Monday, 23 September 2013

Cooking up savings

We were talking in the office today about cooking, and how one of our clients had told my colleague she cooks all her veg & potatoes in the same saucepan to cut down on the cost.  It got me to thinking - I'd read something recently about how 4% of the average household energy bill goes on cooking, according to uswitch.  There's loads of tips online on how to reduce your heating costs, and cutting your food bill, but what if we could cut the cost of cooking the food as well?  So I sat down with my pen & paper (I'm OldSkool, you see) and got to thinking.

My steamer, hard at work

  • Use a steamer. Rather than cooking everything in one pan like our client above, use a steamer set. That way you keep more of the goodness in the veg, you can add layers at different times for things that take less time to cook. You also save water, only boiling one pan, and use only one burner instead of three.
  • Use pans with lids.  Lids keep the steam, and therefore the heat, in the pan, so you need less energy to keep the water boiling - and your kitchen is a more pleasant place to be.
  • Use the smallest pan for your needs.  There's no point using a massive soup pan to boil one egg - it takes more water, and more energy to heat.  Small pans boil quicker.
  • Use the right sized burner.  Don't put your tiny pan on the big burner, most of the energy will be wasted heating fresh air, and don't put your big pan on the tiny burner, or you'll be waiting til Christmas.
  • Keep the oven door closed.  Don't peek inside every few minutes, no matter how tempting it is. Your cakes won't rise, and if you're cooking my Never Failed Yorkshire Puddings I will get really cross with you.
  • Bulk cook.  If you've got the oven on for Sunday lunch, why not put pudding in at the same time?  Or a cake for tea?  Or a pie for later in the week?  The oven's on, and it's cheaper to reheat something in the microwave than to cook it from scratch another day.  Use the energy you're already using.
A lot of the people I work with are in fuel poverty - spending more than 10% of their income on heating their home (and as fuel for cooking comes from the same source, naturally that must be included).  Little tips like these can make a big difference - it can mean a family's home is adequately warm for their children, that their children go to school having had a decent night's sleep following a home-cooked meal. Money is tight for everyone at the moment, so maybe these little tips could help you, or someone you know?  I hope so.

This is not a sponsored post, I have not received payment for writing it. I am aware that there are sponsored posts at present on a similar subject, however this post was inspired by a conversation at work, and is not related to those posts. Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Apple & Blackberry Crumble - too good too share!

I've mentioned before, we're really lucky to have a load of blackberries growing wild at the end of our street.  There's a little patch of field, urban green space or something, at the end of the road, and it's edged on three sides with a mix of trees & brambles. So blackberries aplenty, all ready for the picking.

Squeaky & I headed round the corner with our carrier bags at the weekend for a blackberry picking frenzy. Seriously, we spent about half an hour, and FILLED a carrier bag.  We've got it down to a fine art. I pick the ones at waist height or above, and she does the lower branches, so I don't have to bend down. Great.  She's getting pretty good now, and leaves the over ripe ones that burst all over your hands for the birds to eat (they've got to be able to poo purple stuff all over my car somehow!)

After our picking extravaganza, obviously we had to do something with the berries.  What better than blackberry and apple crumble?  I'm not a natural chef, so I'm writing this recipe down as much for me to have it to hand next year as to share it with you.

Serves about 8, depending how greedy you are.  Fills one large oval pyrex dish & two small Le Crueset dishes!

For the filling
2lb of cooking apples (that's about 5 or 6 Bramleys)
About 1 lb of blackberries
4oz sugar
1 lemon
1 lime

For the crumble topping
8oz Plain Flour
6oz butter
2oz sugar
4oz granola or porridge oats (I used Lizi's luxury Belgian Chocolate Granola, it was A-Mazing!)

Peel, core & chop the apples into chunks & place into a bowl.
Rinse the blackberries & add to the apples.
Squeeze the juice of your lemon & lime over the fruit.  This adds a great kick to the flavour & stops the apples going brown.
Add the sugar & mix well.
Pour your fruit into a dish or dishes.  Probably dishes, unless you've reduced the recipe to more sensible portions!

