Getting creative with Minions at Tesco

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

One of the brilliant things about being a mum is being able to suggest random activities when they take your fancy. No-one blinks an eyelid when you suggest making fun stuff if you say you’re doing it with your kids. If I’m honest, I was always making fun stuff even before the children arrived but lets keep that quiet, eh?

Its fair to say Minions are BIG NEWS in our house – There’s so much Minion stuff around in the shops that we seldom come back without a Minion themed item. Even better are the after school trips to our local Tesco, purely to buy fun Minion stuff.

We were recently asked to show off our favourite supermarket and undertake a ‘fun shop’. No problem! Our Tesco is HUGE! I think it was the largest in Europe when it opened about 5 years ago. There’s so much variety and tons of special offers. We were actually in there last week and Tara asked about buying all the Minion stuff in the world so I promised her we would go back in a couple of days …Here’s what we found:

Minion Tins Tesco

We bought some really cute Minion Tins and filled them with Minion Eyes (also known as Sultanas & White Chocolate Chips). Love this cheap after-school snack that the girls just devour!

Minion Eye Balls After School Snack

We also hit the Minion stationery and party aisle…

Minion Stationery Party Aisle

and made Minion Cup Holders!

Minion Cup Holders

But as with any fun project, there must always be food involved. So we made some Easy-Assemble Minion Cookies:

Easy Assemble Minion Cookies

What you need:

  • 1 packet of round Shortbread Cookies
  • 1 pack of yellow fondant icing
  • 1 pack of black fondant icing
  • White Chocolate Chips
  • Cool boiled water
  • Equipment: Rolling Pin, paintbrush, straw, kitchen knife ( a child’s one will do if kids are making these), scissors


  • Roll out the yellow icing and cut out into circles
  • Paint the back of the icing with the cool boiled water and attach to the top of the cookie
  • Roll out a pea sized amount of black icing into a circle & stick to the yellow icing
  • Roll out a small amount of black icing and cut into thin strips – attach either side of the black circle
  • Insert one white chocolate chip into the black dot
  • Cut the end of the straw in half to make a smile shape and insert into the yellow icing

Minion Biscuits

As you can see, we had a ball. We loved getting creative and having fun and obviously eating what we had made afterwards. Who knows, our Minion tablecloth might still be on when we eat Christmas Dinner!


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

An Evening with Paul Rankin #Saveoursausage

Sausages crushed potatoes onion/mushroom gravy

My favourite blogging events are definitely the ones that involve food and my kids. I love nothing better than my children benefiting from the work I do here. Last week, I got to spend some one on one time with middle daughter, Violet at the Great John Street Hotel in Manchester for a lovely evening with Paul Rankin. You will most probably remember Paul from Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook fame or maybe if you are a bit more high brow, you will have visited his restaurants, Roscoe & Cayenne.

Well Paul is now on a mini tour of the UK, promoting his love of his own brand of sausages, the Rankin Selection of pork sausages. Our blogging event was all about these sausages – from the sausage roll canapés on arrival to the heartily wonderful, sausages, mash & onion gravy sit down meal later on.

Meeting Paul Rankin #saveoursausage

Paul and his team opened the event in what I can only describe as, good old fashioned Irish friendliness. We were given a warm welcome, Paul was very modest when described as a ‘celebrity chef’ From what I can remember he called himself, “A man on the telly that can cook”. He introduced his brand and love of sausages – we were there to #saveoursausage! He recognises that people want comfort food, families like to sit down to a good old feed and flavours must be simple and honest. His sausages are all made from either GB or Irish pork and must contain 50% pork meat.

There was fun for the kids too, a good natured game very similar to Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook where we answered impossibly hard questions about … sausages of course! And of course, there were prizes for everyone – Sweeties for the kids and the cutest tiny frying pan for the grown ups.

Violet Paul Rankin #saveoursausage

Paul shared his secrets of how he likes to cook sausages – He prefers to fry them, which feels alien to me. I fried the sausages below and served them to Mr C who honestly commented on how nice they were. Paul told us his tip of making onion gravy – Apparently we should be sweating the onions down for 45 minutes!

I’ve tried to follow his tips when I made my onion & mushroom gravy(see photo at top of page):

Ingredients: Serves 2
1 Small Onion (finely chopped)
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 large mushromms (chopped small)
150ml Vegetable Stock
Black pepper

In a small frying pan, sweat down the onion using 1 tbsp vegetable oil for at least 10 minutes until transparent. This should be on a really low heat – the onions should not be browning too much.
Add the balsamic vinegar and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, vegetable stock & pepper – stirring for another 5-10 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Paul Rankin SAusages

Many thanks to Tots100 for the opportunity to attend the evening. Rankin Sausages are currently being sold for a promotion price of £1.75 in leading supermarkets (Pack of 8).

