Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Pumpkin carvings chez Us

This is the first year I've attempted carving a pumpkin; it's usually Mr C's job!

Tamsin designed the cross mouth one all by herself. Think they turned out quite well, even if I say so myself!!


Pop on over to the The Boy And Me's Blog to see some other great designs!
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Half Term Halloween Cupcakes Baking

Half term has been fab so far. Love having my girls at home with me and just chilling out a little bit. I do still remember the times, not that long ago, when I would actually dread the holidays, and the days all seemed so long and tiring. Times have changed and as the girls get older they do get slightly less demanding... or should I say maybe it's just that there are now some breaks inbetween the demanding times!

Anyhow Monday we had booked in as a baking day at home. Mr C will be running the London marathon for the NAS (National Autistic Society) next year (watch this space for his own personal blog on that and a JustGiving page to go with it...), so as part of his fundraising efforts he is holding a Halloween cake sale tomorrow at work.

There's nothing I like more than a bit of baking, and luckily the girls love it too. Sasha is a dab hand at cracking eggs (seriously, with no shell in bowl, who'd have thought it?!) and Tamsin had her eye on making some Monster cakes she had seen in my new cake book.

I had to prepare the surfaces fully first - 
Now you see it....

.. now you don't!
We started at 9am - no, I wasn't running it like school, they were just up early as normal anyway! In fact, even earlier than normal for Tamsin, with the excitement of a baking day in front of her.... We all donned our pinnies and got stuck in. 
'Let's get cracking!' said Sasha, not really appreciating her own wit:

We started off with a mixed batch of green and orange cupcakes - 24 of those, made by the girls. Have learnt that you must have to use an awful lot of food colouring for them to turn out vibrant - must check for future reference whether the gels I use are actually OK in larger doses!

This was followed by a brief interlude where the cakes went into the oven and I had to clear up (you can't imagine how long that took...). The girls ran off and played nicely both together and separately, popping back into the kitchen periodically to ask when the decorating could begin. That pattern was repeated a lot throughout the day. I made another couple of batches of choccy cakes myself - less mess, or so I thought, until I knocked over a box of icing sugar. Doh.

Cakes all baked by lunchtime, so we moved on to the highlight of the day - the decorating. At this point I'll have to admit I probably got a bit carried away as I had so many ideas for Halloween. Wisely I brought each girl in individually to have a go - Tamsin's monsters took forever (hence only 2 of those!) but were followed swiftly by Sasha's ghosts, Tamsin's mummies, both girls' pumpkins, my witches hats (with a bit of help from Tamsin), and finally the chocolate spiders in droves by all of us.

Tonight I had to finish off decorating the left over cupcakes as they looked all bare and sad.... eyes and gravestones it was then!

Oh what fun we had! Can't wait for Christmas....

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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Choc Crunch Rocky Road Recipe

Chocolate, marshmallows, more chocolate... what's not to like (said in Joey Friends style)?! 

A recipe, on my blog, who'd have thought it?! Fear not, it's not a meal, and strangely not even a recipe for cakes (which is what I am most often to be found donning my pinny for).

Choc Crunch Rocky Road. Following several requests since I published the above picture, I promised I would post the recipe and instructions. These were very kindly given to me in the first place by the lovely Jenny, who blogs over at Cheetahs In My Shoes and also posts delicious-ness over on the Bake Yummy website, so please do head over there and check out the other fab stuff! I altered her version ever so slightly as I'm not a huge fan of glace cherries, but I thought the swap-in of Fudge bars actually worked quite well (does anyone else remember when they used to be 10p each?!).

200g Milk Chocolate
200g Dark Chocolate
50g butter
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
4 full size Crunchie Bars
3 small bags of Malteasers
4 full size KitKat Chunky Bars
4 bars of Fudge
225g (ish) of Mini-Marshmallows 

This made enough to fill 2 small baking tins (mine are roughly 10"x6", or 25cm x 15cm each).

How to make it…

Firstly, put your baking tray in the freezer before you start and leave it there until you need it.  You’ll need a sheet of baking paper (greaseproof or foil will also do if you haven’t got baking paper) to line the tin with ready.

Smash your milk and dark chocolate up into small pieces.  Easily done by keeping them wrapped and hitting hard on the work surface or with a rolling pin. It's also a good idea to break up the Crunchie Bars, Malteasers, Fudge and KitKat Chunky Bars into small pieces before you start – but not too crumbly. Tamsin loved 'helping' with this bit - although I really wasn't happy when she wanted to copy me and use a sharp knife to cut them up. I found cutting easier than the bashing though. 

Put it into a microwaveable bowl with the butter and the syrup and microwave on medium for about 3 minutes – stopping after each minute to give it a good stir.  Repeat 30 secs at a time until melted if necessary.

