Chocolate Piñata Cake

piñata birthday cake

EDIT: The story behind the Chocolate Piñata Cake …Maybe not the neatest or best decorated cake I’ve ever made but certainly one of the quickest. I’d made the cakes on Friday morning (2 shallow and one deep in case you are interested) then I had 15 minutes to decorate on the Friday afternoon before we went out to celebrate Millie turning 12. It was at this point I discovered I had no icing-sugar – so I used powdered Fondant Icing (I’m thinking its nearly the same) to make the buttercream.

I cut out a circle in the middle of the deep middle tier and poured the chocolates in – Warning! This type of cake used LOADS of sweets. I used 2 packs of Mint Aero Bubbles, 2 packs of maltesers, 1 pack of Chocolate M& Ms and 2 packs of White Chocolate Buttons. To decorate around the outside I used Maltesers, More White Chocolate Buttons and a packet of Jelly Babies. This is not the cake for dieters!

Next time I make a Piñata cake, I will think more about the outside decoration but for such a quick cake, I’m rather chuffed!

There’s still some left in the fridge – want some?

Questions!

giant question mark

Its day of questions … Can you help with any of these from The Costello house?

From Violet: How does the internet work?

I thought I’d start with a harmless but difficult one – She means as a whole, not how does our house get it?

From Tara: How can I get a tail to come from out my bum?

Erm….?

From Me: Why did the man at David Lloyd earlier today, think it was ok to shave his chest poolside then jump in the pool to rinse down?

Eew!

From Me Again: Why did the lifeguard sit there watching him??

Clueless.

From Derm: How after a massive swim, an afternoon of playing and an evening of traipsing about everywhere, can Tara STILL not go to sleep at 10.30PM?

I fear this is one of the mysteries of life and that if we solved it, we would earn millions.

From Me: Why did we think to put ONE trainer up in the loft in the Hand-me-down box?

Anybody want a used Size 11 Child’s Lacoste Trainer?? A Left One

From Derm: Do we put the charity clothes in the Air Ambulance or the Cancer Research bag?

How does one choose??

Self Preservation when Self Catering with Kids – #MatalanSummerTips

tips for self catering holidays

Its that lovely time of year again, our caravan has arrived home! All ready to be cleaned and filled to the gills for our many summer adventures.

You may remember last week, I was involved in a Twitter Party all about sharing your holiday tips? Well, Matalan have asked me to share some of my tips for travelling with kids. I’ve loved every single holiday we have had since having the girls but I do admit its a military operation before we go.

For us, self catering works best – whether we are in the caravan or in a cottage, in this country or abroad. I’m going to share today just some of the things we do that make our holidays work. A lot of our rituals save money, we still have treats when we are away but there’s no way we could go away as often or for as long as we do, if we weren’t a little bit careful.

The Journey

  • Consider night-time travel – We have a 6 hour journey before we even get to our ferry for our abroad holiday. We have tried setting out in the morning but the kids are soon bored. For us, a 2am start works so much better – The kids are excited but then fall back asleep after about an hour. Bliss!
  • Food – No matter what time of day it is, Violet will still get hungry. I go NOWHERE without an emergency bag of food and this cake.
  • Activity packs – I collect notebooks, puzzles, party bag items throughout the year so I can drip feed the kids with new activities along the way.
  • Don’t bother getting them changed – Much comfier to travel in PJ’s and change at a service station when you are nearly there – Did you know service stations are ultra exciting for children?!
  • Have your plan sorted for what/where you are eating on the first night – This may be your night for a pizza. The kids will be happy and you can unpack in peace.

The Clothes

  • Vest tops are my staple item for all 3 kids (and myself) on holiday – Perfect with shorts, cheap, come in all colours and can be dressed up with a posh skirt and a necklace for nighttime.
  • Take a tiny pot of handwash – You may be in denial that you will need to do any washing at all when you are away but there is nothing like a stinky towel or tea-towel to make you yearn to do some washing!
  • Flip Flops – I’ve never been away yet without one of the kids breaking their flip flops – I take at least 5 pairs each!

