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Friday, 27 September 2013

MAD Blog Awards 2013; Bloggers are Brill!

I've been wanting to write all week about my brilliant night out at the MAD Blog Awards last Friday evening, but I kept getting distracted by captivating posts that other people have been writing instead. More on that another time (if I get chance!) so let me kick off this post with a picture:
I teased my Facebook friends this week with the above picture, and I'm sure they're all dying to know why I thought it would be a good idea to have a go on a Surf Simulator after a glass or two of wine, whilst wearing a floaty dress. So am I. It's a wonder I didn't end up in A&E. Possibly the less said about that the better then...

The MAD Blog Awards have been set up by the amazing Sally over at Tots100, to celebrate the best of the best of the blogging world (you can see who they are by clicking here). I wasn't invited originally (ahem) as I wasn't even nominated *makes mental note to send out begging emails next time around* but I was thrilled when I saw a competition pop up the week before on Twitter for the chance to win tickets to attend, and ecstatic when I found out I'd actually won one! Cue a mad panic to try and get some childcare sorted (thanks muchly Alex and Matt), more mad panic to find a dress that fitted from the back of my wardrobe, and then I found myself nervously (and in a mad rush as usual) boarding a train to that there London.

The lovely Anne from Raisie Bay, who was one of those important finalists, had very kindly offered to let me be her Roomie for the evening, and I almost didn't know what to do with myself, being allowed to escape and stay over on the same night! It was lovely to meet Anne as I've read her blog lots myself - and I soon realised I was with a 'big' blogger (and she's quite tall too) when the receptionist at the Premier Inn, in his very fetching Onesie, let her know he'd read her blog before!

We took a cab over to the posh London Hotel where the awards dinner was being held, and pretty soon after arriving we started to bump into lots of other bloggers. I was so happy to finally meet Marilyn from Soft Thistle as I've followed her blog (she says 'stalked', but I don't think she was really scared of me...) for a long while as we have a few things in common. She is of course just as gorgeous in real life as she sounds on her blog.

The first glass of bubbly was much needed (thanks Sally!) to calm the excited nerves and then I probably started to embarrass myself by going 'oh, it's you, I love your blog!' a lot to people like Ruth who blogs at Geek Mummy, and Fiona from Coombe Mill and the gorgeous Vic Welton from Verily Victoria Vocalises.

My table for dinner was clearly full of greatness, as we had 3 award winners on the night sitting with us; Merry from Patch of Puddles, Emma from Crazy With Twins, Anna from The Imagination Tree, and the winner of the Outstanding Blogger of the Year Award, Jennie from Edspire, who has blogged emotionally through the unbearable sad year following her baby girl's death, to SIDS. I think we all wished we could hug the pain away.

There was not a dry eye in the house as all the Outstanding Bloggers were invited up onto stage to collect awards, and we watched in awe at the clip which had been put together showing what their blogs, and love, can do. They are all truly inspirational ladies who have done so much already to raise awareness and help others, and I aspire to be like them.

I barely bumped into the fabulous bloggers I had met in person previously (Mich from Mummy From The Heart, Hayley from Downs Side Up, Annie from Mammasaurus and Helen from Actually Mummy) all evening, as there were so many other fabulous ladies (and Kip Hakes in his shiny suit) in the way! Jo from My Monkeys Don't Sit Still and Sarah from Working Berlin Mum were lovely to chat to over dinner. In fact I thoroughly enjoyed talking to everyone all evening, especially a very talkative Tired Mummy of Two and the very special Lil from Style Me Sunday. Bloggers are brilliant!

The highlight of my evening pre-awards had to be getting a photo taken with Dr.Ranj. He is a 'real' paediatrician who presents a fab CBeebies show called Get Well Soon, which just happens to be one of Sasha's favourites (verrucas, head lice and tummy upsets are all repeatedly-watched episodes). 
Dr Ranj

Sasha was so chuffed to see the photo of me with him the next day, and did say wistfully she wished she could have been there... Dr Ranj did the whole presenting stint for the evening and he was so smiley and gorgeous up close - he definitely gets top marks from me for having a go on the dreaded Surf machine! Not that he lasted much longer than me, but his fall was definitely with a lot more style and panache....
Dr Ranj
The highlight after the Awards Dinner (not counting my spectacular Surfing experience...) was Mr.Mozzarella. I'm so gutted I didn't video him as he had me in stitches, but I have found a little clip to show you the man in action. You probably had to be there though.

