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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Making Christmas Easier With Asda

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Foodie, Information | Posted on 17-12-2012

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We all want to create a magical Christmas this year for our families, and especially our children. Hopefully you have all got your presents bought – and no doubt some of your efficient enough to have them wrapped as well – and houses are probably decorated too. The thing I find that needs the most organisation after the complications of what to buy people, is food.

We have a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, lots of vegetables, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes and stuffing. There’s usually some bread sauce and cranberry sauce too. Dessert is never a problem as Grandma always ensures we have trifle – the best EVER – and meringues to go with and cake, mince pies and pudding that there may be too. As you can see, food is a big part of Christmas.

Little Man is also a big part of Christmas, and this year as he’s so much more aware of whats going on, and beginning to recognise Santa and understanding what presents are, I don’t want to be spending all Christmas Day in the kitchen. I want to be spending it with my family, and my most important member, my son. So this year I’m going for a nice easy Christmas, without scrimping on quality. I want to be able to pop things in the oven as necessary, but not spend hours preparing and watching over the oven or the hobs as things cook.

This Christmas I am relying entirely on Asda, and I know I wont be disappointed.

Firstly my turkey is coming from there. A nice sized turkey, enough to feed four adults and a toddler on Christmas Day and then give us some leftovers for the next few days. My fresh turkey from Asda’s Butchers Selection is costing £18 which I think is pretty reasonable for the size of it, and for the fact its fresh, not frozen. The turkey will be pimped up a little with some butter which I’ll be placing between the skin and the meat to make it nice and moist, and I’ll probably stick a couple of clementines inside to add to the flavour. Nothing too fancy. This should take about 2 and a half hours to cook, depending on weight of course, and hopefully I’ll be able to cook this then leave it to rest for an hour or so whilst I get the accompaniments cooked.

Next up is a mountain of vegetables. I want to make sure there’s a good variety of vegetables – mostly due to the epic quantities of cake and chocolate which will be coming later – but I don’t want to be wasting precious time peeling, chopping, slicing, and prepping. You could be uber efficient and prepare your vegetables in advance and pop them in the freezer to bring out the night before – and I do know a few of you have done that already and I salute you. Me? I’m going for the lazy approach and using Asda’s Extra Special Prepared Vegetables this year. There is a great range to choose from and I’ve ordered four packets – 2 packs for £4 is the offer on at the moment – which should keep us all happy. On my table this year you’ll find Baby Parsnips with Parmesan Crumb, Baby Sprouts & Bacon with Sage Butter, Slowly Braised Red Cabbage with Apple & Cranberry, and Clementine Roasting Vegetables. The vegetables take between 30 and 50 minutes in the oven to cook, you literally just pop them in there. The Sprouts are even more efficient and take just 5 minutes in the microwave or a quick fry on the hob. More than likely I’ll peel and boil a few carrots for Little Man who is a bit carrot obsessed, but that should be the height of my effort this year.

I am cooking my Roast Potatoes myself, despite the temptation to buy those ready to roast too. This year though we are using Asda’s Extra Special Rudolph Potatoes. These have a distinctive red skin – hence the name – and are perfect for roasting. I’ll be parboiling them, some with skins on and some without, and then roasting in goose fat for about an hour. I’m still debating mash too, and also debating whether it’ll be made by me, or Asda. Rudolph Potatoes come in 1.5kg bags for £1.75 and you can get two 220g jars of Extra Special Goose Fat for £4.

When it comes to drinks those too are coming straight from Asda. I recently attended a wine tasting event organised by Asda. This was great fun, but also the perfect opportunity to discover new wines, and decide precisely what would be on my table this year. I’m a big fan of white wine, and despite many attempts I’m not keen on red, so there will be plenty of white in my house this year. Being drunk in my house this Christmas will be Asda’s Extra Special Prosecco – perfect for the party season and a bargain at just £6.48 a bottle – the French Etoile De Nuit Sauvignon Blanc, and a tasty Spanish bottle of Alba Rino. No doubt these will be getting drunk with Christmas dinner, but also enjoyed later that evening with a few tasty snacks. I advise you all to go and buy a few boxes of All Butter Gruyere & Poppy Seed Twists to nibble on. My newest addiction.

So Christmas this year for my family is definitely an Asda one, but its going to be affordable, easy and above all else tasty. For me, there is nothing better than a great family Christmas, and because of Asda, I’ll be able to enjoy one. Happy Christmas.

Festive Family Fun: Dear Santa

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Competition, Days Out, Product Reviews | Posted on 13-12-2012

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If you are lucky enough to live within reach of Horsham, West Sussex and are looking for something festive to do with your little ones this Christmas I implore you to go to the Capitol and see their production of “Dear Santa”. Its based on the lovely book by Rod Campbell and is ideal for children under 5.


We’ve never been to the Capitol before and Little Man has never seen any kind of stage production so I was a little nervous heading in there on my own. Santa is a new concept to Little Man, but he is beginning to recognise him in shops and on decorations so I was hopeful for some enthusiasm. Upon arrival we collected our tickets from the Box Office and Little Man immediately made himself at home in the foyer.

