Saturday, 29 November 2014

My Wishlist to Santa at Debenhams

Its almost December and this is the first year that my two year old has really understood what that means. Christmas might just be his new favourite word so I asked him what he would like for Christmas. After much consideration about this question he decided to draw what he would like and this is what he came up with.

To the untrained eye this might look a bit like squiggles however, once drawn he was very keen to talk about them. The top left is of skipper in blue and dusty in orange from planes, bottom left is of a christmas tree in green (very important) and Mummy and Daddy. I am really glad that despite Christmas being about gifts he has already grasped that its more than that, and I think this picture with his family in really captures that. Bottom right is of a new disney cars book and top right is something new to colour and draw with. I did try and capture on camera him talking about his wishlist but he turned terribly camera shy. I did manage to coax him in to talking a little bit though and I love how proud he is of his drawings.

Finally I tried to turn his drawings into an actual wishlist and managed to pull together a Disney cars and planes themed wishlist using items from which I hope also gives you some inspiration and ideas too. He was pretty excited when I showed him and I made sure to include his tree and to tell him that Mummy and Daddy would definitely be around to share in Christmas with him too.

My Wishlist To Santa

Get the list: Disney Planes Mini Dusty Radio Controlled Plane, £13.60, Planes Large Magnetic Scribbler, £12, Disney Planes Projection Torch, £12, Dickie 41cm Light and Sound sky force Helicopter, £17.60, Disney Planes Walkie Talkie, £12, Disney Cars Sing along, £5.99, Planes Dusty Go Glo Pal, £21.60, Disney Cars Off-Road racing Lightning McQueen, £23, Planes 9 piece Giant Foam Floor Puzzle, £13.60, Disney Planes Slide & Hide Game, £8 and Disney Planes 2 Riplash Flyers Playset, £17.60.

I tried to pick items that he asked for as well as some others too. The number one item that I think he really wants is a Disney Planes Mini Dusty Radio Controlled Plane, which I am glad is his first choice because thats exactly what he is getting. I interpreted something to draw and colour with as the Planes Large Magnetic Scribbler and I love that you can wipe this and start again as thats perfect for a two year old. The Lightning McQueen book I found was a Disney Cars Sing Along book which is something different from the Cars books we already have. Jigsaws and games are always popular but I think the extra items that I added to the wishlist that he really would use a lot is the Disney Planes Projection Torch as he is always stealing my husbands torch, and the Disney Planes Walkie Talkies as he loves to talk on the phone and I could see hours of fun being had with them.

What are your little ones after this Christmas?

This is my entry into the My Wishlist to Santa Blogger Competition hosted by Mummy Constant in conjunction with Debenhams. You can find out more about the competition and how to enter here: Mummy Constant.

Winter Hats from Liliputiuans

Many of you know we walk to school and neither of my boys are particularly fond of coats and I find it a constant struggle to get them to wear them. However hats are a totally different subject, they love them! I recently came across this new accessories brand Liliputians who stock some fantastic boys hats that I just love, and I think you will too.

Snow Belle Hat, £20
Their tag line is "Small accessories, 'MIGHTY' impressions" and they passionate about fashion, styling and beauty. They started out their business with hair accessories and have grown from their and if you have a little girl you should have a look at some of hair accessories as they are lovely. The brand was named Liliputians after the characters of the Liliputians in Jonathan Swift's story: Gulliver's Travels. Like the Liliputians characters in the story who were small, but brave, strong and mighty they believe that although accessories are a small part of fashion they can make a significant impact. I definitely think these hats would make a big impact and I can just imagine how much fun my boys would have wearing them.

Reindeer Hat, £12
I really love their Knight and Roman soldiers hats and these would make fantastic Christmas presents  for boys. Imagine how fun the school walk could be battling dragons and armies along the way. I am also pretty sure they would be really keen to wear them and they would be a real talking point with their friends. You can find them here: Liliputians and use the code below to get 20% off.

Roman Solider Hat £15, Knight Hat £15

Lilputians are offering my readers 20% off all of their products until the 20th December 2014 using the code DEC20 so if you are still looking for stocking fillers they have plenty to choose from. They have a lot of different accessories from the prettiest hair clips and hairbands to baby bands, do take a look.

