Monday, 31 October 2011

The Wonderful World of Disney

If you love Disney like I do then you need to play the brand new Disney Universe game available to buy from October 28th 2011 for all the major consoles including Xbox 360. Wee Z and I have been playing it for the last week and it really is a Disney fans dream game.


In terms of console games, I really do enjoy playing the more fun, cartoon-like games as opposed to the hardcore Call of Duty and zombie games that Husband enjoys. Disney Universe is perfect for the gamer in me. The levels aren't particularly hard as you are guided through your quest to save Disney Universe from the "bad cube" called HEX who has turned all the goodie bots in to bad robots and is trying to take over the virtual Disney world.

What we loved about this game was the different costumes you could dress up in to play as. You could be Nemo (Finding Nemo), Stitch (Lilo and Stitch) or even Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean). In fact there are over 40 familiar Disney characters to choose from whether they be from Classic Disney right through to Pixar.

There are 6 different worlds to explore again inspired by Disney and Pixar films with lots of fun and fairly easy games and puzzles to play. You can play in one player mode or as a group of up to 4 people where you can play as a team to defeat baddies or against each other for the highest score.


Wee Z enjoyed helping me play through the game, pointing out enemies and telling me where to find coins. Each world has 3 zones and there are 3 levels in each zone. At the end of a zone you unlock a new costume which you can then change in to. You can also collect coins to buy costumes and to buy in to the other worlds before you finish the first world.

Disney Universe is aimed at children but I have had so much fun playing it myself once the kids are in bed. I'd definitely recommend it if you enjoy fun games that don't require a lot of thinking or hours of game-play to complete.

This is a review post. We have received Disney Universe for the Xbox 360 for the purposes of a review. The opinions are my own.


Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Crafts and Pictures

On Tuesday, Miss C came home from playgroup with her first ever art craft. I was so impressed!

Miss C had made a little Halloween ghost who she called "Ghostie". It looked like it was very simple to make with a few pieces of toilet roll, some newspaper for stuffing to make the head and then some string to wrap it up with.


Wee Z also brought home a lovely picture of a pumpkin he had coloured in (well partly) at nursery. We hung it up on our craft wall to display it amongst all the other lovely pictures and paintings.


Sadly Miss C's "Ghostie" didn't survive when one of the cats decided to shred it. Thankfully Miss C hasn't noticed.



Silent Sunday



Saturday, 29 October 2011

Trick or Treating For Beginners

Last night my friend, Mama N, had a Halloween party for the kids. We started off the party by going trick or treating around Mama N's neighbours. Wee Z has never been trick or treating before so at first he wasn't keen to leave the warmth or the party food in the house but once he found out that he was getting sweets, he grew to love the idea.

Wee Z had such a great time telling his favourite joke that he would run away afterwards, forgetting to collect his bag of sweets, eager to get on to the next house. Husband kept having to call him back to collect his sweets. He then got very excited with all the sweets he was getting and was running from door to door shouting "I got MORE sweets!" Miss C was indifferent.

After trick or treating we went back to Mama N's house. There were lots of goodies and I made some Halloween cupcakes. They turned out much better than my attempt at Halloween cobweb cakes! Mama N's Mum had made some lovely truffles and coconut ice (which Wee Z loved) and there were sausage rolls, pizza and wedges too. Mama N really did spoil us.

More of Mama N's family turned up and the kids looked smashing in their costumes. We played a few games of musical statues and gave out lots of sweets to the trick or treaters who came to the door. All too soon it was time to go home but the kids had a great time.

Here's the recipe for my Halloween cupcakes. It's really easy and makes some delicious chocolate cupcakes - they taste a bit like brownies.

For the cakes:

150g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
15g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the buttercream:

150g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons hot water
Orange food colouring

For the ghosts:

White ready to roll icing
Black icing pen

Makes 12 good sized cupcakes

Preheat your oven to 180° C/350° F/Gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with 12 cupcake cases.

