Thursday, 31 May 2012

School Run Style with Joe Browns

I have to say I am always the last in the bathroom in the morning and probably get the least amount of time.

School runs have been part of my life for nearly 2 decades now and I have gone from a Mum that would go looking fresh as a daisy with full makeup and matching bag and shoes to someone that usually throws on what is clean and near!

Gone are the days of straightening my hair, applying makeup and deliberating over what to wear whilst I stood peering in an overstuffed, colour coordinated,  wardrobe.  These days I wear more what is comfy than in fashion and admit to still wearing jeans 3 sizes too big as I rarely buy myself clothes.  Killer heels? Yes at the back of the wardrobe gathering dust sadly.

I would love to get back to the days when clothes brought me joy and I looked more organised than the 'dragged through a bush backwards' look I wear these days so I thought I would take part in the Joe Browns School Run Style Blogger competition in the hope of perhaps finding an inner Yummy Mummy.

Here's what I would love to look like on the school run:

I love red and would keep the red theme running through the outfit.  For someone that lives in jeans the outfit is fun, flirty and definitely not jeans. In days gone by I would often wear a skirt and miss them which is why I chose the Truly Frivolous Skirt. As the skirt is a statement piece I think a plain but detailed top such as the Best of British Vest goes well and finished off with the Quote Necklace adds a touch of fun.  I love the Best of British Espadrilles just because I love them!  The Short and Sweet Ticking Jacket is perfect for cooler days or to just add a twist on the outfit.

Now that's how I would like to look on the school run!

Having a Jubilee picnic? Colourful Cous Cous anyone?

OK so we may be having a spell of drizzly weather right now but with the Jubilee holiday next week I'm hoping to be able to get outside in the sunshine with a picnic.

I'm not into all that ham sandwiches type malarkey and prefer something easy to prepare, store and transport. Here's a quick and easy recipe that ticks all those boxes.

Colourful Cous Cous


500g of plain Cous Cous
(You can also buy pre-flavoured lemon and mint versions if you want a really quick recipe)
1 x 400g can of tinned Chick Peas in water
1 x can of tinned sweetcorn in water
A good handful of frozen peas
10 cherry tomatoes
Fresh mint
(Again for a quick recipe dried mint is fine)
A lemon

Add boiling water to the Cous Cous (as per the instructions on the packet) and set aside until the water is absorbed.

In a saucepan gently heat the chick peas until thoroughly heated. Repeat with the sweetcorn and the frozen peas.

Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters.

Once the Cous Cous has absorbed all the water, gently stir in the sweetcorn, garden peas and the chickpeas along with the cherry tomato quarters.  Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and add the fresh/dried mint, finely chopped, to taste. (If you are using the pre-flavoured Cous Cous you can omit this part).

Place into a serving bowl and garnish with some fresh mint. Coriander will do just as well as a garnish.

Easily stored in a plastic container in the fridge until needed and prepared in under 15 minutes Colourful Cous Cous is a bright and zesty alternative to withered ham sandwiches any day.  Can be adapted easily - why not try adding tuna?

Cous Cous, recipe, picnic, suggestion, food, colourful, peas, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweetcorn
Colourful Cous Cous

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Feeling patriotic? We were with the MyStyle Union Jack cushions

What with the Queens Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 London Olympic games this year there is a lot to feel patriotic about.

The MyStyle Make Union Jack Cushions by Interplay is a fun craft activity that turns into 2 rather sweet Union Jack cushions when finished and I have to say they were really easy to make.

The pack contains easy to follow instructions, pre-cut felt pieces for the Union Jack design which were also pre-punched which made sewing simple.  The pack also contained a needle, threads and buttons to fasten your finished cushions, along with the filling. The only additional equipment needed was a pair of scissors as they were not included in the set.

