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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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Looking Forward To Halloween

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Sponsored Posts | Posted on 26-09-2014

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October? Can you believe its almost October already? Now the children have all gone back to school its pretty much full pace through until the dreaded C-word, but with October on the horizon there are two other events to look forward to in our house next month. One is Little Man’s fourth birthday, but a couple of weeks after that is Halloween. Now whilst I wasn’t much of a Halloween fan myself as a child – I think it was the idea of wandering around outside in the cold and inevitable rain that put me off – , and whilst I’m still not keen on my two going trick or treating, I am thinking a bit of a Halloween party might be in order for us this year. I’ve got a box of decorations and party wear in the loft I think that I acquired in the sales last November – its pays to forward plan here! – so I just need to sort out some costumes for the boys. Little Man will be at preschool that morning so hopefully there’ll be some kind of dressing up going on there, and I’m sure Little Dude will be happy to get into the “spirit” of things as well.

I’m thinking perhaps something subtle like this t-shirt from Asda might work for Little Man during the day. It doesn’t “scream” Halloween so it could be worn more than once, and its looks pretty stylish too. At just £3 its a bargain too! Little Dude will be joining in as well, probably wearing the My First Halloween sleepsuit. I definitely think something a bit cute is required for your first Halloween, and this fits the bill perfectly. No Halloween is complete without somewhere to stash your treats. Whilst Little Man won’t be heading out around the streets just yet, I’m sure I can supply a few ghoulish sweets for him all the same. A Frankenstein bucket will be just the job. This year we have our new playroom to decorate as well, so purple fairy lights seem appropriate don’t you agree? I think I can have some fun setting up some Halloween activities and decorations whilst Little Man is being spooky at preschool. I’ll have to get up into the loft to see what other bits and pieces I have. I’m sure the stores will be filling up with snacks, treat and sweets soon enough. Maybe its time to brave some more baking with my boys, and perhaps create some Halloween cupcakes. Believe me, there’s nothing “scarier” than our kitchen after a baking attempt with Little Man!

How do you celebrate Halloween in your house?

Join the #PeppaThemeParkParty

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Days Out, Information | Posted on 22-03-2013

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The afternoon of Tuesday 26th March will see Twitter come alive as parents join in with a Peppa Pig Party. The party is going to be promoting the new Theme Park toy range, which features all the rides and attractions you’d find at Peppa Pig World in Paultons Park. There’ll be prizes and goodies to be won and lots of fun throughout the afternoon, so make sure you are following @UKMUMSTV and following the hashtag #PeppasThemeParkParty for all the latest news, and to take part on the day.

I’m going to be tweeting from Peppa Pig World itself where I’ll be taking part in a party with fellow bloggers, friends, and of course the children. I’m sure Little Man will have a great time and I’m really looking forward to playing with all the new toys with him. Its sounding like a really fun day with a great party atmosphere. I’m so looking forward to joining the party, and I hope to see some of you there too. Get tweeting!!

Health: Good Food & Drinks For Christmas & New Year

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Foodie | Posted on 18-12-2012

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Overindulging is one of the best parts of Christmas – I certainly do it, and I’m sure everyone reading this will be guilty of it this year too. As the New Year dawns we’ll all start thinking about resolutions and no doubt healthy eating and a new fitness regime will be part of that for some of us. I’m pretty sure we all start each new year with the best of intentions, but no doubt by the end of the first week all hope is lost!

Here are a few recipes for drinks, meals and snacks which might just help you have a healthy Christmas and New Year. By using Philadelphia Light, Total Greek Yogurt or making “Mocktails” with Welchs Purple Grape Juice, you can eat well, and eat healthier.

Turkey & Cranberry Bites
This is a great way to use up Christmas Day leftovers and create some tasty nibbles for Boxing Day and beyond. Take a 375g pack of ready rolled puff pastry and cut it into 24 little squares. Top each square with a dollop of Philadelphia Light, some Cranberry Sauce and a few pieces of cooked turkey. Cook for 10-15 minutes at 220degrees/Gas 7 until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool a little before serving.

Mini Cheesecake Bites
These are also a great party food, or you could make a large one anytime. Take a packet of mini chocolate chip cookies, shortbread rounds, or oat biscuits and top generously with spoonfuls of Chocolate Philadelphia. Top with fresh fruit of your choice, such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.

