Friday, 30 November 2012

Product Review: Just Dance 4

I think from my previous posts (here, here and here) it's fair to say I am a little bit of a fan of the Just Dance series of game so I was pretty darned excited to receive a copy of Just Dance 4 to review (along with a rather snazzy pair of t-shirts, one of them personalised with my name!).

If you're unfamiliar with the Just Dance games, it's a music video game where players are judged on their ability to mimic on-screen dancers performing a kick-ass routine to well-known songs.   In Just Dance 4 there is a new battle mode where you can challenge friends to a dance-off in six rounds of dance battles and there are four player dance routines making it the perfect choice for a party or when you have a gang of friends. A couple of drinks later and you think you're a superstar. 


I personally like the dance quests feature and the "mojo" that was introduced in the previous version of the game. The level of mojo depends on how well you did at the game and how many of  the six song challenges you managed to tick off. Once your mojo bar is filled you unlock rewards which is a real incentive to keep playing. Rewards include dance mash-ups and alternative choreography.

As I have mentioned on previous reviews, as well as being a fun game, it's also a great workout.  If like me you're a little exercise-shy and prefer something more fun then give it a try. A couple of dance routines and I'm panting. Who am I kidding, one go at the Blues Brothers and I'm gasping for water...Some of them are that energetic! You can use the Just Sweat mode as in previous versions but it has a great new added feature and you can see how many calories you have burned however I'm not sure how accurate this would be.


I love the majority of songs but there are a few on there I don't know, which could possibly be a sign of my maturing years and I do tend to skip past songs I don't know. It could just be me but I find it much harder to dance to a song that I am not familiar with so I stick to the better known ones like "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction, "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepson and "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 ft Christina Aguilera.  My personal favourite though? This one.


I'm actually quite good at it and now I have an aim to beat my own score every time! Whilst looking for that on You Tube I've just discovered the alternative choreography for this song and now I am DESPERATE to unlock it!

And I have to say, I pretty much rock at Hit 'Em Up Style. If I do say so myself.


As with all the previous Just Dance games, number four is fabulous fun and if you're looking for a good interactive game to play with family or friends this Christmas, you can't go wrong! 

I'm off to perfect my Las Ketchup moves now...

Just Dance 4 is available to buy now!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cookbook Review: Take A Box of Eggs


When I was offered a copy of a new cookbook called "Take a Box of Eggs" it was pretty hard to refuse seeing as I have both a bit of a cookbook addiction and my own chickens which often leave me wondering what to do with a glut of eggs, and as much as I love them, there's only so many boiled eggs I can eat in a week.

Take a Box of Eggs is the latest cookbook in the bestselling Dairy Cookbook series. I don't know about you, but the Dairy Cookbook (and the Dairy Diary) were prominent in most people's houses when growing up so it's definitely a name I was already familiar with. The book was launched during British Egg Week and as you would expect, is a book full to the brim of egg-based, easy and irresistible recipes.


The book starts with a basics section, covering the different ways you can cook eggs - boiling, poaching, frying, whisking, baking etc. This may sound a little like teaching granny to suck eggs (ha!) however there are lots of people who don't know how to cook an egg believe it or not so I think it's a great thing to cover.  The book is then split into further sections - toasts & snacks, vegetarian, fish, meat, bakes and desserts.

The recipes in the book cover many of the classic egg-based dishes you would expect to see, things like croque-monsieur, creme caramel, lemon meringue pie and a variety of frittatas and omelettes  making this a great cookbook for someone just starting out. There is however also a good variety of more imaginative recipes which might be good for the more experienced cook.


Some of the recipes that catch my eye include the Glamorgan sausages with tomato salad, Japanese omelette, Eggs Andalusia and the Cinnamon pancakes with rich orange butter is something I am considering whipping up for Christmas morning as they sound delicious!

Each recipe has a full page, colour image to accompany it and includes a full nutritional breakdown. The recipes are easy to follow with clear instructions and get this, each recipe also has its own QR code which you can scan using your Smartphone for an ingredients shopping list.  One of my favourite things about the book is it's ringbinding. I LOVE a ring-bound cookbook, it makes it so much easier to use in the kitchen and I cannot think for the life of me why more publishers don't make ring-bound editions of cookbooks!