Union Jack cushion, craft, project, fun, craft activity, childrens craft, Interplay,review

In a combination of pink, white and blue the finished cushions were perfect for a teens bedroom.The design on the cushion is constructed by stitching the pre-cut felt pieces over each over to form the Union Jack symbol and the pre punched holes lined up really well (I have found this not to be the case on other craft projects I have made in the past)

The design built up quickly and so this kept up the childrens interest as they really wanted to see what the finished project would be like.

Union Jack cushion, craft, project, fun, craft activity, childrens craft, Interplay,review

As the thread is supplied it meant no matching up of colours although I did find you could not make too many errors or waste too much of the thread as there was enough to finish the cushions with not a lot to spare.  It would be great to get an extra metre or so of each thread as a backup should it be needed.

The children were able to follow the instructions and sew the cushions without much input from me although I did have to unpick a couple of stitches that had become knotted but no more than that.

The 2 cushions were finished after approx 1 day of sewing and had quite impressive results.

Union Jack cushion, craft, project, fun, craft activity, childrens craft, Interplay,review

Summary: A great craft project that could be completed by a child of 8 years + with supervision (in my opinion)  Nice results and easy to follow instructions.

Review disclosure

Thursday, 24 May 2012

HABA My First Play World Farm - our thoughts

HABA My First Play World Farm review

Little Man has recently being playing with the HABA My First Play World Farm and I have to say he loves it!

HABA, My First Play World, Farm, play animals, wooden toy, wooden farm, review

Designed for children aged 18 months + the set includes 22 wooden figures featuring popular farm animals, machinery, trees and fences and all are made from quality wood.  I really liked the expressions on the animals faces and they certainly appealed to Little Man as well.

HABA, My First Play World, Farm, play animals, wooden toy, wooden farm, review

HABA, My First Play World, Farm, play animals, wooden toy, wooden farm, review

The wooden pieces are a really nice size for small hands and, as you would expect, contained no sharp edges or rough sides.  You could see the quality of the items.

Every farm animal I could think of was included in the set from a cow, the mouse in the hay bale to the farm dog.  The trees, hedges and fences meant Little Man could make his own little farm world and even better was the fact that the box the set arrives in opens up to become a farm house.

HABA, My First Play World, Farm, play animals, wooden toy, wooden farm, review

Little Man had great fun just moving the animals around and pushing the wooden tractor across the floor but also thoroughly enjoyed 'posting' the animals through the roof and watching them come out through the farm house door!

Something that appealed to me as a parent was the booklet that came with the set.  Not only did it give details of the skills that could be encouraged through play but it gave a selection of really fun games to play using the wooden farm animals. The activities were listed with the age that they were aimed at, the skills it encouraged, preparation and for me this added a whole new element to the set.  The instructions for the game activities were well thought out, relevant and well described.  An added bonus to the playset in my eyes.

HABA, My First Play World, Farm, play animals, wooden toy, wooden farm, review

The whole set was well designed with good quality pieces and the box/farm house was brilliant.  Little Man loved the playset and happily plays for hours with it.  A firm HABA favorite for sure.

Review Disclosure

Pointless The Board Game - our thoughts

Pointless The Board Game - Review

When it comes to games shows they're are 2 favourites in the household one of which is Pointless so when asked to try the game we were really looking forward to it.

The game itself includes a Pointless playing board, a series of general knowledge questions on cards, 4 pencils, an answer sheet pad, a stand up trophy, Head to Head tokens, Pointless Trophy tokens, 3 question card holders, 8 playing pieces and instructions.

Pointless, Pointless game, board game, general knowledge, review, 10 years +

The aim of the game is to be the player that has the least amount of points at the end, ideally to be 'pointless'.  This is done by a player guessing the least obvious answer from a surveyed question on the general knowledge cards.  The most common or obvious answer will score the most points so you have to think a little harder to find the answer less people would give in order to gain the least amount of points Pointless The Board Game from University Games is suitable from age 10 years + and is designed for 2 to 4 players or teams.

