Friday, 28 September 2012

Ocean Spray 100% Review

I'm not at my best first thing in the morning.  I used to be great at mornings, I was the person who started work at 7 every day out of choice, walking half an hour to get there.  But age, parenthood and blogging all take their toll, and mornings are a struggle.  Added to the fact that I don't just have to get myself ready any more, Squeaky needs to be dressed, fed & watered, and Peppa Pigged before I can think about myself.

Sadly that means that my breakfast tends to fall someway short of the balanced nutritional start to the day that diet gurus tend to recommend, and much as I like to claim otherwise, coffee beans do not count as one of your 5 a day.  So when I was offered the chance to review Ocean Spray's new 100% juices, I knew it would be a good idea.

Any excuse to get the crystal glasses out!
Ocean Spray have been making cranberry juice for over 80 years, and have been a feature of the long-life juice shelf for as long as I can remember.  The 100% juices are a departure, and can be found in the chiller section (and my fridge!)  There are 3 juices in the range, Cranberry Blend, Blueberry Blend & Mixed Berry Blend.  All are 100% juice, and the natural sharpness of the cranberries (and blueberries) are sweetened with nothing more than other fruit juices.  That's all. No added sugar, sweeteners, water, or nasties, just 100% juice.

I looked round all our local supermarkets (3 of the big brands), and I could only find the Cranberry blend, which was a bit of a shame, as I was really looking forward to trying the Blueberry.  I'm going to keep my eyes open, and there may be a sequel if I find some in another town.  It was a bit of a disappointment, as the stores I looked in were all superstore sized, and normally carry whole ranges.

I was pleasantly surprised how sweet the Cranberry blend was, I've found some cranberry juice drinks in the past were so sharp they felt like they were stripping the roof of your mouth.  The taste is definitely cranberry, but not unpleasantly so.  It makes a really refreshing drink, and a welcome change from the coffee normally making up most of my breakfast.

What did surprise me, considering the name, was that on looking at the ingredients, the Cranberry blend is in fact 75% grape juice.  I understand that the grape is there to sweeten the cranberry, but that's a lot of grape! Looking at the picture on the bottle a little more closely, you can see grapes photographed alongside the cranberries, but I don't know, I felt a little mislead.  If I'd wanted grape juice, I may have chosen another brand.

All said & done, I like it, I just think the name is a little misleading.  It does make a great breakfast drink,
and I must admit, it goes pretty well with vodka too.  (What? Parenthood is hard work!)

Ocean Spray 100% juice is available in all major supermarkets for around £2.29 - and right now there's a try me free offer on the packs.

Disclaimer: I was provided with vouchers to purchase juice for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own,

Monday, 24 September 2012

Special K Biscuit Moments Review

Yum yum!
Say it with me, people. OM NOM NOM!  It's food time again here at Squeaky Towers.  The very generous people at Special K recently sent me some of their new Biscuit Moments to try out.  In the interests of blogging of course, not just because I am a greedy mare (though I am, it must be said).  I'm a major snacker, so having something healthy to grab is vital if I want to fit into my jeans.

I wasn't really sure what to expect before the postie came with my parcel.  I've seen the cereal bars before, and the cereal itself, so I wondered what the Biscuit Moments could be.  Well, there's only one way to find out!

The picture on the box, and the packet inside look very much like some of the other snack bars in the biscuit aisle.  The ones that are filled with flavoured raisins, no matter what the flavour on the box says.  That's where the similarity ends though.  The strawberry Special K Biscuit Moments have actual strawberries in their fruit filling.  The biscuit is light and crisp, and doesn't cut the roof of my mouth to shreds (a problem I seem to encounter with other bars).

Nails: Bourjois 1 Seconde - Rainbow Apparition
On to the taste, and there's no way to avoid this: they are mega-moreish!  The fruit is sweet without being sickly, and the vanilla swirls on top are just enough.  But rather than the two in an individual pack, I could easily sit and eat a couple of packs, and if they weren't wrapped in two-biscuit portions, I could see the whole box going in no time.  (That might say something about me, mind you)

The two biscuit serving has just 98 calories, so it's a healthy alternative to the snacks that tend to appear in our office, and they go very well with a cuppa and a five minute gossip.

