Friday, 9 March 2018

Fearne Cotton you Were Worth It | My Stressful Day in London

It was no ordinary Tuesday

... for a start I met Fearne Cotton and second we got up at 03:30 a.m. We went to London, Somerset House no less, for the launch of Fearne's 2nd kids clothing collection, Spring Summer 2018 FEARNE for Boots Mini Club, having attended the launch of FEARNE Autumn Winter 2017 too. Except this wasn't even the first or second times I met her. Multiple Mummy (God rest her beautiful soul) and I had that pleasure all the way back in July 2011: Boots Christmas Press Show.

...resorted to my fail safe breastfeeding

So I'll rewind to the start of the day. We got up at 03:30 so that we could get the 5 am Snap Travel coach from Bristol to London return. I knew an early start would mean that Lottie would sleep the whole way, except the coach was so luxurious with bright neon lights everywhere and a microwave and toaster, so all she wanted to do was explore. After battling to keep her on my knee for ages, I resorted to my fail safe breastfeeding, and just like that, out like a light. She then slept for hours, which had there not been accidents on the motorway would have seen me arrive in London stress free. Except I was never ever going to arrive stress free was I, as it was the driver's 1st day and he'd asked me for directions and then 100% used sat nav to navigate his way from Bristol city centre to the motorway, when I said I wasn't a driver) which didn't fill me with any sense of security. I was also the only passenger, well Lottie and I, so no wonder I spent the journey with my eyes wide open, however strong the temptation to sleep was. Alas despite our expected time of arrival being 08:17 I think it was closer to 9:30 or 09:45 when we did arrive at Kings Cross. Lottie was awake for the last 25 minutes of the journey and as the driver didn't know the Wifi password (he was new) so I could put on Ben & Holly or Peppa Pig, that was interesting to say the least. Suffice to say I posted an Instagram story of her LITERALLY climbing on my head. It was like if I can't move horizontal passed you to get into the aisle and explore I'll go UP! Wow my poor neck. Luckily snacks and chat, once the excitement of waking up to being on a bus wore off, kept her seat-bound till we arrived.

... without our ordinary London entourage of cousins

Except that was the beginning of my anxiety and not the end of it as Lottie all out point blank physically refused to get in the buggy but the driver had dropped us literally on the side of the road (it was his 1st day, or did I say that already?) on busy Euston Road right outside a small pedestrian entrance to Kings Cross station so her being on foot was really not an option. I protested profusely saying umpteen times that this is a main road but he kept stating it was a "bus stop" - mate I think that is for buses not coaches.... le sigh... I banked my feelings on this journey and turned my sights to London except London was so very big which made my big girl seem SO very very small. The nerves of being in London with Lottie, with no Aaron to help, no Daddy to help and not our ordinary London entourage of cousins to help, hit me like a brick. I managed to get her in the buggy but the crying broke my heart. 

...going to anxiety levels 1,001%

Then I got all disorientated in the station. I didn't just want the Underground and not Kings Cross International, but I also specifically wanted the Circle and District Lines so I could get to Liverpool Street. I eventually found a step free access lovely lift and hit the call button on the lift and simultaneously on the phone to call Ruth RocknRollerBaby to let her know we'd meet her there except the minute the doors went to shut, the reception on my phone went so I jumped back out. I then tried again to ring Ruth, wanting to make sure she wouldn't have already left Liverpool Street when I would get there. Lottie took my distraction dealing with this as a chance to jump out of the buggy. By this time a really judgemental lady walked up and saw that I was (1) trying to be on the phone (2) get a baby in a buggy and (3) get in the lift all simultaneously. Her disdain with me just lead to me going to anxiety levels 1,001%. With hindsight there are so many things I could have done to avoid this situation (namely sending a message to Ruth whilst I was still "safely" on the coach to say I am so delayed can I meet you at Liverpool Street instead of the original plan?). Anyway we got to Liverpool Street easily as I knew we would, which is why I came up with the idea in the first place. Only trouble is, because Ruth said they'd arrive in 30 minutes I saw a Super Cuts upstairs and couldn't resist going up to have my fringe cut being that it was down at my waist. They fitted me in immediately and I came downstairs feeling great. Lottie was in high spirits too because she'd loved watching the pigeons. Except then I went to platform 16 and was having a great laugh with the chaps on duty asking when the next Norwich train would be in. I went on my phone to see the time of the text saying they'd be here in 30 minutes only to find there were by this time further texts saying that they'd already arrived. I was at platform 16 and they were at 10. Not a world away........ but.... Cue me, shouting Lottie in a shrill voice :-( .... bless her she'd been beautifully toddling around me while I chatted to the platform train staff and was actually being no bother but here I was shouting at her as I felt awful that I wasn't AT the right platform WHEN they arrived and God forbid they were now waiting for ME> anxiety went through the roof again, so I was a dishevelled mess when I went over to say hello. A hello that was meant to be full of joy and had been looked forward to SO MUCH. Meeting me must have been a rude awakening and no doubt Ruth and Cookie must have wanted to run in the other direction. Somehow we made our way to the Central Line and order was restored (I think), even if my dignity wasn't. I focused on Cookie's quirky fun self and videoed all of her fun goings on, except always hitting the record button after something brilliant had happened. Anyway Lottie ADORED Cookie, which provided the distraction I needed to start breathing  again and getting my heart back to its normal rhythms. Cookie has already blogged about the day at 100% Fearne Cotton.

... here come the Mums

First we went to a coffee shop and got much needed coffee and cake. It was only a chain, but as you can see above had a certain charm about it. As we entered a chap departing said "here come the Mums" as we had 3 buggies with us. Our time in there was a riot as Lottie and Cookie played Star Wars with coffee stirrer sticks. When Cookie wasn't doing a great party trick with them that is. You'll see it in my video vlog of the day - I think the link is in the tweet below. Boots now want to emulate ha ha! After this though Lottie started to run around and as the door was open it was no longer funny. There were only so many times we could bring her back to her seat on repeat.

