Sweden, Blogfest and Deafness

Sweden Stockholm

Its been a mad old week, that’s for sure. You may have noticed that things have been quiet around the blog – Life just simply took over.

We started the week with a trip to Stockholm for Millie’s first ever International competition. I’ve known for a few months that we were going to Sweden but it just didn’t really sink in that we were actually going to get there. The competition went brilliantly with a silver medal finding its way home in the Costello suitcase – All the team did really well and Millie’s scores were fantastic. Great preparation as we head to the big competition of the year in a fortnight – the dreaded Age Group Championships!

Stockholm Synchronised Swimming competition

Sweden Medal Presentation

I wasn’t expecting to see much of Stockholm. Any sporting parent will tell you that you rarely get to explore but surprisingly we had quite a bit of free time after the comp finished. Monday was spent pottering around Stockholm – You know when you are getting old when you prefer to see the old town and leave your daughter and her mates shopping in H&M. In all seriousness though, I though Stockholm was lovely – The palace is smack in the middle of the city and you can walk right up to the front door.

Stockholm City Stockholm City

The little trinket shops are wonderful for doing souvenir shopping and the cafes have the most divine selection of cakes. I may have indulged!

The flight home definitely didn’t help my deafness that I’ve had intermittently since July so Tuesday was a bit of a write off. Turns out that its just congestion rather than ear wax – contrary to my stupidly sexist doctor telling me deafness is caused by the same thing that makes you go blind. He also said the fact that it is affecting my driving is because I’m a woman driver -Time to look for a new doctor I’m thinking! Its awful how lethargic and isolated being semi deaf can make you feel though – The kids have had a great laugh at me and planned all sorts of tricks when I couldn’t hear them.

No sooner had I unpacked then it was time to hop off again. This time to London for a really fascinating day with World Vision UK looking at tracing the steps of a Syrian child (More to follow soon).

Georgian House Hotel

A super night in the Georgian House Hotel in the smallest room known to man and up early to my first appearance to Mumsnet Blogfest conference. It was great to be accompanied by the lovely Emma from Me, The Man And The Kids too. I had heard that Blogfest was much more content led than other blog conferences but was really impressed. The speakers (including Sandy Toksvig, David Baddiel & Val McDermid) were high quality and super interesting to listen to.

Blogfest Speakers 2015

I even booked in to a blog clinic to try to fix my blog look – Many thanks to the lovely Jax Blunt for her time.

I loved the photography session with Hayley Willis and thought the final session chaired by Fi Glover, talking about sharing our private lives in public was like watching a brilliant tv show. I could have listening for hours.

A whirlwind visit to the after show party then home for just one night – I’m spending every Sunday and Monday in Leeds at the moment for Millie’s training. She’s doing so well but I’m knackered!

A Bit Of Everything

Entering into this week’s Happy Diaries Linky


BritMums Live 2015 – Can it be done in one day?


Well the answer in short to that question is, most definitely yes! My BritMums journey was a whirlwind -You may remember my post the evening before I set out to London for the biggest UK conference dedicated to blogging. Thanks to my sponsor, FloraQueen, who I will be working with for the next 12 months, I could attend BritMums for the Saturday. For me, this is the main event – I am old school in that I attend conferences to learn. I might have been blogging for 7+ years but the blogging world is constantly changing and nothing stays the same for long.


There was no chance to get nervous and think about who I would sit with – I would say, if you don’t know many other bloggers, the one day conference is the way to do it. Luckily, I did manage to get to speak to lots of blogging friends – without the hangover too!

The Awards Ceremony

The Friday night is all about the Brilliant in Blogging awards – while these are very nice to attend, you can keep in touch with who wins each category through the magic of Twitter.

The Brands

I actually thought it was better this year that most of the brands had already been visited by bloggers the day before. I could chat to the brand reps at leisure without big queues appearing. I enjoyed visiting the stalls much more this year – I didn’t feel the need to visit absolutely every one, I’m much more selective as the years go on.

The Speakers

Carol Smilie Diary Doll pants

I will admit to be sorry to miss the Friday Keynote Speaker, Deliciously Ella but Saturday’s were great too. I loved Carol Smilie talking about Diary Doll pants – so much that I changed plans for which small focus groups I went to to hear more about them. I could have lived without Caprice, I will be honest – What could have been a fascinating insight into celebrity turned Mum, seemed too showy off for me. One of the highlights of the event will always be the Bloggers Keynote Posts – The posts that have inspired, moved, made us howl laughing over the past year – I was honoured to be on the same table as Jenny from The Brick Castle whose Dear Elspeth post will stay with people listening for a long time.


