Sunday, 29 April 2012

New Heinz Barbecue Sauces....

As I love trying out new foods, I was more than eager to be a taste tester for Heinz again. This time it was a couple of new barbecue sauces that had just been brought out, and the two flavours are Classic Barbecue Sauce and Sticky Barbecue Sauce


The idea behind me wanting to try out these particular ones is I thought they would be the perfect addition to some sunny barbecues in the garden we had planned. Hmmm who was I kidding, not quite barbecue weather is it. Not one to be put off and knowing that these particular sauces would also create that barbecue flavour indoors, I was more than keep to give them a go. Both the 'classic' and the 'sticky' have been created with families in mind, and although we don't have cupboards full of sauces, I think these particular ones would complement many simple family meals. Both can be used as dips, and yet light enough to be used as marinades too, so almost a two-in-one product. I also think barbecue sauce a bit like marmite, you either love the flavour or you don't.....in my case I am quite a fan of the taste. There are many ways with what you can cook using them too, for example, Sticky Barbecue Ribs, Marinated Chicken Wings, Ultimate Barbecue Beans, Barbecue chicken and Bacon Pizza.....etc. So the time came for us to try them out and we went for the Ultimate Barbecue Beans which was going to be a little tea for the children and we used these ingredients....

1 large onion, finely chopped
100g thick cut smoked bacon, trimmed of fat and cut into lardons
1tbsp vegetable oil
800g Heinz reduced salt and sugar baked beans
3tbsp Heinz classic barbecue sauce
20g tortilla chips, crushed
60g reduced fat hard cheese, grated
6 slices of wholemeal bread, toasted

The children always like to help out on the cooking front and Miss. Poppins really enjoyed crushing the tortilla chips for this recipe. It really was so simple to create....

Fry the onions and bacon in the oil until golden, add the Heinz baked beans and Heinz barbecue sauce and heat through. Meanwhile mix the crushed tortilla chips with the cheese. Top the toast with the beans followed by the tortillas and cheese and place under a preheated medium grill until melted and golden. And the result? 


The children loved their *posh beans on toast* as we called it, and the classic sauce I have to say really gave their meal a rich and smokey flavour. Children's verdict....YUM. We couldn't leave it there as we wanted to try out the sticky sauce too and decided to spread it on a pizza base instead of using tomato paste. Heinz do have their own suggested recipe for pizza using the sticky sauce, but as my children aren't a fan of all the ingredients involved we adapted it a little, and as well as the sticky barbecue sauce, we used mozzarella, tomato, ham, pineapple, grated cheese and herbs. Here it is just about to go in the oven....  
  

And the result?

      
I have to say it worked just perfectly on the pizza, I am a fan of sweeter tastes and this smooth and sweet Sticky Barbecue sauce has it just right for me and if had to choose a favourite out of the two it would be that one. So, now all we need is the sun to show us its face again and we can finally get out in the garden and light our barbecue. I just hope we don't have to wait too long....

X   

Disclosure: I was sent some groceries with which to make these recipes, a bottle of Heinz Classic Barbecue sauce and a bottle of Heinz Sticky Barbecue sauce for the purposes of this blog post.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Tots100 Film Club - Happy Feet Two....


As part of my role at Tots100 Film Club and in partnership with Warner Bros this months film for us to review was Happy Feet Two. I had watched Happy Feet with the children a while ago, and loved it as the children did so had quite big expectations for this new sequel....


In the first Happy Feet the story centred around Mumble the penguin who couldn't sing to attract his soul mate, but instead had some fancy footwork moves and indeed went on to find his true love. Moving on to Happy Feet Two, the story opens with Mumble having gone on to have a ( very cute looking ) son Erik, who this time around really hasn't got the dance moves, feels isolated, and runs away with his dad Mumble in pursuit. Mumble tries desperately to connect with his son and so on and so on. I have to admit I got a little lost or should I say distracted watching this film. I loved the first so very much and quite honestly think this sequel doesn't for me live up to those magical feelings I had watching the original Happy Feet. It felt a little like a repeat but with louder music, more moves and more global warming issues. When Mumble finally returns with Erik they find that a shifting iceberg has trapped the rest of the community and they need to find a way to free everyone. It was what I would term, alright, and there were sparks and flashes of creativity and the animations I have to say are quite magnificent. The scenes of Will and Bill ( the two Krill) are especially dramatic and there are moments of humour and I did laugh out loud at some points. Miss. Poppins got a little bored, whereas Master Poppins' attention was pretty much there all the way through. I did ask him what the film was about when it had finished, his reply "Penguins" which I guess is about right and he did enjoy watching it. There were quite a lot of plot lines and new characters that I found hard to keep up with, and although children I think ( on the whole ) shall like this film very much, it is the parents who I am unsure shall as much. It just seemed a little unfocused for it to really grab my attention. One certainly for the kids DVD collection but one I imagine shall not be played over and over again.... 

