The Best Things In Life Are Free…

I’m writing this with an empty heart, I’m all on my own having just spent a lovely half term week with boys. Back to reality with a bang!

Last weekend though, I had such great plans for us but as usual, it being only weeks since Christmas, finances dictated and ruled. That was okay though as the boys were quite happy to chill and take each day as it came.

We mined. Lots! I’m sure I’m not the only one whose little people are into Minecraft… *whispers* well so am I 😀  We all join the same game and work together and then fight over the only diamond sword we manage to make, Bruiser usually gets it though, he steals it from our chests while me and Wriggler are mining. It’s actually quite amusing, he waits till we are down in our mines and then you can see his gamertag move across the top of your screen as he makes his way to our house on the surface and then its a race against time to get out of our mines and up back to our houses to stop him!

The boys love spending time with their uncle, he’s really down with the boys these days, he even has Minecraft too now and had a lesson from the boys! In the morning though we all went with him and Zeus the family dog to the woods. It was nice to blow away the cobwebs out in the sticks, quite literally! It was good for the boys too to challenge themselves on the near vertical muddly slippy hills that took no prisoners. We made it all in one piece though even if it was with mud up to our ear lobes!

We lost hours in ‘their world’ the lego, ninja, space, make-believe pirate adventures that are something else let me tell you. Everything gets mingled together. Wriggler has quite the imagination, Bruiser goes with the flow. The remnants of those escapades are still littered around the house which makes me realise I really should start tidying up, ha! Maybe tomorrow 😉

The boys spent some quality time with their Daddy over the weekend too while I escaped with a lovely friend; lunching, hand bag shopping and cinema going (yes I have a social life!). He took them on a bike ride up the Trans Pennine Trail. They love it down there.

the best things in life are free

In between all that, we’ve partied, we’ve visited Great Nan, a much-loved Aunt, the boys delivered their valentines gifts, cuddled, crafted, giggled and generally had lots of family fun.

At the end of any time together we always ask the boys what they’ve enjoyed the most. Sunday night while having cartoons and a cuddle before bed we asked them what their favourite bit of the week was. Bruiser enjoyed the bike ride most. Wriggler gave us his top three; no.3 the walk in the woods, no.2 the bike ride down the TPT and no.1 spending time together!!

It brought tears to our eyes. There was me feeling guilty that we hadn’t done much, or gone very far but the reality is; it’s not about what you spend on them, it’s about the time you spend with them that means the most.

Five weeks and counting to our next school holidays…..

 

Baking our Christmas Cake

The other week me, Wriggler and Bruiser baked this years Christmas cake. This was the second time id baked the cake. In previous years, my Mum had always took great pleasure in baking us our yearly christmas cake but. last year I decided that I would use my Mums Christmas Cake recipe and give it a go for myself. It was a great success.

This year I wanted to get the boys involved just like my Mum did with me and my Brothers when we were children.

Both Wriggler and Bruiser love to bake and help cook so it didn’t surprise me that they were both very eager to get stuck in. In fact they took over, I barely got chance to do any of it myself!

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First of all we got the butter and sugar creamed together. Then the boys took turns to add a little spiced flour then a little egg and other liquid ingredients until they were all mixed in.

Bruiser got stuck in scraping the mixture from the sides of the bowl (taking great care not to get even a tiny bit of mixture on his fingers) before they added the fruit, one spoonful at a time;

Once all the ingredients were added, it was time to each give the mixture a hand-stir while we made our christmas wishes. This was a tradition that my Mum always did. Id always thought it was a lovely idea so this year for the first time we did it too. 

That was it, the mixture was added to the cake tin and left to slowly bake in the oven…. All that was left was to well, clean the utensils 😉

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While the cake matures in the coming weeks, we just need to decide how we want to decorate the cake. Last year we did Snowmen and a Christmas Tree. But, this year Wriggler has some great ideas, so watch this space!

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Getting to know The Lego Galaxy Squad…

… at The National Space Centre no less! What could be more prefect?