Creamy Lincolnshire Sausage Hot Pot
For a great family friendly meal try this delicious hot pot.

Prep time: 45mins
Cooking time: 1hr
Serves: 4

454g Lincolnshire pork sausage (8 sausages)
2 Eating apples (preferably red to add colour to the dish)
1 Leek
2 Large carrots
1 Medium onion
1 Clove of garlic (crushed)
½ pint Chicken stock
300g TOTAL Greek Yoghurt Classic
4 Medium potatoes
50g Butter
Olive oil for cooking

Method:
Pre heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/400F or 200C.
Peel and par boil the potatoes in a saucepan of salted water, drain and allow to cool.
Cut each apple into four wedges and remove the core. Gently sauté in a frying pan with a little olive oil for around 3-4 minutes then remove from the pan and place to one side.
Roughly cut the carrot, leek and the onion into 1 inch pieces.
Gently sweat with the garlic for approximately 5 minutes until they start to soften, then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.
When stock has boiled, remove from the heat and add the yoghurt.
In a frying pan, quickly fry off the sausages in a little olive oil whilst cooking the par boiled potatoes into ¼ inch thick slices.
Place the sausages and apples into a large casserole dish. Then pour over the carrot, onion, leek and yoghurt mixture.
Next, lay the sliced half cooked potatoes over the top in an even layer. Generously brush with melted butter and bake in the middle of oven for approx 1 hr until crisp and golden on the top.

This is delicious, and a great recipe for hiding vegetables from little ones too!

Black Forest Gateau In A Glass
This is a lovely healthy twist on the classic dessert, and served in individual glasses looks great too.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
500g TOTAL Greek Yoghurt (0%, 2% or Authentic)
1 tin Pitted black cherries
½ pkt Luxury chocolate cookies
100g Nutella
1 Cadbury’s flake

Method:
Drain the cherries, but keep the juice.
Crush the cookies and chop the flake into small pieces

To Serve:
Take four sundae glasses – or any quirky glassware you have – and layer the ingredients. Start with the cookies and drizzle with the juice from the cherries. Next add a layer of cherries, a layer of chocolate spread and a layer of yoghurt.  Keep adding the layers until glass is nearly full. Finish with a sprinkling of crumbled flake!

These look amazing, and taste delicious!

Mock Mulled Wine
Try this festive juice this year instead of the traditional alcoholic version. Put 300ml of Welchs Purple Grape juice, 2 cloves, 1cm stick of cinnamon, 1 star anise and a 2inch piece of orange peel into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a hot drinks glass – removing and pieces first of course – and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Tasty and much better for you.

 

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.

A Great Night In With Ladbrokes

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Days Out, Information, Sponsored Posts | Posted on 28-11-2012

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I was recently sent a party pack by Ladbrokes who are encouraging people to have great nights IN with their family and friends, and one of their packs. The party pack was amazing and included everything we needed for a night in. The contents were actually used over a variety of nights in, and one night out.

Little Man’s Birthday – Ladbrokes sent loads of party plates, serving platters, straws and table decorations and we used them during Little Man’s birthday party last month. They were all plastic so we didn’t need to worry about breakages, but they were washable and reusable so we can use them again and again. There was also some toddler friendly music playing, thanks to the iTunes voucher – lots of Justin Fletcher!

Date Night – “Casino Royale” is one of the few James Bond movies I’ve watched in recent years and actually enjoyed. I think its probably the Daniel Craig factor more than anything… Hubby and I had a quiet date night a few weeks ago with Little Man packed off to his Grandparents for the night. We sat down in front of the TV and thoroughly enjoyed re-watching the movie, and their may have been a cocktail or two enjoyed courtesy of the recipes books and cocktail set we were given. Shaken but not stirred, naturally.

Poker Night – I’ve never been a fan of poker but my two brother-in-laws are, so they were thrilled to receive the poker set we’d been given. They got their mates round and had a lads night playing poker and invariably enjoying a few beers. The set was excellent and came with everything they needed for a proper game, without having to head out.

Family Night Out – We did use one of the items outside the house, but that was only because Pizza Hut don’t deliver to us! We went to our nearest restaurant and took Little Man for pizza. The voucher was really appreciated and we could all sit down and enjoy some delicious pizza together. A great family night out, which would work at home too, if you are in a delivery area.

