Category Archives: family

Free From Fellows sweets review and giveaway

For the last few years, I have become more aware of how bad sugar can be for us. It is known to be one of the worst foods for a variety of common diseases like arthritis, cancer and autism. I enjoy sweet treats far too much to eliminate them, but I do try my best now to reduce my sugar intake. I’m now buying less refined sugar and opting to purchase the likes of date sugar or coconut sugar instead. I’ve made a few little changes like always having fruit with my porridge instead of sugar and sometimes opting for something like a cheese scone or slice of fruit bread rather than cake.

Now although I feel like I personally am gradually winning the battle against sugar, it is a different story when it comes to my youngest son. He is such a fussy eater and so skinny compared to his brother, but he does have a sweet tooth. So we do have sweet treats in the store cupboard for him to help himself to, as I don’t aways have time to bake and sometimes he rejects my lower sugar baking anyhow. And one thing he has always been partial to is the likes of Haribo.

Free From Fellows sweets

So I was delighted when Free From Fellows contacted me, asking if I would like to review their sweet range. They sent me 9 free packs of their sweets along with a Utopia preserving jar. I used this to make a very retro look sweets jar. It looked just like a mini version of what I fondly remember being stocked at the sweet shop when I was a child. I particularly have fond memories of counting out chocolate mice from such a jar.

Free From Fellows sweets

The range includes the following six varieties.
Gummy Bears
Cola Bottles
Midget Gems
Rhubarb & Custard
Pear Drops
Lollipops (packet contains cola and strawberry flavours)

Their sweets are sugar free, gelatine free, gluten free and have no artificial colours or flavours. They are also suitable for vegans which is great as so often gummy sweets can contain pork gelatine. Apart from the lollipops packet which was 60g or 5 lollys, the other packets were all 70g each. All the packets were very long-dated to 2020.

However when I looked at the packets, I found they did contain other sweeteners instead of sugar. The 3 gummy varieties contain maltitol syrup and steviol glycosides whilst the lollipops contain isomalt and steviol glycosides, and the other 2 hard sweet varieties contain isomalt and sucralose. This reminded me that I had planned to do some research into sugar substitutes a while ago, but this is still outstanding.

Free From Fellows sweets

With all the choice of sweets in the jar, the boys took their time choosing which variety to try first. But once they had tried them all, everything got the thumbs up. And I have to say I’m struggling to decide whether cola bottles or rhubarb & custard is my favourite.

Free From Fellows sweets

Free From Fellows are stocked both in-store and online at Sainsburys, Morrisons, Ocado and Boots plus many smaller health food stores. I was just browsing in a small independent store called Honest To Goodness last week whilst on holiday and spotted all the varieties on the shelf there.

However one thing that was a shame was the packaging. Not only was it plastic packets, but the pear drops, rhubarb & custard and lollipops were all individually packed in plastic again inside the outer plastic packet, so an unnecessary double layer of plastic. How about considering compostable packets like a few brands are starting to move towards? Or since they were keen for me to use a jar, how about selling them in jars in the first place?

Free From Fellows sweets

One word of caution though. However tasty they are, don’t eat too many at one time. There is a little word of warning on the back of the packet that if eaten in large quantities, the sweets can occasionally give some an upset tummy.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway 12 packs of sweets from Free From Fellows to one lucky winner. That will be 2 packs of each variety. What a sweet treat of a prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your favourite reduced sugar treats. Or perhaps you have an idea to share for an addition to the Free From Fellows range?

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

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STEM Box review and giveaway

It has been a while since we last reviewed a Weekend Box. The boys have had great fun doing the activities from these in the past, but they have now got a bit old for them. However I recently found out that Weekend Box have extended their range to include a STEM box for older children. For those of you don’t know what STEM stands for, it is science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The STEM box sounded right up my boys’ street, as son1 already participates in the YES programme via school. All these acronyms – YES stands for Young Engineers and Scientists. So we were delighted to receive a free STEM Box to review.

STEM box

Son2 was the lucky one who got to put this box to the test.

STEM box

So the first part of the fun is opening the box to find out what exciting activities lie within.