Playing board, scoring sheets and question cards

The instructions were certainly comprehensive and I have to say the four sided leaflet did put me off slightly as it made the game seem very complex. If played as per the instructions the rules are a little long winded to read to say the least. The children wanted to be playing rather than reading all those pages so in the end we  decided to scan through and adapt the game so we could get playing quickly. Luckily there is also a Quick Start set of instructions included for impatient people like us which we found ideal.

The question cards are labelled Round 1 to 4 and to play the game these need to be placed in separate piles (away from prying eyes as the answers may be visible on the top card!)  Once it has been decided who will ask the questions the game is a case of giving answers to the questions asked and adding up the scores received from your answers. As the aim is to have the least points hopefully the adding up wont take long.

We did find however that there was a pointless part to the game and that was the inclusion of the playing board! The children and I were happy to leave this part out and answer the questions, tot up the scores on the scoring sheets rather than the whole scores on the board part of the game, although this would be useful if playing with more than 2 or 3 players (especially if playing in teams) and for younger players to be able to keep a visual score.

When it came to the questions themselves we also had a sticking point in that although the game is aimed at those 10 years + the questions can be too difficult or simply unsuitable for those ages as not many may know the horse racing courses of Great Britain or the Number 1 hit singles of Cliff Richard!!  I ended up having to shift through the question cards and pull out ones that I thought the children may possibly know the answers to.  I would have liked to have seen perhaps a Junior and adult set of questions to make this easier.

We all really liked the concept of the game (as we do the TV programme) but ended up adapting it to make it more a Q & A game using the scores from the cards.  I think it would be a lot easier to play the correct way if it is adults only playing.

Pointless - The Board Game - A good game but in need of a little adaptation if playing with younger players.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

You made me cough you Motherf***er!

Ok I 'may' have mentioned that I am in danger of looking like a prude before.  I seem to have my own set of what I find acceptable and what I don't in regards to swearing or inappropriate viewing for my children.

I tend to let Pre-teen put the iPod on in the car and listen to what ever is playing, not generally my type of music as its usually too 'pop' for me but hey.  There are three songs in particular that have sprung up on the playlist recently: Jessie J 'Do it like a dude' (?) Will-I-Am ' Hard' and Nicki Minaj 'Starships' that have made my ears prick up and listen.

All the songs contain the word Motherf***er which is a word I am not keen on but is better than some other words!  2 of the songs are the edited versions but the word it still able to be worked out.  I am all for self expression but the problem is that its making me have a fit of coughing every time I hear them!!

No I haven't come down with an illness but I just feel I have to do something to cover up the MoFo word when it comes on.

Even though 2 of the 3 songs are the edited version I do think if I stop the songs with a swearword (blurred slightly or not) in them from being listened to I am a) unrealistic that they will not be heard from another source, b) in danger of making the song want to be played even more because it is, for want of better words, 'forbidden fruit' c) you are hard pushed to find anything in the charts that doesn't have a swear word in it. Ok ok we do have the Bruno Mars and Olly Murs type songs but geeze I would rather cough over the ones containing the MoFo word than listen to those!!

So thats what I do, I cough loudly over the word and let the rest of the song play.  So Jessie, Will-I-Am and Nicki there you have it - a Mother coughing over your self expression.

Anyone else found themselves dealing with unwanted words either in songs or on television in a better way?  Or do you think teenagers hear the words and know exactly what they are and mean and I am wasting my time? (and coughing fits)

Is the word Motherf***er such a commonly used word now that it no longer has any shock value. On the whole the word does not hugely offend me but I am not exactly wanting Little Mans first word to be Motherf***er!! Any thoughts? How would you deal with a teenagers choice in songs without disallowing them to right to find their own tastes in music?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Staying on the recent Olympic blog theme - an Olympic meme

With the Olympics just a matter of weeks away now I am amazed I have not seen more written about it on blogs. I am going to try and remedy that in my own way with an Olympic meme.

