Sticky Toffee Traybake

sticky toffee traybake

Our neighbour two doors down is currently working in Qatar and the last time he came home he knocked on our door and handed over a huge box of dates.
I’ll be honest, it’s sat in my pantry staring at me accusingly for months.
Then last week I decided it was time to put them to good use.

Dates are one of those ingredients I would just never buy myself. The problem is they look pretty disgusting. My overriding memory of them is that they always seemed to hang around at Christmas time in a strange looking box and not a single sole would venture anywhere near the box, let alone open it.
They’re a bit of an outsider truth be told.
And if you haven’t ventured near, let me tell you, they’re super sweet, sticky, rich and really chewy – they really don’t have much going for them unless you have the sweetest tooth in the world!

Date crown chopped dates

HOWEVER, they are perfect for baking with.  The natural sugar means you don’t have to pile in loads of other sugars and they give a gloriously rich flavour.

So, here’s the recipe for the Sticky Toffee traybake I made with them. You can eat the squares as a slice of cake or you can heat it back up in the microwave, add a dollop of ice cream or custard for a pudding you’d be happy to pay a fiver for in any restaurant!

Ingredients
85g softened butter
175g pitted dates, chopped
175ml boiling water
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
140g caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
half tsp vanilla extract
175g self-raising flour
Toffee Sauce
85g soft light brown sugar
40g butter
2tbsp single cream or milk

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas mark 4.
Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

2. Put the dates in a small saucepan with the bicarb and boiling water. Heat gently for 5 minutes until the dates are soft. Don’t let it boil.
NOTE: Make sure you fully de-pit all the dates; those stones are as hard as rock!

3. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and date mixture. The mixture right now will be really runny and look like the most unappetising bowl of gunk you’ve ever seen!

sticky toffee mixture

5. Add the flour and fold it into the mixture.

6. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until it’s firm to the touch and starting to shrink from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool slightly.

7. To make the toffee sauce, put the brown sugar, butter and cream/milk into a saucepan and heat gently until dissolved then simmer gently for 2 minutes.

8. Prick the cake all over with a fork or skewer and pour the hot sauce evenly over the top. Leave it to cool in the tin then cut into squares.

sticky toffee traybake 5

sticky toffee traybake2

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged | 1 Comment

Recipe boxes; what you need to know

Riverford stir fry

Since going back to work full-time, I’ll confess, continuing the illusion of being a domestic goddess is tough.
I walk in the door and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking, let alone making any kind of decision about what to cook, do we have the ingredients in and can I be bothered to stand in the kitchen chop chop chopping.
All I want to do is sort the kids’ homework, make a cup of tea and vegetate on the sofa.

But then I heard about recipe boxes. I’ve been wanting to try them out for a while now. I have friends who have made the leap and they all rave about it. My friends don’t tend to rave, being members of the slightly cynical middle-aged club.
But would I like the recipes? Is there enough food for a hungry family? And are they worth the money? These are the questions that stopped me trying.

Then I was offered the opportunity to try three different boxes and I jumped at the chance!
So, here are the three boxes and what we thought.
Obviously as review boxes I didn’t really get to experience the ordering service, their customer service, nor do I know ongoing what they are like to use every week.
But this is an overview of single boxes and their contents.
With all of the boxes you get to choose the recipes from a selection – some bigger than others – that you then order and they deliver direct to your home.
You get all the pre-measured ingredients, you cook them and you look really really good. That was the bare minimum I was expecting anyway.

What I really loved was that it made us try things we probably would never have tried before and added a few recipes to our repertoire!
That slightly bizarre-looking cauliflower thing in the picture below? We eat it all the time now (it’s Romansco by the way and it has a slightly nutty flavour).

Riverford Recipe Box 2

Riverford Recipe Box
Meat box £39.95 – 3 meals for 2 people.
www.riverford.co.uk

First look
I love the box these come in; each recipe is partitioned off with all of the ingredients needed and the herbs and spices measured out into little plastic pots.
The meat is contained in a biodegradable cool bag, which you need to pop in the fridge.
I can’t wait to dive it; it looks so inviting. It looks like something you’d find on Jamie Oliver’s kitchen counter.

Quality/Quantity of ingredients:
The vegetables are very fresh and attractive and the ingredients are very clearly packaged.
The box we had was to feed two but there was easily enough for three people – the meals were huge.

