Monday, 24 November 2014

A small cake baking triumph in the Staying Sane household! My attempt at a two tier zebra print and quilt effect birthday cake.



My niece messaged me a week ago and asked if I could make her a birthday cake. My cupcake making is OK, I enjoy making them when I have the time to put into making them look half decent, which isn't often these days.

Anyway, I said Yes without thinking about it. She had sent me a couple of pictures and one was of a two tier cake. The bottom tier was a zebra print and the top tier was pink with a quilting effect around the edge.


The start of my cake baking journey!
 
She had given me 4 days notice to make the cake. I had never made a proper birthday cake before. Not even a bog standard one tier sponge birthday cake, with a half hearted iced top. Nothing, nada. My cupcakes were my speciality and they weren't the best unless I put a lot of effort in!

So I went into panic mode. I had said Yes but it was also a challenge for me. I wanted to do it. I wanted to see if it could be done. I ordered supplies, borrowed cake tins from the bestie and I got on the job.

Baking and decorating cakes isn't easy with five children in the house. Well, it would be if they were children that could amuse themselves for 5 minutes without the need to call Mum or come and annoy her instead of doing as they were told. I don't have children like that! So I baked the cakes during the day and that evening I got decorating. I was in panic mode when it came to levelling the top of the cake off and also cutting through the middle to add jam and buttercream. I did it though. The children were hushed away with the cut off cake pieces and I moved on to the fondant icing.




Cutting through the middle and the start of covering the cakes in fondant icing.
 


Roll on a couple of hours and I stood back and admired my creation. I am so proud of myself. It was no way near perfect but for a first attempt I was blooming well pleased.

The birthday girl was surprised with it the next day and I think it got her seal of approval and we all had a slice, it was edible too!!



The finished product, a two tier zebra print and quilted effect birthday cake. Go me!

Big pat on the back for me and my cake triumph this week. Give me a few months to get over the stress of making it and I might do it again!

Oooh it's really cold out there this morning said the OH. Yes we know, you left the front door wide open! Why we are still surprised when it turns cold, in the WInter!! Spare a thought for the people in Buffalo, USA!

It was a particularly cold morning today and my whole Facebook news feed told me so. Friends from different parts of the country posted lovely wintry pictures of landscapes, frosted up cars and beautiful flowers and plants that had caught a lovely sprinkling of frost.

The OH said Goodbye and walked out of the door this morning only to come back in to wait for the car to defrost. 'It's cold out there today' he exclaimed. We all knew that though as he had left the front door wide open. Now the house was cold but the car had defrosted nicely, probably from all of the heat that escaped out of the front door!

Why are so many people still surprised by a cold morning though. I mean, it is almost December. Many moons ago, when I was younger, it used to be so much colder than it is now at this time of year. However it is still to be expected that by November we should be in for some pretty chilly weather.

We hit a bit of chilly weather and the shops declare a mad dash for hats, scarves and gloves. Grown men fight over the last snow shovel in the store, milk and bread gets bought like it's the must have Christmas present of the year and schools declare that if there is a sprinkling of snow they may close.

Last time I checked, humans don't melt if hit by snow, you know like when the witch gets wet in the Wizard of Oz film. Cars don't cease to work, they just take a little longer to warm up in the mornings. Yes driving conditions get a bit hazardous, I mean a sprinkling of snow shouldn't bring the whole country to a stand still.

Just because we were hit by a frost this morning doesn't mean snow is on it's way. There have been reports suggesting the drop in temperature is to blame on the weather system currently hanging it's ugly head over Buffalo, and surrounding areas, in the USA. Spare a thought for those guys UK people!


In the past week or so they have been hit with 30-40 inches of snow plus more a few days later. They are now faced with flood warnings too. Yet one guy pictured in the news still managed to get out and buy beer! They have had approx. 1500 workers and nearly 500 snow ploughs clearing the roads. There has been fatalities, people stranded in their vehicles and so much snow that needs clearing incase a roof collapses under the weight of it all.


So lets not moan about a little bit of frost. If we do get snow I'm figuring the worst we have had in recent years is a few inches. We have our wellies, we have our hats, scarves and gloves. If we are stuck in the house for a few days for some bizarre reason, we aren't going to starve.

Now go grab a cuppa and calm your chilly self down, before it cools down again tonight! I'm off to grab the sled and huskies ready for the school run this afternoon. :-)




Friday, 21 November 2014

Every Christmas there is always that one present you can't buy. It's sold out, sought after and there is the shop battle/online battle on restock day! Remember Teletubbies, Buzz Lightyear?! I'm having a struggle again this year with Stretchkins!

Yes, way back in December 1997 I was queuing for a Teletubby! The crazy hysteria that is being a parent and trying to get hold of the must have Christmas toy that your little one has asked for.




