Category Archives: family

When is a Gingerbread Man, not a Gingerbread Man?

When it is a Reindeer!

Now I can’t take the credit for this idea as I’ve seen multiple images on the internet of a gingerbread man cutter being used upside down to create reindeer biscuits. I thought this was a great idea that my boys would love, so I decided to give it a try. I made my standard gingerbread recipe and then decorated them all as Rudolph.

Reindeer gingerbread biscuits

Reindeer Gingerbread Biscuits

Ingredients (makes about 30 biscuits)

350g plain flour
1 teasp bicarbonate of soda
2 teasp ginger
1/2 teasp cinnamon
125g butter
100g soft brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup

Black writing icing
Few drops of red food colouring
50g ready to roll white icing

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 deg C.
Grease and line baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring.
Add the dry ingredients.
Mix to form a stiff dough.
Roll a ball of dough to 5mm thickness, then use gingerbread man cutter to cut out biscuits.
Place on the lined baking sheets.
Continue to cut out until all dough used. (Number will vary according to size of your cutter).
Bake the biscuits in the oven for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden.
Leave to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then move to a wire rack.
Once cool, they can be decorated.
Use the writing icing to give each reindeer biscuit 2 eyes.
Place ready to roll icing in a small bowl.
Use your hands to squeeze it to make malleable.
Add enough food colouring to mix to a red ball.
Form into small balls, approx 1cm wide.
Then press an icing ball onto each reindeer for the nose.
Serve and enjoy.

Reindeer gingerbread men

Son2 said that only one should have had a red nose and that I should have made Dasher, Prancer, Dancer, Cupid, Comet, Donner, Vixen and Blitzen too. However we all agreed they were a tasty seasonal Christmas treat.

I’d love to hear what Christmas goodies you enjoy baking or eating?

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Lemon Bars

My goto recipe for lemons when baking is always a lemon drizzle cake. So I decided it was time to try something different.

lemon bars

Lemon Bars

Ingredients (makes 12)

125g plain flour
100g butter
50g icing sugar
2 eggs
1 lemon
200g granulated sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
icing sugar to decorate

Method

Preheat fan oven to 170 degree C.
Grease a 20cm square baking tin.
Mix the 125g flour, butter and icing sugar together, to form a dough.
Press dough into tin and bake for about 20 minutes until starting to turn golden.
Meanwhile grate the zest of the lemon and squeeze the juice.
Tip zest and juice into a mixing bowl.
Add eggs, granulated sugar and 2 tbsp flour.
Beat together.
Pour over hot base and return to oven for about 25 minutes until set and golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Dust the top with icing sugar.
Cut into slices.
Serve and enjoy.

lemon bars

lemon bars

Delicious. Now to find a few more tasty lemon recipes. I’d love to hear what you bake using lemon?

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Bedford Biscuits

This is a recipe that I remember my mum baking every week. During school holidays, I would love to help her make these. She used to make them very small and very thin, so I’ve adapted the recipe to make bigger thicker biscuits.

Bedford Biscuits

Bedford Biscuits

Ingredients (makes about 15)

75g butter
75g granulated sugar
75g) plain flour
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp golden syrup
175g oats

Method

Preheat fan oven to 170 degree C.
Grease 2 baking sheets.
Cream together butter and sugar.
Mix in the flour.
Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in the hot water.
Add syrup, vanilla essence and soda.
Mix in the oats.
Roll out the mixture to 1/2 cm thickness.
Cut into circles.
Place on greased baking sheets and bake in preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes until golden.
Serve and enjoy.

Bedford Biscuits

Very tasty but I have no idea how these biscuits got there name. I assume they originated in Bedford. If anyone knows, then please do tell me.

Do you have a recipe handed down through the generations?

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Streusel topped fruity slices

If you are wondering what streusel is, it is fairly similar to the topping on a crumble. I certainly managed to confuse the boys with this, as they kept saying strudel, which is a pastry dish. Something else I’ve never tried making yet. Must give that a try sometime soon.

