Monday, 25 March 2013

Sleep Baby Sleep...

Sleep is a major issue in our house, and something we are always trying to outsmart and outwit. We kind of think that if we intellectualise it, one day, ONE DAY, we will find a way to not feel tired all the time. Recently we moved our younger son into a big boy bed in a last ditch attempt to get him to sleep in past 5am. There is nothing more depressing than being up so early, KNOWING that you have a whole day of child rearing to get through.

Anyway, on this note, I was lucky enough to be sent a lovely bedding set from The Bedding Company to review for the pure purpose of making my little one's room more cosy and comfy, HOPEFULLY encouraging him to sleep just a little longer, I'm craving a 6am wake up call to be honest...

Here's a little bit about The Bedding Company....
"As one of Europe's leading online bedding shops for over four decades, here at The Bedding Company we take immense pride in supplying premium pillows, duvets, mattress covers, protectors and bed linen at prices which won't leave you losing sleep at night. All of our products have been carefully designed and created by industry experts- and this expertise allows us to offer the best sleep solutions to each and every one of our highly valued customers. Your choice of duvet, pillow and even your choice of mattress protector can play a significant role in determining whether you enjoy a sound night's sleep which leaves you feeling fully refreshed or a poor night's sleep which sees you struggling to stay awake. For this reason, we ensure that we offer products of only the very highest quality, and with such an extensive selection, we have products for even the fussiest of sleepers."

I chose a lovely Silent Night duvet set which also contained a single sheet and pillow slip which is priced at £30. I actually think you might struggle to get a nice bedding set for less than £30 as the cheaper ones always seem to be really scratchy and horrid.

Anway, this is the end result on my little one's bed!

Soft cosy bedding from The Bedding Company!

This was once ironed, honest...
I really like the clean pure look of it and I also think it lightens up his bedroom as it can sometimes look a bit dark. So far he has slept really well on it which I really hope will last! It has washed really well and was also easy to iron which was very pleasing. There are lots of different options on the website including many anti allergy products which let's face it, most of us need these days. I also really like the Jeff Banks duvet covers, for myself of course!

I was sent a single duvet cover set for the purpose of this review though thoughts are entirely my own.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

An Easter Roast! Feeling Full at Asda's Meat Masterclass

I love cooking (and eating too) but unfortunately, I'm not very good at it (the cooking part that is). I've bought countless cook books and am well able to follow a recipe, but the fact is that my understanding of flavours and what works with what is pretty limited. Once I do get hold of a good idea for tea though I do tend to repeat it over and over again until everyone is completely sick to death of it.

That's why I jumped at the chance of going to the Asda "Meat Masterclass" which I was kindly invited to. A few months ago I went to the Asda Pie Event and I feel like I'm a familiar face there now and have got to know the food PRs and the other bloggers pretty well.

When we arrived we were greeted by Master butcher Jim who is the mastermind behind Asda's "Butchers Selection" (see picture below) and amazing chef Mark Richmond who apparently had been cooking up a feast for us all day. Our first task was to prepare a shoulder of lamb whilst Jim told us a bit about how Asda source their meat and their efforts to try to ensure they buy local and pay a fair price. He also told us about how they only sell certain parts of the lamb so that customers aren't faced with a pack of fatty meat.

When we prepared the lamb we were asked to scour the skin and "tickle" it with oil, before adding a sprig of rosemary tied on with "elastic bands" (technical term). Here is Jim showing us what to do...
Jim preparing his lamb...

Here is me trying to look like I know what I'm doing
Scouring Fun....

and my finished attempt....
my prepared lamb!
Apparently I went a bit too deep with my knife! We also added cloves of garlic which you can see in this picture.  These were peeled though Mark the chef did tell us later that this works better if you don't bother peeling as the garlic caramelises far better with the skin on.

Jim also taught us how to prepare a rack of lamb, slicing off half of the skin and then stripping the bones down so that they look all can see Jim at work here!
Jim preparing his ribs...