Now, preheat the oven to 200c, gas mark 6, or 400 if you're still using Fahrenheit.

Put the flour into a fresh bowl.  Rub in the butter until it gets somewhere close to resembling breadcrumbs.  It probably won't quite get there, but don't worry, there's other stuff to add.
Add the sugar and granola, and lightly rub in to the mixture, generally making sure you've mixed it well.

Top the fruit with the crumble mix, and place into the oven for around 45 minutes, until the crumble is golden & the fruit is cooked through.

Serve with cream, ice cream, custard, or a smiling face!

Mmmmm, crumble.

I've seen a few other ideas to use up the blackberries, and I know there's a load more ripe now, so I might have to go picking.  What do you suggest I cook next?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


I had a real scare last week, when I thought for a full 24 hours that I'd lost my purse.  There were only a couple of possible locations (so I thought) that it could have parted company from my handbag - the office car park, or the leisure centre car park, both pretty popular of an evening for young people hanging around out of sight of their parents and doing whatever it is teenagers get up to these days. Twerking, probably.

Fortunately for my sanity, I keep my bank cards separate to my "cash" purse, so I didn't have to go through all the hassle of cancelling them all, and trying desperately to find the phone number for the credit card I almost never use.  But even so, I started to make a list of the things in my purse that I would have to try and replace, what that was going to set me back, and what I'd more likely lost to the great dust pile in the sky.

The offending purse

  • My driving license.  £20 to replace
  • Various loyalty cards, with about £40 to spend on them - coffee shops, etc
  • Gift cards to various stores, with about £20 on them
  • Cash - about £30
  • An unscratched lottery ticket - face value £1, could be worth £0, or £25,000 (was actually £0)
  • La Squeak's nursery school photo
  • Stamps, worth about £6
  • Money off vouchers - totalling about £25
  • The purse itself £2.50 from a charity shop
I read these studies in the papers about the value of the things we carry around in our handbags, and shake my head - my phone is rubbish, I've rarely got much in the way of spending cash (that day was an exception!), and I try to leave the shiny electronics at home most of the time.  But writing that list made me stop & think!  How much is in my purse that I don't even realise?

Are you the same?  Is there a small fortune scattered across your loyalty card collection, and tucked in between the receipts for a twix & can of fanta?  Or are you like the Queen and never carry cash?

(Oh, and if you're interested, it turns out that my purse wasn't actually lost after all, it was jut enjoying a short holiday in the cupboard under the stairs.)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

QV Review - National Eczema Week

As part of National Eczema Week (14-22 September), we've been lucky enough to try out a range of products from QV on Squeaky's skin.  I'll come clean here from the start, I love QV products, we've used them before, we had some samples when Squeaky was a tiny, and we've been prescribed them from the GP in the past, so my tiny heart skipped a beat when I was offered the chance to review them.

We received a whole host of goodies, including QV emollient bath oil, gentle wash, skin lotion, QV cream, and QV intensive ointment.  Something for everyone, whatever the level of their eczema or dry skin complaint.  We started off with the bath oil.  The oil disperses really well in the water, meaning Squeaky isn't too slippery when I try to persuade her out of the bath, but it gives a good covering to her skin.  You can actually use emollient bath oils instead of soaps & washes, the oil will cleanse the skin itself, which is good to know when skin is sore, or space is at a premium, holidays for example.

Next up the Gentle Wash.  Despite me just saying that the oil means you don't need to use soap, there are times when oils aren't appropriate.  After swimming, or stating somewhere that only has a shower, for instance.  The Gentle Wash is great for that, and with a pump action top, it's easily dispensed while holding on to an escaping 3 year old who really doesn't like showers!  And I can use it on me as well, one less item to pack!

The skin lotion is a light, thin moisturiser-style lotion, great for the patches of eczema Squeaky gets on her face in the colder weather, and again it's really useful as a whole-family product, I've used it on my face as well. It's easily applied and she loves the pump lid, and the creaming-up process is a breeze.

