How to Stay Sane when Working from Home

How to stay sane when working from home

I’ve been blogging for over six years now, and never imagined it would turn into a career opportunity. However as a single parent of five, who are all growing up far too quickly, I still can’t really see it being particularly feasible for me to work outside of the home anytime soon. I don’t have any support, it’s just me and has been for over seven years now. I don’t have any family to help out if I have a sick child, and having moved recently I don’t have any friends on the doorstep either.

I am pretty disciplined when the children are at school, I do an early school run and I am usually working by 8.30am. I find the school holidays harder because I want to be having fun too! I make up for it by working in the evenings or first thing before we go out for the day.

I have to admit to generally loving working from home, I cannot imagine juggling even more than I already do. However, there are times when the thought of shutting the door and going ‘out to work’, meeting other people and sitting in an office/shop etc really appeals. The downside from working from home is that there is a tendency to never switch off.

I think getting the balance right can be tricky but here are my top tips on how to stay sane when working from home:

Hours

  • Decide on the number of hours you are going to be doing daily and treat those hours as strictly for work, it is so easy to get sidetracked by the washing, cleaning and even invites to meet friends for coffee. Stick the washing on first thing before you officially start, make use of a slow cooker and prep meals the night before or first thing in the morning. It is hard for other people to understand that you really are working but from home but explain that the hours must be adhered to.

Daily Schedule

  • This leads onto having a daily task sheet or schedule to work to. I personally don’t have one, preferring to make the most of the ‘freedom’ working from home gives you, but I could probably be a lot more productive if I have one (I am a little scared of to do lists). I factor in gym classes into my working week so that I am around in the evenings for the children.

Have a dedicated work area

  • Have a specific place to work from. If you have a dedicated area for work then hopefully you will be able to remove yourself from that area at the end of the day. I’ve done this and gone back to working from the kitchen table, that works for me but does make it hard to draw a line and finish work. I find I can multi task and finish off work once the children are home and perhaps sitting at the table with me doing their homework.

Network online and make friends

  • Make strong online connections to help with the loneliness that can be a downside of working from home. Facebook and Twitter are good and there are also lots of Facebook groups for specific skills. Look online for local groups, I know there are once a month meet ups for women in business where I live and I expect there are ones for men too.

Look for jobs and advice on professional networks

  • If you are looking for jobs then try Hiive, a creative network that posts job opportunities, career resources and is a place to have discussions with, or ask questions from other like minded creatives.

Take a break!

  • Take a lunch break! Or have that coffee with a friend but bear in mind that if you take too much time out you’ll have to make up for it some other time.

The dreaded paperwork

  • Keep on top of the paperwork. Little and often is best. Come tax return time you’ll be grateful you did. All it takes is a notebook with a note of all your work and income and outgoings each month and remember to keep all receipts. I keep mine in a pretty little box.

Remember to switch off and live your life

  • Stick to your hours and switch off during the evening otherwise you could find yourself a little burnt out and demotivated. Join the gym, take the dog out for a walk or get stuck into a great box set or book. make sure you set a time to end your working day and leave it until tomorrow. Obviously if you are juggling very small children during the day you may have to work into the evening sometimes but limit it to particular days of the week.

Do you have any tips you would add? How do you stay sane when working from home? I would love to know.

This is a sponsored post

 

Fire HD 6 Kids Edition: Review

Fire HD 6 Kids Edition

As an avid reader I have to say I was a teeny tiny bit envious that this Fire HD 6 Kids Edition tablet has been put through it’s paces mainly by M, aged 8 years. A tablet especially designed with children in mind with a robust kid-proof case. The tablet comes with 1 year of Fire for Kids unlimited (more about that later) and a two year guarantee.

