Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Is There Any Room At The Inn?

It's Squeaky's first ever school play in a fortnight.  And just like everything else school-related she's reluctant to tell me anything about it.  At All.  I think they must make them sign the Official Secrets Act when they start, either that or she's got a great future ahead of her as an international spy - MI5 wouldn't be able to get any information out of her, even under extreme tickling, she won't give an inch!

I know the play is nativity-ish, because we've got a cast list, so we know what costumes we need to supply for our budding Oscar winners.  I can't help but feel a little sorry for the camels' parents, because that's really not an easy costume to rustle up at home from the contents of various wardrobes & dressing up boxes (though I have seen a few available online!).  And I know the play is called "Jump If You Love Christmas", which sounds bizarre to say the least.  "Sit Down If You Wish It Was January" for the Bah Humbugs in the audience, perhaps?

An Innkeeper?

Well, La Squeak is an Innkeeper.  Innkeeper 3 to be precise (that's the one with the stable, if you were wondering!)  It's a role I remember playing myself in the dim & distant past, along with a gymnast (obviously at the nativity), the colour pink, and Mrs Red Hat from the Village With Three Corners.  As you can tell, I've had a wide and varied theatrical career, sadly cut short at the point where it was discovered I had no acting talent whatsoever.
An Innkeeper?

An Innkeeper though?  What DOES an innkeeper actually wear?  In the name of research, I paid a visit to our local, and discovered that an aging t-shirt from the brewery teamed with a pair of dubiously stained jeans, and a couple of tattoos seems to be a popular choice.  I could probably manage that.  Or there's the more famous options.  Bald head, burgundy jacket & pint pot a la Al Murray?  Leopard print, big hair, cleavage & too much make up in the style of Bet Lynch?  Apparently these aren't ideal suggestions and are more likely to be met with a referral to social services than a standing ovation.

A more appropriate Inn Keeper?

The internet leads me to believe that an innkeeper's costume is pretty much the same as a shepherd's, only without the sheep & crook (I might have to add a tankard, that would be fair, right?)   I quite like the look of this one, from Angels Fancy Dress - with a little adaptation, maybe a belt, my little Innkeeper could be the star of the show!

I still think Bet Lynch would be fun though.

Well, I was thinking aloud on twitter before I wrote this post, and the kind people at Angels Fancy Dress contacted me, and asked if I thought my readers would like a little offer?  Well, of course you do.  So, they've offered you all an amazing 10% off any item at Angels Fancy Dress - not just their Nativity Costumes.  All you have to do is use the discount code SQUEAKY10 which is valid on online orders until 31st December. Perfect for your Christmas or New Year's parties as well!  What are you waiting for?

Disclosure: This post was written without request. I have not received payment for this post.  I asked whether the company would like to be linked in my post, and they offered a discount for readers. Links are provided for convenience, I will not receive reward for their use, nor use of the above discount code.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Have yourself a LUSH little Christmas

I was feeling a little bit out of my depth, surrounded by the young & trendy members of the Cardiff beauty blogging scene, at the official Lush bloggers Christmas event a mere fortnight ago now (ooops!), but soon realised that beauty, food and parenting bloggers are pretty much all the same. We take photos of EVERYthing.  And complement each other’s taste in nail polish, handbags & coffee shops.  Bloggers are bloggers, not matter what they blog about.

I braved the rain and headed to Cardiff to take a peek at Lush's new Christmas range, and get a bit of inspiration for presents for my nearest & dearest.  We started out by trying our hands at making our very own batch of Catastrophe Cosmetic fresh face mask.  This needs to be kept in the fridge, but lasts about a month.  The main ingredients of kaolin, calamine & blueberries all go to soothe hormonal skin & absorb oils, meaning you can avoid the perfectly timed breakout on the day of your Christmas party. There's a tub sitting in my fridge right now, mixed (in part) by yours truly, and I'm working my way through it at a fair pace.  It's worked wonders on the spots that make a worryingly regular appearance on my T-Zone.