I’d like to thank Ladbrokes for providing the pack and some great family entertainment. If you fancy a family night in head over to Ladbrokes Casino and get playing – you never know, you might just hit the jackpot!

 

Halloween Party Ideas

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 28-10-2012

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October Half Term is upon us which signals Halloween is just a few days away. If you’re planning on throwing a party this Wednesday night for your children, or perhaps next weekend, here are a few ideas for some great value items to help make your party nice and spooky!

Here is our party table:

There are loads of Halloween decorations and party items available now in most high street stores, but everything you see on this table is from either Wilkinsons or Asda and all cost less than £4 each. Halloween is fast becoming another expensive event for parents, and with Christmas just around the corner money might be a little tight already. You don’t have to break the bank though the provide a fun and spooky themed night for your little ghouls.

Lets start in Wilkinsons should we?

This black cupcake stand in made from cardboard and is bought flat packed. It’s simple to put together and if you’re careful can be taken apart and stored till next year. We made small cupcakes and could fit 24 on here which is a great capacity for something which costs just £3.

I love these holders. Here we’ve just used them as decoration, but you can sit a cupcake in them or I even popped an empty muffin case in there and used it for a few sweets. A silicone case would be perfect, especially if you can get them in a Halloween colour. These metal holders are just £1 each so you can pop a few on your table, or use them as goodie bag fillers.

What child doesn’t like biscuits? With this pack of four cutters you can make your own creepy cookies and get the children involved in decorating them. This pack of four includes a bat, a ghost, a skeleton and a cat shape and is a bargainous £1. Again these can be washed and put away until next year.

Silicone bake ware is a big trend at the moment and I use it a lot at home. Its so easy to clean and getting the cakes out when baked is much simpler then in a metal tin. This cake mould features six individual moulds – 2 bats, 2 pumpkins and 2 ghosts – so you can make little cakes for everyone instead of one large cake or the traditional cupcakes. I think this would also be great for making individual jellies. You can get jelly in a wide range of colours and flavours and they’ll set quickly in the fridge inside the moulds. This cake mould is £4.

A full selection of party decorations, treats and costumes can be found now at your local Wilkinsons store and online.

Heading over to Asda, here are a few bits to pop into your trolley this week.

No party is complete without something to eat and drink from. Save on washing up and worrying about breakages with paper plates, bowls and cups from Asda. Bright orange featuring black bats these sets are great for eating or drinking out of, as well as holding sweets and treats on the table. You can also get a matching wipe clean table cloth to protect your table. Prices start from just £1.

Sweets are essential at Halloween, either for your own party, or for the trick or treaters who come to your door. The Fangs and Bats come in plastic reusable screw top jars, and the striped Wands in multi-packs. All start from £2 a pack.

If you don’t have time to make biscuits you can buy some gingerbread shapes from Asda. These graveyard ghouls come feature pumpkins, bats and skulls, and are a bit of hit with my Little Man. A box of 18 is just £1.

Dressing up is a great part of Halloween, especially if you’re out trick or treating. If you want something a little more subtle, and a lot cheaper than a full blown costume, try one of these great spooky tshirts. A steal at just £2.50 each.

Check out the huge range of Halloween decorations, sweets, treats and costumes in store and online now.

Also on the table are Ella’s Kitchen Munchy Biccies in Cinnamon & Orange flavour, ideal for your younger guests.

All the homemade cakes and cupcakes you see were made using a huge pack of decorations, recipe books, aprons and supplies sent from Ladbrokes. We had a lot of fun making the cakes in skull covered cases and finishing them off with coloured icing, sugar shapes and sugar sparkles. Once the kids have finally gone to bed and you’ve got your feet up, why not take a look at the new spooky promotions and Halloween slot games available on the Ladbrokes website.

 

Product Review: Sweet Treats Waffle Stick Maker

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 24-10-2012

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You’ll all no doubt recall my enthusiasm for the Sweet Treats Cake Pop Maker which I reviewed recently. You can therefore probably imagine my excitement and being offered a Waffle Stick Maker from the same company. I was giddy!