A review of the Kindle HD 6 Kids Edition

This is not a toy, it is a real grown up tablet- a quad-core processor, HD display, camera and access to films, apps, Apps on the Fire HD Kids Editionbooks and more. However, it has parental controls that protect the child from the dreaded ‘evils’ of the internet. Parents can choose how long they want to allow their child to spend on the tablet playing games, or perhaps allow unlimited reading. Children can also be given educational goals to complete before they are allowed ‘free time’. And whilst they are in their own personalised profile they cannot access the internet, or download anything unless it is age appropriate content as part of Fire for Kids Unlimited.

Fire for Kids Unlimited gives children unlimited access to thousands of different books, apps and videos, all included for the first year, and then £1.99 per month for prime customers, £3.99  if you are not a prime customer. There are also options for families- £4.99 for prime customers and £7.99/month if you are not. The apps include educational ones, as well as games. The book titles are endless, and videos available can range from short episodes to full length films.

Fire HD Kids Edition_Blue and Pink

What we love about the Fire HD 6 Kids Edition…

  • The robust case (it comes in two colours by the way- pink or blue) which protects the tablet.
  • The two year guarantee, definitely peace of mind especially if the tablet is being used by very young children. If your child breaks it, return it and it will be replaced for free.
  • The battery life is really good.
  • The availability of content such as books. M doesn’t have to ask me if he wants to read a book within the Fire for Kids Unlimited content, I am reassured that anything he has access to there is safe. It has meant he has read a ton of books that he wouldn’t normally…ask him anything about Persian and Siamese cats, Bulldogs, Pugs…he has the low down. He has a book downloaded about World War 1, Harry Potter and lots of other fiction.
  • Of course other content is available from the Amazon store and this can be put onto the child’s profile from the parent’s zone. M is Minecraft mad so we bought that and he has that on the tablet as well as some other games that were free. He also practises his time tables and spellings using apps on the tablet.
  • The one year subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited.
  • The parental controls, I can limit how much time M spends playing apps, yet allow him freedom to read as much or as little as he wants.  And I can also shut it down between certain hours so he can’t do any middle of the night play.

Books on Fire HD 6 Kids Edition

Things I am not so keen on…

  • I found changing profiles quite tricky at first, however the upside is it’s hard for a young child to do and is passworded.
  • The cost of Fire for Kids Unlimited after the first year, not so bad if you have one child and are an Amazon prime member but if you’re not then I think £3.99 is a little steep, especially as children aren’t going to be downloading new games all the time and I am not sure how often the books and videos content is updated to justify the expense. (Maybe I am a little mean but I am not keen on any subscriptions for children).
  • The memory fills up really quickly. We have an 8GB tablet, it’s available in 16GB too, and I think the extra £20 is well worth paying to double the memory capacity. The videos within the Fire for Kids Unlimited are streamed so space is not taken up by films, in our case it has been books, and apps.

However, I am really impressed overall, it has been a huge hit with M and I feel comfortable knowing that he can’t post to social media or stumble across anything he shouldn’t…or do any in-app spending. It is definitely something I would recommend to others.

Fire HD Kids Edition is £119 with 8GB memory and £139 with 16GB of memory and is available now from Amazon

Fire HD Kids Edition_Worry Free Blue

Disclosure: We received the Fire HD 6 Kids Edition to review and all opinions are my own. 

 

Golden Oreo Tea Cakes

Golden Oreos Tea Cakes!

I have received product from Oreo for this post. It is an entry to the Foodies100 Wonderfilled recipe challenge sponsored by Oreo, which marks the launch of two exciting new flavours: Peanut Butter and Golden. The delicious new flavours are available in all major supermarkets at an RRP of £1.08. To find out more, visit www.facebook.com/oreo 

Make these easy golden Oreo tea cakes today

Trying to think up a brand new recipe using Oreos is harder than you think, just about every combination has already been done so I really had to think outside of the box. I love tea cakes so how about Golden Oreo tea cakes? I have to say the golden oreo honeycomb taste combined with the rich fruity jam and light fluffy marshmallow all enrobed in thick milk chocolate is a winner.