We are big big fans of the Space Centre and big big fans of Lego.  So, my boys were over the moon when I told them we had been especially invited to the Launch of the new Lego Galaxy Squad.

All great days out have their little hiccups, on this particular day it was the car breaking down a mere twenty minutes into our journey, almost irreparably!

galaxy squad

It looked like all was lost and that our day was over before it had even started. But, thank you to the great people at our local Vauxhall dealership who after receiving our car from the RAC (not to mention some rather great negotiating skills on my part ;)) gave us a courtesy car for the weekend.

We were on our way at last, albeit 2 hours behind schedule. We’d miss the mornings events but we would be there for the remaining part of the day. As far as the boys were concerned, any amount of time would be a great time!

We arrived just in time for lunch which worked out great because as soon as we entered the Shuttle Suite, Wriggler immediately wanted to start building the Lego that was out on the tables. We got started on building the Alien Dragonfly which was part of the Bug Obliterator set. Bruiser kept himself happy playing with the contents of his goody bag which included a space monkey (his favorite film is Space Chimps so you can imagine his excitement can’t you) and some Galaxy Squad Lego.

Now I have to say I was VERY impressed with The Galaxy Squad. Over the years Lego has just got better and better, a far cry from the simple box of blocks that I owned when I was little. Galaxy Squad is big, its bright and in one word, its BRILLIANT!

So who are The Galaxy Squad? They are in fact, an elite unit of Galaxy Soldiers that operate in four specialised task forces (red, blue, orange, green) to save the galaxy from a mysterious race of evil Alien Bugs that are swarming across the galaxy, capturing civilians in cocoons and turning one planet after another into bug hives.

The Galaxy Squad products range in price from £7.99 to £79.99 so there is something for everyone! We particularly liked the Bug Obliterator priced at £59.99 and its this that we built on the day. Unfortunately we just didn’t get time to finish it all. We did complete the Alien Dragonfly and it looked stunning. I regretfully didnt capture a picture of it!!

Lego Galaxy Squad

Defeat the alien dragonfly with the split-function Bug Obliterator that transforms into an armoured rover and attack ship with weapons! The deadly alien dragonfly is trying to capture the Galaxy Squad orange team heroes in a cocoon prison. Soar into battle with orange team heroes, Jack Fireblade and Ashlee Starstrider in the Bug Obliterator!

All of the different models were very impressive though, even the miniature sets from the goody bags!

The beauty of Lego is that you can build pretty much anything your imagination conjures up. Galaxy Squad was no exception! The boys had great fun taking part in the various Lego activities taking part around the Space Centre and building their own space vehicles and aliens. Wriggler made himself a satellite and displayed it in the Space Centre along with all the other fantastic creations.

Part of the afternoon events included a talk by Englands only Certified Lego Builder. Wriggler had no idea that you could build Lego for a job and was particularly interested in what he had to say. He sat watching him in awe, mentally taking notes while the Lego Builder talked about what he built so far and how he went about designing and building the creations he was asked to work on.

Other Lego activities going on was making your own Lego Movie, unfortunately we didn’t get time to do that but it looked brilliant. The giant Galaxy Squad Mosaic. It was great to see first hand how these are constructed and even have a go ourselves. I have to admit it looked very impressive! Unfortunately it didn’t get finished on the day but I have heard that it was eventually finished in the week that followed by other visitors to the centre. The finished creation was made up of 192 boards, each board had 256 LEGO pieces on it. The completed mosaic contained a whopping 49,152 LEGO bricks. Now that’s a lot of Lego!

galaxy squad

This photo just doesnt do it justice!

We had a fantastic day, okay half day on this occasion. Even after all the Lego activities, we still got to explore the Space Centre all over again. It was great to revisit our favorite parts in particular the Planetarium, The Rocket Tower and Space Now and this time I managed to capture a picture of the piece of Moon Rock that’s on display.

