Hillsborough, 25 years on…

mumjd:

RIP 96

Originally posted on :

Hillsborough-disaster-25-years-3408821

Today is a date that I am sure hundreds of families will never forget. Today, 15th April 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough football disaster.

Now, I’m not here to get into any sort of debate about enquiries or cover-ups. It’s not about fault or blame. Let’s save all that for tomorrow if we really have to. Today is about being human and remembering other people who once loved and laughed but were tragically taken too soon.

Football is a HUGE part of the Walsh family life. James and my father-in-law are unapologetic Stoke City fans. They see their season tickets more than they see their payslips. They love the atmosphere, the intensity, and the rivalry. That’s what it’s all about – hating that other team, loving a different player every other minute, all those emotions for 90 minutes that are mainly forgotten by the time…

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A holiday in Margate

During February, son1 seemed to be doing quite well with his chemotherapy treatment, so we decided to take a chance and book an Easter holiday in Margate. We can’t get travel insurance, so we knew this was a risk, but it is nice to have something to look forward to. Roll forward 6 weeks to a few days before we are due to go and son1′s temperature spikes to 38 deg. Luckily he wasn’t neutropenic last week, as the temperature threshold for hospitalisation reduces by 0.5 deg to 38 deg in that scenario. And the morning before we were due to go, he was sick, but he bounced back later in the day. He was fighting off some sort of bug, but we had his 3-monthly appointment with the hospital consultant on the morning we were due to travel and she was okay with us going ahead with the holiday.

So we drove down to Margate last Monday in horrendous rain, but at least son1 was feeling better and he remained well for all the holiday. We enjoyed a complimentary cream tea on arrival at our hotel. And the weather improved. A blustery start to Tuesday but no more rain. After getting cold at the Viking play area, we retreated indoors for a game of ten pin bowling. And by the afternoon, the sun came out. One of our newly purchased buckets lasted all of 10 minutes before the handle broke and by Thursday had split entirely.

Our room had a sea-facing balcony and we had fantastic views of the sunset. I wasn’t expecting that with Kent being on the East. What a bonus, especially as the sun remained with us for the rest of the holiday. We even got a little pink from the sun, as we had packed winter coats, not sun hats and sun cream.

Sunset from our hotel balcony

Sunset from our hotel balcony

As well as paddling (no I didn’t venture into the freezing cold water myself) and building sandcastles, the boys had fun at the kiddies beach playzone and we enjoyed playing crazy golf a couple of times. Son1 beat me by one point. We had huge breakfasts at the hotel, so didn’t bother with lunch. Then we found some nice places for either tea or a very early evening meal, as son1 has to take his chemotherapy each evening an hour after eating. Our hotel also had an ice-cream parlour. My favourite flavour was the salted caramel. We gave the Wimpy Bar a miss, but seeing it brought back memories of my Saturday job over 30 years ago, as the branding looked pretty much unchanged. I didn’t even realise that Wimpy Bar still existed.

Wimpy Bar - a blast from the past

Wimpy Bar – a blast from the past

And all too soon we were heading home today, but it was lovely to have a break. And we also visited Broadstairs and Ramsgate, plus a visit to Reculver Roman fort.

Reculver Roman Fort

Reculver Roman Fort

Baker Days Gluten Free Cake review and giveaway

When I saw that Baker Days were looking for gluten free and / or dairy free bloggers to review their cakes, I offered to help out. I don’t have either of these dietary issues myself, but I do sometimes cater for people who have these restrictions to their diets. I have a friend who is coeliac and my brother-in-law has recently commenced on a gluten free and dairy free diet. I also tried one of my son’s on a dairy free diet for several months a couple of years ago.

It was my niece’s 1st birthday this weekend, an excellent event to enjoy cake. And an ideal opportunity to get my brother-in-law’s views on the gluten free cake. I selected a personalised 1st birthday cake from the wide range on the Baker Days website 9 days ahead of the big event. You may include personalisation of up to 25 characters. And for some of the designs you may also upload your own photograph.

However things didn’t go quite to plan, as the cake was delivered by Royal Mail on the day of my niece’s birthday after we had left home to go to her party. I found it waiting on our return. A shame as it means both the birthday girl and my brother-in-law don’t get to taste the cake, since we are not planning another visit to see them, within the lifetime of the cake. The Baker Days website states that the cakes are good for at least 2 – 3 weeks. So instead the review is just our family’s opinions, and none of us are restricted to a gluten-free diet.