Here's how to join in... simply write your own blog post answering the Olympic questions below and then forward and tag other blogs you love to join in and share their answers.  Don't forget to share the love with links to the lovely bloggers you are tagging of course and back to me if you are feeling generous!

1)   If every day tasks were Olympic events what would you get a gold medal in?
It would have to be changing the nappy of a wiggly toddler that can escape quicker than Houdini from a changing mat.

2)   As a child (or now even) did you excel at a particular sport and if so which one?
I wouldn't say excel exactly but I did do ballet for quite a while as a Pre-teen.  Loved all the twirly skirts and pointy ballet shoes.

3)   Michael Phelps (swimmer) or Michael Johnson (runner) - which sport appeals to you more?
Without doubt Michael Phelps - what a swimmer!

4)   How fast can you get out of bed and ready to go out the door if miss the alarm and sleep in?
If just me about 5 minutes (minus makeup) and panic at a missed alarm clock is an amazing motivator.  If including getting the children ready about 15 minutes.

5)   What fantasy sport would you like to see made into an Olympic event?
I would love to see texting made into an Olympic sport. Can you imagine how many teens would win medals!

6)   Claim to fame time - Have you ever met an Olympian and who was it?
Yes, Darren Mew is a swimming Olympic medalist and I have met him several times.

7)   What event in past Olympics can you remember most vividly?
For me it was when I was a teenager and I can remember Greg Louganis (diver) do a backward dive and hot his head on the diving board. Was repeated so many times on TV that I can still picture it now.

8)   Tuning in at home, not for me or tickets clamped ready in sweaty palms?
Sadly tuning in at home but would rather be there. A once in a lifetime opportunity in my eyes.

9)   Who do you think most deserves a gold medal (any walk of life not just Olympians)
My husband - say no more!

So there are my answers but what are yours?  I tag in Wendy from Inside The Wendy House, Kate from The 5 F's, Fiona from Coombemill, Claire from A Boy with Aspergers and Rebecca from Here Comes The Girls.

Tag away and carry the meme on like an Olympic torch!!


Friday, 18 May 2012

The Olympics and my biggest regret

I am one of these people that get excited about the Olympics.  I love all the events and watch in wonder at the pure dynamics that allow athletes to run, swim, or compete in any sport at such a high level.

I have to say I do feel proud of the British Team GB and as a parent to a competitive swimmer I understand the dedication and commitment they (and their parents!) have put into getting to compete at the most celebrated event.

So my biggest regret of this year is the fact that I did not apply for Olympic tickets when they went on sale.  This was down mainly to financial reasons and as the Olympics are drawing closer I regret that I and my children will not be able to watch from close quarters the events unfold and that I had not been able to give them them the opportunity to witness history and Olympic records being made. At in London as well!

Of course the swimming would be the event we would love to see and we shall be glued to the television cheering on our team. Every tumble turn, dive and finish recorded to be watched over again, sad though this may seem, but a swimmer can learn a lot from watching the professionals in action.

So full of regret and totally jealous of those watching poolside on the day I shall still be pinning my hopes on Team GB for 2012 medals. Best of British luck to all those competing in the Olympics and the Paralympics.

Ben and Holly are getting in the Olympic spirit with their new dvd release

Nothing makes Little Man smile more than an episode or 10 of Ben and Hollys Little Kingdom.

The Elf Games, Ben and Holly, Little Kingdom, DVD release, DVD,

In the newest Ben and Holly DVD release 'The Elf Games' the elves are getting into their own Olympic style spirit and competing in their own version - The Elf Games. The DVD sees friends Ben Elf and his friend Fairy Princess Holly winning a trophy in the wheelbarrow race.

