Christmas crafts review and giveaway

Regular readers of my blog may remember that I made a docrafts Roald Dahl decoupage card a few months ago. With the school Autumn term having only just started, dare I say that I am already starting to think about Christmas, having received a free Sew & So On Christmas decoration kit from docrafts to review.

Festive Decorations Kit

This kit is to make 5 Festive Decorations to hang on the Christmas tree and it includes everything required except a needle and glue. It has step by step photographic instructions. All contents were as specified although one of the fabric pieces for the toadstool stem had a 7mm nick in it, but I think I should be able to stitch this together.

Christmas decoration kit

Kit contents

I started by making one of the heart decorations. It was very simple to sew on the lace trim, but I wasn’t sure whether to sew the ribbon onto the outside or inside of the decoration. I personally would prefer to also have written instructions which hopefully would have helped at this point. I opted to sew the ribbon to the inside, but with hindsight it may have worked better on the outside. Then I sewed the back and front together inside out, turned it out the right way, stuffed it and sewed it closed. However the stitching where I closed it, doesn’t look as good as the rest, so again written instructions may have helped, to pinpoint most discreet place to stitch closed.

heart xmas decoration

Christmas decoration

Overall I am pleased with my spotty heart. It will look nice on the tree. And I’m now making the gingham heart. In summary, a lovely craft kit, but more detailed instructions would be helpful.

This kit is available to purchase from docrafts for £4, which equates to 80p per decoration. A fantastic price for 5 nice little craft projects.

The docrafts website has loads of creative inspiration for crafting projects, plus a wide range of products for sale. It also has a busy crafting forum. Do take a look.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway one of these Christmas kits courtesy of docrafts to two lucky winners.  A lovely prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you can’t see the Rafflecopter box above, either click the Rafflecopter link or you may alternatively enter via my Facebook page. And you may see my other giveaways here.

Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Ravioli with cheesy pesto sauce

Foodies100 have challenges bloggers to create and share an original Italian recipe on their blogs, incorporating Giovanni Rana Italian Indulgence pasta. They sent me a £2.50 voucher to take part.

Giovanni Rana Italian Indulgence pasta

I hadn’t tried Giovanni Rana pasta previously and was spoilt for choice when I saw the range at Sainsburys. I nearly chose the Italian Indulgence Chicken with Rosemary but eventually selected the Simply Italian Chicken & Mozzarella with Smoked Pancetta ravioli.

Usually I serve ravioli with pesto or butter and parmesan, but I decided to give a twist to cheese sauce by adding some pesto. This sauce would compliment any of the Giovanni Rana Simply Italian or Giovanni Rana Italian Indulgence ravioli range.

Ravioli with cheesy pesto sauce

Ravioli with cheesy pesto sauce

Ravioli with cheesy pesto sauce

Ingredients (serves 2 adults and 2 children)

1 250g packet of Giovanni Rana Italian Indulgence or Simply Italian ravioli
50g plain flour
50g margarine
500ml milk
100g cheddar cheese
1 tbsp pesto
Parmesan and pepper

Method

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then turn down to simmer.
Melt the margarine in a jug in the microwave.
Stir in the flour.
Gradually stir in the milk.
Return to the microwave and cook on high power.
Stir at 1 minute intervals until the sauce has thickened.
Grate the cheese and stir into the sauce.
Meanwhile add the ravioli to saucepan and cook gently for 3 minutes.
Return sauce to the microwave and cook on high power for 1 more minute.
Stir the pesto into the sauce.
Drain the pasta.
Pour sauce over pasta.
Sprinkle with parmesan and a grind of pepper.
Serve with garlic bread and your choice of vegetables and enjoy.

