Behind the scenes at the GB Swimstars Synchronised Swimming Photoshoot

gb swimstars photoshoot

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.

synchronised swimming photo shoot

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!

gbswimstars photo shoot

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.

synchronised swimming photoshoot

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.

GiveThanksThursday_zpsf65533ce Brilliant blog posts on

No-Cheese Smoked Haddock Omelette – Cage Free Eggs from Sainsburys

no cheese smoked haddock omelette

I first started getting concerned with what eggs I used when I was at the peak of Aardvark Cakes’ wedding season. It wasn’t unusual to use 70+ eggs. I just couldn’t bring myself to use eggs from caged hens although they were significantly cheaper. Slowly more and more customers were asking if I used free-range eggs and it was such a relief to be able to say yes. I searched everywhere for decent priced free-range eggs and found them at my local farm shop.

A few years on and it seems the world has caught up. It more unusual to see eggs from caged hens now but I will admit to not knowing what sort of eggs are used in ready made products that I have bought. Sainsburys are very proud that they are the first major retailer to use cage free eggs as ingredients in all of their own brand products. I really like this declaration – Makes me feel more confident about what I’m buying. Does that mean I’m really grown up? ;-)

Sainsburys have produced a rather cute (and short) video to celebrate all their products containing cage free eggs here.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t share a recipe while I’m on the subject of eggs. Miss Millie has been continuing with her Food Tech lessons at High School. We’ve moved on from Hot Drinks and are now onto proper food. Last week it was omelette – A cold, floppy, rather undercooked omelette arrived home at 3PM. I couldn’t possibly say if it went straight in the bin but a couple of days later, I showed Millie the joy of a properly cooked, tasty omelette.


No Cheese Smoked Haddock Omelette

Serves 1
Prep time 3 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 13 minutes
Allergy Egg, Fish
Meal type Breakfast, Lunch, Main Dish, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Hot
Super tasty Smoked Haddock omelette with a cheese free interior


  • 2 Eggs
  • 150ml Milk (+ 2 extra tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons Oil
  • 1 Shallot (Chopped finely)
  • 1 Small Smoked Haddock Fillet
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Parsley


In a jug, whisk together the eggs and the 2 tablespoon of milk. Season with S & P.
In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and sauté the shallot until transparent and soft
Add the Haddock, remaining milk and dried parsley. Put the lid on the pan and cook for approx 3-4 minutes until the haddock is just cooked and flaky. Remove the fish and the majority of the onions from the pan.
In a frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and add the egg/milk mixture. Spread the mixture as far around the pan as possible and heat until it just starts to bubble - DO NOT STIR!
Use a spatula to lift the edges of the omelette
Add the haddock/onion mixture to one half of the omelette.
Flip over the other half and turn the heat off immediately.
Eat straightaway - I serve with something green!


Disclosure: I was asked to share a recipe that I make using eggs and given voucher to cover the cost of the ingredients.


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?

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


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 ;-)

Where have I been? Warning: Overly proud parental post

Regular readers (yep, I think I’ve got a couple!) may have noticed that blog posts have become a little bit sparse over the past few weeks. I know I’ve tended to have gaps between posting from time to time when life gets a little bit more crazy than usual but on this occasion there’s been some even more crazy than usual weeks.

At the beginning of December, we trotted off to Gloucester with Millie for her first ever National Age Groups Synchronised Swimming competition. We had been warned that this was a big comp and to expect a whole different atmosphere than previous comps – even so, we were taken aback by how professional the set up was. Not surprisingly, Millie was really nervous – competing at a national level when you are only 10 and been doing the sport for only 10 months is rather daunting.

We realised (as did Millie) that this was a great chance to see some amazing swimmers and tried not to put pressure on what her results might be. But she did brilliantly! She came second in her age group for individual figures (imagine loads of girls doing slow, silent shapes in the water in front of 4 sets of 4 judges – simply terrifying!), got a silver medal with her 12 and under team routine and gained an invitation to try out for the England Talent Squad.

So last weekend, I found myself driving down to Crystal Palace with Millie, her friend, who had also been invited down for the trials, and her Mum. We dropped the girls off on the Friday morning and had no contact until we were to collect them late on the Saturday when their fate would have been sealed. We had 2 days to ourselves which should have been bliss and we made the most of our shopping/chatting/eating time but we were so on edge wondering how our girls were getting on. Definitely one of the most stressful parenting experiences so far knowing how rigorous the tests were that our girls were being put through.

Saturday came and we counted down the hours until we could collect them – best scenario would be both girls to get onto the squad (Jessie is 2 years older than Mil so looking to get onto a higher level so they weren’t even competing for a place against each other). It may be a miserable journey home Up North if only one got through….

