Tag Archives: competitions

Center Parcs January Challenge: Your Family, Your Time

Tots100 and Center Parcs have challenged bloggers to describe their family’s perfect day at Center Parcs.  See this webpage for videos showing what real families get up to on their Center Parcs breaks.  I am most inspired by the video of An Adventure With Little Ones.

Our family’s perfect day would include The Pancake House for breakfast – hope it opens that early. Then a walk before some time in the swimming subtropical paradise. Then chill-out time doing some pottery painting. Homemade picnic lunch before trying out the archery.  See the owls. Dad and the boys could watch some footie in the Sports Cafe whilst I have a treatment at Aqua Sana. Then Strada for tea before returning to our lodge.

Breakfast at the Pancake House (but maybe not ice cream for breakfast)

Subtropical Swimming Paradise

Pottery Painting


See the owls

A treatment at Aqua Sana

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 January challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit Longleat Forest.

Center Parcs December Christmas Challenge

Tots100 and Center Parcs have challenged bloggers and their families to share their twelve favourite things about the festive season.  See this webpage for more details, where Center Parcs Winter Wonderland expert, Nick Oot has shared his top tips.  I am most inspired by Nick’s tip number 4 which says
Meeting the man himself – what better way for you to get in the Christmas mood than by visiting Santa and his little helpers in Santa’s Woodland Workshop?

I thought about doing this as the 12 Days of Christmas, but decided that would be too cheesy. So here are my 12 favourites in no particular order as follows…

1. As per Nick’s tip, a visit to Santa’s grotto for my boys.  This year they did very well on grotto visits with son1 visiting 2 grottos and son2 visiting 3.

2. Watching the school nativity.  I booked a day’s leave off work this year so that I could go to son2’s nativity.  It is the not the same watching it by video if you can’t be there.

Son2 as a shepherd

Son2 as a shepherd

3. Attending a crib service on Christmas Eve.  This is an unmissable event in our Christmas calendar, although we do vary which church we attend.

4. Seeing the boys happy excited faces as they open their presents on Christmas morning.  We start off with their stockings in our bedroom, then go downstairs for the larger presents in their sacks.

5. Enjoying eating Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, after all the preparation effort.

6. Excited boys who can’t get to sleep, watching their messages from Father Christmas via Portable North Pole on Christmas Eve.

7. Decorating the tree which I blogged about here.

Putting up the tree

Putting up the tree

8. Watching Christmas movies, with festive nibbles to munch on.

9. Helping the boys to make cookies and sweets for their grandparents and to decorate boxes to put them in.

10. Enjoying my first mince pie of the season with a glass of mulled wine.

11. Excited boys on Christmas Eve, as we do the rituals of the mince pie and glass of milk for Father Christmas and carrot for Rudolph and sprinkle reindeer food all over the garden and putting out their stockings and sacks.

12. Singing along to Christmas carols and songs. And I have a Christmas songs CD permanently in the car during December.

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 December challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit Longleat Forest.

Love Your Appliance

Tots100 have teamed up with PartSelect for their latest competition and are asking bloggers to share their favourite domestic appliance story.  PartSelect is a website that encourages consumers to show their appliances a little love by giving Internet users the know-how to take on repairs themselves with their YouTube instructional videos.

Gosh where do I start.  I definitely love my appliances, but for most you can find a work-around when they do let you down.  Earlier this year, my washing machine broke down at a very inconvenient time, flooding the floor.  It was shortly after son1 had come from the hospital after being diagnosed with leukaemia and I was doing at least a couple of loads each day with washing his bedding every day.  I initially tried to fix it myself and followed the manual instructions to clean the drain filter, which I found was full of poor son1’s hair and a tenpence.  But it then came up with a second warning message, indicating that I had to call the Service Department. Luckily I had an extended warranty on the washing machine, but it was Friday and they couldn’t send anyone out until Tuesday.  With a very ill child, I couldn’t just pop to the launderette.  But one of the lovely school mums who were all doing so much to help our family during those early days of son1’s illness, let me use her washing machine.

