> The Beesley Buzz: 2012

The Perfect Elf - Center Parcs Tots 100 Challenge

We've been on a search for a Christmas Elf that's perfect,
I suppose you've come to hear the verdict.
An Elf that is perfect in everyway,
'Is that even possible?' I hear you say.

Elves get their moment of fame in December,
Their year-round hard work is seldom remembered.
Spring, Summer and Autumn they make preparations,
So that we can enjoy Christmas celebrations.

And when Winter is finally here,
The elves spread their joy and festive cheer.

Festive food and festive treats,
Are an Elf's most favourite thing to eat.
Home-made mince-pies like Daniel's recipe here.
(Which can be changed to jam tarts for the rest of the year.)

Elves know how to make houses of gingerbread and spice,
(and yes it did taste scrumdeliciously nice!)

Elves like to laugh and tell the very best jokes.
(They learn the best ones from Joshua - but don't tell their folks).

They love a good Christmas sing-a-long,
To the latest Christmas craze,
When you've seen this video,
It'll leave you in a daze.

So all those things that you knew before,
Making toys, wrapping gifts, and lots, lots more.
Yes, they are all jobs that good elves do.
(Did you know Elves can even make shoes too?)

They tell stories, sing songs and decorate trees,
and spread the magic of Christmas so that all will believe.

They help Santa get ready, polish his sleigh,
So that children everywhere know 'he's on his way!'
The magic of Christmas, the promise of snow,
Santa's sleigh flying over houses below.

What should an Elf look like? What should an Elf wear?
Do they have pointy ears and curls in their hair?
Everyone seems to have their own idea,
As you can see in this video here...

Elves are magical creatures, there's no doubt about that.
But you're not born an Elf (that's a little known fact).

Learning Elf magic,

Loving the snow,

Eating mince pies, whilst the mulled wine flows.

It's not always easy, but there are things you can learn,
And a place in Santa's heart, you surely will earn.
With kindness, love and lots of care,
Be helpful and true and try to be fair.
Be joyful and happy and always consider others.
(Reminds me of another species commonly known as 'mothers').

Try to be welcoming and give lots of smiles,
(far more important than wearing latest Elf hat-styles).

So that was the challenge to find the perfect Elf.
Do you already know one?
Could it be yoursELF?

This is our entry into the Tots100 Center Parcs Challenge for December to write a festive poem about the perfect Elf. November's entry was our 'Dragon Defeater' waterslide and can be seen here.
Find out more about Center Parcs winter wonderland here, or if you are feeling festive and want to write about your perfect elf, join in with the fun here.


Joshua's Jokes - The Festive Edition

Josh has been asking for ages to have a section on the blog for his favourite jokes. We think it is a great idea but just hadn't got around to it but as he has been keeping us amused with so many festive jokes, we thought it was a good set of jokes to start his little 'Joshua's Jokes' corner of the blog with.

So here are his favourites:

Q: What do elves learn at school?
A: The Elf-abet.

Q: What's green, white and red all over?
A: A sunburnt elf!

Q: What is the best Christmas present in the world?
A: A broken drum - you can't beat it!

Q: What king is the Children's favourite at Christmas time?
A: A stock-king!

Q: What do you have in December that you don't have in any other month?
A: The letter D!

Q: Why is it dangerous to be out at Christmas?
A: Because there are Mince Spies about.

Q: Who is never hungry at Christmas?
A: The turkey - it's always stuffed!

Q: Why don't reindeer like penguins?
A: Because they can't get the wrappers off.

Q: What's the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet?
A: The Christmas alphabet has no L in it! (Noel.)

Q: What happens if you eat Christmas decorations?
A: You get tinsel-itus!

Q: What do snowmen eat for lunch?
A: Icebergers!

Who's there?
Snow who?
Snow use - I've forgotten my name again!

Book Review: The Return of the Killer Cat

The Return of the killer cat by Anne Fine

Review by Joshua aged eight

Return of the killer cat is a funny book. The cat's family go away so he has to have a cat sitter, the vicar. The cat thinks he will have a great time, but he is wrong.

He has to have his dinner from last night before he can get fresh food!

He runs away from the vicar,jumps up the lawn mower and into the tree.

The vicar runs after the cat but can't catch him, so he stood under the tree and called for him to come down

He can't get down because he is stuck up the tree!

Will he be able to have fresh food again or will it be his leftovers?
Will he ever get down from that tree?

Read to find out!!!

I give this book 10 out of 10!!!

Mum adds: Books like this where they are written in the first person have really helped Joshua with his creative writing. In this book it is written as if Tuffy the cat is speaking. Joshua will now often write stories in the first person as if it is one of the characters speaking and it makes for some really great stories.

Reasons to be Cheerful - A dramatic week!

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Once again I am joining in with Mummy from the Heart's R2BC blog hop. Here are my reasons to be cheerful this week...

When I say a dramatic week, I don't mean that anything particularly dramatic has happened, but rather the boys both had their drama shows this week...

1. On Sunday, Joshua had his Drama performance and managed to hold it together for both the rehearsal and the show. He goes to a fantastic drama club that is specifically for kids with social communication difficulties so they have been understanding of Josh when he has had the occassional wobble in recent weeks when there were changes going on with new children starting. His group's performance was snow white and the seven moshlings and with him being a huge Moshi monsters fan, it was the perfect idea for a show for him to be involved in. The other groups also did an amazing job of "Cinda-Fella" and "Peter Pan and the Beanstalk" which incorporated ideas from all the kids that attend the drama club.

