Monday 28 February 2011

Tommee Tippee Explora Active Sporty Drinking Cup

Every single time a new sippy cup arrives in the house, Juliette (now aged 6) gets all excited and begs to try it out ! She did the same thing this time, when we received the Explora Active Sporty Drinking Cup from Tommee Tippee - but 19-month-old Pierre is now old enough to fight his corner and realised it was supposed to be for him, so he got first try !

Pierre is used to drinking out of a teat or spout but wasn't quite so used to the sports sipper so the first couple of times, he took way too much into his mouth and spluttered it all down his front ! He soon got to grips with it though. (And if it does pose a problem for your little one, the sports sipper is interchangable with the Active Straw and Active Sipper lids.)

The recommended age is 18 months plus so the cup is much bigger than the usual sippy cups and trainer cups that he's been using, but the extra weight didn't seem to bother him and he found it easy to grip hold of. The generous volume is great for days out or long trips to the park in the warmer weather. The cup is spill proof but also leakproof which is great news if you keep it in your changing bag (even if I always put it in a plastic bag, just to be on the safe side - better safe than sorry !).

By this time, Juliette was jumping up and down with impatience so I handed it over to her. We had a good laugh because the spout fits just nicely in the gap left by her two front teeth which were whisked away by the tooth fairy just last week !

She thought it was comfortable to use, easy to drink from and loved the dolphin picture on the front. She managed to knock it over and it actually didn't spill at all, which I was impressed with.

It's a great cup for the transition between teats/spouts and more grown-up straws, while keeping spillages to a minimum. It's also perfect for stashing in the pushchair for drinks on the go, although it doesn't have a retractable straw or spout cover like some models so is slightly less hygienic.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £3.99

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Book review : Starting Over, One Cake at a Time - Gesine Bullock-Prado

Having never heard of this book or the author, I came to it with a totally open mind, attracted mainly by the cheerful orangey-red cover and the mention of macaroons ! When I read the blurb on the back of the book, I inwardly groaned. Gesine Bullock-Prado is sister to mega-famous Hollywood actress Sandra Bullock, so was this going to turn out to be another veiled kiss-and-tell from a celeb sibling (or - to coin a new word -celebling!).

Well, to be perfectly honest, no. Sandra Bullock, or Sandy as her sister endearingly calls her, does make a cameo performance, helping out on the tills and doing the washing up (yes, really !) on the coffee shop's opening day, but that's it. There are a few vague mentions of her but only because the story calls for them, rather than the namedropping being a means to an end.

The book is an interesting mix of two parts memoir, one part recipe book. Gesine started off with the Hollywood lifestyle, working as a film developer in her sister's entourage, but she felt that this life was unfulfilling and unrewarding and decided to follow her passion : cake ! Not just eating it (although there is lots of that too ! She reminds me of a Stateside Nigella Lawson with her enthusiasm, indulgent recipes and devil-may-care attitude to carbs !) but also baking. We may not all have a celeb in the family but I'm sure we can all empathise with her and mentally cheer her on, wishing we had the guts to quit our own job to do something we really love too.

It's not all plainsailing though. With each chapter moving an hour further into her day at the coffeeshop/patisserie, Gesine reveals the highs and lows of running your own business. The stress of wanting it all to be perfect, whether "it" be an intricate multi-tiered wedding cake (that always looks like it's leaning to one side !) or a simple plum pie that someone is going to enjoy in the shop, but also the heartwarming sense of contentment when it all goes right. Gesine is very down-to-earth with a self-deprecating sense of humour that makes her into a very appealing narrative voice.

The book is studded with indulgent recipes, many of them handed down through the generations on her German mother's side of the family. They all sound decadent and absolutely delicious but pretty much all use just store cupboard basics. I can't wait to try some of them out. Gesine also uses these recipes to show the power of food, when just a bite of a certain dessert can mentally transport you back to a time and place with people who may not be around any more.

Gesine carefully constructs her narrative in just the same way she tweaks her recipes to get the perfect result. A touch more sugar here, a quick sprinkle of lighthearted tales about the eccentric customers there, and the finishing touch, some poignant tales of loved-ones lost.

It's a frequently amusing tale of one woman's journey to self-contentment which is an inspiration to all of us. It's full of timely reminders to follow our dreams, appreciate our family ... and eat loads of delicious desserts !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £12.99

Hardcover: 226 pages
Publisher: Allison & Busby (21 Mar 2011)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0749008636
ISBN-13: 978-0749008635

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Sunday 27 February 2011

Tips for Panic-Free Pancakes from Mrs Crimble’s

Mrs Crimble’s, the much loved British bakery brand - I reviewed their delicious mini choc-orange macaroons a little while ago (here) - has perfected what they call a foolproof Pancake Mix (that remains to be seen, I'll be reviewing it shortly and will report back !) that makes it "flipping easy" to make pancakes ! To take the panic out of Pancake Day, they have even come up with some great recipe ideas as well as tips on how to perform the perfect flip! Read on and get prepared - Shrove Tuesday is 8th March which is just over a week away.