... much needed chance to let off steam

At this point, for my ails, I suggested a prescription of a trip to the park Ruth had mentioned earlier, with no idea if we really still had time for it. It turned out to be Drury Lane Gardens Park which gave us a much needed chance to let off steam. So spooky though as I had a feeling I would know it and I did, having been there  with Kate from I am Wit Wit Woo many years before: Covent Garden for Boys. I remember that time Aaron was only 1.5 years and I was in worried awe about how easily he could navigate the steps and slide. You can just about make out Lottie below at the telescope, recreating Aaron's steps all these many years later. We had a laugh in the park as you'll also see in the vlog.

...knowing she'd follow, except she didn't

We finally left the park, oh except Lottie point blank refused to get off the slide and cleverly moved her body so I couldn't even reach her to carry her down. The steps are steps and easy to navigate with railings each side as you see above, so I felt fully confident to walk out of the park knowing she'd follow, except she didn't. Cue Cookie coming to the rescue AGAIN (which you can also see in the vlog). I promise I can normally parent my child without assistance LOL. Luckily the venue, the magnificent Somerset House, was within walking distance which was heaven sent as I no longer had the wherewithal or faculties to navigate trains, lifts or escalators. Joyful meetings were had and we made our way to the Spring room, which was very glitzy indeed, with both Boots and Red providing a hospitable and warm welcome for us all. They were thrilled to see that Lottie of course was fully on brand, not just in Boots Mini Club but FEARNE Autumn Winter 2017 too, which thankfully still fitted, also being seasonal too given that Spring has not yet actually SPRUNG....... Cookie meeting Harriet from Toby and Roo below

You'll actually feel like you were there...

What immediately hit me after refreshments was that this wasn't just a showroom of FEARNE's range but they'd also done a mock shop of the whole of Spring Summer 2018 Mini Club too, so it was a real treat to see ALL of this having it all explained to us, by Boots heads of department. All of the talks are in my videos. You'll actually feel like you were there if you watch it. It's uncut too, no fancy editing. It's not called virtual REALITY for nothing, this whole social media world. The Boots team and the Red PR team were all amazing with Lottie which was JUST what the Doctor ordered and I didn't even need to go to their Pharmacy with a prescription to get just what I was looking for at that moment.
Thank God for balloons eh. Apart from that Lottie let go of two and there was a very high ceiling ooooops.

... that was bliss!

By this point I had put a bottle of Aveeno on the end of the string to stop her balloons flying. It was the only "weight" I had in a brand new handbag (not having transferred anything other than essentials the day before). It seemed like the grandest of ideas and it worked except I wanted to film the whole of Fearne's talk and all the way through it Lottie was squeezing the moisturiser all over her hands in plentiful amounts. Thank you Essex Kate for all of the many tissues you provided that I somehow managed to pass to Lottie without breaking the continuity of filming - wow Motherhood is a juggle and it wasn't like I had something sensible like a tripod with me. My footage of Fearne talking doesn't look too wobbly so I am thrilled. Glad I got her on camera saying she remembered us from last time as THAT made my DAY especially with how low I have been feeling lately, that was bliss! Considering I was meant to bring bubbles for Lottie to blow I am actually DELIGHTED she came up with the idea of squeezing the moisturiser out, because as messy as it indeed was, it kept her in one place AND relatively quiet. You'll see in my vlog though that she DID explore the room and was quite free reign but luckily she didn't cause any havoc. I'm actually glad I brought her and didn't insist that Daddy had her for the day. He stayed home doing both school runs as well as gifting us a lift to the city centre and collecting us, saying "you need to take Lottie as she's breastfeeding" yeah right he wanted a deserved day off and minus the taxi service and school runs he got one.
Let me give you a photo tour of the room

 This was Essex Kate waiting for me as we decided to go get something to eat:

We ended up in a pub to get a delicious inexpensive warming much needed meal. It was upstairs and posed a problem for the buggy but as rain by this time was starting, I couldn't get in there quick enough. It was a lovely opportunity for some heartfelt convo and so busy was I with that and a Lottie that still kept running off I actually did no Instagram stories and took no food pics or anything during this time. We went off grid and just connected in real time which was LOVELY! Thank you Kate. Kate blogs at Counting to Ten and has already blogged about the day Highlihts from the SS18 Boots Mini Club Collection.

Three things gave up the will to live simultaneously...

It was a wonderful day but I only realised how tired I was, only after leaving Kate. I walked for about 30 minutes with Lottie taking up the rear. I was looking for Farringdon Street from which my Snap Travel coach would depart for home. Thankfully Kate gave me directions before she left me so there was no cause for anxiety or at least there should not have been. You see Snap provides a link which shows you a PHOTO of the bus stop. Had I fully digested this I wouldn't have walked up and down Farringdon Street four times, each time with it turning into Farringdon Road. But I was focused on looking for the door numbers they'd given. Anyway when I finally spotted the bus stop I also spotted a Pret a Manger opposite it. Three things gave up the will to live simultaneously. Lottie fell asleep, as I'd earlier enroute bought her a McDonald's to bribe her into the buggy and as soon as it was consumed she was sparko. No wonder after a long day and all the London walking shown below. Always falls asleep after a full tummy if tired. My phone also died and I, when Pret gave me a complimentary FREE latte coffee burst into tears. I literally asked for a Turmeric Latte (yeah who knew?!?!?) and a chocolate croissant and he said the coffee is in the house. I said "won't you get in trouble" and he was like "no this is our way of marketing" well he said lots of lovely others things first but that is the summary. So in exchange I am featuring him and his lovely colleague below as wow it blew me away. After I had a good cry I sat down at a table with a plug socket and recharged myself and my phone whilst I awaited my coach.

Thank you Pret a Manger for your random act of kindness

I can't go without saying what a lovely afternoon I had chatting with Lilinha. She is very pregnant and due soon - we had SUCH a giggle discussing C sections.

Emma from the Cheshire Wife was also with us but we didn't get chance to chat.