A friend of mine got a Buzz Lightyear from the Disney store the year that craze hit the shops. She said she walked out and a man, who had obviously seen her purchase, approached her and offer her a princely sum for her prized purchase. It's madness.


Looking back over the years there has been Cabbage Patch Doll mania. In the 1980's everyone went mad for a Rubiks Cube, selling 4.5 million in it's first year. Tickle Me Elmo was 1996's sought after toy and Tamagotchi in 1997. Furby first landed in 1998 and racked up sales of 1.8 million Furby's just in the holiday season alone.







Cabbage Patch doll mania and shop fights!

 In 2009 I got caught up in the Zhu Zhu hamster frenzy. I had two daughters who wanted one but so did the rest of the UK, or so it seemed! All of the shops were sold out and as fast as stock was arriving people were queuing to buy. If an online store was getting them in everyone knew about it and were poised at the PC to see who could be quick enough and get lucky with a purchase. It was madness, the need to buy these hamsters had consumed my every day. I was thinking it wouldn't be the end of it all if they didn't get a hamster but they made sure I realised that if they didn't get one, their Christmas would be ruined!!

It happens every year, there is always something that is popular with the children. Parents lose their minds over trying to find the must have toy and sometimes pay over the odds on selling sites as people buy to sell on and make a profit, knowing that there are people out there wanting that item no matter what it costs.

So this year, although as far as I'm aware there doesn't seem to be any panic buying at the moment over any particular toys that I've noticed, I'm struggling to buy Stretchkins.



There's nothing fancy about it. Its a cuddly toy with stretchy arms and legs that you attach to your own arms and legs and you can dance, stretch and move with it. Thing 3 wants a unicorn and Thing 4 wants a puppy one. I hopped on the PC last week completely unaware that wherever I looked it would be sold out, stock coming soon, or expected delivery date of new stock as December. Great, again I thought, they won't miss it if it's not under the tree, but they will. Every time I ask what they want for Christmas, Stretchkins is high on both their lists.

I always vowed I would never be one of those parents that got consumed by trying to find it no matter what. I certainly wouldn't pay over the odds for it but it certainly gets you all worked up and wanting to find it more than ever. Every day I was checking online stores to see if they had new stock in. Checking local Argos stores for stock and nothing. Then I remembered that the US Toys R Us website ships to the UK. I checked it out, they had them in stock and could ship here. Job done, No worrying about stock coming in the shops over here, they will be here in a few days and it's another tick off my list.

Checking out online selling sites I did find them on those, at higher prices than store prices and people had been purchasing them.

Are there any other toys this year that you are struggling to find? Will you find it in time or find an alternative?

Oh and how many of these toys that we spend all of our time on the lead up to Christmas in search of are at the bottom of the toy box by New Year?!

Friday, 14 November 2014

REVIEW POST; Nib nibs quality snacks from North Yorkshire. Where will you nibble yours? Plus a competition with a chance to win a selection of nib nibs snacks.



We were recently sent a selection of snacks from Nibs Nibs to try out and review.

Nib Nibs are a Yorkshire based company making moreish quality snacks from their bakery using quality ingredients and, where possible, British ingredients.

We received three tubs of mini nibs cheese straws with a cheese and onion and cheese and spicy chili variety. We also received a tub of roasted salt and pepper Jumbo peanuts.

The cheese straws are described as 'yummy all butter pastry straws with oodles of Mature British Cheddar.

The children quickly opened the pack of exceptional cheddar cheese straws and they were a big hit. The flavour was gorgeous, really cheesy and flavoursome and they were very moreish.

The OH grabbed the peanuts when he got in from work one evening. If dinner isn't ready the OH likes to have some peanuts in the cupboard to snack on, it's his 'go to' food! The salt and pepper flavour made them a bit more special than your average salted peanuts, they were a decent size and they didn't last long!

The other flavours of the mini nibs cheese straws also went down well. We often have cheese straws in the house but we don't usually come across different flavours to try out. I particularly enjoyed the cheese and onion flavour. The have much more substance than a typical supermarket cheese straw and alot more flavour with the added cheese and chili/onion combo.

Ingredients in the cheese straws are; Wheat flour from Yorkshire Mills, Mature British Cheddar (milk)(21%), British Butter (milk) (19%), Yorkshire Water, Baking Power (Raising agents: maize starch, disodium diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate), Sea Salt.

These are ideal for the upcoming festive season when there is always ample opportunity to need to have some nibbles ready to hand around. Also ideal for the rest of the year too! 

The small containers they come in have a resealable lid but so far we haven't needed to reseal them! Ideal for when you've eaten enough and need to keep them fresh. 