Knight Hat, £15
Which hat do you like the best? My favourite is the Knight, although I do love that red tassel on the Roman Soldier hat too.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but all of the opinions expressed are my own.

A Carroty Chicken Casserole with Zingology

Over the last few weeks we have been trying out the Zingology powders adding them in to our recipes to create something delicious. This week we have been using the carrot powder and with the winter drawing in I wanted to create something warm and comforting and a casserole seemed to fit perfectly. I also love this recipe because its quick to put together and I can prepare it in the morning and just leave it cooking whilst I go and collect the kids from school.

1 Red Onion
1 Corgette
2 cloves garlic
4 chicken thighs
2 carrots
6 mushrooms
1 tsp Carrot Zingology powder
1 chicken stock cube
1 tablespoon of corn flour

1. Cook the chopped red onion and garlic in a pan then add to your casserole dish. Chop all the other ingredients and add to your dish.

2. Make up the stock cube adding 400ml of hot water to it. Then add in your Carrot Zingology powder before stirring in your corn flour. Add to your casserole dish.

3. Turn oven on to 150C and leave for an hour before serving with rice.

After we had finished eating my husband asked me what I had done differently this time as this was the best casserole I had ever made - the only thing different was the zingology carrot powder which gave it a lovely orange colour as well as an extra sweet deliciousness. My boys were very interested in the casserole because of its lovely orange colour of the gravy and I will be adding the Carrot powder everytime I make this casserole from now on as it was such a hit.

This is the stock after I added the carrot zingology powder
We have been trying the Zingology powders over the last few weeks and if you missed my previous posts you can read about our beetroot pizza base here: Pink Pizza and our raspberry icing cupcakes here: Pink Cupcakes. Keep your eye out for our final flavour Strawberry. If you haven't seen anything in the last few weeks what makes Zingology powders special and different from other is that they are 100% natural and because of the way they process it you don't lose the nutrients. This would be great if you have a picky eater that won't eat carrots, and I made my boys beetroot ice lollies which they loved. Zingology have lots of recipe ideas on their website but what about adding the carrot powder to make your cream cheese icing orange on top of your carrot cake?

What hearty meals are you making this winter?

Disclaimer: We were sent a sample of the Carrot Zingology powder in order to review it.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Dream Christmas Spread

Christmas is fast approaching and I am already thinking about the all important Christmas day dinner menu and what we will be cooking. It is my favourite meal of the whole year and I love the time I get to spend with my family around the table sharing in the feast. Christmas is also a great excuse to dress the table up and make it feel really special and its fun getting out the Christmas decor and table decorations.

I have put together a mood board with all of my favourite Christmas table decoration ideas themed around jewels. I wanted each piece to have a little sparkle of its own and to have a rich jewel like feeling about it to capture the luxurious feeling that Christmas gives me.

Christmas Jewel Table
Recreate the look - Large glass star tea light holder, Denby 'Halo' sixteen piece dinner set, Salt & Pepper set of four metal reindeer place card holders, Purple beaded table runner, Betty Jackson. Black Designer purple frosted glass decanter, Star by Julien McDonald Silver Table Gems, Sass & Bell Rotary snowflake Christmas tea light holder, Betty Jackson. Black Designer dark red ombre glass tumbler, Jasper Conran Large glass covered cake stand, Betty Jackson. Black Designer purple graduated oval frosted glass vase, Silver vintage cut glass tea light holder, Purple beaded placemat, RJR. John Rocha Orr brushed 44 piece cutlery set, Set of two dark grey beaded napkin rings, Set of four silver beaded Christmas coasters, Betty Jackson. Black designer dark red ombre wine glass, Silver glittery reindeer Christmas ornament, Pack of 12 luxury snowflake Christmas crackers.

I love the glass star tea light holder and this would make a lovely focus hanging down over the table for everyone to see, a little reminder of why we are celebrating Christmas. I picked some the Betty Jackson. Black glass range as I loved the deep ombre colours, and the vase and decanter would look lovely on the table in contrast to the purple and silver place settings. For me when I think about some of my favourite Christmas meals over the last few years they have always been under candlelight and I wanted to bring that into my table and I thought the light would flicker off the table gems creating a magical effect. It wouldn't be Christmas without crackers, a reindeer and a cake, and I think in the middle of every table should be a cake for everyone to salivate over whilst they eat the rest of their meal, like an Argentine Yule log filled with dulce de leche.