As well as the Little Kingdom Elf Games the DVD also includes the following episodes:

  • Nannys Lesson
  • The Elf Factory
  • Mrs Witch
  • Elf Joke Day
  • King Thistles New Clothes
  • Elf School
  • The Royal Golf Course
  • Morning Noon & Night
  • Gastons Visit
  • A Trip To The Seaside
Full of Elf horn blowing fun and plenty of magic the episodes delighted Little Man as I am sure they would any Ben and Holly fan.  I personally love the slightly sarcastic tone of Nanny Plums voice and it does make me smile when I hear it.  

The DVD from Entertainment One is out to buy now RRP £8.99

We received a promotional copy (not for resale) in order to review but opinions as always are my own.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Haba Orchard game - HABA Ambassador review

Orchard from Haba is a cooperative game aimed at children aged 3 years to 6 years and can be played with 1 - 8 players.

The Aim of the game is for the players to harvest wooden fruits pieces and place them into their baskets before the Raven eats them and is a game of many angles.  Not only does it encourage colour and shape recognition but helps motor skills.

HABA, HABA Orchard game, age 3 years +, game, board game, colour recognition,

The game itself contains 40 wooden fruit pieces (10 apples, 10 pears, 10 pairs of cherries and 10 plums) also included are 4 baskets to collect your fruit in, a Raven jigsaw, game board and a dice with four coloured sides and one side with a picture of a Raven and one the picture of a basket. In order to play the game the fruit is placed onto the correct fruit tree on the game board ready to be 'picked'.

HABA, HABA Orchard game, age 3 years +, game, board game, colour recognition,

Once the fruit is on the trees the dice is thrown and the player takes a piece of fruit that is represented by the colour on the dice and places it into their basket (red - cherry, yellow - pear, blue - plum and green - apple).  If a players dice lands on the Raven one piece of the Raven jigsaw is placed onto the board and if the basket symbol is shown the player get to pick any two fruits for their basket.  The aim aim is to pick all the fruit before the Raven jigsaw is completed and the bird eats the fruit!

HABA, HABA Orchard game, age 3 years +, game, board game, colour recognition,

The game sounds quite complicated but in practice it is quite quick and easy to learn and the game itself takes approx 15 minutes to play so it is ideal for the 3 years + age group.  As this is a cooperative game it means beating the Raven makes all players winners and stops anyone feeling they 'lost' which again is great when playing with younger players.  Vice Versa and if the hungry Raven jigsaw is completed before the fruit is picked all players lose and not just an individual.  I did find this added to the excitement of the game as all players were working together rather than against each other.

My thoughts as a parent: I loved the wooden fruit pieces and baskets and thought the game was well thought out.  Game play time of about 15 minutes made it ideal to play when time was short and the game itself was quick to set up.

NOTE: The wooden fruit pieces are quite small and could be swallowed by a younger child so I would emphasize the recommended age of 3 years +

Review disclosure

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Exclusive questions in my interview with Bear Grylls

Sometimes I have to pinch myself at the opportunities that have come through blogging.  Things that never would have happened otherwise.

What would you ask Bear Grylls in an interview?

When I was asked if I would like to interview the ultimate 'Action Man' Bear Grylls I have to admit I was hugely excited as we are big fans in our house.  I was nervous at preparing my questions, not wanting to come across as a total amateur.  Here's what I wanted to ask Bear and what in turn he gave as his answers to my exclusive questions.

As you can imagine I was trying to juggle a phone, write his answers and not sound like a giggling school girl so please excuse any errors or ommisions but the interview went something like this:

Bear Grylls interview, Bear Grylls, Exclusive questions,

We have our own nickname for you in our house... what (apart from Bear) is the most unusual nickname you have heard others use for you?

I was always climbing trees so got called Monkey and of course Bear.

Like you we have unusual names for our children. What gave you the idea for your childrens names and what do you think about recent findings that boys with unusual first names are more likely to suffer from depression? 

Marmaduke was inspired by the WW1 pilot Marmaduke Pattle and Huckleberry by the fictional character Huckleberry Finn. In regards to the depression part I hadn't heard that.

