Mama OWL Blog: November 2015

Meal Plan Monday 301115

Monday, 30 November 2015

Meal Plan 301115
Monday 30th November
Turkey burgers, chips & salad
Tuesday 1st December
Wednesday 2nd December Ploughman's
Thursday 3rd December
Toad in the Hole
Friday 4th
Chicken Fajitas
Saturday 5th December
Pizza for the Mister & kids because I am out for dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday
Sunday 6th

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
Brinner* = Breakfast for Dinner

BBQ Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Autumn is creeping into Winter which brings with it the long dark nights and a chill in the air. It's the perfect time of year to use those slow cooker recipes that get neglected through the Summer for hearty evening meals to warm you up after a day out in the cold (and that importantly, can be left to cook through the day while you get on with other things). I recently gave Barbecue Pulled Pork a go, which I served in brioche rolls with caramelised red onions - fuss-free and a real winter warmer. Enjoy it on a crispy oven baked potato or in a bun with chunky potato or sweet potato wedges on the side.


1kg Pork Joint
500ml bottle of Coca-Cola (regular)
300ml BBQ sauce (I used a Jack Daniels glaze)
Brioche rolls / Baking Potatoes

  • Place the pork joint in your slow cooker and pour the Coca-Cola over the top.
  • Select 'low' and leave to cook for at least five hours.
  • When it is cooked, remove from the slow cooker on to a plate and use two forks to 'pull' the meat into shreds.
  • Put the shredded pork back in to the slow cooker and add the barbecue sauce, and cook for a further hour on a high setting.
  • Serve in brioche rolls with caramelised onions, or a garnish of your choice - or on top of an oven baked potato (with lots of cheese and sour cream!)

linked up with #TheList.

Christmas Gift Ideas for (Older) Teenage Girls

Friday, 27 November 2015


Christmas is fast approaching, and out of our five children the most challenging one to buy for is our 17 year old daughter because obviously nothing I buy will be the right colour/fit/genre/style etc. If there is one thing that I do know about what my daughter likes, it is that it is nothing that I would choose because I am of course, always wrong.

How long do we have until she realises that I am almost always right? Few more years?

I digress. Christmas shopping for my teenage daughter consists of her writing me a very specific list of items, and never ever am I allowed to deviate from this list. I get free reign over the Christmas stocking fillers, but not the list. This makes it easier for me to shop, but less fun because she knows the vast majority of what she will be receiving. I know eventually the magic of Christmas changes as they grow up, but that doesn't make it any less bittersweet for me. With this in mind, and thinking that I am not the only one with a difficult late-teenage girl to buy for, I have asked her to help me compile this list with advice for other parents so that they can at least have their own list with which to shop with - and you may even get something right!


This is tricky territory because she will probably have very particular tastes, or favourite brands. Have a poke around in her make up bag and see what she already has. Try and choose products from the same line, or things like brushes & sponges, tweezers, eyelash curlers, cleansers, face masks. Little extras such as fake eyelashes, nail art kits, nail polishes, and lip balms make great little stocking fillers. Or if all else fails, you can always pick up gift cards for her favourite brands and stores.


A loves perfume and has a shelf full of her favourites. She received a bottle of American singer-songwriter Christina Aguilera's sensual new fragrance Woman to review and it is now her favourite scent, she wears it to both school and work every day.
"Woman is a sensual combination of golden amber and white flowers - radiating femininity the way every woman does. The scent opens with accords of bergamot and pink pepper, litchi and pear, combining a delectable heart of magnolia and rose with violet leaves and honey. The smooth, sensual base consists of golden amber, tonka bean and sandalwood finishes this undeniably feminine and joyful fragrance."
The packaging is pretty and feminine with a beautiful pink curvy bottle decorated with an elegant gold flower design & gold spray top, which makes this perfume an ideal Christmas gift.

Available from The Fragrance Shop and, Christina Aguilera Woman retails at £19.50 30ml, £29.50 50ml, and £39.50 75ml.