My question to you for today is … who would you like to share Sausages & Mash with?

Happy Healthy Halloween with Aldi

Melon Witch carving Halloween Healthy Display

You wouldn’t believe the laughing we have done tonight over our Halloween display. Aldi contacted us, setting us the challenge of a alternative Halloween display to carving a pumpkin. We’re always up for a challenge so got our thinking caps on. Our brief was to keep healthy, use Aldi Fruit & Veg as creatively as possible.

I was even chuckling as I pottered around Aldi earlier today – A lot quicker and safer than carving a pumpkin. We used a potato peeler to scoop out holes for the nose and eyes and I cut out a mouth. I lightly scraped the dark melon to reveal the light underneath. We made the carrot ‘nose’ slightly crooked by peeling it into a point on an angle. Our witch’s teeth are cheese squares and we complete her makeover with a blueberry mole.

If you need an even quicker Halloween display, we give you the Melon Cat!

Halloween Melon Cat Carving

Aldi are celebrating the alternative Halloween by listing their favourite, creative blogs using Fruit & Veg as Halloween displays. What would you use instead of a pumpkin?

Melon Witch Halloween

Disclosure: We were sent Aldi vouchers to cover the cost of our Halloween project

Blackpool Tower Review

We live just under an hour away from Blackpool but have never really done the tourist spots. I managed a well-known fast food restaurant for a summer season in 1997 and if I tell you having my tonsils out was the highlight of that year, then you get an idea of why I didn’t rush back.

Fast forward 18 years (OMG!) and 3 children later. I’ve been asked to visit various Blackpool attractions several times but one email stood out. We were just back from our summer hols, My birthday was looming, Dermot was working and 2 children were desperate to go. (Eldest was swimming in Oxford) So I said yes, we would go and experience all that is Blackpool Tower.

I took my mum – well after all, she should be celebrating my birthday too – she did the hard work! We arrived at Blackpool Station after a really packed train journey (Blackpool is obviously a lot more popular than I gave it credit for).

I’m not going to pretend that walking along Blackpool Prom is going to be high culture – You will see all sorts of sights. Its great for people watching – Tara was most impressed to see a real life Minion!

When Tara met the Minion of her dreams

A photo posted by Helen Costello (@casacostello) on

So we arrived at Blackpool Tower – Straight away we were impressed. It is so much more magnificent inside than you think it is going to be. A real bustling atmosphere but highly efficient and friendly counter staff.

We were given Tower tickets for the day which gave us access to all 7 attractions – How did I not know before that there were 7?!


We knew we wanted to go to the Circus and up the Tower and anything else would be a bonus. Our first stop was the Blackpool Circus as the next showing was in 20 minutes. I was expecting a short performance but it is actually a full 2 hour show! My advice to anyone visiting the circus would be not to sit in the main seating area- this gets really packed but there are plenty of other, more comfortable seats all around the arena with just as good, if not better, a view. We had plenty of room to relax and didn’t disturb anyone as we hopped up and down to go the toilets (Which are very clean & well stocked in case you are wondering)

The performers themselves are just incredible – There were acrobats, clowns (not scary or spooky), Spanish Dancers and Tight Rope Walkers (which were so phenomenal you have to watch between your fingers). Me & my Mum loved the Dress changing sequence – the girls couldn’t get enough of the end surprise (I’m not going to spoil it for you if you are intending to go soon).

Just brilliant!

Blackpool Tower circus


Just the circus alone, would have been worth spending the money on the ticket but we came out and decided to go to the top of the Tower. It was a completely miserable day so we knew it would be wet and blustery as the photo shows.

Before going up in the lift (and then a LOT of stairs) you watch a 4d video all about the history of the tower and Blackpool today. We were also REALLY brave and stood on the glass floor when we went up!

Top of Blackpool Tower


OH wow, I completely loved being in the ballroom (The girls were not quite as thrilled but enjoyed it all the same). We managed to get in when the live Wurlitzer was being played – How amazing that on a wet, Wednesday afternoon there are so many people dressed in full ballroom outfits dancing. Whether you are a professional, a learner or just someone who wants a dance with their kiddies – the dance floor was full for every dance.

I’d love to go back for afternoon tea in the ballroom – I’ve since applied to watch Strictly live when it comes from the Ballroom but it looks unlikely we’ll win now as the date gets closer.

Blackpool Tower Ballroom

The other attractions that we didn’t have time to visit were:

Jungle Jim’s Indoor Adventure Playground (The queue seemed quite big for this, possibly due to it being a wet day)
Blackpool Tower Dungeons
Blackpool Sea Life Centre
Madame Tussauds

Your Blackpool Tower ticket is valid for 90 days which is a great bonus if you get chance to go back. There are no circus performances on a Friday. The Tower remains open throughout the year. Entry to the Tower opens at 10am. Closing times and special events alter throughout the year and can be found on the Blackpool Tower website.

