Visiting Eureka & National Allergy Week with #aocleans & Hotpoint


Nearly 13 years ago, I had 2 new arrivals in my life. One was Millie, my beautiful baby, the other was hay fever. Not so welcome a visitor. Yep, thanks body of mine, just getting over the shell shock of a newborn to be hit with a hideous allergy every spring/summer.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’d never really taken hay fever seriously before – My sister has always had it but seemed to cope ok. I thought it was just a sniffly nose and occasional itchy eyes. How wrong I was. I totally under estimated how exhausting it can be to sneeze constantly, how sore your eyes can be, how hard it can be to concentrate – I have no idea how kids sitting exams with hay fever cope.

Over the years, I’ve tried various medications to reduce the symptoms and learnt quite a bit more about allergies. I know that by hanging your washing out on the line, you risk attracting the pollen but I didn’t know that certain appliances can also limit the symptoms too.


Colouring in Allergens – No pressure girls, there’s only a washing machine for the best picture!

Last Wednesday, to celebrate “National Allergies Week’, the Costello family trundled off to Halifax to an event hosted by and Hotpoint. We were taught how certain washing machines can reduce the impact of allergies – We were not just looking at hay fever but also dust, pet and detergent allergens – We looked at how higher temperatures can kill allergens, increased rinse and special allergy cycles can rinse away pollen and allergens and filters on hoovers and using tumble driers can all help.

tara aocleans

Searching for Allergens

It was a great event – enough learning for us adults but not so much that the kids were bored. Plenty of chance to colour in those nasty allergens and we made some really pretty paper spring flowers – the paper kind are so much kinder to us hay fever sufferers than the real ones! There’s more information about the event over at the website


We finished off the day with a trip to Eureka just around the corner – Its been 8 years nearly since we visited Eureka. No idea why it has taken us so long to return – we had a great time. Millie wasn’t with us so we plan on visiting again very soon. For anyone unfamiliar with Eureka, it is a hands-on Children’s Discovery Museum – We especially liked the huge room about how the body works. Loads of practical things to try but nothing too deep.

Where do babies come from?

Where do babies come from?

We had great fun in the play garage and post office and pretending to be underground workmen is about a near as I will get to getting my hands dirty.

eureka national children's museum

What we really like about Eureka is that if you pay online for your entry (£11.95 for adults/children 3+) then you get an annual pass allowing you to visit as many times as you like. Car Parking is very reasonable at only £3 too.

I’m finishing this post with one of our ‘favourite’ videos from The Wiggles – Whenever we think about allergies, we think about this song which cracks us up. Tara loves it! Bet you’ll be singing it all day :-)

Post Edit: I am happy to be able to share with you discount code for £20 certain Hotpoint large appliance – Simply insert the code HOTPOINT20 at the checkout. (Offer applies from 20th April – 3rd May 2015) The range of appliances included in the offer can be found here.

Silent Sunday

Children's University

Post Edit: HI everyone, thank for all your messages about this photo – This was taken at the Children’s University presentation earlier in the week at Hope University, Liverpool. It was a fantastic celebration when the children were awarded certificates for taking part in Extra-curricular activities. The more hours they do at After-school clubs and some outside of school activities the better. The Children’s University is a National qualification open to all schools who want to take part and runs from April to April. We are super proud of Violet that she managed to achieve a bronze awards after only joining the school in September and not even counting her out of school activities. She has settled in so well and is so happy with her classmates.

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.


  • 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


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?

Body Parts – Wots so Funee

funny children

What do you call this? A belly button? A tummy button? Navel (Eew!)

Apparently in our house. we have a new word for it – Tara has this week become obsessed with showing everyone her BELLY BOOB!!

We’ve had a few alternative names for body parts over the years – Violet at 7 still calls her big toes, her THUMB TOE. I admit I quite like it and am in no rush for her to change its name.

I’m sure most kids also get mixed up between their Shoulders and their Elbows.

Do you have any Body Parts that have unusual names in your house – Clean Names Only Please!!!

I’m joining in this week with Helen at Actually Mummy with Wots So Funee.

Wot So Funee?

Tatty Teddy/Me to You Birthday Cake: Cake of the Week and a rare family photo

Tatty Teddy Me to You Birthday Cake

Please excuse the look and layout of the blog. It is sick. Very sick. A new flashy blog look will be up soon!

We had a lovely day yesterday. We held Violet’s 7th birthday party. We were brave and invited the whole class plus extra friend’s children. If everyone could have made it, we would have ended up with 55+ children but in the end, 40+ could come. (Still enough!)

As usual, time was of the essence this week. We only got back from being in London where Mil was at her last England Talent Squad, on Wednesday night. Obviously, I hadn’t started any party preparations or THE CAKE before we went – that would be far too sensible! So, all systems go and 2 very late nights, here’s what we ended up with.

A brave Dermot delivering the cake!

A brave Dermot delivering the cake!