STEM box

Son2 was quick to check out the booklet. He immediately decided that of the three main activities, he wanted to start by making a rocket. Most of the necessary equipment was included in the STEM box, but we would have to provide a plastic bottle. Oh no, there’s a word we didn’t wish to see – plastic! It was son2 who got us started on our journey towards a plastic free future in the first place. I haven’t bought any drinks in plastic bottles at all this year. However I had a rummage in the kitchen cupboard and found a suitable apple drink hiding at the back.

STEM box

So son2 did all the crafting to make his rocket indoors before we headed out into the garden for the scientific action. Add warm water and the effervescent tablets, pop the lid on, give the bottle a shake and put upside down in a mug. Then wait for the rocket to launch.

STEM box

We didn’t manage to capture a photo of the rocket launching.

The other two main activities in our STEM box are making a kite and pinwheels, as this box is on the topic of things that fly. Son2 plans to do those next weekend. Plus the booklet is also packed with plenty of bonus activities on the same theme. There are facts, jokes, puzzles and instructions for making two types of paper planes along with an experiment evaluation table and a “touch down” certificate. And there is even a door hanger to colour on the inside of the box. So lots more fun to be had.

When I had a browse round the Weekend Box website, I was pleased to see that everything contained in a box is either reusable or recyclable and that 95% of each box contents comes from recycled material. So if they are so committed to the environment and sustainability, why ask us to provide a single-use plastic bottle? Could something else have been used to make the rocket instead perhaps?

The STEM Box is a new addition to the Weekend Box range, targeted at older children from age 7-12. It currently retails at £8.95 including free delivery, the same price as a Weekend Box. It is sent out monthly and the one difference is that there are 3 activities, rather than 4. Well worth the price in my opinion for all the educational fun.

We have reviewed the Kids Weekend Activity Box a few times previously. You can see the fun we had before, on the following posts, along with an introduction to the principles of Weekend Box.
A mask and a rainforest
Chinese New Year activities
Cooking Potato Boats and making 3D glasses.
Sand Art and making a bird feeder.

If readers of my blog would like to try out any type of Weekend Box, I have an ongoing unique promo code for you to get your first box for free (including free delivery).

The unique promo code is CLAIRE43 and can be redeemed at www.weekendboxclub.com. If you have any difficulties with the code, try signing up with this direct link www.weekendboxclub.com/main/signup?promocode=CLAIRE43

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a 6 month subscription of STEM Box to one lucky winner. What a fun prize.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear what STEM or crafting activities you enjoy.

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

A duo of vegetarian TVP recipes plus giveaway

Regular readers may remember that I made some delicious healthy chocolate puddings earlier this year using ingredients I received free to review from Buy Whole Foods Online. I have now received some more products free to review from their online shop. This time I received two types of TVP (textured vegetable protein) in the formats of mince and chunks.

TVP (textured Vegetable Protein) or soya

This year I’ve been thinking a lot more about sustainability and one thing I’ve been focussing on, is can our family eat less meat and dairy? As an ex-vegetarian, I’ve easily implemented returning to a vegetarian diet at lunchtimes, either at home alone or in our excellent work canteen. However it isn’t so easy when catering for the whole family. My other half is very resistant to the idea plus we’re also restricted by my youngest son being very fussy about what he will and won’t eat.

I therefore decided to take two of son2’s favourite meals, namely spaghetti bolognaise and chicken nuggets and use the TVP to cook vegetarian equivalents. Last year we successfully swapped using shop-bought jars of bolognaise sauce for passata in an attempt to reduce sugar. What would he think this time?

So firstly here is my recipe for the Bolognaise.

Vegetarian Bolognaise

Vegetarian Bolognaise

Ingredients (serves 4)

100g dried TVP mince
boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
500g passata
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
250g wholewheat spaghetti

Method

Place the dried TVP in a large bowl.
Crumble the stock cube into a jug.
Pour on the boiling water and stir until dissolved.
Pour sufficient stock over the TVP to cover it.
(Any spare stock can be stored in the fridge once cool for a few days for use in another recipe).
Leave to stand for about 20 minutes for the TVP to absorb liquid.
Once the TVP is ready to use, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
Meanwhile peel garlic and squeeze through garlic press.
Add spaghetti to the saucepan and cook for about 11-13 minutes.
Gently heat oil in a wok.
Add garlic to wok and cook for about 1 minute.
Stir in the TVP.
Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
Stir in the passata and cook for about 8-10 minutes.
Drain the spaghetti and serve topped with the bolognaise.
Enjoy.