The Food

  • Jars of curry sauce! Cannot live without them. So quick and homely – and you can always bring them back home if you don’t use them!
  • Try to eat like you do at home – We love experimenting with food when we are away, but we have to admit the kids behave and sleep better if they eat similarly to what they eat at home most days.
  • Bags of rice – Life is too short to be measuring out portions of rice on holiday!
  • Take your own ice-pops – This is my biggie!! Saves an absolute fortune on ice-creams. We have bought 100 for £3 before now. You can freeze them as you need them and at that price, who cares if the kids have 10 a day? Keeps them hydrated too!
  • Tupperware and melon – Our must for the beach. If its just too hot to eat anything else, a whole melon chopped up gets devoured like we are vultures.
  • Take your own spices & sauces – Chilli powder, mixed herbs, stock cubes – Take up hardly any room but make a meal so much better. We took our own bottle of HP sauce last year – we could have sold it at $5 a squirt judging by people’s reactions when they walked past us having bacon butties in a morning.
  • Save your carrier bags throughout the year – Use as rubbish bags. You will need them!

The Journey Home

  • Keep 2 spare outfits clean for the journey – you know the kids will spill something on them just before you set off!
  • A stash of sweets and a new magazine/toy (bought before your hols) for that last minute tantrum as they get in the car home – You will thank me!

 

Disclosure: Sponsored Post

 

One Direction Bento Box

One Direction packed lunch bento box

It seems the craze for Bento boxes is getting bigger and bigger. For people new to Bento, they are packed lunches. You are ‘supposed’ to have a variety of smaller items rather than just a buttie and an apple. I say ‘supposed’ to because really, who can dictate what you should do with a packed lunch?!

Until now, Violet has been a school dinner but as usual for the summer term, she likes to swap to packed lunches. Our Bento box (Lakeland Lunch Box) is quite small for an adult but perfect for Vi.

It was her 8th birthday yesterday so I wanted to give her what I know she will like. Birthdays are not a day to mess around with – You don’t try new food on a birthday. I’ve heard that’s the law.

As with most other 8yo’s, Violet thinks she loves 1D. (I’m not convinced she knows many of the songs but I’ll play along -just as long as I don’t have to go and watch them!). So it was decided that our first Bento box would be One Direction themed box.

Thank heavens for B&M (Are they a national company? Are you now thinking – what on earth is B&M? Think Pound shop but better value) – I came across 1D biscuits.

We haven’t been shopping yet since being away in the Lakes last week so I admit to the selection being rather minimal – We went with Harry Styles Tuna & Cucumber wraps with a Zayn-ey (sorry) Salad Cream type dressing.

Chopped Strawb-louis (groan!) and Chopped Grapes finished it off.

The piece de resistance has to be the little heads on cocktail sticks – which according to Violet, ALL THE GIRLS wanted one! Result! I cut their heads out of newspapers and sellotaped onto little pieces of card with a stick in the middle. Easy Peasy.

I’ll have to give future Bento boxes a little more thought but for a first time, Vi’s reaction was brilliant.

For more Bento box ideas, the fabulous Eats Amazing is the guru – She’s been in the National Press and everything!

The Day we went to Sarsons’ Cookery School with Nick Coffer

Violet & vinegar at Sarsons Cookery School

I’ve been hopping on trains up and down the country like a mad woman during the past month. Most of the trips have been to take or pick up Millie from England training but a couple of weeks ago, me & Violet went on an adventure all of our own.

We had been invited by Sarsons vinegar to spend the day in their cookery school learning about different recipes that all use vinegar in them. The event was hosted by Nick Coffer, a lovely man that I met at the beginning of my blogging journey. Nick’s book, My Daddy Cooks is one of our most used – His second book, The After School Cookbook is due out at the end of this week.

There were 6 bloggers and our children altogether. We were encouraged to get our kids as hands on as possible. We made tons of food all using vinegar … and yes, we had chips too!

Oven Baked Chips with Sarsons

Oven Baked Chips with Sarsons

The pavlova – One of my favourite bakes. I tend to use white wine vinegar when I have made my pavlovas in the past but surprisingly found parsons works just as well. (you can’t actually taste the vinegar!) We were encouraged to use various fruits but this being a child friendly day, I decided to let Violet have control – We ended up with just strawberries in the shape of a V!

pavlova with strawberries

One of my favourite recipes ever were the Breaded Salmon Bites that we made – Oh my goodness, I will never buy fish fingers again. I can’t believe how easy and quick it is to make your own – I also used shop bought breadcrumbs for the first time ever too. I know, where have I been?! (Recipe at bottom of this post)

Sarsons fish bites

I’ve mentioned before how much I love making popcorn – We even made some at the cookery school – with salt ‘n’ vinegar! Try it – its gorgeous!

salt and vinegar popcorn

Cutest freckles ever on this chef!