And I have mentioned on my blog previously about how I lived for several years without an oven or hobs, relying on my small appliances instead.  There wasn’t room in my flat for an oven, as the three appliance spaces were already occupied by the secondhand appliances that I had been given – fridge, washing machine and in the oven space – my tumble drier.  An oven was non-essential as I ate my main meal in the work canteen each day.  I loved my tumble drier as I had no garden for a washing line and only a couple of storage heaters, so couldn’t dry clothes on radiators either.

I also love my current tumble drier and about a month ago, as the weather got worse, began to think that I might need to replace it.  This was because it seemed to be taking all day to get my washing dried in it, probably costing a fortune in electricity.  However undeterred by the earlier washing machine episode, I decided to try my hand at fixing it myself first.  Again I referred to the manual and found out how to access the condenser.  Oops once I got it opened up, I discovered a sticker on the drier, stating that the condenser should be cleaned about once a month.  I can’t remember how old the drier is but we had it at our old house and we’ve lived here over four years.  Again discovered loads of stuff that had managed to get past the fluff filter, this time the haul also included a cufflink and bits of a train ticket, in addition to lots of hair.  But result, it now works like a dream again.  So I will certainly be regularly cleaning the condenser in future, although not as frequently as monthly.

This appliance gets my seal of approval!

However it is not all problems.  We are loving our latest small appliance which I bought in June at son1’s request.  He wanted paninis, so I bought a 3-in-1 Panini, Sandwich & Waffle Maker. Yummy.  I’ve pinned my favourite waffle recipe on Pinterest. But I haven’t brought myself round to getting rid of my old sandwich toaster, as again it was also a loved appliance.

Son1's photo of Mummy baking waffles

Son1s photo of Mummy baking waffles

This blog post is my  entry into the Tots100/PartSelect ’Love Your Appliance’ competition.

Center Parcs November Challenge: Autumn Poems

Tots100 and Center Parcs have challenged bloggers and their families to write an Autumn poem.  See this webpage for more details, where Center Parcs Whinfell Forest’s resident nature expert and Conservation Ranger, Emma Tapp has shared her top tips.  My favourite of Emma’s tips is number 1 which says
Be inspired by your surroundings – Observe as the leaves change colour from green to red and let the beautiful burnt oranges get the creative juices flowing, what does it look like and remind you of?

Son1 has taken on this challenge for our family and has written and decorated his Autumn poem.

Son1's Autumn Poem

Son1’s Autumn Poem

Son1 with his Autumn poem

Son1 with his Autumn poem

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 November challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit Longleat Forest.

Our Toadstool Christmas Wishlist

The boys and I have been doing some Christmas window shopping online at The Toadstool, and have come up with our Toadstool Christmas Wishlist.  The Toadstool is an online shop whose aim is to sell beautiful toys to love, which have been ethically made.

Firstly a special item each to discover under the Christmas tree. Son2 already enjoys playing with his plastic marble run but the Haba wooden large Ball Track and Construction Set took his fancy.


Ball Track and Construction Set – £74.20

And son1 was very taken with a new cuddly friend Lilliputiens Walter the Dragon pouffee who would double up as a cushion to snuggle up with for TV viewing.  Son1 has been gaining a lot of comfort from his cuddly toys, since being diagnosed with leukaemia in May.


Walter the Dragon pouffee – £99.50

Then together we’ve chosen a selection of games and puzzles that we can have fun together with. Both boys love playing games, doing jigsaws and construction toys. And what is Christmas without at least one brand new family game to play. Also I would like to mention that I particularly like the idea of the resealable pouches for the jigsaws, as standard jigsaw boxes don’t last very well in our house.


Haba Little Magicians Game – £25.50


Wonderworld Penguin Rescuer Game – £19.50


Plus Plus 600 piece Mini Basic Building shapes – £19.50


Ocean 100 piece jigsaw puzzle – £5


Pirates 100 piece jigsaw – £6.50

And then we’ve chosen a couple of great looking Haba squirter bath toys as stocking fillers.  I like to replace bath toys regularly, as they mostly get that horrid black mould inside so easily.

