Saturday, 14 December 2019

Week 50 of #Project365 - A photo every day for a year!

What a week! I was going to write something about the election results but I always try to keep politics off my blog. I'll just say I am shocked.

We're heading into the last week of school and college this year for my girls. I am so glad. We're all ready for a break from the early mornings. Excitement is building and I'm just about ready for Christmas. I still have all the wrapping to do but Stu has a morning off work next week & we're hoping to get it all started and finished. Fingers crossed! 

Now for a photo every day!

341/365 - 7th December
After spending most of the afternoon shopping Stu and I stopped off for a coffee in Costa. The Irish Velvet Latte is so overrated!

342/365 - 8th December
The kids had great fun playing the game Don't Rock The Boat that we were sent to review. There were lots of laughs.

343/365 - 9th December
I bought some more wrapping paper and found the perfect one for Ellie. A Santa riding a unicorn!!

344/365 - 10th December
My favourite hot water bottle. Stu got me it for my birthday and considering it was just a cheap one from Primark it stays hot for such a long time.

345/365 - 11th December
I was sent some amazing Chutney to review and took the rest of the photos for the blog post on Wednesday.

346/365 - 12th December
Ellie was on Santa watch. There is a local community group or something which drive a Santa around to see the kids and Ellie patiently waited to see it go past. She could have gone out to see Santa but didn't want to because all the little kids were.

347/365 - 13th December
The lovely Jayne from Sticky Mud & Belly Laughs sent my family and I a Christmas treat. I really don't want to share with the kids. hehehe

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Friday, 13 December 2019

(Ad - Gifted) Calendars and Diaries for 2020 from Danilo!

At this time every year I buy new calendars and diaries for the new year. I like to keep my family organised so both girls get one, I get one and we get a family one for the kitchen. Nine times out of ten they are Danilo one's. 

Danilo publish and sell a huge range of official calendars and diaries for popular celebrity, music, sport, gaming, glamour, TV and film brands. There is something for everyone!

Stranger Things Official 2020 Calendar - £9.99

Stranger Things the American science fiction horror series created, written and directed by the Duffer Borthers and released on Netflix has received critical acclaim for its characterisation, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack and homages to 1980's genre films. Stranger Things has become a cult hit.

Venture into the Upside Down for 2020 with this official Stranger Things calendar. Featuring all your favourite characters and scenes from the latest series alongside retro style date panels for all your notes and appointments.

Stranger Things is one of Becky's favourite TV shows so this is going to go to her. I usually buy the kids one each year for their bedrooms and this is perfect. 

Harry Potter 2020 Desk Easel Calendar - £6.99

The Harry Potter 2020 Desk Easel Calendar will keep you organised throughout 2020 with wonderful images each month which have a perforated edge that can be detached to become postcards that you can keep. This has a built in stand which means it can be used on any flat surface making it ideal for a clutter free home, office or kitchen. 

You all know I am a big Harry Potter fan so this is most definitely for me. I am going to keep it on my bedside cabinet and keep track of what dates I need to. I am also looking forward to getting a postcard each month too, I even have an idea what I'm going to do with them.

Harry Potter Fashion Luna Lovegood A6 Official 2020 Diary - £7.99

For all muggles who love the Wizarding world of Harry Potter and quirky character Luna Lovegood this official 2020 diary is the perfect choice!

With a beautiful graphic style fashion front cover with the wording "You're just as sane as I am" this official diary includes a week-to-view layout for all your daily notes/appointments as well as handy extras such as note pages, address pages, notable dates and a year to view calendar.

This has Ellie's name written all over it. She's a little bit quirky just like this diary. I think it's so cute and perfect to fit in a handbag or even school bag.

Danilo have a calendar for everyone. When I was browsing their website I saw at least 10 calendars I would love and a ton of diaries! You can buy their calendars, diaries and much more from their website of high street stores including WH Smith and The Works.

I was sent the products I have mentioned in exchange for this blog post.

