Autumn Picnics with #Vitapicnics

I’m going to let you into a secret – There’s a place I know. Its rather perfect. Don’t tell everyone – They’ll all want to go. If you’re thinking of setting out on an autumn picnic over the half term – you may want to think about going.

hell's mouth

Let me tell you about Hell’s Mouth (No, not the hole in my face that talks a bit too much – That’s a completely different type of Hell’s Mouth) A wonderful beach just near Abersoch – I’ve probably told you about it before. Perfect for surfing, perfect for walking, perfect for picnicking – Which is why I’m telling you about it.

vita coco kids

Vita Coco Kids have a campaign running this autumn to keep us picnicking. Just because the weather is a bit fresher doesn’t mean to say we can’t eat al fresco anymore. I’m all in favour of this idea and have been for years – We do outdoor day trips all year round – We are your forever optimistic picnickers – There’s not much a good coat and an umbrella can’t protect against.

Vita Coco want me to tell you all about our favourite picnic spot but shhh! remember to keep it quiet!

Let me introduce you to Hell’s Mouth …

FREE car park – This is a perfect spot for surfers so will spot some brilliant camper vans and maybe the odd half naked man getting into a wetsuit. Its a cross we all have to bear! Even better there is a tea van so if you finish your flask – there’s always a top up!

car park hell's mouth

There’s a sandy walk (about 200m) down to the beach – Good exercise but not too far and you are nicely warm by the time you reach the beach. Perfectly safe to let the kids walk on ahead.

walking to the beach

There’s plenty of waves for the active type – Disclaimer: This is Dermot and not me!

deem surfing abersoch

There’s even peace and tranquility (Maybe not if you take your 3 kids)

surf board beach wales

We don’t live on the doorstep of Abersoch – in fact, we have a good 2 1/2 hour drive to get there but it is well worth it. We quite often set out mid morning on a Sunday and don’t get back until late evening. We take an almighty picnic but it soen’t stop us devouring the chippy at Conwy on the way back.

Disclosure: We were sent a fabulous picnic set to encourage us to talk about our favourite picnic spot. Vita Coco Kids is fruit-flavoured Coconut Water using natural flavours, containing on average 20% less sugar and calories than other fruit juice drinks. I tested the drinks out on the kids without telling them that they were new and they went down really well. My 3yo loved the mango & pineapple flavour (Apple & blackcurrant flavour also available)

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

 

Family Ginger Traybake

We find this recipe, the most perfect cake to take away with us. Easy to make the week before when everything is hectic, lasts well and easy to transport – all it needs is a tupperware box.

I try to always make 2 cakes and freeze one but this week I have taken one to Leeds where it came in really handy on a family picnic.

All 3 of my girls love this cake – I don’t mind them eating as much as they like as I know exactly what has gone into it.

Family Ginger Traybake

Family Ginger Traybake

Ingredients

  • 18oz (500g) Golden Syrup - You can use half and half syrup/treacle if you like a darker richer cake
  • 8oz (225g) light brown sugar - I used muscovado but demerara or even a mix of dark brown soft/caster will still work. This cake is all about ease and using what is in your cupboards.
  • 8oz butter
  • 14oz (400g) Self Raising Flour
  • 2oz (50g) Porridge Oats
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 5 tbsp milk (I prefer whole milk but again use what you have)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C and grease and line a 20cm (8") square tin
  2. Heat the syrup, butter and sugar through in a pan until the sugar is melted.
  3. Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and allow to cool for approx 5 mins.
  4. Measure the flour, porridge and spices together in a large bowl,
  5. When the sugar mixture has cooled enough to be just luke warm add a tbsp at a time until just combined.
  6. Beat the eggs and the milk together and add to the flour/sugar mix
  7. Add the mixture to the tin (it will be quite a runny mixture) and bake for approx 50 mins -1 hour (makes sure a tester/sterilised knitting needle comes out clean when inserted into the cake before removing from the oven)
  8. The cake will keep in foil for 3-5 days (but I bet you eat it earlier!)
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Bat Out Of Hell: The best music for car journeys?

I spend a LOT of time in the car. In addition to the every day mooching around, I take Millie from St Helens to Manchester 5 times per week for synchro training (between 25-35 miles depending on which pool). As a result our choice of music to listen to is very important. The rest of the time, I am normally accompanied by Tara – and everyone knows that a 2 year old gets the choice of what to listen to, don’t they?

Our synchro journeys are a chance to catch up on current affairs, find out what the rest of the world is up to and indulge my rather eclectic music tastes. I’m having a bit of an 80′s throwback at the moment with tunes from Human League & Phil Oakey featuring heavily. Millie think they are terrible!

Yesterday though I reckon I heard the ultimate car journey song played on Radio 2 (when did I turn into my mum?) Meal Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. Fantastic and it goes on for ages. Does anyone else know all the words?