Haba Squirter Globefish

Haba Squirter Globefish – £2.90

Haba Squirter Penguin

Haba Squirter Penguin – £2.90

Also I always like to include some items under the tree for the boys which aren’t toys.  So they have agreed that they would each like a Lilliputiens’ Arnold the hippo children’s umbrella, to replace their Thomas the Tank engine ones which have bent spokes.  Son1, is particularly pleased about this as he says “Thomas” is not a cool look.

Lilliputiens' Arnold the hippo children's umbrella

Arnold the hippo children’s umbrella – £21 x 2

And then I couldn’t resist adding another stocking filler for son1.  Janod Tubix Mikado is a version of the classic pick up straws game, which I used to love playing as a child myself.  Son1 tried pick up straws out earlier this year at the hospital.  Each time we went for his weekly in-patient chemotherapy stays over the summer, he would ask the play specialists if he could borrow the 100 games compendium box.  He had fun in spite of what he was undergoing.

Pick up Straws

Janod Tubix Mikado – £4.99

Finally I’ve chosen this one rather than the boys.  It is a Lilliputiens Walter the Dragon castle toy storage basket, that compliments the pouffee son1 chose.  It will be ideal to house the ever-growing menagerie of cuddly toys in our house which have overflowed their current storage.


Walter the dragon toy basket – £68

I’ve also saved our Toadstool Christmas Wishlist on Pinterest.

This blog post is my entry into The Toadstool big Christmas Wishlist blogger competition for a chance to become a 2014 Toy Toad Tester.

Draw With Me – Toys

Last month I found a nice kids drawing competition on “This Mummy Loves” blog.  It is a monthly competition and this month the theme is toys.  When I told the boys, they both immediately decided to draw Star Wars Angry Birds.  And son1 went one step further, by cutting all his drawings out, and then arranging them on the scanner.

Star Wars Angry Birds by son1

Star Wars Angry Birds by son1

Star Wars Angry Birds by son2

Star Wars Angry Birds by son2

This Mummy Loves...

This post is an entry to Draw With Me.


Seasonal Recipes – Apple Bread and Butter Pudding

I usually love Autumn, going for woodland walks in our wellies, scrunching through the leaves.  Sadly we’ve only managed one short walk so far this season, as son1 isn’t really feeling upto much walking due to his leukaemia.

However at least one thing remains constant, being able to cook lovely warm nourishing food with some of the seasonal produce available at this time of year.  I blogged last week about my pumpkin soup.  But already pumpkins seem to have disappeared from the shelves at the shops.  What a shame, there are so many great pumpkin recipes.  We don’t just want pumpkins to make jack o’ lanterns, although that is great fun.  Pumpkins won’t have vanished from the shelves in the US, with pumpkin pie being traditional Thanksgiving fare, so where have they gone here?  I hope they haven’t been thrown away just to make room for all the Christmas lines.

Anyhow at least some seasonal food like apples and plums don’t disappear.  Our  old house had several fruit trees, so I used to make lots of puddings at this time of year.  I still do, but now I have to rely on buying my fruit or gifts from others with a fruit glut.  So having been given a bag of apples, I thought that I would share an unusual apple recipe on my blog today that I originally posted on Gourmandize.

Apple Bread and Butter Pudding

This recipe is my personal creation. It is a fruity variant on the traditional Bread and Butter Pudding. Served hot, delicious with custard or cream. Serves 4.


25g butter
200g cooking apples,
100g white bread
50g currants
1 tsp cinnamon powder
300ml milk
2 eggs
25g sugar


Grease a pie dish with butter.
Spread each slice of bread with butter, then cut into triangles or fingers. I leave the crusts on the bread to avoid wastage, but cut them off if you prefer.
Peel, core and slice the apples.
Arrange a layer of half the bread, buttered-side up, in the bottom of the dish.
Then add a layer of all the apple and currants. Sprinkle with the cinnamon.
Then finish with a layer of remaining bread, then put to one side.
Gently warm the milk over a low heat. Don’t let it boil.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, add three quarters of the sugar and whisk.
Add the warm milk to the egg mixture and stir, then pour over the prepared bread and apple. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.
Place the dish into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard has set and the top is golden-brown.