Riverford Recipe box ingredientsRiverford recipe box chopped vegetablesRiverford recipesRiverford pork steaks

The recipes:
We had three meals in the box; Pork Steaks with warm saffron, romanesco, leek and potato salad, Beef & Shiitake noodles, Shakshuka with crispy pitta.
I’d definitely make two of them again and the best part was they were all super easy to make and really tasty.
The recipe cards are really easy to follow and it gives clear instructions on how long the meal will take and how many days you’ve got before you have to cook it.
The recipe cards are also nice enough to keep and store for future use and give a little section to add your own notes which I liked.

Pros:
I loved the packaging and how when you open the box it all looks so inviting. The paperwork was also very clear on when the meals had to be cooked by and the packaging was all either recyclable or biodegradable.
The recipes smelt amazing and you’re also sent a useful little recipe booklet to compliment the recipes you’ll be making.
It’s all organic and seasonally sourced – a big plus for me.

Cons:
Where all the ingredients are weighed out and spices in little pots so you can easily just add them to the recipe without having to weigh or measure, a couple of items didn’t make it clear.
Such as the mushrooms which came in a little box but I didn’t know if I was supposed to use all of them or had to weigh out a certain amount. The same with the coriander.
Also at nearly £40 for a box, that works out at around £6 per meal. However, as one of the meals is non-meat that’s a lot to pay for a vegetarian option I thought.
There’s also not a huge choice of meals each week – which could be a good or a bad thing!

Mindful chef ham hock recipe

Mindful Chef Recipe Box
Meat box £42 – 3 meals for 2 people
www.mindfulchef.com

First look
Again these recipes come in a nice sturdy box, but this time the ingredients (except the meat) for each recipe is contained in its own bag. We had a beef bag, a chicken bag and a pork bag – really like the fact that there are three meat meals and it feels I’m getting my money’s worth.
Again the meat comes separately in a biodegradable cool bag.
The bagged system is great as it means you can simply take one of the bags out of the fridge and everything you need for your meal is right there.

Mindful Chef recipe box

Quality/Quantity of ingredients:
The vegetables were fresh and lovely looking. The meat high quality and the extras such as tinned tomatoes and coconut milk were also high quality.
I’m really picky about our cuts of meat and always try to pick seasonal, organic veg so was very impressed with this.

IMG_9548Mindful Chef red thai curry

The recipes:
We had three meals; Ham hock, baby spinach and cauliflower-broccoli bake, Pear, pumpkin and peppered steak ratatouille and Red Thai chicken curry with butternut squash and courgetti.
The recipe cards are basic but still high quality and great to keep, with easy to follow instructions.

Pros:
You get to choose from 5 recipe options each week: one red meat, 1 chicken, 1 pork, 1 fish and 1 plant-based dish. I liked that each meal was in its own brown bag so it’s easy to grab and go as it were!
The Thai curry was particularly gorgeous – would absolutely go out of my way to make that again.

Cons:
One of the recipes called for a spiraliser and we definitely don’t have one of those in the house! It’s not exactly an everyday item, so we just couldn’t make that one part of a recipe which was a little disappointing.
It’s also a bit more expensive than the other two, but you do get a wide choice of recipes and you can choose all meat, or a fish recipe too.

Marley Spoon recipe cards

Marley Spoon
Family box £48 – 2 meals for 4 people
www.marleyspoon.co.uk

First look
The box isn’t quite as exciting as the other two, but it’s what’s in there that counts!
Each recipe comes in its own labelled bag so, again, you can take a bag directly out of the fridge and know everything you need is right there.
Again, the packaging is completely recyclable which I love and the meat comes in a separate cooler bag – again completely recyclable.
I love opening one of the brown paper bags and getting all excited at what’s inside. It’s these little things that count!

marley spoon

Quality/Quantity of ingredients:
The vegetables were OK, nothing which made me go ooooo, but that could have been the recipes I chose. There were plenty to go around though, they certainly don’t scrimp on the ingredients. The meat was lovely and additional ingredients, such as yoghurt, were brands I love.

Marley Spoon chickenroasted vegMarley spoon chicken and roasted veg

The recipes:
We had two meals: Rich beef one pot and Chicken and roasted veg. Both were really easy to make and tasted delicious but they weren’t exactly adventurous and a bit every day I thought.
They are supported by excellent step-by-step and very stylish recipe cards with plenty of photos to help you every step of the way. There was plenty to go around but I do feel the recipes weren’t great the week we opted to try them out.

