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Monday, 20 October 2014

Halloween 2014 : Simple Creepy Cookies

We've been getting into the swing of things for the little mans first Halloween.

It's been costume and pumpkins galore in our house and while I was in the Halloween spirit I decided to make some simple Halloween cookies.

Here's what you'll need -


2 oz of butter or magarine
4 oz of light brown sugar
1 medium egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 of plain flour
Decorations - I used pre coloured and pre made icing for speed


Preheat your oven to 180 C

Line a baking tray with grease proof paper

In a mixing bowl, add the butter/margarine to the sugar and mix until it looks quite light in colour.
Stir in the egg and vanilla extract (I also added a little black food colouring to the mixture too).

Add the flour to the mixture and fold in.

Divide the mixture into similar sized lumps and put onto your baking tray. Make sure you leave plenty of space between as they do expand .. a lot!

Bake the cookies for around 10 minutes or until you smell smoke/they go brown/see fire!

Let your cookies cool properly on the baking tray before you even think about decorating.
To decorate I used Renshaw ready to roll icing, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I knew I'd never be able to make good colours using traditional icing sugar and food colouring.
A few weeks ago during my regular visit to Hobbycraft I found some cute little cookie cutters for a rather reasonable £1 so I used them to trim the randomly shaped edges from my cookies and also cut the icing once I'd rolled it out.
I'm no Delia Smith, but for a Halloween party I'm sure my cookies would make a nice little sweet addition.


Little Hand Prints Posters‏ giveway

Little Hand Prints was created by Dave Williams who is a designer and illustrator based in Liverpool. 

The Little Hand Prints range consists of themed A-Z posters, ranging from Pirates and Sea Life to Safari Animals and Space. Each poster that is prnted is limited to a run of only 100, so in theory your print will be a very limited edition. 
Little Hand Prints also offers the option to customise the prints with a name of your child and you can also work directly with them to create a bespoke piece of your choice.

Little Hand Prints are offering one of my blog readers the chance to win a poster print of your choice. To enter the competition please complete the rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Terms & Conditions
Winner will be drawn via Rafflecopter entries.
Details will be verified and if found to be false ALL of your entries will be disqualified.
Winner will be contacted via email and Twitter (if your handle is provided).
You will have 14 days to respond to winning notification otherwise a new winner will be picked.
The prize will be arranged, produced and delivered by Little Hand Prints.

One winner is entitled to one standard print of their choice (RRP £12.50).

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Jacamo slouchy desert boots for men

It's an actual fact my husband hates shopping. Actually that's not really the truth., he just hates shopping with me. I like to peruse the shops, spending a good few hours wandering whilst accumulating bags. Hubby on the other hand will go into one shop, buy what he needs in 20 seconds flat and go home. Thankfully there's always the online option, at places like Jacamo, which means he gets less stressed with the actual shopping bit, and I can keep a watchful eye/give a helping with what he's purchasing. 
Jacamo is home to a huge selection of menswear brands in a wide range of sizes. Footwear goes up to a rather impressive UK size 15 which is fantastic for people such as my uncle. He's a large bloke, at just over 6"5 and has had issues shopping for both clothing and footwear his entire life. His feet are UK size 14 and back in the days before Jacamo he used to have to have his shoes special made, costing an absolute fortune.

Jacamo stock clothing sizes from small to 5xl and trousers with waist sizes of 34” to 62” and leg lengths of 27” up to 36”, so there's literally something for everyone, regardless of shape or size. 
My lucky hubby was recently given the chance to try out some footwear from Jacamo. After much deliberation ( a whole 10 minutes) he chose the Label J slouchy desert boots in the colour 'stone. The boots can be bought in either a standard fit or a wide fit. We went for the standard fit as hubby has quite slim feet.
The boots are much smarter than my 90's throw back husband would usually go for but they make a refreshing change to his footwear collection.
As well as the stone colour hubby chose, you can also buy the boots in a rich chocolate brown colour which look equally as nice. The boots can be dressed both up or down. They look great with dark navy jeans, but I suspect they'd look just as good with a smarter pair of trousers or chinos. 

