“Train for the Tracks” this February half term at The National Railway Museum in York

16 Feb

Readers of my blog will know that we are loyal visitors to the National Railway Museum in York. We visit nearly every half term and each time there is something different to entertain all the family.

Entry to the museum is free. As you enter you are asked for a volutary contribution to help maintain the museum.

This half term (from 15 Feb 2014 – 23 Feb 2014) your little ones get the chance to “Train for the tracks” and learn about the many jobs in the railway industry.

The many special events that you can take part are detailed here on the NRM website…and coming up, is what we got up to when we visited on the 15th.

We travelled by train to York. The NRM is really close to the rear entrance of the railway station.

We travelled by train to York. The NRM is really close to the rear entrance of the railway station.

Evie really enjoyed watching the films about the railways on this visit.

Evie really enjoyed watching the films about the railways on this visit.

Isaac kept changing the film she was watching.

Isaac kept changing the film she was watching.

Isaac played nicely with the Chuggington trains

Isaac played nicely with the Chuggington trains

"What do you mean I have to go look at the Duchess of Hamilton now?"

“What do you mean I have to go look at the Duchess of Hamilton now?”

Small boy, big train.

Small boy, big train.

The kids got to make their own train line

The kids got to make their own train line

Add the blocks to the sleepers

Add the blocks to the sleepers

Causing havoc with the lines

Causing havoc with the lines

Fingerprinting with the British Transport Police

Fingerprinting with the British Transport Police

Big concentration to get every finger print a different colour

Big concentration to get every finger print a different colour

The face is because there were no ladies hats! "I don't want to be a police MAN!!"

The face is because there were no ladies hats! “I don’t want to be a police MAN!!”

After doing some platform announcing she became camera shy

After doing some platform announcing she became camera shy

All the usual exhibits are on display, as well as some new engines taking pride of place.

All the usual exhibits are on display, as well as some new engines taking pride of place.

Experience the huge size of the engines

Experience the huge size of the engines

Watch the huge turntable in action

Watch the huge turntable in action

Evie loves the train carriages, especially the royal carriages, although this time the mail train held a fascination too.

Evie loves the train carriages, especially the royal carriages, although this time the mail train held a fascination too.

After the museum we took the short walk into town. Just look at the river!!!

After the museum we took the short walk into town. Just look at the river!!!

We were invited as bloggers to come to the museum on the 15th of February. The words, pictures and opinions are entirely my own.

Healthy Heart Chicken and Leek Casserole for Valentine’s Day with Waitrose

13 Feb

Over the last few years, my household has changed! We have now got two children to share our love with and my husband has changed his eating habits drammatically to lose 6 stone in the last year!

Of course, this means that Valentines Day has changed for us too!

Waitrose contacted me and asked if I would like to road test one of their “Healthy Heart” recipes. They have created a Healthy Heart Valentine’s Day hub on the Waitrose website that explains which foods are good for your heart health (and why) and suggests some ways to serve these up. I jumped at the chance.

I searched through their recipes and decided that I would take inspiration from their “LOVE life Healthy chicken casserole” as this was a family meal we could all enjoy and it fit in with my husband’s healthy eating.

I don’t usually shop at Waitrose as it is not my local supermarket, but it was well worth the 12 mile journey as the supermarket had a great selection of top quality products and I enjoyed having a wander around, looking at the slightly different brands to the ones I am used to.

Ingredients from Waitrose for a Healthy Heart

Ingredients from Waitrose for a Healthy Heart

A few bargains, the carrots are included in the recipe.

A few bargains, the carrots are included in the recipe.

I decided to add a few more vegetables to the recipe as my children will eat vegetables much better if they are cooked in the sauce of the casserole or stew and used some store cupboard ingredients too. I included some small Chantenay carrots that I found on the reduced shelf as I’m sure you know I love a bargain!!

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

Here is my recipe for Healthy Chicken and Leek Casserole which generously fed my family of two adults and two children.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

6 Waitrose Skinless and Boneless Chicken Thighs

2 leeks, sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced or about 15 small chantenay carrots, trimmed and halved if large

1 stick of celery, diced

1 tin of Epicure mixed beans, drained

1 chicken stock cube

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

Veggies prepped

Veggies prepped

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a casserole dish you can use on the hob or a pan with a lid. Brown the chicken on all sides on a medium heat. Remove the chicken to a plate.