Pros:
These were really easy family recipes that both he kids devoured and were really simple and super quick to make on the fly.
The recipe cards are also excellent with very clear step by step instructions and images so that even my 10 year old could probably make them!

Cons:
I felt it was a bit expensive for what you get and there wasn’t really anything to set it apart from its competitors.
The recipes were a bit boring – but that could have been the week we opted for. The one pot beef was a nice family meal, but I’m not sure I’d class the chicken and roast veg a family meal?

So in conclusion, yes recipe boxes are a bit expensive, but you are getting quality, seasonal ingredients and you’re also paying heavily for the convenience.
But my absolute favourite thing is that every time I’ve come home to one on my doorstep, it’s felt like a wonderful gift that I get to rummage through and ooo and ahhhhh at, and you can’t grumble at that!

Have you tried out a recipe box? I’d be really interested to hear what you thought.

Posted in Food, Other Review, Reviews | Tagged | 6 Comments

Mother’s guilt

mother's guilt

Until my children were 6 and 3 I worked full-time on a busy regional daily newspaper.
I dropped my son off at breakfast club and my daughter at nursery, then raced home at the end of the day hoping to snatch a few moments with them before the bedtime routine.

I felt incredibly guilty.

Six years ago I quit my job to work from home.
It was a Big Decision. I was in a job I adored, on a paper I loved, working with people who inspired and entertained me in equal measure.
But it meant I got to take my children to school every day.
No breakfast club at the crack of dawn.
No racing down the motorway to make sure I made it in time for nursery closing.
When my daughter started school I got to hold her hand every day without having to rearrange annual leave or beg someone else to help me out.
I watched school plays, rugby matches, visited class open days, hung out with other parents at netball tournaments.
We had years of warm, summer mornings strolling down the hill to school and cold, frosty walks back up the hill back home.

I still felt guilty.

While I was freelancing from home, our income dropped and was erratic, our savings got eaten up and I effectively waved goodbye to a great career.
But I was so very grateful and happy at being afforded the opportunity to do it.

Last year I went back to work. Another Big Decision.
It’s been really tough. Gone are the morning walks to school, the chats with other mums, the socialising at the school gate.
To be honest, not all of that is because I’ve gone back to work; my kids are older now and they don’t want me walking them to school, holding hands, holding bags, cramping their style!
So I went back to work primarily for me. Because, although I adored working from home, I was lonely and wanted to talk rubbish with someone else about my latest hairstyle, last night’s movie or our plans for the weekend.
I missed face to face interaction. I missed actual people.
I’ve now landed a job I love and once again have managed to find somewhere with inspiring, wonderful colleagues.

But you’ve guessed it, I feel guilty.
We have to rely heavily on the help of family, the dog misses me and the end of the day is a mad rush as I try to fit in the Mum Taxi, homework, after school activities, washing and friends over for tea.

Here’s the thing; it never ever gets any easier. Any of it.
Whatever you do, whatever your circumstances, whatever you choose to do, you will always feel Mother’s Guilt.
It will sit heavily on your shoulders, weighing you down, making you question yourself, making you feel like you’ve always got something to answer to or something to prove.

I love being a mum. I also love working.
However, it feels like if I try to combine both of these things I’ve always got a little voice in my head telling me that I’m not doing either of them to the best of my ability.
And I really really hate that.

I know mother’s guilt is a pretty universal thing – no matter what you have, how much money, what career, how big your house is, you will always feel that painful sting of parental guilt, whether you’re a mother or a father.

But how do you deal with it? Does anyone think they have the balance right?

Posted in Family Life, Me | Tagged | 18 Comments

Christmas Eve rituals

merry christmas vizsla

The house is fairly still and quiet.
The fairy lights on the tree highlight the corner of the living room and candles burn in the fireplace.
There is a movie on – tonight  we’re watching The Grinch – and we’re all cuddled up on the sofa.
The dog is in his bed curled up at our feet.

Earlier today we wrapped presents and prepped the house for visitors tomorrow.
Nana and Drew visited and picked up their gifts, then in the afternoon we walked down to grandma’s to drop off more presents.
The moon is full tonight and being out there in the dark walking home to our cosy living room with it’s homely tree and a film waiting for us feels wonderful; like something from a movie.