All in all I think this is a fab cookbook which would be a great addition to anyone's kitchen - especially if you love an egg like I do!

Take a Box of Eggs is available now from http://www.dairydiary.co.uk/ and also at Amazon, priced at £7.49.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Grumpy Old Women - the 2012 edition


It must be something about this time of year as three years ago (03-12-2009 to be precise) I wrote this blog post and today I am coming at you with a new one. Apologies in advance for the downright grumpiness of this post and possible use of swearwords, I blame it on a lack of carbs. And wine. 

Supermarket BOGOFs

Okay, so not the supermarket BOGOF deals themselves, they can be great obviously but you know when there is only ONE solitary packet of four fingered Kitkats left on the shelf? It makes me want to scream. Why would you put an odd number of packets on the shelf. Why. Just to torment me? Well it works. Even if I desperately needed to buy a pack of Kitkats I would abstain on principal. I'm entitled to two packets goddamit, if I buy that one lonely packet I am being totally ripped off. I refuse to believe that people are so stupid that they only take one packet when they're on a BOGOF deal. Or are they?

Unimaginative radio stations

There must be 10,384,232,231 songs in the world (or thereabouts - I am sometimes prone to exaggeration or perhaps underestimating, who knows) and yet Heart FM seem to have picked 20 songs they like from the past 30 years and have resolved to play them on a constant repeating cycle FOR ETERNITY. I've barely been in my car this week yet I've heard Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart" five times in two days. FIVE times. This is a song that was last popular in 1996. Has nobody written anything decent since then? Has someone at Heart FM got a deep-rooted Toni Braxton obsession that they're not sharing with us? I don't know the answer to either question but I do know that I've now switched Heart FM off for good.

People playing music out loud on their mobile phones

Get an earpiece, seriously. You can still enjoy your bad taste in music without inflicting it on the poor unsuspecting public. Why do people feel the need to share their music with everyone whilst walking down the street?  Is it attention-seeking? I can't think of any other reason to make yourself look like a complete tool by walking down the street and holding your mobile phone in one hand whilst it's playing some really bad form of rap.

Seat-savers in assembly

Why oh why oh why. The school hall is small. You can pretty much see from every vantage point and lets face it, it's a bunch of 5 year olds reading words off a piece of card not a hit West End musical. You're not going to miss anything by sitting a row or two back so what's with all the seat-saving that goes on in school assemblies? Everyone is so polite "Are these seat taken?" you gesture towards a row of empty seats with strategically placed scarves and bags. Oh yes, of course they are. My bad. By the people too lazy to get to school on time to get their own seat.

People following me around car parks

I don't mean gorgeous specimen of menfolk, brandishing red roses and boxes of Milk Tray, following me around in a completely okay stalkerish type of way, oh no, but those people who see you walking back to your car and decide to follow you to see where you are going in order to get into your space whilst you're still reversing back out of it. On occasion, when I've been a bit bored I've taken the scenic route to my car, bobbing about between the rows in order to throw them off a tad. If the car park has a one way system, this is even better as you can go back where you come from and cackle loudly at the fact  that they've driven past  your soon-to-be empty space, thinking you were park on the next row. Mwahahahaha. One of the greatest pleasures in life is walking back to your car to drop off some shopping whilst letting people believe you're going to vacate that prime space outside the shopping centre doors.  People sitting behind me, waiting for my car parking space gives me the rage and I'll admit that in the past I have faked a telephone call purely to make them wait longer, or so long that they give up and drive off. This is what I have been reduced to by parking space stalkers. 

and finally

Middle lane hoggers

Move. The. F***. Over.

Nuff said.


Guest Post: Christmas Markets with Superbreak


Today I have a guest post from Superbreak, provider of short breaks, city breaks and weekend breaks in London, throughout the UK and abroad, who are going to tell us all about Christmas markets. I don't know about you but Christmas is not complete for me without a trip to a Christmas market to have a slurp on some Gl├╝hwein.