My friend and I had a go at doing the same, what you can see here is mainly me directing and supervising the hard work...
Lots of lovely meats! Supervision needed....
Jim also told us about how Asda butchers prepare their meat by hand rather than slicing in a machine, this means their chops and steaks are cut much thicker than other supermarkets. You can see Jim preparing some lovely steak here, the way he chopped through it with his sharp knife made me think of our pathetic implements at home where we have to saw through a mushroom with a completely blunt knife!
Jim with his beef..

Jim said he'd been working for Asda for nearly 30 years and had started working for them as a butchers boy. He is now head of purchasing for meat and certainly knows his onions when it comes to meat. After all this fun with the meat it was now time to learn how to actually cook it. Mark is head of food innovation at Asda (I might have just made that title up but it was something very similar!) and showed us how to make the perfect marinade using garlic, shallots and LOADS of olive oil. He showed us how to make carrot crush which involves caramelising the carrots and cooking them for AGES. He also showed us a great dish with cauliflower which started by blanching them in boiling water, frying in chilli oil then cooking in the oven with a lovely tomato based sauce. I also learned all the various ways to cook lamb including Mediterranean lamb with olives, anchovies and capers stuffed down the scoured skin. It was amazing but to be honest by this stage we were all so hungry it was difficult to take in what was being said! We then had an amazing meal all together in the Green House with the various types of lamb.

Our amazing meal!
The food was amazing and it really was like having a meal in a restaurant. Jim told us that the shoulder of lamb would only cost about £10 from Asda and would feed 10 people. We were also given a lovely bag full of meats for us to cook at home. Here is my attempt at the lamb shoulder...
Our lovely dinner!
What I did was brown the shoulder off for 35 minutes before basically cooking it for a whole day at about 60 degrees (ignore the bizarre red eyes, weird!). The result was lovely tender lamb that just fell off he bone. I had a go at the carrots and potato recipes from the most recent Asda Easter magazine and I think it turned out well! We ended up eating the lamb in various guises (we made a lamb casserole using our slow cooker with the leftovers then pureed that on the third day into a soup!) so actually though the shoulder cost £10 it lasted us ages. We were also given a lovely Easter chick cake which the boys loved and has already been 100% eaten! Sorry chicky!

Lovely Asda chick cake!
Have you got any plans for Easter Sunday? What are you cooking?

I was invited to Asda House as their guest to take part in the meat masterclass and was given a bag of meat to take home, but all thoughts are my own and it was very yummy.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Baker Days Fab Personalised Cake!

A few weeks ago, it being Mother's Day and all, I was hunting around for something nice and useful for my mum. For me, Christmas, Mother's Day and my mums birthday all come a bit close together and I'm usually at a complete loss for what to get. This year things were made a bit easier for me on Mother's Day as I was able to choose something lovely from the Baker Days website and chose a delicious personalised cake! After ordering, the cake came so so so quickly, I couldn't believe it! Ordering it was really simple and all I had to do was upload a photo (or I could have chosen one from their website, any image really!) and Bob's your Uncle! There were quite a few different designs and ideas but not so many that I felt overwhelmed.

When it came (only a day or two later) it came in a lovely box and inside was this nice tin (which I'm sure will be kept as something useful too).

Baker Days Tin!

This is the finished design! I decided to choose a picture of my mum holding our oldest son just after he was born as it's such a beautiful picture! She really loved receiving it as a present and apparently the cake itself was really delicious.
Personalised cake from Baker Days.
Overall I was really pleased with the experience and would recommend Baker Days to anyone, the service was quick, efficient and the cake was yummy. Best of all the colours were really vibrant and it looked good quality. If you were going to have a child's birthday party and had a lot to organise and (like me!) are terrible at baking, then this is a good way to go!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

My son is hard work.