If you fancy some delicious pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, but you’re worried about your batter being a soggy disaster, don’t panic! Mrs Crimble’s Pancake Mix guarantees quick, easy and rewarding results. The only challenge will be deciding whether you prefer your pancakes with lemon juice and sugar, chocolate spread and whipped cream, sliced bananas and maple syrup or doused in a flaming orange liqueur!

You’ll find some other great recipe ideas, including a delicious chocolate sauce, on Better still, they all happen to be gluten free so everyone can enjoy a delicious Shrove Tuesday!

Panic free pancakes:
Unless you’re up for having a laugh or an experienced flipper you should probably use a spatula (or flipper) to toss your pancakes but apart from that, using Mrs Crimble’s Pancake Mix guarantees great results.

Use a largish, clean, non-stick frying pan. A shallow-edged pan makes it easy to get your spatula (or flipper) under your pancake. Always make sure your pan is spotless before cooking the next pancake.

Wait until your pancake starts to bubble evenly throughout and starts turning up at the edges before you flip it. Flip the perfect pancake by getting your flipper under as much of the pancake as possible and then as you lift it, turn your wrist so that the pancake lands in the same spot as it was – in the middle of the pan.

Three things you didn’t know about Pancake Day:

The oldest pancake race in Britain , in the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire, dates back to 1444. The event originated after a local housewife was still busy making pancakes when she heard the church bells calling her to the Shriving Service on the evening before Lent. Eager to get to church, she ran out of her house still holding the frying pan complete with her pancake, still wearing her apron and headscarf – both of which are mandatory for anyone taking part in the race today!

Folklore claims that if you make a wish at the moment you flip a pancake it will come true – but only if you are also holding a coin in your hand.

Pancakes have a long history in almost every part of the world. For example, they were an important part of pagan traditions and feasts in Russia that stretch back more than 1,000 years.

To see Mrs Crimble's Pancake Mix in action, watch the video below !

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Sharpham Park Organic Pearled Spelt

Having tried out some of the other spelt-based products from Sharpham Park, I came to this final product in our review pack, Pearled Spelt, feeling much more confident that everyone would like it. And I was totally right - everyone asked for seconds, even 19-month-old Pierre !

The packaging says you can basically just use it as you would rice so I used it to accompany fish and vegetables. (It can also be incorporated into a wide range of recipes though, so check out the Sharpham Park website for inspiration !) It recommends rinsing the pearled spelt then cooking it for about 20 minutes in boiling water. I don't usually bother rinsing rice (except when it's exceptionally starchy) but I did the feel the need to rinse this as it releases a lot of, for want of a better word, dust when you pour it out of the pack.

When cooked, it still reminds me a bit of Ebly but slightly firmer and with a slightly nuttier taste. Madhouse Daddy Mike doesn't really like plain Ebly, only the flavoured ones, but he said he thought the Pearled Spelt was nice without added flavourings.

As well as being tasty, simple to prepare and extremely versatile, spelt is also a healthy grain to incorporate into your diet. It's got a very high protein content, so is especially good for vegetarians and vegans, and a low glycaemic index of 30. It also contains complex B vitamins, iron,  riboflavin (which is apparently good for migraine-sufferers), Niacin (which can help lower cholesterol), and zinc.

All of that has nothing to do with why the kids asked for more though - that was just because "it tastes nice" !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £2.95 for 500g

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Vosene Nitwatch ! Reactions from the school gate

"What's this?", I hear you cry ! Well, it may look like a Christmas tree but it was actually a gift of a totally different kind that the lovely people at Vosene sent me back at Christmas time - a whole collection of little sample bottles of their headlice-repellent shampoo for me to hand out to all the mums at the school gate.

You might remember that I gave some of these samples away in a competition on my blog and also reviewed it (here). I don't know if it's down to the shampoo or sheer good luck but (fingers crossed I don't jinx it !) we've so far managed to bring home any unwanted critters from school, despite both the girls having long hair. Yay !

Each of the cute little bottles had a handwritten tag attached (I wonder who had the job of writing all those out !) inviting the recipients to share their thoughts. I told the mums they could jot down their reactions on the tags and give them back to me if they didn't want to log on themselves and I was surprised to see quite a few of them come back !

So here are some of the mums' reactions :

"Love this stuff, it smells gorgeous !"