After the conference has finished, there’s a massive flurry of hugs and kisses. A lot of people stay another night, many people also start to make their way home. This year I was so glad to be heading straight home – It would have been nice to follow on to a meal but the allure of the train home, my book, seeing the kids at Runcorn station & definitely my own bed was more inviting.

So to next year – Hopefully I will have a little bit more notice that I will be attending, however it was still a brilliant day. I’d advise any newer bloggers or the more nervous attendee that it can be done in a day. If you are thinking of attending and want to meet up for moral support, then give me a shout.

BritMums Sponsor

A Lovely Week

Tara School Visit

As we come to the end of the school year, there are so many happy events taking place.

We have started a ban on Minecraft in the last week – straightaway the craft boxes came out, the girls started chatting, they played outside and life became more about the family. I’m terrified to hear that Minecraft is being considered as an addition to the curriculum – please no!

The girls’ social calendars are bulging – Even Baby T is flitting from one party to another. Last week saw my baby go to her first party where I could leave her for a while. It was at our friend’s house but even so I thought she would insist on me staying – How wrong I was, she couldn’t wait to be left!

It wasn’t the only big event in her week though – Little Tara had her first afternoon in school! I know! How fast has THAT gone? There were absolutely no nerves whatsoever – It helps that she knows loads of little ones who will be in her class. The teacher must be wondering what a year she has in store, with all these confident kids starting at once.

We were to leave the children for about 1/2 an hour while we filled in paperwork. Again, not a nerve in sight – We returned to find the children sat drinking juice and eating biscuits on the carpet. The teacher was asking them about their brothers & sisters – Tara didn’t talk about her sisters, she just wanted to tell everyone she had a cat!

Minion Movie

We also had a visit to the Minion movie on Monday – complete with plenty of minion accessories! The girls (and one boy) sat really still throughout – aided by plenty of popcorn obviously!

In other news, I had a great night out with Violet watching Millie in the school dance show – I actually watched it twice, having a rare night out with my mum too.

And so we start another crazy week with plenty of plans – I’m hoping we have little Sonny come to visit again this week. Who knows what his outfit will be this week – this pirate ensemble was last Monday’s creation!


So how has your week been? I’m joining in with Tanya from Mummy Barrow who has started a linky inviting us all to share our weeks – Bit of a crazy one here this week … Blackpool, School Music Concerts, Leeds x 3, Awards Ceremony, Art Festival, Christmas in July London, Bristol & Manchester. Next week’s instalment is going to be enormous!

Mummy Barrow My Week Linky

Casa Costello is going to BritMums – Introducing my sponsor!

I’m going to BritMums Live

FloraQueen Logo

Its all go in our house tonight. If you have been anywhere near Twitter recently you will probably have heard of Britmums Live 2015 – The biggest UK conference dedicated to blogging. Its not just Mummy bloggers as the name suggests – there fashion bloggers, travel bloggers, daddy bloggers and of course, food bloggers too!

I had resigned myself to not being able to attend this year – Millie was due to be at England Talent training in Surrey tomorrow (Saturday). On Tuesday though, I received notification that training was being postponed. The idea started pottering around my head about maybe attending BritMums but was quickly dismissed. Our car decided to die a death on Wednesday night, the kids had parties – it just seemed too difficult. But maybe not …

On Friday afternoon, I received an email offering me sponsorship from a company I have been recently working with. You may remember my recent post introducing FloraQueen flowers – I’m sure you remember the beautiful flowers! I am delighted to say I will be working with FloraQueen over the coming months and am being sponsored to attend tomorrow’s BritMums Live conference in London. Yay! I think I got the last ticket available – the hotline was closing 30 minutes after I booked my ticket.

Flora Queen internet flower ordering

So here’s some questions about my trip to BritMums

What am I looking forward to?
Apart from seeing plenty of fellow bloggers (It will be lovely to see particularly the North-West bloggers and the Foodie Bloggers), I’m really looking forward to the Breakaway sessions – I will be learning about design, graphics, understanding Social Media & even a session with Carol Smilie – Yes, THAT Carol Smilie.