To be in with a chance of winning a selection of nibs nibs snacks just enter via the Rafflecopter below, one winner will be chosen; 




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Its time to receive a letter from Santa. Get those orders in for a lovely letter from Santa. Reviewing a Santa letter and activity pack from www.laplandmailroom.com

We recently received some lovely letters from the Lapland Mailroom website to review.

My children are getting really excited about Christmas now. The countdown has begun in our house and so receiving the letters was a real boost for them. I'm still clinging to the hope that my 11 year old enjoys the whole festive build up of Santa coming, letters arriving etc... but I know I am on very borrowed time with her. I am sure she knows more than she lets on but she hasn't said anything.

So the letters arrived and I put them to one side until the time felt right to hand them out. I gave our 4 year old his letter first. He was so excited to see the envelope with the From Santa postmark and official Lapland seal. I sat and opened it with him and read through the letter with him. It was so detailed and even included the name of one of his friends at school and what present he had asked for from Santa.


The Santa letter

The letter also included some lovely activity sheets to colour in. Including a Santa Stop Here sign and a Christmas card. These went down with all of the children and the two girls got colouring straight away and produced some lovely neatly coloured signs to let Santa know he needs to stop at our house.



The activity pack

There is also a Nice Child List certificate in each letter with the child's name on which is fab.

I held back giving all of the letters at the same time. The other children looked at the letter we had already received and I said we would have to see if and when Santa was going to send them a letter. It helped a bit with behaviour, I did say that maybe he was waiting to see a bit of an improvement on the tidiness of their bedrooms before sending out a letter!




The Nice Child List certificate

I only made it a couple of days before giving the two girls their letters. They were so excited too and sat quietly reading through their letters. It was good to add some personal details to each letter catering to each specific child. It also had their presents on the letter that they had asked for so they know Santa knows what they want. As I mentioned before, the girls particularly liked the activity sheets and they are all coloured in and ready for Christmas. Thing 3 has put her letter up on the shelf in her bedroom and takes it down to read again and again.

The letters are very well written, the paper is lovely and colourful with lovely detailing on it. The extra activity sheets are worth getting too as the children really enjoyed these.

On the Lapland Mailroom website you are able to view the letters before ordering and you can choose to purchase just a letter for £6.95, the Santa letter and activity pack for £7.96 and a Baby's First Christmas letter for £6.95.

These are lovely, well detailed and good quality letters and we would highly recommend getting your orders in to receive these wonderful Santa letters.


The envelope that each letter arrived in

Friday, 7 November 2014

Our busy, hectic, stressful child free weekend that may as well not have been child free. The birthday, the wedding, a cinema trip and the drunk husband.

Yes, our weekend was eventful. We don't ever have any time to ourselves as a couple. I go out on my Tuesday night pub night with the bestie, the OH has his badminton clubs/matches but we never go out together. At home we are surrounded by the Things and life at home revolves around doing everything for them.

So my cousins wedding date was looming and it was an invite for just myself and the OH. This was fab, a day/evening without the kiddies. It sounded heaven. Although I was a little apprehensive to be leaving Thing 5, the OH insisted we should go and spend some time together without the kiddies.

The stress started when my outfit for the wedding didn't turn up, I had to turn to the one and only dress that I did have in the wardrobe which is nice, but not what I wanted to wear. Then there is packing the children up for a night away at home, making sure they have everything they need and are dressed and ready to go at the same time as getting myself ready for the wedding. The OH passed comment that I was unorganised. Coming from someone who got himself ready whilst someone else got five people ready, I would like to see him try!

It was also Thing 4's birthday on the same day, we spent the morning with him, played with his new Lego sets and then we passed him over into the capable hands of my bro and sis in law who spoilt him with a Macdonald's dinner and the chocolate birthday cake that he wanted.


Thing 4 with his birthday cake. 

So by 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon we were child free. We set off to the wedding and we didn't have any children until they returned on Sunday morning. The wedding was set at a local hotel. We arrived and took our seats. Everyone looked fabulous and the bride looked stunning, the groom didn't scrub up too bad either! It was a lovely ceremony and we all had a drink whilst we waited to be seated for the wedding breakfast. This is where it started. The OH enjoyed the free wine. He wound up the kiddies from the table behind us. He was tipsy before we even finished our meal and it all went downhill from then on. I didn't spend much time with him after that. He spent the whole evening chewing peoples ears off, talking at them and then they came to me to tell me all about the 'interesting' conversation they had with my OH. When it was time to leave, he refused. He was drunk and he refused. It took me 20 minutes to try and get him to leave and he point blank refused. So I left, alone.

