21 Oct 2014

With a Little Bit of Luck

Are you one of those people who believe in luck? Or are you one of those who believe in making their own luck? Either way, there is no denying that a little bit of luck can go a long way in brightening up our lives.

From the little things to the big and important ones, we all need a sprinkling of good fortune to see us through. Whether it is having an umbrella on hand in a rain shower or landing that all-important contract for your company, luck does play a part in everything.

Some guys seem to have all the luck. But there is a bit of it for everyone, surely, if you just take a closer look. Like the day you thought your luck had ran out because you missed your usual train in the morning. You grudgingly boarded the next one, and ended up meeting the love of your life.    

So whether you are feeling particularly lucky, or you just want to try it out, there is always a game of Bingo at Paddy Power to test your luck.

Here are a few interesting facts about the history of bingo down the ages. You might surprise yourself.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

20 Oct 2014

What I Learnt at Blog Camp 2014 #bcuk

October 18, 2014. The day I headed off to Birmingham to attend my second Blog Camp organised by Tots 100. Unlike a baby, where all the novelty has worn off by the time the second one comes along, my second Blog Camp experience was every bit as, perhaps even more enriching than my first one.

And as, in my technologically-challenged old-fashioned way, I took down all my notes with a pen on a piece of paper rather than use my phone, I am now having to type everything over. Hence I present the abridged version of what I learnt at my day out at Blog Camp.

Here are the highlights from three very useful sessions I attended. The Pro-Blogging session with Lindy (Squidgyboo) and Kiran (Mummy Says), the session on Blogger Collaboration with Penny (A Residence) and Chris (Thinly Spread) and the Brand Partnership panel comprising of Jacqui (Mummy's Little Monkey), Claire (Cheshire Mum), Vicky (Honest Mum) and Katy and George from Frank PR.

  • Be confident about who you are.
  • Believe in yourself and know your worth.
  • If you expect to be treated as a professional, act like one.
  • Stick to deadlines like glue.
  • Communication is key. Always keep all involved parties in the loop, whether it is your editor or PR.
  • Master the art of negotiation. You will need it in the world of pro-blogging.
  • Be unique, be original.
  • Highlight your expertise.
  • Collaborations work in the world of blogging. What one can do, two can do better.
  • Collaborate on everything, from linkys and hangouts to blog clinics and competitions. 
  • Be nice, honest and help others.
  • Contact people, but don't hound them. Not on social media, not in real life.
  • Consider writing for free or guest posting to gain some experience.
  • Content is key. Make sure it is good.
  • Use photos and videos to add to your writing.

Here is how I got on with the Food Photography session.
  • You can pipe a fairy-cake if you set your heart to it. Even if you have never filled a piping bag before in your life. There is always a first time for everything.
  • A photography workshop at Blog Camp is not the time nor the place to come to grips with the fancy new camera that belongs to the OH. The one that you have never used before.
  • You can work photography magic even with your trusty old i-phone. Just as long as you know what you are doing.

  • On a more serious note, the focus was on styling with props, picking up the little details, and the use of lighting to make the most of your food photos.

And here are a couple of essential survival tips I learnt.
  • You will never go hungry at Blog Camp. 

  • There will always be enough cake to feed a multitude of hungry mum bloggers. And coffee.

The day was made even more special as I got to meet quite a few fellow mum bloggers in person for the very first time. It is one thing commenting on each other's blogs using on-screen avatars. It is quite another to be able to chat face-to-face about food, writing and all things Mum.

For me, the take-home message of the day was 'Be nice and collaborate'. I intend to stick with this mantra for the rest of my blogging life. 

So, dear people, if you are reading this and are looking for a collaboration with someone nice, please do get in touch. We might just end up doing something good.

(A huge thank you to Sally and her team for organising Blog Camp. I look forward to the next one, and not just for the biscuits x)

17 Oct 2014

The Twelve Joys of Parenthood

There is no denying that being a parent is a joyous occurance; many a word has been written about the exuberance that newfound parenthood bestows on the most archaic soul. 

Once the initial outpouring of parental euphoria subsides, life can become pretty mundane. Days merge into an endless cycle of feed, clean, entertain, ferry and feed again. With the occasional bout of illness thrown in to break the monotony.

But fret not. It is never too late to inject a shot of chirpy cheerfulness into your parenting. All it takes is the memory of that first unseeing smile.

And if that doesn't work, here are 12 often overlooked reasons why parenthood can continue to overflow with happiness. Or thereabouts.

1) You always have a helper to hand, no matter what the task. From emptying the dishwasher to stuffing that stubborn duvet in its cover, help will always be given to a parent in need. At least till they hit the sulky teens.

2) You always have someone to talk to. They may not listen to what you say. But they can hear you. And it is better to sound off another human being than a brick wall. Infinitely more so than talking to yourself.

3) You need never go to the gym again. Ever. Not if you do the mile long school run chasing behind the child who is keen to become the next big thing on a scooter. And then dragging that scooter back home, only to carry it with you for the return journey. There's your bingo wings sorted.

4) You never need to go on a diet ever again. The child will want to share every last piece of chocolate you had stashed away. You did say sharing is good. And will eat the entire contents of your fridge in a day. Or less.

5) You are guaranteed to get a kiss and a cuddle if you need one to brighten up your day. At least till the time they decide they have had enough of your bearhugs and slobbery kisses.

6) You learn something new every day. You know you do. Nobody can answer all the gazillion 'why's that get thrown at you, without scouring the internet, that all-encompassing source of wisdom, for a satisfactory explanation to the question of Life, The Universe and Everything.