On your official Bear Grylls webpage there is a blog - does this mean you are a blogger like me or do you just provide the ideas for it rather than write it?

I do the blog myself but not often enough.  My Twitter account and Facebook is also me but I do get told Bear you need to write something as it's been a while!

Have you ever turned down a survival destination because it was just too risky?

Never!  The producers of the shows like wild and wacky and I love the challenge and just getting out there.  Sometimes the weather in Wales and Scotland can be as extreme as further afield and can feel like Arctic.

You have had an amazing life and experience so far with Scouts, your survival programmes and your various other ventures but what has given you the most thrill? 

The return to Everest and the powergliders.  It was amazing and raised over $2.5 million

If you had to give it all up tomorrow what everyday job would you do?

We spend a lot of time off the Welsh Coast so I think I would be a Lifeboat Man there.

Do you take holidays or do you come home for a holiday?

I like quiet and cosy holidays with the family and love North Wales.

Ok so for a few quick questions:

Dogs or cats?


Inside or outside?


Arctic or Caribbean?


Grubs or cockroaches?


Finally do you watch survival programmes?

I watch them, I love the adventure angle and encourage other presenters that do the same.

Before Bear finished our call I told him that my children that were in the room with me didn't believe that it was him on the phone and asked if I could put him on loud speak to say hello.  Bear was happy to talk and chatted to them about what they like to do outdoors. They were absolutely thrilled and their talk with Bear was the topic of conversation at school the next day!

And as for that nickname we have for Bear in our house... well I will say I told him and he laughed but I will keep the nickname a secret between Bear and us!!

My interview was kindly arranged by Persil who Bear Grylls is currently working with to encourage children to get outdoors and have fun.  His Top Ten Things To Do Before You're Ten guide is available here

Here's Bear in action...

Top Ten Things To Do Before You're Ten, Persil, Bear Grylls interview, Bear Grylls

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Ravensburger Puzzle Club - I Love London puzzle

London is going to be an exciting place this year with the Queens Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Games.

Ravensburger I Love London skyline puzzle is a timely launched 300 piece puzzle that maps out so many of the capitals famous landmarks, The London Eye, The National Gallery and Big Ben to name a few.

300 pieces, puzzle, jigsaw, Ravensburger, Ravensburger puzzle club, review

I have to admit I thought a 300 piece puzzle would be easy and quick to complete especially as the puzzle piece size is bigger than the others I have seen in the Ravensburger range. I was wrong!  The puzzle itself measures 49.3 x 36.3 cm (approx) but the detailing on the picture makes it a challenge in itself.

Starting as we always do with finding and piecing together the edges of the puzzle was fairly quick especially as the bottom of the picture is a blue strip with an 'ode' to London:  'The City of architectural contrasts, the squares, the parks & the tree lined streets, the bridges & the embankments.  The history & rich cultural heritage, life & vitality, creativity & contrasts: People make London - celebrate & enjoy!'

300 pieces, puzzle, jigsaw, Ravensburger, Ravensburger puzzle club, review

Once the edges formed the puzzles outline the best way we found to build up the puzzle was from the bottom up as it has such an array of buildings forming the skyline it seemed a logical (and easier) choice.  We were helped along with a handy leaflet showing the completed picture.

As the pieces were larger than I have seen before it was quite quick to see the picture take shape.  I loved the detailing, the tiny people walking along the paths, the buses on the bridge and the clouds in the sky above the many buildings:

300 pieces, puzzle, jigsaw, Ravensburger, Ravensburger puzzle club, review

As with all of the Ravensburger range the I Love London puzzle uses 'Softclick' technology' which ensures the pieces fit and stay together very well.  I have reviewed many Ravensburger puzzles as part of the Puzzle Club and I have never seen a frayed edge on any piece as you may do on cheaper puzzles.  The pieces are a nice thickness and do not bend easily.

Within a day we had completed our I Love London puzzle and were happy to stand back and admire our creation.