Arrange half the bread in bottom of dish

Arrange half the bread in bottom of dish

Add apple and currants. Sprinkle with cinnamon

Add apple and currants. Sprinkle with cinnamon

Add remaining bread

Add remaining bread

Add egg mixture and sugar, leave to stand

Add egg mixture and sugar, leave to stand

Bake until custard has set and top is golden-brown

Bake until custard has set and top is golden-brown

This post is my entry to the 1st Edition of the Bloggers cooking competition from Tiendeo of “Seasonal Recipes”.  Be quick if you want to enter too, as it closes tomorrow.

Footnote – Tiendeo competition has now been extended to 15 Nov.

Link up your recipe of the week

Homeware Shop DVD Case Review and Playmat Giveaway

The Homeware Shop has sent me an Amp zipped dvd case to review.  It arrived 2 days after I agreed to do the review, so a very speedy dispatch.

The black case is slim and holds 20 dvds / cds / game discs, so an excellent storage space saver.  Each disc pocket is accompanied by a smaller pocket to retain any associated dvd leaflets.  The pockets are filed in a ring binder, so can easily be reordered.  It also comes with an index card and disc labels.  And it has a convenient carry handle if you wish to transport your dvds.  This item retails at £3.99, so is very good value for money.

The Homeware Shop offer a range of kitchen, bathroom, homeware, gardening, DIY and seasonal products for the home, including gifts and toys.  One of their other products is a 9 Piece EVA Interlocking Section Playmat which retails at £6.

I haven’t received a playmat to review, but this is what The Homeware Shop says.  Want a quick low cost and easy way to transform a Nursery or a Children’s bedroom into a bright safe environment for young ones?  This 9 piece EVA interlocking section playmat set could well be your answer.  The set is very easy to lay on most surfaces each panel interlocks with each other, Each mat measures 29.5 x 29.5 cms approx, 88.5cms squared and the thickness is approx 1cms.  Each set come with different colours so patterns can be altered.  These are easily cut if required so whole rooms can be covered around awkward corners.  If required may be applied to wall surfaces.  They can even be laid outdoors for summer fun.  Brought to you by www.thehomewareshop.com

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway one of these playmats courtesy of The Homeware Shop to one lucky winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you can’t see the Rafflecopter box above, please click the Rafflecopter link to open in a new window.

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

My Dream Family Garden

I’m going fantasy shopping with £750 to buy toys, plants and features for my dream family garden.

This is what our garden looks like currently.  We need to replace the toddler toys with something more interesting.

Our garden

Our garden

I asked son2 to draw his dream play area and he came back with this picture of a climbing frame.

Climbing frame, by son2

Climbing frame, by son2

So I have browsed round the Activity Toys Direct website and chosen this climbing frame and slide set for £412.

TP Toys Challenger Complete Set #2 Climbing Frame

I would also buy the following accessories to go with the climbing frame and slide.
A slide extension for £23.50 and a rope swing for £22.50

TP Toys Green Straight Slide Extension

TP Toys Twizzler 2 Rope Swing Attachment

And then I keep dabbling in trying to grow a few vegetables like tomatoes and courgettes in pots on the patio. But they suffer from pests, the wind, being too wet, so we don’t get much of a crop.

