Last week I was offered the chance to do something which I very rarely (if ever?) do on this blog. I was offered a toy review. I was a little hesitant when I replied, because if I can be entirely honest with you I’m quite picky about toys. On my list of dislikes are toys that aren’t made well, or only hold Theo’s attention for 5 minutes, or (and I’m being really honest here) are just plain ugly to look at.

Building the lego swmap police station

But on the flipside there are some toys that are not just welcomed in this house but positively worshipped…

Jim has been champing at the bit to play with Lego since Theo was born, but I didn’t really realise quite how amazing it was till a year ago when I bought Jim the 1000 piece Lego VW Campervan for Christmas. It not only kept the grown up it was bought for occupied for several days, but had Theo entranced too. The two of them sat at the kitchen table for hours on end (I’m not exaggerating) sorting the blocks and pouring over the instruction booklets, whilst I got on with things completely uninterrupted.

Since then more of the brilliant bricks have made their way into our lives and with every new kit, Theo gets a bit more involved and a bit quicker at assembling it. So when George at Asda offered us the chance to try a kit from their educational toy range, I’m not quite sure who in this family was the most excited.

After quite a lot of deliberation, Theo and Jim decided on a Lego storage box along with the Swamp Police Station which comes with a swamp boat, RIB, 4×4, motorbike, 3 snakes, a dog and a crocodile!

lego3True to expectations construction began almost as soon as Jim was in the door on Friday night and went on for all of Saturday, if it hadn’t been for the fact I was required to take photos they probably wouldn’t have noticed if I’d gone out for the whole day.

It still amazes me that a toy can hold the attention of a three year-old quite so completely and to watch him carefully and methodically work his way through the step by step instructions was quite impressive.

But there’s trouble brewing! Theo is apparently getting so good now that Jim is being pushed out and worst still, there were moments when I saw him step in to correct Theo’s assembling and then realise a second or two later that no, it was him who was wrong. Oh the shame!

Fortunately there are still some things that Daddy is required for. The Friday night Lego mending session is becoming a weekly ritual. It is one thing assembling with instructions, but carrying out repairs without them is still a job for an expert…

Linking up with … Point & Shoot and Living Arrows

  • January 27, 2015 - 11:01 am

    Verily Victoria Vocalises - Oh bless him, Jim looks entranced by that all that Lego. You can’t beat it! #PointShootReplyCancel

  • January 27, 2015 - 12:06 pm

    Helen G - This is great :-) he looks so happy to be playing with it, my little boy is still a little young for Lego but I’m looking forward to him being able to create things.

    Helen X
    (UK Bloggers)ReplyCancel

  • January 27, 2015 - 1:31 pm

    Nancy - Lego – best toy ever (until you step on it). We started with the bigger Duplo pieces. I bought the girls a huge set at Christmas when the girls were fairly small. That March we were visiting my Dad at the seniors complex and it kept them entertained in a tiny apartment. Good thing as the gaskets went on our van and it kept us there for a couple of extra days. I have buckets of the stuff and will never give it away. Even older people love it – we took my dad up in a helicopter for a ride on his 90th birthday – then I bought him a small Lego helicopter which I regularly would construct for him. I still have it. The other toy we all relished were the Playmobile sets – the victorian mansion is still set up in my basement.ReplyCancel

  • January 27, 2015 - 1:51 pm

    Merlinda Little ( @pixiedusk) - We are Lego worshipers too. More the Dad than the kid me thinks =P

    Point + ShootReplyCancel

  • January 27, 2015 - 1:51 pm

    Marta - Lego is BY FAR our favourite toy in the house. Next to cars that is. What a cute video – love when he was playing in the box…always the way, isn’t it?

    .:Marta:.ReplyCancel

  • January 27, 2015 - 2:17 pm

    Bean On An Adventure - Great video! Bean’s telling everyone about mummy’s new roller-skates in this weeks #PointShootReplyCancel

A few weeks ago I was given a doughnut maker by iwoot.com to review. To be absolutely precise it is actually a 3 in 1 sweet treat maker, but it was its doughnut making abilities that really called to me. I’m not sure quite what it is about doughnuts, but everyone in my family loves them and if you make them at home, surely they are only half as bad as if you buy them?

How to make mini doughnuts at home

Well actually it’s even better than that, cause the recipes I came up with really have a minimal amount of bad stuff in them and they are delicious too. Both sweet and savoury mixes start from the same dough mix…

230g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
100g butter

I divided the mixture and then added diffferent flavouring to each half…

apple and cinamon doughnuts

For the sweet I added one Bramley apple which I had pureed with about a teaspoon of water in a saucepan on the hob, a healthy scattering of cinammon and about 50g of sugar.

bacondoughnuts1600

For the bacon and cheese doughuts (don’t know them till you have tried them!) I added about 6 rashers of pre-cooked bacon and 120g of swiss cheese. Both mixtures cook in about six minutes and were a big hit with everyone from teens to grown-ups. You can see how the doughnut maker works and follow along with the recipe below..