Place your butter, sugar, eggs, flour, cocoa powder and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl and whisk for around 2 minutes. The mix should be smooth and light chocolate colour. Divide the mixture between the cases and cook for 18-20 minutes. The cakes should spring back when you press the tops and a cocktail stick should come out clean if you pierce the cake. Leave them on a wire rack to cool.

To make your buttercream, place the icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract and hot water in a bowl. I add my food colouring at this stage so I don't over-cream the mix. How much you add is up to you and how strong you want the colour to be. I used just over half a teaspoon to get the pastel orange colour. Mix until everything is combined and creamy. Spread the icing on the cakes using a knife or use a piping bag if you want to give the buttercream a spiral effect.

You can decorate the tops of the cupcakes with any spooky thing you like but I chose ghosts as I had white icing in the cupboard. Draw a template on some greaseproof paper and then use a small, sharp knife to cut your ghost out of icing. Place the ghost on top of the cake and use the black icing pen to draw some eyes on.


Spooky but tasty!



Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Gallery - Faces



This post is for The Gallery. The theme this week is Faces. 


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Halloween Cobweb Cupcakes

Cupcakes are so versatile to decorate, you really can do anything with them. Today Miss C and I attempted some spooky Halloween cobweb cupcakes from a book I've received called For the Love of Cupcakes.


This book is perfect for first time cupcakers but it is also good for those of you who are a dab hand at baking and want some new ideas or inspiration. There are lots of equipment tips, recipes and decorating ideas so you can make gorgeous cupcakes time and time again.


For the Love of Cupcakes is written by Ann Nicol and is available to buy as a hard copy however you can also purchase it as an eBook from iBookstore in the UK, USA and Canada. What this means is you can download the full book on to your iPad, iPod or iPhone and use the recipe straight from there. As well as cupcakes, Frame Tree have 21 other yummy eBooks available ranging from vegetarian dishes, Asian appetizers and tasty desserts. Each eBook contains 20 recipes. Perfect if you don't have time to go cookbook shopping and fancy trying something new.


So Miss C and I set about making these cobweb cupcakes this afternoon. If you are having a Halloween party or just fancy something to do with the kids with a Halloween theme then these are a lot of fun to bake.

Ingredients

Makes 16-18

175g/6oz caster sugar
175g/6oz soft tub margarine
3 medium eggs, beaten
150g/5oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g/1oz cocoa powder

To decorate

225g/8oz icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp warm water
orange and black paste food colourings

Preheat your over to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Line two 12 hole bun trays with 16-18 paper or foil (or silicone if you have them) cupcake cases.

Place the sugar, margarine and eggs in a bowl, then sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Beat for 2 minutes until smooth.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until well risen and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then trim the tops of the cupcakes flat if they have any peaks.


To decorate the cupcakes, gradually mix the icing sugar with enough warm water to give a coating consistency. Separate some icing in to a small bowl and colour it with the black colouring and place in a small paper icing bag or piping bag. Colour the remaining icing bright orange.


Work on one cupcake at a time as the icing sets quickly. Spread orange icing over the top of the cupcake. Using your piping bag, pipe a black spiral on top of the orange icing. Use a wooden cocktail stick and pull this through the icing to give a cobweb effect. Once you've done all the cupcakes leave them to set for one hour. Keep for up to 2 days in an airtight container in a cool place.

Not quite cobwebs but definitely spooky looking!
I found the recipe very straightforward to follow and the cakes tasted really nice. I did find it a bit tricky piping the black icing on; I think I made it too runny or my piping bag was too big so it was harder to control. We still had a lot of fun making them and they'd be a great addition to your Halloween feast treats! As an extra addition you could add some brown smarties and black liquorice and make little spiders.

This is a review post. I have received the For the Love of Cupcakes book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Monday Morning = Mummy Fail

I hate Monday mornings, especially if I've been working at the weekend. It may only be for 4 hours but I still feel like I haven't had a "proper" weekend. I've also been finding it hard to get up in the morning because it is still dark outside so it just doesn't feel right.

My alarm droned on at 7am until I picked my phone up and hid it under my pillow. I unwrapped myself from my duvet and dragged myself to the bathroom. I switched the shower on, waited for it to heat up and then carefully stepped in. I stood enveloped in lovely warmth for at least 10 minutes.