The tub of QV cream is great on bigger areas like arms & legs, and Squeaky happily joins in applying it to herself, even when I've all but finished, scooping out huge handfuls if I'm not watching her like a hawk. Argh!  No slippery pre-schooler though, again it sinks in to the skin easily, and it's soothed the patches behind her knees & elbows beautifully.

Finally, we have the Intensive Cream, for very dry skin conditions.  We haven't yet tried this one out, but I know we'll be in there before the end of the year. Squeaky's skin really reacts to extremes of weather, both hot & cold, so I'm glad to have this on hand in advance of the winter.

Sticker chart.
In amongst my pack of goodies, I also received a special sticker chart & stickers featuring Qool Vince, the QV polar bear, designed to encourage children to get involved in their creaming routine.  We're suckers for a sticker chart in this house, and it's taken over from the bedtime chart, as we've got dry nights sorted now.  Qool Vince is a very cool (or Qool) polar bear, who also has itchy skin, and likes to help children learn to deal with it.  Around 1 in 5 children in the UK suffer from eczema, so I think it's great that QV have taken the time to make their products child-friendly as well as effective.

Qool Vince also has an app, again to encourage children to apply their cream & to take the worry out of the creaming routine.  The Beat The Itch app  is free, and available from the App Store for iPad & iPhone.  This is the first app I've had chance to play with (rather than just watch telly or check my emails on) since I got my iPad a couple of weeks ago, and Squeaky & I have been enjoying helping Qool Vince collect the QV bottles and jump from iceberg to iceberg, though it does get tricky at the harder levels & I'm stumped by level 6!

The kind folks at QV have given me a special discount code for my lovely readers to use (and me too!) - It's MUMMY13 and will give you 15% off the entire QV range at  So why not stock up?  (NB I will not receive anything if you use this link & code, except a warm fuzzy feeling)

The QV range is available on prescription, or online without prescription.

Disclosure: I was provided with the above detailed products 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 convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Playing in Bute Park

We had a little trip to Cardiff yesterday, Squeaky & I, and were joined by Daddy when he finished work.  We had a bit of a mooch around the shops, a face-painting treat, a nice cuppa in M&S, and a look around to see what we could see.

A slightly instagrammed moment. Be glad it wasn't my coffee
We spotted these lovely flowers in the churchyard at St John the Baptist, right in the middle of the city centre.  It's an odd place to find a church, though much like the castle, it's clearly been there longer than the shopping centre.  I've found the church often has amazing things to look at in the grounds, a couple of years ago they had massive poppies on their trees for Remembrance Sunday..

Once we'd finished shopping, we took off to Bute Park for a play, as it was a surprisingly nice & sunny day, and that's where Daddy joined us.  I'm not too great on history (or geography, science, art, etc!), but Bute Park is a mature park in Cardiff City Centre, sandwiched between Cardiff Castle and Sophia Gardens, and we could easily hear the cricket going on in Sophia Gardens when we had a little coffee break.

I'm a butterfly, Mummy!
Squeaky had loads of fun exploring the flowers, and being a butterfly, to go with her facepaints, though we're really not sure what variety of flowers they were (I can identify daisies, sunflowers, tulips, daffodils & roses. Other than that flowers are just referred to by their colours!)  There was also a spot of slightly reluctant tree climbing, frog riding, and claiming of a tiny red tree as her own personal shelter.  Why she needed a shelter on a sunny afternoon, I don't quite know.

This is my shelter, you can't come in.
Giddy-up froggie, giddy-up!

Can I get down now?
And then, in the middle of the park, completely without warning, we came across, errr yeah.  The Transplantable Living Room!  We just missed the performance, but what a strange thing to find in the park.  A whole vintage living room, set up in the park, but all planted up & edible, much of it donated by members of the local community. There was a TV with things growing in it, chairs with ferns coming out of the back, and my favourite of all, shoes with flowers in.  I wanted to sneak them away in my handbag, but realised it could get a bit messy.  I'm sure I could recreate that at home though, given time.  The whole thing made me smile, it was so unexpected, so fun, and they gave me a vegan chocolate brownie - sure way to win me over!