Top of A's Christmas list last year was a pair of Doc Martens, but of course a specific colour and finish - black matte. She's stated that she'd love another pair (in red this time) because she loves them so much and has worn them almost daily since Christmas Day. She also loves pretty heels and an opportunity to dress up, so perhaps a pair of nude heels (to match many outfits) or even some nice sparkly party shoes would be equally as well received as pair of boots, or a pair of new trainers - 'Vans' are popular in my house.


A is an avid reader and has an entire bookshelf crammed with paranormal and YA novels including The Twilight Saga, The Vampire Diaries, and The House of Night series as well as titles by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns) in amongst lots of the classics. There are many talented YA authors out there and a huge selection of novels to appeal to all tastes and help instil a love of reading. A has her own Kindle but still prefers a real book.


I know many people hate this because it seems so impersonal, but in all honesty I would rather give money or vouchers to spend in a shop that I know she loves than waste money on something she doesn't really like or want. This way, they can also plan a January sales shopping spree with their friends and grab some bargains.


Either a block booking with your chosen instructor, or some money in an account to be spent on driving lessons when the time comes is a great present for the older teenager. A has been having lessons for some time now but money set aside for her theory/practical tests or even for her to save towards her first car will be a big help.

A received a complimentary perfume for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

A Cornish Mum

One Year On | #LoudnProud

Thursday, 26 November 2015

It has been a full year since I took the decision to change my lifestyle.

A year ago we were fast approaching Christmas and the festive season was in full swing with its sweets, treats and indulgence. I was so unhappy with my body, and how crap I felt all the time. Bloated. Sluggish. Headaches. Bad skin. Lethargic. Aching joints.

A year ago a friend posted her 'before and after' weight loss pictures on Facebook. They happened to pop up on my newsfeed and I was intrigued. She'd joined a local fitness group and looked absolutely amazing. I needed to know more. I sent her a message and she pointed me in the direction of Project 6 Pack — and I haven't looked back since.

In January I went along to the welcome meeting by myself, I was weighed and measured and had photos taken. I was horrified by my weight, I hadn't realised I had gained so much having avoided the scales for longer than I care to remember. I was embarrassed to stand there in my underwear in front of strangers and have my photo taken. But I knew that this was what I had to do to make a change, it was a big step for me but one that I needed to take. I wanted results, so I knew I had to make changes.

The next day I went to the fitness test and struggled my way through. It was awful. I was so unfit, I found it so difficult, I wanted to stop. I carried on and finished the test and then made plans for the next six weeks worth of classes. I only attended 2/3 classes a week at first, it was a struggle going from zero exercise to these full on fitness classes but I did my best, and just did what I could. I don't think I have sweated as much in my life as I have this year and some days I thought I was going to vomit into my trainers but I persevered - I went to class, I stuck to the diet & nutrition advice and I worked hard.

At the end of my first round I went back for my new measurements and weigh in and to have my next progress photos taken, and I was absolutely blown away by my results. In my first six weeks I lost a huge 9kg (just shy of 20lbs) and 50.5cm (19.8"). Tomorrow will be my last weigh in and measure of 2015 and so to date, I have lost 27kg and 122.5cm, and five dress sizes - and I am really bloody proud of myself.

I didn't give up. I didn't half-ass it. I worked to the best of my ability and followed the advice given to me, and I got results. I look in the mirror now sometimes and still can't believe that it's me. That after five kids, I eventually got my body back. I never believed that it could be done, but there it is. No faddy diets, no shakes, pills, or wraps, no short cuts - just hard work and commitment. I've spent 17.5 years doing my best for the children, giving them what they need, and I have neglected my own health and fitness, and well-being. Well, not any more. I have given them back their happy, healthy mum, and I have finally got some of my self back too - and I'm not done yet!

Mama Owl

Taking Teens on Holiday | #ShepsGoToLaki

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

As our kids get older I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep everyone happy and entertained, with age appropriate activities and such like, and taking them away on holiday was no different. E is 5, she wants to swim and build sandcastles and play in the park. H & L at 10 and 12 want to have some freedom to go swimming, make new friends and explore without being restricted to what mum and dad want to do because they're not quite old enough to go off by themselves. With J & A being 14 and 17, we are in new territory completely because frankly some days we barely see them at all. Everyone does their own thing at home, we all have our own space, hobbies and interests, but when you're on holiday together - how on Earth are you supposed to please everyone?