How will I be getting there?
On the 6am train from Runcorn – Ouch!

What will I be wearing?
This has been a massive hot topic across social media this week – The honest truth is I haven’t given it a second thought. If my pyjamas and slippers were ironed I might be tempted to come in them – experience tells me that truthfully no-one notices or cares what you wear. I have got a new dress from Pepperberry that has been sat on our dining room table since Wednesday so cross your fingers that it fits!

Hair – Cut at 11pm by my husband

Nails – By my 12 year old – Please don’t tell her I’ve smudged them already!

What will be in my bag?
Erm, my kindle? Valuable reading time on the train on the way. Phone (obvs!) – Until you have been to a blogging conference you have not experience thousands of people tweeting at the same on their phones.

I will take plenty of notes and look forward to updating you about the event on my return.

Many Thanks to the following people for making this weekend happen …
FloraQueen, My Mum for looking after the children, Mr C for the haircut and the encouragement to go & Team GB Synchronised Swimming for cancelling Millie’s training!

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake with White Chocolate Frosting #Bakeoftheweek

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

It feels like AGES since the last #Bakeoftheweek – As suspected, half term was crazy busy with Millie’s England swimming training. This week is all about Violet – My lovely, kind, crazy, extreme, beautiful girl is now a very grown up 9! How did those years disappear so quickly? The baby that arrived in less than 1.5 hours has turned into a stunning young lady that makes us so proud and makes us tear our hair out in equal measures.

I couldn’t share this week’s #Bakeoftheweek before the birthday girl had seen her own cake, could I? She had a full on day, plenty of sweets after school, a special pick up by her cousin, followed by the opening night of Wicked at The Lowry. Violet is amazing to go to a show with – she gets completely stuck in, laughing heartily and clapping like mad. Love it!

And so back to the cake. A rich chocolate cake with melted dark chocolate (use milk chocolate if you like – totally not precious here!) I split the mixture into 2 cake tins and then sliced them in half making a 4 tier cake. Filled in with plenty of white chocolate frosting and completely covered in approximately 34 Kit Kat fingers, One bag of Aero Mint Balls, One bag of Maltesers and One bag of White Chocolate Buttons. I MAY have bought some spare chocolate packs just to make sure we had enough – I’m sure you understand!

Ultimate Birthday Cake


Ultimate Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

Serves 10+
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 45 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Cold
Occasion Birthday Party, Casual Party
Ultimate Chocolate Cake - Easy to decorate but with the WOW factor - Chocolate Sponge Cake with White Chocolate Frosting decorated with various chocolates - A true Showstopper!


  • 300 + 220g Butter
  • 300g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
  • 6 Eggs (Separated)
  • 2 + 1 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 300g Self Raising Flour
  • 200g White Chocolate (Melted)
  • 350g Icing Sugar
  • 100g Dark Brown Chocolate (I use 85% cocoa and melt at 10 second intervals in the microwave)
  • 2 tablespoons Double Cream


Chocolate Cake
Preheat the oven to 160C and line 2 x 8" cake tins with baking parchment
Using an electric mixer on a medium setting, whisk the first lot of butter and dark brown sugar together until pale and fluffy
Add in the egg yolks and 2 teaspoon of vanilla extract gradually until fully combined
Stir in the melted dark chocolate
Fold in the flour, until just coming together
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks and fold into the cake mixture gently to keep as much of the air as possible
Separate the cake mixture between the 2 tins and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. When cool, cut the cakes into 2 halves - If you are not confident about slicing the cakes in half (across) then it is fine to leave as 2 whole cakes
White Chocolate Frosting
Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate at 10 second intervals in the microwave and leave to cool slightly
Mix together the remaining butter and the icing sugar in an electric mixer and add the white chocolate and remaining vanilla.
Add in the double cream. If the frosting is not as stiff as you would like or it is a particularly hot day, you may need to add more icing sugar
Stack the cooled cakes, spreading a layer of frosting between each layer and fill in any gaps with remaining frosting
Stick Kit Kats around the sides of the cake until you meet up - You may need to add extra frosting to help a couple of them stick - this cake is perfect for disguising any lumps and bumps in cake (I also turn the top tier of cake upside down for a flatter surface)
I made 6 segments and separated them with matchmakers but just us whatever you have - Extra Kit Kats will do but they will be thicker
Fill in the segments with whatever chocolates you prefer and consume within 2 days - Keep in the fridge if you have room!