Streusel

Streusel topped fruity slices

Ingredients (makes 16)

200g self raising flour
120g soft brown sugar
140g butter
50g ground almonds
100g dried strawberries
100g dried apple
50g sultanas
30g oats

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 degree C.
Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Rub the butter into the flour.
Stir in the sugar and ground almonds.
Reserve 150g of this mixture for later to make the topping.
Add the egg to the rest and mix to a dough.
Place the dough in the tin and flatten.
Chop the strawberries and apples.
Mix all the fruit together in a bowl.
Spread the fruit over the dough base.
Mix the oats into the reserved mixture.
Sprinkle over the fruit.
Cover the tin with foil.
Bake on middle oven shelf for about 30 minutes until golden.
Allow to cool.
Cut into slices.
Serve and enjoy.

Streusel

You could easily vary the fruits used in the filling. So I’d love to hear if you have some alternative suggestions.

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Coconut and Jam Sponge

I recently organised a Macmillan Coffee Morning at work, so I thought I’d make one new recipe and one that was tried and tested. And importantly, so that the boys wouldn’t feel that they were missing out on a cake opportunity, I decided that I would incorporate ingredients that the boys aren’t overly fond of. So for my new recipe, I decided that the key ingredient was to be coconut. And taking my inspiration from a pudding I used to enjoy many years ago for school dinners, I made a traybake cake version of Coconut and Jam Sponge. But thankfully without the hideous pink custard. Who remembers weird coloured custards from their schooldays?

Coconut and Jam Sponge

Coconut and Jam Sponge

Ingredients (makes 16 slices)

225g margarine
225g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
100g desiccated coconut
200g raspberry jam

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degree C / 160 fan / Gas mark 4.
Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar.
Beat in the eggs.
Fold in the flour and baking powder.
Spoon into the tin.
Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack.
Allow to cool completely before decorating.
Spread jam over the top.
Sprinkle with coconut.
Cut into 16 slices.
Serve and enjoy.

Coconut and Jam Sponge

So I’d love to hear what would be your top choice of tasty treat to either cook for a bake sale or to purchase there?

And I’m pleased to say that our Macmillan coffee morning raised nearly £100 for this very worthwhile charity.

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Britmums #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge

Britmums have challenged bloggers to take the #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge to celebrate this tasty, convenient fruit as part of the back-to-school season. And as one of the first 50 to sign upto the challenge, I received a free box of these lovely citrus fruits.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

The boys have school dinners, but they are always ready for an after-school snack at the end of the day. I like to ensure that this is something healthy and nutritious. And what could be more healthy than a mandarin or clementine.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

These certainly lived upto their Easy Peeler name, plus they were pip free. I was surprised when son2 said this was the first time he had ever peeled an orange himself. I think I must be doing too much for him.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

And son1 shows us that they are not just for after-school. He enjoyed one late in the evening.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

We all agreed that these were really tasty. Also they are full of vitamin C, plus a rich source of fibre, calcium and magnesium, and a great source of water (about 87%) to keep you hydrated. An excellent point as the boys often barely sip at their water bottles. They are in season from now until November. Ideal for lunch boxes.

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Disclosure. This post mentions products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own. This post is an entry for the BritMums #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge, sponsored by Chilean Citrus Committee.

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More fun with Snappertime plus giveaway

Regular readers of my blog may remember the fun the boys had back in June doing the Time Lord Challenge and the Soap Ships Challenge from Snappertime.

So they were very pleased when Snappertime sent us a new bundle of goodies.

Snappertime is a website full of lots of fun screen-free activities for children, spread across five categories, namely Super Science, Great Outdoors, Tasty Tasks, Arty Farty and Super Hero.

Snappertime goody bundle

The bundle comprised the following goodies:-
A selection of Snappertime Challenge cards
Mr Men on the Farm book
The Stick Book
Danger Mouse Mission Improbable DVD
Swallows and Amazons DVD
Wooden Sailboat Kits
Swallows and Amazons badges and stickers

Plenty of fun to be had with all of these, although I was surprised that it included DVDs, since Snappertime does focus on screen-free activity. But I’m very happy with the choices since I loved the Swallows and Amazons book as a child and remember how this series inspired some of my playtime. I had a vintage copy carefully wrapped in brown paper which belonged to my Dad.