About ten minutes before the performance was due to begin we began making our way to the “Studio”. It is upstairs at the Capitol but there’s a good sized lift as well as a flight of stairs. Prams can be left downstairs in the bar area. The “Studio” is a compact room with tiered seating which is essential for a performance aimed at little children, and has a small stage area which was set up and ready. It looked magical.

The stage was split into two rooms – the bedroom of Sarah, the little girl who writes to Santa, and Santa’s workshop where he and his Elf wrap and sort presents ready for Christmas Eve. By having both rooms on the same stage at the same time it allowed the production to flow easily and kept it to about 30 minutes. We were sat three rows back and Little Man had a great view from my knee pointing out things he could see on the stage. It took me a while to spot most of them myself!

The length of the production is ideal for even the most fidgety child and the cast of just three characters – Sarah, the Elf, and Santa – are a joy to watch. There is plenty of interaction with the audience and the chance to sing songs, clap along and call out for Santa when he makes his big entrance. The story itself is a simple one but gives a great message to the young and old members of the audience as Christmas nears and the great shopping fest begins. After the production ends there is even a chance to meet Santa himself and get your photo taken with him, and there are small presents for the children too. An amazing and magical family treat.

I would hugely recommend this to anyone who can get to Horsham this winter to see it. The show is on now until Christmas Eve with at least two performances a day, with extra on Saturdays and the days before Christmas. Tickets are £9 for adults and £7.50 for children, and if you book online you can choose your own seats. Full details can be found at the Capitol website.

Competition: I have a copy of the lovely Rod Campbell book “Dear Santa” to give away to one lucky reader. To enter just tweet the following message:

“I Want To Win #DearSanta This Christmas With @SussexMummy!”

The competition ends at 8pm on Tuesday 18th December and the winner will be notified asap. I will also endeavor to get the book to you in time for Christmas!!

Product Review: Popcorn Machine

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 12-12-2012

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Popcorn is the staple food of any good movie night, but it can also be a healthy snack if made correctly. Paramount Zone sent me one of their best selling Popcorn Machines to review, and I was VERY impressed.

The best feature of this machine for me was that the popcorn is made using hot air, not hot oil. This makes the popcorn very healthy, but also eliminates the hazard of hot oil in the kitchen – very important with a toddler around – and also means the machine needs barely any cleaning out after use. My kind of kitchen appliance!

I am also a big fan of the speed the machine operates. You put a measure of popcorn kernels – not supplied but available at supermarkets and health stores (I got mine at Holland & Barrett) – into the machine and place the hood in place. You turn the machine on at the socket – there are no buttons on the machine itself – and watch. The heat coming from the machine is intense so its best to stand clear and keep children out the way. After about a minute and a half the kernels begin turning into popcorn and start flowing out the machine. Make sure you have a large bowl ready! Within another minute or so all the kernels are fluffy pieces of popcorn waiting to be eaten.

The first time I made popcorn with the machine we made two types. We left half plain – surprisingly delicious, and perfect for children to eat. We covered the second half with a homemade mixture of melted butter and sugar, a basic almost caramel mix. Little Man was happy to munch on the plain, and shove little handfuls into my mouth – not that I was complaining. The caramel flavoured popcorn was reserved for the adults and it was amazing. So quick to make and so tasty.

I can see the popcorn machine being a great addition to our kitchen this Christmas. I’m rather tempted to make a batch and decorate the tree with it, like you see in US TV shows. A small cup makes a huge amount so it would hardly be wasted. I also expect lots of bowls to be eaten during festive movies – some fab suggestions on Team Lloyds blog at the moment – and during family gatherings during Christmas and New Year.

The Popcorn Machine would make a great gift this Christmas too, and at just £14.99 at the moment is amazing value. Check out Paramount Zones other Christmas Gift suggestions too.

Christmas Crackers from Hotel Chocolat

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 06-12-2012

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If you are looking for something a bit special for your table this Christmas, take a look at this cracker from Hotel Chocolat.

This would make a fantastic centrepiece for any party or celebration this Christmas.

This beautiful cracker is a massive 640mm long – they’re not kidding when they call it their “Rather Large Cracker” – and contains 40 wrapped chocolates, 12 silver party hats, and some jokes. The included chocolates are a selection of Hotel Chocolat’s finest, with a mixture of pralines, truffles, dark and milk chocolates, white chocolates, as well as ones containing alcohol and those which are more child friendly. Needless to say this was a big hit with my husband and I who thoroughly enjoyed testing out all the chocolates. I don’t think we found one that we didn’t enjoy!

At £38 this is not a cheap item, but to end a festive get together with family and friends, or even if you just fancy treating yourself to something rather special this Christmas, its an amazing item. It would also be a well received gift I’m sure!

The “Rather Large Cracker” can be found at the Hotel Chocolat online store along with the rest of their Christmas range.