I'll leave you with my video memories of the day

Monday, 26 February 2018

Four Ways To Get Your Confidence Back After Baby

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

You know all the usual jokes. It’s the job you get with no interview, and no instruction manual. Parenthood is a roller coaster of emotions and for many new mums, when you finally surface from the all-consuming world of having a newborn, it’s not uncommon to wonder who you actually are anymore. Having a new baby is such an intense situation- and with a little being making such big demands on your body, your mind and your soul, losing your sense of self and confidence is something that many go through. So how do you begin to get it back? It won’t happen overnight but these tips may help you start to rediscover who you are when you’re not being Mummy…

Get Some At-Home Treatments

While dashing off to the salon simply isn’t practical with a newborn baby, you can use the chance to stock up on some at-home pampering. You may not get much time to yourself, but when you do, instead of crashing out in front of some mindless TV, you can carry out little acts of self-care to make yourself feel better. Even something as simple as a bath with a face mask or painting your toenails can make give you a little lift- caring for yourself in simple ways can bring you back to you. There are some great pampering tips here.

Listen to Your Body

Your body has done amazing things bringing a new life into the world, so don’t be ashamed to listen to what it’s trying to tell you and act in it. Don’t let being busy become a reason to stop tuning in. It’s a bad idea to ignore that nagging back pain - book into to see a chiropractor before it develops into something worse. And if you have persistent pelvic pains after baby? These can point to many things, so look at a good source of information such as to find out more.

Treat Yourself to some New Underwear

It may be a small thing but it’s the foundation of looking good and feeling confident. If your underwear drawer is a mess of fraying elastic and saggy maternity bras, why not treat yourself to a few sets of colourful, cute matching underwear? It’s a small way to reclaim your body and rediscover your flirtier side. Even just investing in some great quality shapewear can make you feel more confident in your clothes while there are extra lumps and bumps. There are lots of options on the market now- the guide at is a great place to start.

Get Out and Walk Every Day

In the new baby haze, which I like to call a babymoon, also commonly now fondly known as the fourth trimester, days can drift by without you leaving the house. So make it your personal mission to get out into the sunshine and walk at least once a day. Walking has so many physical, spiritual (great for the aura) and mental benefits, and some much-needed fresh air keeps problems in perspective and eases you gently back into physical fitness. It can also be an incredible bonding experience with your baby. Find out more about the benefits of walking in this article. Getting out is of course a great way of meeting people, especially new mums in the exact same position as you.

This is a collaborative post

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Only Ever One Black James Bond for Me

When I think James Bond I immediately think of men's suits, not just any suit, but in particular a tux, also known as black tie, also known, in full, as a tuxedo. As I am that person who often gets the lyrics of songs wrong, and not the biggest James Bond fan you'll ever meet, I questioned myself and doubted my judgement but a quick search on Google specifically "images" and all the top photo search results are indeed black tie. So little wonder that when I was digging out old photos the other day, of hubby and I, I immediately thought James Bond, when I saw the pictures of us below. If you have never ever seen your fella in black tie find an excuse. While you've still both got your looks ha ha. Seeing your man in a tux, is a wobbly knees moment for sure. We've been together 30 years this October so just celebrated our 30th Valentine's Day very recently where I commemorated the occasion by posting very old photos of us on Instagram, inspired by Tom Fletcher's pic of him and Giovanna from when they were only 15 - I didn't even know they were childhood sweethearts.  Alas I couldn't find pics of us aged 15, well at least not together, so I posted one from 1994 and one from 1996. Got hubby's permission as he even old-style scanned them for me. The Instagram post of our old pics has had the highest amount of likes I've ever had on Instagram so far. But back to the tux and *my* black James Bond. I've probably only seen hubby in a tux less than 10 times as we don't have cause to wear evening wear nearly often enough but each occasion has been more than memorable.
I am going to have to get the camera out again as I just remembered another night of evening wear. Wait there. This was from a Summer Ball at University probably circa 1993 or 1994 or perhaps even 1995 as I am not good at dating things and stupidly don't hand-write the date of pics on the back. We actually went to the same school and the same University. Hubby now this time sporting the less traditional black tie look, by coupling it with a double breasted blazer. I think it looks amazing. He took a less traditional slant on what he wore for our wedding too, wearing a red velvet blazer so that he could match our bridesmaids. Not wanting to be one of those grooms who is over-shadowed by the gasps at the wife's dress. Wasn't any old jacket either as he got it, for top dollar, from Jermyn Street, the famous Piccadilly spot in London known for men's suits. Spookily enough, it's not irrelevant that I mention our wedding as we did indeed get married in the same church, or rather Abbey, as James Bond. I won't say which one, but suffice to say it was EVEN in the same year, with him getting married in the August and us in the October. He even wanted to book the car we had but it wasn't available, or rather the bride who'd booked it, wouldn't give it up even when he sent her a case of champagne #sorryNotSorry and there's a little bit of gossip about how stubborn us Irish can be. Oooops I've given a huge hint, yep we got married in Ireland.
Hubby has never done it but White Tuxedos it seems are a thing too. I've seen they are still available on Suitsmen. I Googled to see if James Bond has ever sported a white tux and this GQ article happened to come up: 
where it is Daniel Craig sporting the white tuxedo. Interesting read as I didn't know there was an imminent James Bond movie in 2019 but do remember all of the discussions as to who the next one would be given he'd previously said he'd never do it again. Who do you think of when you think Bond, James Bond?  I think Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig in that order.

What is often discussed is whether there will actually ever be a black James Bond and the article I have just linked to touches on that subject. Floating Idris Elba as the natural choice, so natural in fact that he'd be Bond first and black second exactly as it should be. The same GQ article goes on to float David Oyelowo as a less likely but possible choice. In this age of increasing diversity I actually LOVE that GQ gives two black actors as contenders. I bet there are a few more who'd like to be on that list though. GQ poses the following damning reasons that David sadly gets a big "why not"
Oyelowo is a brilliant actor but Bond requires more than mere acting ability: you need a style, a presence, a killer touch. Looking down Oyelowo’s filmography it’s hard to find a role that screams “Bond-in-waiting”. He feels more MI6 staff than 007. Also, and this sounds petty, Oyelowo is 5 foot 8. Bond can certainly be black - but short? Granted he’s no Nick Nack but still feels wrong.
Reasons too are given for why Idris cannot do it, namely his age. That therefore rules my hubby out too then, damn! But a girl can dream!