The Transplantable Living Room

Edible Telly, move over Nigella!

Shoes! I totally want these.
Squeaky, of course, found something perfectly to her taste.  A vintage rotary style phone.  Where she spent a good twenty minutes phoning me & daddy to tell us she was standing next to us in the park.  Strange child that she is.  Kept her out of trouble, I suppose!

Mummy! I'm on the phone!

We're linking up with the Coombe Mill Country Kids linky.
 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Munchkin Click Lock Bento Lunchbox Review

New school year, new uniform, new shoes, new lunchbox.  I was legendary when I was at school for my ability to lose my lunchbox. Somewhere out there is a massive pile of mislaid Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Penelope Pitstop lunch boxes, and they're all mine!  So rather then picking out this week's passing whim, we were happy to receive the Munchkin Click Lock Bento Mealtime Set to review, as Squeaky's first lunchbox.

Bento, if you didn't know, is the Japanese art of food art, or that's the best description I can come up with, anyway. Little boxes, pretty presentation, and amazing tasting food.  And it's a great way to interest children in eating, after all which is more appetising, a curly cornered marmite sandwich & a yogurt, or a monkey shaped sandwich swinging from a breadstick vine?

The Click Lock Bento Melatime Set has been designed with little hands in mind, the locks on either side of the lid are easy to open, and easy to lock closed again (I really struggle with some locking lids, but got this one done first time), and each compartment inside has its own separate lid. The main compartment fits a sandwich, but as it has a lid, it's also great for a pasta salad.  The two smaller containers are removable and have their own lids, making them easy to wash, and to use for things like jelly or dips.  I love the pictures of fruit & veggies on the lids and bases, making them easy to match up the lids and pots.  The main lid also comes with a fitted fork & spoon, meaning you don't have that early morning hunt for picnic cutlery, or run the risk of losing your entire teaspoon collection.

As soon as Squeaky saw the Bento lunchbox, she claimed it as her own, fair enough, it is for her.  However, she claimed it in order to play picnics & tea parties with her dolls.  It speaks a lot for the design that it is so appealing to children, even without the food inside!  She didn't have any trouble with the lids, her 3 year old fingers mastered the lock and lids in no time, and we've spent many a happy hour eating imaginary sandwiches, cakes and vegetables from the lunchbox.

Living Room Picnic Time
Squeaky's not on full days yet at school, but the Bento lunchbox means we're able to get out & about & take her lunch with us so that she's ready for an afternoon in school.  Once she starts full time, the Bento lunchbox will be taking pride of place in her school bag, alongside an old, non-functioning mobile phone and a collection of interesting sticks.  The lunchbox is a great size to fit inside the book bag style school bag Squeaky totes each day.  And if I'm being completely honest, the ClickLock Bento Lunchbox has also found its way into my work bag a couple of times, because it's perfect for grown-up lunches too!

The set comes in a range of colours - I've seen pink, blue & green, others wouldn't surprise me!  They are available from Amazon, Boots, Morrisons, and other stockists, for around £7.50

Disclosure: I was provided with the Bento Mealtime Set 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 convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

E45 Review - National Eczema Week

National Eczema Week runs from 14-22 September, and as part of the week, we've been trying out some products from the E45 range on Squeaky's eczema-prone skin.  We received a bottle of the E45 emollient bath oil, a tub of E45 cream, and a tube of the E45 itch relief cream to review.