Thank you to Lego and Elyssa for the invitation and for such a fantastic day. We loved The Galaxy Lego Squad. I know for sure that Galaxy Squad will feature highly on the boys’ Christmas lists this year… and possibly even mine 😉

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Lego Summer is taking part in the Space Centre all through the summer holidays. Go along until the 1st September to meet the Galaxy Squad for yourself.

You can find out more about the Lego Galaxy Squad by following the links within this post or by following this link now.

Also available are: The Lego Galaxy Squad game – Bug Battle and Cocoon Crusher. They are free to play online at: LEGO.com/GalaxySquad and The Lego Galaxy Squad Bug Battle is also available for iOS as a free app game.

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 **Disclaimer**
We were invited to the Launch of the Lego Galaxy Squad and given free family entry to the Space Centre as well as goody bags for the children for the purpose of this review, I have received no other form of financial compensation and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Its Your Story Book Review

You can’t beat cuddling together in an evening for a bedtime story for your little ones. Did you know that you can make it extra special with a personalised book?!

its your story book review

I was delighted to have been selected to review a personalised book especially for Fathers Day by Its Your Story.

Its Your Story are a family run business based in Somerset. They launched in 2004 and were the first company in the UK to sell photo personalised books on the internet. They now boast a range of 26 books, cards, ebooks and loads more including a new personalised clothing range.

The book I was selected to review is called Zoo Adventure.

its your story book review

It is personalised for Fathers Day with the head of your little ones Daddy, your little ones name, first line of their address, town, age, names of two friends and favorite food, their Daddy’s favorite colour, favorite food and age. You can also add a personal message from you on the first page.

its your story book review

its your story book review

It’s a lovely little story about your little one and their Daddy’s trip to your local zoo and all the fun that they have, swinging with the monkeys, getting a hug off the snakes, waddling with the penguins and so much more.

its your story book review

The book is aimed at children from two to six years old. It is well laid out with large clear print using words that are easy for little ones to read. Each page is interactive with questions like; Can you roar like a lion?

How many teeth does the crocodile have?

You can purchase the book directly from their website by clicking here and prices start at a reasonably priced £12.50. Or you can check out their entire range here and choose a book from their selection. The personalisation process is very simple to do by following the online prompts on your chosen book.

We loved this book and think its a great idea for that extra special thoughtful gift. I know for sure my boys would love to have their own personal little book and I think I might like my own too 🙂 so a few more purchases are definitely on the cards in this household.

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Disclaimer
I was sent this book free of charge for the purpose of this review, I have received no other form of financial compensation and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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**Names, Places and Addresses have been blanked out to preserve anonymity**

Highlights Of My Week That Was #HWTW

This week was a week of mixed emotions.  The excitement of the New Year, wondering what it will bring and the end of Christmas, the disappointment and feeling of emptiness in taking down the trimmings 😦 I was gutted. Wriggler cried.

‘But Mummy, why cant it be Christmas all the time?’

But amongst all that, we had some good times too. These are my #HWTW

I started #DryJanuary. I’m 5 days in now and its going very well so far. I will admit, its been tougher than I thought it would be. 

no-alcohol

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We enjoyed some some quality family time at Elsecar Park and Clifton Park, blowing away those cobwebs and dispelling some of the cabin fever that was starting to set in.

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Bruiser has always been a good sleeper but, he normally never sleeps anywhere other than his bed or his car seat on long journeys. But, this week Bruiser has taken to putting himself down for a nap in front of the TV on the floor. This is a first 🙂

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I had a ladies night in with some of my closest friends. You can’t beat a good catch up filled with gossip and laughter 🙂 #fabnight

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I’ve also starting ‘window shopping’ on the internet on how i would like to spend my Christmas gift money. There is so much id like, boots, clothes, charms,  that its going to turn into quite a ‘spree’. I’ve purposely held off from going while the kids are still off and Christmas shutdown is still in effect. Fingers crossed I get out soon:)

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There’s a new Super Hero in town… Wriggler was introduced to Captain America the other night during ‘stop up night’ with his Daddy while I was out. Watch this space… hes already on with making himself the shield!