After watching some of the Danger Mouse episodes, the boys decided it was time to tackle some more challenges.

Watching Danger Mouse

Son2 updated our doodlebot and then chose to do the Fizzy Foam Challenge from the Super Science category, which is based on the Roald Dahl book “George’s Marvellous Medicine”. This is a story that we enjoyed reading together a while ago. He loved mixing his potion together and he used a couple of different food colourings, so that his went from pink to purple. He compared it to a volcano as it bubbled and frothed up the beaker. He had to bear in mind that it contained washing up liquid, as it almost looked good enough to drink.

Fizzy Foam Challenge

And son1 opted for a Tasty Tasks challenge, namely to cook some Choc Dollops. A nice simple recipe for children to cook which only needs chocolate and cream plus some decoration. Son1 decided to use white chocolate and decorated half with chocolate curls and the other half with honeycomb pieces. These were delicious and son2 has decided he wants to make some too. See here for the recipe.

Cooking Chocolate Dollops

Afterwards we uploaded photos of their projects for them to earn another DoodleCoin each. And once you have 8 coins, you can claim a free reward. There is a great selection of rewards to choose from, some of which are worth upto £25, most are for free, although a few request £5 postage.

Snappertime doodlecoins

I would definitely recommend you sign your children up for this fab website with its great freebies. So much fun.

I’m really looking forward to introducing the boys to Swallows and Amazons via the dvd next.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a fabulous kids goody bundle to one lucky winner, courtesy of Snappertime, just like the bundle 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 what screen-free activities your children enjoy.

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

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Snappertime

We were invited to take a look at the Snappertime website for fun screen-free activities for the boys to try during the school holiday. And we also received a free welcome pack when we registered on the site.

I registered one joint account for the boys but with hindsight, it would be better to register each child individually. The boys and I had a quick browse around some of the challenges which are spread across five categories, namely Super Science, Great Outdoors, Tasty Tasks, Arty Farty and Super Hero. And they had fun designing their Doodlebot. We then waited for the welcome pack to arrive so that we could get started on challenges, but disappointingly it took ages, over 5 weeks. By this time, the boys had cooled off somewhat.

Snappertime

The welcome pack comprised the following goodies:-
A selection of Snappertime Challenge cards
Stickers
Certificate
Pencil
Fridge Magnet
Snacks

Son1 opted to try the Soap Ships Challenge detailed on one of the cards in the welcome pack. This was very simple. He cut out a small house shape from card, added a cocktail stick mast and a small black sail, since son1 said it was a pirate ship for their pirate Doodlebot. The challenge didn’t say how to fix the mast to the boat, so we used blu-tack. Then he launched his boat in the water tray and was amazed how quickly it sailed with the addition of a drop of washing-up liquid. He did discover that it easily sank when pushed under the water, but if he waited for it to dry, he could then sail it again.

Snappertime Soap Ships Challenge

Meanwhile son2 being a huge Doctor Who fan, chose the Time Lord Challenge. This was to design his very own papier mâché planet. The first step of printing the template sounded simple, but it was not sized to fit a page, so I had to mess around with my print settings to get a copy that son2 was happy with. He then sketched out his design, telling me that pink was sand etc. The challenge suggested using PVA glue when making the papier mâché, but I knew we didn’t have enough, so I showed son2 how to make his own paste from flour and water instead. He loved the messiness of this phase which took several days as we let it dry overnight between layers. And finally he painted it to match his design. He didn’t bother with the suggestion of adding a planetary ring.

Snappertime Doctor Who planet

Both of these are from the Super Science category. Afterwards we uploaded photos of their projects for them to earn a DoodleCoin each. And once you have 8 coins, you can claim a free reward. There is a great selection of rewards to choose from, some of which are worth upto £25, most are for free, although a few request £5 postage.

Snappertime

I would definitely recommend you sign your children up for this fab website with its great freebies. So much fun.

I’d love to hear what screen-free activities your children enjoy.