Cutest freckles ever on this chef!

 

Photo courtesy of Pete Jones

We had a brilliant time – Its not often I get a complete day to spend with Violet – the curse of being a middle child. She was a joy to be with – we headed off into London after the event for an all important trip to Harrods Toy Department and went home with the most grotesque doll as a momento of our day. I love the picture below – we were really into the cooking zone – I think Violet is definitely going to be involved with food in some way, when she is older – Her idea of heaven in lying in bed, watching baking programmes on her iPad!

Sarsons_170514-158 Photo courtesy of Pete Jones

Breaded Fish Fingers

Serves 2-3
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 3 minutes
Total time 8 minutes
Allergy Egg, Fish, Wheat
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Hot
By author Nick Coffer
Super crispy and delicious homemade breaded salmon fish bites.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Salmon Fillets (Cut into 2-3cm chunks)
  • 100g Breadcrumbs or Matzo meal
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Beaten Egg
  • 3-4 Sun-dried tomatoes (Finely Chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons Plain Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable oil

Directions

Mix together the breadcrumbs and the lemon zest in a bowl. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and mix everything together with a fork.
Place the beaten egg and the flour into 2 separate bowls
Dip the salmon first into the egg, then the flour and then the breadcrumbs mixture - make sure the whole piece is covered.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the salmon pieces
Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes until golden & crispy all over and cooked on the inside.
Serve immediately with lashings of Sarsons!

Linking up with the lovely Pippa from Red Rose Mummy and herWhat’s Happened linky:

What's Happened? What's Happening?

Crime & Underpants

curly haired Tara

When you read on, you’ll know why I couldn’t put a photo of today’s incident up!

Now that’s a catchy title? Nope, this isn’t a recipe containing undies *ponders if they would work?*. This is a post to give you just a little window into our world this week.

I try to add the odd snippet of info into my recipe posts but every now and then, a week comes along that necessitates a post all of its own.

Let’s start with Monday Morning – always a joy. Not especially when you open the front door to find your car and your Mother-in-laws have been broken into. No sign of entry, just a holy mess where everything has been ransacked. And a missing purse. Don’t judge, we ALL forget things in our car sometimes?

The Police arrive most puzzled that the car we are adamant we locked (we remember doing it when I got home from Bristol at 10.30 the night before) has been opened. Before long, it appears that 11 other neighbours on our cul-de-sac have also had their locked cars broken into.

We are a veritable Wisteria Lane. Mr PC looked positively bemused when we explained that EVERYONE knows each other in our street and we have a Facebook page to prove it.

The long and short of it is, they caught the buggers. Yay, Police! They have returned some property that they found in their house but not unfortunately the iPod that I told the police was white – how was I supposed to know its black?

Mr Criminal has been sentenced today. He has a curfew and has to stay in his house (probably listening to my iPod) between the hours of 8pm and 7am. Bet that made him think twice *cough*

And so onto other news …

The Jehovah’s Witnesses were around today. They mustn’t think we have had enough uninvited guests around our way this week.

Tara beat me to answering the door. Dressed ONLY in her knickers.

For once the JW’s bade a hasty retreat after looking at toddler T strutting her undies.

It was only when I got in the house, I realised she had 3 Happy Land figures stuffed down her knickers.

Why? Because she says she’s a boy!

I. Give. Up.

I’m adding this post to the new look Wot So Funee – This week we are being hosted by Nicki from Stressy Mummy . I’m also somewhat big-headedly adding it to http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-may-15th-2014/#comments

Wot So Funee?Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

When Casa Costello visited Center Parcs, Whinfell

Family Holidays at Center Parcs

We are well known for a our love of holidays and equally well known for our love of Center Parcs. Even before we became Center Parcs Family Bloggers, we had spent several holidays both at Whinfell and Sherwood Firest. We were in no doubt that we would thoroughly enjoy our recent break but it was even better than we expected. Having 3 children of wide age ranges sometimes poses difficulties in what we can do all together but CP caters for us perfectly.

We got up to all sorts! I’ve made a short video of just some of the stuff we got up to …

Hair Braiding
This was number one on the girl’s lists of things to do. There was much discussion about which colours to have. The braids have lasted well over a week after we have got home (We are now experts on hiding the braids during school hours!)