Supreme Chocolate Birthday Cake White Chocolate Frosting

Princess Castle Cake

So many wonderful bakes once again for this week’s #Bakeoftheweek – I have to give a special mention to Eileen from ET Speaks From Home with Princess Castle Cake – I know that this will have taken forever and she has done such a great job. Lucky little girl!

Baked Asparagus

I also want to mention Herbs, Spices & Tradition with Feta, Pepper & Courgette Filo Pie – I love that this is entered into #Bakeoftheweek – completely the spirit of the linky that anything baked is valid …and I don’t eat enough Asparagus, so thanks for the reminder!

For the first time ever, we have enough Cheese related entries to have their own section! So I present to you the Cheesy Bites …

Cheese Bake of the week

1. Paul’s Food World with Wholemeal Stilton & Broccoli Pasties
2. Baking Queen with Feta, Pepper & Courgette Filo Pie
3. Jen’s Food with Wholemeal Stilton & Broccoli Pasties

We move on now to the individual portions – For people like me that just don’t find it easy to share!


4. Hijacked by Twins with Chocolate & Cashew Buckwheat Cookies
5. Paul’s Food World – Cacao & coconut seedy bliss balls
6. Julie’s Family Kitchen with Mexican Veggie Burgers
7. Kidgredients withHomemade Char Siu Buns
8. Snap Happy Bakes with Caramelised Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin
9. The Dream Baker with White Chocolate & Strawberry Cookies
10. Misplaced Brit with Caramelised Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin
11. Nic Bakes with White Chocolate & Strawberry Cookies
12. Lemon & Lime Thyme with White Chocolate, Passion Fruit & Coconut Layer Cake
13. Winnie’s Blog with Moist rich chocolate Pie

And the more substantial bakes – Perfect for showpieces!

Bake of the week

14. Domestic Gothess with No Bake Chocolate Tarts
15. My Little Italian Kitchen with Strawberry Crumble Recipe
16. ET Speaks From Home with Chocolate Mint Cake
17. My Little Italian Kitchen with Choco Aztex Spiced Tea Cake with Blackberry Cream
18. Hijacked by Twins with Chocolate Mint Cake
19. Mummy Mishaps with Zebra Striped Vanilla & Chocolate Cake
20. Truly Madly Kids with Pistachio Pavlova with Strawberry& Rhubarb Cream
21. Baking Queen with Chocolate Mousse Cake on Hazelnut Crust
22. Petite Raisin with Pistachio Pavlova with Strawberry& Rhubarb Cream
23. Winnie’s Blog with Chocolate Mousse Cake on Hazelnut Crust

Thanks so much once again for your entries into Bake of the Week – Hopefully next week’s #Bakeoftheweek will be bang on time next Tues/Wed! There’s no theme so get spreading the word when you see someone baking online. Have a great week!

Casa Costello
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The Final Countdown to Starting Primary School

starting school

You may be wondering where Bake of the Week is – fear not, it is coming later tonight. For now though, I am all about school – such a major part of our lives for the past 9 years and about to get even bigger.

Like thousands of other families up and down the country, we have waited impatiently for the Primary School places to be announced for our little ones. On the dot of midnight last night, I logged onto the LEA website, telling myself the results wouldn’t be up yet.

But they were!

We have been in a dilemma about Tara’s school – Which one to choose? We are lucky that primary schools around us are officially excellent. You may remember though, last summer we managed to move Violet’s primary school so she started Y4 in a different school.

It has made a massive difference – she is like a different child. SO happy, plenty of friends and flying with her learning.

We knew deep down we also wanted Tara to go to the same school – She will know over 10 of the children in that Reception class when she starts from various groups we attend and the group of friends that have kept me sane over the past 12 months. But we are out of the catchment area …

The age old problem of living just that little bit too far from school. Do we gamble and apply for Violet’s school that we might not get in or for the nearer school and cope with 2 different schools?

We took a chance … AND SHE GOT IN!!

tara, harry & maisy

We are so pleased. I could happily tell her this morning that she would be going to school with her friends (to be honest, we had never really got through to her that there was a chance she might not). All day long, I’ve heard from happy people who have also got their place so we are set to go!

In the meantime, I’ve just tucked my official pre-schooler up in bed where she looks even younger and smaller than usual. I’m going to find it impossible to send my last baby to school but am going to make every moment of our summer together before she goes!