After the boots first outing my hubby commented about how comfy and hard wearing they seem. He mentioned that the soles feel cushioned and are quite thick and not at all flimsy. He did say the size is a little more generous than his usual size 8's but not to the point where they feel too big. He seems to think they'll go nicely with thicker socks in the colder weather.
The boots are suede well made and look like they will last. Both the design and colour choice make me think they're perfect for Autumn. I think they're pretty well priced at £65 and would make an ideal Christmas gift for an awkward other half .. like mine!
*Hubby was sent the boots to review. Opinions are our/his own*

Friday, 17 October 2014

National Arthritis Week: 12–19 October

Did you know around 10 million people in the UK have arthritis?

It's quite common for people to associate arthritic symptoms with old age but it actually affects people of all ages, including children and is a common condition which causes pain and inflammation in your joints.

Arthritis is something that's affected the females in my own family for years. My Grandmother suffered for many years before she died and sadly my Mam seems to have inherited it too, and the older she gets the worse her symptoms become. My Mam is a rather sprightly 60 year old who has taken a vast array of medication for the last 30 years due to severe Crohn's disease. Various Doctors and Consultants seem to think this has triggered the onset of Arthritis (her symptoms began apparent when she was around 40). Rather sadly, she struggles with simple tasks like removing a lid from a jar, making up a bottle for my little boy or simply doing up buttons. It's quite sad. 

Whilst I don't have Arthritis myself ( and fingers crossed it stays that way) I can relate to joint pain and stiffness as I suffer from Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine which is an extremely painful congenital disease which unfortunately for me was only diagnosed when I was 24. I'd suffered back problems since I was a young child but it was never picked up. I also have one leg slightly shorter than the other which has caused my hips to misaligned and Hypermobility - I'm such a joy!

First thing on a morning my Mam's hands are unuseable, she has to do a selection of exercises recommended by her Physio to 'get them started' so she can get dressed. 

The two main types of Arthritis are - 

Osteoarthritis - which affects the smooth cartilage lining of your joint, making movement more difficult than usual and causing pain and stiffness. It most commonly affects the hands, spine, knees and hips.

Rheumatoid arthritis - is an autoimmune disease which means your immune system attacks the cells in the lining of your joints by mistake, making them swollen, stiff and painful.

Obviously as there's history of Arthritis in my family, I think it's really important to be aware of the warning signs and ensure we're all aware of the condition. Pay attention to your body, if something doesn't quite feel right - it probably isn't, so go and get it checked!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Cow & Gate #5stepweaning plan

From first spoonfuls to three meals a day
Cow & Gate have been helping parents feed their babies for 110 year, so they're fully aware of how messy, fun and frustrating it can be Their team of nutritionists and baby feeding advisors have created a simple online 5 step weaning plan to help take parents from those tentative first spoonfuls to three meals a day. It's the perfect resource for a first time Mammy like me. 

Each step includes recipe ideas, and tips and advice on each stage of weaning. If you register on the 5 step weaning plan you will also be sent money off coupons for Cow & Gate products which are all baby friendly and perfectly healthy for little tummies. 

The little man is 8 months old now and weaning for us is well underway. He eats three meals a day and will try anything, well anything other than Salmon, that's literally the only thing he's turned his nose up at. I remember his first little spoonfuls of food, thankfully he was very keen to try things and showed no reluctance. 

5 Step Weaning Plan steps -

Step 1 
First spoonfuls - the goal is to help your baby eat from a spoon and introduce Cow&Gate's top 10 first foods which include baby rice and a variety of fruit and vegetable purees. 

Step 2 
Introducing breakfast - establish a breakfast routine after their first morning milk feed.

Step 3 
Offering variety - give your baby a wider variety of fruits and vegetables.

