28 Aug 2014

Summer Dreams

Our Summer Scrapbook of Dreams

The sun shone this summer, or so it seems
On laughter, excitement and holiday dreams.

Lounging on the sand on a sun-kissed shore
Dips in the pool, ice-creams and much more.

Visits to the park, play on slides and swings
Picnics packed with berries, cakes and things.

Off to London on the big electric train
To explore the big city even in the rain.

Tubes, buses, taxis, excitement all around
Museums, palaces, bridges, adventures abound.

At home and in the garden, lots more to do
Bubbles, paints, crafts and finding spiders too.

We now draw to the end of warm summer days
Just wish we had had some more fun and play.

Our Summer Scrapbook has been inspired by this tip by Steph Tilley, Center Parcs Community Manager: "Create a scrapbook by sticking in different mementos of your summer – train tickets, photos and handwritten diary entries always work well, or why not try something a little more unusual? Ask your little ones to decorate your scrap book with hand prints and finger painting, cut out words from old newspapers and magazines or even have a go at creating a digital scrapbook, complete with video clips."

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

25 Aug 2014

Spiced Tomato and Coconut Soup: A Guest Post

I have been invited by the lovely Michelle to post as a guest over on The Purple Pumpkin blog. I chose to write a recipe for a spiced tomato and coconut soup, something I ate a lot of growing up.

Spiced Tomato and Coconut Soup
This is essentially my Aai's (Mother's) recipe, but I have cut corners and made it easy by using chopped tinned tomatoes and a tin of coconut milk instead of blanching, peeling, pureeing at home. But there is no compromise on the taste. 

To read more about my recipe, please visit Michelle's blog here. I do hope you enjoy visiting, reading and trying out this lovely spiced up soup recipe.

14 Aug 2014

Robinsons Fruit Shoot #GetYourSkillsOn Challenge

The Twelve Labours of the Family C

Once upon a time, there was a 3 year old little boy called J. He lived in a little cottage at the edge of the woods with his Mum V and his Dad M. The family C loved to spend time together doing fun things and were always seeking out adventure.

One fine summer afternoon, they were out walking in the woods when out popped a tall man wearing a purple cloak studded with silver stars and a green pointy hat. "Good morning!" said the man. "I am the Robinsons Fruit Shoot wizard. And I am here to challenge you to get your skills on. Your quest is to complete a series of at least 10 tasks and have lots of fun along the way. Get creative, get adventurous and do your very best. Your efforts shall be rewarded."

The family were always up for new challenges. They accepted the Robinsons wizard's dare. Just to make things a little bit more interesting, they decided to take on a dozen instead of just the stipulated 10 Get Your Skills On challenges.

Little J decided he would be the one to take on the first challenge. So while the family was holidaying by the sea-side, he took to building castles in the sand. Not happy with just one, he built a series of them complete with moat et al. And then when they returned home, he carried on practising his newly acquired sandcastle building skills in the sandpit in the back garden.

Robinsons Fruit Shoot #GetYourSkillsOn Challenge
The back garden of the C-household was to be the setting for quite a few of little J's triumphs. One sunny day, he said, "Mum, I want my basketball hoop to go high up." Mum was sceptical; the hoop was at 6 feet already. But she did not want to discourage her brave little boy. So up went the hoop, hoisted another foot in the air. And within no time, J had proved that his confidence was not misplaced. He netted a neat basket. And Mum was lucky to capture the moment on camera for posterity.

J is very fond of mini-beasts. He and Mum often spend time in the garden looking for spiders, ladybirds and snails. Little wonder then that J chose to walk around the garden like a spider for the next challenge. Not easy work at all, scampering around on your hands and feet and making it look so adorable at the same time!

Robinsons Fruit Shoot #GetYourSkillsOn Challenge
Little J was doing his bit for the family's skill-building challenges. It was now time for Mum and Dad to take on the mantle and hone their skills. Mum decided to do two of the time-trials. After a few wobbly attempts, she dribbled a shiny lit-up ball for 15 seconds. And then she walked a full 15 seconds wearing a zebra mask and balancing a box of crayons on her head. Looking quite amusing in the process.

Dad opted to brush up his frisbee skills, and managed a lovely throw straight into the hands of a waiting friend. There were others that went slightly amiss, but we shall not dwell on those.