Stir all your chocolate bars into the melted chocolate/butter/syrup mix, then add the marshmallows and mix well until you’ve got a thick sticky mix. This does take some muscle, and is best done as quickly as you can before the chocolate/butter/syrup mix starts to cool and get stiff.

Take the tin out of the freezer, pop the liner in and then spoon the mix into the tin.  Press it down well (use the back of a wet spoon if you want a smooth effect) and then chill in the fridge for about 4 hours – even better, overnight.

I put some rough cut marks into the surface of the mix before putting it in to chill, and I found this really helped later when it came to cutting it. Be warned though, you really do only need tiny pieces - pure sugar rush may be fun to watch in children at first, but the novelty wears off quickly...! Of course, my advice would be to keep it out of the hands of children anyway - all the more for you then.

See, easy! Enjoy, and thanks again to Jenny. I think I love her a little bit.

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Smart Apps For Kids - they're fab!

OMG! The chance to win a new mini ipad!!

I really wanted a mini ipad and was impatiently waiting for the announcement this month, but was highly disappointed with the high pricing... will have to save a few more pennies. Unless I can win this competition that is!!

Head on over to Smart Apps For Kids if you fancy a chance yourself - oh and their website is pretty spiffing, you should be following them anyway!!
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Friday, 26 October 2012

Thank You, Thank You, and 40 times Thank You!!

It's scary how the last 4 months have flown by.... I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to all my friends who remembered me on my 40th birthday. I had so many gorgeous cards and gifts, so thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
To all those who joined me for the Abba night, I'd like to say that I had such a fab time, it still goes down as one of my best nights ever. Here's the official group pic (minus just the one camera-shy lady, you know who you are...!!):

For all those who contributed to my special birthday present of some Ticketmaster vouchers, I'd like you to know how happy and excited I am that I've been able to pick something extra special to use them on - two events in fact! Next week I will go and see my one true love favourite ever male singer. I have seen him in concert a few times before, but this time will be at a very special venue that I've never been to before - The Royal Albert Hall.

And then, next month, I couldn't believe my luck when I managed to get pre-sale tickets for the one and only Gary Barlow!! Again at the Albert Hall, which I'm sure will be an amazing setting.

So now you know what I'll be up to in the run-up to Christmas. Thanks to all involved, it was a fab present, and whilst they not be your first choices (second maybe, huh?!), I do know I am going to have a blast. Maybe I'll even try and run on stage and blog about it after....
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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Who has a perfect body anyway?

So. Today I had one of those demoralising kind of shopping for clothes trips. This led me to wonder, is it just me who has an unusually shaped body?

credit to
I'll admit I'm not the slimmest girl in the world (ahem) and that I do not have a perfectly symmetrical body. I can reveal that I am (rather unhelpfully) somewhere around a size 10 on top and a size 14 down below. Maybe too much personal information to be sharing but actually I don't consider that to be bad after giving birth to two gorgeous girls (yes, I'm biased about the girls).

I've probably always had this kind of body shape. The hips have always been just there (child-bearing, my mother told me, to be sure she was right), I have very long legs but an extremely short body, and as a youngster I was particularly flat-chested and late to develop, which did not, of course, particularly endear me to any boys. Being painfully shy may also have had something to do with that though.
Anyhow, I digress. I've now reached the ripe old age of 40 and am no longer flat chested. I do still have narrow shoulders however, which obviously isn't helping. Dresses that fit me are pretty impossible to find.

Today I had a Eureka! moment and decided that it's not a personal shopper that I need to help me find clothes; I need a personal seamstress to come with me and alter the ones I do like. 

I started off in one of my favourite high street shops after receiving one of their product catalogues in the post. Everything in the catalogue looked wintry and appealing, in my kind of colours and fabrics. I literally cannot remember the last time I went shopping for me, so I grabbed a half hour in town and made a beeline for this shop (after picking up Halloween decorations for the girls, of course).

I loaded myself up with ten tops - well nine to be fair, plus one jumper dress - and would have also taken some jeans into the changing room if they'd have had them in my size. I wasn't going to name the shop, as I'm definitely not slagging them off per se - to be honest, I've endured this experience more than once in my life, in various outlets - but then I thought I'd copy @FatFace in just in case this post goes viral and they want to thank me by providing some made to measure clothes.

Friendly and helpful staff, lovely changing rooms, a large mirror (all the better to admire those lumps and bumps in) and plenty of space plus a bonus seat to rest a handbag on/sit down on inbetween changes (??!!). TEN tops I tried on, as you can see here:

They are 'everyday' kind of tops, nothing out of the ordinary, but lovely nonetheless. I would have been happy with any one of them. If all ten had fitted, I possibly would have bought the lot.