Anyway I am no Bond girl myself by any stretch of the imagination and every James Bond needs one (or coughs, more than one) of those. 2018 is the year I am going to work on my appearance though, but dieting isn't quite on the agenda as I am still breastfeeding despite Lottie now being 2 years of age. Current efforts are merely putting on lippy and jewellery and brushing my hair BEFORE the school run.
Thanks to the kids we don't get out much anymore and I hardly ever dress up, but I was delighted that I did find a flattering dress in Marks and Spencers in November that I wore for both Lottie's Christening and her turning two Princess Birthday Party. So at least I have had a relatively recent cause to scrub up one of them even being in 2018.

The Christening I've been planning for months that I finally pulled off with mucho help from my nearest and dearest. The Belle of the ball was a wee beauty and had Mummy remembered to give her an early night after Noah's Ark the day before and her usual Weetabix at 10 am the day would have gone without a hitch. But once she'd shed those tears and eaten a ham and cheese sandwich on the altar no less she was baptised and good to go. Anyway she had to be like a baby being baptised (if Mummy had done it when she was a baby) and they all cry don't they?!?! πŸ˜‚πŸ€£Head in water equals tears right it's par for the course. But damn the food and dancing were good. Well done Grandma and your kitchen helpers. Loves ya all. And my lovely God Parents and guests. You were all amazeballs. Oh and Daddy next time you want to sweep πŸπŸ‚πŸƒchoose your moment 😁 . . . . . #Christening #Christian #church #thatsDarling #myHappyCapture #MyGirl #Motherhood #MotherAndDaughter #22MonthsOld #MyBeautifulGirl #UKParentBloggers #Baptism #IGMotherhood #InstaMum #LionessMama #PerfectAndProud #MotherhoodThroughInstagram #MotherhoodRising #MotherhoodAlive #MotherhoodInspired #worldoflittles #MotherhoodMoments #MotherhoodSimplified #lifecloseup #developinglife #cherisheverymoment #documentyourdays #candidchildhood #SpendItWell
A post shared by Parenting Blogger Liska (@newmumonline) on

This post is a collaboration with suitsmen.
Bye for now, Liska xx

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

A Bunk Bed Kingdom for Our Two or Not as The Case May Be

We bought Aaron's Domino bunk bed a few years ago, from Bed Kingdom. I spent weeks looking at all different options and reading all of the reviews. I did look at the Ikea ones that most people go for but as big an Ikea fan as I was and am, the bunk beds didn't at all tick the boxes of what I was looking for. This bunk bed I kept coming back to as I just loved it. Aaron didn't have a sibling at the time and neither was I pregnant. The plan was he'd be on the top bunk and a best mate or cousin would be on the bottom. Both of those scenarios have happened several times since, but there's only one person with her eye on that bottom bunk now and it's my girl. I made it up in pink bed linen at Christmas, as I know she is inclined to hop in there despite being yet to spend a night in there (we're still co-sleeping and breastfeeding currently - quite apt then that we have the book Milky Moments on the shelf below. I bought it off a blogger "Author" friend years ago).
Book shelf on the domino bunk bed from Bed Kingdom

You'll see Lottie loves the That's Not My... Usborne books 

Lottie and I spent the afternoon in Aaron's room today, whilst he was at holiday club in his school, practicing football, Nerf wars, fencing, archery and gymnastics. We went in to give it a much needed sort out, not that Lottie really let me. She's showing signs of being a keen bookworm which this particular bunk bed is ideal for given it has a bookshelf attached as part of the build, top and bottom. I detest those book tidies that you have to wall mount for bunk beds. I prefer as with all of my furniture to have a one-stop shop so little surprise my wardrobe has shelves and drawers within it as well as rails minimising the need for a separate chest of drawers and my dining room now has a Kallax adjacent to it perfect for holding a multitude of items including toys! Why have 2 pieces of furniture or more, where one will do! Back to the books, she was so keen to "read" them all she'd move from 1 to the other so quick I spent most of my time putting them all back on the shelves so the keen eyed amongst you will have already noticed the different book arrangement from top to bottom pic above.
Bottom low bunk bed on Domino Bunk Bed from Bed Kingdom

Flip Flap Farm was one of her birthday presents she very recently turned two

The beauty of this bunk bed is how very close to the floor the bottom bunk is. I've tried to illustrate that in the picture above. Perfect for a 1st bed. You could nearly do away with a bed guard so small would be the fall, or at least know that whatever climbing they did getting out of bed it would be easy to navigate however sleepy. I can imagine Lottie in there straight from the cot. I just need to get a stair gate for the top of the stairs or for the door frame of the bedroom. Oh and it's probably only likely to work once we night wean and/or stop breastfeeding. But Aaron does want her in there so the writing is on the wall as they say.

This bunk bed doesn't just have the advantage of the bottom bunk being so low (you can only get a pair of slippers or the head of a Dyson to hoover under it) but it also has a low top bunk. To put it in perspective I can stand behind the head of the bed and literally lean in to kiss Aaron on the forehead. This means it is easy for me to make in the morning and given we are NOT in an old Victorian house with high ceilings, it means he has space between himself and the ceiling. Nothing worse than feeling claustrophobic on the bottom bunk. When I had pregnancy insomnia I often left our double bed and hopped into the bottom bunk so I know it doesn't feel stuffy down there either - the top bunk feels far enough away. All in all, after all the research I did this was my favourite bunk bed and still  is. I have looked at Bed Kingdom again those as they have deals on and the Flick Bunk Bed looks good but I am no longer shopping for one so haven't read all the reviews as I did in 2015 with our lovely Domino - I never regretted buying it in Maple either.
The top bunk and book shelf of the Domino bunk bed from Bed Kingdom