Carcraft are compiling a list of the top tunes to listen to whilst travelling – They want to know what your favourites are too. I’m thinking Bat Out Of Hell might just appear.

If you want to take part, here’s how:

  • Nominate your favourite driving song via a hashtag on Twitter (#carcraftsingalongs) or share a suggestion on our Facebook page.
  • Be part of our survey and nominate the songs you love
  • All the nominated entries will then be added to a list here on the Carcraft website and voting will be opened to find the overall favourite.
  • We hope to gather a list of sing along songs that make people drive happy!

This Wednesday, I’m travelling down to London and back in the same day with Derm (not the best date I agree) to collect Mil from England Talent Squad – Any suggestions of good toons will be gratefully received. We are likely to be in car for at least 8 HOURS!! Comment below otherwise he might make me listen to Coldplay *shudder*

This is a sponsored post however all declarations of bad music taste are my own! I also realise that I have shown my age in my choices ;-)

 

And for your enjoyment …

Saturday is Caption Day

From a recent trip to the Lakes – A scene straight out of Watership Down (And no, the bunny isn’t real as I have already been asked). “Bright Eyes…tra-la-la”

To put the photo in context, here is another pic of Tara having a ‘moment’ just before the bunny got launched. The joys of holidaying with a 2 year old.

I’m joining in again with the mighty Mammasaurus Blog who hosts ‘Saturday Caption Day’. Pop on over to see the other entries this week if you can.

Project Complete – Lego Campervan Review

We are a massive Lego family – we have whole cupboards, huge boxes, small boxes and now a Lego Head dedicated to the stuff. Its become an important element of Christmas that on Boxing Day the dining room table is cleared and our comes the Lego kit that Santa delivered a day earlier (He’s never let us down yet!)

We’ve had alsorts over the years – A plane, An Airport, A House, Fire Station but I reckon this year’s is my personal favourite… A Lego Camper Van (I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before about our other obsession of VW Campers too – and yes, I still haven’t finished that knitted Camper!)

The kit came with over 1300 pieces and said that it was designed for age 16+ – Not a family to be deterred by a challenge, we set about it after our Boxing Day lie in.

There were about 12 bags of different sized Lego pieces (some of which were the teeniest I’ve ever seen). If you needed 3 of a certain size, you couldn’t guarantee that all 3 would be in the same bag – You have to be a Lego fan to know that this is the fun of the chase – the endless hours you can spend searching for that tall 2 piece with the rounded side ‘Nooo! That’s rounded on the right, we need left!’ Recognise it?

The Camper took a good few days to complete but didn’t drag on endlessly. The end seem to come quite quickly and we now have it on display – No-one is allowed near it!

Our favourite parts are the glass on the table, the fab retro curtains which really hang and being able to see the engine in the boot. Definitely a winner and a great investment for any VW Camper or Lego enthusiast.

We are now thinking forward to our next project – I’ve got my eye on the Town Hall or the Shop.

Disclosure: Father Christmas brought our Lego Camper – I believe he bought it from John Lewis for £79.95 and that it was worth every penny. We were not sent the Camper to review – I’ve just done so because I love it!

The Costellos Go Surfing – The Gallery – Sport

Well, its been quite a week for sport putting it mildly. Although we are still in France, Olympic fever is still strong here (except for French TV not showing Tom Daley in the diving tonight but I won’t harp on about that!)

The beginning of the week started off with our Olympic adventure from Biarritz to London and back again within 36 hours (blog post to come soon!) and by Wednesday we were all back in the sea. Even Tara has developed a new obsession with the waves.

A long time ago you may remember me posting about my list of things to achieve before I’m 40 (53 weeks tomorrow by the way!) Having a go at surfing was on the list – I have to admit I’m not sure why, I’ve never been THAT desperate to have a go but on the list it was.

I was having a rare moment alone in the sea (anyone who has ever been on holiday with a 10,6 and 1 year old will know that you don’t get an awful lot of time alone) when Derm joined me complete with surfboard telling me I was having a go. Tara was being looked after by a friend and Vi was having her daily afternoon beach sleep. I started blustering about not being ready, not having the right costume on but it fell on deaf ears. My bully* of a husband said I couldn’t tell the girls to do new things if I wasn’t prepared to try so off I went.

I wasn’t a natural. I fell off. I nearly popped out of my cozzie. I didn’t manage to stand up. But it was really really funny. I will definitely have a go again and am so pleased my girls have seen me have a go. Millie has mentioned it is one of the highlights of her holiday so far. (So much for the amazing trip to the Olympics -it seems 10 minutes of seeing your mother look like a drowned rat beats that!)

Thankfully, there is no photographic evidence of my surfing efforts but I can leave you with a much prettier sight courtesy of our friend, Rob who was busy snapping the girls having fun surfing a day earlier.

I’m adding this post to Tara Cain’s Gallery as this week’s theme is Sport – I’m expecting tons of fabulous entries as the country seems so inspired by the fantastic Olympics.