The Waffle Stick Maker works in a similar fashion to the Cake Pop Maker. You heat it up whilst you mix your batter and then pour it inside. The maker is then closed and the waffles cook. This Waffle Stick Maker is very similar to a sandwich toaster really. After the cooking time – around 3 – 4 minutes – you are left with six golden sticks of waffle. Each “stick” is about an inch in width and I found it a great size to give to Little Man as a treat, though admittedly whilst we were making these he ended up eating about 5!

Now the batter makes around 36 and you can only make 6 at a time so prepare to be wiping out the hot plates after each batch and re-greasing them. If the idea of eating all 36 in one go is making you nervous do not fear – these waffles freeze VERY well. You can then reheat them as you want straight from the freezer in either the toaster or by popping them back into the Waffle Stick Maker for a few minutes. The top drawer of my freezer is in fact where you’ll find my stash of Apple & Cinnamon Waffle Sticks, ready to munch at a moments notice.

Whilst the “sticks” alone make a great snack or are ideal for breakfast, you can also jazz them up a little. The included recipes have details for making both the “sticks” and a dipping sauce, or you can turn them into “Waffle Sticks ON a Stick” by using cake pop sticks to poke in one end. By doing that you can then dip one end in chocolate, sprinkle on a few sugar strands or chopping nuts, and you’ve got instant party food. There is even a recipe included for savoury sticks and a cheese fondue sauce if your party isn’t full of small children!

You will find the Sweet Treats Waffle Stick Maker in your local Lakeland or online here.

Rainy Day Play: Big Jigs Toys

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 25-09-2012

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I think we can officially say that the summer has ended, and somewhat abruptly at that! Its been a fairly constant downpour here for the last few days making going outside to play a little tricky. Playing indoors doesn’t have to be dull though, and it certainly doesn’t need to mean hours plonked in front of the TV. How about letting your little ones use their imaginations?

Cup of fruit tea anyone? Piece of cake? How’s about a biscuit?

These sets from Big Jigs are just adorable. First up is their “Tea For Two” set. This is made up of two plate, two cups, two cupcakes, two biscuits and two halves of a ham sandwich – this is held together with velcro so can be taken apart and put back together. Next is a box containing six additional cakes – chocolate, Victoria sponge, a custard slice and three more cupcakes. It also comes with the fetching checkered tablecloth you can see. Finally there is a box of tea bags. This for me was THE cutest thing ever. Four wooden teabags with strings attached and small labels indicating their flavour.

Wooden toys are brilliant, and these are just gorgeous. They are so well made and the detail which has gone into decorating them is exquisite. My Little Man loves to have little tea parties and if Mummy is very lucky she gets invited too. The cakes look very realistic and Little Man can often be found sucking on the end of one. Thankfully the paint used is child friendly so he’s in no danger. He sets it all up himself and even pops teabags into the green cups. I’m currently trying to teach him “Cheers” but he just laughs at me at the moment!

This is a beautiful toy for both boys and girls for indoor play, but also for picnics in the garden with friends or teddy bears. These are going to last a very long time, and I can see Little Man, and Mummy, getting many years use out of them.

You can find these sets, as well as many other additional cake items and imagination toys, on the Big Jigs website where you also be able to find details of your nearest stockist.

Product Review: My Secret Kitchen

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Foodie, Product Reviews | Posted on 20-09-2012

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If you are searching for a flexible job that fits around your family life, and you are passionate about food and cooking, you might just be the kind of person that My Secret Kitchen is looking for. Working for My Secret Kitchen allows you to host Tastings in your own home. Invite family and friends round to indulge in good food and good company, and watch as the range of My Secret Kitchen foods practically sell themselves. The range is only available via My Secret Kitchen consultants and from the website, so you know the products are more exclusive than those you find in your local supermarket.

The team at My Secret Kitchen sent me a selection of their products to test out, and I am hugely impressed.

Oak Smoked Rapeseed Oil
The Rape for this oil is grown, harvested and cold pressed on the same farm in Sussex, so this is a very exciting local product. Rapeseed oil is one of the most healthy oils for your heart so is a great addition to any kitchen. Recommended by My Secret Kitchen to use in sauces, dressings and as a simple bread dipper its also really versatile. I used this oil last weekend by brushing it over the skin of a chicken I was roasting. I usually use butter or olive oil but this gave a great smoky taste to the chicken and the smell was mouthwatering.