I got dressed and as I was about to wake Wee Z up, he opened his door. Today was the first day back at nursery after half term so I had to get his uniform ready and then wake Miss C. I got her clothes ready, checked the time (7.40) and we headed downstairs for breakfast.

Husband walked in some 5 minutes later after his night shift and went to lie down before he had to take Wee Z to nursery at 8.30. Wee Z hoovered his breakfast up whilst Miss C picked at her cereal before demanding a waffle with chocolate spread.

Wee Z rushed to the living room to get dressed. Miss C continued to pick at her breakfast. I made a cup of tea and checked the time (8.15) I gave Miss C 2 minutes to eat her breakfast which she used wisely - she fed it to the cat.

I took Husband a cup of tea up to waken him for taking Wee Z to nursery. I helped Wee Z brush his teeth and Husband got Miss C ready. At 8.35 they left to walk the 10 minute journey to nursery. I grabbed my stuff, headed to the car and went to work. It started to rain. Typical Monday!

At 1.05pm I arrived home from work to find I had a missed call on my phone. It was from Husband. He had phoned me at 8.47 which is when I would have been driving to work.

I went upstairs to find Husband getting ready to sleep for his shift starting at 4pm and the kids playing in Wee Z's room.

"Why did you phone me?" I asked.

"Next time can you make sure you check the actual dates Wee Z goes back to nursery?!"

Whoops! See - Monday should be banned!


Sunday, 23 October 2011

My Hopes and Dreams

When I was younger I used to dream I'd become a singer. I love music and I always used to dance around my room, singing in to a hairbrush. I think I am an OK singer. Having grown up with my Dad and my Grandma being avid karaoke fans and even running their own karaoke sets, I used to sing a lot. The Carpenters were my songs of choice although I would do a bit of Total Eclipse of the Heart (the Nikki French version) for something up-tempo.

As I grew up, I realised that this was just a dream and reality is harsher than you think it is when you're young. I'm no Karen Carpenter!

As a parent I only want what is best for my children. My dream would be for them to have successful careers such as a Surgeon or Scientist or Astronaut (which Wee Z said he'd quite like to be!) I'd love for them to have nice houses, nice cars and have no financial worries. I'd love for them to have families of their own and to be able to enjoy their lives.

Those are my dreams for them though and I firmly believe you have to allow your children to do what they want to do with their own lives. I can't live my own dreams through them. However I can guide them and instill good morals and values in them. We will bring them up - not drag them up.

My Step Dad always said you can achieve anything you want in life but you have to work hard and have a lot of ambition. This is one of the values I hope to instil in my children. Respect, determination, loyalty, compassion and confidence are other things I hope to teach my children.

My only hope for their future is that they are happy and healthy. I can't ask for anything more than that, can I?



Silent Sunday





Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Pumpkins Are So Last Halloween

Who knew fruit and veg could be so versatile?! Not only can you cook them and eat them, you can make creepy looking monsters with them.

Meet our new friend...


Isn't he just creepy?? Wee Z, Miss C and Daddy spent the afternoon carving, cutting, sticking and, erm, skewering fruit and veg to make this spooky ghoul.

Mr Patrick Ghoul

We made this monster thanks to Innocent and if you're stuck indoors in this rubbish weather you can join in the fun. All you need to do to take part is make your own fruit or veg scary monster. Use whatever ingredients you like; the more creative the better.


Once you have made your veggie horror, give him a name and if you collect the Innocent magnets then use them (or anything else you have) to display his name alongside him.

Take a picture and post it on the Halloween Gallery on the Innocent Drinks website and email myfruitandvegmonster(AT)innocentdrinks(DOT)(co.uk) with your flickr name and a postal address.


The first 1,000 entries will win a set of limited edition glow-in-the-dark Halloween 0-9 number magnets.

After you've made your ghoul, you can whizz him up as a nice soup or smoothie!

Wee Z and Miss C doing their "scary" faces!
Innocent Drinks sent us some fruit and veg and the letter magnets for us to take part. The opinions and ideas were ours.