Step 4
Meat, fish and alternatives - introducing the exiting new tastes and textures of meat, fish and vegetarian alternatives.

Step 5
Establishing 3 meals a day - putting the last 4 steps together 3 times a day.

You can get more in depth information and lots of helpful advice from the Cow & Gate website. I also wrote a weaning post a while ago if you'd like to take a look at my suggestions. 

Cow& Gate are also giving you the chance to win an Iphone 6!


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Baby update - teeth, words and crawling!

I have some massive milestone updates about the little man. They all seem to have come together, creating a sleep routine nightmare, or at least a nightmare to us. We're not used to regular sleepless nights or him waking during the night, but for the last week he's been like a different baby. He's been awake at least twice every night, demanding milk and then awake at the crack of dawn, ready for the day. It's a complete killer when you've got used to a baby sleeping 8-8 most nights. 

He has teeth!
Two whole teeth. They've finally arrived, the first on the 22nd September and on the 5th of October the second one poked its way through. They're both at the bottom, and boy are they sharp! 

Terrifyingly, he also crawls! He went from his rocking, twerking motion to full blown crawling at the speed of light around the house in less than 48 hours. 
He's been insistent on trying to pull himself up on everything too. While we were in his bedroom the other day, him creeping round the floor and me putting his clean washing away (I feel like I do that about 16 times a day, every day!) he realised I'd left the bottom drawer of his chest of drawers ajar. He took this as the perfect opportunity to attempt to scale the front of the drawers and rather scarily, he pretty much managed! He could only manage a few seconds unsupported before he tumbled side ways and was caught by an eagle-eyed Mammy, but he was up! Since he's tried to climb the TV cabinet, the bottom stair and the washing machine door!

God help me. 

He was up on his feet with the help of his Popeye-esque arms in seconds ( sadly I missed it on my phone but I managed to record him later the same night attempting the same, but he didn't quite manage to get up onto his feet this time. 
He's been saying 'Dada' or 'Da' for weeks now but refused point blank to say anything that resembles Mammy. Until this last week. He now says 'Mama' when he's tired or a little upset, so I suppose we're getting there!

The recent milestones have made Hubby and I realise we really need to baby proof the house as soon as possible. The TV has already been wall mounted and all loose wires hidden or fastened against the skirt boards, we now just need to secure everything else and hope for the best!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Pampers/UNICEF 1 pack = 1 vaccine campaign

One of the many things I love about being a parent, is seeing my son's 'firsts'. His first smile, his first roll and more recently his first tooth and first crawl. There are a multitude of 'first' milestones a baby should experience, but sadly, that's not always the case. In some countries, illness and famine is rife and children don't get to reach the milestones that we, so often take for granted. 

The Pampers/UNICEF “1 pack = 1 vaccine” campaign has just launched for it's 9th year, with Emma Bunton as it's ambassador for the second year running. 
To date the campaign has funded an incredible 300 million vaccines, which has helped successfully eliminate Maternal and Newborn Tetanus (MNT) in 15 countries – that’s another five countries since the campaign last year!

Sadly, there are still babies at risk in another 24 countries around the world, so we need to try and help in anyway we can.

So what can you do to help?

During October – December 2014 for each Pampers – UNICEF pack you purchase, Pampers will donate money to fund tetanus vaccines to support UNICEF in the fight against maternal and newborn tetanus.
You can also watch the online films that celebrate the first-time moments from babies.  Each time you watch a video like the one below, Pampers will donate one vaccine to the campaign.
You can also upload a picture of one of your baby's special moments to the Pampers Facebook. It could be a cuddles or a gorgeous smile, either way, Pampers will donate another lifesaving vaccine.

To show my support for the campaign, I thought it was appropriate to share some of my own son's 'firsts'.
If you want to know more about the Pampers and UNICEF 1 pack = 1 vaccine campaign then please click on the links below:

Red Dahlia Designs handmade jewellery

I was saying in one of my more recent posts how much I'd been lusting over stacking bracelets. I absolutely love the way they look, but as I'm rather clueless I had no idea where to start when looking for one to start my collection. Luckily, the lovely Rosie from Red Dahlia Designs was on hand to help solve my bracelet dilemma.