Soak up the sights, sounds and smells of a Christmas market this festive season

If the thought of high street Christmas shopping makes your heart sink but buying gifts online doesn’t give you any more of a warm festive feeling, you’re not alone. Finding original seasonal gifts often seems more of a chore than the pleasure it should be.

The answer could be to purchase your presents at a Christmas market. This means you get to shop somewhere that feels very different, and where it will be easier to find unique gifts. While these stalls are a firm fixture in the festive calendar on the continent, they are becoming increasingly popular this side of the Channel too. You could even make a trip out of it and stay at a Christmas market hotel, meaning you can take a weekend break for reasons that are altogether practical.

Christmas markets in the UK have an interesting history. They died out in the seventeenth century after Oliver Cromwell put a halt to festive celebrations. Although market stalls sold Christmas products and food in the Victorian period, they weren’t known as Christmas markets as such.


In recent times, however, these events have enjoyed a renaissance, with Lincoln the first to be revived in the 1980s. The Norman castle, majestic gothic cathedral and medieval square of this 2,000-year old city form the perfect backdrop for the occasion, which has grown from modest beginnings of just 11 stalls to more than 250.

Other historic cities hosting seasonal marketplaces include Winchester, where the cathedral’s ancient Inner Close, surrounding an open air ice rink, forms another idyllic and relaxing seasonal shopping location. If it doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, nothing will!

As will most of these markets, you won’t find many of the exhibitor’s gifts elsewhere, and stallholders have been chosen for the quality and uniqueness of their offerings, from glass and textiles to jewellery, paintings and decorations. It also copies the European style of market with goods sold from an array of cosy wooden chalets.

UK Christmas markets are staged in venues from town centres to stately homes, lasting from between one weekend and six weeks. You’ll also find them in places as varied as smaller market towns and big cities like Leeds and Manchester. You’ll be in for a truly sensual experience, with all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the season. Keep warm with a glass of steaming mulled wine, nibble on some spicy sausage and enjoy the scent of cinnamon in the air, along with street entertainers and other attractions.


If you fancy going a bit further afield for your Christmas market, there’s still plenty of time to plan a jaunt over to somewhere like Bruges or Prague, and soak up the atmosphere of their seasonal stalls with a pre-Christmas shopping break. Whether in the UK or abroad, this may be the answer to a far more interesting and enjoyable Christmas shopping experience. And considering that the words ‘enjoyable’ and ‘Christmas shopping’ never share the same sentence, this is quite a feat.

Are you visiting any Christmas markets this festive season? I'd love to hear about which ones are your favourite. I've never been to one abroad and in fact the only Christmas market I ever frequent is the Birmingham one so perhaps I am missing out somewhere? Do let me know!


Disclaimer: This is a guest post with all content written and provided for me by Superbreak. I have received no payment or any other form of compensation in return for publishing this article.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Meal Planning Monday (26th November 2012)

Is this the latest #mealplanningmonday ever? I think so! It's so late I've actually already had my dinner today (dippy eggs and toast if you must know...I am fasting but needed some carbs!). 

Sorry for the lateness, I have been busy Christmas shopping, doing school runs, grocery shopping, wrapping presents, cleaning and running to dance lessons! It's felt never-ending today.  I'm totally gearing up towards the festive season now and more than ready for it - I am SO organised this year!

The diet is still going ahead but I'm taking my foot off the pedal a bit now as I refuse to deny myself over Christmas! As long as I can maintain the 12lb loss then I'm happy. I'll ramp it up again in January.

Meal planning this week looks a little bit like this....(aside from the boiled eggs...)

Chicken tikka masala with rice and naan
Ham & mushroom tagliatelle
Lamb moussaka
Pizza of some variety

And I'm eating out one night with a friend.

The Linky for this week is below so do join in and add your #mealplanningmonday blog posts. If you're new to #mealplanningmonday and are not sure what's going on, just ask, but it's pretty simple - write a blog post and tell us what you're eating this week, leave the link below. If you don't have a blog, just leave a comment.

Look forward to reading your posts, have a good week! I hate to frighten you all byt next week will be the first #mealplanningmonday of December! EEK!