Ten Pin Bowling
We weren’t quite sure how a 3 year old would get on but she loved it! She was so excited when we got in – the atmosphere with the blue lighting is fab. We had the sides up and could use the trolley to help Tara even more (To be honest, I could have done with a bit of help too!)

Bikes
They say you never forget how to ride a bike – It may be try but it didn’t stop me being awfully wobbly. All good entertainment for the girls (and the other holiday makers!) Tara had a truck which was brilliant for putting all our swimming kit in … and a minion!

Eating
There’s no excuse for going hungry at Center Parcs – I’ll be sharing another video of all the eateries we visited very soon.

Swimming
Well, we wouldn’t be us without a pool, would we? The girls spent HOURS on the rides … and I went on them too!! Mega brownies points for me. You could literally spend your whole holiday in the water park – its toasty and warm and there’s always something different to do. I think Me & Derm were the only people to be drinking tea in there though! You can take the people out of Ireland but …

After 10+ visits to Center Parcs, we’ve come across some of the more hidden activities that you may not know about. Here’s our tips for some of the extra treats you can find…

  • Free Children’s Disco – Every night in the Bowling Bar at 6Pm
  • The Swimming Pool is much quieter after 5Pm – Fabulous for evening swims when they dim the lights and no queues for the rides
  • Free WiFi in the main complexes
  • Later Opening hours in the shop – Open til 8PM most nights now
  • Most restaurants provide colouring kits for the children. Most also have play areas in them.
  • Hidden play area above Cafe Rouge (You’ll be amazed!)
  • Toilets have steps for toddlers- Its the simple things that work best.
  • Hair Diffusers in the Accommodation – The ONLY place I have ever known to provide this!
  • Straighteners available for £1 a go in the Swimming Paradise (You can’t have 3 girls without thinking about hair … a lot!)
  • Cash Free wrist bands that can be used in the Swimming Paradise – also serve as your locker key and your lodge key. Amazing!
  • Bowling – You can say which people you want the bars on and which you don’t. And also change your mind half way through if you find out that you aren’t very good.

I could go on and on, but really I think you should just find out for yourselves. For more information about Activities at Center Parcs visit the website. One of the massive bonuses for me is that Whinfell don’t have frogs (massive phobia!). We’ve already talked about going back next year sometime.

I’ve got tons more to talk about our trip but for now, we would like to say a huge thank you to the team at Center Parcs.

 

Frozen Inspired Food – Marshmallow Olafs

frozen olaf food

It was a very exciting day for my children yesterday. Violet has never been the same since we took her to see the movie, Frozen just after Christmas. She has lived and breathed that film. Like a lot of children, she knows every word of every song. She spends many an hour ‘researching’ the film on the internet (YouTube!). She has waited and waited, and asked and asked near enough every day, ‘When is Frozen out on DVD?’ and yesterday was THE DAY!

Off she went to school with me promising to get the DVD (Nah, I’m not organised enough to pre-order it) and so off I tripped to the supermarket. I decided we would make a celebration of film night by having a Frozen inspired tea.

Here’s what I came up with – I’m pretty impressed with myself considering I only had an hour. Once Tara got the drift of what I was doing she was solo excited – I’ve never seen her jump up and down so much. Really cute!

I had seen on Pinterest, a few people have had Frozen parties and loved the idea of Olaf noses (Carrots!) so there was one dish.

olaf noses

We had snow topped pizza (Marguerita with some extra Mozzarella) cut into mountain shaped peaks.

My ultimate favourite (and the one that took the most time) has got to be the Marshmallow Olafs – 3 marshmallows stuck together with sugar glue. Matchmakers for arms. Mini chocolate drops for buttons and orange marzipan noses, I drew the mouth and eyes with edible pen. As you can see from the picture below, Tara was more than chuffed with her Olaf! God knows why, but all 3 girls changed into white onesies for the film – bit strange at 4pm in the afternoon but who am I to argue?

Frozen inspired food

Millie made us some paper snowflakes …

disney frozen food
We had snow topped popcorn (Freshly popped kernels with melted white chocolate mixed through it), Snow Mice, Snow topped Marshmallows (dipped in blue icing and edible sparkles), Blue shortbread cookies (which were vile – far too sweet)

frozen white chocolate mice

And best of all…Me & Derm had Chilli for tea (Get it?)

The girls had a ball and were high as a kite from all the sugar when Grandma came to visit as we had parent’s evening.

