Wednesday, 30 January 2013

BakerDays Letterbox cakes

So we're almost through with January, Christmas all but a bit of a distant memory and everyone now looking for the next occasion to buy gifts and tell those nearest and dearest how much they mean to you.

Yes, thats right - Valentines day, in just over 2 weeks. I am, if I'm honest, not really a very romantic sort of person, and nor is Darren, we very often don't do anything much at all for Valentines day. But a few days ago I received an email from Baker Days, a company specialising in personalised cakes, which they can post straight to your door.

They asked if I'd like to try out a cake from their Letterbox range, and I thought I would surprise Darren and send him a cake.

I looked through the website, which is full of lovely designs, you can even add your own photograph to a cake, and personalise them with your own written message, or pick from their selection of messages. They have cakes for all occasions from christenings, to retirements or even just for fun or say your thinking of someone.

The designs range from cute pictures, to witty messages. In the valentine selection their is a great range of teddy bears, love hearts or more traditional red rose designs.

I wanted to pick out something I thought Darren would appreciate and would feel personal from me, as I am not really a helpless romantic so I opted for the brilliant Keep Calm design. I love the Keep Calm and Carry on traditional posters, and Darren brought me a huge Canvas for our bedroom wall at Christmas with that message on so when I saw this cake I instantly loved it.

I quickly sent off an email to BakersDays with a link to my chosen design as they requested, and I awaited the delivery.

bakerdays letterbox cake valentines love heart gift

A day or two later a box popped through my door, the cakes are perfectly designed to be able to fit through all standard letter boxes, they are packed to keep them protected so they can be delivered anywhere in the UK.

valentines gift idea keepsake love heart tinI opened up the box and was impressed with the lovely tin the cake arrived in, a beautiful cream tin with 'Just for you' embossed on the top.

Also included in the box was a mini pack of LoveHeart sweets and a little note card, such great added extras really giving a thoughtful feel.

loveheart gift sweets traditional favourite childrens sweet

I opened up the tin to reveal the cake and marvelled at it for a minute or two, then realised the name was not quite right, unfortunately they had misspelled Darren with just one R - Daren. I emailed my contact and they were very accommodating, and apologised saying they would have another cake out the next day, such great service.

I was secretly quite pleased, as this meant I could cut up and test the cake, (for review purposes obviously!) without having to spoil the gift. the cake isn't the largest cake, but if it was it would no longer fit through a letter box, or fit in the lovely keepsake tin. But it makes up for size in its taste. I had picked out the chocolate variety which was an additional £2 but I can highly recommend it!

valentine chocolate cake keep calm and carry on design

Just a day later the new cake arrived I opened up the box, to reveal once again the lovely finishing touches of Love hearts and a little card, I opened up the tin, and once again marvelled at the little cake before me.

keep calm and carry on love heart cake design

Then I noticed the name, this time had not 1 or 2 but 3 R's I couldn't help but giggle!

But please, do not think badly of BakerDays they did not misspell the name this time, I  went back to my email correspondence, and I had misspelled the name on my initial contact with them and it was indeed me who had added in the 3 R's!!!

How very silly do I feel!!

But let this be a lesson learnt, when you go over to (and you really will be happy you did) take a look at their cakes, order via the website and you will be shown a confirmation screen showing your personalisation, double check this here, I am sure had I of ordered via the site the mix up with the spelling would never of happened.

I turned to my blogging friends for advice, maybe I should photohop out to avoid looking the fool here on my blog? or simply don't included the full shot of the cake... No, that would never do, I like to be honest, but what about Darren himself, will he forgive me for misspelling his name? (I've only been with him for 14 years!) ever helpful they suggested I accompanied this lovely gift with a cute tiger, or start sexily purring his name between name and valentines day so everyone thinks I meant to add in the extra R.

I know he won't mind, because the cake really is so yummy and bedsides I bet I don't receive anything nearly as thoughtful or delicious come valentines day!