So it's a massive thanks to Sally and helpers, and Parentdish, and Dr.Ranj, and to all the other bloggers there. I was so happy to have been a part of it! Fingers crossed (very tightly) for next year....
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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

#oneword. What would yours be?

Okay, OK, I know I should be doing something else... but this idea grabbed me and I ran with it, ahead of all the other mucho important things on my To-Do List.




I came across it on my friend Nickie's blog, over at www.iamtypecast.com, but it was started over by another 'big' (not saying anything about your actual size, ladies!!) blogger at www.thestickyfingersblog.com (where you can see all the other entries). The idea is just a photo of yourself in black and white, with one word that describes you.

So simple and yet so captivating - like photos always are to me. We live in a visual world and I'm a huge fan of those apps such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook which help me share and stay in touch with others. Some call it nosey of course. Whatever. I love them all.

I did make the mistake of asking eldest girl what one word she would use to describe me.

'Good', she said, after some initial thought.

'Thanks darling, but that's not a very.... exciting word, is it?'

'OK then' she replied, 'on time'.

'Well thanks, but that's two words'.

Cue much face churning and 'erm-ing' and then all of a sudden I got 'Amazing'.

Now that's my girl.

Come on, join in, what one word would you use to describe yourself?!

#oneword BUSY!!
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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Baking for National Cupcake Week and Macmillan Cancer

This week I got to do something I really love, for a good cause close to lots of people's hearts, Macmillan Cancer.
It was pure good coincidence that it also happened to be National Cupcake Week. I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that!

So here are my efforts this time around - Raspberry Swirl cupcakes with white chocolate toppers, Raspberry Ripple cupcakes, Mint Choc Chip cupcakes, Rainbow cupcakes, Banana and White Choc Chip cupcakes and Lemon Meringue cupcakes.

National Cupcake Week Macmillan Cancer

Tamsin helped me make the toppers; easy to do with some melted chocolate drizzled onto baking paper and we had such good fun experimenting!

I took most into school to be sold at the Macmillan Cancer coffee morning, and some I passed on to good friends and teachers, to help spread a little cheer for National Cupcake Week.

My basic cupcake recipe is always the same and to me it seems so easy that it's almost embarrasing to share. I'm also not sure where it came from originally, as I've been doing it for so long:

150g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
3 medium eggs
150g self raising flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, or lemon juice for the lemon cakes.

For chocolate cupcakes I generally add around 30g of cocoa powder and leave out 30g of the self raising flour.

To this base mix I like to experiment and add different things - this time I dropped a raspberry in each case after the cake mix to make the raspberry cupcakes, and a bit of grated lemon rind into the lemon ones (adding orange rind is also yummy for some St.Clements versions).

I love buttercream icing because it's perfect for piping and I love creating the swirls (and licking the bowl out afterwards!). My recipe for that is (again, no idea where it came from as I've used it for so long!):

140g butter
280g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

This time I wanted to try a marshmallow type frosting so I simply added around 150g melted marshmallows to the above, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. It didn't quite work; the mix ended up a bit too runny and spread as soon as I piped it onto the cakes, but I actually quite liked the end look for a change. Plus, it has to be the tastiest icing I've ever made! So I'm sure I'll be experimenting some more with that soon. The green icing was buttercream made with a teaspoon of peppermint flavouring instead of vanilla. Simple melted chocolate (I mixed plain and milk choc) always makes a good topping, as does shiny glace icing.

Personally I like playing with the fondant coloured icing as you can get some great shapes and themes going on, but I do find it very time consuming. Sasha loves all things rainbow, so she and a friend helped me make some rainbow coloured cakes by adding different food colours to the basic recipe mix, and dropping them into the cake cases a spoonful at a time.

Levelling off the top of the cupcakes is always an enjoyable chore...

Then I simply rolled different coloured icing into strips or balls to make a pretty look, a homage to Rainbow Belle.



If you haven't been before, and you have young girls (or even boys who like music and colours!) then do pop over to the Magic Belles website, www.magicbelles.com, or download their free magical musical app by clicking here. Definitely worth it, Sasha and Tamsin both love the Magic Belles and they are SO friendly!


I'm very conscious of the fact that there may be mums at school who probably think I'm 'showing off' when I take these cakes in, but I honestly do it only because I loved baking and decorating - it's my hobby and my way of relaxing. There's not much else I'm good at anyhow so I don't want to feel guilty about doing these, but equally don't want anyone else to feel theirs are not good enough! I know plenty of other people who can do better...

This Christmas I'm going to be asking Santa for a new camera and maybe a photography lesson, as I never feel as if I present my efforts in the best light. Hope you like them anyhow!
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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Wear It For Autism. An amazing charity event in London Fashion Week.