This week my Word of the Week is: Smug! #WotW

This week my Word of the Week is:

I am feeling very pleased with myself. I think I'm just about ready for Christmas. 

At the weekend Stu and I went out shopping without the kids which was a real treat. We left the kids at home with my dad's partner Sarah. She came for a bath, they don't have a bath at their house so to have a soak is a real treat for her. She stayed for lunch, got Ellie to do her homework with no arguments and watched a film with them. It was nice not to have to rush back home. We even stopped off and had a coffee in Costa. I finally tried the Irish Velvet & Cream Latte and it was just OK, not as amazing as I thought it would be. Hmmf. We got all the presents bought, every single last one. We still need to pop to town before Christmas to get the kids an outfit each for Christmas day and that's about it. I'm done and I am feeling pretty pleased about it.

I still have all the wrapping to do and I admit I have been putting it off but I am going to rope Stu in to help. I hate wrapping presents. I much prefer opening them. hehehe I really should get them done in case I need more wrapping paper. I found the best place to get it was in B&M. £1 for 12 meters, everywhere else it seems to be £1 for 3 or 4 meters. I got the perfect one for Ellie, it's covered with Santa's riding unicorns. It's so her. hehehe

We had a meeting at the school about Ellie. It was just a check in with the SENDCo woman to make sure everything is done to look after Ellie with her deafness. They are so pleased with how she has settled into the school and said although she is quiet she is gaining confidence and getting louder by the day. They said she's a lovely girl, bright, a pleasure to teach and we should be very proud. I am. I am so pleased she's doing well. I knew she was happy at the school but I before this appointment I didn't really know how well she had settled in.

During the week I started adding more things to the online grocery order for Christmas. I think I have got everything in there but of course I will be going back and adding and removing things before it's delivered just before Christmas. On Monday my dad is taking me to the big Iceland to get all the frozen stuff which I am really looking forward to. It will be one more thing to tick off my list.

Over the weekend I am going to get the last of the Christmas cards written out. I did the one's I had to post earlier in the week and sent them off but I still have all the one's we need to hand deliver. We're also going to make the gingerbread houses and do some crafts.

I am feeling so organised this year. Last year I felt organised but had to be because we were going away for Christmas. This is the first time I've got everything done and organised for Christmas this early in December when we're staying home. I am feeling quite smug about it, I am just waiting for something to go wrong. Eek!

Thursday, 12 December 2019

(Ad - Gifted) The most Chutney-ful time of the year!

I love finding new brands and foods to try and recently I was asked if I would like to try some chutney's from Kit's Chutney!

Kit & Max Maharajh are an uncle and nephew who love great tasting food. For years Kit had been making a spicy, minty, fresh tasting Peanut Chutney in his kitchen using a recipe had been passed down through five generations of the Maharajh family. In June 2018 the first jar of Peanut Chutney was sold at a stall at Bognor Carnival and as they say the rest is history.

This homemade Peanut Chutney is made in Kit's kitchen in Sussex. You can use it as a spread, dip, marinade or you can just grab a spoon and eat it out the jar.

Kit's Peanut Chutney is home made with natural ingredients: Peanuts (34%), Coriander, Mint Sauce, Garlic, Chillies (4%), Tamarind, Salt, Water. It’s a vegan recipe, gluten free, and contains no artificial preservatives.

The colour might put some people off but once you get past that you will be amazed. I smelled it first and it smelled so fresh. You can really smell the mint and it reminded me of my favourite dip from the Indian takeaway shop.

I have tried it on a roast chicken sandwich and of course as a dip and it tastes so good. There is a good kick from the chillies but it isn't too spicy to make it uneatable or unenjoyable. 

I have had a look at the recipes where the peanut chutney can be used and it's so versatile. I am going to give the Sprouts Tossed in Kit's Peanut Chutney a try over Christmas. I think the kids might even try them this way!

 Kit's Red Chutney is created in a nut free environment and is made with a blend of tasty tomatoes, punchy peppers and red chillies, a welcome addition to any dish!