Those toes though 

I was dreading her remembering that the bunk bed has a top bunk as I always worry she'll fall off it when I shouldn't really as she's been going up there under Daddy and Aaron's supervision for well over a year. I deliberately kept the bedroom door open which blocks the access to the ladder but the time came where she hopped out and over and up quick sharp. So apt that I pictured her next to the DEMOLITION book above as she literally threw down onto the floor about 50 books that were her brother's that she had no interest in. A pic of the mess that created would have been interesting. I set her up with the Paw Patrol book she has on her knee. It has gazillions of buttons with sounds, so that kept her happy for a while. I was nostalgic when I came across The Prince's Bedtime up there as that used to be Aaron's favourite book and we read it every night a couple of years ago, starting from before he learned to read which amused me as he knew it off by heart.
The ladder on the Domino Bunk bed from Bed Kingdom

It took quite some time but eventually she was ready to come down. She can sit on the top step quite cosily as above but can't climb down like she does climb up, so she patiently waited for a Mummy lift. Before I grabbed her though she showered me in kisses as she LOVES spending time in Aaron's room when he's not at home and she loves even more spending time on the top bunk without being told off for being there and snatched away. As she was able to leisurely read and lie down up there she was thrilled.  It was an eye opener for me, to see how very appreciative she is to do something she thinks isn't meant for her. Don't get me wrong she is always very joyful and loving but this was above and beyond that. A huge "thank you Mummy that was special". And with the afternoon sunlight streaming in, the quality time with my youngest was indeed lovely.

Above taken by a self-timer with my trusty tripod I got for Christmas

Even when we went downstairs, Lottie's great mood continued and as you can see she looks like the cat that got the cream below. It's probably because in recent weeks Aaron has become SO territorial about his toys that being on the top bunk was probably like the shangri la for Lottie. But being that she threw about 50 tops off the bunk bed and is like a wrecking ball often breaking and ripping things - in a way Aaron never did at her age I might add - I can't really blame him being wary of her touching anything. Tonight he wouldn't even let her near his Smashers, his Zomlings and his Super Zings even though they are rubbery and very unlikely to get damaged in any way. Only other trouble with Lottie is she can throw things really far never to be found again, which is probably what Aaron's also aware of.

Above you can see her dollies bunk bed that she got from Santa for Christmas

What was I saying above about them sharing a room? Am I mad? I probably should order another bunk bed for the box room, decorate it all Lottie like and they can be as territorial as they like each in their own rooms LOL.

Oh and if you want to see actual Aaron in Aaron's actual bunk bed LOL considering all of the above are just Lottie visiting then this is a very old blog post from when the bed was brand new:

We bought our Domino Bunk Bed in Maple from Bed Kingdom back in 2015. It's still going strong and I can't recommend it enough. I was given a wee small discount at the time as I mentioned I was a blogger. As you can see our endorsement of this product is genuine.

Oh and we even did a project in November 2015 with Hillary's Blinds to give the room a Thomas makeover. This is the before and after pictured below and you can read the post here:
How to Make a Thomas and Friends Bedroom Makover

Monday, 12 February 2018

#RustlersHack Chicken Burger On The Go for a Boy with Hollow Legs

Confession time, we sometimes eat Rustlers' Burgers. Aaron even has 1 or 2 a week in his packed lunch (one chicken burger one quarter pounder). He loves them. He's suddenly turned into the sort of boy who has hollow legs and the teenage appetite to go with it. The food disappears and you can play the guitar on his rib cage - no fears of any sort of obesity here. He outgrew Happy Meals many moons ago. There is no sign of a voice breaking soon or chin hair shooting through because.... he's only SEVEN. But teenage years must be looming as he's already saying "Mum you've told me that twice already" and "Mum stop you're embarrassing me". The onset of these phrases kind of arrived at a similar time to the increased appetite. He's definitely a pre-teen. The bike I got him for Christmas said it was suited for a child with 27-30 inch inside legs, who'd typically be 10-12 years of age it also said. I thought "well that rules Aaron out" but measured him anyway. 27 inches on the button my reliable trust tape measure read. I was shocked as I am only 30 inches inside leg myself and remember discovering that when choosing my first pair of Levis in 1991 which were sold by length. The other measurement has changed over the years, coughs, waist size, coughs. Moving swiftly on, he's not as close to me in height as his legs, it turns out, are in length. He must be all legs and not much body like a spider LOL. Anyway I was glad he measured 27 inches, rather than 28, 29 or 30 inches inside leg as it means he can get the complete life cycle intended for the bike.
I digress, back to the burgers. I accompanied his recent burger (not a packed lunch one) with his favourite vegetables: baby corn and broccoli and some cucumber to nibble on. The tenderstem broccoli and baby corn are both ideal as they take not much longer to steam than the burger takes to microwave. So if they go in at the same time it simply means the burger has time to cool down. Whilst both are cooking there is time to chop the cucumber. I am a big believer in greens for alkalinity and raw veg like cucumber for not only that but also its water content, which is so very beneficial to our often dehydrated bodies. Speaking of that Aaron's just this minute come home from holiday club and despite my giving him a HUGE drink he's come home so very thirsty.

We bought the Rustlers' Southern Fried Chicken Burger Twin Pack from Tesco which is currently £2.50 for the 2 burgers. It comes with a sachet of delicious lightly peppered mayo which I keep for myself as Aaron prefers Ketchup with pretty much everything.
As you can see from the use of my clock in the pics above this meal took from 16:31 to 16:41 to prepare including the steaming, chopping and presentation and that's despite me trying to take these photographs too. It's a handy meal to have at your disposal if you're dashing between the school run and football as we are every Friday. In fact we always seem to be dashing somewhere. Although I usually avoid microwaved food with Aaron knowing he's got a burger inside him reassures me that he won't be snacking on other stuff, so it works for us. He's not really a "sweets" person and favours chocolate and crisps, both of which I manage the quantities of.