I would love to know what you think of the flavours and if anyone has a doughnut maker already?

Linking up with Your YouTube & #PoCoLo

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

  • January 22, 2015 - 8:34 am

    Sue Bone - Recipe above says 1tbsp of baking powder but video says 1tsp.

    SueReplyCancel

    • January 22, 2015 - 10:14 am

      claremansell@mac.com - Thank you Sue, that’s now been corrected. The video was right.ReplyCancel

  • January 22, 2015 - 8:49 pm

    Lilinha Espindula - Yummy, the cinnamon apple doughnuts sound delicious! I’ve never had a savoury doughnut before, but I bet they were lovely too! :) xReplyCancel

  • January 22, 2015 - 8:59 pm

    Karen - Get you professional vlogger in your gorgeous kitchen. Love it xReplyCancel

    • January 22, 2015 - 9:02 pm

      claremansell@mac.com - Shhh.. don’t tell anyone, but it’s my sister’s kitchen! Heck of a lot better than an Army one though isn’t it?! :-)ReplyCancel

  • January 23, 2015 - 5:28 pm

    Merlinda Little ( @pixiedusk) - I love bacon in my doughnuts and pancakes! This looks so promising and will definitely try this! I don’t have that donut maker tho. #pocoloReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2015 - 8:38 pm

    Verily Victoria Vocalises - I love your vlog Clare – it is fab! Your sisters kitchen is gorgeous – as is that doughnut maker, I didn’t realise such a thing existed!! Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo xReplyCancel

  • January 25, 2015 - 8:54 am

    Katy - Lovely video, great kitchen (I see it’s borrowed I need to convince a friend to let me do the same as mine is like a postage stamp!!) Can I ask did you have someone helping you with filming or did you just keep re setting with a tripod?
    P.S I am now starving and only a doughnut will do!ReplyCancel

    • January 25, 2015 - 9:46 am

      claremansell@mac.com - My sister helped me filming this one. The first half was shot on a tripod and the second half was hand-held. It’s a constant learning curve and I’m not sure we’ve nailed it yet. :-)ReplyCancel

  • January 26, 2015 - 2:27 pm

    Jules - Yummy and I want your kitchen! #YourYoutubeReplyCancel

  • January 27, 2015 - 12:57 pm

    Samantha Rickelton - Oh these doughnuts look so cute! You can’t beat warm doughnuts from a fair so would be great to recreate at home #TastyTuesdaysReplyCancel

Recently Facebook seems to be full of photos of people enjoying winter sunshine. Whether it’s Australia or the Caribbean, the photos of flip flops and beaches have got me thinking about holidays again. It would be lovely if we could get away for a family trip this year, not just for the sunshine, but also for the change of scene and the new experiences that travel brings with it.

18NNxqe_1600

Unusually for us we’ve actually been living in the same house in the same country for two years now which is a first! Jim actually may have quite a large chunk of the summer off work this year, so there’s a possibility (theoretically at least) that we could do some traveling, but where to go?

A few months ago I wrote about Amadeus.net, a website that allows you to build trips around the best priced flights. Since that post in the autumn they have upgraded their search facility and asked me to take a look.  Amadeus.net not only allows you to compare flight prices across the year from multiple airlines, but you can also take inspiration from the trip plans that other users are building and perhaps investigate a holiday destination you might not have otherwise considered.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 18.44.00

What I found fascinating was how affordable some destinations are. My brother-in-law is running the Paris marathon in the spring and I’m quite tempted for us all to join my sister’s family for a long weekend.  Using the website I was able to compare the price and departure times of several airlines that fly that route. Budget airlines were surprisingly close in price to more traditional airlines and I know which one I’d rather travel on if the difference in cost is minimal!

Of course Sydney and South Africa also look a little tempting, but we might need to start small and build up to that! Have you made any plans for trips in 2015 yet?

  • January 21, 2015 - 11:23 pm

    Nancy - Come back to Canada – summer in the Maritimes is lovely. PEI is a gorgeous place with lots of sandy beaches and fabulous activities for kids Theo’s age. You can rent a cottage for a reasonable price and lots of airlines have reasonable direct flights to Halifax. And for you – I know where all the quilt stores are :) We would love to see you.ReplyCancel

  • January 22, 2015 - 6:29 pm

    Lorraine - This is a brilliant post! Only lately was I saying how this year I would like to travel a bit more. Always thought that it would be costly and a hazard but that website makes it look like planning will be so much easier. Thank you for sharing :)ReplyCancel

  • January 22, 2015 - 6:56 pm

    lisa prince - ive actually checked this out , would love to be able to get Away but money is not gonna stretch that farReplyCancel