Secret Firecracker Chilli Spices
This product is not for the fainthearted! 1/4 of a teaspoon of this will give you the same heat as one small red chilli, but at the same time it will give you the added flavour of cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic and Mexican oregano. This is going to be a great addition to homemade chilli con carne. The spice contains the “holy trinity” of Mexican chillies – ancho, pasilla and guajillo – giving it an unmistakably hot and fruity chilli flavour. Recipe suggestions for this include Chilli Lemon Chicken, Spicy Salsa, and Spicy Buffalo Sauce.

Maple Caramel Sauce
Just the name of this product should have you licking your lips. Liquid caramel mixed with a hint of warm maple syrup this sauce is divine. It tastes amazing on pancakes especially with bananas, and  makes plain vanilla ice cream heavenly just by being drizzled over it. It would also make a great topping to a sundae. In fact I think this sauce would be delicious on most desserts. Or you could just dig in and eat it by the spoonful, straight from the jar.

Secret Vanilla Pudding Spices
This spice combines vanilla with cinnamon, ground coriander seed and ginger making it a delightful sweet and spicy addition to cupboard. The secret ingredient is roasted cassia. This spice is delicious dusted on top of hot chocolates, but I think it would also be tasty on french toast or freshly made doughnuts. Mixed in to warm sponge puddings, added in to apple pies, or sprinkled over popcorn this spice will add a warming sweet flavour to a host of desserts, cakes and sweet treats. This spice should be a store cupboard staple for any keen baker.

If that’s got your taste buds twitching get over to the My Secret Kitchen website now. Not only can you buy these items – and a great range of other products – direct, you can sign up to host your own tasting session and become a consultant for them. With a range of perks and bonuses available to you and your customers, its a great opportunity for those foodies out there.

 

 

Product Review: Sweet Treats Cake Pop Maker

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 14-09-2012

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When I was offered a Cake Pop Maker to review I was a little sceptical. The whole Cake Pop phenomenon has somewhat passed me by. The idea of a ball of cake on a stick seemed totally bizarre to me, and I really didn’t get the appeal at all. When my Sweet Treats Cake Pop Maker arrived I was pleasantly surprised, to the point I can see me becoming something of an addict!

The only Cake Pop recipe I’d seen was to get pre-baked cake, crumble it, stick it back together, and cover it in melted chocolate. The first thing I liked about the Cake Pop Maker was that I’d be making them fresh and there wouldn’t be strange bits of cake making up my Pop, but a whole mouthful of fresh cake. Following the simple recipe which came with the machine – of which there are 5 to choose from – I set about making a batch. Now each recipe makes 30 – ideal for a party or gathering, but somewhat excessive for a trial run – so I halved it and ended up making 14. The recipe I used was a traditional sponge recipe so I knew what it should look like before baking. I was a little nervous about portioning it into the Maker – which makes 6 at a time – because I didn’t want to overfill them and end up with cake batter everywhere!

Within 4 minutes of closing the lid I had 6 round balls of cake. Now if you’re going to make these for a party or guests generally decoration is key. They are not the most attractive of things naked. Just warm out of the Maker they are delightful and alarmingly addictive. Little Man and I polished off the first batch very quickly. What surprised me was that whilst I was waiting for the second batch to bake my mind started ticking over of ways I could decorate them and events I could use them for. I already have plans to serve them at Little Man’s 2nd birthday next month, and there are ideas forming for Christmas designs as I type. Sticks are part of the Cake Pop process – mainly because they make decorating them so much easier – but I can imagine a pile of them on a plate, Ferrero Rocher style!

If balls of cake still don’t appeal to you – and I implore you to try them out – there is also a recipe for mini doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts. The batter mix is slightly different and whilst warm you roll them in sugar, but the idea of being able to create a batch of mini doughnuts within about 10 minutes is something to be investigated endlessly.

So whilst there is nothing more satisfying then a leisurely afternoon baking a delicious cake for my family, I must confess that I am now somewhat addicted to Cake Pops – I have a pile of sticks ready and am considering a Cake Pop Cookbook. For quick and simple treats for your children, or for a gorgeous centre piece at a party instead of a large cake, Cake Pops may well be the future.

The Sweet Treats Cake Pop Maker is available now from Lakeland.