Vegetarian Bolognaise


And secondly the nuggets.

Vegetarian Nuggets

Vegetarian Nuggets

Ingredients (serves 3)

40g dried TVP chunks
250ml boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
1 clove of garlic
1 slice of stale bread
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Method

Crumble the stock cube into a jug.
Pour on the boiling water and stir until dissolved.
Squeeze garlic through garlic press and stir into the stock.
Add the TVP chunks to the jug.
Leave to stand for about 20 minutes for the TVP to absorb liquid and double in size.
Meanwhile tear the bread into pieces and put in blender.
Whizz the bread into crumbs.
Tip the breadcrumbs into a flat dish.
Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
After about 20 minutes once the TVP has doubled in size, drain off any liquid which remains.
(This liquid can be stored in the fridge for a few days for use in another recipe).
Dip the chunks in the breadcrumbs, ensuring they are fully coated.
Gently heat oil in a frying pan.
Cook the nuggets for approx 4 minutes on each side, turning once.
Serve with your choice of vegetables or salad.
Enjoy.

Vegetarian Nuggets

So verdict on the recipes. Son2 was happy with the Vegetarian Bolognaise but the Nuggets did not hit the spot for him. Son1 liked both though as did I. In fact I found the nuggets delicious with my salad. The boys have agreed going forward that we will alternate between a traditional meat bolognaise and a vegetarian version.

In fact, both these recipes are not only vegetarian, they are actually vegan, so long as you don’t serve grated cheese with the bolognaise.

Here are the links to the two products I received. They come in a range of sizes from 500g to the bulk 15kg.

Textured Vegetable Protein – Plain Chunks (TVP) 500g – made from 100% soya beans.

Textured Vegetable Protein – Plain Mince (TVP) 500g – made from 100% soya beans.

I was pleased with both these products and am now thinking up my next recipe. I did ask the boys for recipe suggestions. I wasn’t too convinced when son2 said how about in a banana milkshake but son1’s idea was to put some of the mince on a pizza. I’ll certainly give that a try as I usually make him a pepperoni pizza, whilst son2’s pizzas are already vegetarian as he won’t try anything except Margarita.

I can’t comment on cost comparison, as I haven’t seen these products elsewhere previously. It is great how versatile these can be. It is like having a blank canvas as the TVP absorbs the flavour of whatever you choose to cook it in.

And one other point to note. Don’t misread the chunks pack like I did initially. I thought it was implying that one cup of chunks would need 7 to 8 cups of water. It actually meant seven eighths of a cup, so in the end I decided it was simplest to do a 1 to 1 ratio. However that was after deciding to only rehydrate a small quantity of chunks, as I assumed they were going to massively increase in size. In fact they hardly increase at all.

Finally a mention about the packaging. As it hasn’t been that long since my earlier post, I wasn’t expecting any change yet. And true enough both of these products were again in plastic, even if it is BPA free plastic. I’m still hoping Buy Whole Foods Online will review their product packaging and switch to a paper-based solution.

I do recommend that you take a look at the Buy Whole Foods Online store. There is a huge amount to choose from.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a pack of both TVP products from Buy Whole Foods Online to one lucky winner. You’ll certainly be able to get creative in the kitchen with these.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your recipe suggestions using either of these products.

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

Healthier Chocolate Puddings plus giveaway

Time to share a very tasty recipe with you using a selection of products I received free to review from Buy Whole Foods Online. I was offered carte blanche to select any product from their online shop to use in a recipe of my choosing.

I found there was a great extensive range, so it was a difficult choice, but in the end I opted for cacao, almond flour and date sugar. I’ve never used any of these 3 products previously. In fact I’ve always been mystified as to what is the difference between cacao and cocoa since they look similar, so I decided that now was the time to investigate this question. I discovered that cacao is raw whilst cocoa has been roasted.

BuyWholeFoodsOnline cacao, almond flour and date sugar

Regular readers of my blog will know that in 2019, I am doing my best to reduce our household waste and in particular plastic. So I cast a critical eye over the parcel when it arrived. Thumbs up to Buy Whole Foods Online for using paper packaging to protect the products in transit. However the products themselves were all packed in plastic, which is still plastic even if the packets were labelled as BPA free. I’m sure a paper-based solution could be achieved. Even the supermarkets who have a very high plastic usage, sell most flour and some sugar in paper packets. Hopefully Buy Whole Foods Online will review their product packaging.