I think I earned some Mum Brownie points and I did it all without the help of gin!

Life as a Synchro Mum

synchronised swimming juniors

About to swim her solo at National Age Group comp 2013

2 years ago we set out on a journey that we had no idea would take over ours and Millie’s life. 2 years ago last week, Millie attended her first ever synchronised swimming lesson in Manchester. God knows why we thought it was a good idea to all troop off to Sale on a Saturday teatime, but off we went. M was soooo nervous but no word of a lie, within 10 minutes those eyes looked up at us on the viewers balcony, and we knew. We were going to be spending a LOT of time poolside!

Even then we didn’t have any concept of how life would change. I’ve mentioned Millie’s swimming on here several times but haven’t really wanted to go into it too much. I do all the proud mum stuff, but its her story really, not mine.

Within months, M was training between 5-7 times per week – sometimes we enforce a day off out of the water but you can bet your life there’s always some element of stretching, splits or dancing going on in her room.

10 months after starting synchro, M passed trials to be accepted onto the England Talent Squad which just blew our mind. She is also on the Development Squad for 2014 which makes us massively proud and makes her hugely happy.

This past weekend she went down to Sheffield to swim in the display at the #swim4Leukaemia fundraising event.

swim4leukaemia becky adlington

The Day Rebecca Adlington was lucky enough to meet the girls from Trafford synchro #swim4leukaemia

Here’s some of the stats of what 2 years in synchro has involved:

  • 74 Nose Pegs (with 20 more on order)
  • Approx 15 boxes of gelatine
  • 21 nights in Premier Inns
  • 250+ miles per week to training – This isn’t including the various trips to Leeds, Crystal Palace, Glasgow, Gloucester, Sheffield
  • 312 cups of coffee whilst spectating
  • 256 washed towels (ish)
  • 12 pairs of goggles
  • 9 Swimming Caps
  • 6 Sports Water Bottles
  • 17 Swimming Costumes
  • Millions of sequins
  • Even more tears (mostly mine)
  • milliearms

And its all been worth it! To see our nervous 9 year old turn into a confident, happy and ambitious 11 year old is fabulous. She works incredibly hard but also applies that to her school work. She gets digs from jealous girls who cannot deal with something ‘different’. She tells no-one in school what she is up to. She gets up at the crack of dawn to go training at weekends. She spends endless hours deciding on what music she would like to swim to next. She watches programmes whilst sat in the middle of the living room in split positions. She loves the girls she swims with – it doesn’t matter whether they are 10 or 18, they are all lovely.

Yes, its all been worth it – even today.

Today being the day that every synchronised swimmer gasped as they heard that Olympic funding for Team GB has been completely stopped.

Today the day that those young girls had their dreams and ambitions crushed.

Today being the day, that M went to bed asking what would all their hard work be for.

Today being the day, that the athletes that they are, decided to work even harder to get that funding back.

My Millie is one of those kids that we all talked about when we discussed the Legacy of 2012 – We can’t give up on those kids can we?

NB: Many Thanks to Martyn Bowes for permission to use the above swimming photos.

Food Technology – The start of a new era

There is great excitement in the Costello household this evening. Tomorrow sees the 11yo’s first ever practical Food Tech class (At school – obviously the 11 years that I’ve been trying to teach her in the kitchen don’t count!) She is beyond excited and has been rabbiting on about this day since Year 5 of primary school. No idea where she gets her obsession about food from. *cough*

I’ve had my instructions. I was given my shopping list. I have made her promise NEVER to be one of those kids that tells me at 10PM the night before that she needs 18 ingredients that we don’t have.

I can now reveal what they are making …what they had a 2 hour theory lesson to prepare for last week … what all the excitement is about … They are making (Cooking is far too strong a word for this…)

teaching children to cook

A HOT DRINK!!!

Be afraid Gordon Ramsey, be very afraid!

While I am freaking out slightly at the thought of her boiling a kettle (I know! Don’t judge) I’m still rather proud that she’s completely gone to town on her ingredients.

She’s an A* pupil all the way with this one.

Hot Chocolate

with Whipped Cream

With Sprinkles

With Marshmallows

With Gold Spray!

There’s my girl. Look forward to many more updates on the life and times of a school girl cookery lessons – Not least the week when they make trifle using Angel Delight instead of custard. I think the cat may eat that week’s installment ;-)