We've been using the bath oil in the bath (obvs) for a couple of weeks.  Previously we've tried both prescribed and over the counter bath oils, so we've got plenty to compare the E45 against.  And, hmmmm.  Whereas most emollient bath oils disperse well in warm water, the E45 is a slightly thicker consistency, and I've found it doesn't really disperse.  That's great in the effect on Squeaky's skin because it gives a really good cover, and that's done her skin the world of good, I've seen a genuine improvement.  On the downside though, it gives a really good cover to the bath, leaving it oily and slippery.  I've never cleaned the bath so much in my life!  I like the effect, and as Squeaky's bathtime is always supervised, I don't have too many worries about her safety, but for older children, or people who are a bit less stable on their feet (me, for instance!), it's just a bit of a worry.

I also wasn't too keen on the cap to the bottle.  There's a measuring mark inside the cap, so you use that to work out how much to pour in.  Except that the screw for the cap is a much smaller piece inside, and the measure is the outer part of the cap, so if you don't pour every last drop into the bath, the oil ends up dripping down the side of the bottle, leaving it all slippy and a bit unpleasant.  The other brands I've tried in the past have a much smaller cap, where the whole cap is the screw section AND the measure, so leftover oil falls back into the bottle.  It's a little thing, and my preference, but I've kept hold of a cap from an empty bottle & I'm using that instead.  The big cap looks great, it's just not working for me.

The E45 cream is a lovely rich, thick cream, that rubs in easily on arms, legs, and other itch-affected body parts.  It's easily absorbed, and doesn't leave Squeaky's skin feeling greasy.  I've found her skin looks and feels softer, and I've even been sneakily using a bit on my upper arms, and it's made a real difference, they're a lot smoother.

The Itch Relief Cream was the real revelation of the set though.  At this time of year, Squeaky's eczema is present but not too annoying for her, though that will soon change when the weather gets worse & the central heating goes on.  However, she & I have almost permanent itchy patches behind our ears.  I don't know why, we just do.  I've taken to applying a little bit of the Itch Relief Cream to the itchy patches every night after her bath.  For me, it's calmed the itch pretty much straight away.  I can't say for certain with Squeaky, but I do know she's been messing with her ears a whole lot less, and leaves them alone. The redness has all but gone within a couple of weeks, so I'd say it's been a success.

Now, how do you recognise eczema?  And what do you do about it?  It's National Eczema Week, so it's a good time to learn some more.

Eczema in babies
·         In babies eczema tends to show up  on the cheeks, and arms and legs
·         It shows up as patches of dry, red, sometimes pimply skin. The skin is tender, itchy and rough
·         Eczema most often develops in infancy
·         Eczema tends to be more common in families that have a history of eczema, hay fever and asthma
.         Seek advice from your GP or Health Visitor if you are unsure
.         If a rash does not go away when a glass is held against it, seek immediate medical advice

Using emollients for washing and moisturising are key to eczema management as they keep the skin moist and flexible to help prevent cracks.
1.    Apply leave on emollient all over the body 2-3 times a day
2.    Use gentle strokes in the direction of the hair growth when applying emollients
3.    Use soap substitutes when washing and bathing such as an emollient bath oil, or emollient wash.

Make emollient time fun for kids
·         If your child is very young, apply emollient by massage, to turn the process into a special and relaxing time for you and your baby
·         Incorporate the “creaming time” into your little one’s bedtime routine. This may also have a calming effect and help them sleep.
·         Create a calming effect by adding low volume relaxing music to sooth both of you. For an older child try using a special DVD of one of their favourite programmes that they are only allowed to watch at “creaming time” to encourage positive associations with the process
·         You can also use a special doll that your child is allowed to apply small amounts of emollient to while you apply it to them. This not only presents a distraction but helps your child understand what you are doing.

For a symptom tracker diary, a free call with a national eczema nurse and advice on common household irritants, along with many other tips, visit:

E45 products are available without prescription from major high street chemists, such as Boots, Lloyds and Superdrug, major supermarkets, and online.  They may also be prescribed by your GP.