I am so sorry Bakers Days for the inconvenience and I do truly love your cakes, If you ever are stuck for that perfect thoughtful gift, no matter who it is for, or what the occasion, you will find something on BakerDays that everyone will love!

love heart valentine cake bakerdays

Why not pop over to meet the people from BakerDays on Facebook, or even tweet them here, but definitely be sure to bookmark their website.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A snowy walk in the woods

It has not snowed much at all today, but the snow that arrived yesterday stayed in place so everywhere is still covered in the beautiful white blanket, and I could go out and take some more photos.

snow covered woods in the uk

Today we went into the woods, whilst everyone else headed for the hills to go sledging, and as a result we had the place to ourselves.

boxer dog running through snowy woods
Jackson and Chloe had a great time running through the trees, throwing snowballs, and looking at tracks in the snow.

pretty girl in snow pink hat beautiful snow uk

It really is beautiful when it snows, it eliminates all the mud too which is a bonus!

pink hat pretty girl in snow uk

The other day  after a VERY muddy walk in this woods, I was saying how winter isn't really my favourite season, but if it snowed all the time I think I would begin to like it!

boxer dog and young girl in the snowHere's a quick video of Chloe and Jackson throwing Snowballs at me, I do hope you've all enjoyed the snow, it is fast melting now, although there is more forecast for tomorrow!

I'm linking this post to CountryKids over at CoombeMill - why not join in too?

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 18 January 2013

Taking Photos in the Snow

I have always struggled with taking photos in the snow, in fact every year that has gone by I have always cursed myself for missing the opportunity of a perfectly clean and clear backdrop that the snow creates. I always know what I want my photos to look like, its just that I never quite get them to turn out right.

So this morning when I opened the curtains and saw we had a nice blanket of snow I couldn't wait till the afternoon where I could pick up the children and take out my camera for a while.

Winter red berries covered in snow

And for the first time ever I actually am rather pleased with some of the shots I got, I took all of these photos using my little £50 point and shot Olympus VG120 camera, nothing at all fancy on the 'snow scene' setting.

I am often saying a good photo is more about composition and subject than camera equipment, and its something over the last year I have really tried to improve on. When I take a photograph now I don't just point my camera and hope for the best, I try to take a minute to think about what is in the background, and what angel I am standing at in relation to the subject.

young boy in snow scene

I thought I would show you some of the different photographs I took today on the walk home from school, we did not go anywhere scenic to take any of these photos, they were all taken along the street we walk daily (yes including the lovely berries at the top of this post - I'd never noticed them before today!)

high quality photo of child in snow

Out of all the photos I took today, I think I liked this one above of Mikey the best, here I tried to keep above him so that the snow covered floor filled the majority of the shot, I was conscious of the curbs, streetlights and footprints in the snow to try and gain a really clear patch of snow behind him. It wasn't easy as we were walking along the street the pavements are not very wide and the road had been drove alone so there really wasn't alot of clear patches.

boy making snowballs So When I was shooting more straight on, I tried to think about positioning the focus onto Mikey, like on the above photo I tried to put Mikey to one side and so his hand was more centred to draw the attention to the handful of snow.

Of course, if there is not much nice snow on the ground, then its always good to see what other backgrounds are available.

great snow photo with trees and boyI love this photo, standing in front of a rather lovely leafy bush, tipped with snow, it really does make a whole different feel to a photograph when you think about the backdrop, and I took full advantage of this leafy scenery.

young boy perfect snow photo card

Of course, all these photos wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't of had such a willing model.

When we joined up with my elder two from school I didn't get nearly as good shots....

boy throwing snowball great photo

Snowballs firing everywhere, and children not standing still, make it very difficult to capture a non blury photo!

snowball fights action shot children playing
But with no signs of the snow stopping yet, it looks like I will have more chance to practise taking photos in the snow tomorrow!

uk street covered in snow

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Common Sence Approach to School and Snow

On Monday we had a dusting of the white stuff, it came down fast around mid day, and brought a fair amount of places to a stand still, it didn't last long tho and by the time the children needed collecting from school it had already started to melt. But weather reports say that we are in for alot more Tomorrow, with Hazard warnings and constant reports of the disruption we can expect when, and if the forecasts are correct.