Disclosure: We received one DVD to watch for the purposes of this blog post. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Little Fashionista Wearing Emma Bunton For Argos....

Not long ago Argos got in touch and asked if I wanted to have a little browse round their kids clothing range to see if my little fashionista ( who also goes by the name of Master Poppins ) would like to model a little outfit. Being the fashion lovin' 5 year old he is, I knew he would love to. We both had a little look at the range, and whilst I can often be found dressing him in a vintage style, think velvet jackets, bow ties, and leather lace ups, I also love the up to date trendy look, though not too trendy that he looks brash. We both knew straight away that the Emma Bunton Boy range was for us. Boys fashion is getting better, but in my eyes still has a little way to go to really be up there with what is available to the girls who rock. However this new range designed by Emma Bunton is really quite impressive. I have to be frank I would never normally head to Argos to buy clothes for my little boy, mostly because I didn't really think there would be much available in the style that he and I love so much. I was very pleasantly surprised that this range ticked many of my boxes when it comes to what I want from kids, especially boys, fashion. We decided on these really cool skinny jeans I can't tell you how much I love skinnies on my little boy, I would say most of his jeans are of the skinny variety. And this really lovely rock 'n roll T-Shirt which just looked so funky. I couldn't wait for him to try them on....


He loved the outfit and enjoyed his little mini-photoshoot with mummy the photographer....


Both items are really high quality and certainly look very hard wearing. I was really, really impressed. They have a little branded logo label on the clothes so you really feel you are getting that designer brand....


If you are a parent who likes to dress their kids, in cool, stylish clothes I really would recommend hopping over to Argos and seeing what you think of Emma Bunton's range. As well as Boys and Girls ranges from 2-10 yrs there is also a cute little baby range too. I shall certainly be back for more. Oh and if you need any help on any new designs Emma I would be more than willing to assist ;) 

X

Disclosure: Master Poppins was sent a two piece outfit from Argos for the purposes of this blog post. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

My Day At Blog Camp UK....

Yesterday I attended a blogging conference in Birmingham that goes by the name of Blog Camp UK and which, sponsored by Skype and Growing Up Milk is organised by Sally Whittle run free, one-day workshops and conferences for Independent UK Bloggers around the UK. I was on a waiting list for this event as I had been silly enough not to organise myself a reminder for when the  tickets were to become available. And boy those tickets went fast. So I waited in anticipation for an email to see if I would get one of the ten tickets that became available at a later date. And thankfully I was and got the email. Having myself been a blogger who blogs about all sorts for quite a while now, coming up to 4 years, I have been pondering about whether I have possibly come full circle within the blogosphere, and perhaps I am just too busy to blog or indeed have nothing left to blog about for blogging these days. This blog started out after much encouragement and support from others as a little crafty blog which documented my journey within the craft scene and then progressed onto me chatting about all sorts of things. I spoke of my appearance on television with another blogger, I loved to chat about my family, I enjoyed sharing my thrifty shopping purchases, interior makeovers and my love of shabby chic. What started out as a very personal blog, almost anonymous, I soon realised I didn't mind it being out there a bit more. Also it is especially hard, when having appeared on television, to keep that anonymous ;)

Then came the working relationships with PR's and brands and I have never been ashamed about my enjoyment of this role. There is so much out there in the internet about this side of blogging. Discussions about whether one is selling out from the journey that they perhaps first started on, and blog's becoming more *commercial* means you lose readership or you are perhaps even selling your soul. In honesty, maybe at times I felt hang on, is this commercial side of blogging really for me. I blog from the heart, write just as if you and I were talking, and would this commercial side of things sit side by side within my blogging personality. Blogging is first and foremost a hobby, yes albeit a hobby with perks as I enjoy the blogging events and lovely days out I get to attend, especially the ones where also my family get that same enjoyment.  Reviewing items relevant to me/you is something I enjoy and I certainly didn't start out this blogging journey to get on the freebie ride. It absolutely isn't about *free stuff*. It is kind of a job, a little job that I enjoy. Heck I have even been lucky enough to win a little break abroad as a result of my blogging. Should I hang my head in shame? Does it make me a *particular* type of person that I enjoy this commercial aspect of my blog? Well, going to blog camp to discuss all these different blogging questions I have with other like minded bloggers certainly gave me food for thought... 