We had ours with broccoli, green beans and my homemade mini garlic pizza wraps. Son1 said it was the best meal ever and has demanded that I make it again! High praise indeed. With his increasing appetite, I think it won’t be long before we find that we need more than 1 packet for a meal.

cheesy pesto sauce

Disclosure.  This post is an entry to the Giovanni Rana Indulgence Competition and mentions a product I purchased using a voucher I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Rainbow Braid Loom Band Review

I received a free huge pack of loom bands from Rainbow Braid to review. The packaging says 5,400 pieces. Son1 has recently got into looming, having seen some of his friends doing it. But he didn’t have a loom, so he followed an idea on YouTube using two forks. However with this many loom bands now, I decided that I had better buy him a loom.

Loom Bands
This Rainbow Braid pack is currently on sale at £14.90 on Amazon, reduced from £37.90 with free postage in the UK. Great value in my opinion for so many loom bands. 18 colours in a mixture of solids, glow in the dark and glitters. 300 of each colour. And the pack also includes 250 s-clips. It is sold with a 365 Day 100% Money Back Guarantee. The bands are good quality as none have snapped yet. Also it was really fast delivery, arriving within 2 days. This isn’t mentioned on the packaging, but on Amazon it states that they are independently lab tested and shown to contain no lead or phthalates. Very pleased to hear that as I’m always nagging son1 to take toys and things like this out of his mouth.

So the loom I bought for son1 has 2 outer rows of 11 pegs and the middle row has 10 pegs. I subsequently realised when watching the YouTube instructions for the bracelet that son1 was attempting to make, that it was referring to a loom with 3 rows of 13 pegs. I hadn’t realised that looms came in different sizes, so a classic Mummy fail that didn’t help son1 with his looming project. But I helped him adapt the instructions and after only 2 failed attempts he successfully completed his loom band bracelet.

making a loom band bracelet

I’m hoping that son1 will spare some of the bands for me to make a bracelet. I want to compare the process with the Friendship Bracelets that I make from embroidery threads.

One other point to mention, when I took the bag of bands into a dark room we couldn’t see anything, so not sure how the Glow in The Dark ones work. Perhaps they need body heat? If you know, then leave me a comment. And I’d love to hear what loom band projects you’ve made.

I also read about the Loom to The Moon challenge on Kim’s Northumberland Mam blog, where brave Skye Hall who was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, wanted to set a world record for the longest loom band, long enough to reach the moon. You may read the full story here. When I told son1 who is undergoing chemotherapy himself about the challenge, he was very keen to participate. So his next looming project is to make a long chain.

Sadly Skye died just over a week ago, but everyone can still donate to Blue Skye Thinking and send their loom chains to Skye’s brother Jesse.

Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

What’s in my Suitcase?

The Bloggers’ Lounge are running a competition with European breakdown cover specialists Eurobreakdown.com for bloggers to tell about the items we couldn’t go on a trip without.

I would not be happy if I forgot to pack something I really wanted. So a few years ago I created a holiday check list spreadsheet encompassing packing and pre-holiday action list. It has gradually improved as I use the previous holiday’s packing list as the starting point for the next holiday. Rather than delete anything, I hide the rows that are irrelevant. For instance our most recent holiday was to Norfolk last month. So we didn’t need our passports, winter gloves and scarf or a french phrase book. Likewise, I clear out numbers of items and start afresh filling them in again as you obviously need a lot more for a fortnight away than an overnight trip. Then there is a column per family member and a general column. I colour code the spreadsheet as I pack, so it is easy to see what is still outstanding and I can prioritise other actions, like what needs to be washed or ironed first in order to be packed.

suitcase

A quick peek in my suitcase

suitcase

Son1 sits on the case, to keep it closed whilst I zip it up

So some of the essentials on my packing list besides the obvious clothes are the boys’ favourite cuddly toys for bedtime, son1’s medicines and medical notes, chargers, anti-bacterial surface wipes and ginger biscuits. Why ginger biscuits in particular? Not only are they a tasty snack if you get stuck in a traffic jam, but ginger is renowned for anti-sickness properties and son1 is prone to travel sickness.

And I’ve added a new item to my packing list for the next self-catering holiday. A pair of oven gloves! There weren’t any in the cottage we stayed in and we ended up binning a pizza as it fell on the floor, due to getting burnt whilst trying to get it out of the oven. Not to mention the mess that had to be cleared up.