I have also put together a pinterest board with some of my favourite and dream Christmas foods. The recipe that has really caught my eye this year is the Jamie Oliver Turkey Wellington with its cranberry jewel like centre, its a little bit different and a twist on the traditional turkey but it felt like the perfect accompaniment to my table. You can see the recipe here: Jamie Oliver Turkey Wellington

Jamie Oliver's Turkey Wellington
Here are some of the other foods that would be apart of my dream Christmas spread. One of our little family traditions that we have made over the last few years is to make sweet potato casserole with that delicious marshmallow topping. We first had it when we celebrated Thanksgiving with some of our American friends and it goes perfectly with the Turkey for Christmas too.

What Christmas foods would you have on your dream Christmas spread?

This is my entry into the Love Chic Living and Debenhams Blogger Competition: I'm dreaming of Debenhams dinnerware. If you want to find out more about the competition you can read about it here on Love Chic Living.

Elegant Christmas Party Look

With Christmas fast approaching and parties to go to here is my dream Christmas party outfit. I really wanted it to be bold, sophisticated and elegant, with a little sparkle and a lot of glamour.

Elegant Christmas

I love this gorgeous Consuela Tapework dress, from the colour of it to the depth of the detail in the design that will glimmer and shine amongst the dim party lights. I chose black accessories as I felt they complimented the look without making you take your eye from the dress, yet adding that extra sparkle to make it really stand out. 

What will you be wearing for your Christmas parties this year? 

This is my entry into the Debenhams Christmas Party Outfit Competition

Friday, 21 November 2014

Fake it to Make it

Most of you will think that I am a pretty confident person, I always come out as an extravert on the scale, but the truth is I am actually quite shy. I am always very nervous of new situations and so I wanted to let you in on a little secret...shh... I fake confidence a lot of the time.

My husband started a new job earlier this year which resulted in us having to move to Lincolnshire in September, so the last few weeks have been full of lots of new places, situations and things to explore. Sometimes I just long for that little bit of "normal" and "usual" which is probably why the school run walk has become my place of refuge, my time to think. 20 miles a week walking the same path has become my go to place for normality in amongst the busyness and settling in. I have been faced with so many situations that need my steel wall of fake confidence its unbelievable. It is easy to fool strangers into thinking you have confidence but to convince my two boys and my husband is far harder. My two boys can sense fear is on my lips even before the whisper comes from them so I have been working pretty hard on hiding it.

A few weekends ago my husband and I were invited to go away with the management team from his new work. I write it like it was just another event but this was the first time I would met people, his colleagues. It meant trying to remember who everybody is, what they do and what I know about them. It was also the first time for Matt's colleagues to meet me which I think adds extra pressure for me to look and be, not only myself but also the person they are expecting. Finally on the Saturday we had a more formal start to the event at Newmarket Racecourse where there would be an expectation for me to wear heels. Heels may actually be my biggest confidence nemesis. I never wear them, they come out for weddings, evenings out and special occasions. I live in boots and flat shoes - I have two small children afterall and I am particularly clumsy, in fact the last time I wore heels I rather embarrassingly got my heel caught on some uneven pavement and flew into the ground scraping half of my leg! So you can see my fear but I also knew I had to conquer it and smother it in fake confidence.

So to fake confidence and dull my fears I have five things I always do:

1. Prepare, plan and prepare some more. I visually try and think about the event ahead of time, going through the expectations on me, the location, ask hundreds of questions to my husband about his colleagues. Knowing information about key people beforehand I find really helps as you can come up with questions to get you out of those awkward silent moments. I always feel more confident when I know whats happening.

2. Practice walking in my heels. I pull out the heels (I only have one pair) and remember how to walk in them, I make sure I tackle a range of terrain in my pre-training. I also remind my husband on the day that my usual walking pace is significantly reduced and I NEED an arm to hold. Walking in heels is an art and needs practice.

3. Picking the right outfit. This is so crucial to my confidence and I am so glad that I realised how important it is to feel confident in what your wearing. Fashion and I have a love/hate relationship and its an area that I am gaining in confidence in slowly. For this particular weekend I picked a Hobbs dress from my wardrobe which you can eat in without it showing, it has pockets and is very flattering. Pockets mean I have somewhere to put my idle child free hands - as its very important when you are on show to not look awkward. I also practiced my make up just in case you were wondering why I had quite so much on the school run one morning!