 

* He’s not really a bully

P.S. Its raining tonight in Biarritz so I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up with a little internet time – Back soon!

Favourite Picnic Food – Picnic Spicy Herby Potatoes

Picnic Herby Spicy Potatoes

According to the Foodies 100 it is National Picnic Week this week – we have been asked what is our favourite food for a picnic. Being a massive outdoor, caravanning, picnicking family we have hundreds of picnics every year so am always on the lookout for interesting nibbles on the go.

I’ve never been a massive fan of the sandwich – I find that the kids get bored so quickly with various flavour (especially as they take packed lunches to school too), the bread or wraps so soggy so soon and don’t get me started on sandy butties on the beach! My previous life as a food hygiene trainer doesn’t help either as I like to stay clear of any meats/fish or generally anything that can result in picnic poos.

So what do we take on a picnic? I introduce to you, the Costello’s Spicy Herby Potatoes. I’ve taken them on every picnic imaginable since I discovered how fab they are – Freezing cold New Year’s Day walks, meals on the beach in Biarritz in sublime temperatures, the grotty picnic room of local outdoor play areas – you name it, they’ve been devoured there!

Preparation time: 2 minutes
Cooking time: Up to an hour

To make:

1 packet potatoes: Salad potatoes, New potatoes, any will do. Small potatoes are best as they don’t need chopping, which all saves time.
1 glug of oil
1 tbsp of chilli powder (use less if your children prefer less spice)
Hefty sprinkling of mixed herbs
Large knob of butter
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180C – Dont worry if the oven isn’t up to temp, just bung them in!
2. Wash the potatoes and place in an oven dish.
3. Mix through the oil so each potato is covered.
4. Sprinkle over the chilli powder, herbs & salt and pepper.
5. Cover with tin foil and cook for up to an hour or whenever the potatoes are soft.
6. 5 minutes before you are due to go out, put the butter in and stir through.
7. Pack the oven dish in a double carrier bag (careful it will be REALLY hot) and leave the house.
8. Enjoy your picnic and come home absolutely shattered and filthy after a wonderful day!

The Costellos v’s The Coles – The Race is on!

We are not a particularly competitive family but once a year an event happens that gets us all excited. Its the Great North Swim in Windermere where hundreds of swimmers of all abilities swim a mile in the Lake – some for charity, some just because they are crazy!

My husband and my sister are two of those crazy people. Its the second time that they will be swimming against each other and neither wants to tell the other how fast they are likely to be swimming.

We make a weekend of it, staying up in Ambleside and the rest of the family join us on the day, cheering them both on.

But who do I cheer for? Who comes first … husband or sister? As fate would have it, I don’t have to choose. On Saturday morning I will be driving from Ambleside to Manchester as Millie takes part in her first real synchronised swimming comp. Think routines, gelatined hair and sequins. Its all going on!

So good luck Derm and Maz (in strictly alphabetical order!) Hope the swim goes well and the best person wins (EEK!) or you both get identical times. xxx

Cake of the Week – Birthday Cakes

The cakes for this week may not be the biggest or the most elaborate but they are definitely no less special.

I’m giving you two cakes for the price of one this week. The first cake is a 21st cake for Daniel. Daniel is the son of a good friend of mine, Donna. I met Donna when our daughters started school together and I’m so glad I did. Just one of those people and families that you are glad to have in your life (and she’s good at drinking wine too!) Daniel has complex special needs and is unable to actually eat any of his cake but that really made me want to make it even neater than normal. They were having 50 million people round to their house yesterday to celebrate with Daniel – Hope it all went well!

The second cake for this week is sadly a very quick cake (and another Hello Kitty). Our lovely Violet is 6 today but still wanted a cake to take with us on our holidays. She has requested a Hello Kitty for this week and a Moshi Monsters for her party the day after we get back – Help! The cake has travelled all the way to Abersoch intact and stands a good chance of being dished out at the Jubilee party on Tuesday. There’s no way us 5 can make our way through it all on our own.


Violet has had a lovely day. We realise now that she genuinely doesn’t need much to make her happy – a few presents and being stuck in the van as it is blowing a gale outside has made for a perfect day. She got to choose her tea (chippy) which we enjoyed on Hello Kitty paper plates and cups – complete with paper umbrellas. You can take the girl out of St Helens … Can’t believe V has been with us for 6 years – they’ve been brilliant. She has so much energy and enthusiasm – long may it continue.

How the Costellos celebrate birthdays in the van!


I’ll try to put up the linky for Cake of the week but the internet is a bit dodgy on the campsite – If you want to join in but can’t link up just put the url of your post/picture in the comments and I’ll find them when I get back from my hols.

There will be news of Aardvark Cakes next week – its too long to include in this post. Watch this space! For now, enjoy the bank holidays and your parties is you are having them. I’m off to eat more of Violet’s cake!