Do you have a little one due to start in September? I hope you got the school you hoped for. Lets celebrate the countdown to school and hold each other up on that tricky morning in September when we bravely wave them off.

garden picnic pre school

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7 years of blog posts – Happy Anniversary Casa Costello!

blog anniversary

Casa Costello is 7 this week! Yay and Happy Blogiversary to me :-) Its been 7 years of really good fun – I started off as a Celebration Cake blog telling the behind the scenes tales of cakes customers had ordered, for example, why someone chose a Most Unusual First Holy Communion Cake and have covered all sorts of topics since.

My first love will always be baking posts though, which is why I am so pleased that Bake of the Week is doing so well.

Over the past 7 years, Casa Costello has seen 615 posts, 192 Cakes (I haven’t eaten them ALL!), several caravan trips, 1 new baby.

Newborn Baby Tara

In that time, I have met so many lovely bloggers, some of whom I am thrilled to now count as friends. I have attended blogging conference, blogging events, nights away and even a holiday to Centre Parcs – This adventure is hard work but still so exciting. My girls have experience events and opportunities that previous jobs just didn’t give them. (This sort of makes up for them not being able to eat their tea without me taking a photo of it first!)

So what about the cakes – Here’s just a few of my favourites …

The Chocolate Wedding Cake – This smelled amazing!

Three tier chocolate wedding cake with cascading roses

The Gruffalo Christening Cake

gruffalo cake

And the final wedding cake was just a bit special.

wedding cake pink

At the risk of sounding like an Oscar winner, I do need to thank everyone for reading the Peppa Pig Cake Topper Tutorial – My most popular blog post EVER!

peppa pig cake topper

So what next? Well, I’m still as disorganised as ever – My mantra during the past 7 years has been that it will get easier once the children start school – Well, Baby T starts in September (weeps). I will have more time to devote to the blog, and cooking and baking. I hope that Bake of the Week & Foodie Friday will continue to grow – I look forward to finding yet more blogs I love to read.

To celebrate 7 happy years of blogging, I will be hosting some giveaways during the next few weeks – I have some brilliant prizes so watch this space!

Thank you so much for reading, following and commenting – I still cannot believe so many of you do!

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk

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Minion Birthday Cake & Party – Bake of the Week

minions birthday cake despicable me

Well, its a bit of a different Bake of the Week from me this week. I hadn’t realised how long it had been since I did a properly decorated cake until Tara said ‘Wow Mummy, did you do that ALL by yourself?!’ Bless her! We had our crazy happy week last week, when Tara & Dermot celebrated their birthdays on the same day.

There was no question that the theme of Tara’s party was going to be Minions – She’s mad on them. Her nursery bag has to be Minion, her favourite t-shirt is her Minion one (That has to be washed and ironed in lightning quick speed).

minion birthday cake


It was rather strange to get back into my sugarcraft drawers and I was a bit apprehensive that I might have forgotten how to do cake decorating. I think the results were ok? In fact, I really enjoyed an afternoon of creating Creme Egg Minions So much so, we started talking about maybe taking orders for some cakes after Tara starts school in September and saying YES to a possible wedding cake in November!

kevin minion creme egg cake topper

giant minion


The party itself was a real traditional one in our church hall which is a lovely, light, clean and spacious place. We were gifted some Minion party supplies courtesy of Party Bags & Supplies and added to the rest ourselves. That giant Minion balloon has been everywhere that Tara has this weekend – It even went strapped in the car to Manchester for synchro practice!

minions party supplies

minion party bags

Ready made party bags from Party Bags & Supplies

homemade minion party bags

Homemade Party Bags made by Millie

Tara 4th birthday party

I love a 4th birthday party, its great to see children dressed in their party gear – Girls wearing their party dresses and the boys with their little body warmers on. Too cute!

Tara was wearing a gorgeous yellow dress and navy card from Next – It wasn’t intentional that she matched the Minion colour scheme but rather fitting! Even Violet was colour co-ordinated, also wearing a yellow top and cardigan from Next.

For the entertainment, Tara chose Fran from Jo Jingles, Warrington. We attend Fran’s class every Monday and Tara just loves it. It has really brought her out of her shell and she talks about Jo Jingles all the time. Fran has amazing control of a large group – All the parents were marvelling at how she gets them to join in and keeps them contained!

jo jingles warrington 4th birthday party

jo jingles birthday party

older siblings at birthday party

Older sister, Violet with her mates, cousin & a HUGE handmade Minion!