Monday, 17 October 2011

A Rainy Day Indoors

Well it's official. Summer is well and truly over.

The rain has been pouring and pouring all day. There is a chill in the air so the heating is on and we're all comfort eating to build our winter plumage. We're more tired and I'm finding it really difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

All this bad weather means more indoor activities with the kids. Today we decided to play Magic Cauldron from Orchard Toys. Wee Z got it for Chirstmas last year from Bella and Pops but we've not had a chance to play it yet, mainly because it's all about adding and taking away to help children learn math skills and Wee Z has only just started taking an interest in sums.


The object of the game is to fill your cauldron with yucky ingredients to make a magic potion. There are pictures of the ingredients and they have numbers on the back of them. You choose your ingredient and then look at the number and try to find the sum card that makes the number you've chosen. The sum cards can be adding, subtracting and multiplying questions which is great for teaching your children some basic maths skills.


When you choose the sum card which you think is correct you turn it over to find a magic spooky ghost. To find out if you have chosen the correct card you rub the magic spooky ghost to reveal the answer. The game is really simple to play, lots of fun and you're learning as you're playing.


Wee Z loved playing Magic Cauldron even if he did need a little help when the sums weren't straight forward 2 + 2 or 3 + 3. We also involved Miss C in the game by holding up an ingredient card and asking her to tell us what number was on the card.

The tongue is out - concentration!

A great rainy day activity!


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Dealing With Toddler Tantrums - Wee Z Style

I was warned they were awful. Some have said they'd happily give their children away at the age of 23 months and have them back when they reached the age of 5.*

Welcome to the Terrible Twos (the TTs!)

I was hoping I'd got away with the TTs with Miss C as she has been an angel of a child. I'm not sure if this is down to her being a way more chilled out child than Wee Z is or if it is because I'm a lot more relaxed second time round. She had her moments, of course, like every child does however on a whole she was definitely much better behaved just before she turned 2 than her brother ever was.

Until we went on holiday.

Since we've come back Miss C seems to have found the TTs button and decided to turn it on. Mostly I can be quite good at ignoring a temper tantrum but, like everyone, I have a breaking point and there is only so much I can put up with. Her tantrums are either (eventually) stopped by me placing her on time out or me leaving the room she is in and sitting on the step myself.

A few nights ago, just before bath time, Miss C decided she was going to throw her biggest tantrum to date. You know the one where they scream and scream and shake and go totally rigid when you try to do anything to them. She threw herself on the floor over something quite minuscule (obviously it meant A LOT to her) and proceeded to scream blue murder. Wee Z was quietly taking this all in and quite clearly wondering what beast had replaced his darling little sister.

Butter wouldn't melt!

I had managed (just) to remove her clothes to get her into the bath - I think it was the removal of the clothes that caused the tantrum - and then peeled her off the floor to get her in the bath. Wee Z was already in the bath and struggling to hold in his giggles. Miss C was flinging herself around in my arms like a fish out of water. I put Miss C in the bath for her to go even more berserk and she tried to climb out of the bath. Wee Z could no longer contain his giggles and started to laugh out loud. This quickly quietened his sister however his laughter was met with death stares.

She sat in the bath long enough for me to wash her and brush her teeth. As soon as I took her out the bath she went mad and tried to climb back in the bath. Really?! You didn't want in there a minute ago. Cue more fits of giggles from Wee Z. Miss C quickly stopped screaming and stared at her brother again. She was not impressed. However, Miss C stopped screaming long enough for me to dry her, dress her and get her into bed.

Secretly I was dying to laugh too (what else can you do, except scream which doesn't really solve much!) Maybe Wee Z has cracked the tantrum-stopping formula. Laughter.

I shall try it from now on.

*I'm sure this was meant by them as a joke. I don't think they really wanted to get rid of their children.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Gallery - Inspirational People

There are so many people in this world doing amazing, life changing things day in and day out. I admire the good they do. They give their time so freely to help others without helping themselves. They are selfless. They are inspiring.

Closer to home though there are 2 inspirational people in my life.



My children.

These two were created through love and they inspire me everyday.