There I've said it. I'm not one of those parents who idolises their own child - in our house we say it like it is. As much as I love our youngest son, he has never been easy to be with. After a dream birth with no pain relief and a quick and easy start to breast feeding , I started to notice that under no circumstances did he like being put down in his Moses basket, at all. In fact, as soon as I even went to put him down he would scream hysterically which needed another half hour feed to calm him down. At the time I thought it was because he was breast fed he was never quite full, in hindsight I think it's just part of his temperament.

As soon as we started weaning him he insisted on using an adult knife and fork or he wouldn't eat, ditto feeding himself - we were not to interfere! He hated being in his car seat and would scream uncontrollably until we got him out, not soothed like most babies! He started walking early and soon started bossing round his older brother, pushing him, nipping him and generally trying to beat him up (three years his senior!)

When I go to collect him from my parents house after work, rather than run to greet me like my older son does, he usually tries to slap me round the chops, putting in his car seat when he is in that sort of mood is a challenge and it normally ends up with me sustaining battle wounds.

Best is if we go out without the pushchair, it really is a battle of wills. He would rather run into ongoing traffic than go the direction we are going in. My older son can't understand why he has to be so difficult and neither can I!

Now he is 2 he seems to be getting worse! Any tips anyone!?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Saved by the Grandparents....

Proud grandparents helping us out on holiday...
I went into our local town this afternoon to go to the bank, and as I was walking around (without children for once) it really struck me how many pushchairs and young children there were around. The thing that also struck me, all of a sudden, was that these children were not being pushed by their parents, but actually by their grandparents, some of them quite elderly.

We've been very lucky that my parents moved nearby to help us out with childcare, as things are, they have my boys for two days each week then the other two days I do the school drop off for my older son whilst my younger son goes to a local nursery. For two days a week it costs us £314 which is doable, but I really wouldn't like to be paying out for four days a week. As I work long days in the week, I have Fridays off which I enjoy spending with my youngest son who has just turned two.  I feel really restricted by picking up and dropping off at school, the mornings are the only time we can really do anything so we always go for a play at the local children's centre. By the time we've had lunch it's time for his afternoon sleep and I usually pick up my emails and do some admin. We are lucky enough to have a cleaner now so we no longer have to argue about the house being a mess.

Son 2 usually wakes then about two and it's not really worth going out anywhere as I have to be back for three to pick Son 1 up, so it always seems like we are treading water a bit. But anyway, back to the grandparents; we are lucky in what we have but I've started to notice more and more that it's not unusual. People seem to be relying more and more on relatives rather than childminders and nurseries. Is it a cost thing? Or a trust thing? Or both? It does feel good knowing that my child is being cared for by someone that loves him. So do you think it's just expected now that Grandparents will help out? Should we pay them? Or do you think with the cost of childcare these days then they should offer to help?

Like I said I've seen some really elderly Grandparents grappling with an active two year old, amusing for a few seconds then the empathy sets in, how on earth do they manage?!

Night in with the girls (well, hubby)...

Since we had children we have had our fair share of nights in. In fact, most nights are in to be honest. More recently we've had a bit more of a social life, going to London last weekend, meals out and the like. What I haven't had in an awful long time is a "girly" night out, or in for that matter. I've never really been one for going out in a group, as I don't like compromising on where I spend my time, especially since I've had children and my time is precious. I find it stressful fitting in with what other people want to do which often leads to friction, so in general I just avoid it (that makes me sound really miserable doesn't it!). That's one of the reasons I started blogging, sort of a hobby so I feel I am spending my time proactively in the evenings. I know a lot of people like to do things like online gaming (like Ladbrokes) and games like Candy crush (what is that, and stop sending me requests everyone!).