2. Today was Daniel's drama show. Daniel started at a local drama school in September for weekly sessions and although he has always been a sociable, outgoing kind of kid, his confidence has just been sky high since doing these drama sessions. It is interesting for us to see the difference between the two different drama clubs with Daniel's being very loud and lively and knowing that someone like Josh just wouldn't cope for 2 seconds in that environment. Which makes us so glad that it is a great club for Daniel to be involved in and we are so grateful that Josh has his own alternative to attend. It really does prove that each child is different and each child's needs are unique.

3. Daddy is off work now until after boxing day - so it will be nice to have a relaxing few days with hopefully not too many meltdowns from Josh as the changes that happen to routine during the Christmas period can sometimes make things really hard for him. We also made the most of having Daddy around today and finally got around to having my contact lens check which was about a year and a half overdue and managed to get some food shopping done so hopefully will only need little top-ups of milk and bread until after Christmas.

So what are your reasons to be cheerful this week....


Wot so funee - a true story about mum's cooking!

Wot So Funee?

Seeing this post about COOK on Domestic Disgrace the other day reminded me of something that my son did few years ago... at the time I had written a poem for COOK about the incident and it was even one of the runners-up in the Poetry Day competition they held that year. I thought it would be a good one for Actually Mummy's Wot so funee linky. Sorry for the tiny font - I couldn't figure out how to get it bigger!

Our Family’s Food Fiasco - a true story
by Rebecca Beesley

This is the true tale of the Beef Bourguignon saga,
A story to remember for ever after,
Notice there is no ‘happily’,
The reason why, you’ll come to see.

Beef Bourguignon from COOK - a popular choice
For my husband and my two boys.
Always gobbled quickly up,
Beef Bourguignon bought from the COOK shop.

One day, as a special treat,
Off to the butchers to buy some meat.
About time I did my motherly duty...
(Little did I know they’d nearly shoot me!)

Over the hot stove, all afternoon slaved,
At last it was finished, the meal they craved.
All four of us at the table - hubby, boys, and me,
All looking forward to our tasty tea.

Mum (that’s me), feeling rather tired,
But ‘worth it’ I thought as my dish was admired.
The first spoonful went in, then a horrified look...
“Mummy, this dinner isn’t from COOK!” 
“This tastes yuk!” my six year old announces
Then out of the room he promptly flounces.

I swiftly call out, “But you like this dish.
“Not this, only from COOK!” he insists.
I put my foot down and tell him he must eat more.
That’s when his dinner is thrown on the floor!

A mother rejected, a mum in despair.
A mother ready to pull out her hair.
I couldn’t understand how it all went so wrong
Over a dish of homemade Beef Bourguignon.

So into the bin goes my recipe book,
My lesson’s been learnt... I’m off to COOK! 


#FestivePlaylist Linky with Britmums and Coca Cola

As we are well and truly into the festive season now, Coca-Cola have launched an interactive Pub Finder where Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero is on 2 for 1 offer to help everyone enjoy the festive season in a responsible way by making sure that you or your designated driver stick to the soft drinks if you are driving.

And everyone enjoys a good Christmas song to listen to whilst driving... As we have always intended this to be our family blog where all the family contribute, we have all had a say in choosing our top festive favourite songs to join in with the Britmums Festive Playlist Linky.

Daddy's Choice
The first one is "The Little Drummer Boy" - but not the orginal. We came across this version by Sean Quigley a few months ago which we think sounds amazing...and here is the number one Coca-Cola fan in the family (aka Daddy) joining in with the drumming with his little drummers.

I think you'll agree that the music is amazing. Sean Quigley recorded this version last December when he was only 16 playing all the instruments himself...And this guy truly know what Christmas should be all about. He insisted that all the money goes to charity from sales of his CD of 'Little Drummer boy' and it went to a charity working to end homelessness and poverty in Sean's home town of Winnipeg. Wow - what a song and what a story behind it! That's why that one is on our festive playlist.

Mummy's Choice
Our next choice is rather cheesy and twee but if you can't be cheesy and twee at Christmas when can you be, eh? My dear mum was a huge fan of Cliff Richard's and although it is ten years since she passed away, listening to good old Cliff, is my way of remembering mum at Christmas. So here's Cliff with 'Mistletoe and Wine' which we like to sing along to.

8 year old Joshua's Choice
Regular blog readers will know just what huge Moshi Monster's fans we are in this family and 'Moshi Twistmas' is just such a fun one to sing along to and so catchy - we've pretty much had it playing in the car since last Christmas!

Here's our very own version of 'Moshi Twistmas' which has had over 100,000 views on You Tube...not bad for a couple of homeschooled kids who did this for a bit of fun as our homeschool alternative to doing a nativity play!

If you want to check out the original version of the Moshi Twistmas video, it will help you make sense of ours!

6 year old Daniel's Choice
As you may remember Daniel is the musical one in this family...

And so we have to trust that Dan has excellent taste when it comes to music. So what does he choose as his favourite Christmas song....Crazy Frog's version of 'Last Christmas'.