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

Learning Success plus giveaway

Son1 has had memory and concentration issues and is very slow with his schoolwork since undergoing chemotherapy, but is very bright at maths. He also has to attend an extra handwriting lesson weekly, plus use an ergonomic pen and occasionally has one-to-one sessions with the special needs teacher. Meanwhile son2 seems to take everything absolutely literally and have some social difficulties. So I was quite interested to find out more when Learning Success approached me to test out their Learning System for free.

Learning Success System

When I read their blog, I found out that the Learning Success System is a simple method parents can use to help children overcome learning difficulties. It simplifies the process and enables a parent to work at home with their child.

They say that the Learning Success System is:
• Convenient for both children and parents
• Minimizes high costs of learning centres
• Uses cutting edge neuroscience research

Their learning strategy is divided into three parts.

Strategy 1 – Calm the emotions
Strategy 2 – Incorporate the Body
Strategy 3 – Build up the Fundamental Skills of Learning

Statistics show that at least 20% of children suffer with some sort of learning difficulty. This could be with reading, writing or maths. Learning Success offer analysis of what symptoms your child exhibits.

Once I signed up, I received daily emails with exercise suggestions. I also had access to the Learning Success System portal where I can find the full range of exercises and can sort by type. There are member forums where I can seek expert advice or interact with other parents. It also focusses on what you need to do as a parent, such as praising your child for effort.

The boys were quite engrossed in some of the on-screen exercises like tapping where each smiley appeared or shouting out what a picture would be when it starts as a dotted outline and gradually more appears. Some of the other exercises do additionally require you to source the materials, so I adapted a letters memory game to be based on numbers and used playing cards. You start with 2 pairs face down and see how many turns it takes to find the matching pairs. Then you gradually add an extra pair every round. The boys loved taking turns at this and we went upto 13 pairs.

Memory number game

Memory number game

It is too early for me to identify any difference in my sons but I shall continue doing some of the exercises with them. I haven’t managed to get into a routine with this yet.

The Learning System is currently available for either a one-off payment of $297 or 12 monthly payments of $49 with a 90 day money back guarantee. The monthly payment option can be cancelled at any time. I’ve checked the exchange rate and these figures equate to about £230 or £38 at present, so quite expensive in my opinion. But for some, it may be a well worth while investment and really make a difference to a member of your family.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway access to the Learning Success System portal to one lucky winner. Open worldwide.
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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 top learning tips.

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

Boggle – National Board Games Week

Did you know that 8th-14th May is National Board Games Week 2017? For the second year running, Pork Farms have been hosting National Board Games Championships in micropubs across Britain with the grand final to be held at BeerheadZ Grantham on May 13th. Contestants have been battling it out at Boggle, Taboo, Monopoly, Jenga and Trivial Pursuit 2000s.

And families can get involved from home by downloading a free printable pack from Pork Farms website to help them plan a board games activity night, and then share a photo of their evening on social media for the chance to win a stack of board games and a year’s supply of Pork Farms pork pies.

We love playing games as a family, so we were very pleased to be offered the chance to choose one of the five Hasbro games for free. We opted for Boggle.

Boggle
We had great fun playing this. We adapted the rules slightly so that the boys could score for all their words, whilst the adults had to stick to the proper rule of only scoring for those words that nobody else spotted.

Playing Boggle

The boys loved shaking the letters too.

Such a quick fun game. You can opt for a set number of rounds or first to a pre-specified number of points.

Playing Boggle

A dictionary was required to verify some of the more dubious word suggestions.

Playing Boggle

I’ve always loved the taking part element and remember fun time spent one lunchtime every week at my first job playing board games. One of my colleagues owned enough games to fill a whole wardrobe sized cupboard and would bring a different selection into the office each time. I think that was my first introduction to Taboo, one of the games mentioned above.

Both boys belong to Chess Club at school and son1 has qualified for the county Megafinal again.

Is there a game you would like to play? I’ve got Ticket To Ride on my games wishlist after trying it out at a café last year.

And I’m looking forward to attending the Board Games Championship Bloggers Event on May 6th. Watch out for my post on that afterwards.

I’d love to hear your favourite board games or your best memories of playing games. Son1 likes the Harry Potter version of Cluedo best whilst the Doctor Who board game is son2’s favourite.

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