Special K Biscuit Moments are available in Strawberry & Blueberry flavours, and are available in TescoAsda & Sainsburys (and probably other places as well).  RRP for a box of 5 two-biscuit servings is £1.99 - but they are on offer right now in Asda for just £1.00, according to their website.

Disclaimer I was sent the Biscuit Moments free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I was not told what to write & all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

I Made This...

I clicked on the photo upload widget before I started to write this post, and as usual it opened the folder I'd used last.  It took all the strength in me not to post a picture of my nails & say "I made this".  But that's not what this is about.  Nor is it about cheese & apple scones (though they are yummy).  Nor is it the mess of the living room of my old house.  It's about the thing that makes me most proud, and fills me with a sense of wonder every day.

Squeaky still feels like a little bit of a miracle to me, she was a long time coming, and had a pretty scary birth.  There are moments and emotions that will never leave me, that I am still not sure whether I want to write about.  But arrive she did, like a miniature hurricane.

She stresses me out, don't get me wrong.  Today has been a very long day of highs & lows.  We've successfully managed 4 trips to the potty (don't lets mention the 3 accidents as well).  We've negotiated the car boot sale in the rain.  We've had monumental meltdowns over chocolate coins and one more episode of Ben & Holly.  We've even eaten Sunday lunch.

She definitely looks more like Daddy than she does me.  There's a couple of photos that are pure me, but normally she's the image of her Daddy.  That's as far as it goes though, because in her personality, she's 100% mini-me.  She has to be mentally active - reading a book, chattering, taking everything in.  If there's no stimulation, she'll find some, or make enough trouble that she gets some that way.

She's stubborn.  The joys of two Capricorns in the house, is that we both like to get our own way, and we're always right, even when we're wrong.  Daddy has a lot to put up with, between us both.  She's developing a wickedly silly sense of humour, mimicking some of our better & worse traits.  Today, trying to get into the car boot sale car park, stuck behind someone walking rather slowly, she piped up "Keep moving love", in a perfect copy of my own frustration at other road users (I've had to tone down my language, I'll be honest).

She's cheeky, silly, affectionate.  She loves to sing & dance, and to slap Noel Edmonds (that's definitely my influence.  It's an item on my Bucket List).  She's like holding up a little mirror to me, for good and for bad.

For all she is, for all she's made me.  Squeaky.  I made this!
Oh, and if you're interested, the nails I was going to post were... 


Thanks to Mel from The Diary of a Jewellery Lover for tagging me, this is my entry into Mellow Mummy's I Made This meme

And a quick set of tags to:
Esther at Diary of a Bad Mutha
Claire at Ninja Killer Cat
Joanne at The Blunt Truth
And you!


Mellow Mummy I Made This Meme

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Clogau Jewellery at RMA Williams - Giveaway

I was invited today to call in to RMA Williams jewellers in Porthcawl, to join in their Clogau Gold event.  Well, what girl could possibly resist?  Not this one, that's for sure.

Clogau Gold (Clog-eye, in case you were wondering, I had to ask as well!) is something very special.  Each piece of jewellery contains a touch of Welsh gold, so special it's been used in the Royal Family's wedding rings since the Queen Mother's wedding in 1923 - yep, you can share a bit of the Will & Kate magic.  A lot of the collections use Welsh traditional symbols, such as the harp in the Heartstrings earrings & necklace shown here.  The designs are a lovely mix of traditional and modern, so there's something for most tastes.  There's a lovely range of Engagement rings and Wedding rings, with that touch of Welsh magic, and really inspirational romantic names.

Marcus & Mellissa, your hosts
Squeaky & I had a good look around the shop, and a chat with the owners, Marcus & Mellissa, third generation of family jewellers.  It's a lovely environment to shop in, friendly & welcoming, but they really know what they're talking about.  I find the "old fashioned" type of jewellers intimidating - everything behind the counter, stern faces, but there was none of that here.  Sofas, a smiling welcome, I even managed a sneaky piece of cake!