Rosie launched Red Dahlia Designs in February this year, which is a UK based creative outlet where she designs and makes affordable fashion jewellery for all ages. The range includes earrings, bracelets and necklaces. 

Rosie very kindly offered to send me one of her beautiful pieces of handmade jewellery to try out. 
The piece Rosie sent me arrived neatly wrapped in tissue paper and packaged in a pretty little organic cotton drawstring bag, as do all of Red Dahlia Designs items. 
I was sent the stunning Luxurious gemstone friendship bracelet, a delicate bracelet in a gorgeous aqua blue colour. The bracelet is handmade using Agate Gemstone, Silver and Gold Plated beads on a Nylon cord with a simple ajustable fastening. I have rather narrow, childlike wrists (sadly, that's the only waif like bit) and usually have to have links removed from watches and bracelets resized so an adjustable slider is the perfect option on a bracelet. 
The bracelet looks extremely delicate, so much so, I was worried I'd snap it the first time I used it (I'm not the most graceful woman in the world) BUT, I've hardly taken it off my wrist (only to wash and sleep) since it arrived and it's been perfectly fine. It's obviously well made and clearly able to endure the life of Cat! The bracelet is the ideal width for me, it doesn't swamp my wrist, but it's thick enough to make an impact.
Rosie has recently stepped into the wonderful world of Etsy, opening her Red Dahlia Designs Etsy Store where you can currently save 20% on all the products listed, you just need to enter 20LAUNCH at the check out to receive the reduction on your order. 

I am very impressed with both the beautiful bracelet I was sent and how helpful and friendly Rosie was, which gave me the push to order a further two bracelets whilst taking advantage of the great 20% saving on Etsy. 

I would thoroughly recommend Red Dahlia Designs, the products are affordable, very pretty and most importantly, well made. The designs are ideal for gift ideas or simply to treat yourself to something pretty!

*I was sent the gemstone friendship bracelet to review. Opinions are my own*

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Ultimate English confectionery

When it's time to buy gifts for others (Christmas really is only 74 days away you know!) I often find myself going back to the same brand, particularly when it comes to confectionery. I think it's often just habit rather than love for the brand. 

But, I think I've found a rival for my confections (geddit!?) in The Ultimate English, a range of premium confectionery designed to celebrate traditional childhood favourites from rich butter fudge and toffee to brittles, honeycombs and coconut ice.

They were launched by The Serious Sweet Company, who originated in Harrogate and started making and selling fudge way back in 1843. Rather interestingly, to counteract the not so nice taste of the town's water. The fudge is still hand made and sold in Harrogate today. 

I was recently given the chance to try out a selection of their goodies and obviously, I was never in a million years was I going to turn down the opportunity to try some tasty treats.
I was sent three of their boxed range to try out. 

Each selection is boxed up in a simple yet eye catching container, which look nice enough to give as a gift. The packaging has quite a manly look, which means they'd make a suitable present for both male or female. 
Right, on to the treats inside -

Lemon Coconut Ice

The smell of lemon is pretty strong when you open the box and it does smell very fresh and refreshing.  This was probably my least favourite of the three treats I tried, but I'm not really a lemon fan, particularly in sweets. My hubby however, is! He was grateful that I didn't really like the flavour as he got to scoff them all himself. He loved them and has already asked if I can try and get him another box. 

I found the coconut was the stronger taste in the Lemon Coconut Ice. It over powered the lemon a little but each sweet still had quite a tang to it from the lemon. The recipe actually contains 20% coconut, which also gives it quite a course texture. It's sweet but not overpoweringly so. 