"Really nice citrussy smell - you'd never know it's headlice stuff"

"Left my daughter's hair really soft"

"I'll definitely look out for more"

"Thanks, really nice shampoo"

"Hope it's on offer at Tesco's !"

"Didn't think I'd like it but it's really nice"

"Love this stuff !"

"I've used it before but had started buying cheaper shampoo, might have to switch back"

"No headlice, just lovely soft hair !"

"Good shampoo. I even used it myself !"

"Not at all like the headlice treatments I remember as a kid !"

I can't speak for the ones who didn't give me back any feedback but that looks like a unanimous vote of confidence at the school gates then !

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Look at my Sandwich Bread from Great British Food Revival !

As you may have seen in yesterday's blogpost (here), the girls (and their friends) had great fun cooking scones this week, but they weren't the only ones getting experimental in the kitchen. I decided to try my hand at making bread. Real bread by hand, not just in the bread machine. I decided to try out the recipe for a Sandwich Bread Loaf that had caught my eye in the latest cookery book I reviewed, Great British Food Revival (a review you can read here).This recipe is in the first chapter of the book, full of recipes based around bread, and is by Michel Roux Jr.

There's something really satisfying about warming milk and adding yeast, mixing in the flour by hand, leaving it to rise, forming it into loaf shapes and watching it turn into a crusty golden loaf in the oven.

You can tell it doesn't come from a supermarket shelf, but in my eyes, that just makes it even better. The whole kitchen smelt of a French bakery, much more so than when I use the bread machine. Definitely a recipe that we'll be trying again.

You can find the recipe in the book or by watching the TV series that will soon be on your screens (see here for details).

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Saturday 26 February 2011

Alva Naturkosmetik Intensive Refining Cream for Cellulite

Are you sitting comfortably ?! It's time for another My Pure review ! I decided to go for something a bit different this time and chose to review the Intensive Refining Cream from Alva Naturkosmetik, designed to target cellulite and slack cellular tissue. And let's face it, if there's one thing most mums have got, it's slack cellular tissue by the bucketload !

Before slathering it all over my dimply and wobbly bits, I wanted to find out what was in it. I know that My Pure only sell products made from natural and organic ingredients but even so, there must be some pretty harsh ingredients in there if it's designed to deal with cellulite, surely ?

Well, the website explains that it contains three active ingredients : caffeine, L-arginine and wellmune. I've obviously heard of caffeine, but the other two are complete unknowns to me. On the My Pure website, they explain : " Alva tell us the cream works like this: 1) Caffeine from organic coffee purifies the tissues, at the same time activating the enzyme triacylglycerol lipase, helping to break down and metabolise fat. It also acts as an antioxidant, a diuretic and a vaso-constrictor. Caffeine helps to dehydrate fat cells. 2) L-arginine tightens muscles and problem areas. The metabolism of L-arginine leads to the formation of nitric oxide, an important catalyst for the healthy dilation of blood vessels, circulation and blood flow. Other research indicates that L-arginine may support healthy lipid metabolism. 3) Wellmune builds up the skin's immune system, regenerates the cells by activating fibroblasts, and optimises long-term skin elasticity. The action of the fibroblasts gradually overhaul the skin, giving it a 'spring clean' from the inside and renewing the extra-cellular matrix."That all sounds a bit confusing so it's reassuring to see that GMTV's Dr Anu Bhatia proclaims to be a huge fan.

OK, on to the testing. Well, after a few days, I did find that my skin was softer, younger looking and smoother. I didn't suddenly have the body of a 20-something athlete but it was a definite improvement, both on my cellulite and wobbly mummy-tummy bits. However, as I've said in the past when reviewing this type of product, my midriff/thighs/bum area is normally quite neglected and doesn't get moisturised on a regular basis. I am therefore never sure if it's the cellulite cream working its magic or just the fact that I've been showing it some serious TLC, whatever the product. I really should do a placebo test and use regular moisturiser on one half and cellulite cream on the other for a fortnight !

Either way, it is a lovely cream to use. It's not greasy or overly runny so it's not messy to use, especially with the handy pump dispenser. It has a light texture, leaves no stickiness and has a pleasant citrus fragrance. And there's no doubt about it, it does help to regenerate and improve the condition of your skin. I'm usually quite cynical about this type of product but I have to say, I'm seriously impressed.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £26.20 for 150ml

Other reviews you may be interested in : Cheeky Monkey Tshirt

A little while ago, I was asked if I'd like to review a Tshirt from It was a bit of a random request as I had no idea what the Tshirt would have on it but I thought why not ! I had a lovely surprise when it arrived because it had this ultra-cute, brightly coloured cheeky monkey logo on it.