Ingredients: Red Peppers (30%), Tomato Passata (28%), Tomato Paste (22%), Red Chillies (9%), Water, Lemon Juice (Sulphites), Cumin, Cornstarch, Salt, Sugar.

We have used this as a dip and it is so good. It is slightly spicier than the peanut chutney but it is just as tasty. I am planning to use it over Christmas with cheese and crackers and I imagine it would taste amazing on burgers and great in Spaghetti Bolognese!

Kit's Chutney have the perfect gift for foodies. Whether you want to spice up your leftovers, or you're looking for the perfect Secret Santa present for the condiment connoisseur, you can't go wrong with the Kit’s Chutney Christmas Gift Box!

The Christmas Gift Box is presented in a sustainable straw packed box and includes two 180g jars of Kit’s Red Chutney and Kit’s Peanut Chutney.

The Peanut Chutney and Red Chutney Christmas Gift box retails at £10 and includes postage and packaging and is available from Kit's Chutney.

I was sent The Christmas Gift Box in exchange for this blog post.

Christmas dinner on a budget!

One of my favourite meals of the year is Christmas dinner. I love everything about it. Shopping for it, preparing it, cooking it, eating it and the leftovers. This years Christmas dinner is going to be a little different. We have my dad and his partner coming and I will be making it. Eek!

Since we moved house I am all about saving money. I've cut out branded products (mostly). We're not using Heinz tomato ketchup, Bisto gravy and Nescafe coffee. We've downgraded to save a bit of money and it really is making all the difference. 

Making a delicious Christmas dinner on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on quantity, quality or taste

Set a budget and stick to it.

Start planning as soon as you can to set aside the funds you will need. You don’t need to spend a fortune to have a beautiful meal. Start with a firm figure of what you can afford to spend. Just think of it as a roast dinner with Christmas crackers!

Shop in advance where you can!

In the lead up to Christmas see if you can pick up bargains and special offers and freeze or store them. Some shops put up prices in the run up to Christmas. I'm thinking big tubs of chocolate, ready made pigs in blankets, nuts and alcohol! If you can spread your purchases over the month you won’t notice an extra pounds on your weekly shop. It is way better than doing that massive Christmas food shop and having to pay for everything in one go!

Don't buy too much meat!

Remember that by the time everyone's piled their plate with side dishes, veggies and pigs in blankets they'll only want a few slices of turkey or whatever meat you are serving!

Replace old favourites with cheaper alternatives!

There are some parts of the traditional Christmas Day meal that we can’t imagine doing without. However, you can substitute cheaper alternatives for some expensive foodstuffs. Instead of buying certain things from M&S have a look in Aldi or Lidl.

Make food from scratch.

Most of the elements of traditional Christmas dinner can be made from scratch much cheaper than shop bought equivalents. You can easily make gravy from the giblets, roasting juices, flour and a stock cube. Stuffing for the turkey can be made from ingredients you already have in your cupboards. Pre-cut vegetables can be pricier than fresh produce so get your family to help with the preparation of the veg.

If you aren’t a confident or talented cook, you could compromise on making from scratch. Buy a cheaper plain Christmas cake but decorate it yourself? All you’d need is some icing, marzipan and cheap plastic cake decorations from the pound shop.

Buy a Christmas pudding.

Making your own Christmas pudding can be fiddly. Once you’ve bought all the ingredients it probably won’t work out much cheaper than buying one. A great way to enjoy Christmas Dinner on a budget is to buy a low-priced one. Lidl, Aldi and Asda’s puddings which have received great reviews and don’t cost that much.

Cut down on the cheese.

Don’t overbuy on cheese as it often doesn’t get eaten. Everyone just needs a taster of each cheese. Choose a small piece of Cheddar, Stilton and Brie with some nice crackers.

Don’t buy all the drinks.