This week I was extra pleased to be able to attend the wonderful 'Wear It For Autism' charity event, organised by Anna Kennedy OBE.

Taking place during London Fashion Week, this was a chance for some amazing people to be pampered and to 'work' the catwalk for once in their lives, as their trials and tribulations in the world of autism were recognised and rewarded. Mums, dads, siblings, children living with autism themselves and even Grandparents were all given makeovers to help them take the time to feel special about themselves. Then they were invited to 'strut their stuff' in front of a rather large audience!! They all did a super job.

Anna Kennedy is a very special lady; a mum in a million who was awarded an OBE for her services to special needs and autism. Anna set up two specialist schools for children with autism after her own two autistic sons were turned away from mainstream education, she raises awareness for autism constantly through events such as this and Autism's Got Talent, has written a book on autism, made a dance DVD for autism and was voted Tesco's Achieving Mum Of The Year 2013. Is there anything this lady can't do?! She was in person everything that I expected her to be and more - a fireball of energy with a hugely engaging positive attitude (and some very sexy dance moves!). I so admire people who push for something special in life, despite facing struggles most will never know or understand.

Back to the event itself - I'm a bit ashamed of my lack of photographic skills on this occasion, but I'll include some pics anyway to give you a flavour of the evening:
Anna Kennedy

I had a front row seat, right opposite some lovely celebrities who gave up their time to help introduce the slightly nervous participants - Joe Swash, charming as ever, Dr Pam Spurr, Melanie Masson (X-Factor), Ben Duncan (Big Brother) and Jason Leech (The Apprentice) amongst others. Jason's words really rang true and brought a tear to the eye when he described a Young Carer as a shining star and a role model, and he promised that reading how selfless she is would make him go away and change his own life for the better. Compere for the evening was a very funny man who also dedicates his life to helping others with autism, Austin Hughes. 

There was another lady who shone for me on the night; the very beautiful Olley Edwards. She is an actress and author of the book 'Why Aren't Normal People Normal?', and also mum to two girls with autism. As mum to a girl with autism myself, I knew her words would make me feel emotional, and of course they did. She showed us all a clip of a film which she has been working on, which I can hopefully tell you more about in the future. It includes actors with autism, and Olley was rightly very proud of this fact, considering she had been told she could never make it work - it did, of course!

We were treated to some very energetic dancing displays from the Pineapple Performing Arts School and the amazing Marie Gorton and Kitty Brucknell entertained us with their powerful voices. A very talented young man, James Mason, sang us an original song he had penned himself - so good that I'm including a clip of it for you here:
The most special part of the evening, in my opinion, was when Anna came on stage with her two sons, Angelo and Patrick. I'm not sure there was a dry eye in the house

Please help me to spread #autismawareness by sharing this post on Facebook, Tweeting, Google +ing, any way of getting the word out there that you know of! London Fashion Week is so big but I really think we should be celebrating an Autism Fashion week and these kind of amazing achievements. 

I was so excited when I found out I had won tickets to see this event via Jane who blogs at Ethan's Escapades, and even more pleased when I managed to arrange to bring along someone whose blog I've recently enjoyed reading a lot - Orli from Orli, Just Breathe. I have a lot in common with both these lovely ladies and it was great to meet them in person - I love it when blogging crosses over into Real Life!! Not sure how I missed getting a pic with Jane in, but here's Orli and me at the end of this fabulous event (a rare night out for both of us!):
I've decided to join up with the Magic Moments Linky this week, as this was definitely a special occasion!

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Saturday, 14 September 2013

Blingles Glimmer Glam Styler set review

We were delighted to receive the Blingles Glimmer Glam Styler set recently, in order to review the product and let you all know what we thought of it. It came at the end of the summer holidays, luckily just in time for a big girls playdate.


The box includes a small 'pod' to work at, a glitter roller glimmer pen and brush, 8 sheets of stickers and 4 tubs of glitter which have mini rollers in the lid. The idea is then that you peel off the top layer of the stickers, roll your chosen glitter colour onto the exposed sticky area, then peel off another part of the same sticker and roll with a different colour. You end up with a multicoloured, multiglittered sticker which can be used for anything - pencil case, notebooks, boxes etc.

Blingles Glimmer Glam Styler


Well, I can honestly say that the girls thought it was amazing. They played for almost 2 hours with it (it's unheard of round here for anything to get that much focus!) and while they played they chatted about everyday things and also used their imagination for stories too. So I'd say it was a big hit. 