There are so many bloggers out there more savvy/confident than I who relish this commercial side and although it is a role I too enjoy, I am not one for rushing to PR's to get my blog seen, if they come to me, that is great, I am always happy to talk, but I never started out in the blog world for this PR/brand thing. It found me and I still like to keep the bare, gritty bones of my blog. I don't want the personal side of it to disappear. Engaging with people in real life is something I get great satisfaction out of and I want to bring a little of that here, to engage. I listened to what the speakers had to say and I found it all very interesting, I even asked a question or two, which in a room of over 100 other bloggers, was a little nerveracking....

Bangs & A Bun  A very savvy blogger who chatted about many subjects including how to take your blog to the next level.


You could then pick and choose whose talks you wanted to attend and I opted for...

Luv & Hat A really insightful, funny discussion on how to be a little bit snarky, but also how to get away with it without being a dick. (Yes this is the first time I have mentioned anything remotely dick like within my blog in nearly 4 years ) He came to sit next to me when he first came in, alright it was the only seat left but hey, and I just thought he was another bloke blogger come along for the day. He certainly looks like such a sweet boy and I would never have imagined he had all this snarkiness inside him, great talk Stuart btw.  


Susannah Conway Lovely lady, and I thought someone that I would really enjoy chatting with over a glass of fine wine. Susanna a talented photographer, writer and indeed creator of  the Unravelling e-courses was just a delight to listen to. Susannah, like myself, though albeit under very different circumstances entirely, has gone through a bereavement and like me, was possibly the catalyst for embarking on this blogging/creative/soul searching journey. She chatted about her e-courses and gave lots of insightful tips on setting them up. 


Then it was a follow/no follow link debate. Don't ask. I don't get it. Well I do, but there are others that can explain it far better than I.

Everyone then met back together again for the final talk by Stephen Waddington from Speed Communications about how to make brands sit up and take note. Again a very insightful discussion and Stephen really knows his PR/Brand stuff. I personally think PR's get bit of a raw deal by bloggers, maybe I am in the minority and have only ever had perfectly lovely, professional, happy relationships with PR's. Maybe it is because I feel a little on the fence with it all as professionally the PR world is one I myself would like to work within and think I have a flair for. Who knows. Nobody is perfect and both bloggers and PRs can learn from each other about their relationships. I sometimes just wish it was done in a more nice-esque way. Anyway, I obviously still have a lot to learn as when Stephen asked me for my card, I wondered if I had missed his birthday or something? Do bloggers really carry cards promoting their blogs? Obviously, but I don't think I shall be rushing to the printer's just yet. 


So, a really enjoyable day out, and I certainly learnt a thing or two, though still not sure if I perhaps have indeed come to the end of the blogging road. I think all us bloggers have these thoughts at some time perhaps, and talking about blogging so intensly always brings up questions and thoughts about one's own blog. Where is it going? Why do I do it? There are so many blogging personalities out there, all with their unique voice, I guess we all need to find our own, trust it, and go with it. I would certainly recommend one of these blog camp event's if you are a blogger who wants to learn a little more of the blogging world. There are going to be more, so keep your eyes peeled on their website. Of course being a people person I thoroughly enjoyed meeting some old ( not literally ) faces, and meeting some new ones too. I was far too busy eating/chatting/listening to take any photographs so all within this post are borrowed ( thanks btw ) 


X    

Friday, 20 April 2012

Take One Old Ikea Clock....

If you are as old as me, you may have lurking in your house one of these simple wooden clock's I purchased from Ikea years ago. At the time I really liked the simplicity of it and it was very cheap....