Chicken Burger (49%) [Marinated Chicken (Chicken, Water, Acidity Regulator: E325; Potato Starch, Dextrose, Salt, Wheat Flour, Extracts of Rosemary), Coating (Wheat Flour*, Breadcrumb (Wheat), Modified Maize Starch, Salt, Spices and Spice Extract, Lactose (Milk), Skimmed Milk Powder, Garlic Powder, Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Wheat Starch, Wheat Gluten, Sunflower Oil)], Sesame Seeded Bun [WheatFlour*, Water, Sugar, Sesame Seeds, Yeast, Rapeseeds Oil, Salt, Emulsifier: E472e; Preservative: E282; Antioxidant: E300], Mayonnaise [Rapeseeds Oil, Water, Pasteurised Egg Yolk, Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Cornflour, Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Flavouring], *Wheat Flour with Calcium Iron, Niacin & Thiamin
Typical ValuesTypical Values Per 100gPer portion (145g)
of which saturates1.6g2.3g
of which sugars3.9g5.7g

Full tummy and ready to go again
I couldn't find the Rustlers' Southern Fried Chicken Burger on the Rustlers' Online Website so presumably it is unique to Tesco so I am glad Britmums sent us a Tesco voucher.

This post is an entry for Britmums Rustlers' Burger Hacking Challenge sponsored by Rustlers.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Must Be Baking Mad

We threw a party for Lottie's Christening in November. I sold it to the hubby on the understanding that "she'll be two soon, it can double up as a birthday party". We had a fab party with Grandma's chicken, Grandma's Jollof rice (has to be tasted to be believed) and Grandma's coleslaw (to die for). I helped her cook it all which was a good initiation for me and about time too considering I have been with my Nigerian husband for 29 years now. We spent Saturday evening cooking (after me, Lottie, Aaron and his cousin spent the day at Noah's Ark and Daddy and Grandma spent the day sourcing ingredients). We just ran out of time to make plantain unfortunately. It was a wonderful party with a DJ and everything. Everyone left with smiles and full tummies and I had a few PJ days after meaning Christmas prep was ever so slightly delayed.

...Lottie with her God Mother. slid into my inbox from Talk to Mums

Fast forward not very many weeks, when I had more or less recovered and an email slid into my inbox from Talk to Mums. I saw that you could apply if you were throwing a party and the time-frame in which you had to do that in to qualify, coincided with Lottie turning two. I.could.not.resist. and couldn't apply quick enough even when the lower age limit was three years of age. I saw it as serendipity that the dates were in harmony and the visuals of the show stopper cake really got me excited. A Princess cake for MY Princess! Seems like having a party is like having a baby. You have one, say "I'm never going through THAT again" and no sooner have you recovered than you are raring to go again, for that high and excitement that is hostessing to your favourite people for your favourite little people.

...Never have I ever baked a birthday cake

So there I was, all set to receive a Princess Party Cake Kit, from Talk to Mums' client Baking Mad, except realisation slowly dawned that I have never in my life, "never have I ever" actually baked a birthday cake. I am strictly a shop-bought-cake girl all the way. That Christening I mention above.... the cake was from Costco... I didn't even order it in time for them to personalise it, so we had to buy writing icing and the God Mother kindly and creatively obliged. The Talk to Mums' Baking Mad campaign was nationwide, with about 54 of us Mums in total, all anxiously waiting to see if we could cut the mustard. I think the less vocal amongst us were quietly, confidently and simply, biding their time till their skills, and their photography, could really showcase what they could do! That's the thing, the cake kit *is* suitable for both novices and experienced bakers alike. The logistics let us down a little though and I received the cake kit on Thursday 25th (ironically Lottie's actual birthday) for her party on Saturday 27th January. Nerves kicked in on whether I could actually pull this off but look what happened next.

... I dropped one of the 3 cake tins

My friend popped around, bang on time, at 09:15 as agreed, on the Friday morning, one, for "moral support" as she called it and two in order that I could borrow her hand electric mixer (I am sure many years ago I had one). As it turned out, firstly she could only stay an hour so wouldn't actually be there for the hard bits (where hand-holding and nerve calming were required) like rolling out the fondant icing or draping it over the cake but also........ and this is where something sad happened, secondly, I dropped one of the 3 cake tins within minutes of her departing. This ended up being the biggest confidence booster. I'll explain why. But for now... .as you will see and hear below, before she left my friend mixed the cake mix for the 3 Victoria Sandwich Sponges. You'll hear her early on in my video:

... as it turned out I didn't cheat

Now you could consider this cheating (my friend mixing the cake), but it is not. My deal with Talk to Mums and Baking Mad wasn't that I would get assessed on how well I could, personally, bake a cake, although it is of course implied that you are, the blogger, indeed showcasing how easy it is to make a cake from a cake kit and turn it yourself into a showstopper without the expensive prices that normally accompany that. Anyway as it turned out I didn't "cheat" if there is such a thing. What happened? Well me and my friend chatted as she mixed and I took photos. Although, anxiety being at this point at peak levels, meant that my photography wasn't at all at its usual standard, to the degree that I took a pic of the cake kit box of ingredients and didn't even include the pink fondant icing. I'd put it on the windowsill hoping that the direct sunlight pouring onto it would warm it up. I'd had it since the day before in deep mid Winter and was in a slight panic that being it was like a brick I'd never be able to actually roll it out. As it turned out, this didn't even pose an immediate problem and something I hadn't even considered DID! Which was that the butter should be soft and all of mine were straight from the fridge AND I didn't have enough of it. We'd asked for a couple of weeks, in our Facebook group, what we'd need to have in, at home, in time for our delivery and nobody had said we'd need 3 sandwich tins, and HEAPS of butter and two kinds of eggs (large and medium). Luckily we did start to get answers when Mums who were earlier on in the process started to bake theirs but I didn't quite glean or appreciate the sheer volume of butter required.