The T-shirt they sent is a lovely soft, grey cotton Tshirt. You can feel it's good quality because it's quite thick and it holds its shape well. I've purposely waited for the Tshirt to go through the wash a few times before writing this review, even throwing it in the tumble drier to see if the printed design starting peeling off or cracking, and it's still in pristine condition. You should be aware that the sizes are generous. I ordered XL to be on the safe side and am now wearing it as an ultra comfy nightshirt as it's a bit big as a Tshirt. explain on their website that they screen print personalised, bespoke T shirts, hooded tops, sweatshirts and workwear. They have a wide range of colours, styles and sizes (for kids and adults). They say : "Over the years we have screen printed everything that we could have imagined and some which really did take us by surprise. Premium fashion brands have used our services, countless football teams, fast food chains and many a stag and hen party organiser has walked away with a smile after collecting their custom T shirts." They promise competitive prices, fast turnaround times and high quality printing for quantities from from 12 to 100,000 (so doublecheck you've typed the number right or you could be in for a nasty surprise !).

The only thing I'm not keen on is the website, which I find hard to navigate and lacking in information (I don't think it really represents the funky, high quality clothing they can produce) but for the Tshirt itself, I can't fault it.

star rating : 5/5 for the Tshirt, 3/5 for the website

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Whitworth's Home Baking Products

Imagine the scenario. Half-term holiday. A house full of kids - 9-year-old Sophie and 6-year-old Juliette had invited over their friends Lili and Zohé (or Zoë as I thought it was spelt until very recently !) plus 19-month-old Pierre, luckily having a nap. Boredom starts kicking in and it's raining. It could have been a total nightmare but then I remembered the fab kids' baking kit that the lovely people at Whitworth's had sent me, along with some bags of their dried fruit mixes.

I tentatively suggested we make some cakes to the girls to see what they thought and was greeted with cheers - phew ! While they sorted out the aprons, I scoured the Whitworths website for a simple but tasty recipe to use and decided on a recipe for Quick Fruit Scones which made me feel all nostalgic because it is the kind of thing we used to make in cookery lessons at primary school. The girls had no idea what scones were so I just told them to trust me !

First of all we had to convince Juliette to stop wearing the mixing bowl as a helmet, then set out all the ingredients and measured out all the right amounts of everything. It's a great recipe for spur-of-the-moment baking with the kids because it's all store cupboard basics - flour, sugar, butter, raisins, salt, milk, an egg. Juliette was amazed by how big the Whitworths raisins were ... and I was amazed at how quickly they kept disappearing into the girls' mouths whenever they thought I wasn't looking !

We had to set up a strict rota for stirring and adding ingredients to avoid squabbling !

But luckily Juliette was the only one who wanted to lick the spoon !

Multitasking - eating raw cake mix while "painting" the scones with egg !

Ta da, fresh out of the oven. I wish you could take a photo of a smell !

Waiting for them to cool down is always the hardest part !

And Pierre woke up just in time to get involved in the tasting. Huge thumbs up all round ! And huge thanks to Whitworths for supplying us with the baking kit, the fruit mix and the recipe !

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The Real Value of Sleep - how much would you pay ?!

I received this interesting press release today from Kalms, which is a family brand of herbal stress and sleep remedies. (They have a range of products to help ease the symptoms of stress and sleeplessness, including Kalms Stress, Kalms Sleep, Kalms Lozenges and new Kalms Night. They're going to send me some Lozenges to try out so keep your eyes open for a review coming soon !)

So the question is - how much would you pay for a good night's sleep ? I actually sleep quite well, bearing in mind we have three kids. They get up a bit earlier than I'd like (about 7am on weekends, but it's our fault for waking them up at 6.30 during the week !) but once they're in bed, they settle down quickly and don't usually wake up until morning. Some nights, I have trouble dropping off though, especially if Mike's snoring or I've got a busy day ahead at work, and I hate that thing you do when you count down how many hours sleep are left until the 6am alarm if you go to sleep right this second (and it's never enough !).

Well, Kalms have done some interesting research to find out how much people would pay to get a good's sleep and you can use their fun interactive map to see how well the people in your neighbourhood are sleeping ! Read on for more info.


The Real Value of Sleep :
Brits kept up by money worries and willing to put hands in pockets for a decent night’s sleep

New research released today has found that Brits value their sleep so much that that 40 per cent of us would pay to get a decent night’s sleep if the alternative was no or very little sleep - that’s almost 20 million adults. One in ten stated that given the alternative, they would happily pay over £50 for a night of uninterrupted sleep, those with three or more children in their household are the most likely to hand over more than £100.

Money worries (25%) and work-related stress (23%) were stated as the main disruptions of sleep, keeping a quarter of us awake. Other culprits were family worries, and partner’s snoring, which also keeps 28 per cent of women awake at night.