Make yummy tea cakes with Golden Oreos

Don’t be put off by the time these take, they can be done in short stages and do not require any baking, the wait will be worthwhile.

Golden Oreo Tea Cakes

And if you especially love peanut butter, try the recipe substituting the Golden Oreos with Peanut Butter Oreos, as described. The peanut butter Oreo and jelly tea cakes were a hit here. I however, prefer the Golden Oreo version.

peanut butter Oreo & jelly tea cakes

These Golden Oreo tea cakes make a gorgeous afternoon tea treat, they are big and mighty and wonderfilled with the marshmallow and jam but every calorie is worth it! Don’t let the side down by buying cheap jam, go for the best you can afford (or make your own).

The peanut butter Oreo version is a modern twist on peanut butter and jelly and the saltiness of the peanut butter Oreos and the peanut butter flavoured marshmallow cream is a great combination with the sweet but bitter chocolate.

Peanut Butter Oreo & Jelly Tea Cakes

Golden Oreo Tea Cakes recipe, plus Peanut Butter Oreo & Jelly Tea Cakes

Golden Oreo Tea Cakes

Rating 

Prep time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 6

These are delicious tea cakes filled with light marshmallow, fruity jam and golden Oreos to finish them off with a hint of honeycomb, all enrobed in thick milk chocolate. Alternative recipe using peanut butter Oreos supplied. Equipment needed: Silicone teacake mould
Ingredients
  • 350g milk chocolate
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1½ tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 Golden Oreos
  • 60g butter
  • 3 teaspoons of jam
Instructions
  1. Boil a pan of water and then turn off the heat source. Slowly melt 200g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over the pan of water.
  2. Using a pastry brush, brush chocolate into each tea cake mould.
  3. Place the mould into the fridge for a couple of minutes and then repeat the process until all the chocolate has been used up.
  4. Leave the mould in the fridge between each stage.
  5. Put the egg whites, caster sugar, golden syrup and vanilla extract into a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water and whisk with an electric whisk until the mixture is thick and holding peaks.
  6. Remove from the heat source and leave to cool.
  7. Crush the Golden Oreos in a freezer bag, with a rolling pin. Or in a food processor.
  8. Melt the butter in a saucepan and remove from the heat. Add the crushed biscuits and mix well.
  9. Start melting the remaining chocolate in a bowl over a boiling water, once melted remove from the heat.
  10. Remove the tea cake mould from the fridge and fill each mould with marshmallow to no more than ¾ full.
  11. Add ½ tsp of jam to the centre of each mould on top of the marshmallow.
  12. A teaspoon at a time add the biscuit mixture to each mould to cover the marshmallow. Add more if necessary and press down very gently.
  13. Spoon the melted chocolate on top of the biscuit ensuring the tea cake is sealed. (Don't worry too much if there is an over hang of chocolate)
  14. Place the mould back in the fridge and chill for an hour.
  15. Carefully remove the mould from the fridge and invert onto a flat surface and peel the silcone mould off gently.
  16. Enjoy!
Notes
To make a peanut butter version:
Replace the Golden Oreos with ten Peanut Butter Oreos one.
Use 350g dark chocolate instead (optional)
Replace the vanilla extract with 1 tsp of peanut butter which can be added and whisked into the marshmallow once it is thick.

Tips
- Don't overfill with marshmallow filling, however tempting. If you have any left over eat it! It's delicious.
- If you need to make the edges of the tea cakes neater, use a pair of kitchen scissors.

Step by step guide to making Golden Oreo Tea Cakesan easy recipe for tea cakes using golden Oreos

Get ready for the Great British Beer Festival 2015

Get ready for the Great British Beer Festival

I have to admit I don’t know too much about beer but I have noticed over the last few years the increased popularity in craft beers and micro breweries.  I also have to confess to that a beer festival sounds great fun so I am quite excited at the prospect of the Great British Beer Festival being held at London Olympia next month (11th-15th August).