They were all a size 10. They all fitted me badly in a similar, yet different way. Too low cut, too gaping, too billowy, too falling off the shoulders, too tight under the bust but too big on the bust, etc etc. I was sad. I was also slightly annoyed with myself for wasting my time.

I gave up on tops and went to another shop, where I picked up 3 pairs of jeans in a size 14. One pair too tight, could hardly get them zipped up, one pair a good fit but magically very unflattering, and the third pair very comfy but with the big gaping hole at the back (big hips, small waist). Three pairs, from the same shop, in supposedly the same size. 

At a final shop I grabbed seven tops to be tried on back at home because my (limited) time was running out. I'll be keeping two of those. Yay, success at last, ahem, cough cough.

As I mused over my disappointment back at home, this happened:

Don't judge me, maybe I was just trying to make my top half bigger and balance myself out...

So what do you think? Do you have the perfect body? Can you pick up clothes anywhere? Do you know a good seamstress??!

#ukblogs and feel free to check out my Google+ page!
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Monday, 15 October 2012

#sylvanianfamiliesparty - join in with the fun!

A couple of weeks ago, I agreed to host a Twitter Party for Sylvanian Families. There have been some blog posts around lately questioning whether these types of marketing event are a good idea, but as I'd already agreed to give it a go it's full steam ahead here and tomorrow is the day!

Sylvanian Families are really loved in this house by both girls, which is largely why I agreed to host a party. It's a brand which I'm happy to support because as a previous toy buyer myself, I know the products are excellent quality and well thought out - the girls have spent many happy hours role-playing with them. They already have a few bits, and are now over-excited at the thought of adding to their collection. The big box which arrived did whip them up into a frenzy, although to be honest it wasn't full to bursting so their expectations are maybe set a little higher than I would have liked....! I'm hiding the surprises a little in this photo....

I think it'll be great fun, although as per usual I am now wondering whether I've overstretched myself, on a school night mid-week, when we seem to suddenly have a lot of extra things going on. It's busier than Christmas round here!

Anyhow we are wisely keeping it fairly 'small', with just a few girls coming to share in the fun. There are going to be timed games and competitions, and a Sylvanian themed tea party, so I'm hoping to have grown an extra 4 arms overnight.

Tune in to Twitter tomorrow afternoon from 4pm to find out more! You can follow me on @stephc007 (or click the button at top right of my blog!).
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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A huge Sombrero. Tots100 Baby photo competition alert!

Today I've just come across an offer which I can't refuse..... the chance to enter a baby photo competition again.

Recently I changed the desktop background picture on our computer from a recent happy holiday snap and instead I hooked it up to an old folder of all my favourite photos - since the girls were born. When I switch the computer on the slideshow never fails to make me smile with all those happy memories - try it, I guarantee it'll work for you too (although with your own pictures, not mine of course....!).

So when I read that Tots100 were doing a competition to win £500 to spend at Boots, and to enter you have to pick a baby photo and blog about it, I didn't hesitate.

For once I didn't spend hours staring at each photo and reminiscing; I simply don't have the time (even to be doing this, truth be told). To be honest and not biased in any way, they are of course ALL cute. So instead I picked the first one that jumped out at me. Ta-dah!

This sombrero was worn in London on Millenium New Years Eve (i.e. before the children were born!), and it was a brainwave as it meant our group never got separated in the crowds!

I think I could also release this as a caption competition. Personally I know that the face is saying 'why is daddy making me wear yet ANOTHER silly hat?'

“This blog post has been written as an entry into the Tots100 competition in association with Boots Mother and Baby
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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

One Direction. When is old too old?

Today it's all about Tamsin. She recently spent some time extensively browsing the Argos catalogue and so we have already been given her Christmas list to pass on to Santa:

She can, of course (says Competitive Mum), write much neater*  than that..... I'm guessing she was just carried away with the excitement of the whole exercise. Also, I can confirm she is not Irish ('tings' always makes me laugh though).

I do need to have a word about a couple of the entries, just to make sure we are singing off the same song sheet. No idea what a Shnooks is, but it sounds fun! Suspect 10 par is nothing to do with golf, but it's always best to make sure.

Then there's THE issue. I've highlighted it in yellow. 

Let me clear something up; it does state Harry from 1D (that boy band otherwise known as One Direction) and not Harry from number 10 (she may have got the Royals confused with the Prime Minister, an easy mistake to make). 

The trouble with that is that he's on MY Christmas list. I've heard he likes an older lady. How can I break that news to her?! Oh, never mind, I'm such a kind mummy that I'll agree to settle for one of the others instead, and Christmas peace will reign in our house.

*(grammar fans, please let me know, is it much neater or more neatly?! I've agonised over that for a good ten minutes. Am sure my mum the teacher would know but she's not available for questioning...)
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