Being somewhat of a hoarder I have all sorts of things tucked away in my cupboards and shelves and am often found sorting and de-junking. When I spied this in a cupboard I instantly thought it was for the *to go* pile. Then I took a closer look and thought maybe I could pretty it up and it then wouldn't look so sorry for itself. So I took it apart....


And after a little pink paint and some Cath Kidston flowers cut out of wallpaper then glued on, here it is looking much prettier.... 


There, that's better don't you think....

X

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Cox & Kings Blogger Challenge, The Results....

I have been so preoccupied with one thing and another that I forgot to let you know about the outcome of the Blogger Challenge I took part in some weeks ago. I really enjoyed dressing our little upstairs bathroom in an Indian style and Cox & Kings the travel company who organised the challenge, and who themselves offer luxury holiday's in India made for a super challenge that everyone involved enjoyed. To be honest the *winning* of the challenge was somewhat secondary as I had much fun dressing the bathroom up, even though I nearly didn't get it finished in time. Here is a little snapshot of the finished bathroom....

  
Three of my photographs then went on the Cox & Kings facebook page along with the finished makeover's of the other five bloggers taking part and basically the bathroom with the most *likes* over the two weeks won the competition. After a first flury of shout outs and letting people know about the challenge on twitter and facebook, I got swept back into family life, and forgot about the competition for a while. *Like* competitions can be a little hit and miss, and I just didn't have the extra time to do lots of shout outs and if I am honest, felt a little uncomfortable asking people to vote for my bathroom as such. Anyway it was much to my delight when I got an email through the day after the competition had closed that I had indeed won the competition. Everyone's makoevers were lovely so to actually win was very flattering and hand on heart I didn't really expect to....


I am so delighted, and also a little nervous as the prize means I shall be spending three whole nights away from my children, the longest I shall ever have been away from them. Yes I am one of those who wants them tied to my vintage pinny forever ;) Anyway am sure I shall overcome this nervousness at leaving them and shall be flying off to Tallinn and if the husband is good, he can come along too as I have two tickets ;) I haven't been abroad for a long, long time and hopefully shall be just what I need. To me this wasn't about winning a *free holiday* but an opportunity to give myself and my husband a little *our time*, to experience the culture of another land and to see if I actually do have the balls to be separated from my children for those 3 short nights. Since loosing my baby who was born prematurely in 2005 and Master Popppins having a tricky time of it at birth and the following months after, I have become particularly protective of them and do worry about them when they are not around me or my husband. I personally think this a normal thing considering what we have been through, but I have to do it one day and I know we and they shall be fine :)

So, thank you Cox & Kings for giving me this opportunity and more importantly THANK YOU if any of you voted or liked or whatever you want to call it my ickle bathroom. THANK YOU so very much....

X

                  

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Burda Style Sewing Handbook....

I love to sew, and shall always be very thankful and grateful to those online in various crafty forums and those in my real life who encouraged me to pick up that needle and thread again after many years of not doing so. Sewing has brought me a much needed creative outlet, and although I have gone on to make a little pocket money from my sewing it ultimately shall always be a hobby I love to do, it kind of works around family life and has given me the confidence to make things I would never normally have thought I could have in my wildest dreams. I am certainly no sewing guru and there are far more talented sewing peeps out there than me that I look up to and am inspired by and am always flattered that anything I make is liked by others. I am also passionate about other people having a go and I like to spread the word of how much fun sewing can actually be. The crafting world is a vast one, so many books out there and crafting magazines and in a whirlwind of craftiness, it is sometimes hard to know where to begin. I never ever thought attemting to make my own clothes would be something I could do, although I did attempt this Burda Dress for Miss. Poppins I haven't really done too much clothes making since so was eager to have a flick through this book that was sent by GMC Publications for review.... 

  
It is a real weighty book, in many ways. Chapters on getting started, using patters, starting to sew, making skirts, making blouses, making dresses, coats and even bags. Using patterns really isn't my best subject and I certainly need all the help I can get in that field. The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook has five adaptable sewing patterns for a skirt, coat, blouse, dress and a bag included in the back of the book....

         
It can be very empowering making ones own clothes, and I have so many pretty fabrics I think would make lovely little summer skirts or simple shift dresses, but that confidence thing again, it keeps creeping up and biting me on the bum. This book aims to help the reader understand that creating fashionable clothes is much easier than one thinks. It aims to give you the basic building blocks to begin sewing and the tools you need to move beyond the basics to designing and customising your own wardrobe. I love the way the chapters are easily set out....