I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief guide to the festival so if you are thinking of going you’ll have an idea of travel, accommodation, what’s on and what to expect.

Travelling to the Great British Beer Festival

 

The location is great, there are plenty of transport options to Olympia including buses and tubes, unfortunately the District line is not stopping at Olympia between 11-14th August but other train services are. There are six other tube stations within walking distance and Olympia is clearly signposted, you shouldn’t miss it. For the latest news on travelling around London check on Transport for London.

Accommodation near to the Great British Beer Festival

 

Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum - Executive Bedrooms

  • The Holiday Inn London- Kensington Forum is the ideal hotel if you are looking for luxury and value for money, plus clean comfy rooms. In a great location it is just a short tube ride to Olympia. This is the perfect hotel if you want to add in some sight-sighting too; the Victoria & Albert, Natural History and Science museums are just a few minutes walk away.
  • If you are looking for a boutique hotel and spa then there is the K-West Hotel & Spa in Shepherds Bush, which is a short distance away from the beer festival. Ideal if you want to get some shopping done in Westfield London.
  • Sheer luxury can be found at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. The hotel has a health club and  award winning restaurants including a Chinese restaurant on the tenth floor with amazing views.
  • If you are travelling to the beer festival on a really tight budget check out the Central Park Hotel in Bayswater which is about 1.5 miles from Olympia.

What to expect at the Great British Beer Festival

 

Entertainment:

Entertainment is provided by various bands on the main stage throughout the festival. From string quartet to rock, pop, reggae, carnival and dance there is something for everyone. Check out the schedule for more information on particular days.

Tastings:

Tutored tastings give you the opportunity to try different beers and how to get the most out of them, there are also sessions on cider and real ale and I am especially intrigued by the beer and music session with Pete Brown who pairs the beers of the festival with music that complements, enhances and even changes their flavour .

Food and Gifts:

A festival isn’t a festival without a fab selection of foods on offer to complement the beers. Sausages, seafood, pasties, burgers, hot dogs, Thai, sweets and chocolate and many more will keep the festival visitors more than satisfied. Of course there are also souvenirs of the day available too.

Brewery Bars

There will be ten brewery bars at the Great British Beer Festival, many well known breweries and also smaller craft ones.

Beers

Of course a beer festival wouldn’t be without it’s beers and there will be over 900 real ales, international beers, ciders and perries to choose from!

Tickets for the Great British Beer Festival can be purchased here. And don’t forget to let me know if you are going.

 

First Image – Shutterstock

 

This is a collaborative post

 

Putting On The Ritz with gorgeous cocktails & tantalising dips!

Putting On The Ritz with gorgeous cocktails & tantalising dips!

A few weeks ago I went to a very lovely Putting on the Ritz event hosted by Radio One DJ Alice Levine, Mixologist Richard Woods and Ritz to celebrate the new ‘Ritz Crisp and Thin’ oven baked potato snack.

Putting on the ritz

By making a few tasty dips, to accompany the Ritz crisp and thin and some tasty cocktails you can set the scene for different evenings either with friends, or a for a date night or even a posh party.

An amazing Pea and Dill GNT Cocktail, yes really!

You can grab all the fab recipes for the dips and cocktails and entertaining tips in the guide below, and I will also share my favourite ones.

 

Putting OnThe Ritz-E-Guide

 

Summer BBQ

This was my favourite dip, a smoky lemon yoghurt, served with the Sweet Chilli flavour Ritz Crisp and Thin, a perfect dip for a BBQ.

Smoky Lemon Yoghurt Dip

Prep time: 

Total time: 

Serve this dip with sweet chilli flavour Ritz Crisp and Thin and a sweet and chilli Julep cocktail
Ingredients
  • 500g Total yoghurt
  • 1½ tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1½ tbsp sumac
  • 4 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil plus extra for serving
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Juice & zest of 1 lemon
  • seeds of half a pomegranate
Instructions
  1. Stir all the ingredients, apart from the pomegranate seeds together in a bowl.
  2. Serve with seeds scattered on top and a drizzle of olive oil.