You can order online, or in store, and all items have free postage & packing, and free gift wrap.  If you're anything like Squeaky's Daddy, that's a massive help, as he's really not been visited by the wrapping fairy!  The team will match prices on Clogau jewellery from the official website or sale price, so you know you'll get a great price, as well as some beautiful jewellery, for yourself or someone special.  I think an item from the Clogau collection would make a great Christmas, birthday (hint, hint, mine's in January), or general "I Love You" gift for a significant person in your life, or heck, a great way to treat yourself!



Well.  I did mention a giveaway, didn't I?  Guess what I've got for you?  I've been given this gorgeous leather jewellery box for one of my lucky readers.  What a fabulous way to keep your Clogau collection safe.    And if you haven't started your collection yet, what better time?  Christmas is coming, much as we might like to pretend it's not.  I know I'd love to find something like this butterfly pendant in my stocking.


What have you got to do?  It's simple.  Just follow the instructions in the rafflecopter widget.  If you're on a phone or mobile device, you might want to find a proper computer, sorry.

Entries are open right now, and close at 5.01am on 2 October 2012 (rafflecopter's time zones, grrr)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

This is a sponsored post, which makes it no less interesting.  All opinions are my own and I was not told what to write.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme and I will not receive any reward for their use.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

When Do I Get My Badge?

I was a prefect at school. It was a great day when my friends & I were handed that badge of power.  OK, only the power to stop 11 year olds from going to the toilet until the could name all the members of New Kids On The Block in order of fanciability, but power all the same.

Yes. I know.

Once we leave school, where's the badge of responsibility?  I have a work's ID card (in fact, I have two, one from my employer, and one from the owners of the building we work in, so I can get in the door), the only thing that gives me is 10% off in my local 'Spoons.  I have a bank card, all that gives me is petrol.  I have a driving license, and all that gives me is a worry that this is the month the speed camera van will finally catch me unawares.

But I have to be a proper grown up person.  Take today for example.  Aside from work, I have bought furniture polish, forgotten to put the bins out, filled in Squeaky's school registration forms (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!), bought bird seed for the resident sparrows, registered with a new GP, took a healthy, home cooked lunch to work, and actually turned down the option of cake (OK, I might have had a doughnut earlier, but even so, there was cake & I didn't eat it!).

So, come on world, where is my Grown Up Badge?

A Peace of Cake

Earlier this year, I spotted a competition on the side of This Water to win, amongst other prizes, signed copies of a dvd called The Day After Peace.  I texted in, and was lucky enough to win on my very first attempt.  That DVD, a documentary by British filmmaker Jeremy Gilley, is all about what happens when one person starts a movement, a movement for a global day of Peace.  That day, Peace Day is September 21st, adopted by the United Nations in 2001 as an annual day of global ceasefire & non-violence.
  
Ocado, has joined forces with the non-profit organisation behind the documentary, Peace One Day and Great British Chefs’ Alfred Prasad, Executive Chef at the world famous Tamarind in Mayfair, to inspire mini masterchefs to participate in Peace Day 21 September. Working together to create the simple, yet delicious Sri Lankan Love Cake' recipe, Ocado is encouraging families across the UK to unite for peace in the kitchen. The tasty initiative calls for mums and dads and their little sous chefs to bake and share their cake with family and friends.

Made with delicious ingredients, including honey, fragrant ginger and rose water, the online grocer has pledged to donate all sales profits from the recipe ingredients of this tasty traditional Sri Lankan delicacy to Peace One Day.

If you want to get involved & make your own Love Cake, you can use the link above to order the ingredients directly from Ocado, and follow the recipe and video instructions below. I'll be honest here, I haven't had chance to try it out yet, but I'm planning to over the weekend... Watch out for a future blog post to find out how I got on!  It looks a fairly simple process, and I love the idea of jelly babies in a cake!