I was excited to take J & A to Kos with Mark Warner Holidays because I knew that they would love it. They needed a break after a long year of A-level and GCSE studies and heading off for some Autumn sun in Greece before the long Winter blows in (and before A2 and GCSE mocks and exams begin) was the ideal opportunity. I did have a chat with them before we left - asked them to make the most of our time away and to give everything a go, take part in activities and go to Indy club. I was pleased that they didn't make me nag and they did go to the welcome meeting, and to my delight they spent almost all of our time at Lakitira out on the water with their new friends.

Indy Club started later than the other clubs, and their days began with Indy Breakfast in the main restaurant meaning that they could get up later and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with the other teens on resort. Afterwards they changed, coated themselves in sun screen and then made their way to the waterfront where they spent their days sailing, SUP boarding, kayaking and windsurfing. The waterfront staff and their Indy Club leader Char were great and kept them safe and busy, to the point where we actually didn't spend that much time with A & J because they were so keen to be out doing other things, though while the younger three went to their respective clubs after the kids' high tea in the evenings, the older two would eat with me and their Dad and we actually enjoyed some quality bonding time over dinner which we don't normally get to have.

They both threw themselves into sailing in particular and made friends with a lad named Angus who visits Lakitira with his family every year. Angus has very kindly made a YouTube video for me to share of his RSCAT16 sailing experience in Kos, he spent a lot of time with A & J out on the sea helping them sail (or just, not drown after they capsized the boats) and enjoying all of the other watersports Lakitira has to offer. 

The Mark Warner experience with children of differing ages was a hugely positive one for us. We all got to have our quality family time together as well as time apart to do our own thing, and really be able to immerse ourselves in the holiday experience. All of the children made some great new friends and spent time doing activities with them. We had lots of fun together swimming and building sandcastles, burying each other in the sand, and playing football out on the court in the evenings. Our teenagers were able to have some real quality time with mum & dad on their own without younger ones taking up all of our time & attention, as well as being free to roam around the resort and have fun with the other teens... By hiding all of the beach sun loungers from the waterfront staff for example, though I can of course neither confirm nor deny this...

In my opinion, holiday childcare provision is usually geared towards kids aged 12 & under, with teens being left to their own devices where they can end up bored and disengaged which is not good enough. I don't want them sat in a room with colouring pens and a games console. I want them OUTSIDE, to be active, to make memories, to learn new skills - it's their holiday too after all and their needs should be met. Taking small children on holiday is easy - you've got sand, you've got water, you've got food. They're happy. Teenagers & 'tweens'? They need so much more than that.

Mark Warner offer an inclusive holiday experience that everyone can enjoy and we had a truly wonderful time with everyone asking (begging) to go back again next year. There is something for everyone, and I loved that my teens felt as much a part of our family holiday as the young ones did. It would be all too easy to let them mooch around the hotel room with their phone or laptop for a quiet life, but Mark Warner gets them out doing things - making friends and having fun which is what holidays are all about.

A photo posted by Alicia Sheppard (@cxming_undone) on

Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

Sharing with #justanotherlinky, Pick 'n' Mix Fridays, Best and Worst.

Arriving at Lakitira Beach Resort, Kos | #ShepsGoToLaki

Monday, 23 November 2015

After finding out that we had been selected as Mark Warner Ambassadors in December last year it seemed to be an age before we finally packed our suitcases and headed to Kos for our family holiday at Lakitira Beach Resort over the October half term. The children were so excited, it was our first trip away all together on a plane as a whole family of seven, and quite possibly our last with A planning on heading off to university and pastures new after she turns 18 next year. As a #MarkWarnerMum family we enjoyed a holiday for five on a half board basis. Being a family of seven and with hungry teenagers to consider, we paid for the additional two passengers and for an upgrade to full board for all of us which meant that we only had to pay for drinks and ice creams from the bars, and the occasional visit to the resort shop for extra bottled water.