I had a recipe idea in mind, when I chose my products and this was to try to make a healthier version emulating those delicious hot chocolate desserts from Gü. I’m not sure if date sugar truly counts as healthy, but I’m sure it must be better than regular sugar. At least I hope so, since I am trying to reduce my use of sugar. So here is my recipe.

Chocolate Puddings

Healthier Chocolate Puddings

Ingredients (serves 4)

75g cacao powder
125g almond flour
100g date sugar
4 eggs
50 ml milk
75g butter

Method

Allow butter to soften at room temperature.
Preheat fan oven to 160 degrees C.
Grease 4 small ramekin dishes.
Beat together all ingredients.
Spoon into the ramekin dishes.
Place dishes on a baking tray.
Cook on middle shelf of oven for 10 minutes, until outside of puddings is set but inside is still soft.
Turn out of ramekins into pudding bowls.
Serve with your choice of creme fraiche, cream, greek yoghurt or ice cream.
Enjoy.

Chocolate puddings

These were delicious, although the inside is only slightly soft. I had originally intended it to be more gooey inside.

Here are the links to the three products I received. They all come in a range of sizes.

Organic Date Sugar 500g – made from 100% organic dried dates. Date sugar is far less processed than other popular sugars and retains the high fibre content of the fruit. It also has a naturally low glycemic index.

Organic Raw Cacao Powder 500g – 100% organic and fully raw. Cacao is highly antioxidant.

Almond Flour 500g (x2) – Low-carb, paleo-friendly, gluten free. They also stock an organic version.

I was very pleased with all three of these products and am now thinking up my next recipe. I can’t comment on cost comparison, as I haven’t seen these products elsewhere previously.

Wish I’d had them before Christmas, as I always make marzipan stuffed dates for Christmas and this year in an effort to reduce sugar, I tried blitzing flaked almonds with a little chopped date together, to use as the filling. It would have been so much easier to have used date sugar and almond flour instead, plus the texture would have been more like marzipan.

I do recommend that you take a look at the Buy Whole Foods Online store. There is a huge amount to choose from. They currently have a special offer of 10% off everything, plus 20% off selected products, using coupon code NEWYEAR19.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway cacao powder, almond flour and date sugar from Buy Whole Foods Online to one lucky winner. Think of the yummy treats you’ll be able to bake with these goodies.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your recipe suggestions using any of these products.

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

Berkley, A Nose Tail by David Hillman

Although son2 is very advanced with his reading, he also still loves his picture books. So he was pleased when we were offered the chance to review ‘Berkley, A Nose Tail’ by David Hillman for free. You can find out more about the author on his website.

Berkley, A Nose Tail by David Hillman

Here is the book blurb.

A little bit about Berkley…
Berkley has a huge nose and is always sticking it where it doesn’t belong, always getting into trouble.
Can Berkley ever find a way to put his super sniffer to good use?
This is a fun and funny story of how being a little bit different can be an asset, not a disadvantage.

Berkley, A Nose Tail by David Hillman

This is what son2 had to say about the book.

I liked Berkley (Not Barkley) because at the end Jeremy tells Berkley – Not Barkley – that they can help more often but Berkley, Not Barkley, is too busy smelling stinky socks!

Let me first explain why son2 keeps referring to the dog as being Berkley (Not Barkley). This was due to me saying that Berkley was an excellent name for a dog, due to the fact that dogs bark. However son2 refused to accept my suggested pronounciation and said that would be spelt Barkley.He pronounces Berkley in the way that berk would rhyme with perk and not park.

This book has been both written and beautifully illustrated by David Hillman. The lovely colourful pictures are just great for small children listening to the story being read and with 34 pages, it is also ideal as an early reader too.

Berkley has the biggest nose ever, so he is always chasing after smells and getting into trouble. But then we hear how he puts his nose to good use. And of course he gets a special smelly reward.

Berkley, A Nose Tail is newly published today and is available on Amazon currently at £12.95 in paperback. This is a delightful picture book.

I’d love to hear about your child’s favourite books.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Sweet Victory Products review and giveaway

For the last 2 or 3 years, I have become more aware of how bad sugar can be for us. It is known to be one of the worst foods for a variety of common diseases like arthritis, cancer and autism. I enjoy cakes and biscuits far too much to eliminate them, but I do try my best now to reduce my sugar intake. I’ve made a few little changes like always having fruit with my porridge instead of sugar and sometimes opting for something like a cheese scone or slice of fruit bread rather than cake.

