We are massive craft fans in our house (as our spare room will testify!) I’ve always allowed my girls to use materials that they find around the house and encourage them to be as creative as possible. On the whole, they are fantastic at coming up with ideas and love making projects.
There are times though when they need a little stimulation or a project to work on. I’m very conscious that having Tara at home with me until she starts school, she needs a wide variety of toys and crafts to play with.
We were recently invited to review the Interplay Fairy Garden Craft set suitable for ages 4+. I thought at least one of my girls would enjoy it – I am so lucky that all 3 love making and creating.
All 3 girls were suitably interested when the Fairy Garden arrived – Violet did lose interest though when she found out we had to actually go and get our own soil from the garden.
So … into the garden we went. A sunny (if a little blustery) day was just the job to get Tara, Me & Nanna out into the garden. We collected the soil from the borders in a matter of seconds – then spent a while choosing the perfect pebbles that we wanted to put in the garden. You don’t have to include pebbles but by now we were well into it!
The whole point of the Fairy Garden is to plant the grass seeds and wait a week for the grass to grow. There was no way Tara at 4 was up for this waiting but she was more than happy with our cheat plants that we inserted in the meantime. (as you can tell from the picture)
There are loads of parts to the Fairy Garden and you can put as many or as few as you like in it. As you can see from the completed Fairy Garden above, we went the whole hog and put everything in. We even sprinkled the little glittery stars in the Fairy’s water bath to attract more fairies. The washing is a little bit fiddly but very cute as are the toadstools.
Tara could be really hands on with this toy – there were no sharp edges. The actual bowl is silicone so it really didn’t matter if she dropped it. We do recommend making the Fairy Garden outside just in case soil spills but if its a rainy day, its not the messiest craft activity ever anyway. There are lots of little pieces – like the glittery stars and the teeny pebbles for the footpath but these add to the charm for a 4 year old. The picture below is Tara actually laying the pebble path to the Fairy house. The Fairy house was the only bit we had trouble with – Made out of foam, it blows away if the wind even thinks about blowing. We did laugh as it blew about the garden on more than one occasion! We ended up weighing it down with a big stone through the window to solve the problem.
We love our Fairy Garden – the grass is starting to grow. Its definitely more suitable for younger children – especially those that like to get stuck in building it. We have a Fairy door at the bottom of the tree in our garden – I like to think now the Fairies have their own garden to play in!
Disclosure: We were sent an Interplay Fairy Garden for the purpose of this review. RRP £14.99
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).
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!
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!
Ready made party bags from Party Bags & Supplies
Homemade Party Bags made by Millie
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!
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
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
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
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.
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Also found over at: Share your cup Thursday
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?
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.
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)
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.
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!
I’ve discovered its nigh on impossible to make a photo of scrambled eggs look pretty, so lets concentrate on the taste, hey? I wasn’t an egg eater until I was a mum – There is no easier meal to give your toddler for lunch than scrambled eggs. In the early days of parenthood, I wasn’t capable of making separate meals for me, so quickly gave into scrambled eggs. It was such a revelation that the girls devoured eggs – They love being able to ‘help’ make them by whisking and adding the milk too.
Of course, I couldn’t stick to just plain eggs and have spent many years fiddling about with various combinations. When Happy Eggs challenged me to share how I eat my Scrambled Eggs, I had no trouble finding a recipe.
My ultimate favourite is Soy Scrambled Eggs with plenty of veg and a bit of a kick of chilli – My girls have always tended to err on the side of plain eggs but Tara is definitely one for the strong tastes and loves this meal.
Super Spicy Soy Scrambled Eggs
Serves 2 (1 adult & 1 child)
Knob of butter
1/4 small onion or 1 spring onion
1/2 red pepper
4 chestnut mushrooms
Sprinkling of chilli flakes (optional)
2 tbsp soy sauce
I soften the onions, mushrooms and peppers first in the frying pan with a splash of water (which will evaporate).
Remove from the pan when softened then add the butter.
Pour in the eggs and keep moving around with a rubber spatula.
Season with salt & pepper in the pan.
Just before the eggs are done, re-add the veg and mix through.
Add the chilli flakes and stir through.
Serve in a large bowl and add the soy sauce.