Sunday, 25 November 2012

Mrs M's BIG Christmas Gift Guide - Gifts for Her


Following one from my first Christmas Gift Guide post, the foodie edition and gifts for children, my third one in the series is gorgeous gifts for her. I don't know about you, but I'm all about the pretty and I find it quite easy to buy gifts for the ladies in my life so I found it hard to keep this post small!

1.  Sea Sparkle offer a beautiful range of sea glass jewellery which is created using genuine smooth, tactile sea glass found on the beaches of Devon and Cornwall. Each item in the range is unique, is finished with sterling silver clasps and comes in a presentation gift box. Reusing and recycling is such a big trend at the moment and are we're a family of sea lovers I just cannot resist some of these beautiful items. Two of the items that immediately caught my eye - they have relevance to me and my children - are the "I See The Sea" Wrap Bracelet (£32.00) and the beautiful "She Sells Seashells" Necklace (£46.00). Perfect gifts for anybody who feels an affinity with the coast.

2.  If you're on a bit of budget this year, Wilkinson have an absolutely great range of gift ideas at amazing prices. Some of my favourite items this year are Little Birds Heart Tree Photo Frame (£5), the Heart Cutting Board (£4), Country Garden Caddy (£10) and the Little Birds Sewing Box (£8).  There are four ways to shop at Wilkinsons; in store, from the catalogue, online at www.wilkinsonplus.com or over the phone by calling 08456 080807. If you need to know where your nearest store is call 08444 778877 or visit the website.



3. Owls have been quite a hot trend in the past year or so and whilst it may not be every woman's ideal present, some of us girls actually do like being bought gifts for the home! I love these owls from online boutique Butterfly Lane. I think they'd make a gorgeous present - I'm thinking of getting one as a present for myself! Ollie the Owl is the large one at £26.50 and smaller Ceramic Owlette is £14.95.

4. If you're looking for a bit of sparkle and bling for a female friend or family member then check out Bling Rocks.  I was recently sent two beautiful bracelets (the Silver Luxe Starlet Crystal Bracelet and the Belgravia Starlet Bracelet) from the collection and I can confirm they are wonderfully blingy and perfect for the festive season. Prices are very reasonable and each item over £7.99 comes with free standard gift wrapping - a velvet drawstring pouch, wrapped in tissue paper and put in a Bling Rocks gift box. All very presentable and definitely something I'd like to find in my Christmas stocking!


5. This item is already on my Christmas list so lets hope Mr M has been paying attention! We travel a lot (nothing glamourous, lots of camping!) so I think the She's So Jetset set from Benefit Cosmetics is the ideal gift for anyone who moves around a lot! The kit includes an eyeshadow palette, They're Real mascara, first-class face power with brush, lip gloss in Life on the A List, double-ended applicator and the POREfessional (a balm to minimise the appearance of pores). Priced at £29.50 this makes a beautiful gift for a special friend.

6. Fancy buying a gift and supporting a worthwhile charity at the same time? Cancer Research UK have an absolutely fabulous gift range this year including this fantastic mugs priced at £8.00 each. I fell in love with them immediately and as it's a slim chance that anyone else will buy them for me, I'm going to treat myself to them I think! You can shop online at  Cancer Research UK and in store.



7. I know it's not every woman's dream to receive pottery or kitchenware for Christmas but I'm more than happy with it! I love the Joy range at Emma Bridgewater and am the proud owner of one or two pieces but would love to add more to the collection. If one of the special ladies in your life does like pottery then the splendid Joy oval platter is a sight to behold (£100) and the Joy serving bowl (£44.95) would look fabulous on any Christmas table or if she's a baker, how about the lovely Joy cake plate (£49.95), all available online at Emma Bridgewater. There's also a large range of smaller gifts to suit all budgets and tastes. I've been after that platter for the past few years but no such luck yet!  



8. Interflora do more than just flowers and have a great range of Christmas gift hampers this year. The "A Little Lift Happy Box" could be a great gift for someone in need of a little R&R this festive season as it is a taste of luxury, designed to offer some genuine pampering. The hamper costs £100 and includes a relaxing bath preparation, a 100% cashmere eye mask, organic hand lotion, a handmade pewter leather journal and some Belgian chocolate - all beautifully presented and gift-wrapped. You can order this gift and other Interflora gifts online via their website.