Alfred Prasad’s Sri Lankan ‘Love Cake’ Recipe
This wonderfully simple cake is a Sri Lankan delicacy made with love at birthdays or special occasions.  A legacy from the Portuguese rule in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the cake is a great combination of dried fruit, nuts and spices. 
Love Cake_3
Ingredients:
o   150g unsalted butter
o   350g caster sugar
o   6 medium eggs
o   3 tablespoons honey
o   2 tablespoons rose water
o   Grated zest of 1 orange
o   Grated zest 1 lemon
o   1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
o   1 teaspoon ground cardamom
o   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
o   200g unsalted cashew nuts, chopped coarsely [optional]
o   250g coarse semolina
o   50g glacĂ© cherries [can be replaced with wine gums or jelly babies]
o   25g  mixed peel
o   25g crystallized stem ginger
o   Icing sugar to dust 
Method:
1.      Preheat the oven to 150˚C/300˚F and line a 25 x 30 cm (10 x 12 in) cake tin with baking paper. 
2.      Dice 150g of unsalted butter and leave in a warm place to soften.
3.      Once soft, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. 
4.      Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. 
5.      Add honey, rose water, zest, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. Use a spatula to gently fold through
6.      Next fold through the cashew nuts, semolina, glacĂ© cherries, mixed peel and crystallized ginger until combined. Do not over mix.
7.      Turn into prepared tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until pale golden on top. The cake comes out best in a slow-cook process and should ideally feel chewy on top and moist in the middle. 
8.      Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes.
9.      Turn out of the tin, and when completely cool dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

M&S Man-Over Challenge

Christmas is a'coming
The goose is getting fat
You can't seriously think
I'll let you out like THAT!

Don't panic, folk, don't panic.  It's not a Christmas blog post just yet.  But I'm planning, OK?


This is Squeaky's Daddy.  He's what's generally known as a right scruffy bugger.  We're both quite lucky in that we have jobs where the dress code is relaxed to say the least, and so we spend most of our time in jeans.  That's great most of the time, but every now & then, you've got to step it up a notch.

Even the camel is amused by those shorts
Image courtesy of Marks & Spencer
I recently won a very special prize.  A night's stay in a 5 star hotel, with a 3 course meal for two in the hotel's bistro restaurant, all the trimmings.  Generally, something a wee bit out of the norm.  Not too bad for me, I can find something pretty in the back of the wardrobe, but what about Daddy?  He can hardly go in those flipflops, can he?  What he needs is something like this suit.  That would go down much better amongst the great & good of South Wales society, and he could roll it out again for the Christmas party season, Valentines Day, even Squeaky's wedding! Good tailoring doesn't go out of fashion, and she seems to have a boyfriend for every day of the week.  I'm sure it won't be long!

I'm no expert on men's suits, but the people at Marks & Spencer are.  That's why I'd love for Squeaky's Daddy to win their current Man-Over competition, and receive his very own suit consultation, rather than having to rely on my questionable taste in menswear.  He does far more than he gives himself credit for, and really deserves something special.

This is our entry to the M&S Man-Over challenge.  Wouldn't you love to see me with a smile as wide as that camel's?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Mortified!

We had a little adventure down to the wilds of Torbay last weekend. Any excuse, I know, but as Squeaky woke us up last week crying "I want to go on holiday, I want to go to a caravan", we couldn't really not take our latest £9.50 hol, could we?  I'll write a proper blog post about the trip another day, hopefully.

Not far away...
Today though, I wanted to share one of the finer moments of life with a 2 year old.  Picture the scene.  We've just been swimming, and are in the changing rooms of the holiday site's swimming pool, squeezed into a little cubicle.  Squeaky is dry and dressed, and giving her usual running commentary of every thought that passes through her head.  I am in the middle of getting dry.