My instructions were to make a 3 tier cake with mostly chocolate cake and a Tatty Teddy theme. I saw the ribbon in John Lewis’ on Oxford Street earlier in the week and thought immediately of the cake. When I got it home, I discovered it was Washi Tape though but decided to go with it anyway. Think I just about got away with it, although the ribbon isn’t as neat as I normally prefer. It was pointed out that I had only made 6 stars (never thought to put 7!) and Violet told me this morning that I should have put ‘Violet IS 7’! What a failure as a mother ;-)

We took a moment at the end of the party to have our picture taken by our lovely friend, Cara. Amazingly, we are all looking the same way and smiling – what a professional!

The Costello Family

March Reads – What have you been reading?

Another busy old month here but still no sign of the reading slowing down. It seems to be catching too, one at least 2 occasions last week I found both M & V sitting reading quietly WITHOUT BEING TOLD TO! Hurray!

I seem to have reverted back to reading ‘proper’ books as opposed to my Kindle but as I’m trying to reduce some of the piles of books around the place, this is no bad thing. I’m even going old school and reading library books once more. Is there anything better than leaving the library with armfuls of books – the ultimate in reading hope. The challenge for me is taking them back before the fines cost more than it would have to buy the actual books.

So what has been on the reading agenda this month?

One that I forgot to mention (and I’m not sure how because I was completely engrossed in this story) was The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. I read my first Jojo Moyes, Me Before You last year in France and knew I had to read another. The Girl You Left Behind was very different than Me Before You and even better in a lot of ways. The story was much more involved and switched easily between current day and WWII.

The story of a piece of artwork that finds its way to England after the Second World War and the legal battle that ensues to find its rightful owner. The story of the painting begins in France in 1916 with a family living with effects of German occupation. I completely fell in love with the character of Sophie who literally does everything she can think of to save her family. This was definitely a book I was sad to finish. A rare easy 5 stars.

I have seen my next read hanging around various shops and picked it up on a whim – After The Fall by Charity Norman

About a family who move from the UK to Australia to escape the demons of the father’s drink problem but end up in much deeper trouble. An easy read but one that hooked me straightaway. For the few days it took to read this book, I was mentally living a life in Australia – its just a good job my passport was nowhere to hand.

A young boy falls from the balcony of a house, the story then looks at the events that lead up to this fall. It wasn’t obvious who it could have been responsible although I did guess about 3/4 way through – I’m not telling though. Its definitely worth a read to find out yourself. PS In case you are a bit squeamish about children getting injured like me, don’t worry, its bearable to read. 4 out of 5 stars.

A Modern Military Mother: Tales From The Domestic Frontline by Clare McNaughton- Since meeting Andy Reid at the beginning of the year and devouring his book, Standing Tall, I’ve become really interested in life as part of the military. My friend, Liz, a military wife herself must be sick of all the questions by now (but much too polite to say). This is definitely a ‘no holds barred’ account of Clare’s life married to a member of the Armed Forces (I’m finding it really hard not to spout cliches describing Clare and her book here). If you want brutally honest, witty, and quite frankly very realistic, then this is the book for you. I loved the sections about learning to readjust with each other after a period apart – how refreshing that it isn’t always immediately romance and flowers. Clare is self-promoting this book and working damn hard at doing so – I encourage you to have a gander. A 4 out of 5 stars only because I wanted more – I finished it far too quickly. Good news though, I have heard on the grapevine that a sequel is planned.

The Two-Week Wait by Sarah Rayner. Not at all sure what possessed me to pick up a book about fertility problems and the workings of IVF. Luckily, I’ve never had to consider fertility treatment but it doesn’t mean that the subject wasn’t interesting. 2 couples embark on the ups and downs of IVF – I won’t spoil it by telling you the outcome. An easy read – I did want to find out how they got on. The author has obviously got a lot of knowledge regarding IVF which was interesting to read without being too medical. A generous 4 stars here (looking back maybe more like a 3.5)

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fellada.
Every now and then comes along a book that I wish I enjoyed more than I did. The failings of this book are definitely mine and not the story or the author. Alone in Berlin is also known as Every Man Dies Alone – Set in Germany during the Second World War, a couple set out to challenge Hitler’s reign by anonymously dropping postcards with anti-war messages on them. I loved the idea of the story (which is based on a true story), there was just so much detail for me and the book was incredibly long. About 100 pages in, I felt a surge as I seemed to speed up and thought, hey, we’re into it now. Sadly this didn’t last for me and I felt I was wading through some sections – In the book’s defence though, I do know that it is possible to read this book quickly in a couple of days. A 3 out of 5 for this book but please do read other reviews as they are so much more favourable than mine.

In other book news, Violet and myself are nearing the end of ‘The Wishing Chair Again’ by Enid Blyton. It is a complete joy to read these books with her – we have started having lengthly chats about the characters, these are some of my favourite parenting moments so far. We even found the Wishing Chair in one of our favourite pubs, The Britannia at Elterwater last week – of course, we were the only ones that knew it was the Wishing Chair!