Tower Tickets are usually:

£35 per adult (£30 when bought online)
£28.50 per child (£25.50 when bought online)

Disclosure: We were given our Tower tickets for the purpose of us undertaking the review – We had a brilliant day and highly recommend a visit!

Toytopia Liverpool Half Term Toy Fair & Giveaway

Win Tickets to the UK's Biggest Totally Interactive Toy Fair - Liverpool Exhibition Centre 24-26 October 2015

Can you believe we are nearly at half term already? Tara’s first half term of school already over (there’ll be more about how we’ve got on soon). Its fair to say we’ve got a busy old half term planned – I’m in Glasgow at the start for Scottish Synchro Nationals (Eek!) plus 5 days of training over in Leeds. We are squeezing in time for a trip to Toytopia in the Liverpool Exhibition Centre one day too though which we are really excited about.

Described as the UK’s only toy fair (Saturday 24th -Monday 26th October) that promises to be truly magical & completely hands on – the girl’s won’t believe their eyes. I’m expecting those Christmas lists to be rather long at the end of the fair. In addition to seeing all the best ‘must have’ toys this year, we will be thrilled by Live Shows, entertainment and Dressing Up (I’ll let you know how I get on with that!) I’m talking having a go on the mini train, meeting the Sylvanian Families – I’m also really looking forward to the sculptures on display by the fantastic people from LEGO.

There’s an Art & Crafts corner where everyone is encouraged to have a go. Take part in the trampoline drop seat challenge or conquer the Giant Inflatable Assault course – You definitely won’t hear yourself saying ‘Don’t touch!’

Here’s the Floor Plan for the event …

Toyota Floor Plan - Who will be there?

So have I sold it to you? Well, you can come too. I’m delighted to be hosting a giveaway for a family ticket to Toytopia – All you need to do is complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Don’t forget to leave a comment at the bottom of this post rather than in the Rafflecopter widget for it to be a valid entry. There’s quite a few ways of gaining extra entries so go for your life! I’ll be at the show on the Monday 26th Oct so if you decide to go that day, shout – I’d love to meet you!

Now for the technical terms & conditions:

    • Open to UK Entries only
    • Giveaway closes at 11.59PM Monday 19th October – This is really soon!
    • I will contact you on Tuesday 20th to ask for your postal details – Your tickets will be posted out asap.
    • Family ticket is for up to 5 people
    • Winner also get a role play pack of their choice from Wannabees

If you are unfortunately not the winner, I do have a 25% discount code off tickets – Simply head to the Ticket Quarter website and enter TOYTOPIA511 in the section for promotional code.
One ticket price for adults and children – Toytopia general admission is £15 pre-show when using a promotional code – TOYTOPIA511
Full price tickets £20. All the entertainment for the day is included in the ticket price!

Best of luck – Hope to see you there!

Toytopia Toy Fair LiverpoolOctober 2015

a Rafflecopter giveaway

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Interplay Snow Flake Charm Jewellery Review and Giveaway

Interplay Snow Flake Jewellery Craft Set Giveaway

Where did my baby go? One minute she was a pre-schooler depending on me for everything, the next she is sat making jewellery and doing a pretty good job of it!

Its always a gamble trying toy sets – particularly ones that could result in a lot of hard work like jewellery making – We were really pleased with the Interplay Snow Flake Jewellery Craft Set though. It comes in quite a small box that seemed quite underwhelming – I have to admit the box was hanging around for a few days before I had chance to get Tara organised with it. I suggested that Millie (age 13) might like to open it and help Tara out and luckily she agreed.

They set to work opening the box – First impressions? Wow, there are so many beads and trinkets. The box says there is enough to make 10 pieces of enchanted jewellery but there seems so much more. The quality of the snow flake charms is great – they are really pretty and seem less tacky than other children’s jewellery sets we have had.

Children's Jewellery Making Set

Millie had to help Tara with cutting the elastic for her bracelets and tying a knot in the end but after that, she was all systems go! Its her first real time of doing grown up crafts on her own and she loved it. She’s happily modelling her bracelet and went straight on to make more.

jewellery craft set bracelet

The Interplay Jewellery Craft Set has a RRP of £7.99 which is incredible value – I’ll definitely be stocking up on a few of these for Christmas presents. Don’t be fooled by the small box – this is a set that can provide many happy hours of play. (For ages 4-7 years)

Jewellery making set

I’m very happy to be able to offer a Snow Flake Jewellery Craft Set to the one lucky reader. To enter the giveaway, please follow the Rafflecopter instructions – Please leave your comment at the end of this post rather than on the Rafflecopter widget to be a valid entry. Open to UK entries only – The giveaway will end at 11.59PM on Tuesday 20th October. After this time, a winner will be selected at random then informed as soon as possible – The winner will be asked to give contact details for Interplay to be able to send their prize. Best of luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We were sent an Interplay Snow Flake Jewellery Set for the purpose of this review – All opinions are Tara’s & Mine (Millie said the set was exquisite – She may have been having a teenage moment!)