  • January 22, 2015 - 7:08 pm

    COnnie - I’m Sending you Some sunshine from Mexico ! :) xxReplyCancel

On Friday I finished the last module of a 15 month long Graphic Design course. It’s been educational and enjoyable, but I’m really looking forward to reclaiming the 20 hours a week that it used to consume. So my first day free of student deadlines deserved a bit of a treat. We headed north to Petworth Park for a dog walk with friends, followed by lunch.

petworth17_edit

Petworth Park is owned by the National Trust and there are 700 acres that you can roam freely through in return for a £3 parking ticket. Like lots of big parks, it’s known for it’s herds of deer and Theo was entranced by them, whispering to us that he thought the deer might be Father Christmas’s actual reindeer. He was also rather fascinated by a rabbit hole he spotted under a large oak…

petworth3

He tried to persuade them to come out by shouting “Hello rabbit!” at the hole and then realised perhaps a little too late, that you need to be quiet to spot rabbits. Ooops!

petworth1_editThe park also provided Theo with a chance to indulge in one of the best kind of free activities at this time of year… jumping in ice-covered puddles! His Joules wellies are standing up to quite a lot of abuse at the moment.

petworth5After the park we went on to a pub a friend had recommended, the Halfway Bridge Inn in Lodsworth. We had been wandering round the park for so long it was actually nearly 2:30pm by the time we sat down, but we warmed up with some homemade mulled Cider and filled our tummies with some excellent hearty pub grub.

petworth10petworth7petworth8It was nearly dark by the time we got home. The whole day had been taken up by fresh air, good food and good friends. I can’t think of many better ways to spend a Saturday in January…

Info :

Petworth Park
Petworth
West Sussex GU28 0AE
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house/

Halfway Bridge,
Lodsworth,
West Sussex GU28 9BP
http://www.halfwaybridge.co.uk/

Linking up with my usual favourites..

snowingindoorsLiving Arrows Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
  • January 19, 2015 - 12:49 pm

    Karen - Well done on finishing that’s brilliant!
    What a lovely day out. All gorgeous photos but love the splashing in wellies one. We love all the deer and my three think they belong to Santa too. At Christmas they were looking for Rudolph xReplyCancel

  • January 19, 2015 - 2:56 pm

    FromMummytoMum - Awe what a beautiful day. That photo of Theo looking into the rabbit hole is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • January 19, 2015 - 6:21 pm

    Donna - Oh my! That ham, egg and chips may be the best food I have seen, ever! I need it in my life! xReplyCancel

  • January 19, 2015 - 8:01 pm

    Coombemill - It sounds like a perfect way to celebrate the end of your course. Enjoy those extra hours in your week and thank you for sharing some lovely photos of your day on Country Kids.ReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 6:49 am

    Merlinda (@pixiedusk) - Your photos are so amazing! I love those puddles shot. The water captured! Amazing =) #livingarrowsReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 11:46 am

    Sonia - It sounds (and looks) like you had a wonderful day! That food looks amazing! That’s made me hungry now lol xReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 1:39 pm

    lisa prince - i love looking at your pics and i so want to try that food , love how the chips are served xReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 8:30 pm

    Adventure Togs - Stunning photos to remember lovely day out. Gorgeous x
    #countrykidsReplyCancel

  • January 21, 2015 - 9:51 am

    Cerys - sounds like the perfect day. with the most amazing photos!ReplyCancel

  • January 21, 2015 - 9:32 pm

    My Two Mums - Your little man’s eyes are simply stunning! I love the lighting in the top shots, beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • January 23, 2015 - 7:28 pm

    You Baby Me Mummy - These photos are truly beautiful. Looks like a fabulous day and I am glad you have got some time back. Thanks for linking up to #PointShoot xReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2015 - 8:56 pm

    Aly - Oh I really love your photos, beautifully shot.I’m really wanting to grab a few chips from your blog and go looking for rabbits.ReplyCancel

  • January 25, 2015 - 2:09 pm

    Nikki Thomas - Such beautiful photos, what a lovely location. That food looks delicious too, you can’t beat pub grub . #livingarrowsReplyCancel

  • January 25, 2015 - 3:50 pm

    Hayley from Shutterflies - What a lush day, you obviously have such a great time together. I love the photo of Theo, he’s such a handsome little boy. Well done on finishing your course, you must be so happy! xReplyCancel

  • January 25, 2015 - 10:07 pm

    Maria (One Tiny Leap) - Fabulous shots, and looks like a perfect day out! I really love the one of him peeking through that tree :) xReplyCancel

cookerybooks1600

Like most families, we have built up a rather extensive collection of cookery books over the years. Some are barely opened (despite the best of intentions) whilst others are well used and splattered with ingredients. The ones I use most are annotated with recipe modifications, notes about when we tried the dishes and how we rated them. In this post, I thought I would share with you five books that have stood the test of time and are still used again and again.