The research, carried out by Kalms Sleep - the traditional herbal remedy which helps promote natural refreshing sleep - also discovered that if they were getting no or little sleep, more than a quarter of women (26%) would swap a month’s worth of sex for just one night of decent sleep – twice as many as men. Whilst a quarter of men and over a third (35%) of women would forgo booze for a whole month.

Stephanie Clayson, a spokesperson for Kalms, said: “The irony is that whilst many of us would be willing to spend our hard earned cash on a good night’s sleep – money worries are one of the main culprits. For £100 it would be possible to get a baby sitter in to look after the kids for a night or even go away to a nice hotel for the evening.

“Sleep is something that many of us take for granted, but it is such an important part of our lives that can make the difference to being able to cope with even the simplest of everyday tasks. The well-known saying ‘the best things in life are free’ comes into question when almost half of us are willing to handover our hard-earned cash for something which is a basic need for a healthy mind and body.”

She continues: “The research found that, whilst seven out of ten of us feel we need seven or more hours sleep to fire on full cylinders, only 34 per cent of us are actually getting more than 7 hours.”

To get a closer look at the breakdown of the findings for your region visit and check out our interactive map.

Lack of sleep makes everyday situations feel more stressful, making it even harder to relax and catch up on that sleep. Kalms Sleep and new convenient Kalms Night One-A- Night are traditional herbal remedies that help promote a refreshing natural night’s sleep – without causing drowsiness the next day. Both products contain herbs traditionally used for their sedative action which may be particularly helpful in the case of sleep disorders.

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Friday 25 February 2011

Little Dish Beef & Spinach Cannelloni

In a perfect world, impeccably-groomed and constantly good-humoured mums resembling a scarily-faultless cross between a Stepford Wife and Bree from Desperate Housewives would spend all day lovingly preparing homemade baby food packed with organic fruit and vegetables. Then their little cherubs, contentedly goo-goo-ga-ga-ing and counting their chubby little toes while it all is all being prepared, would happily eat every last spoonful of vitamin-filled goodness before dozing off for a nice long nap.

However, in the real world, most mums are juggling other equally important stuff like jobs and older siblings and housework and don't always have the time or energy to cook toddler meals from scratch. Or their slightly less cherubic little ones are screaming the house down because they're hungry and tired and don't want to wait for food to be prepared. Or mum is at her wit's end because she can't get her fussy toddler to devour anything that has even stood next to a fruit or vegetable.

Well, there's no need to feel guilty ! Little Dish toddler food is basically homemade food that isn't homemade ! OK, that's a slight exaggeration but as they say : "There’s nothing in our food that you wouldn’t find in your own kitchen. We only use 100% natural ingredients and never add salt or sugar. We create every recipe in partnership with our nutritionist, and each Little Dish is taste tested by a team of tiny tasters before we let it out of the kitchen." That taste-test is all important - it may be good for them but it also has to taste good, otherwise it's a waste of time.

Well, no problems there, when we were sent through their latest recipe - Beef & Spinach Cannelloni - to try out. 19-month-old Pierre was off his food, feeling grumpy with tonsillitis and teething, so it was big sister Juliette who took the hot seat. She may be 6 but it was the perfect portion size for her and she declared it yummy. She doesn't usually like spinach but she had no inkling that it was in there and, as all mums know, managing to sneakily hide vegetables inside tasty meals is often vital to getting their 5-a-day inside of them !

As a mum, I love the sheer practicality of a microwavable ready meal that even saves on washing up because you can serve it straight in the plastic dish (on a plate - we're not total heathens !). It's well thought out for little tummies and busy mummies - what more could we ask for ?!

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £2.59 (but currently 2 for £4 in Tesco, until 1st March)

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Book review : Room - Emma Donoghue

Room is my first absolute must-read of the year. At times heart-rendingly tragic and almost painful to read, it is totally unputdownable and literally gave me goose bumps while reading it. I would defy anybody to read it and not be moved.

The novel is entirely narrated by 5-year-old Jack. He and his Ma live in a 12-foot square locked shed. His Ma was kidnapped and imprisoned seven years ago and Jack has never seen the outside world. In fact, Room and its contents - Rug, Wardrobe, Meltedy Spoon, Plant - are the only things that he believes really exist. Everything that he sees on the TV is just fantasy. The world - his world - measures 12 foot square. End of story. And that's all he needs. Jack's simplistic vocabulary, childhood logic and matter-of-fact attitude make the whole thing even more tragic. Imagining him hiding in the wardrobe as his captor makes his almost nightly visit to to his Ma, counting the creaking bedsprings until it's all over, is an image that will stay with you long beyond the final page.