It was back to little J for the remaining tasks. Always with lots of support and encouragement from his doting parents. The Robinsons Fruit Shoot wizard did want them to work as a team. And they loved doing things together as a family anyway. 

So off to the park they all traipsed where J sat on the 'big boy' swing instead of his usual 'baby' one. Up and up he went, high up in the air. Mum was anxious, but Dad was cool as a cucumber. J was brilliant as he held on tight and did not try to jump off in mid-air. Phew! Mum breathed a sigh of relief. 

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, J had a go at climbing a tree for the very first time that day. A bit of a leg up from Dad, and he had clambered up into the branches. This can only be the first of what are sure to be many more escapades from J.

J managed another remarkable first with these tasks. After a bit of coaxing from Mum, he rolled down a grassy hill. And then again and again till he was out of breath and could roll no more. On the day the family C had taken a picnic to a lovely deer park. 

There was a little play area in the park with built-up dens. J had a pretend-play session in one of them. And then wanted to make one of his own when he got home. Now the garden at home did not have  lots of sticks and branches to build a den. So Mum improvised. Out came the dining room chairs and out came a lovely blue bed-sheet. One draped over the other, and J had a delightful den. 

Robinsons Fruit Shoot #GetYourSkillsOn Challenge
Then it was time to do what J does best. Make some music. The boy is a natural when it comes to picking up a beat. Even something as simple as a saucepan and whisk can sound musical in the child's hands. 

For the last Get Your Skills On challenge, the family C decided to do what they all love. A good old session of rough and tumble. So J had a go at climbing all over Dad, while Mum clicked away furiously with her camera. J did hop onto Dad's back for a little piggy-back ride at some point during all the rough-housing.

And that was that. The family C had completed their series of the Robinsons Fruit Shoot tasks.

But this is not the end of their story. All stipulated challenges successfully completed, the family C has decided not to rest on their laurels but carry on working their way through the entire list of 40. So there will always be something interesting to do, some new skill to learn and some fun to be had along the way.

Disclaimer: This is my entry to the Robinsons Fruit Shoot #GetYourSkillsOn challenge. The bit about the Robinsons Wizard is fiction. Everything else is absolute fact and it is indeed the members of the C-household that were involved in participating in and competing the Get Your Skills On challenge.

12 Aug 2014

Spicy Stir-Fry Chicken Wrap with Mr Singh's Sauces

I am a huge fan of fusion cooking. There can be nothing better than combining flavours from across the world in one superbly delectable dish. I love using flavours from my childhood with more recent gustatory influences and plating up appetizing food.

Mr Singh's Sauces were born out of a similar philosophy of combining tastes from the east and the west. 

When I was asked to try out Mr Singh's Sauces in my cooking, I decided to stay true to my passion of fusion food.

Mr Singh's Sauces

I used Mr Singh's Hot Punjabi Chilli Sauce to create my spicy stir-fry chicken wrap. A bit of India meets Mexico on a plate.

To cook my spicy stir-fry chicken wrap you will need:

400 gram chicken breast diced into chunks
Half a 275gram bottle of Mr Singh's Hot Punjabi Chilli Sauce as marinade
2 tbspn sunflower oil
3 multi-coloured peppers, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
A packet of tortilla wraps

Dice the chicken breasts into chunks. Pour half a bottle of Mr Singh's Hot Punjabi Chilli Sauce onto the chicken and mix to ensure all the pieces are uniformly coated with the marinade. Marinate the chicken for 2-3 hours in the fridge.

Heat the cooking oil in a large wok. Once the oil is hot, add the marinated chicken and stir fry on high heat with frequent stirring for 5 minutes. Now add the the thinly sliced peppers to the chicken and carry on stir-frying for another 5 minutes (a total of 10 minutes) till the sauces go dry. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spicy Stir-fry Chicken and Peppers in Mr Singh's Hot Punjabi Chilli Sauce

Cook the tortillas as per the instructions on the packet. 

To prepare the wraps, spoon out the stir-fried chicken into the middle of the tortilla. Add a few slices of onion and fold over the tortilla. Your spicy stir-fried chicken wrap is ready to eat. Serve with a side-salad or a mint and yogurt raita. If you fancy some more spice, try serving with a splash of Mr Singh's Hot Punjabi Chilli Sauce. Delicious every way!