Mate Night

My mouth is literally watering at the thought of this a-m-a-zing Mates Mary cocktail, a modern twist on a Bloody Mary ideal to serve with Cream Cheese and Onion Ritz Crisp and Thin. This is the best cocktail I have ever had. Trust me, that infusing will make all the difference!

A gorgeous Mates Mary cocktail, the loveliest cocktail on the planet, possibly

Mates Mary

Prep time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 5

Serve this gorgeous cocktail with Cream Cheese Ritz Thin and Crisp
Ingredients
  • For one cocktail: 50ml vodka (infused with 15-20g basil for 24 hours)
  • 50ml Bloody Mary consommé
  • Consommé- should be prepped the night before & removed from freezer a few hours before serving:
  • 3g Ground black pepper
  • 5g Crushed pink peppercorns
  • 3g Sea salt
  • 2g celery salt
  • 10 Dashes tabasco
  • 15 Dashes green tabasco
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 15 Dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 500ml tomato juice
  • You will also need:
  • A non -reactive container with lid, suitable for mixing
  • 1 Large funnel, sieve or colander
  • 1 two fold muslin or coffee filter
  • 1 bottle to store the mix after thawing
Instructions
  1. In to a non-reactive sealable container, pour the
  2. tomato juice
  3. Add the other ingredients and stir all - leave to
  4. rest for 1hr, secure lid and place in freezer
  5. The following morning, remove from the
  6. freezer (your mix should now be a solid block)
  7. Prepare your filter by adding two-fold muslin
  8. or a coffee filter to a funnel or large sieve, over
  9. a bottle or deep container
  10. Remove the frozen tomato mix and place in
  11. the funnel and allow the frozen tomato mix to
  12. drip thaw naturally through your home-made
  13. filter. Note, this takes several hours, so place it
  14. back in the fridge and return to it to check its progress.
  15. Bottle and preserve clarified juice.
  16. Mix will keep for 7 days.
  17. The cocktail
  18. Pre-chill martini/Coupette glass.
  19. Stir the vodka infusion and consummé with cube of ice until well
  20. chilled.
  21. Strain into glass and garnish with a floating basil leaf

The Ritz Thin and Crisp also come in Sea salt and vinegar and sea salt and black pepper flavours. These are very crispy snacks with a great bite, my favourite flavour is sweet chilli. See Ritzbakery for more on ‘Putting on the Ritz’ tips!

Posh Picnic

 

 

Shake it up- #LetsCocktail

Shake it Up #LetsCocktail

I love the fact that after research by theBar.com it would appear that the nation is divided over it’s preferred cocktail. Apparently a Mojito is the Londoners’ favourite cocktail, the Welsh always go for G&T while the Midlanders are split between Pimm’s & Lemonade and G&T. I have to admit to being partial to a mojito myself!

Shake it Up Cocktail Inspiration

I got sent a lovely kit from theBar.com to help me make their OMG&T at home, and with over a third of us making cocktails at home seemly cocktail drinking is on the rise.

TheBar.com says that Northerners (25%) and Midlanders (32%) say they’re inspired by holiday experiences when it comes to choosing drinks – but southerners (20%) are more likely to be influenced by recommendations from family and friends.

Shake it up-#LetsCocktail

Using theBar.com’s videos for inspiration I had no trouble whipping up a ‘cocktail for one’…easy when you make it in a jar! The OMG&T was most certainly an OMG moment, loved the addition of berries to the drink, very refreshing, the perfect drink for a warm summer’s evening…highly recommended.

To help people shake-up their drinking habits and have a bit of fun with their drinks along the way, thebar.com has created a selection of easy to follow inspirational cocktail videos and recipes such as Super-Simple-Summer-Punch, The No-Problemo Mojito, The Pimm Daddy and so much more.