4. Pep talks. I am always giving myself them either mentally or out loud, if you have read the hunger games trilogy Katniss is one for self pep talks too and I find they help - sometimes you just need to remind yourself you can do it and no challenge is too big. It brings perspective and focus and thats exactly what you need when you want a confidence boost.

5. Be me. I find I get so busy with the boys and being Mummy that my final preparation is to remind myself that I am a person who is more than just Mum. I take a moment (usually when I am getting ready) to switch from Mummy to Hannah mode. As a Mum I often have 10 half conversations or talk never gets far from the children so I try and remember that I need to delve beyond that point.

We finally got to the weekend away and I tried to put my nerves aside and be me. When I feel nervous I always try to either let other people talk or be the question instigator as its much easier to use a stock question that you have pre-thought about than to be coming up with an answer. My confidence grew as the day went on and I became more familiar with our surroundings and I took every opportunity I had in the day to keep swatting up with Matt about who people were. I also had a few little things that make me feel good and that boost my confidence too that are personal to me like when I put my sunglasses on I feel like I can rule the world (they went on as soon as we stepped outside onto the coach), having lipgloss in my pocket always make me feel very pretty and girly.

We had a break before dinner after we had arrived back from the races to change and refresh. I am pretty sure that everyone else went back to their rooms to sleep but I spend it going over who people were and putting names to faces that I had now met in preparation for the evening. I also tried to speak more one to one with everyone if I had an opportunity as its less daunting for me and I felt that I would come across as being more confident.

First impressions go a long way and there were a few partners who obviously didn't feel that comfortable or confident and I know that I was not one of them. Despite my nerves I know I did a great job of faking it using my toolkit above and I am sure that was the reason that I was successful. Its a real boost when despite nerves and fear you are able to pull something off with fake confidence that you weren't sure that you could, and I know that next time the nerves will still be there but not to the extent of the first meeting.

Have you ever had to fake confidence?

This is my entry into the Feminesse Great British Fake Off Blogger Competition which you can find more about here: Feminesse.

Pink Cakes with Zingology

Last week was children in need at school and so to help the school raise money I was asked to make some cakes for my son's class. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to try out using my Raspberry Zingology powder. I have already reviewed their beetroot powder which you can read about here if you missed it: Pink Pizza with Beetroot Zingology powder.

Zingology is not like other brands of dried powders as it is 100% natural and the goodness of the Raspberry fruit remains with it because of their unique process. It comes in four flavours: beetroot, carrot, raspberry and strawberry and I have being trying out the raspberry in my Pink Cupcakes.

Ingredients: Cakes
200g butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder

125g unsalted butter, softened
400g icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons of milk
1 tsp Raspberry Zingology powder to flavour

Making the cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 180C and line your tin with 24 cupcases

2. Mix all if the ingredients for the cakes together in a large bowl and beat well until the mixture is blended and smooth.

3. Fill each paper case about 3/4 full and bake for 15 - 20 mins in the oven.

4. Leave cakes to cool on a wire rack.

Making the icing:
1. Beat the butter until pale and light then sift in the icing sugar and zingology powder

2. Add the milk and beat until smooth

3. Pipe onto your cupcakes we used a star end.

I did try adding a bit of the Zingology powder to the sponge mixture as well but unless you put a lot in you couldn't see the colour in the sponge, however it was really easy to add to the icing and left the icing a lovely pale pink colour with little speckles of pink in it too. The cakes looked really pretty and I know that they all got eaten. They were really simple to make and we found the raspberry powder gave them that little extra special thing. My youngest was really keen to help me make them and there were plenty of things for him to help with.

The raspberry Zingology powder tastes delicious and gave the icing a lovely extra raspberry favour instead of the vanilla one you would normally get. It was really easy to use it and we will be adding raspberry to some of other foods too. Zingology have loads of recipe ideas on their website but some to get you thinking are, you could make raspberry icecubes or add it as a topping on your icecream. Or what about whipping it up with some cream to accompany your chocolate cake? Pink cream would definitely make a good talking point.

What have you been baking this week?

Disclaimer: We were sent a sample of the Zingology Raspberry powder in order to review it.