Spicy Stir-Fry Chicken Wrap with Mr Singh's Sauces
There is a trio of Mr Singh's Sauces available in the market at the moment. There is a Mr Singh's Hot Punjabi Chilli Sauce, Mr Singh's Punjabi Pesto and Mr Singh's Bbq Chilli Sauce. You can use them to create delicious food of your own.

Disclaimer: I was sent samples of Mr Singh's Sauces to try out for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

Link up your recipe of the week

10 Aug 2014

Ideas for Free Family Summer Fun

It does not take a lot to have some family fun in the summer. Here are some great ideas for you to enjoy your summer holidays without the need to break the bank. 

1) Visit the local park. The play areas and vast expanses of green are an excellent way to expend all that pent up holiday energy.

2) Spend a day at the sea-side. Dip your toes in the water or go for a paddle. Build castles in the sand. Ride a donkey or fly a kite. Fun guaranteed. 

3) Take up the summer reading challenge at your local library. It is a fantastic way to get the little ones to keep reading through the holidays.

4) Most towns and cities have museums with free entry. Education and entertainment all rolled into one.

5) Go for a long ramble. Just walk aimlessly in your neighbourhood or dare to deviate from the beaten path. You can even wander further afield and go fell walking or climb up a mountain. 

6) Hop on to your bicycles or join the latest scooter craze. Either way, you are sure to have tons of fun.

7) The back garden is a treasure trove of exciting experiences if you know where to look and what to do. From outdoor messy play to nature trails to more boisterous physical activity, there is nothing you cannot do in your own garden. We love our mini beasts, so go looking for spiders, ladybirds and snails in our garden.

8) If all else fails, you are stuck for inspiration, or the heavens have opened up to rain down on your well-laid summer plans, there is no place like home. You can always have a stay and play date in the comfort of your own home. Invite some friends over for extra fun.

Whatever you do and wherever you go, don't forget to pack a sumptuous picnic. The deliciously cheeky wink of McVitie's BN biscuits make the perfect addition to any picnic basket. Having fun can be hungry work after all!

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie’s BN. 

Disclaimer: We received free samples of McVitie's BN biscuits. All opinions are my own.

Strawberry Summer Puddings

Summer would not be summer were it not for strawberries. There is something very special about these ruby red hearts that spell summer like nothing else can. Strawberries mean picnics. Strawberries mean Wimbledon. And strawberries mean delicious desserts.

Strawberries are low in calories and rich in vitamin C, which make them ideal for a healthy snack when eaten on their own. If you are looking to indulge, their vibrant red colour and sweet fruity flavour make them the perfect ingredient for a summer pudding.

We all have our favourite ways of eating strawberries. Here are three of mine. The taste belies the minimum effort that goes in the preparation of these summer delights.

Strawberry Jelly Fruit Salad

To serve 1:
50 gram sliced strawberries
1 hulled strawberry to garnish
145 grams made-up strawberry flavoured jelly
3 heaped tablespoons of ready-to-eat custard
1/2 thinly sliced banana
a handful of grapes

Strawberry Summer Puddings
Make the jelly as per the instructions on the packet. Before you refrigerate the jelly to set, add the slices of strawberries to the liquid jelly. Let the jelly set with the strawberries in it. Serve with custard and with a whole hulled strawberry as garnish. Plate up with a ring of bananas and grapes. Your strawberry jelly fruit salad is ready to eat.

Strawberry Kebabs

To serve 4:
400 grams strawberries, washed and hulled
50 grams marshmallows

Wash and hull the strawberries. Stick them onto some bamboo barbecue skewers, alternating with marshmallows. Serve as a fun summer pudding for picnics and barbecues. You can serve these with chocolate sauce as well for some extra fun.
Strawberry Summer Puddings

Upside down Eton Mess

To serve 4:
200 ml double cream, lightly whipped
400 grams strawberries, quartered
4 meringue nests broken into chunks (about 50 grams)

Strawberry Summer Puddings

Pour the whipped cream into a bowl. Add the chopped strawberries and fold them in gently. Now add a layer of strawberry pieces to sit on top of the mixture. Sprinkle with the meringue chunks. Refrigerate till it is time to serve. The meringue on top means that it does not go soggy or dissolve completely. So you can make this pudding well in advance and can still get bits of meringue to chew on.

So how do you like to eat your strawberries?