The best part of a Mark Warner holiday in my opinion is that everything is done for you. You just have to turn up, and have a good time. The flight was an early one so we took the decision to travel to Heathrow the night before and stay in a nearby hotel so we didn't have to leave until 0500 (instead of 0230 if we had travelled from home). The hotel arranged a taxi to take us to the terminal for our 0720 flight in the morning, and we enjoyed an evening meal together and a good night's sleep before our big adventure.

A photo posted by jooleroo (@jooleroo) on

Check-in was quick and straightforward in the morning - we checked all of our luggage in, made our way through security and then had a little wander before heading to the gate where we explained to the British Airways staff that we were travelling with a child with Autism. They were very helpful and allowed us early entry through the gate and to board with L first to get him seated & settled before the other passengers boarded our chartered flight. In-flight meals are not renowned for their taste but I have to say that British Airways do impress me with theirs, even my kids eat it without argument which is high praise indeed - and not just because they don't have any choice!

After our flight, which was just shy of four hours, we were greeted at Kos airport by Mark Warner staff, given envelopes containing our MW wristbands and then organised on to our coaches for the short transfer to resort - only around 15 minutes. On our arrival at Lakitira the staff took our luggage and it was delivered to our villa for us. We collected our keys and headed off to find our rooms where we took in our suitcases, changed our clothes and then went for a wander to explore the resort. Compared to San Lucianu in Corsica, Lakitira is a large resort with plenty of space to explore. There are two beaches, the 'kids beach' with its narrow strip of sand and shallow water perfect for little ones to go paddling or snorkelling, and the main beach where most of the watersports are located (there are some on the kids beach for them to use during club) as well as a play park, nine tennis courts, two swimming pools and a small paddling pool for little ones in addition to the cycling centre and covered areas for fitness classes.

We attended the welcome meetings in the Stars Bar next to reception where we received all of the relevant information for the week's Indy, Junior, Kidz and Mini clubs and told what the kids would need to take with them to clubs, as well being given general resort information about the spa facilities, resort activities, customer services, and meal times and restaurant locations. We filled in the childcare forms for all of the kids and handed them back, before going back to our villa and unpacking our things. We had a large villa made up of three interconnecting suites, one downstairs for the three boys, and two upstairs - one for the girls, and one for the Mister and myself.

All three rooms were spacious, well equipped and very clean with tiled floors and their own bathrooms (so grateful that I didn't have to share with my sons for the week...), the downstairs room had a small patio and the upstairs suites both had balconies that overlooked the grassy area in front of the kids clubs shacks and the football pitch, which meant that we could watch the kids playing from our rooms. Our villa - striking white against the blue skies with gorgeous pink bougainvillea growing up and around the pergola - was in a great location with stunning views across the sea and set a little way back from the main hotel, it was so peaceful. As we watched the sun set on our first day in Kos, we were delighted with our first impressions of the resort and so excited for the fun that we would have and the memories we would make during our week in the Sun.

Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

Meal Plan Monday 231115

Monday, 23 November 2015

Meal Plan 231115
Monday 23rd November
Chicken casserole
Tuesday 24th November
Sausage, mashed potatoes and baked beans
Wednesday 25th November It's H's 10th birthday today so we are out for a family meal to celebrate his special day
Thursday 26th November
Caveman chilli and brown rice
Friday 27th
Saturday 28th November
Macaroni cheese and broccoli
Sunday 29th November
Roast Chicken

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.

Meal Plan Monday 161115

Monday, 16 November 2015

Meal Plan 161115
Monday 16th November
Steak and (sweet potato) Chips with mixed salad
Tuesday 17th November
Wednesday 18th November Cottage Pie - or Caveman Chilli... I haven't decided yet
Thursday 19th November
Lamb Stew
Friday 20th November
Macaroni Cheese with Broccoli (as requested by E because it's her favourite - this week...)
Saturday 21st November
Pizza (as requested by H)
Sunday 22nd November

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner (eggs, bacon etc)

The Lost Art of Stocking Stuffing | Gifts for £5 & Under

Thursday, 12 November 2015

On Christmas Eve my kids hang their stockings at the foot of their beds (or rather, drape/throw them down the end) and go off to sleep, wondering what goodies they will be filled with come Christmas morning. But I am telling you now - what they won't contain is a computer game, or perfume, or indeed anything that costs more than about a fiver, maximum. Why is this, you might be wondering..?