4PM and we arrive, just wanting to get our hands on our babies. By this point, we weren’t even bothered about the outcome – just wanting to know they had survived. But it was fantastic news, they both got in!
2 happy girls and 2 very relieved mums and one enormous journey home.

And so our next stage begins… we carry on with training in Trafford with added training in London knowing that MIllie is delighted to have been chosen to be potentially a future star of the England Team. Well done Millie, (and Jessie) your hard work has paid off and we are VERY proud of you! xxx

Food for an athlete: Snow Topped Maple and Pecan Flapjacks

I’m sure I’m not the only mum around, who is on a constant quest to find nutricious food to fill their family THAT THEY WILL EAT! We have the added pressure of Miss M who does long periods of exercise at synchro/swimming at least 5 times per week. I farily renowned for always having some food item in my handbag but it seems at the moment that I never have the right thing or not enough of it.

I know that oats are very good for releasing energy slowly and had it in my mind to conquer flapjacks once and for all. My last few attempts were considerably short of successful, which by process of elimination, I put down to using the wrong type of tin. I went out and bought a silcone ‘tin’ with a solid surround to help the flapjacks hold their shape and set to on my mission to get the Costellos eating flapjacks.

I will admit to the tin hanging around the house for a few weeks, then last week the people at Sainsbury’s Bank Food Blogger’s Network emailed to challenge me to take on their flapjack challenge. I had to bake flapjacks using their ingredients and they would send me a voucher to cover my costs. Challenge on!

I’m not a massive fan of overly syrupy flavours so decided on maple syrup with pecans. I’m no fool though, and realise that on their own they don’t look immensely appealing to the kids – so sprinkled grated white chocolate on for that snow-topped effect. They are fantastic! Still squidgy and chewy but solid enough to hold their shape. Tasty with the added maple syrup but not too sweet due to the nuts.

Here’s how you can make your own:


  • 250g Porridge Oats
  • Large handful Pecan nuts chopped as small as you like
  • 130g Butter
  • Good Glug (about 4 tbsp) maple syrup
  • 100g soft brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 100g White Chocolate – I blitzed it in the food processor but chopped finely or grated is fine


  1. Preheat the oven to 170C
  2. Put sugar, butter and maple syrup in a pan and warm gently until all melted and mixed together.
  3. Take off the heat and add the oats. Mix together.
  4. Add the pecan nuts – I added about 1/3 of the white chocolate and mixed this through too at this point but you can leave it all until the flapjack is cooked if you prefer.
  5. Grease the silicone ‘tin’ if you have one – Mine is a 9″ square so the flapjack mix isn’t that deep.
  6. Fill the ‘tin’ and press down so the mix covers the bottom equally.
  7. Cook for about 15-20 mins.
  8. When the mix is still hot and still in the ‘tin’, cut into rectangles (I got 12 out of mine) and sprinkle the remainder of the white chocolate over the flapjack.
  9. Leave to cool – then devour!

Going away without Mum and Dad

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how quickly the Costello girls are growing up. Those reminders just keep coming thick and fast at the moment. Tomorrow is the Open Evening for the High School that we hope M will attend. How did I get so old, so quickly? I know that a lot of teachers that taught me (and Mr Costello) are still there so part of me is a little bit quibbly about going back into the school, even though I liked school.

But that isn’t the biggest event happening in M’s life this month. Oh no, we can go one bigger – she is going to stay in a hotel without us, in a room with 2 other girls. Eek! It is part of a synchronised swimming competition in Glasgow where the team have to stay together and the parents aren’t allowed in the same hotel. M is a teeny bit nervous, if I am honest, so am I, but my sensible head knows that it will be a fantastic experience for her and she will have a ball.

It has brought back memories of when I went on my first trip away, without my family. A school trip in year 8/9 to London. We did the usual sightseeing tours around London but what really sticks in my mind is the staying in a room with 3 other friends and the fact that school arranged for us to have tickets for the Mousetrap. The Agatha Christie production that is the world’s longest running theatre show. Even at the time, we realised that this was something special – the fact that it is still running now, a couple of years *cough* later is amazing. I’d love for my girls to have the experience of seeing it.

The trip lasted for 3 days, and I remember how exhausted we were each night but what a special bond the 4 of us sharing that room had. We are now approaching 40 and still talk about that trip. There were other girls that chose not to come on the visit to London, I wonder if they ever regretted it and if they would chose differently for their children?

And so, we start to get prepared for a new chapter in M’s life. We would love for her to be sharing our room in our hotel, but we are going to have to be brave and let her be free and start her journey into growing up. Sniff!