Disclosure. I’m entering this post to the The Bloggers’ Lounge competition.

The Luck Uglies – book review and giveaway

Son1 was very keen on the idea of reviewing The Luck Uglies but when we received our free copy, I think he was a bit daunted by the length of the book – over 400 pages with only one illustration. Instead he persuaded me to read it to him and his brother. However they both loved listening to me read it.

The Luck Uglies

The Luck Uglies is a fantasy story. Here is the synopsis.

Luck Uglies was a name whispered around the docks and darkest taverns, places the law dare not tread…

Rye has grown up hearing the legend of the Luck Uglies – notorious deadly outlaws who once stalked the streets. Now they have faded to ghosts and rumours and Rye isn’t sure they ever existed. Then on the night of the Black Moon, a mysterious stranger known only as Harmless, steps from the shadows to save Rye’s life and Rye learns that sometimes it takes a villain to save you from the monsters…

The Luck Uglies

Here is a video review of The Luck Uglies by the boys.

The Luck Uglies, written by Paul Durham is currently retailing on Amazon for £5.99 compared to a RRP of £6.99. It is also available as a Kindle edition. It is targetted at children, age 9+ but I think it is probably more suited to slightly older children, as son1 (aged 8) is usually quite happy to read age 9+ books himself. It is published by Harper Collins. A great read although it even took me a couple of chapters to really get into it. However I feel the book would benefit from some more illustrations. It has a map at the beginning but that is the only picture.

Here’s the trailer.

The next book in the series The Luck Uglies The Fork-Tongued Charmers is due to be published next year. Our family are looking forward to it.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a copy of The Luck Uglies to one lucky winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you can’t see the Rafflecopter box above, either click the Rafflecopter link or you may alternatively enter via my Facebook page.

Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

#BlockThatCold Challenge

Some of my regular followers will remember that when I recently ran a giveaway for NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK, I told you that I would be participating in the Spink Back to School “Block that Cold” Mummy Blogger Challenge.

Son2 and I started using our free tube of NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK on Saturday 23rd August, more than a week ahead of the start of term. So after over a week’s usage I thought I’d give you the first report on how the challenge is going. I had woken up that morning with a slight tickle in my throat and I’m pleased to say that hasn’t developed into anything nasty. Both son2 and I are very well, although I still experience the throat tickle from time to time.

The NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK is very easy to apply by rubbing a small drop on the nostrils and upper lip. The packaging suggests reapplying 4-6 times a day but I have to admit that we are only managing 2-4 application each day.

#BlockThatCold

#BlockThatCold

Of course the real test is yet to come, when son 2 goes back to school on Tuesday, a day after son1. So I will update this post at intervals during September on our progress.

And I hope that the NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK has worked for prizewinner Danika. When I notified Danika of her win, she said it was very timely as she had a cold then.

NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK

NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK is an innovative, drug free, clinically proven cold and flu prevention treatment. The clear, non greasy gel is applied to the nostrils and upper lip regularly throughout the day which creates an invisible barrier in which airborne pathogens are snared and immobilised, reducing the likelihood of getting ill. Being drug free, this product is safe for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mums. It can be worn over and under make up.

The current RRP for NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK is £11.99 for a 3g tube of 150 applications and it is stocked at Boots, Superdrug, Alliance Pharmacies and Sainsbury’s.

Update as at 13/09/2014
Son2 and I have now been using the NasalGuard Cold&FluBLOCK for three weeks. And son2 has been back at school for nearly two weeks. I can confidently state neither of us have developed a cold although we’ve been near other people with colds. I have continued to experience a tickly throat sometimes but nothing more than that. And son2 says he feels great. I can’t tell how much is left in the tube, but we haven’t finished it yet.

Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post mentions a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Cheesy Plum Robot Faces

The boys love it when I make their meals look fun. So I thought I’d share a way of jazzing up a slice of cheese on toast into a robot face.