Disclosure: I was provided with the above detailed products 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 convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Walking to School

We're really lucky, not only to have managed to secure a space for Squeaky at a very popular local school, but to live only a ten minute (at adult pace, 15 minutes at Squeaky pace) walk away from school. As a result, Squeaky gets to experience something I never had the opportunity to do as a child, walking to school.  I went to Catholic school & so was always a car or school bus journey away from school & my friends.  So we're trying our hardest to walk to school as often as possible.

On our way to school
I am very aware that I'm writing this part way through our second week of school, and my opinions about the idea of walking may very well change when the weather starts turning in, but right now we're both enjoying the opportunities walking gives us.  A bit of quality time together to chat without the constant background noise of Disney Junior, a chance to look around and realise what a great place we live in.  And considering the fact the school is halfway up a fairly steep hill, there's health benefits too.

Mmmm, blackberries

We get to check out the status of the blackberries at the end of our road (more are ripe, I feel another crumble coming on!) watch the river bubbling by & try to spot the fish, count the steps up the steep bit, watch the builders working on the new flats, try to dodge the big noisy dogs in the prefabs, and wonder why the dogs' owner has their Christmas lights outside all year round. We learn about road safety, and relative geography, as we can hear the children in the playground long before we can see over the wall, or see the school gates.

The River Taff, doing whatever it is rivers do.

I know that walking to school is probably going to be one of my passing fads that I'm all enthusiastic about now, but will quickly get forgotten in favour of the car. The road the school is on, though, is really narrow with very limited parking, so driving to school isn't really an easy option.  We're doing our bit for our health & environment for as long as we can.

Scary Christmas house

How do you get to school?  And what do you find to do along the way?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Oloves Olives Review

I was recently sent some Oloves Olives to review for you.  I didn't used to like olives when I was younger, I remember many holidays as a child, where the olives of three people's dinners would all find their way to my mum's plate while she tucked in.  But I grew up, and to my mum's dismay, I discovered that I did like olives after all, so I was quite pleased to be sent some Oloves to try out.

I received three little snack bags of Oloves, in Basil & Garlic, Lemon & Garlic, and Hot Chilli Mama (Habanero Chilli) flavours to try out.  And got slightly confused when I visited their website, as it looks as though the recipes have changed slightly, the website shows some different flavour combinations.

I popped open the Basil & Garlic pack first, never being one to save my favourites til last.  Each little pack is a 50 calorie snack pack, making them ideal for popping in your handbag for work, a picnic, or a little pick-me-up of an evening, without worrying about your weight.  The packs contain at least 12 olives (I counted 15, but it varies by the size of each olive), and are really designed for eating on the go - there's no liquid, the olives are tossed in oil & flavouring, but the bag doesn't contain any liquid, and happily for me, they're not stuffed, the flavours are in the oil, not in the olive. I'm still not keen on stuffed olives, so these were just right for me.

The pack was just enough for me, Daddy still isn't an olive eater, and I find with a lot of supermarket olives, the pack sizes are just too big, when I'm the only person eating them, I don't want olives with everything for a month!  So I tucked in and enjoyed.  I actually really, really liked them, and might have teamed them up with a cheeky glass of rose.  All in the name of writing a full and accurate review, of course.  They went very well with a glass of Bordeaux Rose that needed drinking. :-)

I also broke into the Hot Chilli Mama habanero chilli olives, which were a bit spicier than I would normally manage to eat, at least on their own.  But I had a bright idea for these, you see, and teamed them with some mini pasta shapes, some tuna and a squeeze of lemon juice for my lunch at work.  I get to look all domesticated, have something impressive and tasty, and it only took five minutes to make.  The packet is the perfect size for throwing into a salad, or in pasta like I've done, which makes them really versatile and a great idea to keep a couple in the kitchen cupboard to brighten up a boring meal.

When I saw the name Oloves, I thought they sounded familiar, and on checking their website, they're sold on board various airlines, including RyanAir, Thomas Cooks & Thomson's.  We've already booked next summer's holiday, (the things you do to get a free child space!) so I'll be keeping an eye out for them then, and grabbing myself a couple of bags for the journey.  They're also stocked in Shell Service Stations, Wetherspoons, and Holland & Barrett, amongst others, so there's plenty of opportunity for a healthy & tasty snack, whatever you're up to.  Retail prices vary.