So I was delighted when Sweet Victory Products contacted me to offer a free hamper of some of their products to review. They had seen my Zollipops review, which is one of the products they stock. Their aim is to help as many people as possible to change their relationship from High Sugar to Sugar-Free and healthier alternatives. This is exactly what I would like to do, if only I had the willpower.

Sweet Victory hamper

It didn’t take long for a beautifully packed basket to arrive which contained all the following goodies.
Virginias B-San white chocolate coated digestive biscuits no added sugars 130g
Diablo sugar free chocolate chip cake 230g
Jim Jams no added sugar milk chocolate spread 350g
Sweet Switch No added sugar Premium Belgian milk chocolate confetti 22g
Sugar free gummy sweets pick and mix 100g
Sugar free sweets pick and mix jar
2 sugar free cherry lollipops
2 Tplus+ immunitea vitamin tea orange and blueberry sachets
Cadbury highlights reduced sugar hot chocolate 11g
Cadbury highlights reduced sugar fudge flavour hot chocolate 11g

Sweet Victory hamper

So focussing on the individual products and starting with the digestive biscuits, which son2 was over the moon to see, as chocolate digestives are his all time favourite type of biscuit. I don’t think any of us had come across a white chocolate version previously. These contain zero sugar, and are sweetened with an ingredient I haven’t heard of called maltitol. We all enjoyed these. I haven’t done a direct price comparison on any of these products but I would certainly be happy to pay more for these sugar free digestives when I consider how quickly we get through a regular pack in our household.

Virginias B-San white chocolate coated digestive biscuits no added sugars

Next the cake. Once again sugar free and sweetened with maltitol and acesulfame K. I’ve not heard of this sweetener either. However I wished that I hadn’t looked at the ingredient list, as 16 E numbers sounded rather excessive. Luckily I didn’t look until after I had tried it. The boys enjoyed the cake, but I only thought it okay. Like many shop bought cakes, it tasted rather synthetic to me. I’m much more a fan of a homemade cake.

Diablo sugar free chocolate chip cake


And the chocolate spread. Jim Jams is a brand that I heard about earlier this year and have been unsuccessfully looking out for, so I was very interested to try this. Again this contains maltitol rather than sugar. Rather than just spreading it on toast, I decided this deserved a recipe.

Pain au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)

Ingredients (makes approx 4-5)

250g puff pastry
approx 75g Jim Jams chocolate spread

Method

Preheat fan oven to 200 deg C.
Grease baking sheet.
Roll out the pastry.
Cut pastry into similar sized rectangles.
Spread a length of chocolate spread along one edge of each rectangle.
Roll each rectangle up from that edge.
Place on baking sheet.
Cook on middle shelf of oven for about 10 minutes.
Remove from baking sheet immediately and place on cooling rack.
Serve either warm or cold.
Enjoy.

These were delicious warm. We all enjoyed them. For a store cupboard essential like chocolate spread, I definitely plan to switch to the Jim Jams brand in future.
Pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant)

And then there were four types of sweets. Firstly the Sweet Switch chocolate confetti which look very similar to smarties. The product name on the website indicates that these are made from premium Belgian milk chocolate, but this isn’t particularly promoted on the packet, with just a small mention of Sweet Switch address in Belgium. Tasty but again I wished I hadn’t looked at the packet, as I was confronted by 8 E-numbers. No added sugars, but more sweeteners that I hadn’t heard of – maltitol again plus sorbitol and steviol glycosides.

Sweet Switch No added sugar Premium Belgian milk chocolate confetti

And then the sugar free Gummy Pick & Mix Sweets with all our favourites like cola bottles. The packaging advises you to refer to their website for ingredients, but as it is a pick & mix product, you would need to look at each sweet type individually. I only looked at the cola bottle page, which does show that they contain pork gelatine, so I feel that this ought to be highlighted on the Pick & Mix webpage itself.