One of the main areas where you can spend a small fortune when hosting Christmas dinner is drinks. We try and cater for every possible combination that people would like but the problem is that there is now such a wide variety of popular drinks that it is simply impossible to have everything. Remember that you are not a pub! Keep things simple with a basic choice of wines, beers and soft drinks.

Use leftovers.

If you end up with leftovers then make sure you make the most of every bit so that the money isn't wasted. A turkey curry or turkey sandwiches the next day can go down well and you can always make a stock or soup from the bones.

Are you cooking Christmas dinner this year? Do you have any tips?

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

(Ad - Gifted) Don't Rock The Boat game from Interplay - Review!

We love a good game over Christmas and we were recently sent Don't Rock The Boat from Interplay to try out.

Don't Rock the Boat game box

Ahoy, mateys! Arrrrr ye ready to set sail on a rocking adventure with a crew of 16 pirate penguins? Take turns balancing the pirate penguins on the ship without making it tip! Be ever so careful, if you rock the boat and send the penguins overboard, ye might have to walk the plank! A fun balancing game for all buccaneers!

Don't Rock the Boat boat
Don't Rock the Boat pieces including penguins, pirates and crabs.

The game is easy to set up. You remove everything from the box, slot the pieces into the ship and balance the ship onto the wave then you're ready to go! There is no batteries needed!

The youngest player goes first which Ellie was overjoyed about. hehehe You choose a piece from the pile of penguins and accessories and place it carefully on the ship trying not to upset the balance of it. The next player adds a piece and so on just be careful not to rock the boat.

When someone rocks the boat and one or more of the pieces fall off it ends the game. Each of the pieces are a different size and weight so it is a game of tactics and planning. 

My girls really love Don't Rock the Boat. Each game can last less than a minute and up to about 5 minutes depending on how much they um, ah and ponder on which piece to use and where to put it. It can get quite tense especially when the ship is tipping. It is such a giggle to play and we will definitely getting it back out to play on Christmas day when my dad and his partner are here.

On the box it says for ages 5 plus but I think a younger child might manage to play if they have patience for games like this. The rules are simple to follow and it is an easy game to play.

You can buy this from the Interplay website for £19.99 and other places where you would expect to find board games.

We were sent Don't Rock The Boat free of charge in exchange for this blog post.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The Christmas Tag 2019!

I do love a tag, especially the seasonal one's and BubbaBlue & Me does too. I have borrowed the Christmas Tag questions from her and I will be answering them myself.

What is your favourite Christmas movie?

I love so many Christmas films. Love Actually is my all time favourite but recently I have been watching the cheesy one's on Netflix. My favourites are the Christmas Prince one's which have been released over the last few years. There was A Christmas Prince, then The Royal Wedding and this month The Royal Baby was released. They are so predictable, cheesy but full of festive cheer!

Are you on the naughty or nice list?

The nice list of course. I am a goody two shoes. hehehe

Where do you usually spend your holidays at Christmas?

We usually spend Christmas at home, unless you count last year when we went away and stayed in a hotel with my dad and his partner Sarah. We did have the chance to go away again this year but decided we wanted to spend Christmas at home with it being the first in the new house. We have invited my dad and Sarah over for the day and I will be cooking the dinner. Eek! 

What is your favourite Christmas song?

It has to be The Pogues, Fairytale of New York! I love singing along to it and even have it set as the ringtone on my phone throughout December.

When do you open Christmas presents?

The stockings are opened as soon as the kids wake up. I have found leaving the stockings on their beds gives Stu and I an extra half hour in bed. hehehe Then as soon as they have been through their stockings we come downstairs and open the presents under the tree. All of this usually happens before 7am.

What was your best ever Christmas gift?

As a child it has to have been my trampoline I got when I was 8 or 9 years old. It was huge and I spent all of the day on it including eating my Christmas dinner. 

My parents were fond of buying me trampolines as the first Christmas I can sort of remember was the year I got one when I was 2 or 3 years old.