Is carefully choosing some thoughtful little presents to fill a stocking for a reasonable price a lost art? I know it's certainly getting harder to buy anything for under £5, but I do have to laugh when I see shops advertising stocking fillers for "Under £20". Those are not stocking fillers. They're just not. I can fill a stocking for the kids from 'Father Christmas' for £20-£25 with lots of lovely things - not tat - and know that they will be loved by the children, and I can save the actual gifts for them to find under the tree.

After I've had an extra half hour snooze that the morning stocking opening affords me.

It's a lot easier to fill a Christmas stocking for my teenage daughter than it is for my teenage son, but as Tara said on Twitter this week - that's all part of the challenge.

It would be simple enough to bung a game or two in there, but that's not only expensive - it's boring. Where is the fun in that? I can go down their lists and choose things from there, but I also want to take the time to find things that I know they will like and get use from that I have thought of myself. Even if it is something as simple as a cosmetic with a shade name that will amuse A, or a little pocket gadget that J will think is cool - it's the thought that counts. It's the time that I have taken to look. It's caring enough to know what their favourite things are and what they will like.

I was pleased to learn that it isn't just me that feels this way, and that others also have their own little stocking traditions. Life On Planet G fills her kids stockings with sweets, smellies & socks, Tara Cain gives her son a Lego Mini figure keyring each year as well as a new decoration each for the tree for both of her children, and Rachel in Real Life like me includes chocolate coins and a new toothbrush in hers every year. Mummy Barrow reminisced about the days when we all got a bag of nuts, a tangerine, and an annual (I used to love getting an annual every year!). It's the little things like this that makes Christmas special. These are the things that we remember - tradition, love, care, thought, time. Not how much money was spent. To me, the Christmas stocking is the place to put those funny little extras... fluffy bed socks, games - pick up sticks & dominoes went down well with the boys last year - or a pack of cards to play with together after Christmas dinner, Top Trumps (my kids LOVE these), "magic flannels", or little beauty knick knacks like make up sponges, lip balms, bobby grips, & face masks.

I asked friends on Twitter to share ideas for places to look for proper stocking fillers, and I'm busy trawling the internet finding the bits & bobs that will be loved & appreciated just as much as any big ticket present. Here's the list we came up with between us for places to shop for quality items and those hidden gems. The traditional, the useful, as well as fun and novelty - and most importantly, a good selection for about £5 and under. Feel free to comment and share your own suggestions!

 Dotcomgiftshop • Wilko • Primark • Hawkin's Bazaar • Tiger •
• The Pound Shop • Poundland • B&M • Home Bargains • Boots • Superdrug •

Meal Plan Monday 091115

Monday, 9 November 2015

Meal Plan 091115
Monday 9th
Macaroni Cheese with Broccoli
Tuesday 10th
Beef Stew with Dumplings (Steak & Salad for me)
Wednesday 11th November Sausages, Mashed Potatoes and Baked Beans (Sweet Potato & Vegetables for me)
Thursday 12th
Caveman Chilli with Brown Rice/Jacket Potatoes
Friday 13th
Saturday 14th
Thai Green Curry, served with Rice
Sunday 15th
Roast Chicken

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.

Simple Joys | #MySundayPhoto

Sunday, 8 November 2015

There are fewer things more lovely to watch than your child enjoying life's simple pleasures, and last week I had the joy of watching E delight in playing at the beach. Be it in beautiful Kos or at home here in the UK, there is nothing more wonderful to a small child than splashing in or jumping over waves, swimming in the sea and seeing little fish at your feet, and letting the water wash over you as you sit on the shore. For all of the amazing things we did last week, the water sports, the swimming, having fun with new friends - this was absolutely one of my favourite moments of our holiday. Just sitting, just enjoying the sensation of the waves, and the sun on her face. Just perfect.