Sugar free gummy sweets pick and mix

Wow what a lot of different varieties of sweets in this pick and mix jar. Just looking at it brought back happy memories of visiting the local sweet shop as a child. And just think, these are all sugar free. There are a few familiar brands like Werthers and Mintoes, nether of which I realised did a sugar-free variant. But mostly just dip in for a tasty surprise. Again you would need to refer to individual sweet webpages for ingredients, but you can request for a particular sweet to be excluded. All of Sweet Victory weigh-out sweets can also be purchased in 100g increments. With Halloween round the corner, these would be fab for Trick or Treat.

Sugar free sweets pick and mix jar

And of course lollipops. I didn’t get to try these myself as there were only two and both boys wanted one. However they said they were good. These are sold in packs of 10. Again more unknown sweeteners on the ingredient list – acesulfame K again, plus sucralose and isomalt.

sugar free cherry lollipops

Next for a cup of tea. This was very pleasant and apparently contains an immune boosting blend of beneficial herbs, green tea, fruit and 50% RDA in 9 daily essential vitamins; Vitamin C echinacea and ginseng. I’ve never really thought about tea in the context of free-from but according to the website, this is gluten-free. So does that mean that some teas contain gluten? I never knew. This is sold in boxes of 15 sachets.

2 Tplus+ immunitea vitamin tea orange and blueberry sachets

And finally the hot chocolate. This is marketed as a low sugar product, rather than sugar-free and is something I have purchased previously. So I already knew that I liked both flavours. However I just scanned the barcode with my food scanner app and found that they still have 3g (original) or 3.4g (fudge) sugar in an 11g product. That is not really low sugar in my opinion.

Cadbury highlights reduced sugar fudge flavour hot chocolate

After sampling all the goodies, I had a look round their online store and can certainly see plenty of other tempting products, including some which would make lovely gifts. I think I would like to give the Xylitol a try, to see how that works in baking. And I also noticed that they stock Real Good Tomato Ketchup which is another product that I have previously reviewed. I have looked for this in vain at a couple of local branches of the Co-op, so very pleased to identify an online stockist.

And I was pleased to see that delivery costs are very reasonable, starting at £3.55 for second class. There is also a reward points scheme. I am definitely happy to recommend Sweet Victory Products.

But looks like I need to do some research into sugar substitutes next. Find out a bit about maltitol, acesulfame K, sorbitol, steviol glycosides, sucralose and isomalt.

And I have an offer to pass on to my readers – 10% off your first order at Sweet Victory Products with discount code: YABM10

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a hamper of treats from Sweet Victory Products to one lucky winner. What a tempting prize bundle. Contents will be similar to those that I received.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your favourite reduced sugar treats.

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

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge ad

So the boys are back at school and as usual the washing pile has grown exponentially. There is all the school uniform and sports kit. I just groan thinking about the sports kit. Why is there so much of it? There are different types of tops for each sport they play, so at least two get worn each week. The boys take it to school in trolley bags, as it would be too heavy to carry.

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Luckily neither of the boys are that sporty, so tend to be in either the C or D team. This does generally tend to mean less matches against other schools than for the A or B teams. But even so, my washing machine always seems to be on. And of course, most of it can’t go in the tumble drier. I’m just glad it is still mostly sunny and mild, as once we head into November, I have just one word to say to you – mud!

Mud is the bane of my life when it comes to washing. Even if they haven’t slipped over and sports kit isn’t looking too bad, they need to take their muddy boots off before getting the bus home. And do they remember to put those in their boot bags? Sadly usually not. Instead the boots go loose into their trolley bags right on top of their school uniform. Oh dear!

This all adds to the washing nightmare. All I can say is thank goodness that the blazers are washable. The ones for their last school were dry-clean only. So I immediately signed up, when Britmums challenged bloggers to take part in the #ACEforSchool Challenge. I received a free bottle of ACE for Colours and a free ACE Stain Remover Spray to help tackle the stains.

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

But even without the mud, I still needed to put these products to the test straightaway, on the dried-on lunch remnants on son2’s tie. A squirt of the spray in advance of washing, followed by a capful of the bottle in the washing drum did the trick on cleaning it up.

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Next test will be when the school jumpers go back on after half-term. I know that there are several paint stains on one of them that defeated me week after week last winter. Why do schools use permanent paint these days rather than water paint like they did in my schooldays? Will Ace be up to the challenge?

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

About ACE

  • ACE keeps garments bright, robust and clean meaning clothes last for longer
  • Keep those colours bright and fresh with ACE for Colours
  • Tackle germs, grease and stubborn stains with ACE Stain Remover

I’d love to hear about your washing tips or nightmares.