... I dropped the cake

I best get to the bit where I didn't cheat as I still haven't explained. So my friend raided my fridge for the 400g of butter required to make 3 Victoria sandwich cakes. I'd only bought one 250g packet for actual baking. So the rest of what she used was spreadable butter that would usually be used for toast. She mixed the cakes with her electric mixer which took way longer than it ought to have done as the butter wasn't softened. The wee little engine in her little hand mixer started to struggle. Once she was confident I was okay and the hour she could spare had been exhausted, she said goodbye and took her youngest off to pre-school. Only... just before she left... I got a text message on my phone that shook me up, ironically connected to this project as it was a friend wondering why she had not been invited to the party. I went back to the kitchen after seeing my friend to the door. My first mistake was that the instructions say to bake the cakes for 25 minutes but I set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes so that I could check on them. You're not really meant to do that as the heat escapes when you open the oven. Anyway luckily I have 2 ovens - a top small one and a bottom large one. I was anxious that the top oven, being small, cooks things quickly so when the timer alarm went off I took that top cake out to check on it. It was browned on the outside but gloop in the middle. My tripod was in the kitchen for these amazing photos I wasn't going to take (just look at the above pffft!) and just as I took the cake out Lottie collided with me, with my own tripod. When I am composed I *can* juggle, which means it wouldn't have been an issue but alas, being that the text had shook me up, I dropped the cake. We all know, as a Mum when you juggle stuff you're not meant to drop anything, least of all an actual cake.

...impetuously went out to buy all of the ingredients

I decided I didn't want to pro rata the ingredients to make 1 out of 3 sandwich tin Victoria sponges to replace the dropped one, so once the remaining cakes were baked and removed from the oven to cool, I impetuously went out to buy all of the ingredients. You know, the same ones I'd stayed in all morning to receive in a big box from DHL the day before *face palm*. Of course I flung in a couple of other things in the basket and spent.......... eighteen pounds *cries*. This defeated the object of the fact that receiving the cake kit means you don't have to shop as it's meant to provide convenience. Yes it does in the sense that if your local shop has fondant (roll out) icing it will more than likely be white not pink. It is also great in the sense that you receive silver balls and silver cupcake cases which both provide wow favour and may not be sourced locally. The vanilla extract is also superior to what I could buy locally. But given that you have to buy butter and eggs (butter I bought a total of 3 times in the end), there isn't really the convenience of receiving a cake in a box. Plus the more experienced bakers of my readers will quickly calculate that the cake kit is overpriced for what it is, even more so now that is no longer includes the tiara and wand. Baking Mad simultaneously did 2 things. Once we commenced this social media project they put all of the cake kits on a 25% off promotion, but also removed the showstopper tiara and wand. So what you gained in your purse you lose from the cake. Yes you are now paying less but you are also receiving less, so it doesn't really address our feedback that the cake kit doesn't provide enough value for money. The cake on the baking mad website now looks like this:

... compare it to the one featured on my Baking Mad Princess Party Cake Kit brochure pictured above

... feedback Silver Spoon should take on "board"

It kind of irks me that the cake board we actually received is a fifth of the width (just a guess)  of the one they feature onsite as above. You can see the "economy" Sweetly Does It one we received in my photo of the cake kit above. Irony of all ironies the bar-code label on its packaging said "double thick card". The Baking Mad "what's included" section says simply "cake board" when what you are in fact receiving is a 25 cm round cake board from KitchenCraft that is in fact 3mm thick. I don't have to tell you that that is not even half the thickness of what is photographed. Considering it is an ingredient that is seen and not simply baked and consumed, I think this is feedback Silver Spoon (aka Baking Mad) should take on board <<< forgive the pun!!!! Ha ha! Actually it's not funny it's tragic. #FirstWorldProblems and all that! Luckily I bought Lottie a Princess Party dress from TK Maxx a few weeks ago and it spookily came with nothing more and nothing less than an actual premium looking tiara and wand. At that point I still thought we'd receive ours with our cake kit so I thought Lottie would have one set with the other being on the top table. But instead she had to forego wearing the tiara and playing with the wand so that they could be in the photos to "get the look" I'd dreamed of since applying for the project and having it confirmed that I'd luckily secured my desired Princess spot and hadn't been given "Peter Rabbit" "Pirates" "Unicorns" or "Super Heroes" as much as Aaron would have loved the latter.

... the two spare cakes became a traditional sponge with two layers with hundreds and thousands on top

Bake to the actual baking. After popping out to buy more ingredients I had 2 Victoria Sponge sandwich cakes cooling and embarked on the process of making THREE more following the instructions in the booklet for the 1st time as earlier that morning it was my friend that followed them whilst I presented her with ingredients and took photos. My nerves were now gone. I no longer had a friend holding my hand. My stabilizers were off. I was baking. Baking Mad maybe, but baking none the less. It felt akin to surfing for the 1st time not that I know what that feels like but can imagine. I ingeniously decided that the 2 spare ones could be a traditional 2 layer Victoria sponge and as I'd just bought hundreds and thousands made them look like the photo above, as a spare cake. Except it was later that evening, when I made buttercream for the cupcakes and had some spare that I decided to decorate the spare cake in that way and was very happy with it. What I did manage to get done before the school run was all of the below. Lottie was by now asleep, Aaron was at school and my friend was long since gone. I was baking solo, in a groove and loving it. The mad anxiety of the morning was gone and I was finally Baking Mad:

... the heaven sent fact that she was

When putting the second cake on top of the first I did the jam and buttercream on the same layer. Rather unattractively and messily they mixed. I knew it wouldn't be seen as the cake would have a fondant icing jacket on, but I am a stickler for detail. With the school run looming there was no time to consult the wisdom that is Google, to see what hack ordinary bakers do, so what with this tall cake having the prerequisite of THREE sandwich tins I had another layer to do and as above you can see I had the good sense to do jam on one side and buttercream on the other akin to what you'd do if you had more than one ingredient in a bread sandwich of the savoury kind. It worked. I was happy. I got all of the above (bar the rolled up balls you see on the cake in the box above) done before the school run. It wouldn't have been possible had Lottie not been asleep but I benefited hugely from the heaven sent fact that she was. Ironically I have my back up against the wall right now, trying to complete THIS here blog post also before the school run. 