The Bully and the Shrimp Review

This month as part of Parragon's Book Buddy Scheme we have been sent The Bully and the Shrimp to review by Catherine Allison and Kim Geyer.

I was a little apprehensive about this book because I have never used the word 'bully' when we talk about people being unkind and I was in two minds about whether this book would be a help or a hindrance. The book has been developed in conjunction with school teachers and child development experts which put me at a bit more ease, but I really had no idea as to what to expect.

On our first reading of it my eldest immediately liked the main character Noah Shrimpton who is small for his age, but he says " being smalls not so bad!" Noah is a very lovable character and he uses is journal to show his favourite things (superheroes and dinosaurs are just some) and how he is feeling throughout the book. Noah's personality seems very similar to my four year olds and it was like they instantly connected. When Connor (the bully) first comes into the page my son was very quiet and I could see his eyes getting wider. He really isn't very nice and I know that my son didn't know how to respond, so we talked about Connor not being very nice and how that must have felt.

What I really liked about the book was how Noah dealt with the bully. He didn't go running off to tell tales but feeling encouraged and loved by his friend Ellie he finds his big voice to stand up to Connor. Confidence is such an important skill and I loved how it was portrayed here.

I was a bit apprehensive about this book to begin with, but I shouldn't have been. Its very well written and worded and the word bullying is not banded about, but carefully used tackling this sensitive subject. The illustrations are brilliant and we loved Noah's journal drawings throughout. My son really enjoyed this book and learning more about Noah Shrimpton and I would recommend the book whether you are facing bullying head on, or if you just want to talk about it like us.

If you would like to buy your own copy of The Bully and the Shrimp you can find it here on Amazon:

Have you ever had to face bullying with your children? At the end of the book there is a page dedicated to giving advice and where to get help from.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book in order to complete my review.

Monday, 10 November 2014

YOU Cleaning Products

I have been looking for chemical free cleaning products for quite a while as normal cleaning products have been making increasingly more ill everytime I use them over the last few years. I am sure that for some of you are thinking that it sounds like the perfect excuse not to clean, and perhaps it is, but as a busy Mum thats not really an option. It seems that I only have to turn around to discover sticky finger prints across my surfaces and windows. My kids are fond of messy activities perfect for learning and development, but not so good for me when I have to clean up. I have tried all kinds of different things over the past few years including mixing my own cleaning products with bi-carbonate of soda, vinegar amongst other things but although effective by the time I had mixed them up my time to clean had passed. So I was really excited and slightly skeptical to try out the new chemical free products YOU.

They have four products in their range Allpurpose, Kitchen, Bathroom and Window and you can get them in Waitrose as well as a few other places. The bottles feel really sturdy and I like that you can buy a refill rather than having to get a new bottle. The refill cartridges are really small and easy to store too. I think to get the best spray you have to open the nozzle and then you get really even spray coverage.

My favourite and most used is the Kitchen (red) bottle which I find degreases the work surfaces perfectly. We have granite which is a lot of work to keep clean and I find this gives the best clean on it and leaves it smear free. I also find it effective on our induction hob and around the sink. I bake quite a lot and there is always caked on dried flour and food which the Kitchen cleaner wipes aways with ease. What I like the most is that you buy a refill to top your bottle up rather than a new bottle. It works by you filling your bottle with water to just above the label line then you screw on the refill and shake. I have found the refilled bottle a little more soapy than the first bottle but it works just as well.

This is how simple refilling the bottle is
The allpurpose antibacterial spray (yellow) perfect for wiping up in between meals and keeping my surfaces clean after my boys have been in the kitchen. The smell reminds me a little bit of deep heat which I like but my husband opts not to use this one and uses the kitchen bottle instead because he is not so keen on the smell. This works well but I find is a bit more smeary than the kitchen cleaner on the granite.

The window cleaner was the first product I tried (blue) and was what convinced me that I should try the others in the range. I spent weeks saying "I can't believe I have found a chemical free product that actually cleans!" We were living with my parents when we started using the window cleaner as my boys kept leaving their lovely fingerprints all over their lounge window and my Dad and I were both impressed with the clean smear free window.

I am yet to fully try the bathroom cleaner but can let you know my thoughts at a later date, but I am hopeful. It nice to find a set of chemical free cleaning products that actually work and have a refill as well reducing the amount of plastic bottles I use too.