    Soften the veggies

    Soften the veggies

  2. Add the vegetables and soften for 5 – 10 minutes over a medium heat. Add the beans then cover with water before adding the stock cube and thyme and returning the chicken to the pan.

    Return the chicken to the pan

    Return the chicken to the pan

  3. Cover with the lid and cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Serve with new potatoes and green beans if desired.
Healthy Chicken and Leek Casserole with New Potatoes and Green Beans
Healthy Chicken and Leek Casserole with New Potatoes and Green Beans

I also picked up a little treat for us for when the kids are in bed on Valentines Day!

A treat for Mummy!

A treat for Mummy!

Waitrose asked me to roadtest a recipe from their website and sent me a voucher to buy the ingredients. The words, opinions and picures and the recipe I have posted are all my own.

2013 in review

29 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hotel Chocolat: Jingles and Mingles

17 Dec

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A chance to test out some Hotel Chocolat chocolates??? Yes please!!!

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So this huge bag of chocolates arrived, absolutely full to bursting with beautiful milk chocolate angels, white chocolate bells and dark chocolate penguins.

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Tough job, but someone has to do it. Haha!

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What a gorgeous gift to receive. Who wouldn’t love this big bag of goodies?

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Sometimes, when I see beautiful chocolates like this, I think, “Well, they look lovely, but they would be gone in two minutes in my house!” With this bag I really didn’t feel this way. It was absolutely choc full (nice pun) of angels, bells and penguins.

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The chocolates are special enough for an adults gift, yet robust enough for kids too. It could be split up and shared between a family. You could attach strings to them and hang them on the Christmas tree. Whatever you do with them, you won’t be disappointed with this much chocolate!!!

You can buy this product by visiting the Hotel Chocolat website.

I was sent the chocolates from Hotel Chocolat to review. The words, pictures and opinions are all my own.

Renshaw’s Christmas Baking Competition

11 Dec

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Renshaw challenged me to make a baked Christmas gift with their traditional Christmas pack which included marzipan, white icing, poppy red icing, lincoln green icing and black icing.

Renshaw Christmas icing pack in traditional colours

Renshaw Christmas icing pack in traditional colours

I couldn’t decide what to do. Cake decoration is not my forte although I have had a go lately at a few different decorated cakes. After spending the day on Saturday with members of the Clandestine Cake Club in Liverpool at an event hosted by Renshaws, I was inspired to have a go at icing some cakes.

I decided to make some mini iced cakes that would be great as a stocking filler for friends and family and a lovely novelty gift.

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I started by making my “go to” recipe for a fruit cake which I have used this year for Christmas cakes, my wedding cake and other cakes in between.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

1kg dried fruit of your choice (I used 2 bags of value mixed dried fruit and peel)

200ml hot tea

225g soft butter or margarine

225g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

225g plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

Method:

  1. The day before you want to make the cake, soak the fruit in the tea overnight.
  2. Beat the butter and the sugar together in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon or in a cake mixer with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add the eggs one by one with beating and then add the flour and spices and stir until just combined.
  4. Add the soaked fruit and tea mixture and stir well.
  5. Pour into a lined square 20cm cake tin and bake in a preheated oven for 1 and a half hours at 140fan/160C then lower oven temperature by 20 degrees and bake for another one and a half hours.
  6. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before removing from the tin and then wrapping in greaseproof paper and tinfoil until you are ready to use it.

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For my gifts I used a quarter of the cake. I cut the quarter into four and then each piece into two horizontally.

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I made 8 tiny cake boards, 3 inches each, from cardboard covered in tinfoil, stuck in place with a bit of tape.

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I rolled the marzipan to a 3-4mm thickness and cut it so that it would cover each small piece of cake. I stuck the marzipan to the cake with a small amount of boiled marmalade.

Each cake was then covered in rolled out icing, stuck to the marzipan with cooled, boiled water painted onto the marzipan with a paintbrush.

The toppers were inspired by the cake demonstration by Claire from Renshaws on Saturday.