Reminiscent of - and indeed inspired by - the real-life horror stories of captives such as Elisabeth Fritzl and Natascha Kampusch, the book makes you think about details of their day-to-day lives that you have probably never considered. And it goes far beyond the tabloid fodder churned out during the short-lived media frenzy following their ultimate deliverance.

Emma Donoghue really gets into the psyche of five-year-old Jack, totally bewildered by a whole universe he never even imagined existed. You would imagine that being released would be a huge relief and that freedom would be the sweetest thing imaginable. But when ET found himself on a new planet, all he wanted to do was phone home and poor little Jack is in the same predicament. It's heart-breaking to see that all he wants to do is return to the familiar surroundings he has finally escaped from.

Despite many heartbreaking scenes, the book remains surprisingly positive and optimistic, showing the incredible resilience and adaptability of people, especially children, in difficult situations. It is also in some ways a celebration of motherhood and the incredible ability of parents to protect and nurture their children. Ma and Jack may be pushed to their limits but they are ultimately survivors and their story will haunt you long after the final pages.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £7.99

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Picador (23 Dec 2010)
ISBN-10: 0330519026
ISBN-13: 978-0330519021
Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.8 cm

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Two great events in support of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity

Back before Christmas, I did a blog post (here) about some of the great Christmas gifts you could buy to help raise funds for the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Well, I'm back with two new ways to help donate some money to this really worthwhile cause. Read on and above all get involved !



Throughout March, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity is urging supporters to Bake it Better by baking, selling and enjoying cupcakes to support the annual Kiss it Better appeal and raise funds for research into the causes and treatment of childhood cancer.

Bake it Better is an easy, delicious and great way to get together with your colleagues, friends and family for a fantastic cause. Bake it Better is supported by celebrity cook, Simon Rimmer whose delicious Buttermilk and blueberry pound cake recipe is just one of the many tasty and easy-to-make cakes which can be found on:

Simon Rimmer says, “I’m delighted to be supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital in its treatment of children with cancer. There’s nothing more comforting than the smell of home baking. So come on, put on your aprons, whip out your wooden spoons and help to Bake it Better!”

Childhood cancer is the biggest disease affecting children today. The ambition of the Kiss it Better appeal is to cut the death rates of childhood cancer, whilst reducing the side effects of treatment. Great Ormond Street Hospital and UCLH form the largest centre in Europe for children with cancer. This year’s appeal will go towards the cost of funding the training and employment of clinical research nurses who will enlist children onto clinical trials. It’s been proven that children enlisted on these trials do significantly better.

To find out more about the Kiss it Better appeal and to register for our Bake it Better celebrity recipes and fundraising pack, please visit: or call 0207 239 3000.



Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity is encouraging everyone to take part in the RBC Race for the Kids 5k fun run on Sunday 12th June 2011.

Held in London ’s Battersea Park , the event is open to people of all ages and abilities to walk, jog or run the race. Money raised from the event will help fund the essential redevelopment of Great Ormond Street Hospital and make a difference to the thousands of sick children who are treated at the Hospital every year.

On the day, participants can expect to mingle with celebrities and take part in exciting activities such as arts and crafts, face painting and inflatable games.

Entry to the event is now open and supporters are encouraged to visit to sign up or contact the charity’s fundraising team on 020 7239 3164 or email Everyone who takes part will receive an exclusive medal, goody bag and a specially designed t-shirt.

About Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity:

Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals with the broadest range of dedicated, children’s healthcare specialists under one roof in the UK . The hospital’s pioneering research and treatment gives hope to children who are suffering from the rarest, most complex and often life-threatening conditions, from across the country and abroad. Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity needs to raise £50 million a year to help rebuild and refurbish Great Ormond Street Hospital , provide vital up-to-date equipment and fund research into better treatments for the children. You can help us to provide world class care for our patients and families. 
If you do get involved, feel free to post your sponsorship links below so we can help you raise money !

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Hayman's Sloe Gin

Sloe gin is one of those drinks that I've always heard of but never tried. I've tried normal gin before but never really knew if Sloe Gin had the same taste or not. I wasn't even entirely sure what sloe gin is made from - aren't sloes like plums or damsons or something ? Well, when the opportunity came up to sample Hayman's Sloe Gin, I decided to give it a go to get some answers to all of these questions.

The drink itself is an attractive deep red colour and it smells nice and fruity and not eye-wateringly strong. Off to a good start then. Time for the taste test. Now, normally I'd drink gin with a mixer but I decided to try the Sloe Gin neat, at least at first to see what the taste is like. It reminds me slightly of sherry - it's very sweet but sharp, slightly warming but doesn't give you the unpleasant burn in your throat that stronger spirits do (it has an ABV of 26%) and it's really fruity.