Have you tried them? What did you think?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sparkles with The Real Effect

I love jewellery, I am like a magpie to it always looking at what other people are wearing and how they are wearing it. I am a firm believer that a good piece of jewellery can turn a miserable school run outfit into a dazzler and can make you feel good to when you wear it. It can add elegance to your evening outfit or an incredible ring can just make your friends eyes pop out when you meet for coffee.

I have always had some kind of jewellery adorned on my person but since getting engaged and married I have found it much harder to pick other rings that compliment my diamonds. I am pretty sure I am not the only person with this problem. As much as I would love to compliment them with the real deal its just not really an option for me right now so I have been looking for something else.

What I like about The Real Effect who have been around for over 20 years is that they use hand-finished craftmanship with their silver pieces and they use cubic zirconia priding themselves that their gemstones look every bit as lustrous as diamonds. Perfect for accompanying a real diamond in my case or looking every bit as good as one in others. I like that idea that they look good enough that you can't tell they aren't real but without the diamond price tag which is very important for a magpie like myself. I like the idea of hand-crafted items as it feels more personal and I have an expectation with that of high quality products.

The Real Effect have lots of different items to choose from from contemporary pendants, silver and rose gold rings and elegant bracelets and earrings that would be perfect for a dressy evening out. I have picked out my two favourites although I could have easily picked a top ten as they have some lovely pieces going with a more contemporary feel. They do have a real range of different pieces so there would be something to suit everyone's tastes.

This stunning Fully Stone Sterling Ring, £70.10 is my first choice because it would go very well with my engagement ring (which is one white and one black diamond). I love the contemporary feel of this ring and I can imagine it looking great with skinny jeans as well as with heels dressed up for a night out. I love how elegant and pretty it looks and the overlap gives it that element for me that is a bit different and feels fun.

My second choice is this Sparking silver Pendant, £26.75 which caught my eye because its a little bit quirky and unusual and I think would look great with an elegant evening dress. It would draw attention to itself without overpowering the dress and it oozes with sophistication. I would feel very glamourous wearing this pendant and it would make a lovely present (hint, hint). When I look at this pendant I am drawn in by its mesmerizing swirls as they overlap and coil is so very pretty.

I love how real the stones really do look, and I know I would be fooled, what about you?
What pieces would you choose?

This is my entry into The Real Effect Blogger Competition in conjunction with The Diary of A Jewellery lover.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Pink Pizza - Zingology Review

I seem to have been having a pink November and having been sent a sample of the beetroot Zingology powder to try I couldn't wait to get started. Zingology is a organic juice powder and comes in four flavours; carrot, beetroot, raspberry and strawberry. I have been sent the beetroot juice powder to try and I was surprised to see that despite being powdered it keeps all the goodness that you would find in a beetroot (well lots actually as 207g is equivalent to the juice of 52 beets). They don't add any additional ingredients or colourings and it counts as part of your five a day. The science bit of the powder is what sets it apart from other powders because instead of subjecting raw materials to harsh treatments such as freezing and distillation via intense heat, Zingology uses a pioneering technology that dries gently, using only wavelengths of natural light, leaving the nutrients intact. 

We love homemade pizza and so we decided to add the beetroot powder to our dough by kneading in a tsp of powder through. We always cheat a bit and put all the ingredients into the breadmaker so I kneaded in the powder by hand after the cycle (although I think next time I will throw it straight in from the beginning so it gets a better mix). It worked really well and the boys and I were very excited about the pink dough! My tip for rolling out the dough is to oil the surface rather than flour and we find it rolls better and doesn't dry out your dough.

We topped our pizza with passata (because it makes for a really yummy tomato base), ham, grated cheese (mozzarella and cheddar), olives, sweetcorn and pineapple. We usually also put sun dried tomatoes on but we had run out on this occasion. This is the preferred combination of ingredients for the boys and they love helping to add the toppings. 

When the dough was cooked it still had a pinkish tinge to it but what we enjoyed the most was the taste. The beetroot just added that little something extra to the base that was delicious and we will definately be having pink pizzas everytime from now on. 