It was the letterbox gift cake which I received free to review. This is the smallest size of cake with 3-4 portions, apart from their personalised cupcakes. There are 3 larger sizes of cake, namely small which is 10-12 portions, medium which is 18-25 portions and large which is 40-55 portions. As well as gluten free and dairy free cakes, they also do sponge cake, chocolate chip sponge cake and fruit cake recipes. A wide range to suit everyone.

The cake was well packed in a bag in a snug fitting cake tin, in the outer packaging. It looked beautiful and came with an attractive blank gift card, plus a few balloons and a party blower. There were instructions advising of the best way to lift it out of the cake tin. And it was clearly labelled on the underside of the cake board as being gluten free.

One son is not keen on icing, so didn’t want to try the cake. We therefore shared it between my other son, my husband and me. We all agreed it was delicious. It was a lovely texture and moist and it had jam at the top and base, since it was only one layer due to being height restricted to letterbox size. My husband and I both said that if we hadn’t already known that it was gluten free, we wouldn’t have realised.

The gluten free letterbox gift cake retails at £16.99. A sponge cake would be £2 cheaper, which is in line with gluten free ingredients costing more than wheat flour. It is expensive compared to supermarket cake prices, but as far as I’m aware you can’t purchase a gluten free celebration cake at the supermarket. So well worth its price in my opinion, as otherwise your only option would be to bake and decorate your own gluten free celebration cake.

Take a look at all the fantastic cake designs on the Baker Days website. There are 5 recipes for the cakes – sponge, chocolate, fruit, gluten free and dairy free. They are launching a new I am sorry cake, so it would be great to hear what you are sorry for and which is your favourite cake.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition courtesy of Baker Days to giveaway a letterbox cake of your choice to one lucky person.

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
Alice Megan

 

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

Win with The Watch Hut

The Watch Hut are sponsors of the Best Writer category in the 2014 MAD Blog Awards. And they are running a competition for bloggers to write a post about their favourite watch or accessory on The Watch Hut website upto £100.

The Watch Hut is the UK’s largest online retailer of watches, offering a wide selection of timepieces. I have had a browse around it previously for a Valentine’s Day Blogging Assignment, but chose higher priced watches that time. So back to the drawing board this time.

Whilst browsing I came across Eco-Drive watches. I’m always interested in anything eco. I hadn’t heard of Eco-Drive so I googled it and found out that these watches operate by converting light into energy. No battery needed. I have purchased wind-up watches in the past, but I have a tendency to either forget to wind-up or damage them by over-winding. The idea of Eco-Drive took my fancy.

I decided to choose the Citizen Ladies Eco-Drive 180 Watch EW1270-06A, as my favourite watch. The black leather strap will compliment all my outfits. This watch is currently retailing at £71, 21% off the RRP.

This post is my entry into the The Watch Hut competition.

Sugar and Crumbs review and giveaway – part 3 Coffee Cake

This is my third post in a series of posts reviewing Sugar and Crumbs products which I received free to review. Sugar and Crumbs are an online store who sell a range of natural flavoured icing sugar and cocoa powder. I received the following products in a handy reusable shopping bag along with a fridge magnet.
Salted Caramel Icing Sugar
Coffee Icing Sugar
Key Lime Icing Sugar
Chocolate Lime Cocoa Powder

With just the Coffee Icing Sugar left to review I decided to make a Coffee Cake. I did contemplate making a more traditional Coffee and Walnut cake, but my boys aren’t keen on nuts. But one thing to point out is that none of the Sugar and Crumbs products are suitable for anyone with nut allergies, due to the manufacturing process.

Previously I posted a review of Sugar and Crumbs Salted Caramel Icing with my Carrot Muffins recipe. I followed this up by baking a Chocolate Lime Cake to review  the Chocolate Lime Cocoa Powder and the Key Lime Icing Sugar.

Coffee Cake

Ingredients

225g margarine
225g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
4 level tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degree C / 160 fan / Gas mark 4.
Grease and line a pair of 20cm diameter cake tins.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar.
Beat in the eggs.
Fold in the flour and baking powder.
Dissolve the coffee and stir in well until thoroughly blended.
Spoon into the tins.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack.
Allow to cool completely before icing.

Coffee Buttercream Icing

Ingredients

125g Sugar and Crumbs coffee icing sugar
63g butter

Method

Ensure the butter is softened first.
Beat the butter and icing sugar together, either by hand or using an electric mixer.
Spread half the icing on bottom layer of cake.
Sandwich the top layer on.
Spread remaining icing on top of the cake.
Serve and enjoy.

Coffee cake has always been one of my favourites and this one lived up to my expectations. Absolutely delicious and all the family agreed too.