As an adult the best present I got was my first laptop off Stu! I used to have a desktop computer, I would never have another I much prefer being able to move around with a laptop.

What was your worst Christmas present?

I don't think I've ever had any bad Christmas presents. I think the worst has to be a book about Horoscopes off my dad. I had no interest in horoscopes but it was the first Christmas after my mother had left and he had to sort out the Christmas presents. That was a job my mother used to do.

Fake or real Christmas tree?

We usually have an artificial tree. We have 2 this year and plus a mini real one which I was sent to review. I am tempted to try a real one next year!

What’s your favourite Christmas food?

Am I allowed to say all of it. I love the Christmas dinner and everything on it especially the roast parsnips and pigs in blankets. I love Christmas cake and pudding and all the fancy party food. 

Do you prefer the giving or receiving gifts at Christmas?

I prefer giving presents. I like picking the perfect gift for someone and seeing them open it. 

Christmas shopping online or on the high street?

Up until this year I would have said all online but this year I have bought the main presents online and the rest off the high street. We have a Primark 20 minutes away and it is perfect to get the kids clothes, pj's and some presents plus there is a better selection of shops here in Scunthorpe compared to Ashington.

Do you go to church at Christmas?

Not usually but this year we are going to on Christmas eve for the carol service.

Have you ever have a white Christmas?

I'm sure I must have. I've just Googled it and the last time there was a lot of snow over Christmas was in 2010! I can remember it well. Everything came to a halt, even my fella had time off work because the shop he worked at was shut!

Do you do anything for charity over the Christmas period?

I have been buying a few things extra if I'm in the local shop and putting it in their food bank box and buying the charity raffle tickets.

Are there any must watch tv programmes you watch on Christmas day?

Top of the Pops, The soaps, Gavin & Stacey this year! (I can't wait) and Call the Midwife!

If you have children, what age were they when they stopped believing in Father Christmas?

This is the first year that my youngest Ellie doesn't believe. I thought it would be horrible having a pair of non-believing children but we're having fun.

Who decorates the Christmas tree in your house and when does it go up?

The kids decorated the tree's and Stu put most of the decorations up. I sit back and let them get on with it.

Do you have any Christmas traditions you do each year?

Bucks fizz to drink on Christmas morning, selection boxes for breakfast, making gingerbread houses, seeing the Christmas lights and making mince pies.

What makes Christmas magic for you?

The kids and their excitement. It's infectious! 

Are you all ready for Christmas?

Monday, 9 December 2019

(Ad - Gifted) The Gold Decorated Christmas Tree from Blossoming Gifts - Review!

I think a plant makes such a lovely gift at Christmas. They add to the decorations and look pretty over the Christmas season and if cared for properly they can last for years. 

I was lucky to be sent the Gold Decorated Christmas Tree from the Blossoming Gifts Christmas range to have a look at. 

The tree arrived in a box and was packed well. I do worry when plants are sent through the post but this was well looked after. The decorations are in a little packet in the box and I got to decorate this myself which I thought was fantastic. There is gold & white baubles, a gold ribbon topper, gold gift wrap and some LED Lights.

I had great fun decorating the tree. You simply twist the wire around the branches on the tree to attach the baubles. The LED lights are so pretty although I could have done with more length to them to wrap a few more times around the tree.

It's the first time I've ever had a real tree. It might be a small one but it has really made me want to get a real Christmas tree next year. The smell from it is amazing!

I think these trees would be great for a centrepiece on a table or on a shelf somewhere. They would be fab if you are short on space too. I was talking about this to my great aunt and she said she would love a real Christmas tree again but can't be bothered with the fuss of a full sized large one. Something like this would be wonderful for an elderly person.

I decided to put it on the kitchen windowsill. It's away from all the radiators and heat and it will get some natural light during the day. I have been watering it but not too much.

When Christmas is over with or when it looks a little worse for wear, whichever comes sooner I will be planting this outside in the garden. I think it’s really good sustainable way of having and reusing a Christmas tree.