Let The Good Times Roll Cleanser has been a seasonal staple for a couple of years, with tears each year when it leaves the stores for another 10 months.  But this time it's here to stay!  Made with polenta, maize flour & cinnamon, to me it smells like Crunchie bars! A bit of squishing, and I had the smoothest & sweetest smelling hand in town.

Nails - Sinful Colours See You Soon & Barry M Boots Limited Edition 2013
Lush have got some lovely seasonal specials this year, Santa's Lip Scrub which tastes of cola and has tiny edible red hearts in it - everything in the scrub is edible, and it didn't take long before I had to lick it all off because it was so yummy.  There's a special Gold FUN wash, their amazing mouldable, squashable, playable, bubbly soap wash.  The Gold one smells of Honey I Washed The Kids (one of my very favourite Lush scents), and is full of tiny gold sparkles.  I can see this appearing in many a Christmas stocking.

And talking of stockings, who else hates wrapping?  Lush have got it all wrapped up (a ha ha ha, I'm so funny!), with gift boxes that are not just pretty, but also have surprises inside, like this bursting parcel full of confetti.  Others are like giant crackers, complete with crack!

I had to have a little play with the Emotional Brilliance Colour wheel before I left.  For those who haven't met it before, a wheel of 30 colours is spun while you close your eyes.  When the wheel stops spinning, you choose the three colours that attract you the most, and they tell you something about your mood or personality.  I chose drive, ambition and motivation - quite apt as I'd spotted Dream Job Of The Moment earlier that day & was full of my own importance!  The colours can be used as eye make up, lip colour, hair mascara, however you want.  The words are all positive, affirmative good words, to reflect how wonderful we are, or want to be!  That said, it got me thinking, and I kind of want to develop a Monday Morning version of the emotional brilliance wheel.  Trouble is, it'd probably end up something not too dissimilar to Fifty Shades Of Grey.  And the words, well it'd have to be things like ennui, exhausted, tedium, frustration, depressed.  I'd still wear them, mind!

There was also a very silly moment when I got back to my car, where I realised I'd tried out one of my three colour choices, and another which one of the staff was wearing & I'd complemented, and I found myself with a passionate & motivated hand.  Which sounds all kinds of wrong, and so immediately had to become a facebook status in the way that these things often do.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this exclusive event, and provided with a goodie bag of samples free of charge. 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.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

We're Going On A(nother) Deer Hunt!

After our complete failure to find anything vaguely resembling a deer on our last trip to Cannock Chase, this time we decided to enlist the help of an expert, Squeaky's Uncle Terry, who apparently knows where they all hang out, and spots them on a very regular basis.  And they were all over Countryfile last week, so apparently people think they are real. Then again, I don't believe anything I see on the TV, with the exception of Dog The Bounty Hunter, they can do all sorts with technology these days!

Off we went, into the wilds of the chase, past a boulder left behind by a glacier at the end of the last Ice Age (I'm quite impressed by the pebbly steps  the Ice Age also seems to have left behind, hey ho!)  Deeper into the Chase, in search of the mythical deer.

And guess what we found?  Horse's hoof prints.

A feather.
A stream.

My jeans tucked into my boots to minimise mud stains.

A sign with the number 3 on it!

And, yep, you guessed it, a complete lack of deer.  They are definitely a myth, I'm telling you!  According to Uncle Terry, the problem was that we'd got cameras with us.  Cameras = No Deer.  If you haven't got a camera with you, they're practically coming up to swap Christmas Cards.

Maybe the constant shouts of "Daddy, Uncle Terry, Wait for MEEEEE!" and "One, Two, Three, WHEEEEEEEEE!" might have had something to do with the deer's absence too.  Maybe.

One, Two, Three, Wheeeeeeee!

So in the end, Ms Squeaky had to improvise, and do her best impression of a deer with a couple of handy sticks.  What do you think?