Our vegetable plants before the pests destroyed them

My vegetable plants before the pests destroyed them

This is a real shame and it was made more poignant this year, as son1 planted the seeds on the first day he complained of pains back in April, 3 weeks before he was diagnosed with leukaemia.  I tried as best as I could in brief visits back home from the hospital to keep his plants growing.

son1 planting vegetable seeds

Son1 planting vegetable seeds

So I would love to get a greenhouse and try to get a few decent crops.  A step towards self-sufficiency.  I would buy one like this which costs £224.25

Baroness Greenhouse – Horticultural Glass – Natural Frame

And finally I would love to grow my own fruit. We had apple and plum trees at our old house and I really miss them.  So I’ve chosen an apple tree for £34.99 and a gooseberry bush for £9.99

Cox’s Orange Pippin Self-fertile=’Cox’s Selfing’ Apple – 12 litre

Ribes uva-crispa ‘Hinnonmaki Green’ Gooseberry – 3 litres

This blog post is an entry into the Tots100/Activity Toys Direct garden makeover competition

The Lunch Less Ordinary Blogger Challenge – Week 4

I’ve been taking part in the Mission Deli Wraps “Lunch Less Ordinary” blogger challenge which means I am blogging about at least one of their challenges that I’ve done during each week. We’ve now reached the final week.  Some of you may have already read my posts of what I did during earlier weeks.  If not, here are links to what I got upto during week 1week 2 and week 3.  Mission Deli Wraps have given me a big shout out twice now for our Less Ordinary Lunch in both week 2 and week 3.

Every week, for four weeks, Mission Deli Wraps have been releasing fun, unusual challenges for bloggers to complete and post about. Some of them quite easy, and some slightly more challenging.

At Mission Deli Wraps, they believe that life, just like your lunch, is what you make it. Routine and humdrum or exciting and fun. It’s your choice, and they are here to help! They want everyone to grab a wrap with both hands and get stuck in.

The Challenges are to help inspire the nation do something more fun, exciting and a little less ordinary over lunch.

Round 4 Challenges are:

1) For the artistic lunchers out there, create the most artistic lunch you can using only wraps and filling – the bigger the better! Whether it’s the Eiffel Tower or an Elephant we want to see it all! #wrapart

2) Inspired by one of our Facebook fans -take £5 for the week to buy the essentials and we’ll send the wraps and you must complete the Storecupboard challenge – using up whatever you’ve got left in the cupboards, fridge and freezer to make your meals for the week.

3) Tricky challenge of the week! Find and visit as many places as you can with food-related names that can be made into wraps and help us create a WrapMap! E.g. Cheddar Gorge

4) Tick something off your bucket list! We want to see you go out and do something unusual – remember to take a packed lunch of wraps with you.

Looking at the challenge choices for this week, I have to rule out challenge 2, as we’ve already promised son1 a visit to our local Tandoori, which means we will be spending a lot more than £5 in one meal, let alone the whole week.  His taste buds have changed since he commenced on chemotherapy.  He has even asked for curry for breakfast on some days.

We would also struggle with challenge 3, as son1 does not travel very well at the moment. The nearest food-named place I can think of that could go in a wrap is Ham House, which is probably about an hour away.  This challenge did bring back memories of when I made a recipe scrapbook as a teenager, where all recipes were place related.  I wonder what happened to the scrapbook.  Perhaps it might be in my parents’ loft.

Challenge 3 would have been fun if we could have visited virtually instead.  How about a virtual visit to Cheddar, Stilton, Cheshire, Caerphilly, Wensleydale, Derby (Sage Derby), Gloucester (Double Gloucester), Lancashire, Shropshire (Shropshire Blue), Leicester (Red Leicester) and thats just cheesey wraps for starters.  All very yummy in a wrap.

Or how about some really Lunch Less Ordinary!  Imagine some of these in a wrap – Yorkshire Pudding, Bakewell Tart, Bath Bun, Chelsea Bun, Everton Toffee, Lancashire Hot Pot, Cornish Pasty, Victoria Sponge, Pontefract Cakes, Kendal Mint Cake, Scotch Pancakes, Devon Split, Brown Windsor Soup, Bedford Biscuits, Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, Shrewsbury Biscuits, Welsh Cakes, Dundee Cake, Yorkshire Parkin, Edinburgh Rock, Eccles Cakes.  Anyone up for trying?