The icing sugar costs £2.99 for 250g or £4.99 for 500g so it is significantly more expensive than standard icing sugar at the supermarket, which is currently about £1 for 500g. I leave it to you the reader to decide if these products are right for you? For me personally, I would buy them to use when baking a special treat.

So do take a look at the Sugar and Crumbs website to see all their other flavours of icing sugar and cocoa powder. They have an interesting range, which are all naturally flavoured. Which is your favourite? They sell cake toppers, sugarpaste and sprinkles too and have some bundle special offers. They have recently introduced a Hot Cross Bunny flavour and are also planning to launch some more new flavours after Easter.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition courtesy of Sugar And Crumbs to giveaway £10 worth of their products of the winner’s choice to one lucky person.

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.

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

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Travelling with young children – House Swapping

Mark Warner are challenging bloggers to share their experiences of travelling with their little ones for the first time or any precious family holiday memories. This challenge is in association with Kiddicare.

This is an ideal opportunity for me to blog about house swapping which I’ve been meaning to post for ages.

House swapping is ideal for families with young children, as you can choose to swap with a family with similar age children. This means that all the equipment that you need like cot, highchair, etc will be there. Plus loads of toys. Also you can make personal arrangements with the family you are swapping with regarding linen etc. And you can organise an online grocery shop. So you don’t have to try to squeeze all this stuff into your car. And you’re going to have loads of space at your destination – not cramped in one hotel room.

Without extra luggage squashed around everyone in the car, makes for a much more comfortable journey to your holiday destination. But another top tip is to stop frequently enroute. We always stop about every 90 minutes to prevent my eldest son from getting travel sick.

Other benefits of house swapping are that you have no accommodation costs, so budget friendly. And your own home should be more secure as it is occupied whilst you are away. But you must let your insurer know.

We did a couple of house swaps in 2012 to Scotland and Lincolnshire whilst my husband was out of work and we thoroughly loved both these holidays. We also had another planned in 2013 but sadly we had to cancel, as it was scheduled only 3 weeks after my eldest son was diagnosed with leukaemia.

We have some lovely family memories of our house swap holidays. One memory is of my youngest son deciding to explore the water feature outside the Scottish Parliament. He got thoroughly soaked and I dread to think how dirty that water was.  And he had to dry out in the sun, as we were nearly an hour’s journey from our accommodation.

Son2 outside the Scottish Parliament

Son2 outside the Scottish Parliament

So if you are interested in the idea of house swapping, register online on a house swapping site. There are a number of these. We did it through the NCT, as we were already members. Then take some photos of your home and upload these to your page along with a description of your home and local attractions. Put together an information pack including instructions booklets for your appliances, local fliers etc.

Browse the house swap site to find a few families that you might be interested in swapping with. Then send a message to the first one on your list, specifying the dates you are hoping to swap. Bear in mind that Scotland has an earlier school summer holiday than the rest of the country. Also there may be geographical variations in half-term dates.

Or if a potential swapper contacts you, do them the courtesy of replying within say 7 days with a definite yes or no.

Once you’ve got a house swap arranged, then flesh out the finer details. Arrangements for swapping the door keys. Send a map and directions. Do you want to lock away your best china? Care of pets or plants? Leave a spare key with someone nearby that you trust.

Then just beforehand, do a good spring clean of your home. This is extremely important for hygiene reasons. Remember to empty stuff out of the fridge. Make space in the wardrobes, freezer, etc.

At the end of the holiday, leave their house as you found it. If anything got broken, then replace it. Accidents do happen with young children around. Replace anything you used like teabags and coffee. If you swapped towels and bed linen then please put a wash on before you leave.

Mecca’s Mother’s Day Memories

I came across a blogging competition sponsored by Mecca Bingo via Michaela. Mecca Bingo have challenged bloggers to create a collage of family memories. This can be from past Mother’s Days, memories, days out with the family or special days to you. Anything you like.

This sounded like fun and I have loads of photos of our family memories, but I’m almost always behind the camera. Being a mum is important to me, just as my mum is special to me too. So in the end I’ve decided to just feature four special memories in my collage.

The first photo is of my eldest son as a baby and me. This was taken on my first Mother’s Day as a new mum, complete with my Mother’s Day flowers on the mantelpiece and balloon.

The middle photo was taken on holiday in Spain in 2011, also of my eldest son and me. This was the last time we went somewhere hot on holiday. My husband was out of work for over a year after that, so we couldn’t afford an expensive holiday, but we did have some enjoyable house swaps in the UK in 2012. And then my son was diagnosed with leukaemia in May last year. He isn’t allowed to fly until after his chemotherapy treatment finishes in 2016, so hot foreign holidays are just a memory at present.