8 Month old Baby Trinity's Choice
When we spotted a song named "Baby's First Christmas" by Connie Francis (1961), we thought it would be perfect to represent baby Trinity's first Christmas, but unfortunately (sorry Connie), we couldn't bear to listen to it. Now we don't mind twee, we don't mind cheesy, but this was just dire.

So we decided to choose a song that Trinity (and the rest of the family) actually really like to listen to and X-factor winner Alexandra Burke and her version of 'Hallelujah' is just beautiful . We are not mega-big X-factor fans. Some years we follow it, other times we don't. It is very much take it or leave it for us but what X-factor does represent to us is that dreams really can come true. Someone's lifelong wish, someone's lifelong passion. It gives a chance, however slim, for someone to really make it big doing something they love no matter what their background or where they have come from.

So there you have it, the meaningful, the cheesy, the twee, the beautiful and the crazy. A real mix, but a list that is probably quite unique to us.

Now I can't end this blog post without mentioning this. I uhmmed and ahhed a bit about whether to mention it, because I didn't want anyone thinking I was trying to get bonus points from Coca-Cola who are sponsoring this Britmums Festive Playlist challenge. But actually it is a really special and important memory to me so I have to mention it. Coca-Cola features in one of my most special memories...the first time I laid eyes on my husband to be.

It was the very first day of arriving at University and me and some friends were making our way around our accomodation building to meet other students and I remember walking into one kitchen and seeing someone extremely handsome sat in a red Coca-Cola t-shirt. Obviously I had no idea at that point that our lives would soon become entwined and end up here 16 years later with three beautiful children, and many happy times together.

I have fond memories of that certain someone having a Coca-Cola keyring too and always ordering a Coke on our early dates. I remember as students having to lug home many bottles of Coke that were on special offer as the love of my life adored Coke so much that he wouldn't drink anything else in those days.

So not only do the songs on our festive playlist hold special meanings and memories, but just joining in with the linky sponsored by Coca-Cola has left me reminiscing about such happy times together.

So please raise a glass of Coke with me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year. Cheers.

This post is part of the Festive Song Linky run by BritMums and sponsored by Coca-Cola.

LeapPad 2 Review

Review by The Beesley Buzz.

The LeapPad 2 Explorer is the latest incarnation of the handy, portable, kids-friendly educational computer games console. It runs on normal AA batteries, which is a big plus, but it does seem to eat through them quite quickly. A charger is available separately, although I would have expected it to come with the unit to save having to splash out more once you get it home.

Daniel drew a paper review of the LeapPad 2 Explorer, and here it is in the video review where he talks you through it...

The LeapPad 2 does need some setting-up when you first open the box, so remember to do it before wrapping it as a present to save time on the big day itself. Setting-up is pretty easy, though, and the instructions are quite clear, but it does take some time.

The two boys (aged 8 and 6) love the LeapPad 2. It comes with a small number of free apps (in this case educational games), with others available at extra cost. It's intuitive and simple to use and customise, with both boys creating their characters and pets without any help from us. You can set the educational level of each child individually, so the challenges are tailored to the right level. Unfortunately, this was not always successful, with our eldest saying he got the same sums no matter what level he chose, although that may have been limited to the one game he was playing.

The only bug-bear, other than the battery consumption, is that it seems to take a long time to load and navigate between apps. Those 15 seconds or so seem to take an age compared to other instant-on devices. Maybe I'm just being picky, but when you remember the battery consumption, I would have preffered less LeapPad splash screen, and more playing time.

That said, this is a fun, robust and easy-to-use toy that our boys really enjoyed. A definite thumbs-up from us, just make sure you set it up before wrapping it, and buy some spare batteries!

Paddington to Peru

Let's take Paddington to Peru
When I asked the kids what they would most love to save up their pocket money for if they could save up for something really special, I was rather surprised by their answer.

We have an old Paddington Bear which used to belong to Daddy and Paddington is rather special for the boys. Joshua used to call him "Padton" and it was one of the first words he ever said. They also love the Paddington stories and over the years have learnt some important facts about Paddington Bear. He loves marmalade sandwiches; he often gets in a sticky mess; he was named after Paddington Station in London, when he first came to England he lived with Mr & Mrs Brown, but now, of course, he lives with Mr & Mrs Beesley and their three children Joshua, Daniel and Trinity; and finally another very important fact is that Paddington is from deepest darkest Peru.

So the boys explained how they want to save enough money to be able to "take Paddington back to Peru as he misses his home". They are also very aware that we sponsor a child in Peru and they added "and we can visit Amni too!"

Now what the boys didn't realise is that it has been our wish and our dream, from when we first started sponsoring Amni around 10 years ago, to one day meet her. We have been able to send and receive letters and have seen her grow up from that tiny little girl into a fantastic young lady who is so keen to learn and is so motivated to help others in her community around her.

Now whilst the kids pocket money wouldn't stretch very far in getting us all to Peru along with Paddington, we have recently started to wonder about trying to save towards making this wish go from being an impossible dream to perhaps a possibility. It may take many many years, but if the kids can think big when it comes to saving up their pocket money, then perhaps mum & dad should take a leaf out of their book and start taking small steps towards making our dream a reality.

This post is an entry for the #pktmnyparents Linky on BritMums.