9. If you know someone who loves to read, then this mini journal could be a lovely stocking filler. It's ideal for keeping track of books you've read, writing notes about them and keep lists of books you want to read in the future. It's available at Amazon, currently priced at £5.25.



10.  And finally, I'm sorry to lower the tone but I think every girl deserves a bit of Magic Mike in her stocking this year. Available to buy on DVD from November 26th.



I hope I've offered some inspiration - I thoroughly recommend Item number 10 on the list...




Disclaimer: I have not been paid to promote the products featured in my Christmas gift guide. I may have undertaken product reviews of some of those featured in the blog posts and this will be mentioned where it is relevant. Many of the products I have featured in the gift guide series are there purely because I like them! I always try to be upfront and honest - if you have any questions, please get in touch via email.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

No-Fail Chilli Con Carne


This is one of those crowd-pleasing dishes, a simple fail-safe chilli, perfect for cooking for a crowd which is exactly what I did for our Bonfire Party. Again, the rubbish photo is down to having to be really stealth and trying to take a photo without anyone seeing me! The children are used to seeing me photographing me their dinner before they can get their hands on, our friends? Not so much.

This recipe was an old BBC Good Food one, but with a few tweaks. Often if I'm cooking this for just us, I'll throw in some baked beans but I know not everyone is au fait with that kind of approach so I left them out of this meal. 

This chilli was perfect and everybody commented on it which is always a good sign. It could take some extra heat so don't be afraid to adjust the spices to your own taste. I made this with the quantities below and it was on the mild side - but Mr M is a wuss who doesn't like his food too spicy. I could have easily had a bit more hot chilli powder in it so you really need to taste it when it's cooking and see how you feel.

The recipe serves 4 and is easily doubled. It also freezes okay so good for batch cooking.

No-Fail Chilli Con Carne

Ingredients

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
500g lean minced beef
300ml beef stock (made with 1 stock cube)
400g can chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato puree
410g can red kidney beans
200-250g sliced mushrooms

Method

Put a large pan or casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the oil and heat to hot before adding the onions and cooking for around 5 minutes until they are soft and turning translucent.  

Add the minced garlic, chopped red pepper, chilli powder, paprika and cumin to the pan and give everything a good stir. Leave to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Turn the heat up to high and add the mince to the pan, breaking it up with your spoon. Stir occasionally until all the mince is browned.

Pour in the hot beef stock and add in the can of chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Tip in the dried majoram and sugar as well as a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir everything well.  Bring everything to the boil, stir well and put a lid on the pan. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and leave for around 20 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan or it's not drying out.  If you think it's get a bit too dry, add a little bit of water. 

Drain and rinse the red kidney beans and stir them into the chilli pot along with the sliced mushrooms. Bring back to the boil and gentle bubble without the lid for another 10 minutes. Add more water if looking a bit dry. Taste and season. 

You can serve this with whatever you like - tortilla wraps, rice, potato wedges or as we did, over jacket potatoes!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The ASK Italian Cookbook


Everyone is familiar with ASK Italian, the Italian restaurant chain right, so I am presuming they need little introduction from me. We're big fans of ASK Italian in the M household, so when I was recently asked if I would like to review the new ASK Italian cookbook I couldn't really say no, especially as I was hoping for a Penne Al Pollo Della Casa recipe which is what Mr M orders every single time we go there.

The cookbook, which is edited by award-winning Italian chef Theo Randall and Italian food writer Carla Capalbo contains over 100 recipes - it's a mixture of completely original recipes plus some of the old-time ASK Italian favourites and yes, Mr M's favourite is included, which means we'll be having that for dinner very soon!  There's another dimension to this book though and this book is being published in conjunction with Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity in order to raise much needed funds for the hospital.