Building Confidence - #ShepsGoToLaki | #LoudnProud

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Before we left for Kos I will admit to giving my teenagers a lecture. "Please join in!" I said to A (17) & J (14). "Please don't just sullenly mooch around by the pool or on the beach, join in with the activities and go to the Indy club. Please.". I didn't want them to waste an amazing opportunity to meet new people and learn some new things because, well because they're teenagers and those of us who have one or two of these creatures dwelling in our houses will completely understand my concerns.

After much eye rolling and sighing and a few grunts (I assume incoherent words of agreement) after we arrived at Lakitira, the two of them skulked off to Indy Club with a few backward glances at us that indicated they were doing so under duress but would at least give it a go, and for this we were very grateful - a small victory for us parents.

I needn't have worried. After an initial awkward first meeting and 'ice breaking' session, a few of the ten Indy Club aged kids on resort last week - including both of my teenagers - bonded and had a great week of watersports, late breakfasts, even later nights, and general mischief on the waterfront. By the end of the week they had both sailed every type of boat available (though I do use the term 'sailed' loosely as there was plenty of capsizing, falling in, and one or two incidents involving the boom and not ducking quickly enough...) and had also tried kayaking, windsurfing and SUP boarding along with their new friends, with varying degrees of success but lots of fun trying.

J in particular can be rather difficult to encourage out of his shell quite a lot of the time, but during our week away he really threw himself in to the activities and made a huge effort to give everything a go and I am really proud of him for doing so. I loved watching him out on the water and trying new things, it was a real pleasure to see him and A enjoying all of the watersports as much as their younger siblings did in Corsica.

The Mark Warner staff on the waterfront and the young lady, Char, who was in charge of Indy Club last week were outstanding and helped both J and A with anything and everything that they wanted to try. Instead of spending the week with their faces in their phones (though - A left hers in Greece after losing it on our last night there) using the free hotel wi-fi, the staff had them out on the water, joining in with lots of games and activities and games, and having actual real life fun with people instead of avatars and electronic devices. Taking them on an activity holiday like this was an absolute delight, and they both took away so much from it - they are both full of plans and ideas about taking RYA courses and wanting to work for Mark Warner in the future.

Learning all of these new skills and taking the time to get to know new people has been an enormous confidence boost for J and I am so happy that he has enjoyed it and wants to gain qualifications - we definitely plan to encourage their sailing aspirations further.

I'm this week's #LoudnProud host, and we would love to hear all about your special moments and achievements so please do share your relevant posts with us below. Feel free to grab our badge (simply C&P the handy code below), we would all very much appreciate it if you could please try to visit and comment on 2-3 others including the host post to enable this link to be successful - please do not link dump. The list closes at Midnight on Sunday, and next week will be hosted by Suzanne at 3 Children and It.

Mama Owl

Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

The Vegetable Challenge with

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The past ten months has seen massive changes and improvements to my family's lifestyle and diet. I have learned about nutrition and making better choices, tried new recipes and different methods of cooking in a bid to improve our diet and general health & wellbeing. There are many ways to go about making a positive lifestyle change and what works for one, won't necessarily work for another. It's about finding balance and what is best for you and your family. We are very much a traditional family, meals around the table, 'meat and potatoes' type of thing as that is the way both myself and my husband were brought up. We have a roast on a Sunday and our weekly meal plan changes with the seasons - we enjoy Winter warmers like stew, bangers & mash, and soup with warm bread rolls, whereas in the Summer I make big mixed salads with different meats, or a Ploughman's style buffet where the kids can just pick and choose. challenged us to try a six night meat-free meal plan, trying new recipes based only on vegetables - no meat. This was a challenge indeed as we are essentially Cavemen, we enjoy meat and I usually base our meals around one or another, so I was unsure as to how the kids and my husband would take to it. They were willing to give it a go, so we planned our meals around our evening activities over the course of a week and we got busy cooking. The best thing about Autumn/Winter is that the slow cooker can have more of an outing and it means I can prepare our meals during the day when the children are at school, and have a piping hot home-cooked meal ready for us in the evening without the rushing about after school, and their respective sports and clubs.