Tonight the children will go to bed filled with excitement. One of them still believes, the other believes that keeping the magic alive is an important job of an older brother.
I’m amazed that in this day and age we’ve managed to keep them believers until the age of at least 10.
Once they’re asleep, the grandparents will sneak up and add their presents under the tree.
We’ll drink mulled wine together and wonder at how fast the year has gone and what the new year brings and then we will wave them goodbye.
The last job of the night is to bring the presents I’ve wrapped for their stockings out of the boot of the car – Mia knows all my hiding places – and stuff the stockings with them.
We’ll check that Mia has left her note to Santa and that everything looks set for tomorrow and then we’ll make our way to bed.

This is our Christmas Eve. It’s pretty much always been our Christmas Eve since we’ve had children. Simple, family orientated and all about making memories.

I hope all your Christmas Eve’s are just as you’d hope they would be and wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy new year.
Let’s do it all again in 2016 shall we?!

This is a post in collaboration with Slumberdown, for which I am a brand ambassador. 

Slumberdown Logo

Posted in Christmas | Tagged | 4 Comments

Win a Slumberdown Pamper Hamper and CHILL OUT!

chill out

Our main plan for the Christmas break is to veg out.
Sit on the sofa, under a very large fleecy blanket and watch TV, munch on chocolate and do very little else.
We might surface every now and again to visit friends, or play host to family or maybe even play a game or too.
But essentially we plan to chill right out.

Since going back to work it’s been pretty full on in this house. As in: Full. On.
The kids are so active and busy, my evenings are spent either washing kit, at the supermarket, ferrying someone somewhere or being stood at the side of a rugby pitch, freezing my extremities off and dreaming of my warm, snuggly bed.

To us Christmas is about reconnecting, taking the time to do the things we simply don’t have time for ordinarily and generally slowing down.
There is no need to get dressed; just pull your duvet around you and make your way to the sofa where everyone else is waiting. Even the dog.
Which is all rather handy given that I’m a Slumberdown ambassador and their Winter Warm range is all about the snuggly.

Of course, if you ask my kids what Christmas is to them, it’s about reconnecting with friends (so can you please drive me over there mum/can they come for a sleepover mum/can they come for tea mum?), eating at Pizza Express every day and THEN chilling out on the soft in front of the TV.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Seriously it was easier when they were babies and couldn’t walk and their most favourite Christmas present was the cardboard box their very expensive sensory toy came in.

Winter Comforts prize

ANYWAY, I’m going to help make sure that you also have a chilled out, relaxing Christmas.
I’ve teamed up with the lovely people at Slumberdown to bring you a totally chilled out prize! I have a Pamper Hamper to give away to one lucky reader: The hamper contains a pair of luxury silky Slumberdown pillows, a vintage pampering bath tub set, a copy of the Great British Bake Off book and a luxury hot chocolate set from Not on the High Street. All worth around £60.

How to enter

All you have to do for a chance of winning is fill in the widget below and cross your fingers! Entry is via answering a simple question, but you can get bonus entries via Twitter.
Best of luck.
If you want to find other competitions hosted on UK-based blogs, check out my Pinterest board for more places to win!
And if you want to find other competitions hosted on UK-based blogs, check out my Pinterest board for more places to win! Follow Tara Cain’s board The UK Giveaway/Competition Community Board on Pinterest.
And if you want another chance to win this prize you can pop on over to another one of the Slumberdown ambassadors, Capture By Lucy, who is also offering you the chance to snuggle up and chill out!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The rules bit
The competition is open to residents of the UK, ROI, Channel Islands and Isle of Man only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over. 
The prize is for a set of Slumberdown luxury pillows, a vintage bath tub set, the Great British Bake Off book and a hot chocolate gift set. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Entry is via Rafflecopter.
Make sure your contact details are easily available.
The competition closes at midnight on Monday, December 21, 2015.
One winner will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
A winner will be informed within 7 days of the closing date and will need to respond within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen. 
The winner’s name will be announced on the widget.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Sticky Fingers and Slumberdown.

Posted in Competitions | 287 Comments

8 life lessons my children have taught me

I am in my 40s.
I have learned an awful lot in all those years but a 13 year old and a 10 year old have managed to teach me some of the life lessons I value most dearly in their short years.
Most of them have been how to dredge up great wells of patience in the face of adversity and no alcohol, but others have been noteworthy. Blogworthy!