Top tip would be to definitely use a playmat and to not do it in your lounge if you are particularly house proud. I've never seen so much glitter anywhere. I don't know why it is, but I seem to get palpitations about the idea of glitter being wasted, so although cleaning it up should be as easy as just running a hoover round the room, I'm forever trying to channel glitter back into some pot or other so it can be re-used. 

Hey ho, that's just me. I think this one finally taught me to relax a bit. The girls really enjoyed playing with the product, with little involvement from me, so we'd all definitely give it a big thumbs up! There are also smaller packs and accessories which you can buy - for more detail see www.character-online.com



Disclosure: 
We were sent the above product for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.
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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Rapidough Board Game Giveaway!

We were delighted recently when we were given the chance to review the board game Rapidough. Although we generally struggle to be able to include Sasha when playing family board games (she likes to make up her own rules), I always have a hankering for the classics and well-known ones and thought it was about time we tried again. Rapidough has had a complete refresh and there are now hundreds of new, simple, interesting everyday objects to sculpt.
Luckily, we had a few friends round for a BBQ (back when the weather was great, remember that?!) and so after a shandy or two (us, not the children!) we thought it'd be a good idea to get stuck in....

So the basic rules of the game are that the Modeller in each team takes a card, then attempts to sculpt the coloured modelling dough into the shape named on the card. The team mates then shout out their ideas of what the sculpture could be as it progresses, and the first team to guess correctly what is being modelled is the winner. The forfeit for losing at the end of each round is that the winning team gets to 'plunge' - that means they can use the plunger to take away a chunk of modelling dough from the losing team. The upshot of that is of course that the team or teams who are not performing so well end up with less and less dough to try and model with - trying to create a helicopter from a pea-sized piece of dough is no mean feat!

It's a fast and furious kind of game, and this was me ready on the marks:

We discovered that the younger players really didn't enjoy having the dough taken away from them, but they battled on valiantly regardless, and came up with some very creative models. These sunglasses were my favourite! 

I'd definitely recommend this as a great family Christmas board game or party gift. Rapidough stockists and other great products are listed at www.drumondpark.com.

For lucky readers of my blog I also have one brand new Rapidough board game to give away! Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below and the only compulsory entry is to leave a blog comment and complete that tick box in the widget. The competition will close at 00:00 on Friday 27th September and you have the option to win more entries by following other steps. UK entry only - please also read the terms and conditions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Terms and Conditions: The prize draw is only open to UK residents.This giveaway will end on 27th September at 00:00 GMT. This promotion is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated in any way with, Facebook, Twitter,or any other Social Network. Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget above. The winner of the prize will be selected at random.The Prize will only be delivered to addresses within the UK, and the winner will be asked to provide their address for this purpose.The winner of the prize draw will be notified within 7 days of the End Date. If the potential winner doesn't respond or cannot be contacted within 7 days, they forfeit all rights to any Prize, and an alternative winner may be selected.The Prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.I reserve the right to cancel or modify the prize draw at any time (and for any reason) without notice.*



Disclosure: 
We were sent the above product for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.
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Thursday, 5 September 2013

Katsuma Unleased Moshi Monsters DS Game Giveaway!

The whole family was very excited to learn recently that we have been chosen to become Moshi Ambassadors - when I told the the girls, their squeals could be heard down the street I'm sure!

 

So, we can let you into a little Moshi Monsters secret.... there's a new DS/3DS game about to be released, called Katsuma Unleashed. We've had a look at the trailer already, and Tamsin declared 'Wow, that looks fab'. Big thumbs up! Even better, we can let you have a little preview of this right now - see below:


 
Now here's a first on my blog - I'm running a giveaway, the chance to win a copy of this new DS/3DS game when it is released in October. For all my non-bloggy friends, it's really easy to enter I promise - just try clicking on the boxes below (and let me know if you get stuck!). Competition closes at 00:00 on Friday 27th September but make sure you don't forget to enter before then!
 a Rafflecopter giveaway


*Terms and Conditions: The prize draw is only open to UK residents.This giveaway will end on 27th September at 00:00 GMT. This promotion is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated in any way with, Facebook, Twitter,or any other Social Network. Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget above. The winner of the prize will be selected at random.The Prize will only be delivered to addresses within the UK, and the winner will be asked to provide their address for this purpose.The winner of the prize draw will be notified within 7 days of the End Date. If the potential winner doesn't respond or cannot be contacted within 7 days, they forfeit all rights to any Prize, and an alternative winner may be selected.The Prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.I reserve the right to cancel or modify the prize draw at any time (and for any reason) without notice.*
 
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