Our veggie-based menu comprised the following recipes, sourced from BBC Good Food;
  • Spiced Vegetable Biryani
  • Artichoke, Red Onion and Rosemary Risotto
  • Spiced Root Vegetable Soup
  • Miso-Roasted Aubergine Steaks with Sweet Potato
  • Five-a-day Tagine
  • Veggie Shepherd's Pie with Sweet Potato Mash

Five-a-day Tagine

We tend to eat a lot of veg & often substitute potato with sweet potato anyway, we just missed the meat from the Shepherd's Pie (and the Biryani would have been great with chicken!). We were all, however, pleasantly surprised to realise how much we enjoyed vegetable based meals and discovered some new favourite recipes in the process. The Spiced Vegetable Biryani was inspired and we all loved it, another big favourite was the Five-a-day Tagine which as well as being utterly delicious is perfect to be made in the slow cooker, too. You can even 'make ahead' and freeze portions for extra busy days.

What are your family's favourite vegetable based meals?

Artichoke, Red Onion and Rosemary Risotto
We received complimentary groceries and AO products for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own.
Family Fever

Sew Great! E is a Lalaloopsy Ambassador! | Lalaloopsy Tinies™ Jewellery Maker Review

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


If you have a young daughter then I am sure you will be well aware of the Sew Magical! world of Lalaloopsy. E is delighted to have been selected as an ambassador as she is a huge fan of the dolls (just about every item from their collections is on her Christmas list this year) and has been testing out the brand new Lalaloopsy Tinies™ Jewellery Maker.

The playset comprises a sew cute! miniature ferris wheel, which is perfect for all of the Lalaloopsy Tinies to ride on and allows your child to make their own necklaces, bracelets, rings, hair clips and more. Just choose a coloured string and fill each teacup on the wheel with coloured beads and as they turn the wheel, the beads will drop into the bottom of the Maker - with the press of a button, the beads will string themselves together! Your child can then add their favourite Tinies to the piece of the jewellery for the ultimate personalised finish. The Lalaloopsy Tinies Jewellery Maker also comes with three Tinies – including an exclusive gold Tinie to add to your collection. The Lalaloopsy Tinies Jewellery Maker is recommended for children aged 4 years + and retails at RRP £29.99 - check the website for details on where to buy Lalaloopsy products.

Lalaloopsy Tinies, new for Autumn 2015 and featuring all of your child's favourite characters in miniature, are highly collectible and available to buy in packs of three (with an RRP of around £2.99) and ten (RRP around £7.99). E received a pack of ten from Series 4 to accompany her Lalaloopsy Tinies Jewellery Maker playset and has enjoyed creating lots of beautiful pieces of jewellery to share with all of her friends at school.

So this all sounds simple and straightforward, but does it really work like this in reality? Is it as easy as it sounds? Firstly - the playset requires 3 AA batteries to work the threading mechanism, so if you are buying this as a Christmas gift DO NOT FORGET THE BATTERIES. First rule of parenting at Christmas, buy batteries in every shape & size and have them on standby. And a Phillips head screwdriver. And scissors. You get the idea.

E is very creative and loves to make things for people. She will sit for hours if she really engages with a toy or product, so combining two of her favourite things (Lalaloopsy dolls, and crafts) was sure to be a winner. The beads can 'catch' on the threading mechanism now and again as they move through so you may need to just give it a little push away from the edge, and as you'd expect with plastic beads rattling around it isn't the quietest of toys but over the last 17 years of parenting I can tell you now that it's not that annoying in comparison to other toys my kids have had - and it has an on/off button.

Other than that? Yes, it works as described, it's easy to set up and for your child to play with independently (I don't know about yours but mine never wants help, since she's a grown up girl & all...) and will provide plenty of creative fun. E absolutely loves it. I would say a must-buy for any Lalaloopsy fan who loves to indulge their creative talents.

I've put together a short clip on Instagram (which you can find below) demonstrating the basics. It really is as simple as that. Great crafty fun, & an ideal Christmas gift idea.

A video posted by jooleroo (@jooleroo) on

E received complimentary Lalaloopsy products for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own.