You would think by now we would be able to manage a covering of snow in the winter, and not have to get into a frenzy, but it seems that every year the weather man gives us plenty of warning, but all that proves is that we expect the chaos, rather than we arrange ways to prevent it!

Many schools close at the first sign of snow, but thankfully the school here has a great attitude, and do not send the children home.
Instead they sent a letter home detailing their response to the winter months. It read 'Parents and carers are to assume that, unless otherwise announced, the school will remain open in adverse weather conditions, including snow.' And details the fact that the school will not prevent children from playing outside in the colder weather and should therefore send their children preparred.

Now, I have heard parents complain that their children have been allowed out in the snow, and feared this has resulted in coughs and colds, but I must say I am pleased that our school has this common sense approach.

The letter continues to say 'Many schools have the opinion that snow and children do not mix, I do not agree..... I will not prevent the children playing out, or in the snow' and it even goes on to say they will ALLOW snowball fights.

I can not applaud them enough for this, the school say they have designated snowballing areas, and children will be responsible themselves to choose if they wish to play in these areas, and if they do so they will have to realise they run the risk of being hit.

This sort of attitude is exactly my style of parenting, I have never been one to stop the children taking calculated risks, instead opting to help encourage them to make the choices of what experiences they want, and find out where their limits lie. I am not the sort of parent who thinks that abit of cold weather will result in a snotty nose, or that running along a snow covered street will always result in a broken leg.

Yes, obviously snow equals a chance for increased falls, and upset when children quickly become too cold, but it also gives children the chance to have abit of fun whilst learning that they are the ones ultimately in control of what happens to them. It encourages then to make the choices that they want to, and know that whatever decisions they do make, will have a direct effect on their wellbeing. It hopefully teaches them self control and gives them the life experiences that will be useful in years to come.

If they do not wish to get cold and wet, they will have to not touch the snow, if they want to run around like loons and soak their mates with as much snow as possible then they will have to realise they will get cold and wet too.

Having them open to this action = reaction learning, they also will hopefully be learning to respect other peoples choices, if someone has personally chosen to NOT engage in snowball fights and has chosen to stay in the 'snowball free' area, then that should be respected. If someone has chosen to engage they can not run off crying about getting hit by a large snowball, instead they will have to make a different choice next time. It is far better for children to have the option to do something which is dangerous and learn how it can effect them, or how they can manage the situation, than simply take away any possible negative situation in the first place, removing the childrens ability to learn how to make the clever choices life requires them to make.

Obviously, as parents and teachers we do need to encourage our children to make good choices, and give them the tools they need to be safe in whatever decision they make,  and by this I mean providing them with suitable outdoor clothing and footware, a change of socks/trousers, if they are likely to want to engage in snowball fights, and reminding them of the dangers of slippy ice and falling. Once we have equipted our children with the knowledge we then have to allow them the experiences to learn.

I hope that we DO get some snow tomorrow, I hope that everyone gets to enjoy it, and has the skills to stays safe whilst they are doing so!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Byron Bay Cookies Review

I am very much a tea and biscuit sort of person, and there really isn't anything nicer than a hot drink and a delicious cookie.

So when I was asked if I'd like to review a sample of cookie flavours from the international best selling cookie company Byron Bay,  I jumped at the chance, and was delighted to receive this amazing selection.

These individually packed cookies are definitely luxury biscuits, you can instantly tell they are top quality cookies, the flavours are mouthwatering to read through and each and everyone lived up to my expectations.

The Byron Bay range includes plenty of variety and all cookies in the range have been approved by the Vegetarian Society. Byron Bay are conscious of the quality of ingredients they use ensuring the best possibly taste and texture and it really comes across in each and every cookie.