And here are a few more sensible ideas.  I’ve already mentioned Ham, but what about Cumberland sausage.  A slice of Ox tongue for either Oxted or Oxshott.  A dash of Worcester Sauce to spice up the wrap.  I love Welsh Rarebit on toast, so that should be nice in a wrap.  Cheese and apple is a favourite filling of mine, so could do that with Braeburn or Bramley apples.  And how about putting a pin on the Wrap Map at the Savoy hotel, if you shred some Savoy cabbage into a salad filling.

In which case back to the lunch less ordinary, a crunchy wrap of Ritz crackers qualifies a pin at the Ritz hotel too.

And I’ve rather taken to the idea of dessert in a wrap, namely Eton Mess in a wrap, mmm.

So this week I have decided to do challenge 1 and challenge 4.

Firstly the boys and I all made #wrapart.  Son2 did a design of Goldilocks and the three bears on his wrap.

Goldilocks and the 3 bears, by son2

Goldilocks and the 3 bears, by son2

Here is a short video of son2 partway through making his #wrapart.

Son1 made a sculpture of Darth Maul from Star Wars on his wrap.

Darth Maul by son1

Darth Maul by son1

And here is a short video of son1 starting with the feet for his #wrapart sculpture.

And I decided to incorporate last week’s film challenge into my #wrapart, with a Mary Poppins design on my wrap.

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins

It seemed a shame to eat our #wrapart, but since we don’t know a wrap gallery…

And talking of #wrapart, its not a wrap, but here is a photo of another arty sandwich that I made, which won a prize in a different competition earlier this month.  Could easily be converted onto a wrap background, with the body circle being made from cheese or ham.

Alien sandwich

Alien sandwich

Then for challenge 4, we couldn’t do any of the top priorities like theme parks on our bucket list, as these would be all-day activities and our time was limited, since son1 had to see the oncology nurse each day for intravenous chemotherapy.  So we decided to try geocaching at the National Trust.  First I made our “Lunch Less Ordinary” wraps, filled with Mock Crab to take with us.  This is an unusual egg recipe, which can be served hot or cold, so I allowed it to cool before I filled the wraps.  You may see the recipe on another of my blog posts.

Mock crab wrap

Mock crab wrap

Mock crab wrap

I had read about geocaching in advance on the internet, so I knew that you found little “treasures” and replaced these with “treasures” you had brought.  Therefore I prepared a little bag of small toys and sweets to take with us.

Then we drove to our nearest National Trust.  They loaned us a map and a GPS device, preloaded with the locations of the caches and short clues.  The boys were very excited when we found the first cache hidden in a tree.  Mistake though, I hadn’t brought a pen to record our visit on the sheet in the box. We swapped one of our “treasures” for the packet of cola bottle sweets we found.  Then we reprogrammed the GPS for the second location and carried on our way.  This was found on a fencepost, but this time the container was tiny.  Most of the “treasures” I had brought were far too big to fit in it.  So we swapped stickers for a balloon.



On our way to location 3, we came to a bench, so decided it was time for our lunch wrap stop.

Lunchtime wrap

Lunchtime wrap

We carried on and our GPS beeped to let us know we were within a few metres of location 3, but unfortunately we couldn’t find it.  The clue mentioned a beech tree, but there were loads of trees.  Which was the beech tree?  If we do geocaching again, I’ll have to swot up on trees.  After about 5 minutes we gave up looking for it.  By now son1 was quite tired, so we decided to finish early and save the other cache locations for a future visit.

Take a look at Mission Wraps UK Facebook page to see some of their Lunch Less Ordinary ideas.  And I hope that my post inspires you to take up the challenge too.

And to help the nation liberate its lunch, Mission Deli Wraps have an on pack competition, giving you the chance to have lunch in some of the most exciting places in the world or £10,000 cash.

Disclosure : This is my entry for the Lunch Less Ordinary Blogger Challenge. You can find out more at www.facebook.com/MissionWrapsUK. I have been sent some free Mission Deli wraps and have a chance to win some great prizes for taking part.