Disclaimer: I was sent money-off vouchers towards Tesco berries as part of their Orchard programme. All opinions are my own.

7 Aug 2014


Our little boy's room in need of an update
We decide it is time for our first DIY date.

A visit to Ikea and the stage is all set
To put our virgin DIY skills to the test.

The side-table freed with the flex of a muscle
Sanding down the left-behinds a bit of a tussle.

A gaping hole where the carpet should've been 
The bed will go over it, it shall not be seen.

Paints, brushes, hammers, screwdrivers and drills
Unscrambling DIY manuals is certainly not a thrill.

Bed, wardrobe and book-case all ready at last
Canopies and decals get stuck on super fast.

The shabby old ceiling light is the last to go
I have bought new tools, get it done in a mo.

Shiny new pendant should light up in a blink
Changing electrics is harder than you think.

Mains powered down, wires all a-dangle
Live, earth, neutral, in a great big tangle.

Five hours lapsed, no signs of a respite 
Did we perhaps chew more than we can bite?

M persists with determination as I write this ode,
To fledgling DIY skills and challenges galore.

(P.S. He did sort out the light in the end)


5 Aug 2014

The Canvas Prints - A Review

I have seen a few bespoke canvas prints in my time. I even have a few dotted around my home. Now there are canvas prints and then there are The Canvas Prints. Impeccable is the word that sprang to mind as I stood there, my brand new canvas print in hand.

My little boy has shunned professional photo shoots for all of his three years. That, and my immense ability to procrastinate means that all of J’s photos languish in the unfathomable depths of my computer in binary code. There is not a single print, let alone an entire canvas.

I decided to change all that when The Canvas Prints offered me the opportunity to review one of their bespoke canvases.

3 Aug 2014

A Dream Bedroom for J

If I had all the money and all the space in the world, I would design the perfect dream bedroom for my 3-year old little boy. It would not all be blue, we do not believe in blue is for boys. And it would not have just a single theme running through it. That is just plain boring. It would be a bit of a mish-mash of colours, of themes, of all the things that my boy likes.

But with a common thread running through and binding it all together. A thread of unstructured fun and vivid imagination. Where Thomas the Tank Engine will co-exist with pirates and jungle animals with astronauts. It will be a space to spark the child's imagination, pique his curiosity and open his mind to the wonders of the universe.

And of course, everything would need the nod of approval from little J before I actually go out and buy any of it, let alone install it in his space.

Starting now. All the things I am listing as being part of J's dream bedroom have received a big thumbs-up from my little man himself. Who at this very moment, is sat next to me scrutinising everything that his Mother is dreaming of putting in his bedroom.

1) Children's Davy boat bed with storage and wheel - £499 by Sleeplands Bed - The family bed company (www.sleeplandbeds.co.uk)

2) Kinder memory mattress - medium firm - £239.99 by Dreams (www.dreams.co.uk)

3) Stripe patchwork cotton quilt - £52.50 by Laura Ashley (www.lauraashley.com)

4) All season's duck feather and down duvet - £68 from Bedrooms by Feather and Black (www.featherandblack.com)

5) Glow in the dark Star blackout lined pencil pleat curtains, navy - £80 by little home at John Lewis (www.johnlewis.com) 

6) 1000 glow in the dark stars - £4.99 by the Glow Company (www.glow.co.uk)

7) Thomas the Tank Engine peel and stick wall decals - £18.99 by Garden at Home from Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk)

8) Personalised child's rocking chair - £39.95 by the Original Gift Company (www.theoriginalgift.co.uk)

9)Field Days Farm duvet cover - £35 by Adore Home at Not On The High Street (www.notonthehighstreet.com)

10) Philips myKidsRoom Aeroplane Sky Ceiling Light - £14.78 by Socket Store (socketstore.co.uk)

11) Building Block Bookcase Shelving Unit - £450 by Bedroom Design Inspirations (www.bdichildrensfurniture.co.uk)

12) Floor to ceiling rainbow children's storage - by Barbara Genda bespoke furniture (www.barbara-genda.com)

13) Lasko wardrobe, oak - £500 by John Lewis (www.johnlewis.com)

14) Large Tractor Farm Playmat - £24.95 by Be-Active from Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk)

So these are all the things I would love to get for J's bedroom. And a huge pile of books scattered all over.

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