#LetsCocktail

There are also some fab hints and tips to help you make the best cocktails ever.

To be in with the chance to win the daddy of all cocktail trollies and barloads of home cocktail kits, take a pic of your cocktail and share it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using #letscocktail (T&Cs apply).

Closes on 30th June, so be quick!

 

 

 

Apricot, Macadamia Nut & White Chocolate Flapjacks

Delcious apricot, macadamia nut & white chocolate flapjacks

I couldn’t resist buying a tub of apricots the other day after seeing them for about £1.50, and they used to be my mum’s favourite fruit.Not everyone loves them but you should give them a chance as they are a mixture of sweet and sharp, not as juicy as a nectarine or peach which makes them an easy mess free snack for on the go. They also stay fairly firm when cooked which is something I like.

Inspired by a recipe I saw in Sainsbury’s magazine, (love this magazine, so cheap and yet it’s always filled with recipes that I really want to try), I thought the apricots would be a perfect addition to a flapjacky type snack, thus, with some macadamia nuts kicking around in my cupboard and a little white chocolate I came up with these apricot, macadamia nut & white chocolate flapjacks. They are really good…chewy with a little bite around the edges and a delicious mix of sweet and sharp. I am really pleased how they turned out.

These flapjack-type snacks are great for picnics and also a grab and go breakfast, I have made them gluten free and they also work egg free too. Excuse my terrible squares cutting…but I like the rustic look •ahem•.

Apricot, macadamia nut & white chocolate flapjacks recipe

Apricot, Macadamia Nut & White Chocolate Flapjacks

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 16

The perfect picnic snack, or even as a cheeky 'on the go' breakfast bar. This recipe is easily adapted to be gluten free and egg free. For a dairy free alternative, omit the chocolate and replace the butter with a dairy free version, I like using Pure for any dairy free baking.
Ingredients
  • 125g oats (gluten free if need be)
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 125g self raising flour (gluten free if need be)
  • 75g soft butter broken into small pieces
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 1 egg yolk (this can be omitted if an egg free recipe is needed)
  • 300g fresh apricots, 8 halved and stoned the rest chopped
  • 100g macadamia nuts
  • 100g white chocolate chopped, or white chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square tin leaving a little baking parchment hanging over to help remove the baked flapjack
  3. In a bowl mix the oats, flour, sugar, butter, syrup and egg together to get a slightly wet crumble like mixture
  4. Put half the mixture into the tin and press down with your fingers to get an even base
  5. Mix the chopped apricots, macadamia nuts & white chocolate together
  6. Sprinkle the chopped apricots, nuts & chocolate mixture over the base spreading evenly
  7. Top with the remaining oat mixture and press down
  8. Top with the 16 apricot halves in an even pattern so it can be cut into sixteen squares when cooked
  9. Bake for 45-55 mins until firm and golden, check after 45 minutes
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before using the baking parchment to help you carefully remove from the tin.
  11. Slice into 16 squares and allow to cool on a wire rack
  12. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar, optional

Get making these absolutely delicious apricot, macadamia nut & white chocolate flapjacks

 

Top party planning tips

As you can imagine, I have planned a fair few parties in my time as a parent, not just parties for my children but also more ‘grown up’  parties, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my top party planning tips to help your party planning go as smoothly as possible.

Top party planning tips

1. Guests

Before you do anything else make a guest list, this will determine the budget you will want to set; the venue; whether you will be doing the food yourself; or make you realise that you need to either cull a few people, or go all out. If you are planning a child’s party, will you want them to invite the whole class/year in which case location of the party is very important, or are they just going to invite a few of their best friends?