The Cookies we were sent to sample included  the instantly popular Dotty Cookie, with the attractive colourful packaging  it was these cheerful cookies which my children reached for first.

childrens cookies gluten freeThere are two varieties of Dotty the original and the Gluten Free Chocolate, all the Gluten Free Byron Bay cookies are registered with Coeliac UK and its great to see an alternative for those who have allergies and need to avoid wheat in their diets.

dotty cookie smartie topped biscuit yummyBoth the Dotty cookies  were filled with big chunks of chocolate and topped with colourful chocolate drops, the original cookie was moist and simply delicious, the Gluten Free variety was slightly dryer and more crumbly but still extremely moreish, and neither lasted long, quickly being devoured by the children.

The other flavours range from traditional Triple Choc Fudge to Sticky Date Ginger and Walnut and the unusual but delicious Fig and Pecan, all  of which have their own distinguished but delightful tastes.

bryon bay cookie chocolate fudge

Each cookie had a homemade quality with the perfect blend and  mix of chunky flavoured bites throughout, the way that I always wish my home made cookies to be.

byron bay cookie strawberry and cloted cream

Another firm favourite of ours was the Strawberry and Clotted cream, which is available in a Gluten Free variety, and is a very English flavour made to celebrate the UK bake house, as for the past few years Byron Bay have been producing their cookies in Europe making the carbon footprint smaller as the ingredients are all sourced locally.

If you would like to get your hands on these fantastic cookies then look out for them in all good independent cafe, coffee shops and health food stores priced around £1 to £1.50 each, and if that isn't good enough Byron Bay also have a range of Gluten Free mini Cookie bites which can be found in the larger Sainsburys stores  - bite sized and perfected for lunch boxes but still full of the same great quality and flavours.

You can also see more information on the cookies on the Byron Bay website, and catch up with them on Facebook and Twitter

But if you are desperate to get your hands on a selection box to try for yourself, I have a fantastic competition coming very soon, for my blog readers where you can get your hands on your very only selection box, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

boy eating cookie crumbs
Our final thought, after much hard taste testing is : these really are yummy!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Muddy Afternoon - CountryKids

It's been too long since I last joined in with CountryKids, the linky run by CoombeMill to promote being outdoors and active.

I guess it is because its so horrible weather wise, and the winter sickness bugs cold and flues that seem to be a constant here, really don't make for the get up and go feeling. It's not that we haven't been outdoors at all, its just that by the time I have managed to get everyone togged up and the dog out the door, it normally results in complaints and moans from at least one of them that they are tired, cold, hungry or such like, couple that with the weather being so dull and horrible that even if I do try to take a photograph of the scowling faces, then it is blured!

However, this weekend when my daughter and her friend said they were bored and wanted to go jump in puddles, instead of passing them off (too cold, wet, muddy - not really kean on bathing the dog...)  I decided to go with it. I grabbed my camera, and off we went.

It was indeed cold, wet and muddy, but the girls were not deterred.

I can't say the winter scenes are my favourite, when there is a frost or a layer of snow things are better, but woodlands that are slushy and muddy really are just are a bit blurrgggh. I much prefer summer and autumn with warm sun  but there are snippets of beauty still around even amongst the dead undergrowth.

 And of course lots of muddy puddles!

two girls splashing in muddy puddle wellies

Which never fail to bring smiles.

girl and dog running through muddy water wet puddle splash
 Sometimes you really do just have to not worry about the after effects and just have fun.

girl splashing in puddle mud water dirt

kicking up mud, getting completely filthy and laughing about it

muddy wellies in mud puddle in dirt woods girls wellies splashing

Yes we got filthy, but clothes soon wash don't they.

Here's a video of the girls jumping in the puddles too... and emptying the wellies after!!

Why not grab your wellies and your camera, get outside, forget about the washing and the complaints, and you never know you might have fun, then come over and link up with Coombe Mill by clicking the badge below.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Monday, 7 January 2013

Diets and Children

We're already into the second week of the year, and like in my previous post where I mentioned my dislike of resolutions in terms of my blog, I also am not one to making any stern changes to my lifestyle just because the new year creeps in, as to suddenly make a change because of a New Year often leads to failure, instead its far more long lasting if the changes are made when you really want to make them.