300 pieces, puzzle, jigsaw, Ravensburger, Ravensburger puzzle club, review

Review disclosure.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

How is it.....

How is it that that that everyone elses children want to play at your house?

How is it when your children do go to someone elses house they behave impeccably?

How is it that there is never any milk when YOU want a cup of tea?

How is it that is knows to rain on Bank Holidays?

How is it that you never have any money when you see something you'd love?

How is it you never have the right change for a parking meter?

How is it that you can tidy for hours and within 5 minutes of the kids being in it looks worse than before you started?

How is it that Sky fails to record only the programmes you watch?

How is it that the postman only rings the bell when you are in bed trying to have a lie in?

How is it that children only ever sleep in on school days?

How is it that healthy food never seems to make you feel full?

How is it that the only time you have a prior engagement you get a better offer?

How is that?

Slimavite diet diary - update

I was having a look back through my old posts about my Slimavite diet plan and the journey it has taken me on.

I started the plan almost exactly one year ago and so thought an update was in order.

When I started I weighed 16st and 4lbs so in the last 12 months I have lost nearly 3 and a half stone!  At my lowest point I weighed 12st and 12lbs - I am impressed at myself.
Since Christmas I do not seem to have been as committed to the plan and although I have lost the weight I gained at Christmas I do not seem to have made a dent in the remaining weight I wish to lose and I have been thinking about why.

I think you can forget what you have achieved on the way and I know I tend to think about the remaining 2 odd stone I would like to lose and forget about the 3 stone already lost.  I need to refocus on why I want to lose the weight and how pleased I will feel about achieving my goal of 11 stone when I have done it.  Notice I say done it - I do believe I can get there and although I have barely stuck to the plan at all over the last 3 or so weeks (and seen a 4lb gain because of it) today I had a good look at myself and have jumped back on track and started the Slimavite shakes again.

If I don't start I am in danger of gaining the weight and going back on all the hard work I have put into losing weight this far. I am the only person holding me back.

Today I weighed 13st and 5lbs but I have made a step in the right direction again. Summer (hopefully) is round the corner and I really don't want to feel conscience about 'bingo wing arms' or 'muffin top tummy' when I do finally get to wear t-shirts and skirts.

My mantra again is onwards and downwards!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Mike The Knight on CBeebies has a new toy range

Mike The Knight is a new childrens TV programme that airs on CBeebies on weekdays and follows the adventures on Mike and his friends.

Along with the TV show children can now bring the character to life through a range of figures, playsets and accessories available from Character Options.

The Deluxe Glendragon Playset is a two tiered tower with some lovely features such as the shields and portraits on the walls of the castle..small features but they do add to the set.

The set comes complete with Mikes horse Galahad and Mike The Knight himself and we have loved the hidden treasures in the toy such as a secret slide which pre-school children will love I'm sure. Mikes horse Galahad has articulated back legs and the Mike character can fit into his steed for playrole.

There's even a treasure chest and hay bales for Galahad and all the figures seem very robust and depict the characters closely to the TV show.

Aimed at children 3 years + the range also includes actions figures and a rather cool Viking Longboat as well as a range of plush toys that say phrases from the TV programme.

Get ready for Mike The Knight!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Frankie & Bennys new menu has arrived - our thoughts.

I have to admit I have only been to Frankie & Bennys once before.  I was asked if I would like to try their new menu so thought I would try a second visit.

I love the whole Americana and film nostalgia that covers the walls and the theme makes it feel almost like a 50's style diner.  What I don't like is the birthday announcements what feels like every 5 minutes. The restaurant dims and a birthday song is played whilst the staff bring out a cake which is great but I did feel it is rather annoying after the first one or two.  Must be a favourite birthday meal venue!

We went to Frankie & Bennys as a group of seven and although we did pre-book our table the restaurant was well able to cater for us with a good selection of round tables with round seating to sit large groups or smaller tables for a more intimate meal.