2. Budget

Once you have decided how many people to invite you really need to set a budget, party costs can get scarily out of hand quickly the more you get sucked into the experience, trust me I know. If you are planning a child’s birthday party you really don’t need to spend a lot at all, one of the best parties I have had for my children was a football party in a field, they loved it! Cost involved was food and a ball each to take home. Another child wanted traditional party games…think pass the parcel, musical bumps, musical statues, musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey etc. If however you are hosting an extra special ‘big’ birthday party you may want to push the boat out.

3. Venue

If your garden is big enough and it is summer then you’ve no need to look anywhere else to hold your child’s birthday party, the upsides are there are no hire costs involved and no carting plates and plates of party food to the village hall, sports centre or play area.

If you have a really huge garden and are planning an 18th, 21st, 40th, 50th, anything in-between or even a wedding anniversary celebration then you may want to consider hiring a marquee. However, the costs can escalate hugely so you may want to consider sourcing a suitable venue elsewhere instead. Venuefinder is a good place to start as knowing where to begin can be a minefield.

4. Theme

Once you’ve got the numbers, cost and location sorted think about whether you are going to have a theme. Even a grown up party works with a theme, do you want everyone to get really dressed up? Or perhaps you would like a fancy dress party? Even if you are having a party away from home the venue should help you get the decor right for the occasion. If you are having a child’s party then what is their favourite hobby/television character? In the past we have had a space party, even using black sacks to decorate the kitchen to create the right party atmosphere. For M’s 5th birthday he wanted a pirate party, so that’s what I gave him, including inflatable flamingos and palm trees! For one adult party we turned a marquee into a moody nightclub.

5. Catering

If you want caterers to do the food at your party don’t forget to check they can do that date, there is nothing more annoying than having everything else in place to then be hugely disappointed when the caterers you’ve set your heart on are already booked up. Personal recommendation is the best way to find them if you haven’t used caterers before. If you are going to be doing the food yourself plan early, if you are feeding a lot of people, a cold buffet is the simplest way to go as the food can be prepared in advance.

My tip for children’s party food is keep it simple, children love a good old cocktail sausage, sausage roll, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese sandwiches, cucumber sticks, crisps and fairy cakes. I tend to under cater slightly too, that or be prepared to live off of the leftovers for days. Actually we love that really.

6. Invitations

Send out invitations in plenty of time, you will always get a certain percentage of people that can’t make it and this way you can either refer to your B list of guests or adjust the catering requirements. There are lots of online sites to make your invitations or you can even send them via email to save on postage.

7. Prepare

To get ahead and avoid a stressful party day do as much of the preparation as possible days before, if you have party bags to fill don’t leave to the last minute, balloons to blow up; buy a small pump. However much advance preparation I do I always seem to end up staying up half the night before a birthday party thanks to …the cake! I think I am a glutton for punishment, buy one, don’t do what I do. Music…ask your friends and family what their favourites are to help get the party going…but, if you are having a DJ remember they do really know which tracks get people on the dance floor so try and trust their judgement.

8. Enjoy

If you are having your party at a venue other than home and it is being catered then you have no excuse but to enjoy the occasion, remember to pace yourself when it comes to the champagne. The other big bonus about using a party venue is waking up the next day and not having a single glass to wash up, or worse.

For children’s parties, go with the flow, sometimes they can be very unpredictable but chances are your child will be very happy at the end of it (even if there are a few inevitable tears at first “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…”).

Image (Shutterstock)

This is sponsored content but all words are my own

 

Hazelnut, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

A delicious hazelnut, choc chip banana bread

I have to admit to being a bit out of sorts lately, who knew a house move could be so stressful? Well I should have known, it’s the third move we’ve done in three years but because we have downsized so drastically (again) I think it was extra hard, especially when I was doing it mainly on my own. Anyway we are in and I’m in recovery…we absolutely love where we have moved to, after ten years of rural and then semi rural living we are making the most of the cafes, train station (still pinch myself that I can walk there in 3 minutes) take-aways that deliver!!! That’s a thing? Oh and not forgetting the park that is 30 seconds from our house and M can whizz at about 30 mph around on his scooter. The house? Hmmm, it’s a challenge, only because there are soooo many of us but at least we have a roof over our head, so every cloud…

Easy banana bread recipe

Anyway, I now have a teeny tiny oven…and it is gas, I haven’t cooked with a gas oven since a child and to be honest it still scares me a bit. And whilst it has passed  briefly through my mind to try and bake something, to be frank I’ve literally not had the energy or inclination.