Anyway, since we stay in so much, I was delighted to receive this lovely "night in with the girls" pack from Ladbrokes a few weeks ago to celebrate their diamond slot game, it really was a lovely treat.
night in with the girls goodie pack!
In my pack there was, a box set of Marilyn DVDs, some lovely champagne sparkly bits, nail crystals, FOUR boxes of Charbonnel and Walker champagne truffles and let's not forget the hilarious industrial strength glue! I absolutely loved the Marilyn DVDs and got through them really quickly, she wasn't a great actress but I love the fashions and her outfits (which apparently she was sewn into!). Glittery stuff always goes down well and the choccies, well, yum yum! Hubby and I had a lovely girly night in scoffing chocs, watching Marilyn and generally having a lovely time!

I was sent some lovely goodies as described above for writing this post :)

Saturday, 9 March 2013

What I wore today, lovely double layer Topshop skirt, £10 M&S jumper and Baukjen Leather Belt

Shoe Boots from Asda Living, £18
Elkin Bracelet £29.99

Joules Man's quilted jacket £60 was £120

I thought it might be nice to write a fashion (if you can call it that) post today and kick off my "what I wore today" section as I always love reading about this on other people's blogs. As I uploaded the pictures onto blogger on my phone I've been unable to reposition them properly and I've had to type underneath which is kind of annoying. Anyway, in the top pictures you can see my lovely Topshop double layer pencil skirt that I bought last week for £20, the double layer basically means it is mega flattering as it holds me in and gives definition rather than horrible clinginess. I like wearing this skirt in the evening with a sheer sleeveless blouse but for the day it's great with a jumper tucked in, like the one you see in the picture. I got that one for £10 from Marks and Spencer back in the Autumn. It looks a bit frumpy when worn with jeans or black trousers but is great tucked in to a skirt. 

I'm also wearing my Baukjen navy leather belt which I got half price for £34 last year (currently for sale from the Baukjen web site full price in different colours. I love this belt for cinching my waist in and adding a bit of glamour to an outfit.

I'm also wearing some fab studded shoe boots that I bought in Asda Living a few months ago too for £18. They are really comfy and flattering too, though I'm never quite sure what to wear them with, any ideas?

There are also some pictures of my new Elkin bracelet, which I bought with an Achica gift voucher, I would never normally spend that sort of money on what is essentially a string bracelet but the skull has really grown on me and I've had loads of nice comments about it, there is a little sparkly trinket on the other side too which is pretty cool.

And last but not least, I managed to persuade my husband to pose for a picture in his new Joules coat which we managed to pick up in Ilkley today for £60 (was £120). The new style were in stock as well and were identical to the sale version but half the price! Insane.

What do you think? What did you wear today?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Stable Chic: Fashion-savvy equestrian styles for all seasons!

Head-to-toe equestrian styles have never been so on trend, and while the weather outside remains frightful; we have the style solutions to ensure you stay on top of the fashion game with the latest and greatest horse themed fashion.

Edgy and Equestrian

(Top right to bottom left) Chelsea boots are super traditional for country style, so this thick healed boot from Topshop priced at £70 is a true investment piece with an alternative twist. Next up are super skinny trousers from New Look coming in at a total bargain priced at £14.99. 

They go with everything and create a “just parked my horse, what of it?” kinda vibe. This beautiful Ariat ladies weather proof jacket from Equestrian Clearance not only looks great, but is totally practical for all seasons. Pick it up at the total bargain of £69.99 here.  Finish off the look with the masculine style turned feminine with a sheer horse-print shirt from New Look priced at £8.99.
Gorgeous and Girly
These patent boots priced at £38 from Topshop give a feminine edge to a typically masculine boot. Skater skirts are renowned for their flippy loveliness, and this tartan beauty from Urban Outfitters take traditional patterns a modern twist. Priced at £35, you really can’t go wrong. 

To make sure no one doubts your everlasting love for all things horse related, this plum print tee shirt priced at £7 from New Look is delicate and simple. 

Everyone knows a day at the races isn’t complete without some awesome headwear, so to keep it simple for day-to-day life, wear this sparkling, beautiful clip from New Look at only £2.99.


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