I made the christmas tree by making a cone shape of green icing and then snipping little snips with pointy scissors to make the branches of the trees. The santa hat was a cone of red with a rolled piece of white stuck on with water around the base and a pompom. The stars were cut out with a cutter. Mr Snowman was made from 2 small balls of icing and a green hat and scarf. The candy canes were made by twisting a sausage of white with a sausage of red and then rolling very thin before shaping into a cane shape. I mixed together some leftover green and red to make brown before rolling it thinly and cutting out a small gingerbread man.

I put the cakes together as shown in the picture. They are a bit wonky and a bit covered in icing sugar, but I quite like that as they are homemade gifts, after all!

Christmas tree and red star

Christmas tree and red star

Simple candy cane

Simple candy cane

Santa's hat

Santa’s hat

Red star, green icing

Red star, green icing

Gingerbread man, candy cane, star

Gingerbread man, candy cane, star

Gingerbread man

Gingerbread man

Snowman

Snowman

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

Renshaw sent the icing to me for free and asked me to enter the competition to make a Christmas gift. The ideas, words and pictures are all my own unless stated as otherwise.

Degustabox

7 Dec
The contents of the Degustabox December 2013

The contents of the Degustabox December 2013

I was really excited by the concept of Degustabox and couldn’t wait to receive my first delivery.

Degustabox is a brilliant box delivery scheme, where you receive a box of foodie goodies each month for just £9.99 plus postage. Each box contains 17 items which have a value guaranteed to be more than the box price you pay.

December is the launch of Degustabox in the UK. It is already established in Europe.

I was pleased with the contents and genuinely thought it was good value for money.

I have taken part in foodie swaps before, where the participants spend £10 on foodie gifts, then post to their partner and have received fabulous things like homemade cookies and homemade vanila extract and dreadful things like a tin of tuna! Degustabox is a similar thing really, as for the same price, you get a box full of goodies that, for this month definitely, are really great and really great value, and no surprise element!!

The box comes with a card explaining the contents of the box and on the reverse are some examples of recipes to use some of the items found with the Degustabox.IMG_2731

So…here is what was in the box! It was a high quality and varied mixture that I have had fun trying out already.

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I tried out one of the suggested recipes using the Oxo Shake and Flavour. My abridged version of the recipe is here:

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Cut 5-6 medium potatoes into wedges. Put into a bowl with about 2 tablespoons of semolina, 2 teaspoons of the Oxo Garlic and Herb Shake and Flavour, and 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil. Mix well. Spread onto a baking tray and bake at 200C for 30-40 minutes until they are cooked through, browned and crisp. Serve hot.

Santa’s Steam Adventure at the National Railway Museum 2013

4 Dec

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On Saturday we set off to the National Railway Museum in York. We had heard that Santa had got so many letters to post that he needed some help. We were the family for the job!

The North Yorkshire Pole

The North Yorkshire Pole

There are too many letters for Santa to cope with...can you help?

There are too many letters for Santa to cope with…can you help?

Santa’s depot at the “North Yorkshire Pole” was full of letters and the Elves just couldn’t cope. The children were put to good use.

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As a thank you for helping, we were allowed to have a ride on Santa’s mail train.

Teddy the train was waiting for us

Teddy the train was waiting for us

The storytellers set the scene.

The storytellers setting the scene

The storytellers setting the scene

Enthralled by the story

Enthralled by the story

And have a guess who appeared!

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First person with a present from Santa

First person with a present from Santa

Santa’s steam adventure is a fantastic way to see the big man. Of course you get to see the whole of the railway museum as well which is free to enter anyway, but there is no queueing, no waiting and a whole scenario and adventure before Santa appears and the children get a present.

We all loved it and the wonder on the children’s faces was brilliant. We have been for three years now to see Santa on the Steam Adventure, and every year there is a new story and as my daughter gets older the excitement grows and grows.

Tickets in 2013 cost from £11.50 for children and £7.50 for adults. Included in the price are refreshments in the station hall restaurant, the experience on the Santa Steam Adventure and presents for the children.

To find out more about Santa’s Steam Adventure you can visit the National Railway Museum’s website.

This year we were invited to experience “Santa’s Steam Adventure” for free, but the words, pictures and opinions are my own.

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