I have also been sneaking some of the beetroot powder onto my lunchtime salad which is heavenly and I love that you don't have the mess of cutting up a beetroot. I have found myself on a couple of occasions stealing a bit of powder straight out of the jar because it tastes so good. Its possibilities for adding it seem endless and I am thinking pink beetroot cake pops would look and taste great too. Or I might make the boys some beetroot ice lollies to try.
My lunchtime salad sprinkled and seasoned with beetroot powder
I like that this beetroot powder still contains all the goodness of a beetroot and yet is 100% natural. It was a fun way to add something new and different to our everyday cooking and I will be continuing to use it so watch out for it in my recipes. It would also be great to add it to food if you have a fussy eater too as I know some of you do.
If you want to find out more about the company, see their other flavours, get recipe ideas and find out where to buy it you can find out more on their website here: Zingology.
Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of the Beetroot juice powder from Zingology in order to review it.

Four-Box Challenge

I have been taking part in the Four-Box challenge with the Plastic Box Shop and nine other bloggers. 

The plan is four boxes to help me tidy up, clear out and sort out our house using the method in the chart below for guidance. Initially I was really excited when the four boxes came, nearly every room in our house needs sorting since we moved in and haven't quite finished finding everything a home. Then it sunk in a bit and I pondered on quite where to begin. I finally came to the conclusion that the living room and nook was as a good a place to begin as any, mainly because its such a busy and used room.

I got to grip with the idea of the Four-Box method pretty quickly as its really simple. Essential you use it sort place your items in one of the four boxes:

Bin - Items which you intend to throw away.
Donate - Items which you intend to donate to charity.
Keep - Items that will remain in their current position and will be kept.
Store - Items which you do not want to throw away but would be able to relocate and possible store.

My first place was the toybox and I found the chart a really helpful guide for me to decide what should stay and what should go but also as a very visual way for my boys to decide and help too. Of course they thought that everything should stay! What really helped me to work out the keepers against the un-played items was the knowledge that most of the toys were in storage for 5 months and if they haven't been missed and played with in the last 7 weeks we have been in our new house, it needed to move on. I took my eyes off the four boxes for a couple of seconds and discovered that whilst I had been busy my boys had moved things between the boxes which is slightly frustrating. At this point I made a decision not to do more with the boys present. I have very limited time when I don't have a helper so I took full advantage of my one mornings alone to re-continue with the toys, making sure that the "donate it" box had been moved up to the spare room until I have a chance to bag it up and drop it off. Being new to the area I haven't figured out where to do this yet - but I will!

Before the toy area
After and I can finally get the lid on
In sorting through the toybox I found loads of mis-placed items that I re-homed from my "keep it" box. This actually took me the longest time to complete as we had items from every room in the house including all of my coasters (which I had been wondering where they had disappeared to). It also led me to clear out the kitchen cupboard to and create two new useable shelves in it. One for craft supplies and books for the boys and the other as a half way place for post and bills. I used one of the boxes I found in the living room to create an area for storing pens, crayons, glue and you name it. I also have re-used some of the smaller pots that I used to use for weaning when the boys were smaller to store things in. I really like it when you can take something that you no longer use and give it a new place. It has helped a lot to give the pens and craft books a home finally in a room and dividing and sorting it means that I can give the boys a pot of colours rather than a whole box. I find they are more creative when they have less on the table and it also means we can do it more often as it will be more controlled - there is nothing worse than a whole tub of assorted writing things all over the floor.

One organised box

One tidy crafty cupboard
I was surprised at just how full the four boxes got and I found that my store it and keep it box in my mind become one and they were my first boxes to empty back out again. I also like the prompting from the chart which was a great reminder with the toys; can you fix it? Yes - Did you fix it? No, so bin it. I was reminded that although I could fix it I probably won't so it will just sit in a corner gathering dust and its better just to bin it and move on.

Having sorted the living room, it also made me address the little issues that were bothering me in the kitchen because of re-homing. We have a habit of coming in, picking up the post and then leaving it in a pile on top of the microwave. As you can imagine when your a busy Mum the pile mounts and mounts until its overspilled into the whole kitchen. So enough is enough my new system (made from a bran flakes box) is for items that need actioning only; coupons, hospital appointment letters, current things. Everything else now gets sent straight to the spare room for filing. Being honest here the spare room really needs sorting now all the other rooms have been and is my planned four-box project for next week when the boys are out at school. Its a big job and I know it needs to be done, the living room and kitchen were my warm out for getting used to my new four-box method.