Super Busy Mum Family Fever

A Twist to the Morning Routine with Beanies Coffee

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


I don't know about you, but I need coffee in the morning. I have made a lot of lifestyle changes in the past ten months but coffee is one thing I will not give up. That first cup of coffee first thing in the morning, in the quiet half light before the rest of the house wakes up - I need that. I enjoy coffee in just about every form it comes in, but I do favour a steaming hot, rich, black coffee in a mug that is roughly the size of my head that I can sit and enjoy by myself, on the sofa in the dark, in absolute silence. No dogs. No kids.

Our mornings can be chaos. Depending on what I have been bothered to do the evening before, it can vary greatly in how crazy it gets. Ideally I try and make lunches the night before, I try my best to make sure they have packed their bags and have everything they need for the next day, but sometimes I am just too tired/busy/can't be bothered. That's life. I see you nodding your head. You know the score.

Around 6am, I'm usually awake. It can be 6:30 or even 6:45, but I am always awake before 7 without fail. I don't plan this, it just happens. Even on weekends. This is how I manage that perfect morning coffee in silence. Sneak into the kitchen, shush the too-loud kettle as it boils, and then stealthily make my way to the sofa for some quiet time. Beanies Coffee understand my coffee needs, and to add some variety to my morning cup of Joe they sent me their rather fabulous Stash Box with 9 flavours of coffee to try.

I admit I am a purist - flavoured coffee has never really appealed to me though I'm always up for a mug if it's on offer, but I am nothing if not willing to try new things. Send it on over, I said! I was rather excited to see Chocolate Orange and Very Vanilla in amongst the flavours, two of my absolute favourite things. Cinder Toffee & Gingerbread are also in there, making the Beanies stash box a fantastic Christmas gift idea for coffee lovers (in my humble opinion) and only £22.50 so it won't rinse the pressie budget.

But - what do they taste like? I didn't fancy the idea of a strong, in your face, overpowering flavour. Like I said, I'm a purist. I was pleased to discover that the flavours are subtle, and I enjoyed most of them (for example - I'm not a nut person so hazelnut was never going to be my thing, different strokes for different folks) & I had a great tip from Missy B who says "the Amaretto Almond tastes gorgeous with hot milk".

Check out the Beanies website or follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for all of the latest news and product information.

What flavour would you like to try?
Family Fever

Beanies Coffee sent a complimentary Stash Box for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own.

Half Term in Kos with Mark Warner Holidays | #ShepsGoToLaki

Monday, 2 November 2015

We have just returned from a week at Lakitira Beach Resort on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with Mark Warner Holidays as one of their #MarkWarnerMum family ambassadors. Having already sampled a break in Corsica with our youngest three children earlier in the year we were very excited to go away as a complete family of seven and see what Lakitira had to offer our teenagers with their outstanding childcare and kids clubs which are, in our experience, absolutely second to none.

Entertaining five children of such widely varying ages (from 17 down to 5) including one with additional needs on holiday is no mean feat, but I am delighted to say that we had a wonderful week away with only a few minor mishaps and meltdowns, and it was truly a holiday to remember. I'm looking forward to sharing our experience at Lakitira here on the blog over a series of posts which I've called #ShepsGoToLaki as that's the hashtag we used on social media (including Instagram and Twitter) while we were away, and I hope you will enjoy reading about it and finding out what we all got up to in Kos.

Lovely Things The Twinkle Diaries

Mark Warner Holidays provided flights and half board accommodation for five people as part of the #MarkWarnerMum Ambassadorship. All opinions and words are my own.

Meal Plan Monday 021115

Monday, 2 November 2015

Meal Plan 021115
Monday 2nd
Cottage Pie topped with sweet potato
Tuesday 3rd
Thai Green Curry and rice
Wednesday 4th November Steak with red onion and goats cheese, sweet potato chips and mixed salad
Thursday 5th
GF Sausage & Sweet Potato stew for Bonfire Night
Friday 6th
Mr & kids are having fish fingers, chips and peas as I am out for the evening
Saturday 7th
Chicken Curry Fried Rice
Sunday 8th
Roast Pork

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
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