The bottom photo was taken when my son was well enough to come home from hospital. It is a treasured memory as it is the first time he was well enough to have some fun on our trampoline, which we had only assembled on the day he first started complaining of pains, 3 weeks before his diagnosis. He wasn’t mobile enough to try jumping, as he had to be carried onto the trampoline, but he is now happily bouncing around again.

And the big photo is a memory that I am a very proud mummy of. My son with his Little Star Award and certificate last December. Plus a certificate for his younger brother, who was also impacted by his brother’s illness, missing his mummy, being looked after by friends and family whilst we were at the hospital. Little Star Awards are to celebrate the courage of children in the UK who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Mu Cheese review and meals

I received the following selection of Mu Cheese products free to review.
Mu Medium Cheddar
Mu Grated Cheddar
Mu Cheddar Sticks
Mu Cheddar Patz

Mu Cheese is made from 100% Cheddar. Now we are a cheese loving family, so looking forward to trying these.

First up the block of medium Mu Cheddar. It sliced well without crumbling and I made some cheese on toast which we all enjoyed. I also gave the boys a raw slice each which they gave the thumbs up. I normally buy mild cheddar so it was good to find out that this medium cheddar wasn’t too strong for the boys.

Then onto the Cheddar Patz the next day. First I gave the boys a raw Patz each, but neither was keen. What was going on? They had been quite happy eating a slice off the block. When I tasted it, I found it was stronger than the block, even though both are branded as medium. Fine for me, but too strong for the kids palates. I tried again by offering son1 a Patz on a cracker, but he still didn’t care for it.

We had the same issue with the Mu Sticks. Fine for me, but too strong for the kids. This is a shame as they are targetted at kids. We weren’t sent one to review, but Mu Cheese do have a block of mild Cheddar in their range. In my opinion, they should consider selling mild Mu Sticks.

Next the grated Cheddar. I do buy grated cheese to keep in the freezer, as an emergency standby, but normally I’m quite happy to grate cheese off the block. It only takes minutes and is more cost-effective than purchasing ready grated. So for this, I decided to use some in a pasta meal.

Ham pesto pasta

Ingredients (serves 2 adults and 2 children)

250g fusilli pasta (75g per adult and 50g per child)
1 medium onion
4 slices smoked ham (medium thickness, use extra slices if wafer thin)
100g frozen sweetcorn
50g pesto
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
30g grated Mu Cheddar

Method

Tear the ham into pieces.
Chop the onion.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
Add a tablespoonful of olive oil to the pan.
Add the pasta to this pan of boiling water and cook for 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoonful of olive oil in a wok and add the onion.
After 2 minutes, add the sweetcorn and ham and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and add to wok.
Stir in the pesto.
Sprinkle with grated Mu Cheddar.
Serve and enjoy.

Ham pesto pasta

Ham pesto pasta

The next day, back to the Patz, but this time cooked. I made some pizzas on wraps, which is a favourite of my kids and yes they loved them with the Patz. I did notice though that this time, it was much harder to separate the Patz individually than a couple of days ago, even though they had put straight in a tupperware after opening the pack. They stuck together and tore when trying to gently ease apart with a knife. But when the pack was first opened, I had no trouble separating them at all.

Ham and Chorizo Pizza Wrap

Ingredients (serves 1 – 2 children)

1 wrap
50g tomato purée
1 thin slice of ham
1-2 slices of chorizo
6 – 8 Mu Cheese Patz

Method

Tear the ham and chorizo into pieces.
Spread tomato purée on the wrap.
Add ham and chorizo.
Top with Mu Cheese Patz.
Cook under a moderate heat grill for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
Serve and enjoy.

Fish Pizza Wrap

Ingredients (serves 1 – 2)

1 wrap
150g tin of pilchards or sardines in tomato sauce
6 – 8 Mu Cheese Patz

Method

Cut the fish in half lengthways and remove the bones.
Spread tomato sauce and fish on the wrap.
Top with Mu Cheese Patz.
Cook under a moderate heat grill for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
Serve and enjoy.

And as we still had some of the block of Mu Cheddar and some of the Mu Grated Cheddar left, I used the block up in sandwiches and toasties, namely cheese and pickle sandwich, cheese and humous sandwich, cheese and tomato toastie and cheese and mushroom toastie. Everyone had their own choice and we enjoyed these. The Mu Grated Cheddar was finished in a couple of batches of cheesy scrambled egg on toast. What a lot of meals we enjoyed.