So many amazing creations entered for our previous Bake of the Week – One flavour combination really stood out for me as a must to try …Apricot Cheesecake with Amaretto Caramel. This sounds just too incredible and right up my street from a newcomer to the Bake of the Week family, Giraffes can Bake

apricot cheesecake amaretto caramel

chocolate bakes

1. Pretty Triple Chocolate Hidden Heart Cake from Mummy Mishaps
2. Perfect pastry from Winnie with her Chocolate Halva Tart
3. Goodness me, these Red Velvet Brownies with Oreo Cream Cheese look tasty – Domestic Gothess
4. This Chocolate Chip Layer Cake is certainly the ultimate as its name suggests from Giraffes Can Bake
5. Classic combination of strawberries & White Chocolate from Baking Queen 74
6. A warm welcome to Mrs B’s Kitchen with her stunning Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies
7. Introducing us to Milano Cookies with her Chocolate Cake is Dream Baker
8. I can’t get enough of cheesecake brownies – one of the best inventions ever! Jibber Jabber Uk
9. A very pretty Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake & another warm welcome to Chardonnay & Samphire
10. Looking simply heavenly …Mars Bars Stuffed Salted Caramel Blondies from Baking in Pyjamas
11. The crazy for Salted Caramel is still as popular as ever with these brownies from Baking in Pyjamas

small bites morsels

12. If you are trying to be healthy with your baking, try these Blueberry & Orange Muffin Bars from Tales from the Kitchen Shed
13. Super pretty Marshmallow Flower Cupcakes from Searching for Spice
14. If you are still feeling romantic, try these Pink Velvet Lofthouse soft cookies from Baking Chocolatess
15. Super cute Heart Oreo Sandwich Cookies again from Baking Chocolatess
16. I really fancy trying these Pineapple Cookies from Dream Baker – They are dairy free too!
17. We have got in the habit of buying Peanut Cookies for after training, I’m going to try making these from Dream Baker
18. These Lemon Velvet Squares from Baking in Pyjamas would be perfect to fit in with the yellow theme at Tara’s party

bake of the week

19. Tempting me away from my classic lemon & sugar with her Nutella Spelt Pancakes is Baking Queen 74
20. Adding Cranberry to the classic combo of Maple & Pecan in her cake is Jen’s Food – A warm welcome to you too!
21. Tasty looking Chinese Chicken Pie (but also make sure you check out those super cute Tunnocks Teacakes Sheep!) from Foodie Quine – Welcome!
22. I can’t resist a good Orange Sponge Cake & this from Snap Happy Bakes looks very tempting – a warm welcome to you too!
23. Loving these Lentil Stuffed Peppers from Herbs, Spices & Tradition
24. For the vegans amongst us, we have Valentines Vegan French Toast from the Free From Farmhouse
25. A comforting, gluten free Prune & Raisin Loaf from Lancashire Food
26. Much underused Grapefruit is added to this Honey & Almond Cake from Chocolate Log Blog and a Happy Bloggiversary to you!
27. Apple & Almond perfect pairing with My Little Italian Kitchen’s Pie – Alida seems to love almonds almost as much as I do!
28. How beautiful is this Heart Swiss Roll from Winnie’s Blog? The decoration is so clear.

Huge thank you as ever to everyone who entered their bakes – I really appreciate it and love finding all your blogs. The linky is open for this week’s #Bakeoftheweek – Feel free to tweet me @CasaCostello to let me know you have added your link and I will retweet.

Casa Costello
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We're going on an adventure

What we learnt from a visit to Alton Towers

costello children alton towers

We are just back from spending a couple of days at Alton Towers – We stayed overnight in the Alton Towers Hotel and had a day each in the Splash Landings Waterpark, then today at the theme park. We’ve been to the hotel quite a few times before but haven’t visited the theme park as a family since Millie was about 2.

I’ve seldom seen the girls as excited as they were about this trip – Violet was physically squeaking when we entered the water park and declared that her ‘dreams have come true’! Millie reckons her favourite part was the theme park and Tara just loved all of it.