They inspire me to be a better person.

They inspire me to be healthy.

They inspire me to keep fit.

They inspire me to have fun and not take things too seriously.

They inspire me to lead by example.

They inspire me to see the world through new eyes.

They inspire me not to judge.

They inspire me to love.

They inspire me to live life to the full.

This post is for The Gallery. The theme this week is Inspiring People.


Monday, 10 October 2011

Games For Pre-School Children - Red Rover

Wee Z has always enjoyed playing board games and Miss C has recently started to take an interest in them too. However, she is still too young to play a full game of say, snakes and ladders because it doesn't hold her attention for long enough. Other games that Wee Z are too big for her and often have very small pieces in them.

Fisher-Price have a come up with a game suitable for even the youngest of pre-schoolers to play with called Red Rover. He's an electronic red dog who can talk and when we brought him out of the box Wee Z jumped around the room excitedly shouting "it's Red Rover!" How does he know these things?


Red Rover is a memory-matching game and through the use of dog bones with various colours, letters, shapes and numbers, the kids listen to Red Rover call out for a bone and they have to find it and bring it to him within a certain amount of time. If they bring him the right bone, Red Rover congratulates them and they get to keep the bone. However if they bring him the wrong bone, he will encourage them to find the right one before their time runs out. The winner is the person with most bones at the end of the game.


There are 2 game play options - a straight find the colour game and a slightly harder game where Red Rover calls out for a shape or a number or a colour or a letter. It's suitable for ages 3+ however Miss C was able to play with a little help from me and her brother. Each game lasts about 7-8 minutes so it's not too long that Miss C lost interest and the time given to find the bones was quite good for the age the toy is aimed at. The instructions called out by Red Rover are clear however you can press his nose to have him repeat them if you miss one.

Wee Z and Miss C have both enjoyed playing the Red Rover game however Miss C has decided to adopt him as her pet and carries him everywhere with her. Red Rover is compact enough that you can take him on trips with you and all his bones fit into a rucksack on his back to keep him nice and tidy. Red Rover doesn't take long to set up either, a bonus with small (impatient) toddlers.


Here's a video of Wee Z playing the find a colour game. Overall, Red Rover has been a big hit in our household and I think this would make a great Christmas present for children between the ages of 2 and a half up to age 5 or 6.


We have received the game Red Rover from Fisher-Price for purposes of a review. The opinions are my own.




Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Another Year Older

It was my birthday last weekend and it was spent at home with Husband and the kids. I've been feeling kind of not myself recently, tired and just not with it really so I didn't want a big fuss. So long as I had my cake - a Marks & Spencers bad boy - and my family with me, I was happy.

We did make a trip to Mothercare/ELC to start some Christmas shopping and I managed to pick up some bargains. Wee Z did well for himself when Husband bought him a new pair of Nike Air Max trainers and then we found some fancy dress costumes for the kids for the Halloween party at nursery and also for Best Friend's 30th birthday party at the end of the month.

The evening was spent watching Xfactor and eating a takeaway with Husband. Gone are the days where we used to get tarted dressed up and head out to the pub for drinks and then on to a nightclub for dancing! I enjoyed my birthday though, it was a really lovely day and I did get some really lovely presents which is always nice. My Mum spoiled me with Body Shop cocoa body butters which I love and I got a lovely card from Miss Baby K with a beautiful picture of her smiling inside.

Sometimes I do feel older than I actually am. When Husband said to me "that's you in your late twenties now!" I thought, really, is that all? Some days I feel ancient but without the wrinkles. However I can still laugh at Husband as I'm still the right side of 30. Although Wee Z saying "Mummy you're getting really old now" doesn't help!


The Gallery - Colour


I love flowers even if they do make me sneeze. Miss C found this gorgeous looking flower outside our apartment whilst on holiday. The red is so vibrant and summery and I love the little purple tint in the middle. Beautiful.

Unicef are also giving you the opportunity to choose and name your own paint colour for a minimum donation of £1. The £1 will be used to help with the work Unicef do for children all over the world.

This post is for The Gallery. The theme this week is Colour.



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