I'm linking up with the Coombe Mill Country Kids Linky

Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Parragon Book Buddies - Wakey Wakey Big Brown Bear

This month's arrival, courtesy of Parragon's Book Buddies, is Wakey Wakey Big Brown Bear, by Tracey Corderoy, and illustrated by Rachel Swirles.  (And I just have to say what brilliant names they both are!  It's not important, but it's true)

Autumn is fun for the animals of the forest, except for Big Brown Bear, who sleeps through it all until springtime, and misses out on all the excitement.  His friends try to wake him up to make sure he doesn't miss out on any of the seasonal fun in this lovely bedtime book, perfect as the nights are drawing in.

This is a great book to share, there's loads to talk about, with the autumn and winter, what children enjoy and dislike, why some animals hibernate, the changing of the seasons, and the way Big Brown Bear's friends try to make sure he gets to enjoy the autumn and winter without missing out on his precious sleep.  Squeaky was absolutely FULL of questions for me, though not always the easiest to answer at bedtime, admittedly.

Not exactly a happy model this month.
I quite like the idea of hibernating, if I'm honest, and I wouldn't be all that upset to miss out on the puddles or the snow that Big Brown Bear is so eager to experience.  I can kind of see where he's coming from about the crunchy autumn leaves though, they're my favourite part of this time of year, aside from the excuse to wrap up in big jumpers & scarves, and judging by the pile of fallen leaves, conkers, acorns & general discarded bits of tree in the corner of our living room, I'd say Squeaky feels much the same.

Wakey Wakey Big Brown Bear has jumped way up the list of current bedtime reading requests, and is a great seasonal read.

Wakey Wakey Big Brown Bear is available from Amazon and other retailers.

Disclosure: I was provided with the above book free of charge for the purpose 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 and will not receive reward for their use.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Corina Pavlova & The Lion's Roar - Sherman Cymru

Despite spending a year living just a 5 minute walk away in the middle of Cardiff, I'd never actually visited Sherman Cymru, one of Cardiff's hidden gems, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when Squeaky & I wer invited to attend the very first showing of Corina Pavlova and the Lion's Roar, their Christmas show aimed at children aged 3-6.  In fact, not only had I never visited, but I wasn't even 100% sure where I was going, so I was very grateful for Cardiff Council's little brown tourism signs which lead me right to the door.  Parked my car in a very big puddle, and we were there.

The Sherman is a modern theatre, nestled in amongst university buildings on one of Roath's lovely tree-lined streets (great unless you have to park your car there every day, as I learned to my peril), with a welcoming cafe-bar in the foyer.  I wish I'd had a bit more time to browse their cakes, but it was one of those very busy days, and we only just made it to the theatre on time.  We were ushered into Theatre 2, an informal performance space, and sat down on the kind of tiny chairs more commonly seen in classrooms, alongside a few fellow bloggers, local press types, and a local primary school.

Corina Pavlova is a young girl, whose family has just grown with the arrival of her baby brother, who she's not exactly excited to meet, and is having difficulty getting used to.  She pays a visit to Mr McAlistair's Pet Shop, a magical shop with "Cats and Dogs, Fleas and Frogs, Lemurs, Llamas, Rats in Pyjamas"... where the customers don't choose their pets, the pets choose their owners, guaranteed to make sure everyone ends up with their perfect pet.  Corina meets a cheeky monkey, a hilarious French-accented snake, and the lion of the title.  While it doesn't *sound* like a Christmas play, there's a Christmas theme throughout, and the focus on family and family relationships is definitely a seasonal one.

The whole play was performed by just three, multi-talented actors, singing, dancing & playing a veritable orchestra of instruments - I counted a clarinet, flute, recorder, accordion, glockenspiel, xylophone (yes, I do know the difference!) and shaking eggs, and I've probably missed a few there!  There was also plenty of opportunity for little ones to get involved, tuning in their ears and mouths, not forgetting the all important ROAR!!

Squeaky & I loved the show, once she stopped asking me what was about to happen & watched to find out for herself instead.  It did get a little scary towards the end, so if you've got a more sensitive child, be prepared for some gentle cwtching!

At about an hour's show, it was spot on for Squeaky, and kept her attention throughout.  The fact that she was fast asleep in the back seat of the car within 5 minutes of leaving was even better for me.  Ever since, she's been asking to see the "singing lion show" again - so I take it that it's a hit with her too!