Alternatives to Soy Sauce …
I also enjoy other sauces instead – Have you tried Sweet Chilli Sauce? Sweet & Sour?
The secret to scrambled eggs is to whisk, whisk and then whisk again – I like my scrambled eggs dry and fluffy – Cannot stand wet juice at the bottom – particularly as you will have it mixed in with soy sauce. Eew!
Disclosure: I was sent vouchers to compensate any expense whilst preparing this recipe – I am entering my recipe as part of the #happyeggtastemakers . The choice of recipe was entirely mine.
A couple of weeks ago, Millie got the chance to take part in a photoshoot by Simon from GB Swimstars. Simon specialises in photographing water sports activities so synchronised swimming is just up his street. I thought I’d share a couple of the pictures that we got from the session plus a couple of behind the scenes shots that Dermot managed to get taken.
There were wind machines, backdrops, waterproof lights and Dermot throwing 150 buckets of water over all of the swimmers! He couldn’t move his back for days.
The girls had really good fun – they were encouraged to come up with some ideas for positions and shots beforehand. We were a bit sad that the diving pit at the Aquatics centre was stuck at a height that meant the girls couldn’t be photographed actually in the water, but they still managed to get some brilliant shots and have tons of fun!
At one point, Dermot got a little over excited throwing water over a little one and knocked her over! Its ok .. she laughed!
More examples of Simon’s work can be found over on his website – I wasn’t paid for this review, Millie had such a good time and we are so pleased with the pictures that I wanted to share them.
I’m joining this post in with Michelle from Mummy From The Heart’s #GivethanksThursday blog hop – Because, quite frankly< I'm am amazed and ever so grateful that I've got a daughter that gorgeous and that talented! Why not hope over to some of the other posts in the linky and see what lovely news people are feeling happy about.
Just wanted to pop in to wish you all a very Happy New Year from Casa Costello. We have started the year at a raring pace already – the girls have been in the pool for training and have a 5.30am start in the morning!
We did manage to fulfil one of our yearly rituals though with our infamous New Year’s Day walk – I think we had about 34 people joining in this year, on our 10th anniversary of doing the walk. We walk around 5 miles with a pub stop at a country inn about 3/4 of the way round. (We pretend that we just need the loo but really we are desperate for Guinness and Hot Chocolates by that point!)
This year was one of the soggiest we have ever had – Didn’t dampen our spirits but made for huge puddles in the pub and some of our gang sneaked off into cars (Wimps!) We even had steaming socks drying on the fire guard – Classy! The photos were only taken on my phone so are really blurry – Far too wet for the proper camera.
It was our turn to host the after walk party, which is all good fun! Strictly cupboard food to use up what we have in our cupboards and several glasses of Prosecco – The New Year’s Walk is the reason I could never do ‘Dry January’!
I’m happy to report that we all seem to be on the mend from our lurgy – Looking forward to getting back in the kitchen with tons of recipes I want to share.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for their support, time and comments over the past year – I’ve loved getting to know my internet family and look forward to more fun during 2015.
I do have a couple of New Year’s resolutions – They are hardly life changing but something to work towards – Have you made any? Do you have any New Year’s rituals like our walk?
Smile more – Lets spread the infectious smile and warm up those wintery days!
Reading Challenge – I’m plodding on (albeit rather slowly) with my challenge to read 500 books by the time I’m 50 – I’m really going to have to pick up the pace this year though, so set myself a challenge of 50 books during 2015.
Be on Time – I set myself this one every year! This year I mean it! I’m going to be on time with birthday cards & presents too – People who know me well will be howling laughing at this one!
Business – My youngest starts school in September *weeps* I’m really going to have to admit that I’m a grown up now and continue to grow my business – I love writing and cooking, watch out for more from me!
And of course there’s the endless ironing pile … I will be done by next Christmas. Honestly!
Happy New Year!
Its been rather quiet around here over Christmas but we are still alive – Just! All those plans for the Christmas break slowly unravelled as one by one we dropped to a virus (Is that the most annoying word in the dictionary?). I am just beginning week 3 which has seen several bed ridden days due to proper grown up ‘flu’ but am so happy to be coming out the other side.