I decided to head online to do some investigating. First of all, I decided to find out more about the Hayman's label. They explain : "Hayman's Sloe Gin might be relatively new to our world but in fact the Hayman family have been making it for hundreds of years and until recently kept the lot for themselves. The Hayman family know a lot about Gin, the original company of Hayman Distillers was founded in the 1800's by James Burrough, the great Grandfather of the current Chairman, Christopher Hayman. James Burrough created the world renowned Beefeater Gin. Two centuries later The Hayman family now proudly distil their range of premium Gins under their family name."

So what exactly is sloe gin (or should that be slow gin ?!) ? "It takes great care and, as you'd expect, lots of time to create Sloe Gin. Carefully selected wild English grown sloe berries are gently steeped for several months with Hayman's Gin before being blended with natural sugar, creating a rich ruby red liqueur with smooth and intense bitter sweet fruit flavours. Sloe Berries are a type of wild plum and are harvested from the blackthorn tree and native to Europe." Ah, so I was right when I thought it had something to do with plums then !

So how is it supposed to be drunk ? It's got such a lovely fruity flavour that I'm sure it would make a great ingredient for cocktails. Well, Hayman's have actually come up with a cocktail in honour of the impending Royal Wedding, called the Sloe Royale. (It's that impressive-looking drink in the picture at the top of the page.) "Simply shake Sloe Gin with fresh mint and serve with dry Prosecco, garnish with a strawberry. Berry tasty!"

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : from £17.66 for 70cl

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Ecover sponsors 6th Observer Ethical Awards - nominate and win !

I know a lot of you love being green as well as entering competitions so this sounds like the perfect mix for you ! I can already think of some lovely tweeps I've discovered on twitter who deserve a nomination. What about you ? You'll have to get your skates on though - voting closes on 11th March.


Put the environment first with Ecover and the Observer Ethical Awards

It’s official…the ‘green Oscars’ are back. The sixth Observer Ethical Awards, in association with Ecover, have been launched with an all-star judging panel whose eco credentials are truly second to none – including Ecover’s very own managing director Mick Bremens and marketing manager Clare Allman as well as Oscar nominated actor Colin Firth and model Lily Cole.

The awards recognise organisations, individuals and young people whose work makes day-to-day ethical living more accessible and achievable. Recognition for this work is vital to a more ethical future, so Ecover is once again proud to be the headline sponsor.

Last year’s winners include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who beat Jamie Oliver and Joanna Lumley to take the title of Campaigner of the Year for his Landshare project. This year the public can once again vote to decide who will join Hugh in the eco limelight as Campaigner of the Year, as well as voting for the best ethical Local Retailer, Online Retailer and Global Campaigner.

Mick Bremens, managing director of Ecover, comments: "The Observer Ethical Awards are a hugely exciting project for us to be involved with and we are looking forward to seeing which innovative, inspirational and likeminded organisations and individuals will win this year. Our hope is that through our day-to-day work and support of the awards we will encourage many more people to follow an ethical way of living."

As always members of the public are able to nominate the best and brightest individuals, organisations or companies who continually strives to put the environment first, then visit to register your nomination.

You could win one of a host of amazing eco prizes just for registering your vote, but get in there quick as voting closes on 11th March.

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London Fashion Week 2011 – Be model beautiful inside & out

I must admit, I never really think of  the catwalk models taking good care of themselves and having a healthy diet and lifestyle. "Those" Kate Moss photos and Naomi Campbell's anger management issues don't always present the modelling career in a positive light ! But at least some of them are being helped to keep in tiptop form by the nutritionists and health specialists at Nutri Centre - who were kind enough to supply me with a fabulous aphrodisiac massage oil to give away to one of my lucky blogfollowers recently ! (The giveaway has now ended but you can see it here.) Well, we may not all be able to achieve top model good looks, but we can discover which nutritional supplements have been helping them look and feel good during London Fashion Week. Read on to see what Nutri Centre has been giving them :


Nutri Centre - supporters of Erin O’Connor’s Model Sanctuary - give their top picks from LDN Fashion Week

Nutri Centre Head Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson says: "Models may seem like they have a glamorous job, however they get just as stressed and run down as the rest of us. Flying, late nights and long days take their toll even on the beautiful! Tired models were in desperate need of some extra energy, so Nature's Plus Acai bars were the best solution for a quick and energising superfood snack. These were the most popular fatigue-fighter of the day! Hangovers and fashion week go hand-in-hand, so a cleansing morning cuppa of Pukka detox tea helped give the liver support. Three Tulsi tea was also great for soothing pre-show nerves. Good skin and hair is essential for all models, so I advised plenty of fresh fruit & veg, lots of water and cutting back the caffeine. As frequent flying can give your immune system a hit, I advised taking extra vitamin C and ImmiFlex, supplement to help support wellbeing".