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Pretty Green Photography meets The Costellos

Pretty Green Photography Logo

I want to tell you about a brilliant business local to us in St Helens, Pretty Green Photography. St Helens readers may already be familiar with the name but if you are near enough to travel to St Helens, I urge you to pop to Pretty Green. Husband & Wife team, Bill & Sarah started their business earlier in 2015 after a lifetime of teaching photography. Their studio is literally around 2 corners from our house so we were delighted to be invited up to their new premises.

Pretty Green Photography Knowsley Road, St Helens

Bill kindly volunteered to take family shots of us – Nanny Val’s birthday was approaching so we arranged that all 6 grandchildren would visit Pretty Green one Saturday morning as a treat for Nanna. Was Bill up to the challenge? Definitely Yes!

As soon as we walked into the reception area, we were greeted in a friendly and informal way – Just perfect when you are trying to control 6 children. Sarah is a natural at the meet & greet – The kettle was soon on and the kids played happily in the small play area. Bill & Sarah encourage families to feel relaxed and roam around before moving into the back studio.

And so off we went! Walk through the kitchen area and you will see the most amazing VW Camper wallpaper that I am coveting for our house! We loved the changing room/prop room – Little Sonny in particular got very familiar with a feather boa.

Pretty Greeen Photography Dressing Room

I loved how easily Bill and Sarah changed props – Out came a furry rug, then came a GORGEOUS chaise long! Even Nanna got stuck in and was snapped with her 6 pests grandchildren

Our photoshoot took around an hour – We chatted, we laughed, we even danced (Bill puts all sorts of music on to encourage the kids to just go for it) We got our photos within a few days and honestly had trouble choosing between them. They were all brilliant, and just what we were after – We are intending on putting a huge canvas on our living room wall of the 3 girls as soon as we get a rug to match.

Canvas Pretty Green

Bill & Sarah have totally embraced their studio – They offer all sorts of services – From the traditional wedding packages to family shots out in the park. If Cake smash pictures are your thing, well, Pretty Green are your people! Dog shots, Passports Pics, Newborn Gorgeousness, Starting school & alternative nursery/school arrangements – I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Pretty Green Family Pictures

Pretty Green Photography can be found at their website or at their Facebook page

Disclosure: We were invited to take part in a photoshoot in exchange for a fair and honest review – We really loved it! Thank you :-)

Crazy Children Photography

Becoming Friends of Sylvanian Families

There’s something unexpected happening since Tara started school (She loves it by the way!) I did feel a bit sorry that her toys would start to become unloved and she wouldn’t be interested in them anymore, once she started school. I just don’t remember what it was like when M & V started but I was in the midst of newborn baby/pregnancy at the time. Our house hasn’t become a toy graveyard though – Happily she is enjoying her toys more than ever when she comes home. Its like she’s been stimulated and wants more than just plonking herself in front of the TV. Her creative side has really come out and it is fabulous to see.

It has been helped, though, by the arrival of a package from Sylvanian Families – I’ve talked before about how popular they are in our house. Even Millie got involved with this package – All photos below are taken by the resident 13 year old!

Sylvanian Bunnies

We are happy to announce that we are officially Friends of Sylvanian Families and will be working together over the coming months – The girls are delighted. I’ll be bringing you news of new Sylvanian Family products to celebrate Sylvanian turning 30 this year – They are lasting well!

Friends of Sylvanian Families

We already have quite a selection of Sylvanian Families that I hope the girls continue to use – Our Sylvanian Grand Hotel is a great backdrop for all the newer products to mix into. Our newest members of the family are the Dappledown Rabbit Family – Did you know that each character has a back story and an introduction to their characters on the Sylvanian Families website? Too cute! You can also find out more about the characters in the new Sylvanian Families 2015 magazine.

Dappledown Rabbit Sylvanian Family

Over the past couple of days I’ve been telling people about my Sylvanian Family (I’m just riveting company as you can imagine!) – I’ve been amazed by how many people with grown up children still have their Sylvanian collections in the loft. I love that they can’t bear to give them away – There’s must be whole villages of Sylvanian characters packed away with the promise of future grandchildren playing with them. Have you got any? (Sylvanians not grandchildren!)

Sylvanian Families Car

And so there’s my news for today – There’ll be plenty coming up over the coming months. For now though, I leave you with a Bunny Eating a Bun. It’s all go in this house, I tell you!

Sylvanian Bunny Eating a Bun

We're going on an adventure