Disclosure: I was provided with three packs of Oloves 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 convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Mythical Deer of Cannock Chase

Despite living in South Wales, neither Daddy nor I are Welsh. I was born in Wolverhampton &; moved around a few bits of England before I settled in Wales, and Daddy grew up about 10 miles up the road in Cannock.  And that's where we've spent the weekend. Cannock. Famous for being the early years training ground of Stan Collymore, and that's about it as far as I can tell.

Warning. Mythical Deer.
Except for one thing. The deer. Cannock Chase is a pretty big expanse of woodland & the like on the edge of the town, and apparently home to a large population of fallow deer.  Which I'm not quite convinced actually exist. I mean, I've seen road signs, heard "friend of a friend" stories about deer leaping out at your car in the evenings, but actually seeing one?  No chance.  There's about as much chance of finding Bigfoot & Nessie out on a date at your local Pizza Hut.  I've just about convinced myself that the deer are nothing more than a myth, made up by the tourist office to make a fairly dull West Midlands town sound a bit more exciting.

No deer here
So, with that in mind, Daddy decided we should go out to look for the deer over the weekend. It kept me out of the pub, I suppose!  Off we went in the car, found a likely spot & hopped out for a walk.  Miss Squeaky decided that the best way to get the deer to show up was to call "Deers, come out, come out, wherever you are!" at the top of her voice. An interesting tactic, I'm sure you'll agree, but unfortunately not a terribly successful one, as they decided against.  We did see a few dogs though, out for a walk, and a fox, running across the road, but no deer.  According to Squeaky, the reason we didn't see the deer is because they were too busy chasing the fox.  Fair guess.

No deer here either
We did find a deer's bed, apparently. No deer in it, but that's what she decided.

The deer's bed, but no deer.
The only other thing Cannock Chase is famous for is, errr, people enjoying sexual encounters in public places.  So we decided to go home before it got too dark & the freaks came out to play. My commitment to blogging only goes so far.

A tree that sort of looks like antlers
Personally, I still think the deer are all a myth, and I think I know why.  There's an awful lot of trees on the Chase like the one pictured above.  From a distance, if you squint in the right way, they kind of look like antlers.  Sort of.  Maybe?

NB: I know that the deer are real, and just very shy animals, and the chance of seeing them in such an expanse of dense woodland is pretty slim. But I like to live in denial of the existence of certain things. Deer, the M50, and Jim Davidson don't exist in my world, and a very happy place it is too.

Linking up with the Coombe Mill Country Kids Linky.
  Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Beanies Flavoured Coffee Review

I'm a coffee girl, I have to admit it.  The only thing better than a mug of coffee first thing in the morning, is one made by someone else, and accompanied by a bacon sarnie.  And I do love a posh, frouffy, flavoured coffee.  The sort you get in those expensive coffee shops, where you have to wait ten minutes & then get a pint of scalding coffee with your name on the paper cup.  Well, anyway, the people at Beanies Flavour Co asked me if I'd like to try out some of their flavoured instant coffee to review, and how could I resist?

I received two jars of Beanies coffee, in Rich Hazelnut and Amaretto Almond flavours to brighten up my mornings.  They're only weenie 50g jars, but as I've got no intention of sharing with Daddy, they're big enough to keep me happy for a fair while (he drinks a bucket sized mug in the morning, one of these would barely make it to the weekend with him, and it's Thursday night now!).

I cracked open the Amaretto Almond flavour first, I do love Amaretto in coffee, and I figured the flavour of my favourite boozy coffee, without the actual booze, might be one way to get me in a good mood to start the day.  And do you know what? It works.  The Amaretto Almond flavour is lovely, properly almondy, but without being over the top.  It's nicely sweet, the coffees are designed to not need sugar in them (though I always need sugar in my coffee, it's part of the ritual), and a smooth rich taste, just right to put a smile on my face.  I decided to enjoy this in my Olympics mug with a slice of marmite on toast.