PKTMNY and BritMums badge


Xmas Party Outfit Blogger Challenge

When Becky spotted this blogger challenge from Fashion Vouchers and started to dream up her Christmas party outfit, I pointed out that there is actually one member of the family who always seems to get overlooked when it comes to clothes - whether it is packing clothes for holidays (when my PJ's got left behind) or when it comes to buying clothes (when I'm last on the shopping list) - I just never get the chance to get a new outfit.

So I decided that this time, I would take up this blogger challenge. Luckily Fashion Vouchers have plenty of stores that sell mens clothing, but to be certain that a certain someone wouldn't go and buy a new party dress for themselves in the unlikely even that I win, I have chosen TheMenswearSite.com to pick out my perfect Christmas party outfit (sorry Becky - no party dresses in sight here).

To keep within the £100 budget, I picked out some sale bargains and although the total would have come to £102.99 because of the offer I spotted on Fashion Vouchers to get 5% off your first order, the total comes in just under £100 at £97.85. That's pretty good considering I managed to find some trousers, a great party shirt, some new underwear and even shoes!

I did so well with making sure I came in under budget that there was even enough money in my imaginary budget to also buy myself a Christmas gift. I knew you were wondering why that pocket knife was on there. It is actually because my kids are homeschooled, I want to be able to take them out and do 'forest school' style activities with them like den building, making staffs, learning to build fires safely and so on. So this would be the perfect accessory for that. So it isn't technically part of the outfit but as I made such great savings on everything else, I had enough to have it as a Christmas present for myself and so I've included it here.

So here's a breakdown of that £97.85 total:
Joji Harris Pinstripe Trousers Reduced to £9.99 - what a bargain and they look really smart!
Humor Dul Shirt  £18 Everyone needs a great party shirt.
Base London Cox Shoes £35 I didn't think I'd find a pair of shoes and still be within budget but I did and they look good too.
Ted Baker Calisto Boxers and Socks £25 Always nice to have some new undies.
Victorinox Classic SD Knife £15 My Christmas present for me to help with homeschooling the kids (Forest school activities).

So there you have it, the perfect Christmas party outfit from a men's perspective.
More details on Fashion Vouchers' Xmas party outfit blogger challenge can be found here.

Cowgirl Capers

Fever Wild West costume from Jokers' Masquerade.
Well howdy there, thanks for stopping by. Just for this evening, I'm Belle Star the long time girlfriend of Jesse James, and I'm here to tell you all 'bout my new cowgirl costume.

Those lovely folks over at Direct 2 Mum put us in touch with those kind folks at Jokers' Masquerade to put one of their outfits to the test and review...and this is what we thought about it...

Each year we have an annual get together with some great friends of ours and it seems to have become quite a tradition to do a 'Murder Mystery' game for the evening and this year the theme was, you guessed it, a 'WildWest' Murder Mystery.
Who dunnit...?
When we were asked to do a review for Jokers Masquerade, I was actually hoping that Daddy would get to play a character that needed lots of fancy dress but it turned out that it was my character Belle Star who needed a fantastic Cowgirl costume to wear.

I was genuinely impressed by the huge range of fancy dress available at Joker's Masquerade from Superheroes to Halloween to Historical outfits to Christmas and loads more in between. There are costumes for both adults and children. Even specifically looking at Wild West fancy dress there was still a great choice. I was slightly limited in what I could choose because I needed a costume that was available in large size (as I am still trying to shift my post-pregnancy weight). When it arrived, I was really pleased with the fit as it didn't feel at all uncomfortable. The 'sizing' tab of the product information gives details of sizes available so this was really useful for checking to make sure I was going to receive a costume that fitted me.

We even managed to find a great gunslinger's hat for Richard who was Doc Holliday for the evening.

Gunslinger Doc Holliday
The cowgirl costume comes with the cowgirl dress, a red and white checked scarf and a sheriff's badge attached onto the dress. The cowgirl hat is available to purchase separately from Jokers' Masquerade.

I was confident that we could get hold of a gun and stockings separately although again these items are available from Jokers Masquerade if required. I also quickly put together my own garter using a bit of elastic and a ribbon.

The only other item, I wish we had purchased at the time to go with the cowgirl costume is the red petticoat. I thought that the dress would look fine without it, but I actually think it makes a much better outfit with the petticoat. It would have cost less and been a lot less stressful to have just added one to the original order than running around the shops at the last minute to buy one.

I would strongly recommend checking to make sure you know which accessories your choice ofoutfit comes with. The details are all displayed on the Jokers' Masquerade website in the 'product information' part for each outfit so make sure you read those details as the pictures displayed show the outfits with additional accessories to show you how to 'get the look'. As you click on each costume on the website, a section called "Stand out from the crowd" shows you what additional accessories you may need to purchase in order to get the full effect from the costume.

In our experience, fancy dress items are often extremely poor quality as they are just designed to last a short while and obviously not for wearing regularly as normal clothes are. However, the quality of the outfit was sufficiently good that I was not nervous of it falling apart (as we have been with other fancy dress costumes in the past!). I'm sure that if I decided to dress as Belle Star regularly then it would soon start to show signs of wear, but kept for the occasional fancy dress party, I can see this staying in my wardrobe as a favourite costume for fancy dress parties.
Belle Star and Doc Holliday
We were actually so impressed with the range of outfits available from Jokers' Masquerade and with the quality and service that we received, that we have actually purchased another outfit from Jokers' Masquerade for our son who is going to be a wizard in his drama show later this week, so keep an eye out on our blog for an update!