7) Where the World Wide Web fails, the child takes over your education, to instruct and inform you. Perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to reform you. Saving you money that may otherwise have been spent on a self-improvement course.

8) You get to hone your skills as an interpreter. It takes considerable expertise to decipher gobbledygook otherwise known as toddler-speak. And an infinite amount more to crack the code of teen-garble. 

9) Ah, that new baby smell! An eclectic mix of baby soap, regurgitated milk and everything in between. That one olfactory memory is enough to brighten up your day. At least till the wafting smell of scrunched up socks and sweaty jumpers in the laundry basket drive it away.

10) You function superbly on as little as four hours of sleep. By the time the child is a grumpy pre-teen who has to be dragged out of bed at midday, your body has adapted to years of sleep deprivation. So you are up at the crack of dawn even on weekends, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, alert and ready to take on the world. Or blog about it.

11) You reach a state of blissful enlightenment akin to Nirvana. Years of practiced patience in the face of intense provocation is almost as good as sitting down cross-legged in Yogic meditation. 

12)Mundane. Did I say that? Must have been an unwitting spouting from my sleep-deprived brain. Parenthood is not always brimming with joy, but it is anything but mundane. So if nothing brings you joy, the thought of your ongoing parenting adventure should fill you with anticipation and excitement. 

Perhaps even a little dread. Who knows what's lurking around that next corner. Another parenting challenge to tackle and master. Or fail trying.


16 Oct 2014

Win Tickets to The Ideal Home Show at Christmas, Manchester 2014

The Ideal Home Show came to Manchester in spring this year for the very first time. We were there, along with a host of other people and some very famous faces. The stupendous success of the spring edition means that the Ideal Home Show is set to return to Event City in Manchester from Friday 14th November to Sunday 16th November 2014 with a spectacular Christmas special.

Featuring an impressive 300 exciting exhibitors across 7 sections, including: Interiors & Home Accessories, Food & Drink sponsored by Regina, Home Improvements & Outdoor Living sponsored by Hydropool, Fashion & Beauty, Technology & Gadgets, Gifts and Christmas Decorations; the winter wonderland will provide everything you could possibly need for the run up to the yuletide season. 

The innovative products on offer mean that this can be the ultimate destination for all your Christmas needs. There will be no running around the high street or endless browsing on the internet. With everything under one roof, you could have Christmas sorted in just one day! If that isn't incentive enough to visit the IHS, I don't know what is.

It also helps that children under 16 go free. Adult tickets cost £12 if booked in advance, or £15 on the door. Concessions are £11 or £14, depending on whether they are pre-booked or on the day. 

The show will see a host of famous faces, including celebrity chef Gino D'Acampo, English actress and celebrity chef Lisa Faulkner, interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and well known TV personality, wine expert, columnist and author Olly Smith. 

It promises to be a bonanza of all things Christmas, be it festive decorations, food or presents. And if you need a moment to catch your breath after all that shopping, the Christmas Champagne Bar or The Greg Wallace Christmas Restaurant will be on site to provide some respite. Or you could just stop to listen to some festive music at the Christmas Bandstand.

Christmas generally has me all excited. I love everything about it, be it the lights, the decorations, the food or the presents. Imagine finding inspiring ideas for all these and more, all in one place. That is exactly what the Christmas Ideal Home Show promises to do, and I for one, will be there soaking in the atmosphere and stocking up for the festive season.

I am giving away a pair of tickets to attend the Ideal Home Show at Christmas, Manchester 2014. To be in with a chance of winning, please enter via the Rafflecopter below. Good luck! And greetings for the Festive Season x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I have been given a pair of press passes to attend the Ideal Home Show at Christmas in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.
All images are courtesy The Ideal Home Show at Christmas, Manchester 2014.

15 Oct 2014

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

All of us in the C-house love pancakes. We can have them for breakfast, for brunch, for lunch, for pretty much any meal of the day. We do not wait for Pancake Day to make pancakes. We make them when we feel moreish and start craving, well, pancakes. We eat them with sugar, we eat them with lemon, we eat them with bananas and we eat them with chocolate sauce. We also eat our pancakes with cheese.

So when the craving took hold early today morning, we decided to flip some pancakes for lunch. To keep them nutritious and tasting delicious, I always use wholewheat flour to make my pancakes. You can have a peek at my detailed, yet ridiculously easy pancake recipe.

But today was not just about making pancakes. It wasn't even about just eating pancakes. It was all about playing with our food. And getting creative.

So armed with a squeezy tube of Primula Kids Cheese, we had a go at decorating our pancakes. Cheese and tomato is a match made in heaven. And my 3-year old little boy loves the combination. So we decided to keep things simple.

Each pancake got a treatment with Primula Kids Cheese from me, and then my son decided where the tomatoes would go.

Up first, a smiley face with rosy cheeks and what I can only imagine to be a tongue sticking out.

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

For the next one, I wanted to add a touch of hair to our smiley face. J decided to omit the tongue and stick on a nose instead.

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

2 pancakes down, and J was beginning to flag. Eating pancakes is hard work after all!

So we did the third one for me. With a touch of basil to make it a little bit grown up. And replaced smiley faces with a garden in bloom under a shining sun.

Wholewheat Savoury Pancakes with Primula Kids Cheese

We have a couple more tubes of Primula in the fridge. Going by the success of today's lunchtime menu, I know I will be creating more fun food with this squeezy cheese in the not too distant future.

Disclaimer: We were sent samples of Primula Kids Cheese to take part in their promotion. All opinions expressed are my own.

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