...the heat of your hand makes the silver melt off

Aaron really enjoyed rolling out the spare fondant icing for the balls required to top and bottom the cake. I regret that I really rushed doing the diamond shapes for the quilted look. I had spare time after I'd done it but also, I knew we needed to get ready to go to Friday night football which we've attended since 2014. With a party looming at 2 o'clock the next day, I COULD have bunked football but Aaron sees one of his closest friends there and his Mum is one of my dearest friends so I REALLY didn't want to miss it. I knew spending an hour having the craic with her on the sidelines of the football pitch would give me the Birthday Party eve boost I needed. One thing I would say is it is too time consuming to get the silver balls out one at a time so I would get a few out at a time and apply them as above. But, the heat of your hand makes the silver melt off and then they look like oyster pearls rather than silver. So I would suggest, if you do embark on this having read my post, that you maybe spill them out into a cereal bowl that it easier to access than getting more out everytime from a narrow wee lil bottle. The photo above was taken in a hurry as we left for football so I didn't even twist the cake to get its best side. Oooops

... I added OUR tiara and wand to get the required original showstopper cake look

I asked experienced bakers how they got the walls of the cake to look as straight as that featured in Baking Mad's literature and they said they trim the cake. I'm not sure what they use to do this, but I didn't do it. It means my cake looks like a real squishy quilt than a sterile perfect one. I am glad as it looks more homemade than professional which means I got lots of praise from my guests for making it rather than them assuming I had ordered it or bought it. I was dead happy with the result. As bloggers we were sent everything in the Princess range, including things that can be bought separately from Baking Mad and not just the cake kit. As above you can see the Tiaras, that can be worn by your Princess guests, napkins, paper plates and the ever so stunning centrepiece castle, which I am yet to put the cupcakes on when I took the pic above. As you can see I stuck to the plan of adding our tiara and wand to get the required look. We were also sent Princess Party Bags (as gorgeous as these are they are empty and I spent a massive £25 to fill them), so bear this in mind when budgeting for your party.

... so very proud of the end result

The finished look was as below. I was so very proud of the result. Although the castle centrepiece has to be built as it is delivered flat packed it is very easy to do and I didn't even need to consult the instructions. Do allow time for threading that Princess bunting you see above. I made the mistake of doing this at the party at a time when I really ought to have been laying out all of the savoury food on that table. Instead I did the bunting before everyone arrived, needing a sharp scissors when the thread started to fray and was no longer sharp enough to feed through. It meant lovely mum friends helped me lay out the savoury food when I really should have been mingling but I did get to boogie later - I used the same DJ as I did for the christening. It was an extra expense and means I only break-even (if that) from this project but at least it means Lottie got a birthday party she wouldn't have otherwise had, (and amazing presents) our guests got a great afternoon out having lots of fun and both the Mums and the small people got goodie bags. I purchased Princess ones (the contents to fill the Baking Mad party bags) from Amazon and Baking Mad provided the shopper tote bags and contents for the Mum goodie bags. They got a tea towel each, an oven glove each and a fridge magnet each in a branded cloth tote bag. I was given the option of having 8 or 10, opted for 10 but had 11 Mums (EVERYONE turned up) so luckily 2 of the Mums were Sisters and they shared a goodie bag. My only regret that I don't myself have a goodie bag. I thought the oven glove was far too large and would mean I wouldn't have enough grip when holding something hot (I'm now nervous understandably having dropped that cake) but I adored the tea towel and fridge magnet. The castle is good enough quality we will 100% use it again. Lottie is too young to play with it so I have dismantled it and kept it safe for when she is older. She did unfortunately get her hands on a Princess the other day as it is currently on the dining table (silly me I should have stored it somewhere high up) and she ripped her arms off. Lesson learned. You'll see how great the cupcake holder that is the castle is in action in my you tube video. Hope you have a watch as it includes lots of the party and is quite a raw video even though I did spend FAR too many hours editing it. It's quite hard to host a party and take videos/photos. Luckily at the Christening I had my friend on hand as a photographer and she did a fine job for which I'll always be so grateful.

... thank you Talk to Mums and Baking Mad

It's very easy to see how extremely proud I was of my baking in the below photo. Thank you Talk to Mums and Baking Mad. It was - in hindsight - worth the stress of the extra trips to get more butter, worrying if I had enough baking tins and worrying whether the delivery would arrive before my party and more importantly how long before.
Many of us left reviews on the actual Baking Mad website but the word count limit for doing so is very small circa 63 words, so I include below what I would have said had I been able to:

The Princess Cake really had the WOW factor when it featured a tiara and wand. Although these no longer feature in the photography on this site nor in the cake kit, I did recreate that look with our own tiara and wand that came with my Princesses dress as accessories. As of today, the "what's included" above still says "Tiara Cake Topper" when in fact you just get edible sugar paper tiaras for the cupcakes. The cake board is thin and not as photographed. The Edible silver pearls do go white like pearls if you hold them in your hand whilst decorating the cake (the silver melts off). The silver foil cupcake cases do have the wow factor but they're very hard to split into singles when laying out for the cake mix. Despite what others have said the buttercream *IS* enough to do 2 sandwich layers AND coat the entire cake as an undercoat for the fondant icing to adhere to. My local shop only has white fondant icing so to get the pink one in this set is very handy. The vanilla extra included is premium and very potent - I think it adds to the delicious quality taste of this cake when baked. The instruction booklet will need reprinting as it still has the tiara and wand on the cover - when you do so it would be great to include photos that illustrate each stage of the process. I would never have had the confidence to drape the fondant icing across the cake had I not watched a youtube video showing how it's done.
Foot note: you need to buy several packs of butter (the cake alone uses 400g and that's not including the buttercream which is a further 100g which leaves you with none to grease the 3 sandwich tins required if you bought 2 x 250g packs). That is not including the butter needed for the cupcakes. Butter and eggs are not included in the cake kit, which I think could be considered so that no shopping is required to complete the cake. You will need 2 packs of eggs as I think the cake used medium eggs whereas the cupcakes use large eggs. The cake kit comes in a BEAUTIFUL box with tissue paper but the individual items are not wrapped in any way to stop splitting in transit.
Now I've made this cake and LOVED how it looked and tasted I wouldn't hesitate in making another so it looks like my kids will have homemade birthday cakes from now on. Yay I've only been a Mum for 8 years LOL and it's been shop bought till now so this has been life changing - thanks we really are now Baking Mad!