Before the doom struck us, we did manage quite a few Christmassy events though, one of which was a visit to Winter Wonderland at Event City, Trafford Centre. I had seen adverts for Winter Wonderland but wasn’t sure exactly what it is. It truly is a wonderland though, the Uk’s largest Indoor Winter Wonderland – an indoor entertainment centre with a real life circus, a proper indoor fairground (with rides suitable for adults and children) AND the REAL Sooty show!!
If you are still in the mood for Christmas and a good day out but don’t want to brave the cold, I’d highly recommend the Winter Wonderland. So nice to visit a fairground that feels clean – We had no queues due it being a Monday evening but the organisers are very clever and arrange 2 sessions per day to try to stop everyone visiting at once.
The Sooty show was wonderful – We haven’t managed to visit the whole show yet so this was a really good taste whether Tara would enjoy it. She loved it! In fact, she’s still talking about it 2 weeks later. There was everything that the full show has – lots of audience participation, a chance to sit at the front and water being squirted … and of course the lovely Sue.
There was also a singing corner with the cast of Frozen – Amazing to see how so many kiddies were entranced – and rather sad to see how many grown men feel the need to get as close to the front as possible. Great organisation by the promoters ensured that every child got to meet the characters for a photo opportunity though. Tara is still a little unsure of Olaf as she said his mouth was open and he wanted to eat her. Brave snowman!
The girls went on so many rides – they lost count and had a brilliant time. Tara even found herself on a ride on her own – A bit of a hairy moment for Mum & Dad, we really thought she would change her mind half way though but she loved it.
Our first ride that we went on was right near the entrance – It was slightly deceiving that all ages could go on it. I thought it would be rather tame but oh no! Super speedy and such good fun! We all loved it.
The circus was incredible (apart from the juggler who kept dropping her rings!) – I could see Derm rolling his eyes as the Strong Men came on but even he had to admit they were ‘WoW’ Just fab.
Winter Wonderland at Event City is Open until this Sunday 4th January 2015 – Family tickets (2 adults, 2 children) are £60. For more details visit the website
Disclosure: We were given free entry in exchange for a review. We could write an honest review.
There’s something very magical about going to see Santa with your children. This is my 12th Christmas as a Mum and each year, we try to visit a different grotto. I’m not sure Santa recognises us at each event – I suspect that it might not ALWAYS be the ‘real’ Father Christmas
We were lucky enough to be invited to The Snowman and Snowdog Grotto in Barton Square, Trafford Centre last Sunday so off we trooped. I need to apologise at this point for the less than brilliant photos – We forgot the big camera, something to do with us having to set out at 7am to go to synchro training first.
You arrive at The Snowman Grotto to be met by one of the Elves (at least I think they were elves). Our slot was 12pm but there were a lot of other families milling about trying to book in (You book in at the main Trafford Centre Customer Service desk). The Elves were so patient and friendly – it would have driven me potty having to explain that they were fully booked until 4.30pm to so many people. An A frame board explaining which slot was next and how to register would have saved them so much hassle.
About 10 minutes before your time, you go in and queue inside – Another Elf welcomes you and gets the children all excited about Christmas – At this point you are given a gift of some Reindeer food for Christmas Eve (Anyone else got more reindeer food than real food in their house at the moment?).
Inside the grotto is a living room where an actor creates the atmosphere, telling the story of the Snowman and Snowdog with the aid of a massive video screen. Children sit on the floor and adults on benches. The younger kids were enthralled and its not too long (about 10-15 mins) for anyone who feels a little bit old (Your 12 year old for example!)
I thought this was going to be it but then the magic continues with a visit to Santa – At this point my children decide to ask for a real life monkey and 2 hamsters – Has anyone else heard that Santa isn’t doing livestock this year?! Santa was lovely and his room is great – complete with yet another friendly Elf!
You can have your picture taken with Santa and then go to choose your print if you like it.
After the Grotto experience, the fun can continue with a ride on the traditional carousel and plenty of other little stalls – Kangaroo Burger anyone?
To finish the afternoon, we tucked into a huge Cadwalladers’ Ice-Cream Sundae and a huge Mocha! The experience was so much better than we thought it was going to be – Our girls were really pleased with their gifts from Santa (who incidentally agreed with me that perhaps a real life monkey might not be possible this year but a cuddly one might be better still!)