All images have been taken from Amazon where the books are available to download and buy.

Cake of the Week: Parma Violet Cake

For one night only this cake was also known as The Violet Mary Costello Cake. (see photo!)

I have a new addiction – crushing up sweets and concocting various cake recipes. This was my offering to our latest Clandestine Cake Club held in St Helens last week. Our theme was Spring and I thought spring flowers and pastel colours would suit the theme.

Off I tottered to Amazon and duly ordered some Violet Syrup – I was going to go the whole hog and order crystalised violets but quite frankly, they were deeply ugly so I didn’t bother. Days went by and no sign of the violet syrup (I am in fact a week after the CCC still waiting for it to arrive and may be having a Parma Violet Cocktail night when it eventually does!) Not one to be deterred, I thought how best can I get a violet taste and so started the search for Parma Violets.

Turns out that they are considered quite a delicacy in St Helens – I was under no illusion previously that we were a Mecca for unusual ingredients but blinking hek, Parma Violets!?! Many a shopkeeper looked at me like I’d lost my marbles until my friend, Sue visited the good old market – Hurrah! I was now the proud owner of 40 packets. Yes, you read right – 40!!!

By now I had already made a sponge cake (just a normal vanilla sponge) so I crushed up 10 of the packets by bashing with a rolling pin in a heavy duty foodbag – I’m not ruining my Magimix for the sake of some Parma Violets! I mixed the crushed sweets with some thick buttercream/frosting and popped in the fridge for a few hours – I think the taste was slightly more concentrated because of this step but I’m sure if you ate straightaway it would be fine. The sweets weren’t completely crushed to fine sugar but the little flecks gave a lovely texture when we ate it. The parma violet taste was delicious and gave a little aftertaste kick – it was even nicer the next day. I also sprinkled some fine Parma Violet powder over the icing on the top of the cake for added flavour.

I’m thinking my next mission might be to try crushed Swizzels or even pear drops (although they do make me cough!) Can you think of any sweet suggestions? Don’t blame me though when you get told off by your dentist!

I know its been yonks since I did a cake of the week linky but if there’s anyone that would like to link up, I’d love to see your work.

The School Teddy – A Rant

Its not often I use my blog to rant but I feel I’m justified on this occasion. Most parents of school age children will recognise this scenario…

You are standing on the playground waiting for school to kick out (invariably it is raining as it always seem to do at 3.20PM but that’s a different story). Out comes your child with a huge grin waiving an inanimate object in your face. Huge delight ahead, we have the school frickin bear!

Who on earth decided that taking a manky, dirt ridden, germ infested, piece of tat home for the night was a good idea and in the slightest bit educational? Let me tell you teachers, its not educational in the slightest. There’s not a parent alive that relishes writing a diary about what your sodding bear has done over the weekend. Let’s be honest, its normally 8PM on Sunday night when we remember to read out what our little one needs to write in the diary.

Some things to remember about the school bear …

  • Teachers,  you may think you are being helpful suggesting we might like to add photos or drawings of Bear’s activities into the diary but we truly have better things to do.
  • Parents, even if you feed your little ones 3 bags of crisps for their tea, don’t write it in the diary. Other parents will judge. Equally, if you had fois-gras and homemade profiteroles for a meal, other parents will hate you.
  • School bears should NEVER EVER be allowed in your little one’s bed – I hate to picture how many have been vomitted on/passed on nits.
  • Parents again … on the day you are giving bear back, do NOT decide it is Bear’s birthday. The next recipient will not appreciate being manipulated into holding a birthday party for it.
  • Check if manky Bear makes a sound BEFORE you wash it! (Cara Freckles anyone?!)

Yep, guess what Violet came out of school sporting yesterday?! Not only do we have the pleasure of a weekend but its sodding half term. Well, school Bear is going to have an education all of its own … it’s coming on a girlie weekend to Harrogate where it might indulge in the odd gin. Watch this space for photographic evidence that may or may not be suitable for including in it’s diary!

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!

What to put in a Time Capsule?

My 5 year old’s Rainbows group is amazing. Those women that organise it think of everything. We get a couple of letters per week inviting Violet to one event or another.


This week’s event is the burying of a Time Capsule in the local church garden after Church Parade (which we have never managed to make it to yet but that’s another story).


Our brief is to find something that is no bigger than Vi’s fist. The item has to be something that reminds her of her childhood, a happy memory or a holiday that she has been on. A memory?? SHe’s only 5!


Anything that she associates with her childhood, she still plays with – in fact she nearly had meltdown at the thought that Pink Elephant might get buried. Its a real worry that days after the Capsule has been buried she might want the item back.


So what are we burying? Well, Mummy Pig it looks like your time is nigh. (To be honest, we’ve got 3 of them and Vi has always said Mummy Pig is really boring but who’s telling?) Let’s hope she’s not claustrophobic!

Let me out!!