Squeaky: Where's Daddy?
Me: In the boys changing room.
Squeaky: Boys smell of feet
Me: Yeah, ok, they do
Squeaky: You smell of feet
Me: Errr, THANKS, no I don't.
Squeaky: Incey Wincey Spider climbs up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sunshine and ... POPPED the spider out. Out came the sunshine and... POPPED the spider out. (Repeat this line 10+ times) Incey Wincey Spider climbed up the spout again

There are a few giggles to be heard in the changing room as Squeaky is not a quietly spoken child.  At this point, I breathe a sigh of relief, and continue getting dry.  I've just put my t-shirt on, and peeled off the bottom half of my swimming costume.

Squeaky: Mummy, what's that?
Me: What's what, darling?
Squeaky: THAT!  You've got a bit of hair on your bottom!
Me (thinking fast): Oh, so I have. Incey Wincey Spider?

There are now much louder giggles from the rest of the changing room, and I am looking for a hole in the ground to swallow me up.  I mean, WHAT do you say?  And is this one of those milestones I should be writing down for future reference?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Memories...

I've been sorting through some old "stuff" this afternoon, all those things that you can't bear to part with, shove in a bag or the back of a drawer, and then find many many years later & wonder "why on EARTH did I keep this?"

Well, amongst the things I found were a pair of Coca-Cola "spinners".  Trick yo-yos, to you & me.  Apparently it was something to do with copyright on the word yoyo.

I remember collecting coke ring pulls for what felt like forever to get my red spinner, and the coke promotions team coming to our school.  If you could do a certain number of tricks, you could win a silver, or even a gold spinner.  Somehow I won the gold one.  I don't know how, I can remember being pretty bad, even then.  I could do "Round the World", which was just whizzing it round in a big circle at the end of the string. Now, it's about all I can do to get it to come back up!

Did you have one?  Can you remember how to jailbreak a "normal" yoyo & turn it into a trick one?  And could you ever actually do any of the tricks?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

My Jenny Craig Blog Question

It's a constant battle in my wardrobe, between the clothes I would love to wear, but don't quite fit, and the clothes that fit, but I just don't *want* to wear.  Sad but true.

Jenny Craig UK are running a competition at the moment, giving bloggers the chance to win £400 towards a new bike (to get fit) and a 28 day Jenny Craig weightloss programme (to get less fat!).  All bloggers have to do is to post their own diet & nutrition question for the Jenny Craig nutritionists to answer, and you're in the draw!  Sounds good to me.  I'd love a new bike, it's been years since I rode, but the Taff Trail (and national cycle route 8) go RIGHT past my front door, so there's no excuse really!


My question for the Jenny Craig team is this:

As I'm often too busy in the morning to sit down & eat a proper breakfast, particularly when I have to drop my daughter at nursery before work, I often just grab something on the go.  It's not usually that healthy (and often cost more than I'd like).  Can you give me some hints for healthy breakfasts on-the-go, that are quick & easy to prepare, and cheaper than buying a danish from the shop?

If you're quick, you can add your entry to the list... but get blogging, it closes today!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Terry Jones



Those of you of a certain age, or older may recognise the figure above as being Terry Jones, from Monty Python.  You may even think you know a few things about Terry Jones. But I bet you don't!

Terry Jones is 4 and a half.
Terry Jones is a princess.
Terry Jones wears a pink dress.
Terry Jones is invisible.
Terry Jones has a pet dog, called One-and-a-half.
Terry Jones lives in our house.
Terry Jones eats peas and bananas.

Terry Jones is somehow Squeaky's imaginary friend.  I sort of understand where she has got the name from, she has an Uncle Terry, and there's a fair few people called Jones living round here.  But why did she have to come up with a Real Person?

Does your child have an imaginary friend? Or even better, do you? Spill the beans!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk Fridge Friendly - Review

Now I know this is a subject that causes controversy, so let's make this clear from the start.  I am choosing to share this information because some people may find it useful. I am not making any suggestions about the rights or wrongs of any parent's choice.