Cheesy Plum Robot Faces

Cheesy Plum Robot Faces

Ingredients (makes 1)

1 slice of bread
butter
4 slices of mild cheddar cheese from a block
3 plums

Method

Preheat grill to a moderate heat.
Cut 1 plum in half lengthways for the eyes.
Cut 1 plum in quarters lengthways for the mouth, (the other 3/4 are spare).
Cut 1 plum in half widthways for the nose, (the other half is spare).
Cook the bread under the grill for a few minutes until the first side is toasted.
Turn over and spread with butter.
Then cover with the slices of cheese.
Put back under the grill for 30 seconds to start to melt the cheese.
Decorate with the pieces of plum.
Return to the grill for a few minutes until cheese is fully melted.
Serve and enjoy.

cheesy plum robot faces

The boys usually eat any spare pieces of plum as part of their pudding afterwards.

Our Norfolk holiday

UKbreakaways have challenged bloggers to share their passion for the UK destination of their choice. I was already planning to tell you about our great holiday in Norfolk. And I’ve also included a couple of my holiday tips as holiday autos have asked bloggers to share their holiday hacks.

Son1 has been remarkably well during the maintenance phase of his chemotherapy, so we felt confident enough to book a holiday in advance rather than leaving it to the last minute. We booked a cottage in Norfolk, an area of the country I have not visited before in memory. Although my mum told me I had been to Cromer aged 3.

We stayed in Snettisham in the north of Norfolk and from there visited nearby places and attractions including Hunstanton, Sandringham, Kings Lynn and Wells-next-the-Sea. Our favourite beach was at Holme, sandy rather than stony. Being more remote, it was quieter than most. We discovered that beach by following a previous guest’s recommendation in the visitor’s book at our cottage. One of my top travel tips is to research your holiday locality by checking out the leaflets at the tourist information and I always read visitors books for ideas.

tourist leaflets

Fun on Holme beach

Fun on Holme beach

We were staying within walking distance of Snettisham Nature Reserve. It was lovely wandering round the lake, seeing the geese and wild plants. Although the anglers and bird watchers may have preferred it without our two loud boys’ presence. And the boys enjoyed having a few early blackberries as we walked.

Snettisham Nature Reserve

Snettisham Nature Reserve

Our favourite attraction in Kings Lynn was Lynn Museum. There was lots to occupy the boys giving us time to properly read about the exhibits. I found it fascinating to find out all about Seahenge there.

Horse ride at Lynn Museum

Horse ride at Lynn Museum

At Wells-next-the-Sea we walked from the town to the beach. And afterwards whilst I walked back, the boys loved riding back on the miniature railway. They also enjoyed eating pancakes on board an old sailing boat, The Albatros which has been converted into a restaurant.

Harbour Railway, Wells-Next-The-Sea

Harbour Railway, Wells-Next-The-Sea

Our cottage was small and cosy, but well equipped with plenty of games and toys to entertain the boys, and lots of books for me. We didn’t know that in advance, so I had followed my other usual travel tip of packing small things like balloons, bubbles, beach balls, colouring for the boys. There was no WiFi at the cottage, so it was great to spend less time online.

The boys had great fun on the beaches, paddling, building sandcastles and collecting shells. And when we got torrential rain, there were indoor play areas, museum, ten pin bowling, swimming pool and arcades.

Son1 was overjoyed to win a toy at kids Bingo at one of the nearby caravan sites.

And it was a delight to see the ducks and chickens wandering round outside from the small-holding behind the cottage. There were even alpacas.

I’ve written a separate blog post on the wonderful lavender farm at Heacham also encompassing Farmer Fred’s Play Barn, a favourite of the boys. I also intend to blog about our lovely day at Sandringham , so watch out for that.

Norfolk fun

Norfolk was wonderful. I certainly want to go again. Where do you love visiting most in the UK?

Disclosure. I’m entering this post to the Ukbreakaways travel competition and to the holiday autos travel hack competition.