Corina Pavlova and the Lion's Roar  is showing at Sherman Cymru from 9 December to 4 January, with showings in English and Welsh.  Tickets are £7.00 and available direct from the theatre.  A very fair priced alternative to the traditional pantomime, and much more suited to a young family.

Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets to the show 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 and will not receive payment for their use.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Willpower is a wonderful thing.  I can be faced with a mountain of Brussels Sprouts, and I can easily resist taking even the tiniest mouthful.  Similarly rhubarb crumble, pistachio ice cream, wasabi peanuts and hoisin duck pizza.  Then there's times where I actually get all determined to do something about my ever expanding backside, and actually make an effort to resist things that I really enjoy.  And for a while I can do it.  I can cut out the muffins, I can ignore the office biscuit pile, and even say no when someone says they're going to the chippy for Friday lunchtime, and do I want a noodle special.  I even took homemade soup in to work today for my lunch, rather than a trip to the corner shop.

Powerless to resist

But then it happened.  I had to get oil for my car, which decided to be a particularly temperamental beast at 8 o'clock in the morning, when I needed to drop La Squeak at breakfast club at get in to work as early as I could to try & work the hours they pay me for.  So, there was no chance of a car-parts shop being open, and I took my chances with the supermarket.  What a mistake.  Right in front of me, on a huge pallet, just as I walked through the entrance barriers (it's getting more & more like Terminal 2 at Heathrow, my local Tesco, I'm sure).


Kryptonite in cake form.  Mr Kiplings Frosty Fancies, to be specific.

I tried.  I really did.  I turned my head, walked away & found the really exciting motor oil that I went in for.  I browsed the trashy magazine selection, and considered whether I had enough diet coke to get me through the day.  And then I had to walk past them again to get to the checkout.

Big Fat FAIL.  And getting progressively bigger and fatter, as these are going to be hanging around the supermarket for the next two months.  Honestly, I can resist most cakes, but I only need to think about these to start drooling like one of Pavlov's dogs.  They barely even touch the sides.  And if you think I'm going to share them with anyone, you're sadly mistaken.  My Kryptonite!  MINE!!

Frosty Fancies are my kryptonite.  What's yours?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Souper Mr Pumpkin Soup

Now that we've carved our first EVER pumpkin, and even stuck a tealight in him for a little while, we're left with the challenge of finding something to do with a large gourd that we've never cooked with before.  I know if I was American, or had any great culinary skills, I could make pumpkin pie, but not without some serious help.  So I opted for a failsafe idea.  Soup.

I love homemade soup, it's my favourite thing about autumn.  Tomato, cauliflower, broccoli & stilton, mushrooms, nothing is safe from my evil glare & stick blender!  So I decided to turn Mr Pumpkin into Mr Pumpkin Soup, with the help of my beloved slow cooker.
Mr Pumpkin
Half a medium sized (carving style) pumpkin. Preferably the non-carved half! 
One onion
1 litre stock (veg or chicken, up to you)
Two big pinches dried thyme
Large “end of a teaspoon” of dried cumin

Peel the pumpkin & chop into matchbox sized chunks.
Dice the onion
Put all the ingredients into a slow cooker for 1 hour on high, then switch off & attack with a stick blender to turn the pumpkin chunks into soupiness.
Turn slow cooker back on low, and stir occasionally until you’re ready to serve.

Add a swirl of crème fraiche & serve with crusty bread.

(N.B. If you haven't got a slow cooker, it'll work just as well in a saucepan on the hob, and probably cook a bit quicker, but you'll need to stir it more often to avoid burnt bits at the bottom)

Mr Pumpkin Soup
This made about 2 1/2 litres of soup, so if you're not planning to feed an entire army, you might want to reduce the measures slightly.  But it freezes well, and reheats well.  Above it's pictures in my new favourite thing, my Sistema Soup-to-go microwave soup mug. Perfect for carrying to work.  Small things please this small mind.