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Family Fever

Disclosure. This post is an entry for the BritMums #ACEforSchool Challenge, sponsored by ACE. Get help for all kinds of stains with the ACE Stain Helper or to buy head to your local Tesco’s, Morrison’s, Waitrose or Sainsbury’s.
This post mentions products I received for free. All opinions are my own. This post is classed as an advert because of the requirement to include the #AceforSchool hashtag.

Soundiculous game including giveaway

Time for a family game and once again we have received a free product from Gamely. Having really enjoyed playing their other two games, we were looking forward to some fun.

Soundiculous game

I was very pleased to see that just like the other two games, Randomise and The Pretender, it comes in a nice small box, the size of two decks of playing cards. Always a plus point for me, as the boys’ possessions seem to be gradually taking over the rest of the house.

The game gets its name Soundiculous from the ridiculous sounds you have to make for the other players to guess. You are only permitted to make sounds, no words, hints or actions. The cards range from easy, through medium to hard, with potential scoring of 1, 2 or 3 points accordingly.

Soundiculous game

So yes I can happily make the sound of a train, but how am I going to convey the sound of a tractor, to distinguish it from any other vehicle. Luckily you are permitted to nod, if someone makes a close guess. And if you get stuck, you can try associated sounds, although the guessers can end up diving down a false trail, as I found when swapping from bird sounds to oinking for a pigeon.

The rules suggest that it is for 3-10 players and suitable for age 8+, with the aim to get the most points. When someone shouts the correct answer, both of you score but if at least half the guessers give up, your turn ends. So plenty of strategy, regarding whether to opt for easy, medium or hard. We certainly had loads of fun playing this game.

We’re out of shot in this video, to convey how it is the sounds that are key to this game. You’re even supposed to sit on your hands whilst playing, to avoid making gestures.

Soundiculous currently retails at £11.99 on Amazon and John Lewis. Great value in my opinion, especially if you are starting to think about stocking fillers. I highly recommend this game.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a Soundiculous game to one lucky winner. What a fun prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your idea for a new game.

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Family Fever

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

Preserving Photographic Memories ad

So the end of summer is now upon us. We’ve been away on two holidays to Spain and Edinburgh, plus had plenty of fun days out.

Throughout it all, I’ve been snapping happy memories with my phone. I always upload my pictures to my computer, but what happens after? A few get shared on Facebook or Instagram. Some get chosen to be made into Christmas cards or fridge magnets to be sent to other family members. And of course, I have my own selection on my fridge, along with our photo table mats and mugs. I even used to have a fab photo phone case, but haven’t got around to ordering a new one since it wore out.

What about the rest of the images that did not make the cut? Will these photographic memories never get the chance to see the light of day again, languishing on the hard drive or a USB stick? You might have a lovely picture of little Johnny at school sports day, but you couldn’t share it on Facebook for relatives to see because there are other kids in the picture, what with all the privacy rules.

So I was delighted to be contacted by Nixplay, who offered me the opportunity to review one of their digital photo frames for free. This could be just the answer.

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

Nixplay sent me one of their Seed frames and it arrived in just 4 days. I was pleased to see that it comes in a sturdy box, and that it is available in a choice of 4 colours and 4 sizes.

I received the 8 inch blue frame. It comes with an attached USB cable, a remote control and a two-part power plug that allows the user to switch between UK 3-pin or European 2-pin.

However once I started the set-up process, the frame kept switching off at inconvenient moments. In the end, I put the USB cable into a different plug which worked perfectly, so the plug must have been faulty. Luckily I encountered no such issues with the frame itself. The instructions were simple to follow, with the main points being to give it access to my Wi-Fi and to set up a Nixplay account to link my frame to.

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

I’ve only tested it with a few photos so far, most of which were downloaded from my computer. I also tried downloading one directly from my phone using the Nixplay app. I soon realised it was better to keep portrait and landscape photos in separate playlists, so as to fill the entire frame. The frame is easily turned between portrait and landscape as it only uses the cable for balance, no additional back support required.

Aside from the infrared sensor between the frame and the remote, the frame also has a motion sensor that enables it to switch off when nobody is in the room. You can set the time-lag on this, as well as the time periods. I set it off between 23:00 and 07:00 hrs. I couldn’t see any details on the instructions regarding the type of battery in the remote or how to replace that when necessary.