So what did me & Dermot get out of it? Well, we learnt a few things too:

Alton Towers have rooms that cater for 5!!…
This is a biggie – I’m not talking a travel cot shoved in a corner of the room but a proper double bed, bunks and a single – And it was like we are completely normal for having 3 children! I love holiday resorts that cater properly for ‘larger’ families. Can you recommend any others?

alton towers sonic spinball

My children are super brave …
I watched Millie storm along the single riders queue for the Sonic Spinball ride today and chat happily to a lady in her cart (Who incidentally, was telling her that her boobs were going to escape at any moment but we’ll try to forget that). That ride looked truly horrific but she loved it.
We all went on the Runaway Mine Train which had me screaming like a baby but Tara (Aged 3 for 1 more day) thought it was brilliant.

On the other hand, we found out that Tara is properly scared of anyone dressed in an oversized fancy dress costumes – I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Mike the Knight for Tara screaming and doing a runner.


My children also have to do cartwheels and handstands EVERYWHERE …
Most families were watching the evening entertainment at the Pirate Ship. Mine were enjoying it too … just while they were stood on their hands.

alton towers postman pat ride

Husbands are not designed for the Postman Pat ride …
He enjoyed it really 😉

No matter what shoes you wear, your feet still hurt …
I’ve tried it all, trainers, flats, boots – All feet ache at the end of the day trekking around the park – You will never be as pleased to see a bus to take you back to the hotel (The monorail does not open until the start of the season)

alton towers lifts

Lifts can be fun …
Anyone who has ever been in either the Alton Towers Hotel or the Splash Landings Hotel will know that the lifts are part of the enjoyment. Flashing lights, funny music – We’ve all been caught dancing when the doors open.

mr bloom alton towers

I think I like Mr Bloom more than my children …
We didn’t hang around too long for the show but I thought he was rather lovely and natural with the kids. There was a game to pick up loads of leaves, great to see a celeb not frightened to actually get stuck in with the crowd.

Disclosure: We were not asked to write about our time at Alton Towers – I just wanted to share a couple of brilliant days that we thoroughly enjoyed. We will definitely be back to visit again – I may even brave one of the water slides!

Money Apps – Saving with L&G

piggy bank
Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A bit of a different post from me today – I can’t say I’m exactly known for my organisation with money. My first ever wage packet saw me buying a fantastic selection of shoes and bags. Thankfully, I have grown up somewhat since then. I’m in the very lucky position that Dermot handles most of the money (not in a 1950’s housewife way, where I’m not allowed to know what’s going on) Just in the way that he is very interested and likes to know what is coming in and going out.

Internet banking was a bit of a revelation to us in the past few years – I even pottered on the Halifax banking from time to time. L & G asked me if I would have a nosy around some money apps and feed back on any that I found useful. So that is what I’ve been doing for the past month. Legal & General (L & G) are trying to promote the use of which ever apps suit the individual best to help us save during 2015.

I will admit that I put off the initial search, if you are not ‘into’ money, its hard to make a start. Once I started looking around for apps though, I became fascinated.

One thing I was certain of though, is that whatever apps I looked at needed to be free – I could almost hear Martin Lewis clapping!

spending tracker app

I’m not sure that I have the time or organisation to completely go over to a financial app for all of our household expenses but for a large project like a holiday or extension, I’m enjoying the Spending Tracker app. Rated 4.5 stars by over 300 users, I felt safe inputting our figures.

Being such a novice though, I had visions of having to put all our bank details in … you don’t! For the more visual user, there are pretty pie charts to measure what you have spent your income on. Scary to see what exactly our money is spent on … In case you were wondering, our is swimming pools!

january spending tracker 2015

I’m part of a couple of committees through Synchro and our WI – We have been really lucky to have accountants filling the role of treasurer. I’d say that if a professional financial whizz didn’t take these roles, then an app like

The other app that I’m forming a slight addiction to is My Supermarket – At first I liked the novelty of seeing how much certain items were in whichever supermarket I was using. The comparison between all the major supermarkets prices is addictive though – There’s so much can be learnt about what items are consistently cheaper in certain shops. I like this app so much that I have transferred it to my phone for easy access.

I do think there is a slight danger though that when you look through the offers, you might be tempted just to buy because they are cheaper than normal – A good old fashioned marketing technique but an easy trap to fall into.

my supermarket app

Disclosure: I was asked by L & G to try out apps of my choice regarding money management. I was compensated for my time but given free editorial reign. More information on how L & G think we can benefit from using finance apps can be found here