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The rest of the weekend though will be spent getting Wriggler ready for returning to school on Monday. Uniforms need ironing, bags packing etc. He’s very much looking forward to going back and seeing his friends and talking about what they got. As much as I love the kids been home during the holidays, I too am looking forward to a return to normality and routine.

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What have been your highlights of the week that was?

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Christmas 2012 in Pictures

We have had a truly magical Christmas this year. Its been wonderful. The boys got everything they hoped for and more. They’re very lucky little boys!

I too have received some lovely gifts. From Hubby and the boys I got two beautiful Pandora charms and a Sheffield Wednesday Onesie amongst other things 🙂

I hope you all had an equally wonderful Christmas.

The high lights are just too many to mention so, i’ll let the pictures do the talking…

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Christmas Eve with Grandad and Great Nannan

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A Feast for Father Christmas and his Reindeer and then… *whispers* He came!

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Christmas Day

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Decorating Our Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

This weekend we enjoyed some quality family time getting creative… we decorated our Christmas Cake.

This was a cake I had made some two months previously. I had left it marinading in the rum, brandy and sherry that I had ‘fed’ it over that period. This has given it more moisture and a rich aroma. ;). To see how I made this cake please see my post Mum’s Christmas Cake.

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To Decorate, you will need.

What you need

1kg of white Royal Icing

500g of natural Marzipan

Royal Icing in various colours (we chose red, blue, green and yellow)

1tbsp of Apricot Jam (boiled in a pan and left to cool)

Icing Sugar

The white of 1 Egg

Your Cake (obviously)

and some tools for the job… rolling pin, icing smoother, sieve, icing piping set, cake base (unfortunately I couldn’t find a square one for love nor money so we had to make do with a round one)

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Start by preparing the cake for the marzipan and icing. Level it off on top to give it a more flatter surface. Then, brush over the cool, boiled apricot jam on all the surface areas.

Leveled off and covered in cool boiled apricot jam

Next, you need to prepare the marzipan. Before rolling it out, its best to knead the marzipan well, warming it up in your hands, this makes the marzipan softer and easier to work with. Use a sprinkling of sieved icing sugar on the work surface as this will stop it sticking to the surface. Then roll it out in to a circle of about 12x12inch with a depth of about 4mm.

Very carefully lift the marzipan onto the cake taking care not to tear it. Using your fingers, smooth it onto the cake along with an icing smoother. At the corners of the cake, nip the marzipan together before trimming it off with a knife. Smooth off again on all surfaces using the smoother.

Next it was time for the icing. Again, the icing needed warming up and kneading in the same way as the marzipan. I used 600g of the icing for this part.

Roll the icing out into a circle of about 12x12inch with a depth of about 6mm. Before putting it onto the cake, brush the marzipan with some boiled water. This helps the icing to stick to the cake. As before lift the icing into the cake, smooth it off round the edges and on top using your fingers and a smoother. Nip the icing at the corners of the cake the same as before with the marzipan and then trim it off with a knife and smooth off again.

Now you are ready for the main decorative part.

To make the icing to pipe onto your cake, you will need, 200g of icing sugar sieved into a bowl. Add the beaten white of 1 large egg and mix this in well. If the icing seems too runny, add more sieved icing sugar, it its too thick, add more egg white. But these quantities created for me, the best consistency. To find out if it is the right consistency, try forming spikes in the icing, if they hold well, then its right.

Slowly does it when it comes to the piping part. If you haven’t done this before, make extra icing and practice on the sideboard. Its also up to you what pattern you make round the edge. I chose a shell but you can use any that you like.

When you have finished piping and are happy with the results, put the cake to one side. By the time you have made the decorations for the top the piped icing will have set.

You are now ready to make your decorations for the top. We chose to do snowmen and a tree. You can choose any decoration, go wherever your creativity takes you. To connect the bits the of the snowman together ie the head to body, hat to head etc use the left over icing from the piping, it acts like a glue and sets hard holding everything together. For the eyes and buttons, we used the silver pearls that you can get on most bakery aisles in the supermarket.