Kids are surprisingly wise little creatures, although obviously I’d never tell them that as the level of smug would be unbearable :-)
So here’s what I’ve learned from my kids:

1. Laugh.
Even when you don’t feel like it and you’re knotted up with anger and you want to rant and rage: Just laugh. It solves many many problems. Do a big ‘oh well’ and shrug your shoulders.
If you still feel like ranting and raging after that, then it was probably worth getting cross about. If not then you’ve saved yourself another couple of wrinkles.
There is nothing in this world as joyous as hearing children laugh: Fact.
So bag some of that joy for yourself.

2. Time is the most valuable thing you own.
Money is great, fancy holidays are lovely, a posh car is, well, unnecessary in my book but don’t let my husband hear you say that.
But give someone your time and they will be forever grateful.

Children don’t want to be lavished with goods (no matter how much they beg for them). They want you; all of you, the you that isn’t distracted by computers or a phone or TV or whether or not there is enough food in the house to last until the weekend.
Give your undivided attention generously. Guaranteed it’s the one thing you will look back on and regret if you don’t.

3. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
This is a real biggie for me. I wasn’t a bad person before I had children but since they have been around I want so much to be a better person; for them to be proud of me, to say ‘my mum had time for everyone. She always wanted to help’.
Children see, children do and they make me want to lead by example. And I don’t care how twee that sounds.

4. Pick your battles.
Some things really really don’t matter. Just let them go as the song goes *waits for you all to stop singing it before I move on*.
There was a time when I was SO principled, so determined that I would have my say.
Does it really matter if all they’ve eaten all day is chocolate for breakfast, a hot dog and 2 bags of crisps? It’s one day. Tomorrow you can balance it out.
Sure their bedroom looks like a department store vomited up its contents on their floor but is it worth having a shouting match about?

Same goes for pretty much everything else. Smile and let it go. There will be plenty of time to come out all guns blazing when it really matters.

5. Listen.
Sometimes it’s really really difficult to listen to yet another ‘he said, she said’ tale from the school playground without casting your eyes around the room and mentally drifting off and doing the shopping list for the rest of the week in your head. BUT these little things matter to your kids. AND you are sending the message that you are happy to listen to anything. Which means when they really have something important to say, they’re more likely to tell you.
The same goes for everyone else in your life. Listen to them. They don’t always want you to solve anything, they just want someone to give of their time and listen to them.

6. The world doesn’t end if your kids leave the house with clothes that don’t ‘go’.
For the longest time I would battle with my daughter because she wanted to wear her wellies with shorts and a Peter Pan top. And a baseball cap to top it off.
But then I realised: what does it matter? Who is it hurting? Why can’t she express herself while walking around Sainsbury’s? In years to come she’ll be baiting me with something so inappropriately cropped I’ll wonder why I made a fuss, so why not enjoy these years of cuteness?

7. Let go.
Sing at the top of your voice. Dance in the park. Ride on the trolleys down the isles at the supermarket. Turn your bed into a wrestling ring. Build dens. Join in.
Who cares who’s watching? Live your life. Be the reason your kids smile.

Sure you’ll be the source of great embarrassment when they’re teenagers but the years either side you will be a hero.

8. Hug.
The world would be a better place if more people hugged.
I probably hug too much, but you’re giving out just a little bit of joy right there so, whatever.

Have you ever had a crappy day and come home to a hug from one of your kids? That right there has the power to transform my shitty day. I’d just like to give just a little bit of that out too.

So, life lessons from little ones? What have they taught you?

Posted in Family Life, Me | 1 Comment

Win a Riverford organic recipe box

riverford mince pies

Mince pies.
They’re bit of a Marmite food item aren’t they? People either love them or hate them.
I used to be a hater, but then discovered ‘proper’ mince pies. Ones whose pastry crust didn’t taste like limp cardboard. Basically not ones from a supermarket where they either have a massive gap between the filling and the lid or the filling literally tastes like the squashed flies I always thought they were made of as a child.

