder, cumin, coriander powder
Pepper to taste

Chorizo, Onion and garlic cooking 
1. Splash of oil in the pan to cook the Chorizo, onion and garlic over a low heat
*I really like Oilseed rape oil to cook with as its leaner and you can get a great smoked one that adds flavour to this recipe. 

2. Add in the beef mince to brown and turn the heat up a little

3. Add in the mushrooms and beans

All the ingredients are in, it just needs to simmer!
4. Add in everything else to make up your sauce and add flavour - tin of chopped tomatoes, ketchup, tomato puree, soy and worcester sauce, mushroom ketchup, cardamon pods, cinnamon, cumin, coriander powder, pepper and Chilli powder. 
*Add as much or as little Chilli powder as you like, I usually hardly add any as my kids eat it too and it doesn't need the heat because the flavours are so good.

5. Simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes *Remember to find your cardamon pods before serving - when left simmering they usually rise to the top making them easy to spot.

6. Serve with rice, sour cream and cheddar cheese grated on the top. An accompanying salad or garlic Foccacia is also nice with it too if you want it to go further.

Its a very versatile recipe and we have adapted and changed it to make it work for us and this is how it has stuck for us, but you could swap out the salad beans for kidney beans (we just think the salad beans give it a different edge) or you could use a red jarred sauce and just add the spices if you don't have much time. We love it with rice but we also like it as leftovers in a tortilla too.

The great thing about this recipe is that everyone in my family likes it, they scoff it down like they haven't eaten all day. My brother is often caught stealing it out of the pan as I am cooking it too. It takes about 20 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook. I actually think it tastes better when it has been cooked all day or even frozen and then reheated as it gives time for the flavours to infuse through it. Its perfect for those dark cold nights when everyone is tired and you need something easy to eat but full of taste, plus if you add a bit of Chilli heat to it to it warms you in more ways than one! 

My Mum and Dad enjoying the Chilli with us.

My son enjoying his Chilli!
I made it recently when my Dad came for dinner and having had half leftover I froze it for a rainy day. A few weeks later my Dad and husband were looking after the kids for the day and so to help them out I pulled out the bag of Chilli for them to cook for dinner. My Dad made this big thing when I got back about how much better this Chilli was than the one I had cooked a few weeks ago! If that doesn't prove that its a great freezer meal I don't know what will. So why not cook a double batch and freeze half!

Trust me when you have eaten this Chilli you will definitely feel warmer, the night will seem brighter and you will have that full just eaten feeling! I would love to hear how you get on cooking it!