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t eat cake EVERy day in our house. We do try to have a mix of good, healthy & nutritious food – especially this week in the run up to the National Synchro competition, when 50% are suffering with sore throats!
I have been asked to share a favourite #HealthyTreat recipe by Rennie. One in which contains as many natural ingredients as possible. When I think about eating healthily, I automatically want to make the food as tasty as possible – The last thing I want is for my mind to start thinking ‘diet’ and therefore ‘hungry’. I’m actually sharing 2 of my tastiest meals both of which contain spice for the ultimate in taste explosion.
I’m a big believer that what we eat past massively to how we feel. If I sense my girls are a bit ‘inside out’, out come the good, healthy recipes. I’m convinced that children’s behaviours and sleep are hugely affected by what they have eaten.
Walnut Crusted Cod with Spicy Puy Lentils
|Prep time||15 minutes|
|Cook time||45 minutes|
|Total time||1 hour|
|Meal type||Lunch, Main Dish|
|Misc||Child Friendly, Serve Hot|
- 3-4 Cod Fillets (Depending on size of fillets - Sometimes we get 5 small fillets out of this recipe)
- 50g Walnuts (Crushed)
- 2 tablespoons Wholemeal Breadcrumbs
- 8 Basil Leaves (Finely Chopped)
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- Ground Black Pepper
- 200g Puy Lentils (Rinsed in cold water and drained)
- 600ml Vegetable Stock
- 1 Red Pepper (Chopped into small diced cubes)
- 2 Sticks of Celery (Chopped into small cubes)
- 1 Red Chilli (Finely Chopped)
- 5 Small Tomatoes (Chopped into small chunks - No need to deseed)
- 1 juice Lemon
|Walnut Crusted Cod|
|Preheat the oven to 180C and line an oven tray with parchment paper.|
|Mix the Walnuts, Breadcrumbs and half of the basil leaves in a small bowl. Add a grind of black pepper.|
|Add the Olive Oil and stir through until the nut mixture is covered with the oil - It will still be crumbly|
|Press the nut mixture firmly on top of the Cod and bake for 35 minutes - the nut mixture should be just starting to turn golden and the cod still flaky|
|Add the puy lentils to a pan (no lid needed) and pour over the stock. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for 25 minutes - They should be soft but still have a slight crunch texture|
|Add the celery to the lentils and allow to cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Add the pepper & chilli and continue cooking|
|Just before you are ready to serve, add the tomatoes and basil and stir through until heated|
|Serve in a bowl with the Cod on top and add the lemon juice at the last minute|
My other #HealthyTreat recipe I want to share is one of my beloved soups – Just because you are trying to eat healthily doesn’t mean you need to eat watery soups. I get the illusion of a creamy soup by adding coconut milk which makes for some healthy luxury. Again, I add spice with a whole chilli (half if you want it very mild) and some cumin, which is my spice of the moment!
Spicy Cumin Sweet Potato Soup
|Prep time||10 minutes|
|Cook time||24 minutes|
|Total time||34 minutes|
|Meal type||Lunch, Snack, Soup|
|Misc||Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot|
- 3 Large Sweet Potatoes (Peeled and chopped into cubes)
- 200g Butternut Squash (Peeled and chopped into cubes)
- 1 stick Celery (Chopped)
- 1 Red Chilli (Finely Chopped)
- 1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Veg Stock Powder
- 500ml Water
- 1 tin Coconut Milk
- Pepper & Parsley to garnish
I use my soup maker to make this speedy soup however it is just as easy to make in a pan. Soften the veg, add the spices and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes. Blend using an electric whisk and finally add the coconut milk!
|Put the Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, Chilli, Cumin powder, Celery, Stock & Water into your soup maker and cook on a smooth setting|
|Add the coconut milk at the end of cooking and either stir or whizz together to make sure fully combined|
|Serve immediately with a sprinkling of black pepper, sprig of parsley for decoration and some fresh crusty wholemeal bread|
This post has been supported by Rennie®, but all thoughts are my own. I was reimbursed for any ingredients used in the making of this recipe. The recipe is an original CasaCostello recipe. I am entering the Walnut Crusted Cod recipe into a competition to win a variety of prizes offered by Rennie.