One messy microwave
My re-homed microwave junk into my new tidy made from the bran flakes box
In the living room next the TV for the seven weeks we have lived here there has been three boxes that don't seem to be useful (otherwise we would have unpacked them) that got stuck there. No more. I have sent the speaker stands to the garage for storage until we actually replace the speakers (we have been saying we will for two years so I am not hopeful it will happen anytime soon) then they can return rather than being a weird eye-sore. I then took a look in the boxes and have stored them elsewhere. They contain some of our American equipment which we were still using before we moved but we are in discussion as to where it will go and if its even needed. The chart suggests that we should store it/ keep it so thats what we will do for now. Technical things aren't really my department so I will be leaving any decisions beyond that for my husband to make. I am just glad they are out of my way now.

Before the TV Unit
After - all sorted and cleared
My instinct with the living room has instantly been that we need more storage but I am not sure that we do, I think we just need to re jig what we have. We have two bookcases coming in a few weeks when we have collected them (they are elsewhere in storage currently) so that will help to smarten up the toy area so I can conceal them when they aren't in use and make it feel like a more grown up space in the evenings.

I have very much enjoyed clearing out out and organising. There is something very refreshing and satisfying about it that I would recommend if you are on the fence. I haven't got rid of a huge amount but what I have done is make the things we do have more accessible for myself and the boys. Its also lovely to relax in the living room without having to keep looking at the 'boxes I haven't unpacked yet' and without seeing too many toys overspilling the toy box. Simple but it makes a huge difference.

I keep filling and clearing
Next I will be tackling that spare room! I keep dreaming of making it into a craft room so watch this space. What rooms do you need to tackle? What do you think to the Four-box method?

Disclaimer: I was sent the four plastic boxes to use to complete my challenge for the post.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dreaming of a holiday

When people ask me about my dream holiday destination I splutter a bit as thousands of different destinations run through my head. I always feel a little unsure as to what to say because there are so many different places that I have been to and loved and have strong memories permeating my thoughts, and then there are the places that I dream about going to as well. The places that people have told me about or I have heard whisperings of like Australia and New Zealand, the ones I am drawn to in intrigue.

Houston zoo seeing the locals
I want my children to experience walking through the streets of St Petersburg marvelling at the architecture and the wonder captured in the city and the people. I also want them to experience being face to face with an Orca at Seaworld in Orlando, so close to a creature so powerful and strong is something never to be forgotten. I want them to visit the borders of Finland and taste blueberries so sweet beyond imagination growing out in the wild whilst doing their usual thing of collecting the most unusual sticks they can find and stuffing them into their pockets. I want them to explore the vastness of the Grand Canyon blown away by how big it is as we fly over in a helicopter, or see just what a volcano really looks like up close in Hawaii. I want to see my boys faces as there jaws drop open as they stand metres from the most gigantic gator they have ever seen, the one that seems to only have eyes for them that they talk about for years after. I want my son to see where he was born in Houston, be captivated by the extraordinary Hobbit world of New Zealand and see whales in their natural habitat showing off their tremendous size and form. The heat of the south of France and beaches so white with sand as far as the eye can see in contrast to the cold of Moscow as we wrap ourselves in layer upon layer of clothes to walk on the iced Baltic sea. 

Orca's in San Antonio SeaWorld
The excitement of flying high above the clouds is something incredible in itself and not to be shrugged off lightly at the start of an adventure. In amongst these big holiday moments I want my kids to remember the time we had together as a family, the quiet togetherness that holds the four of us as a family. The games we shared as we flew high in the air, the simplicity of exploring a new place together through leaf kicking feet taking in nature in its new and unfamiliar, often breathtaking surroundings. Each holiday we share together is about us as a family seeing and living in new surroundings learning about the culture, tasting their food and creating memories however big or small that stay with us, reminding us and inspiring us. 

Stick collecting and gathering in pockets
I don't have one dream destination for a family holiday I have many, but the one element that all my dream destinations have is the captivating and breathtaking factor for adventure. The opportunity to explore something beyond what we see everyday, together as a family. These memories that they make I hope will help them to dream bigger, to want adventure and to understand the importance of dreaming with adventure in the future. Afterall its my memories and past experiences that are shaping theirs. 

This post is an entry for the #Flying100 Family Holiday Challenge, celebrating how flying allows us to make memories and 'be there', in association with #Flying100. Find out more at