I have to admit, I wasn't quite so keen on the Rich Hazelnut flavour.  I'm not quite sure what it was, the smell was great, but the flavour was just a bit too much for me.  It just didn't work for me, but if you like the purple ones in the Quality Street tin (and plenty of people do), it might well tickle your fancy.  I'll use it for baking, the coffee is quite strong, and that always helps with cakes as it means you don't water down the mix too much.

The Beanies range includes chocolate, vanilla, caramel, Irish cream & Cinnamon & hazelnut variations in the instant coffee as well as the two I tried, and a HUGE range of "proper" coffee for filters & machines - including a couple of flavours I used to get from a high street coffee co, who have stopped selling them, so now I can get my Chocolate Cherry Coffee fix again, in the comfort of my own home!

You can order Beanies Coffees online, or they're stocked exclusively in Sainsburys (with some exclusive flavours!).  The 50g jar retails at £2.50, which sounds a lot, but that's less than the price of one from CostaBucks.  And you don;t have to feel inadequate because you'd rather read Heat than the Grauniad.

Disclosure I was provided with two jars of coffee free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was not told what to write and all opinions remain my own. Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Operation Yewtree

Operation Yewtree, if you've been living under a rock or outside the UK, is the three pronged investigation into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, investigating Savile's acts, those perpetrated by Savile with others, and those unconnected with Savile, mostly of people in the public eye from the 1960's - 1980's, which has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests, some of whom have been charged with sex offences. Codenames for investigations are a strange beast indeed, but I think I can figure this one, the investigation started after Savile's death, and Yew trees are often found in graveyards, so it seems fitting for an investigation centred around a dead bloke.

Image (c)

Operation Yewtree affects almost all of us.  I'm glad to say that like, hopefully, the majority of the people reading this, I was never victim to the abuses of Savile or others in the public eye in the era in which I grew up.  And the world of 2013 is a very different place, with very different attitudes to the time in which the majority of these offences took place.  What was seen as acceptable behaviour at that time, is simply not in the present day - which is undoubtedly a good thing.  Would Are You Being Served? or the Carry On...films be made today, with their poorly disguised innuendo and objectification of women?  I hope not.  Clearly not in the case of the latter, as a number of attempts to revive the series have been made over the last 20 years since Carry on Columbus (and that was a dreadful mistake in itself)

But for anyone who grew up in the UK between the 1960's to 1980's, Operation Yewtree, and the findings of the investigations thus far, have affected us.  They've touched and tainted all our lives.  The rose tinted glasses of childhood nostalgia are scratched and damaged forever.  Those memories of writing to Jim'll Fix It as a class exercise in primary school and the hope against hope your might be picked to have your dreams made reality in front of the nation. Saturday evenings in front of It's A Knockout watching people from across Europe dressed up as ostriches or getting covered in gunge, making fools of themselves for national pride while commentators wet themselves with laughter.

In no way am I suggesting that what I'm feeling is anywhere near what the victims of these offences have gone through.  But for each one of us that watched, and loved their programmes, a little bit of our childhood has been stolen as well.  I don't even know what to equate it to.  The only thing I can come up with is exactly what it is - imagine if...  it's the kind of situation that a few years ago would have been a ridiculous idea.  But here we are today, and it's true.

It makes me scared.  Scared that in those rose tinted days, where like that facebook meme says "we didn't have phones, we climbed trees, scraped knees, our curfew was the streetlights, we licked out the cake mix bowl, and apples & blackberries only came in crumbles", that these things were going on to so many people, by those we all respected and admired, in a time where we felt so safe.  What about the world now?  A world where we feel so much less safe.  The internet has given us so much more access to information, we hear about things we would never have done before, which leads us to feel that the world is less safe (even when crime statistics prove otherwise).  Where does it end?