We were offered a choice of two menus, the standard main menu and a specials menu to have a look at whilst we were brought our ordered drinks.  As we happened to visit when there was a 'kids eat free' promotion on this did mean we had to eat from the main menu to be able to take advantage of the offer.  Two adults chose from the main menu (so two children ate free) and two of us from the specials so we were able to get a good selection of different menu choices.

The staff were friendly and Little Man was kept occupied with a balloon and a kids activity book and pencils - so helpful when you are dining with little ones.

The two starters we ordered were from the specials menu - Warm Dough Sticks and Dips.  We decided on the Garlic Butter and the Pepper Jack Cheese dips.  When these arrived there were lovely and warm but not very appetising sadly.  The Garlic Butter was fine but the Pepper Jack Cheese was awful.

The cheese dip arrived looking like it had been tipped out or into the dish as it was smeared up the one side and after a short time on the table looked far from pleasant. It tasted like microwaved vegan cheese with an overpowering after taste that was enough after 2 mouthfuls to make me share my friends garlic butter instead.  Even my drink could not get rid of the aftertaste of the cheese dip.  I did not complain about the dip as I wanted to experience what the quality of the meal was like as a whole.

Once the main meals arrived I felt more confident in the food.  I rarely eat chicken but as I wanted to try something new from the latest menu I decided upon the Philly Chicken & Bacon Wrap, whilst the other adults ordered the Double Philly Stack Burger, New Yorker Burger and the Hawaiian pizza.

The children chose from the junior menu and I have to say the offer of their meals free was very impressive although this is not always available so check at the time for any offers or promotions, saving over £8 per meal (they chose a meal deal option which included a drink and desert) I LOVE the fact that Frankie & Bennys have also included smaller children in the dining out experience by offering organic baby food. Little Man is vegetarian so we opted for the organic Rosy Posy Pasta.

Frankie & Bennys, new menu, specials menu, food, wrap, meal

Frankie & Bennys, meals, menu, restaurant, review, burgers, new menu

The Double Philly Stack burger, New Yorker and the pizza as well as the Philly Chicken & Bacon wrap all arrived in a good time, were a good temperature and looked delicious.  My friends all really enjoyed their meals but I was really disappointed in the chicken wrap.  It wasn't the chicken or the bacon that was the issue but once again all flavours were totally overpowered by the gooey Philly cheese.  Although it was called Philly cheese unlike the pepper jack cheese with the dough sticks it tasted exactly the same!

By the end of the first wrap I couldn't stand the taste of the cheese anymore and left the rest which I hate to do especially when eating out.

The childrens meals were average in both serving size and in quality except the Rosy Posy Pasta which was perfect for Little Man and he wolfed the lot!  The childrens deserts were excellent.

I was the only adult that tried a desert (the others were too full from their meals - lightweights!) and I opted for the Hot Chocolate Waffle.  The waffle was a little dry but I loved the cinnamon taste to it and it went well with the ice-cream.

So in a summary.... cheese in any form on wraps or as a dip is a no for me.  The burgers were lovely and very filling and the childrens meals so so.  Little Mans pasta was a big plus even though the restaurant offered a metal teaspoon for him to eat it with (I always carry a plastic baby spoon thankfully)

The vegetarian range on offer is poor and if you just don't like beef or chicken you are a little out of luck as well sadly as that is the main bulk of any of the menus.

The atmosphere was good apart from the constant birthday announcements and the staff attentive, and at times to the point of annoying but I would rather this than being ignored as in the case in so many large food chains.

I will not be rushing to visit Frankie & Bennys again due to the quality of the meals but I have to say that with the free childrens meals offer the bill came to just under £60 for all 7 of us so I may be swayed from a financial point of view in the future (or another new menu without all that cheese)

We were given a £50 voucher in order to sample the new menu and I paid the difference in the bill total.  This in no way influenced my thoughts or opinions on the meal we ate. Disclosure.