Riverford mince pies review

So I was sent a few boxes of ‘homemade style’ mince pies from Riverford. And being the generous soul I am, I took them into work for everyone to try!
Big big mistake. Big mistake.
They are utterly gorgeous. As in they could have been made by your grandma they are so good. And I bloomin’ gave them away. What. A. Fool!
I was also sent their version of Italian Biscotti, their Almond Cantuccini. Again utterly gorgeous. And gone in seconds.

riverford almond cantuccini

Anyway, I’ve been working with Riverford on another feature (I’ve been trying out their recipe boxes); how would you like to win a Riverford Recipe Box too?

A recipe box is basically three whole meals in one box. You open the box, take out all the measured ingredients, follow the recipe on the supplied card, sit down and eat a freshly cooked, delicious meal, don’t feel stressed!
Check out Riverford’s recipe boxes for yourself; you choose the recipes that suit you, your box is delivered, and voila. The best thing I found is that it opens up your repetoir of ‘go to’ recipes and moves you away from that cooking rut it’s easy to get stuck in.

You can choose from recipes such as harissa and red pepper chicken, bubble and squeak cakes and freeform homity pie!

Riverford Recipe box

How to enter

All you have to do for a chance of winning a Riverford recipe box is fill in the widget below and cross your fingers! Entry is via answering a simple question, but you can get bonus entries via Twitter.
The winner gets to choose a recipe box of their choice.
Best of luck

If you want to find other competitions hosted on UK-based blogs, check out my Pinterest board for more places to win! Follow Tara Cain’s board The UK Giveaway/Competition Community Board on Pinterest.a Rafflecopter giveaway

The rules bit
The competition is open to residents of the UK, ROI, Channel Islands and Isle of Man only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over. 
The prize is for a Riverford Recipe box worth £39.95. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Entry is via Rafflecopter.
Make sure your contact details are easily available.
The competition closes at midday on December 17, 2015.
One winners will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
A winner will be informed within 7 days of the closing date and will need to respond within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen. 
The winner’s name will be announced on the widget.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Sticky Fingers and Riverford.

Posted in Christmas, Competitions | 160 Comments

Win an engraved birthstone locket from Children’s Jewellery worth £40

Children's Jewellery birthstone lockets

Browsing around? Doing a spot of Christmas shopping?
How about this gorgeous birthstone locket for your girl? Or as a gift for a very lucky girl you know?
What’s EVEN better is  you can have it engraved with their name too.
Such a lovely gift for someone.

These sterling silver lockets are from Shropshire-based company Children’s Jewellery and are made by craftsmen in the historic Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and assayed by the Birmingham Assay Office.
The locket can be engraved on both the front and the rear, with up to eight letters/numbers per side. The chain is available in 14”,16″ or 18” lengths and it comes in a lovely gift box with silver-grey organza ribbon.
What a treat to open up on Christmas morning!

Children's Jewellery box

So I’ve teamed up with the lovely people at Children’s Jewellery to offer one of these adorable lockets to one of my readers. The lucky winner gets to choose the birthstone and  get the locket engraved too.

If you can’t wait to find out whether you are a winner you can always buy one of the lockets from the Children’s Jewellery website. You can also connect with them on their Facebook page and via Instagram.

How to enter

So what do you have to do to get your hands on one of these lovely lockets? All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is just fill in the widget below and cross your fingers! Best of luck x

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And if you want to find other competitions hosted on UK-based blogs, check out my Pinterest board for more places to win! Follow Tara Cain’s board The UK Giveaway/Competition Community Board on Pinterest.

Rules:
The competition is open to residents of the UK only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over.
No cash alternative offered.
The prize is 1 silver locket with birthstone of your choice. You can also have your locket engraved as per the website instructions.
Entry is via Rafflecopter.
Make sure your contact details are easily available.
The competition closes on Friday, December 18.
One winner will be chosen from all the entries after the closing date.
The winner will be asked to provide their full name and address for the prize to be sent to.
If a prizewinner does not respond within a week of being contacted, the prize will be re-drawn and a new winner will be contacted.
The winners’ name will be announced on the widget.
Entry to this competition confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.

Posted in Competitions | Tagged , , | 110 Comments

Christmas tree traditions

christmas tree decoration

I’m that person who takes the dog a walk just as dusk kicks in and people have turned their tree lights on but not closed their curtains.
I’m that person who likes to take a cheeky peek into your home to see what sort of tree you have/how you’ve decorated it/where you’ve positioned it in the room.