In the book you shall also find essential information on setting up a studio, using your sewing machine, working with patterns, and the book claims to be the ultimate guide to sewing with style. The book wants to serve as the new bible for sewing enthusiasts and motivated DIYers. I would say some experience in the world of sewing may be advantageous in attempting the patterns in this book, but would also prove a very worthwhile addition to your bookshelf if you are someone who has always wanted to sew but never took the time to learn. You can use this book to bring your ideas to life and the book does say in its introduction that it contains everything a beginner needs to know, from setting up a sewing place and identifying essential tools to making that first skirt. For more advanced sewers, the book provides insight into great techniques, like circular ruffles and challenges you to design your own pattern variations. Each project is rated by skill level, from one to three buttons. One is beginner friendly, while three is for more experienced sewers.

I have found the community website BurdaStyle which was launched in 2007, and for people who love to sew very inspirational and I just love browsing on there. So, I guess the proof is in the pudding and I have begun to make myself a little Burda Style summer skirt, I am kind of guessing it shall have somewhat of my own take on it but shall certainly use the book as my guide and see how we go. And as for using patterns, eeeeeeek wish me luck, I think I am going to need it....

X

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Thoughts At Easter....

Of course they would be happy with just an egg, but I love to pop a little extra treat or two in their Easter bags. Being a savvy bargain hunter I don't spend too much, and I know Master Poppins shall loves his £3.50 ( George at Asda ) Ben10 dressing gown that I found in the sale, and only £5 for Miss Poppins' pretty summer dress ( George at Asda) The Hannah Montana gift bags were only 29p ( Home Bargains ) hopefully Master Popps won't mind too much ;)


As well as popping little notepads and activity books in which shall keep them busy little bees, I have written special little poems for them to let them know how much I love them and can't wait to see their little faces. We told them that we hoped they didn't mind too much, but the shops had all sold out of Easter eggs this year and that unfortunately they shall have to do without. I am so proud of them, they just said "Oh well, never mind, hopefully we shall get one next year". Luckily my family understand and *get* my sense of humour and we shall all have a little giggle when they are handed their little bags on Easter sunday....


 I am feeling a little low at the moment, very thoughtful and spiritually a little wobbly on my feet. I have lost my confidence in life somewhat, although outwardly I may come across as a confident and vivacious individual, inside am feeling quite fragile I guess. I know that confident person is in there, but I think she has decided to have a little holiday, I do hope she comes back one day. It is coming to that time of year where thoughts of Joshua come to the forefront of our minds, he would have been 7 this year and as always I miss him dearly. Of course life goes on, and I am so thankful he came into my life for such a very short time....Having him has taught me so many positive things, like gratitude, love and caring towards others. I am not perfect and sometimes say things in the heat of the moment before I think but generally I do my very best to be kind and gracious to others. You really don't know what trials people are dealing with in life that they perhaps keep hidden and to themselves. I do try to take heed of this quote....
So, I just wanted to wish you a very happy and fun-filled Easter, may you be spending it with the ones you love and don't eat all those eggs at once ;)

X


Monday, 2 April 2012

Mummy's Little Makeover Just for You....

 I found this lovely child's Poang Chair and footstool from Ikea on Freecycle. The original covers were reasonably in good condition though were faded in areas, and I couldn't wait to spruce them up a little. Master Poppins has chicken pox ( sob sob ) and I thought a perfect time to quickly whip up some new covers, so he can relax and put his feet up whilst I played ( a very tired ) nurse. It also rocks a little so is extra comfy....


I knew the fabric he would like and so reckoned on it being a simple like for like and used the seat and footstool cushions as my pattern template when cutting out my fabric....


The base for the foot stool uses velcro to secure the cushion so I just followed suit in the new cover I made....




As for the main seat cushion itself, it was sort of split into three separate pieces by two seams and I thought it would be just too difficult to get the bulky seat cushion under the sewing machine to do the seams. I opted for one simple slip cover, backed in a cream fabric and which worked just as well....


It was then just a case of slipping the cushion with new cover back over the base for the chair which makes it nice and secure too....


 I just love the Cath Kidston cowboy material and couldn't wait to see it all looking rather cool and funky....


He just loves it....



Big hugs little man, Mummy loves you very much....

X