The Gold Decorated Christmas Tree costs £29.99 and that includes free, tracked delivery. I think it's well worth that price and I am actually thinking about buying one and sending it to my great aunt.

Blossoming Gifts is a premium online gifting retailer and they have a fantastic selection of plants, flowers, hampers and gifts which are all perfect for Christmas!

I was sent the Gold Decorated Christmas Tree free of charge in exchange for this blog post.

Our weekly meal plan! 9th - 15th Dec. #MealPlanningMonday

Last weeks meal plan went well despite the kids best efforts to derail it. Ellie has suddenly turned into a fussy eater. Grr! I was on with making a sausage, onion and potato tray bake and she said she didn't like it so I said we were having sausages, roast potatoes and onion gravy and she loves the idea of that! It was the same ruddy thing. She wasn't impressed with the red lentil bolognese either. She has now decided she doesn't like spaghetti either so I made her's with pasta twists and she ate it. Phew!

At the end of last month I stocked up the freezer and now we're running low on tinned things. I am really trying not to get another big shop before the Christmas food shop so I will be going to Aldi today to get a few bits.

This week on the menu we have:

Monday - Some sort of casserole. Chicken and vegetable, I think, cooked in the slow cooker mashed potato.
TuesdayTuna tomato pasta.
Wednesday - Pie and mash.
Thursday - Cheese & onion crisp bakes with potato wedges.
Friday - Pizza.
Saturday - A lucky dip from the reduced section in Tesco. They have their best bargains on Saturday teatime.
Sunday - A fry up. Sausages, bacon, eggs, baked beans, tomatoes, hash browns and toast.

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, 8 December 2019

I finished the Christmas present buying! #MySundaySnapshot

Yesterday I finished the Christmas present buying! Hooray! My fella & I had a day out shopping without the kids, it was lovely. I am so glad it's done, now I can relax!

All I have left to do is wrap everything, write the cards out and sort out the online grocery order which is coming a couple of days before Christmas. I am feeling so organised this year but now I'm waiting for something to go wrong. lol

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Week 49 of #Project365 - A photo every day for a year!

I keep having to check that I have got the week right for Project 365. It seems like we can't be up to week 49 already but we are and I've just realised that the kids only have a couple of more weeks at school and college! Eek! 

Today I am hopefully finishing off the last of the present buying. All I have left to get is some clothes for the kids, selection boxes, pj's and some stocking fillers.

Now for a photo everyday!

A christmas plaque on the fireplace
Harry Potter on the TV and my youngest opening her advent calendar
The Christmas elf on the shelf and a pot noodle and packet of crisps
A mini decorated Christmas tree and a stuffed Monkey toy.

334/365 - 30th November
A wooden plaque that I got from the Pound shop. I think it's really pretty. It was one of the new Christmas decorations that I bought.

335/365 - 1st December
I don't think there's anything better than snuggling up on the sofa with the kids and watching a Harry Potter film on a Sunday afternoon.

336/365 - 2nd December
Ellie is loving her Smiggle advent calendar. I did have doubts about buying it but it's well worth the £18 I paid for it so far. Every day she opens it and says this is the best thing yet! lol 

337/365 - 3rd December
Our Christmas elf. I am not moving it around this year but the kids have taken over. Ellie says she isn't moving it and my teen says the same too so it must be magic!

338/365 - 4th December
A lazy lunch. I am needing something warm during the day now and soup and beans on toast gets a bit boring. I also wish the Glazed ham crisps weren't a seasonal thing, they are so tasty! 

339/365 - 5th December
I was sent a mini, real Christmas tree to review and I love it. It's on my kitchen window sill at the moment and it will be planted outside in the garden in a few weeks.

340/365 - 6th December
It's been a while since Monkey appeared on here, or it seems like it anyway. Ellie is growing out of him. She still has to cuddle him in bed but he's coming downstairs less and less, he doesn't come for days out anymore and it makes me rather sad that my girl is growing up.

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