Mu Cheese retails at Tesco. The RRP is currently as follows.
Mu Medium Cheddar (310g) £2
Mu Grated Cheddar (150g)  £1.49
Mu Cheddar Sticks (4 pack) £1.25
Mu Cheddar Patz (16 in a pack) £1.30

These prices sound good value in my opinion and I believe they are fairly consistent prices with other brands of Cheddar.

You can also find some kids activities on the Mu Cheese website.

Family Fever

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

Craft project – make your own peg bag

Hillarys Blinds have challenged bloggers to create something from a 1m sample of one of their Country Retreat fabrics.

My first thought was to make an apron for one of the boys, but none of the fabric designs would have been to their taste. So instead I decided I would make a peg bag for which I chose the Calluna Amethyst design. I used to have a peg bag, but I lost it a few years ago when we moved house.

Here’s how I went about it, basing it on my memory of how my old peg bag looked. First I took one of the kids coat hangers. I then made 3 templates on card, for the back, the front top and front bottom. For the back and front top, I drew round the hanger and then measured down 20cm and 5cm respectively from the bottom of the hanger. And for the front bottom, I drew a rectangular template the same width as the other 2 templates, and height 20cm. I then cut out my templates.

The next stage was to cut out my pieces of material. I laid the templates on the reverse of the fabric and drew round them with marking chalk, leaving at least 2cm all around for sewing the seams. I then cut out the pieces, 2cm outside the line I had drawn. I also left a gap in my marking at the centre of the top sufficiently wide enough for the hanger to pass through, on both the back and front top pieces.

After pressing the 3 pieces, I folded a hem over to the reverse of the fabric at both the base of the front top and top of the front bottom and pressed these hems before pinning them. I don’t possess a sewing machine, so I carefully back-stitched these hems, ensuring that my stitching looked even from the front.

The next stage was to sew the 3 pieces together. I laid the back out, reverse side up. Then I laid the front bottom onto it, reverse side down, pinning the 2 together. Lastly I laid out the front top, also reverse side down, ensuring it overlapped the front bottom evenly before pinning again. Then starting from the gap for the hanger, I back-stitched along the marked line, until I reached the opposite end of the gap.

I then pressed the finished item, turned it the right way out and pressed it again. Finally I put the hanger inside the bag and pushed the hook up through the gap. The hanger fitted nice and snuggly, so no chance of falling down into the bag.

My finished peg bag

My finished peg bag

This is the first craft project I’ve done in ages. I really enjoyed getting crafty again and I’ve still got half the fabric left to make something else.

Disclosure. This is my entry to the Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition. I received a free sample of fabric to create my entry.

TV Moments

Tots100 have challenged bloggers to tell what sort of TV Viewer they are – and what their perfect TV moment looks like.

To start the ball rolling, I took the TV Tribes Quiz created by TalkTalk, which revealed that I am an Elitist when it comes to TV viewing. This is what it says about an Elitist TV viewer…

I don’t watch TV for the sake of it, and never just have the television on in the background, but I love documentaries and learning new things by watching TV. I only watch an hour or two of television a day and can’t stand reality TV and soaps. I like using catch up to record my programmes so I don’t need to watch the rest. I would not describe myself as a television watcher, even though I do get something out of watching TV.

Well some of this is correct but I’m not particularly interested in documentaries and I’m not even sure that we have “catch up” functionality apart from iPlayer.

12% of people belong to the Elitist TV Tribe. Why don’t you try out the TV Tribes Quiz too? There are eight TV tribes ranging ‘Family Guys’ who enjoy nothing more than bringing the family together to watch their favourite programmes to ‘Secret Viewers’ who tell everyone they watch the likes of Newsnight but secretly revel in trash TV.

However at home I’m usually in bottom place to choose what to watch. The only time I usually get hold of the remote control is if I pop some daytime TV on whilst ironing. In the evenings I sit on my laptop whilst my husband flicks through tv channels. Or sometimes he might catch up with something on iPlayer. So if I do particularly want to see something, I make sure I ask in advance.

But luckily I’m happy with my family’s tv choices. So our favourite family TV moment is to all share the settee and watch a Star Wars film. If it is winter, we will also snuggle under a duvet. I usually make some popcorn first.  The boys love listening to it popping.

The boys are Star Wars mad. All their role play revolves around Star Wars. They love drawing Star Wars scenes and playing Star Wars Angry Birds apps on their Ipods. So they are very happy to watch a Star Wars movie. They also have Star Wars cartoons dvds as well as the films.

This is my entry to the Tots100 TV Moments blogging competition.