The cowgirl costume, cowgirl hat and gunslinger hat were provided free of charge by Jokers' Masquerade for the purpose of this review. All our opinions given in this review are honest and genuine.

Wot so funnee! - The Brilliant Chef does beatbox

After we made giant ice marbles earlier in the week, this is what my six year old son got up to with them. Just had to use this video clip for Actually Mummy's Wot so funee linky:

Click through to The Brilliant Chef to see the video.

(Apologies to Actually Mummy for not using the proper wot so funee badge / links - our computer seems to throw a wobbly everytime we try to add it into the blog post.)


Magic Marbles: The O2 Guru Magic of Christmas Linky Challenge

Baby Trinity is full of wonder seeing these amazing magical Christmas 'marbles'.
Instead of moaning about the weather and staying cooped up indoors, we decided to make the most of the frosty weather we've been having lately by creating a magical experience for the children to enjoy in the run up to Christmas.

The giant ice marbles are made by filling balloons with water and food colouring and then leaving them outdoors to freeze. Then the balloon is cut away revealing these incredible balls of ice.

For Baby Trinity the amazement of feeling the cold ice and seeing these colourful marbles was enough to ignite that sense of wonder. For Joshua and Daniel it was a prompt to start getting really excited about Christmas. Are these like magical lights that Santa will follow to reach our house? Are they magical eggs that the Christmas Elves have left us? Perhaps this is how aliens celebrate Christmas by leaving ice marbles in children's gardens in winter instead of crop circles in summer?

We loved how something quite ordinary (water and food colouring!) was transformed into something quite special, extraordinary and quite magical! That's a bit like Christmas really - another ordinary day that becomes magical and extraordinary. The reason that Christmas is magical may be different for everyone - for some the magic of it is celebrating Jesus' birthday, for others it is spending special time with family and friends, for others it is the giving and receiving of gifts, some may love the decorations and beauty of Christmas. Whatever your reasons - I hope you have a magical Christmas!

This is my entry for the #O2GuruMagicofXmas Linky, sponsored by O2 GuruTV – the home of tech help and inspiration


Gourmet Garden's "Blogger-cum-Chef" Challenge

Mystery Meatballs with Easy-peasy garlic bread,

followed by Chocolate 'Ginger Surprise' mousse.

A great selection of herbs and spices from Gourmet Garden
When Gourmet Garden sent me a selection of their fantastic herbs and spices to try out, I was so excited and really wanted to try them all. However, with the deadline for writing this blog post being only a few days after receiving them, I had to find a way of trying out as many as possible within a very short timeframe.

I also set myself the challenge of using ALL of them in one dish. I wanted it to be an everyday kind of dish that would be easy to prepare - after all Gourmet Garden's slogan is 'Fresh Made Easy'. Now I realise that trying to use ALL of those herbs and spices in one dish sounds like a recipe for disaster, and to be perfectly honest I had absolutely no idea how it would turn out - but I decided to go for it and I'm so glad I did as the result was a winner with all the family.

And that's where the concept of 'Mystery Meatballs' was born. Each meatball would be flavoured with a different Gourmet Garden herb or spice, yet they would all end up on the same plate and you have to guess which meatball uses which Gourmet Garden product in it. (Or you can just enjoy your evening meal as amazingly all of the flavours worked extremely well together despite my reservations). But when you have a family with kids who love cooking (and eating!), they were really excited by the prospect of being 'dinner detectives' and identifying the 'Mystery Meatballs'.

The recipe is extremely simple and straightforward. A finely chopped onion mixed into some minced beef, divide into meatball sized chunks, then add a squeeze of one of the herbs and spices from Gourmet Garden into each meatball. Fry until browned, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer until cooked through.

Browning off the mystery meatballs

Serve with any pasta of your choice. We like fresh tagliatele.

Add a little side salad.

Here's a top tip I picked up from the Gourmet Garden website. To make a fantastic Italian dressing simply mix together Gourmet Garden's 'Italian Herbs' together with a little squeeze of Gourmet Garden's 'Crushed Garlic' and a squeeze of 'Crushed Chilli'. Then add in a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, et voila - a great fresh tasting Italian dressing.

How about making some garlic bread as a side dish to go with the mystery meatballs? Gourmet Garden's concept of 'fresh made easy' was really put to the test when I forgot to make the garlic bread that I had planned to make to go with our dinner. I had to make it in a matter of minutes and thanks to Gourmet Garden's easy to use products...I did it!

The garlic bread was simply some butter mixed with a squeeze of Gourmet Garden Garlic and a squeeze of Gourmet Garden Basil. Spread the mixture onto sliced 'ready to bake' baguette and pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes. So easy and so quick! I think parsley and garlic would work really well but in the absence of having the Gourmet Garden parsley, I decided to try the basil instead and I can honestly say it turned out to be the best garlic bread I have ever tasted.

Now for dessert. Having been totally inspired by my six year old son whipping up a chocolate mousse a few days ago, I decided that it was about time for me to brave trying to make mousse for the first time ever!