All Butter Fudge

A totally delicious, creamy flavour. The indulgent 16% butter recipe is obvious in the beautiful flavour. It literally melts, like butter, in your mouth! Next time we're in Harrogate I will be hunting out where I can buy this freshly made. It really does taste homemade and I challenge any fudge lover not to fall in love at first bite!

Salt Water Chocolate Fudge

THIS. IS. AMAZING. It's one of the tastiest things that has ever been in my mouth! Its thick and creamy and again, melts instantly in your mouth. I'm not usually a fan of flavoured fudge, preferring plain butter fudge, but the Salt Water chocolate fudge is to die for. I might have refused to share this box with my husband at all, and the whole box just fell into my mouth. It's not overly sweet, as I'd anticipated, the chocolate flavour isn't overpowering, but it's enough to made the fudge taste even nicer. It's the type of sweet that once you've tried it, it makes your mouth water in anticipation. Yes, it's REALLY that nice. 

Overall, I'm thoroughly impressed with the three varieties I tried from The Ultimate English, the range is tasty, well designed and very moreish. The boxes retail at £3.99 which I think is very good value. 

The Ultimate English products are all available across the Yorkshire area and are stocked in a variety of farm shops and smaller more independent food stores. I'm hoping they start an online ordering system soon, as I would love to buy some more, and also try out some of the other varieties.

You can check local stockists in your area at The Ultimate English - where to buy

*I was sent the three boxes to review. Opinions are my own*

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Needlework Studio personalised baby blanket & giveaway

I'm a huge fan of personalised baby gifts. I think they're sweet and unique gift ideas for a new arrival. I've bought my son so many bits and pieces with his name on and personalised items have also become my first choice when shopping for other peoples new arrivals. 

I was recently introduced to Needlework Studio who are based in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. They're a small family run company who specialise in beautifully personalised items particularly suitable for both little people and our furry friends. They offer a wide range of products on their website, including super soft baby blankets, snuggly lamb comforters, baby bibs and clothing, all of which can be personalised with details, colours and font type of your choice. In addition, they're also extremely friendly and helpful. 

Needlework Studio have a small range of Christmas gifts available for personalisation which are perfect for a 'First Christmas' gift. They have also recently introduced an official In the Night Garden range to their online product catalogue, which includes both Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy items. 
I was very kindly given the opportunity to try out on of their personalised items. After much deliberation I chose one of their soft and cosy personalised baby blankets.

The blanket arrived nicely packaged and wrapped in tissue paper. It's ideal if you're buying it as a gift for someone else, particularly if you have a wrapping paper aversion like me. I detest the wrapping of presents so when someone makes something look pretty for me, saving me a sellotape trauma I'm sold!
I am really impressed with the quality of the blanket I was sent. The cream coloured material is really soft and snuggly with beautiful contrasting blue embroidery detail. The name and date are very well done and the design is exact with no weird spacing or misshapen letters (as I've previously experienced with some other personalised items).
The blanket is a good size, and measures a baby friendly 100cm by 72cm.  So far we've used it to cuddle up on the sofa and keep the little man nice and warm in his pushchair. It's also the ideal size to use as a cot blanket when the weather gets slightly warmer. 
I would definitely recommend Needlework Studio for their beautiful quality, personalised goodies. I can't fault the blanket at all. The little man also seems to be a fan. He's pretty much constantly had hold of the blanket since it arrived and has taken quite a shine to it, sucking on one of the corners.

The lovely people at Needlework Studio are also giving one of my readers the chance to win a personalised item for their own.

One lucky winner will win a gorgeous lamb comforter, personalised with the name of your choice. The comforters come with a little hidden zip, which means they can be uses as a little cushion too. 
To enter the competition and be in with a chance of winning one of these lovely comforters you must fill in the rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions

A random winner will be chosen via rafflecopter and notified by email of Twitter (if you leave your handle).

You will have 14 days to respond to the winning notification otherwise a new winner will be picked
Your prize will be provided by Needlework Studio and you will have one month to redeem your prize with the company