I love cooking Italian food and I think it's possible that I may want to try nearly every recipe in this book.  The book is split into sections that include Antipasti: Starters, Primi: Pasta, Primi: Risotto Farro and Potatoes, Pizza, Secondi: Fish and Meat, Contorni: Salads and Vegetables, Dolci: Desserts, Sauces and Basics.  There are also useful sections that help you pair wine with food and give you hints and tips about making fresh pasta and ravioli.  The recipes are clear and concise - very easy to follow and none of them are particularly daunting or require you to shop for a massive list of ingredients (my bugbear!). 



Recipes that immediately catch my eye as ones to try are; Bruschetta Con Funghi Misti, Rosemary and Sea Salt Bread, Penne Con Salsiccia E Porcini, Insalata Di Formaggio Di Capra, Torta Al Limone - amongst many others!

The book itself is fantastic quality and a fab design. I love the feel of the matt pages and the photography inside is great - every recipe has an image. I'm such a cookbook geek, but honestly I well-presented cookbook makes all the difference to me!



I think because the recipes are so easy-to-prepare this would be a perfect book for someone just starting out in Italian cookery, however there's enough to keep more experienced cooks inspired. It's a really nice book that would make a great gift for anyone who loves cooking (and eating) Italian food.

The ASK Italian Cookbook is available to buy at Amazonfrom today (20th November 2012) with an RRP of £15.00 with part of the proceeds going to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity*.


*ASK Restaurants will donate £4 of the retail price of every ASK Italian Cookbook sold in their restaurants and a minimum of £1 of the retail price if it's sold through bookshops and other third-party retailers.

Mrs M's BIG Christmas Gift Guide - Gifts for Children


Following one from my first Christmas Gift Guide post, the foodie edition, my second one in the series is gifts for children. There are so many great toys and products out there for children it was quite hard to limit myself to just ten but I've tried to select things I truly love or am buying for my own children this year.

1.  Lottie is a new fashion doll that was launched in August 2012 and is aimed at girls aged 3-8. The creators of Lottie have aimed to make her different to other fashion dolls that are available and have tried to address issues relating to body image and sexualisation working with top British academics to create a doll body that is properly childlike. You won't find Lottie wearing makeup, jewellery or high heels either. If you're looking for a doll for your child that's a bit different, take a look at Lottie, they remind me a lot of the old Sindy Dolls I played with in the early '80s. The dolls are available on Amazon and in independent toy shops, retailing at £16.99.



2.  I don't know about you but all children I know really love the story of the Gruffalo and these gorgeous Gruffalo's Child Finger Puppets would really bring bedtime stories to life, especially for younger children. The set, available at My Mummy and Little Me is priced at £26.99 includes a Gruffalo soft toy and finger puppets of the Gruffalo's Child, Mouse, Fox, Owl, Snake and a Tree Carry case. 




3. Jools Oliver has got a fab range out at Mothercare at the moment and this fawn money box caught my eye immediately as something my own little girl would love! It's priced at £12.00 and would be a perfect gift for any little animal-lover or a lovely keepsake for a young child this Christmas!


4. One of the biggest this year in our house has been Lego Friends. The cause of some controversy in the blogging world when it was launched, ever since my daughter set her eyes on it she just had to have it! We were already Lego fans and the Lego Friends sets are compatible with all over Lego bricks. My daughter uses the Friends sets in conjunction with her basic Lego bricks and I have to say, even my son plays with them, despite all the pink. New for the second part of 2012 are some camping and horse-riding themed sets. I loved this camper van and couldn't resist buying it for her. It retails at £29.95 and is available from John Lewis, Argos, Toys R Us and all good Lego stockists.


5. We were recently sent some new Hexbug Warriors to try out. My son is already a big fan of these little critters, I think he was 3 when he bought his first Hexbug and this year he's been quite prescriptive about wanting a "red Hexbug" and "Hexbug track". Thankfully Santa  will be able to provide! These new Hexbug Warriors are designed for battle - they are micro robots, available in four colours, that use vibration to propel forward and battle with competitors. They battle and jostle with their opponents until they win or lose by running out of health. A lot of fun for both boys and their dads, the battle arena pictured below has an RRP of £19.99 and the battling robots are £7.99 each. There is also a bigger battle stadium available with a RRP of £29.99.