Top supermodel picks from the NutriCentre this London Fashion Week:

The perfect wake-up call

Nature’s Plus Potent C contains energising B vitamins to put your brain into gear and super vitamin C, to help you feel sparkly and revitalised. Korean ginseng and bee pollen helps gives you extra nutritional support to help you survive the day. Mix this fruit-flavoured sachet with your bottle of mineral water and sip throughout the day.

Keep energized throughout the day

Supermodel Erin O’Connor is a huge fan of Nature's Plus Acai Energy Bars and they are a must for busy people. These handy on-the-go snack bars are packed full of nutrients, antioxidants, superfoods and Acai berry goodness all wrapped up with delicious dark chocolate. Erin says: " Models love these as they're packed full of antioxidants and nutritious superfoods and are perfect for keeping energy levels up when they're rushing from show to show!"

Stay sneeze free

Jet-setting, late nights and stress can leave us more vulnerable to coughs and colds. Pukka Herbs Elderberry Syrup is an essential natural bodyguard that helps protect you from bugs when you need it most. Whether it’s a sore throat, tickly cough or the sniffles, this syrup is just the tonic you need to get you feeling fashion fabulous again. Frequent flyer? Take ImmiFlex, a new immune-boosting supplement, to help you stay well while you travel.

Avoid catwalk fright

Even Naomi, Claudia and Kate had the occasional bout of “catwalk fright” when the eyes of fashion’s elite are watching you from the sidelines. Keep calm by drinking Pukka Three Tulsi tea. A delicious caffeine-free blend brings together organic green tulsi, purple tulsi and lemon tulsi, this is also known as Holy Basil and is considered to be a sacred plant used to lift the spirits and open the mind, so it’s the perfect herbal tea to drink when you need a little boost and to tackle stress. It has a soothing aromatic taste that helps to relax and warm your whole system. Erin says: "We all love Pukka Teas at the Model Sanctuary - there's a blend for every occasion! The Three Tulsi and Chamomile teas have been especially great for calming pre-show anxieties."

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Exclusive Recipe From MasterChef Champion Dhruv Baker And The BBC Good Food Show Summer

I currently have two competitions running (here and here) for you to win family tickets to the fabulous BBC Good Food Show Summer and BBC Gardeners' World Live shows (both of which are on at the same time and the tickets give you entry to both). In the meantime, to help you bide your time, here's a tantalising recipe for chicken, ham and leek pie from the lovely Dhruv Baker which is perfect to celebrate not only British Pie Week (7th - 13th March) but also St David's Day (1st March). Bon appétit !


The BBC Good Food Show Summer has teamed up with MasterChef champion Dhruv Baker to bring you a delicious chicken, ham and leek pie recipe to celebrate British Pie Week (7 - 13 March).

Pies have always been a staple in the British diet, whether it's savoury or sweet and what better way to celebrate than with a dish from a MasterChef winner.

Dhruv Baker says: "This pie is a delicious addition to any home cookbook and a great way to celebrate British Pie week. I hope everyone enjoys eating it and remember the best way to learn is to watch so don't forget to come and see me cooking live at the BBC Good Food Show Summer in June."

Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie for 10 People

Best to cook in two separate dishes unless you think you have one large enough


Heat the oil in 2 large frying pans and add the onion and leeks and cook for 5 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes then add the wine and reduce by two-thirds. Pour in the stock and cook until reduced by half. Add the ham, cream and parsley, bring to the boil, then cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then pour into 2 large pie dishes. Roll the pastry out and cut so that you have 2 pieces of about ½ an inch thick. Each piece needs to be large enough to cover the pie dish and trim off the excess. Using a sharp knife cut a small hole in the middle of the pasty (this allows the steam to escape while to pie cooks). Preheat the oven to 220C. Beat the egg yolks and brush over the pastry. Place the pies in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes. Check the pie after about 30 minutes and keep doing so every 5 minutes as you don't want to burn the pastry. Nothing worse than spending all that time and effort to burn the pastry!*

Ingredients (serves 10).

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large onions finely chopped

4 large leeks thickly sliced

5 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (remove the skin)

750g cooked Ham, also cut into bite-size pieces.

4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

300ml white wine

400ml chicken stock (by all means make your own but you can use

good stock cubes or shop bought stock)

350ml double cream

6 tablespoons chopped parsley

950g puff pastry

3 egg yolks

* That said, if you do burn the pastry the filling is still going to be fine so you can serve that or, if you have time, you can cook some sheets off puff pastry in the oven too.

for more information :
BBC Gardeners World Live

Call 0844 581 1340 or book online at

BBC Good Food Show Summer

Call 0844 581 1344 or book online at

and don't forget to enter my competitions - I have six family tickets up for grabs !

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