Melting the chocolate for the mousse

 It turned out that it wasn't as tricky as I first imagined and I was pleased that I had finally managed to make mousse for the first time in my entire life.

Obviously I was keen to use the Gourmet Garden range in my dessert too. However, this time I did restrain myself to only choosing one product to add. I decided to use ginger. I always struggle when it comes to recipes needing fresh ginger as it is not the usual sort of ingredient that I have to hand. That's the real beauty of Gourmet Garden's range. They are fresh and yet they are ready to use in an easy squeezy tube (no more fiddly peeling of root ginger pieces), and they can be stored in your fridge for several weeks once opened. I was really pleased at how much better they were to use than using dried herbs as not only did they taste fresh but also the texture was great as they blended in a lot better rather than using dried herbs which are a lot, erm....drier.

Melting white chocolate to make the 'ginger surprise'
I melted some white chocolate and mixed in a squeeze of ginger. I had anticipated using just 'normal' white chocolate, but having sent hubby out to the shop to buy it, I ended up with the 'chocolate crunch' variety, but it actually worked out ok and tasted good.

I poured the melted chocolate and ginger mixture into cookie cutter hearts on a piece of greaseproof paper to set.

Making the white chocolate and ginger hearts

Once they were set, I just popped one onto each chocolate mousse.

Chocolate 'ginger surprise' mousse
I have genuinely surprised myself at being able to use these Gourmet Garden Herbs and Spices so easily in my cooking. Everyone who knows me knows exactly what a disaster area I usually am in the kitchen, so if nothing else, I hope that I may have inspired someone to have a go at trying these ideas out. Do you think you'd be able to solve the mystery?

Which is which? Can you tell by the taste?

Reasons to be Cheerful - Getting into the festive spirit (finally!)

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Once again I am joining in with what has become one of my favourite posts to do, Mummy from the Heart's Reasons to be Cheerful. This week because Mummy from the Heart has been away in Belarus helping with Operation Christmas Child, Pressies by Pebbles is hosting the R2BC blog hop.

So here are my reasons for feeling cheerful this week - I am (finally) starting to feel a bit Christmassy.

1. We had an amazing day yesterday with the home-ed friends with ASD with a lovely little Christmas party for the Children. It was just perfect as it wasn't too big or too noisy for the children to cope and it was lovely to catch up with some friends.
Decorating Christmas biscuits at the kid's Christmas party

2. Then it was off to a Christmas party for grown-ups! Our wonderful friends who treat us to the biggest and tastiest Christmas feast you could possibly imagine at our annual Christmas party for our sort of 'home-group' (Even though none of us are at the same church anymore - we love the fact that it is just a group of friends who meet up each month and are really there for us when we need them - can't believe we have been doing this for about 6 years now). It has become a bit of a tradition to do a 'murder mystery' theme at Christmas and this year was "Wildwest". It was a fantastic evening - and we feel SO blessed to have such a wonderful group of friends.

Who dunnit? Our Wildwest Murder mystery Christmas Party

3. We finally managed to set up a blog for Daniel and his 'cheffing' (as he calls it). It is most probably the most unusual Christmas present a 6 year old has ever received and it is going to be crazy finding the time to update it - but he has already been cooking several more things in the kitchen that he wants to put on his blog - so we will need to somehow find a way of adding it to the things we are already juggling in our lives as we know how important it is to him and it is something we have been meaning to do for a while for him. His blog can be found at www.TheBrilliantChef.co.uk.

So what are your reasons to be cheerful this week?


Britain's Best Christmas Craft using one piece of paper!

Hi, It's Joshua and Daniel here, and we've hijacked the blog to bring you a tutorial to show you how to make a Christmas decoration using a PIECE OF WHITE PAPER!

A piece of white paper - but what could you make with it?
Mum is always nagging us to go and do something ourselves but whenever we try to do any crafts, we usually need her help. Or the craft ideas need lots of different bits and pieces that we don't have at home so we end up not being able to do them. So we have decided to show you how to do some simple crafts which children could do on their own. And the best bit is that you can make these from using a piece of white paper, a pair of scissors and not much else. It hardly costs anything either.

Here's our introduction video showing you what you need:

There are three options to chose from that you could make using your piece of white paper. Here's option 1:

and this is what you could end up with. You can either leave it plain white like Joshua's Snowflake or add some sparkly sequins like Daniel's Snowflake:

Option 2 is a little bit more unusual, but is still easy to do once you know how:

And you should end up with a beautiful woven heart like this one:

Option 3 is good old paper chains. Really simple to make but they look so great.

So which of these 3 cool paper Christmas craft ideas will you make with your piece of paper?
Tots100 Experience Days Competition

Could this be the most unusual Christmas Present for a 6 year old?


Most kids might have asked Santa for a new train set, games console, dolls house, board game, scooter, bike or other such items.

But Daniel is different. Daniel has a dream. For as long as we can remember, Daniel has wanted to be a Chef. He has always had a love of food. He seems particularly good at smelling and tasting different flavours. He loves trying unusual foods and is always keen to taste new herbs and spices. He even likes the taste of spoonfuls of vinegar and lemon juice!

Daniel has long talked about opening his own restaurant when he is bigger. He wants to call it The Brilliant Chef and he wants to be Head Chef. He tells us that he will cook for the poor and homeless and give them their meals for free - but everyone else has to pay.