However my news feeds seem to be filled with good intentions, people quitting smoking, other promising to cook a healthy meal a day and lots and lots hoping to make 2013 the year that they drop the dress sizes and lose weight maybe even go on a diet, try some herbal remedies to detox and generally start the year revitalised and healthy maybe even trying out vitamins from sites like Evolution Slimming

Whilst all these resolutions are great, the notion of improving your life is always a good thing, having motivation to change something you know could do with improvement is always positive, but there is always a niggling worry when I hear alot about diets.

Weight, thankfully isn't really anything I have ever had to worry about, I have always been fairly comfortable with my weight never being the thinnest or the most beautiful, but never being overweight either, I am honestly thankful for that. As I know those who do struggle to maintain a comfortable weight really do have to work at their diet, but I do worry how the 'healthy eating' and 'we need to diet' messages effects our children.

 I know it is increasingly harder for girls as they grow up and want to have the 'ideal' body image. With the constant stream of perfectly slim and beautiful models in magazines it is easy to see how young girls firmly believe that their own bodies are never going to meet these unrealistic expectations. Added to this the fact that alot of the real female influences in life are always on a diet, counting calories and openly concerned about their weight,  it is really no surprise that the amount of children admitted to hospital with eating disorders each year is on the rise.

When Jake was 6 he broke his wrist whilst at school, and I took him to hospital where they Xrayed it and decided he would need an anaesthetic to try to reline the bones, which meant we had to stay in hospital over night, it is the only time I have ever had to stay in hospital other than when I was giving birth, and it was an eye opener!

On the ward with Jake there were 5 other beds, one was empty.

One had a teenage boy in it who had the same broken wrist as Jake, but it was not this that shocked me, it was the occupants of the other beds, young girls.

Girls who had eating disorders, whilst I sat with Jake and watched him sleep off his anaesthetic, I over heard the same conversation with several young girls, the youngest couldn't have been too much older than 8 or 9. Parents desperately pleading with their daughters to eat a little something, and Doctors being stern explaining that if they refused to eat they would have to put a tube in to their stomachs.

The image of these young girls has stayed with me over the years as a stark reminder of how important it is to encourage healthy appetites.

Having a daughter of my own, it is a worry and I try to ensure she doesn't have any negitive body image issues, and that I am  passing on,  my hopefully positive, attitude to her, ensuring she knows that you don't have to be the same as anyone else to recognise your own beauty.

Obviously, its not always the media influences of beautiful skinny models that have an effect, and the fundamental issue is the relationship with food.  I know this is something some people truly struggle with, but diets and the talk of 'healthy verses unhealthy' may be important, so children learn to monitor their food and obesity levels don't rise more than they already are, but what about the negitive impact on childrens view of food?

Around the same time Jake was in hospital the school was doing a very full on program about how fatty food was bad, and really trying to encourage healthy options, I remember looking after my friends children after school one day, as my three came home eager for a top up snack, I offered some chocolates, crisps and cakes, and was shocked to see them refused, branded 'not healthy' for fear they would get 'fat'  I remember thinking how very sad it all was, these children were in no way shape or form even slightly over weight!

I have since constantly chanted that cakes and burgers, chips and sausages will not make you fat alone, and it is all about variety and moderation, having cake is fine, as long as you eat up your greens with your dinner, having a take away will not make you over weight, unless you have one for breakfast, dinner and tea!

I only hope that as my children enter their teenage years they carries on with the happy attitudes towards food and body image, I hope that once Chloe gets more aware of celebrities and the perfect image of womens bodies, as her own body changes, that she keeps remembering how beautiful she is just for being herself, and I hope that my boys do too.

I hope that parents who openly go on diets make sure they encourage their children not to think food is bad, and they help model good eating habits, which of course, include eating!

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