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

The best part is the frame’s scope. A single playlist can contain up to 1000 photos. You can link multiple frames to the one account, so you could buy frames for other family members like your grandparents. Think of the benefit of a frame like this if someone were away from home for a long period, like when one of my sons was an in-patient at the hospital back in 2013 after his leukaemia diagnosis. Everything can be managed remotely, so all they have to do is watch. It’s great for keeping them up to date with the children’s progress, especially when they don’t tend to see them very often.

I could even use it for long-term projects like scanning my old pre-digital photos before the colours deteriorate further and loading those into playlists. It would be nice to show the boys some of the countries we visited on holiday before they were born.

Also, when I was a child, my Dad took all his photos on slides, but he has now gotten rid of his projector and large screen, which we used for viewing his images. So another long-term project could be to send those slides somewhere to be converted into a digital format and saved onto a memory stick. I can then upload these into playlists, which I can display on my Nixplay frame. There are lots of photographic memories that my parents would like to see again. We’ve even got some old family photos from the 1800s – just imagine watching those on a Nixplay frame!

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

The Nixplay 8 inch Seed Frame currently retails at £129.99 / $139.99. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, a 1-year warranty and free shipping. A great way to view your memories, in my opinion, as well as a fabulous gift idea!

Now I just have to work out what other functionalities it has. I’ll try uploading videos onto my frame next. I’ve even heard that you can ask Alexa to manage your frame, too Wow!

You may see more details about Nixplay on their website. The Nixplay digital photo frame range is available to purchase from their online shop or from Amazon.

I’d love to hear what you do with your favourite photographs.

There is a version of this post on the Nixplay blog here.

Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.
This post is classed as an advert because my content has been checked by Nixplay.

Pluto the Dwarf Planet

Regular readers of my blog may remember that I recently reviewed the fabulous WonderKid Space Bumper Pack and ran a very popular giveaway for one.

Wonderkid Space subscription box

I am delighted to say that Anneka is the lucky winner. She correctly answered the following question.

In 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided that Pluto could no longer be classified as a planet. What is Pluto now classified as?

And the answer is that Pluto is now classified as a Dwarf Planet.

And here are some facts provided by WonderKid about Pluto, the Dwarf Planet.

Pluto was considered a planet for 76 years. First discovered in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona, the planet is named after the Roman God of the underworld. Wait a minute! Isn’t that Hades? No; Hades was the Greek God of the underworld. The name Pluto was proposed by an eleven year old schoolgirl from Oxford, England called Venetia Burney.

“I think Pluto would be a good name for it.” said the young Venetia at the breakfast table after her grandfather had read out the news of the planet’s discovery from The London Times on 14 March 1930. Venetia was familiar with Greek and Roman mythology and the name was apt as Pluto (the Roman God of the underworld) could make himself invisible and dwelt in a cold dark place where the sunlight did not reach.

The former planet Pluto orbits our Sun far out in an icy region of the Solar System called the Kuiper Belt. In the 1990s scientists began to find many similar sized objects in the Kuiper Belt. Some of the newly discovered objects were even bigger than Pluto. One such object, called Eris, was discovered in 2005. Astronomers had to make a decision on whether all of the newly discovered objects would become planets or whether they would have to create a new, narrower definition of a planet. They went with the latter.

In 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) got together to decide what the definition of a planet should be. The IAU came up with a new three step test for whether an object could be classified as a planet in our Solar System:

1. Does it orbit our Sun?
2. Does it have enough mass to make it (almost) round?
3. Has it removed other small objects from around its orbit? (unlike asteroids)

Only if an object (which is not a satellite to a planet e.g. a moon) meets all three of these criteria can it be called a planet. Unfortunately for Pluto, and its fans, it only passed the first two criteria of the test and was no longer classified as a planet! However, in a way the Solar System became a more interesting place; now there was yet another type of object discovered spinning around the Sun – which astronomers called ‘dwarf planets’!

Let me remind you that I have a special offer to share with my readers. 20% off your first WonderKid box when you use the code BLOGGINGMUMMY20 at checkout. The code is valid for the first 10 people who take up the offer and is limited to one per person.

I’d love to hear about your favourite space facts or your ideas for themes to feature in future boxes.

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