He grasps every opportunity he can to be in the kitchen helping with (or more often initiating) the cooking. He certainly doesn't have the best mentor as both mum and dad are pretty useless in the kitchen, but that doesn't deter him.

He comes up with ideas he wants to try, looks up recipes on the internet and in cookery books, piles up ingredients in the trolley when we go shopping and then gets stuck into cooking (or 'cheffing' as he calls it).

Of course, if he changes his mind when he is older, and decides that 'Cheffing' as a career is not right for him, then that is absolutely fine. We have always encouraged him to become whatever he wants to become. But if he does end up a Chef, we wanted to help enable his dream in a tiny first step towards making his idea of 'The Brilliant Chef' a reality.

He has taken a real interest in our blogging journey and enjoys joining in with reviews and write ups. We were going to set up a little corner of our blog for him to share his recipes and passion for all things food. But then it occurred to us that once he is old enough, if he comes to set up his own blog or webpage, what if 'The Brilliant Chef' is no longer available as a domain name. So we did a slightly odd thing for a 6 year old's Christmas present - we bought him his own domain name.

This way he can blog about his food adventures now and if he is still following his childhood dream in years to come, www.TheBrilliantChef.co.uk is ready for him to make it what he wants to make it!

He has made a start already with the blog post about the Kent Cooks live final going on there, along with the recipes of what he cooked on that special day.

Click to read about the Kent Cooks live final.
He certainly did us proud! I was so impressed at his independence in a full sized Chef's Kitchen - He stayed in charge of what he was doing and stayed totally calm and unfazed by the experience. The judges were amazed too. I don't think anyone had seen anything quite like it - a 6 year old so able in the kitchen and so passionate about what he was doing. The experience has really boosted Daniel's confidence too and he has pretty much been in the kitchen everyday since, either cooking a recipe from scratch or helping with laying the table and preparing the food.

In our eyes he already is The Brilliant Chef - well done Daniel!

Not the usual breastfeeding dilemma

I recognise that I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to breastfeed all three of my children. I got off to a difficult start with Joshua when he was a baby because he was unable to latch on (it turned out he had tongue tie) and they kept whisking him away to formula feed him.

My knowledge of breastfeeding being completely non-existent at the time meant that I had no idea that if the demand for breastmilk wasn't there that my milk supply would cease. Thankfully one or two of the midwives did hand express some colostrum from me to feed to Josh and then another midwife made it clear that if I was planning to breast feed then it would be a good idea to go on the pump to express milk and help my milk supply get properly started.

And sure enough it did the trick, I seemed to just ooze milk at every feed from then on.

So I never take it for granted that I have been able to breastfeed. But I also get to the point that I start to want a bit of my freedom back and not be the one who HAS to be their milk supply. For that reason, I was so excited to receive a best pump to try out from Nuby. I had tried different brands of breast pump in the past and didn't really get on well with them, although they did help relieve some of the pressure on the occasions that my breasts became engorged.

I had visions of being able to pump bottlefuls and bottlefuls of milk and then be able to escape for the day for some precious 'me time' without being told "Trinity needs you" (i.e. Trinity needs milk!)

The great thing about breastmilk is that it can be stored in the fridge for several days and in a freezer for several months - so I just wanted to pump, pump, pump to get myself some freedom. Out came the breast pump (I gave it a wash and sterilised it in the microwave steriliser that also comes in the pack), put the thing together (fairly intuitive although it doesn't hurt to have a look at the instructions), and started to pump.

The great thing about this pump is that it can be used as a manual pump, or as an electric pump. It even has a battery operated part so you can either use it with mains electricity or with batteries - particularly handy if you need to express milk when out and about.

I started with it set up as a manual pump. After several minutes of pumping, I could see literally only one drop of milk. So I switched to the electric method and kept going for several more minutes.

I struggled to feel relaxed and I don't think my 'let down' reflex kicked in at all. Apart from the difficult start I had with Josh, breastfeeding has always felt natural and I have never felt like I have had a shortage of milk. My body seems to know that it is time to breastfeed when Trinity latches on. However, with the pump, it was as it my body was screaming 'no - I don't want to do this' - even though I really really wanted this to work.

I think that I am just going to have to accept that whilst some people face the breast vs bottle dilemma, for me the problem is that I am not able to express milk successfully.

Having said all of that, I actually feel that owning a breast pump has given me a peace of mind that I didn't have before. I have experienced painful engorged breasts in the past and knowing that I have a pump to hand to help should that happen is a relief. I also wonder if I had started to express milk sooner whether that would have helped. In the first few months, my milk would ooze out at every feed so perhaps pumping one breast whilst feeding with the other may have worked? At least the 'let down reflex' would have kicked in a bit more strongly.

As well as the breast pump, I was also sent some milk storage bottles which are great. The lids are secure and leak proof and when you are ready to use the milk simply replace the lid with a teat and you can use the same bottle to feed with. The packaging also says that these can be used as snack pots, which I hadn't thought of but I think is a fantastic idea.

Bottle teats are available to purchase separately which is always good to know - especially because as babies get older and those teeth come through, they can start to chew on teats and damage them. Nuby teats seem to be softer and 'wider' based than other teats that we have used. In fact they seem to resemble breast / nipples better than most bottles do and so Trinity does find it easier to drink from than other bottles. She sometimes has a bottle of cooled boiled water to drink from with her meals and she definitely prefers the Nuby teats to other teats.