My friends at Cow & Gate have recently launched a new fridge-friendly premixed version of their Growing-Up Milk.  As Squeaky is getting older, we're moving more to using cow's milk for her regular drinks, but I do like to have some Growing Up Milk on hand if she's not eating well, or in case we run out of the green stuff.  Powder is all well and good, but if you're not using it regularly, it's a lot of wastage.

Yes, I did tidy the fridge first!
The new fridge-friendly version is a 1 litre tetrapack carton, much like UHT milk or juice.  The carton fits comfortably in the door of the fridge, and is resealable.  Once opened the milk lasts for 3 days, plenty of time for your Little One-der to drink it, pour it on their cereals, etc.

There are both the 1-2 and 2-3 year old versions of the fridge-friendly pack, which doesn't need to be refrigerated until it's opened, meaning you can keep a carton in the cupboard for emergencies (or holidays, it's not just adults who want a drink when they get home!)

Squeaky was really taken with the Growing-Up Milk, she drank it straight down, and demanded a refill immediately - no danger of it taking 3 days to use up in our house!  I loved being able to reach for the carton straight from the fridge, but had to make sure I didn't put it in my coffee by mistake.  It wouldn't be fair, really.

Cow & Gate 1litre fridge packs are available now in Sainsbury's, Tesco, Boots & Morrisons for around £1.79.

Disclosure: I was provided with the 1 litre fridge pack shown above for the purposes of this review. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own. Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of an affiliate scheme & will not be rewarded for their use.  I was sponsored by Cow & Gate to attend the CybHer conference in May 2012.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Cocoa Boutique Review

I'm never one to back down from a challenge.  Especially when that challenge involves sampling 15 different luxury chocolates and reviewing them, well, who am I to say no?

The fine people of Cocoa Boutique had the idea to set up a chocolate tasting club.  The introductory selection costs £34.95, and then future boxes are £19.95, and can be sent monthly, quarterly, or 6 monthly, depending on your preference (or gluttony levels!)  A little expensive to buy for myself, but a lovely gift idea for someone special.


The chocolates are sent by Royal Mail, and the boxes are designed to fit through the majority of letterboxes, there's even a message to the postie to let him know that.  A cute touch, but very practical - I hate trekking to the sorting office for something that would have fitted if only they'd tried.

I hid the box away from Squeaky (who is far too young to appreciate them), and Daddy, as theywould barely touch the sides, and settled down for a full chocolate tasting experience.  You've got to do these things right, you know!  I set to opening the cardboard box, and found a beautiful black & white cardboard box. It was like a game of pass the parcel!  The menu card was in this layer, so I knew I was in for a treat, but how many more layers before I found it? Beneath the menu card, tasting notes, chocolatier biographies and some handy translations of choco-lingo, I found a black paper liner, sealed with the Cocoa Boutique logo sticker.  The last layer between me and my chocolates!  I peeled back the sticker, and there they were.


The box I received contained more milk chocolates than plain or white which suited me, and fortunately for a non-nut eater (not through allergies, just through not liking them), only one with nuts.  A few boozy chocolates, though they were more subtle than the menu would have me believe, chocolate coated coffee beans, and my current favourite thing in the whole world... salted caramels.  Yes, I did have to take that photo to make you all jealous.  There was salted caramel halfway up my wrist by the end of that!

I loved the mix of chocolates. Even the white chocolate, which I'm not normally a massive fan of, was high quality and not overly sweet.  There were some unusual flavour combinations, raspberry & orange, and cassis-pear, and the presentation set the box above the norm.

Nails: Sally Hansen Nail Prisms, Garnet Lapis
Cocoa Boutique actively seek out feedback, the menu card gives space for you to rate each chocolate, and give comments on your favourites & the whole tasting experience, and an envelope is provided to send your comments back.  Or if you're more inclined to do everything online, you can rate your chocolates on the website.

I really enjoyed my Cocoa Boutique experience, the only criticism I could make is that it seemed to be a lot of packaging, though it's all recyclable, and it did keep the chocolates well protected during their journey to my door.

Disclosure: I was provided with the Introductory Selection box free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme, and I will not receive any reward for their use.