1) Richard Bertinet – Dough

I’ve mentioned Richard Bertinet so much on this blog that he’s probably got a restraining order on me. My sister went on a bread-making course with him about 7 years ago and that one weekend changed bread forever for our family.  I regularly refer to Richard’s original bread book Dough for ideas and inspiration and recommend it to anyone who wants to start baking at home.

2) Recipes (self-published)

A few years ago I collected up all the scraps of paper I have with recipes on them, scanned them and put them together as a Blurb book. Now everything I need from the recipe for walnut cake written down by a family friend to the quantities for white sauce I scribbled a post stick note are in one place. Now this might not seem like a terribly helpful recommendation, but actually it is, because all of us can make our own recipe books and pull together the collections of ideas we have amassed over the years

3) Delia Smith – Complete Illustrated Cookery Course

It would be sacrilege to put together this list without including Saint Delia. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her pavlova recipe (p. 514-15) which I make several times every summer for parties. It’s a doddle to put together and always impresses. I’m also a big fan of her Lemon Surprise Pudding (p. 526) and Stuffed Pork Tenderloin (p.135)

4) Isidora Popovic – Popina Book Of Baking

Since I discovered Isidora’s recipe for shortcrust pastry (p. 105) I have stopped resting and blind baked pastry entirely. All you do is throw the ingredients in the food processor and use the pastry away – my kind of baking! Also recommended are the Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 14) though I recommend you descrease baking time to 15 minutes and Aubergine, Red Pepper & Tomato tart (p. 112)

5) Good Food. 500 Triple Tested Recipes.

I picked this up in the cookery book section in Tesco years ago reduced from £25 to £6.99. My favourite recipes include Easy Chicken & Spinach Pie (P. 43) & Pumpkin Pasta (P. 144) which we make several times every autumn substituting the pumpkin for butternut squash.  I haven’t yet found a single duff recipe in the whole book.

Written for Tesco

 

 

 

  • January 16, 2015 - 3:23 pm

    Becky Brown - I love the idea of having a family cookbook. We have always wanted to start one as there are many meals that we cook regularly and have made our own. I probably use about half of my cookbooks regularly but can’t bear to get rid of the ones not used (I always buy books mainly for recipes but also because of the pictures!)ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 4:15 pm

    Carie - i don’t think I’ve got any of these so thank you for the suggestions – or at least I don’t have any of the four by other cooks, I’ve got a low tech book of my recipes – a spiral bound peel back the cellophane sort of photo album with all my recipes on scraps of paper tucked in – works a charm!ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 4:40 pm

    Lynn Goring-Crook - I am so glad you included Delia. When my children grow up and move to their first homes this is the cookery book I will buy them. The fail safe go to cooking. Her a christmas boom is a must have to.ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 4:53 pm

    Em @ snowingindoors - I’ve been thinking about buying Dough (for Jonny!) and think I’ll have to now, I’d love to eat more home baked bread and this might prompt him to get baking ;-)

    I recommend any book by Nigel Slater. His books are beautiful and make you feel like you can cook anything. I love his writing style and he isn’t snobby about anything he cooks either.ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 5:00 pm

    Sue Bone - Can’t do without Delia, had to buy a second copy as son took a copy to Uni, very cheap second hand.ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 5:23 pm

    Christina - Interesting ‘Basics’ Cookbook – Good Food. I’ve got Mary Berry but will check out my local Tesco for any good buys on Good Food Recipe Books!ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 5:39 pm

    Choclette - I’d like to get my hand’s on Richard Bertinet’s Dough, though as I’ve just had a cookery book clear out to enable me to see what I’ve actually got, this might not be such a great idea.

    I use Eat Your Books quite a lot, which helps me to use more of my books – you type in an ingredient you want to use or ingredients (types too) and it comes up with all the recipes in your collection with that combination.ReplyCancel

    • January 16, 2015 - 5:42 pm

      claremansell@mac.com - Oooh I like the idea of that website a lot. I knew there was one where you could put you ingredients in, but not one that cross referenced your books too. Thank you for that!ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 5:49 pm

    Anne's Kitchen - I would struggle to choose my top 5 out of a rather large selection but I do agree on your choice of the Good Food 500 one – I have made lots from the book, all successfully and its a great all rounder to have!ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2015 - 10:19 pm

    Donna - I love that you scanned all your recipes in and made a book and I love even more that you didn’t leave it until the end of the list :) xReplyCancel

  • January 18, 2015 - 7:18 am

    Nancy - Love this post. My mother gave me the “Good Housekeeping” cookbook when I headed to university. I still look at it for the cooking times for stuffed poultry. My favourite recipe is for Beer cheese soup that I got out of the newspaper. I can’t lose it.ReplyCancel