Breastpads are another breastfeeding essential that I use. Did you know that Nuby made breastpads? I didn't. I have been so brand loyal over the years to my preferred brand of breastpads that I didn't even consider Nuby for breastpads. Anytime I have been tempted to try a different brand of breastpad, I have ended up dissapointed. So when I saw that Nuby had sent me breastpads to review - I was actually nervous about trying them because I just didn't think they would be as good as my usual ones. But thankfully they are! They are just the style of breast pad that I like...large in size to cover a bigger area, not bulky, individually wrapped (so I can pop some spare ones in the changing bag with me) and with a sticky pad to hold them in place.

My only very teeny bit of feedback to Nuby about them would be that my personal preference is to have 2 sticky pads to hold them in place. But that teeny point would not deter me from buying them.

So to sum up - although my breastfeeding journey didn't go 100% according to plan regarding the pumping, I have learnt some valuable lessons and have found some great breastfeeding related products from Nuby that do fit in really well with my life.


Transformers BotShots - Toyologist Review

Review by The Beesley Buzz.

What can I say about BotShots... they're AMAZING!

The pack comes with two launchers (each cunningly disguised as a trailer but they transform into powerful BotShots launchers), and four figures. Each figure, of course, is a vehicle that transforms into a robot. At first, I thought I knew the game - fire the vehicles into each other from the launchers to make them turn into robots, all good fun but no real objective. How wrong I was!

Those clever people at Hasbro have included a simple game into the BotShots game. On the front of each robot is a dial from which you must choose between a picture of 'blaster', 'fist', or 'sword'. Just like the old game of rock-paper-scissors, each weapon has its strengths - blaster beats fist; fist beats sword; sword beats blaster. If both players choose the same weapon, there is a power score shown for each so you can see who wins.

So, choose your weapon, convert the robot into a vehicle (simply push it together - so simple even Mummy managed to do it, something she is very proud of!) and load it into the launcher. Then FIRE! The BotShots crash into each other, ping open into robots and you work out who has won.

Such a simple game, but so cleverly done. I was really surprised by the BotShots idea, and we all really enjoyed it. Other BotShots are available to add to the pack, too.

If I have one word of warning, it's that the vehicles change to robots very easily - great for when playing the game, but a little frustrating as they did tend to ping open too early at times.

All in all, this is an amazing addition to the Transformers family of toys.

Avengers Quinget - Toyologist Review

Review by The Beesley Buzz.

So it happened. Just like the other guys said it would. There I was, happily flying my Quinjet one day when WHAM! I was scooped up, put in a dark box and transported to a far away land...


This was a land inhabited by giants! As soon as they saw me, the youngest one ripped me and my vehicle out of the box and showed me his home. I saw his sofa, flew up his stairs, landed on his football pitch, and then flew back downstairs again.


This was an exciting ride for me, and I could tell from his face that he was enjoying having me to stay with him. He discovered that my jet can transform from a simple flying machine into an attack jet, equipped with two high-speed missles. Those teddies didn't stand a chance! He even found the secret compartment at the back - although that took a while as it was so well hidden.

He said he didn't know anything about the Avengers before I arrived, but I heard him say he wanted to keep me forever. I guess that must be a good thing! In fact, I haven't left his side since I first arrived.

Doggie Doo - Toyologist Review

Review by The Beesley Buzz.

When we first opened the box for Doggie Doo, I wondered who could possibly have thought of creating this game. And then I realised... it must have been a six- or eight-year-old boy! My two sons simply LOVE this game!

Before each round, you need to prepare some 'food' for the dog - a bright yellow gel that you cut into biscuit-sized pieces. Then, feed it to the dog, and put the bone back in his mouth it only has one way to go...! Each player then throws the dice, and squeezes the plunger on the dog's lead the number of times the dice shows. Each squeeze moves the food down the dog, with the accompanying noises the boys just loved! By the way, if the dog doesn't make these noises, the food is stuck (look in the instructions for how to clear it). The person whose go it is when the doggie doo eventually plops out wins it (lucky them!) and the winner is the first player with three doos on their pooper scoop.

I have to say, we parents found this game a little revolting at first, but the smiles and laughs from the boys made it all worth while. Definitely fun for all the family.

Bouncy the FurReal friend - Toyologist review

Review by The Beesley Buzz.


When we first received the latest box of goodies from ToysRUs to review, Daddy was not at home. But as soon as he arrived, the newest member of our family made him very welcome (and jump out of his skin!)

Bouncy the FurReal friend does exactly as her name suggests - she bounces! And barks... and spins round the room. She has sensors so can tell if someone passes by quite close and then barks excitedly, jumping up and down and spinning round - just like a real small puppy would. Of course, real puppies can be trained to keep quiet (Bouncy cannot) but then they do make rather more mess than this cute little creature!

The packaging for Bouncy suggests the target market is young girls. Our daughter is rather too small to enjoy it, and our sons were not very interested - in fact, they found her rather annoying! Our eight-year-old drew this to sum-up the latest round of reviews for ToysRUs...

...notice that 'Bouncy' is missing, but 'Stupid dog' is listed in her place!

For many young girls, this would make a perfect present. For our two boys, less so!