Once the Snowmen are done, you need to make them their accessories.. hats, scarfs, gloves not forgetting their eyes, nose and buttons. Wriggler thought it would be good to have snowmen that resembled each of us using our favorite colours. So for us, Daddy was in Red; Mummy (me), Blue; Wriggler, red and Bruiser, Green!

For the carrot nose, mix some red and yellow icing together to create an orange colour. For the base of the tree mix red with green to create brown.

Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the tree as we made it. It was very simple though. Make 4 different sized triangles (starting large-ish going slightly smaller) with the green icing and a cube for the base in brown. Not forgetting a star for the top. Connect them all together using cocktail sticks. We used the silver pearls again, this time for baubles.

Once all the snowmen and tree are complete, arrange them on the cake. We used the left over icing from the piping earlier to stick the figures onto the cake. For the tree, we used a couple more cocktail sticks through the center of the tree and stuck them into the cake.

For a finishing touch, we sprinkled sieved icing sugar on top to give the effect of snow that has fallen.

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Ta-da!

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Getting Ready for Christmas

I love this time of year. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas. Christmas songs are playing in the shops, the Coca Cola Christmas Truck has been on TV, the little ones are enjoying their advent chocolate in a morning. Nativity plays are imminent, if you haven’t already seen them.

It’s safe to say that the excitement is most definitely building in our house.

This weekend we will be getting ready for Christmas. For our family, the main decorating and big tree is done by the ‘Christmas Fairies and Elves’ while we sleep in the night 😉 and the little trees are for the boys to decorate as they wish. They usually keep the little ones in their bedroom.

All these preparations though are making me look back at our ‘getting ready for Christmas’ photos from years gone by.

Wriggler in his 1st Santa hat

Wriggler in his 1st Santa hat

King Wriggler in his 1st Nativity

King Wriggler in his 1st Nativity

1st time Wriggler decorated his own little Christmas Tree

1st time Wriggler decorated his own little Christmas Tree

Wriggler loves wrapping himself up in all the Tinsel

Wriggler loves wrapping himself up in all the Tinsel

Baking 'Happy Months'

Baking ‘Happy Months’

Bruiser in his 1st Santa hat

Bruiser in his 1st Santa hat

Bruiser's 1st Advent Calendar

Bruiser’s 1st Advent Calendar

Meeting Father Christmas

Meeting Father Christmas

Wriggler getting Christmas Crafty

Wriggler getting Christmas Crafty

Wriggler decorating his tree

Wriggler decorating his tree

Angel Bruiser in his 1st Nativity

Angel Bruiser in his 1st Nativity

Watching their personal messages from Father Christmas

Watching their personal messages from Father Christmas

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How do you get ready for Christmas? Do you have any little traditions?

I can’t wait now 🙂

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Pumpkin Pie

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This is a very seasonal dish which my Mum would make every Halloween without fail. Its delicious.

Scary Pumpkin Pie

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~ Recipe ~

80z Shortcrust Pastry

1lb Pumpkin

2 eggs

4oz caster sugar

4tbsp milk

A pinch nutmeg

A pinch ground ginger

2tsp ground cinnamon

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Line a 9-inch flan case with the pastry. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After removing the ‘inners’ from your pumpkin, taking care to remove the seeds and cotton woolly like inside part. Place it in a steamer or if you don’t have a steamer, between 2 dinner plates over a pan of boiling water. Steam for  15-20 minutes until tender.

Drain thoroughly and mash well in a bowl or puree with a blender. (I like to sieve it too)

Beat the eggs with the sugar and then add the pumpkin puree, the milk and the spices. Blend well.

Pour into the pastry case.

Bake in the middle of a preheated oven at gas.7/220˚c/425˚f, for 15 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to, gas.4/180˚c/350˚f and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the filling is set.

Serve warm with whipped cream

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Pumpkin Pie

Its Delicious. Give it a go.

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