Easy peasy hazelnut, choc chip banana bread

Cue four very black bananas that were staring at me… I kept ignoring them but they kept staring back, and then eventually they started wafting a smell my way too. But yesterday it was a case of use them to make something, anything…or *gasp* throw them away! Which just seemed evil…two of them made it into a smoothie, easy, apart from me falling up the stairs holding one smoothie for studying teen which resulted in smoothie up the wall, all up the stairs, the floor below, my hair, my clothes. The other two met their match in a hazelnut, chocolate chip banana bread, super moist, really tasty and very easy to make.

Hazelnut, chocolate chip banana bread recipe

Hazelnut, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8

Ingredients
  • 140g self raising flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 140g soft butter (or stork)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas mashed
  • 50g chopped hazelnuts (I blitzed whole ones in a blender to keep them quite chunky)
  • 50g dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Icing sugar to finish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/ gas mark 4
  2. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy
  4. Add the eggs to the mixture with a little flour and beat in
  5. Fold in the flour and baking powder
  6. Mix the banana, hazelnuts, chocolate chips and vanilla extract together and gently add to the mixture and combine well
  7. Put the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45-60 minutes
  8. Banana bread can be very slow to cook so use a skewer to check if it is cooked through
  9. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with some icing sugar
  10. Eat for breakfast, lunch or tea...or just because...

Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

A deliciously quick & easy banana bread recipe

 

A mini break in Hull

If you don’t know already I have been moving house, it has taken weeks and I can honestly say it has been mega stressful. Some bright spark (that will be me then) decided that it would be cheaper to get removal people to move just the big furniture and I would do the rest. Oh my goodness, it has taken so long, I can barely move, my back is kaput, but on the upside (always look for positives when the situation is dire) I can do my jeans up again! Yay!

Days out

I am soooo desperate for a break, to be pampered a little; lie in bed knowing that I don’t have to make breakfast; go for a leisurely swim; walks and just generally relax and spend some time with the children without all the usual hustle and bustle that everyday life entails…especially with a move in the mix!

A mini break in Hull – where to stay

I really like the idea of staying in Hull, and having seen the Holiday Inn Hull Marina it appears to tick all the boxes and more. It has an indoor pool, fitness centre, we can take our dog (huge bonus) plus the children can stay free. I love the idea of Hull Marina location where we can watch the boats coming in and out and yet the city centre is only a few minutes walk away.

What to do in Hull

Sheep

There is plenty to do in Hull to keep us busy if we fancy it.

A visit to The Deep, the world’s only submarium, and home to 3500 fish including sharks, rays and Gentoo penguins. I would love to get to one of the daily dive shows. In the evening The Two Rivers restaurant which is located in the aquarium Aquariumsounds amazing!

Some culture at Hull maritime museum. I have a slight obsession about whales so learning about the history of whaling in the area fascinates me and admission to the museum is free.

Or maybe some retail therapy at St Stephen’s shopping centre.The girls would like that, although my purse probably wouldn’t.

A little further away is Flamingo Land which I know the youngest two would love, a theme park and a zoo it will be an action packed day.

On energetic days we can visit the stunning Yorkshire Wolds for a walk or cycle. In my case that will be walk as I am a danger on a bike.

Honeysuckle farm is something that M would enjoy visiting, as well as farm animals to see, it has a play barn, cart rides, forts to climb and mazes to get lost in plus much more.

 

Do you have any more places you would add to visit?

 

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