I bloody love Christmas. Love the lights, the glitz, the presents, the shopping.
But most of all I love the positivity. I love that it makes people want to spend time with each other, visit those they haven’t seen in a while, makes them think of others, makes them smile.
Sure it’s stressful and expensive and demanding and oh my goodness the kids want WHAT from Santa?
But for me it’s also a time of goodwill to all men, of chilling out with your family while eating half a tub of Heroes to yourself and then regretting it. It’s a time for seeing the good in the world.

christmas tree decorations

We have a tradition in this house; every year Santa buys both my children a new decoration for the tree.
It means our Christmas tree is filled with memories and that makes our Christmas tree pretty darn special.
So many, many thanks to Balsam Hill for the gorgeous Christmas tree they sent us to try out. We were sent a 6ft Norway prelit spruce and it literally took minutes to set up – in fact my 10 year old did ours on her own – that’s how easy it was!
The three sections were each numbered so you knew which one to slot in to the base first and you even get a pair of pine tree green gloves to aid with setting up the branches. A lovely touch.

The tree is prelit with LED lights, there are plenty of them AND they literally plug into a little block half way up the tree. So so easy.

balsam hill christmas tree stand

Balsam hill tree Collage

balsam hill christmas trees

Balsam hill christmas tree

So then on the subject of Christmas trees I asked Twitter what their Christmas Tree traditions were. They oh they didn’t let me down:

 

 

 

Posted in Christmas, Other Review, Reviews | 3 Comments

Win a fab vintage-look DAB radio from VQ worth £130

DAB radio

Isn’t this just the most gorgeous radio you’ve ever seen?
I can’t wait for spring to come around again so I can sit in the back garden with a cup of tea and my radio looking like someone from a vintage lifestyle magazine!

However Christmas is a pretty good time too for putting on some Sammy Davis Jnr and warming up the mulled cider *ahem*.
When I say putting on some Sammy Davis, you can pair up your phone or tablet to the devise and play the music on there. It’s as easy as that. Turn on your Bluetooth, hit pair on the radio, et voila; your music in seconds.
I’m sat here now listening to a touch of Jamie Cullum with my Ugg-style slippers on. What can I tell you, I’m middle aged :-)

Anyway, I’m working with the lovely people at VQ, a British audio brand who are predominantly female focused and who believe in the fusion of sound and style. And boy have they done just that. These radios look absolutely fabulous; the sound is excellent and really packs a punch given that it’s coming from such a small package and they’ve totally nailed the vintage retro look.

DAB radio 2

So what’s the low down?

All the products have a retro vibe – and retro names. From the Bardot and Blighty to the one I have the Hepburn Mark II.
The emphasis is on colour and design – it’s strikingly simple but looks so stylish. AND you get to choose from a range of gorgeous colours to compliment whichever room you want to use it in.

DAB radio detail CollageDAB radio Collage

Down into the detail

The Heburn II costs £129.
It has DAB and FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity for your phone or tablet and an aux input to connect any other audio device.
What’s even better is despite the vintage package, this radio is totally up to date: they have a VQ app (on Android or iOS) so you can control everything from your smart device.

If you like what you see and want to connect with VQ you can chat with them on the Twitter, Facebook channels or visit the VQ website.
I
‘ve also got a discount if you want to order one as a gift for some lucky person; when you get to the checkout just enter ‘SFVQ15’ to receive 15% off ALL products before December 31, 2015.

Teal_top

Tell me, tell me, how do I enter?

All you have to do for a chance of winning one of these radios is fill in the widget below and cross your fingers! Entry is via answering a simple question, but you can get bonus entries via Twitter.
The winner gets to choose a colour of their choice.
Best of luck.
If you want to find other competitions hosted on UK-based blogs, check out my Pinterest board for more places to win! Follow Tara Cain’s board The UK Giveaway/Competition Community Board on Pinterest.a Rafflecopter giveaway

The rules bit
The competition is open to residents of the UK, ROI, Channel Islands and Isle of Man only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over. Proof of age may be required. 
The competition is not open to employees and relatives of Sticky Fingers and VQ.
The prize is for a Hepburn II DAB radio. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Entry is via Rafflecopter.
Make sure your contact details are easily available.
The competition closes at midday on December 13, 2015.
One winners will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
A winner will be informed within 7 days of the closing date and will need to respond within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen. 
The winner’s name will be announced on the widget.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Sticky Fingers and VQ.

Posted in Competitions, Reviews, Tech Review | Tagged | 386 Comments