6. This felt play sandwich set by Melissa and Doug, available from Great Little Trading Company (£15.00) is just beautiful. It has 33 felt pieces which include bread rolls, meats, cheese, tomatoes, onion, lettuce, mayonnaise, lettuce and ketchup.  The pieces can all be mixed and matched and it's a great set for encouraging role play for both boys and girls.



7.  All children need a sweet treat at the bottom of their stocking, mine normally get chocolate coins, but Hotel Chocolat always does a beautiful range of gift chocolates for children.  How can you resist the Tiddly Milk Chocolate Reindeer (£5.00), the Flight of Twinkle Toes (£5.00), Dasher the Reindeer (£6.50) and my personal favourite which I hope to find in my own stocking, 12 Chocolate Gingerbread Men (£6.50).   You can shop in-store - I recommend this, hover around long enough and they often hand out free samples, or online where there's often a free gift if you spend over a certain amount, so worth keeping your eye out!



8. If you're on a bit of a budget this year (aren't we all?!) then Poundland is the place to go for your stocking fillers. They have some great products on offer this year like the owl money bank, character mugs, dress up sets, children's toiletries, skipping ropes and even teddy bears - I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how much they cost...Oh okay, THEY'RE ALL A POUND EACH! A little bit can certainly go a long way in a shop like Poundland and it's well worth checking out your local store to see what's on offer.



9.  Deadly 60 seems to be huge this year for boys, I have to say, I quite like it myself and there's a fab range of toys and games available if you've got a fan in the house. Choose from the Deadly 60 Board Game (RRP £14.99), Deadly 60 Ruckus Card Game (RRP £4.99) or the Deadly 60 Trivia Box (RRP £7.99). Games available at all good toy and game retailers.



10. I don't think you can go wrong, present-wise, with a beautiful edition of a classic book or a box-set of books. There is lots of choice out there and some of the ones that have caught my eye are Harry Potter sets, Horrible Henry, Mr Men and the Chronicles of Narnia but I've also seen Enid Blyton sets and Alice in Wonderland collections which would make lovely gifts. Check out Amazon, and my favourite place to buy books, The Book People - who often have really lovely book collections available for great prices.



Hope you found this list in someway useful. I could go on for days, I'm rather fond of shopping for children, as my spare room would demonstrate if you could see it right now! If you've seen any great gift ideas in the shops this year - do leave a comment and/or link below.



Disclaimer: I have not been paid to promote the products featured in my Christmas gift guide. I may have undertaken product reviews of some of those featured in the blog posts and this will be mentioned where it is relevant. Many of the products I have featured in the gift guide series are there purely because I like them! I always try to be upfront and honest - if you have any questions, please get in touch via email.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Meal Planning Monday (19th November 2012)

Morning meal-planners. How are you diddling? I'm crook and still on a diet so this is not going to be very exciting, no wonder I've been ousted from the Foodies 100.

I have to say though, my dieting days will be over in about two weeks and I'm looking forward to a massive cookathon. I won't have reached goal but there's no way on this earth I am dieting through December! Christmas is my favourite time of the year! Nope, diet goes on hold and I'll assess the damage in January.  I think whilst I am feeling a bit rough I shall batten down the hatches in the evenings this week, sit by the fire and do some serious Christmas food planning.

This week we are mainly eating whatever Waitrose has on offer today. Well, Mr M has leftover pasta bake from yesterday for his tea tonight and as I am having lunch with friends I shall have a gourmet feast of soup for my evening meal. The rest of the week for me will be things like stuffed peppers, roasted veg and I really fancy some fish so maybe a fishcake or two. I'm having egg and chips on Friday night though, that's going to be my treat dinner this week. For the rest of the family there will be spaghetti bolognese, pizza (man do I miss pizza when I am on a diet) and chicken burgers with the works.

What have you got planned? Are you ramping up to Christmas now and getting stuff planned and prepared?

The Linky for this week is below so do join in and add your #mealplanningmonday blog posts - and let me know in the comments if you've posted any Christmas recipes recently, I need inspiration.

Look forward to reading your posts, have a good week!