So, why did we have that time 'together'. We hardly spent any time together! It wasn't enjoyable, it wasn't the fantastic time I thought I was going to have, it was ruined by the OH. The wedding itself was wonderful and enjoyable, don't get me wrong, but my 'plus one' wasn't. The disco, casino tables, buffet and pic n mix table that were there for the entire evening ensured that the guests were well entertained and well catered for.





The top table and the most important couple of the day. :-)

.
So our rare time out that we did get was ruined. We didn't spend time together and he refused to come home with me. I may as well have gone on my own, or not gone! So for now I am not talking to him. Yes it's been 6 days and maybe a slight over reaction but he spoilt it, ruined our time together that we don't get enough of anyway and didn't think about anyone except himself.

On the Sunday we went into London with the three middle children. It gave us a chance to spend a bit more time with them as we hadn't done the day before on Thing 4's birthday. Thing 4 met Yoda on our way through Trafalgar Square which he loved. We headed to Leicester Square and to the Vue cinema to see the Nativity 3 premiere, as previously written about here; Nativity 3 premiere review

It was a lovely day, I love any chance to get into London when we can. Thing 4 wanted to go on the London Eye, which we have done before but would love to do again. It was busy in Leicester Square but I love the hustle and bustle of it all. The children enjoyed their trip out but they all had suggestions of other places they wanted to visit in London which we will have to do on a separate occasion.


Thing 4 holding hands with Yoda.

Since then the house has been hit with the sickness bug which claimed Thing 5 and Thing 3 as it's victims. Touch wood, there have been no other sufferers yet and we will continue to keep it away.


Poorly Thing 5. :-(


It was a lovely time spent with the kids, not so with the OH. Next time I have child free time I will remember to leave the biggest child behind too.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sharing our first Christmas present wish list. Christmas gift ideas for the two year olds. What the little ones want and what to buy this festive season. Plus a few festive outfits too.

I thought I would share with you what all of the Things want for Christmas this year. Thing 2 and 3 have had lists prepared for a while now. Thing 1, our eldest just kind of grunts when he sees something he likes so I take note! Thing 4 has been quite vocal about what he wants. Thing 5 is 2 and if we go in a shop I walk down the toy aisle and see what catches his eye, what he points to or shows an interest in.

He has his favourite TV characters that he likes and there is always toys geared to various characters such as Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse, Thomas the Tank Engine and more.

So, for the two year old's out there I have been on the look out at what is available and I have done a quick round up of what we are looking at plus other things available for all budgets.

First up is a scooter or ride on toy. Thing 5 has taken to using his brothers scooter and it causes arguments so we are looking at either buying him a scooter or a ride on toy, Our two options are either;


Micro Scooter Mini Micro in lollipop, aqua or Candy Blue RRP £54.95-£59.95

BMW baby racer II motorsport RRP £89

Next on his list is a play mat for all of his cars. Since his birthday back in August he has collected a decent amount of diecast cars which he loves to tip out on the floor and play with but we thought a play mat with a road layout on would be good to go with his cars. 

Argos Paradiso City play mat. 80cm x 150cm. RRP £24.99


B and Q Colours Danis Multicolour City Road Playmat. 1.9m x 1m. £12

Next is somew Duploe. He has a few Duplo sets that he loves playing with so we thought we would add to his Duplo collection. I found this Duplo Batcave that he would particularly like however there are lots of Duplo playsets or big boxes of bricks to choose from. 



Duplo Batcave. £30.00 at both Tesco and Asda.


Other items we have already purchased for him are; 


Tomy Disney Jake and The Neverland Pirates Aquadoodle and Leapfrog Fridge Phonics



Something Special Mr Tumbles tablet and Peppa Pig Theme Park Mega Set (Peppa Pig set currently half price at £24.99 in Argos). 


So there we have a quick round up a few items for the two year old's. I hope this quick round up of what our two year old wants is handy in helping you make some gift choices. 

FESTIVE CLOTHES

I always like to have a festive outfit or two to hand over the Christmas period. We recently purchased this one from Next which I love. The gorgeous knitted jumper with Santa detailing matches the jeans with Santa braces perfectly and I can't wait for him to wear it.



Next Santa brace jeans and matching knitted jumper set. Age 3-6 mths to 5-6 years. Both items are £13-£14 each. 



John Lewis christmas tree pyjamas. Age 3-6 mths to 2-3 years. £9-£10



Mothercare reindeer jumper. Aged 18-24 mths to 7-8 yrs. £14-£15







Feeling Christmassy? The John Lewis Christmas 2014 advert is here! Meet Monty the Penguin in their new festive offering.

Yes it's here! The John Lewis 2014 Christmas advert. Featuring a young boy and his faithful companion Monty the Penguin.

Such a sweet advert, John Lewis have done it again this festive season. Take a look at the new advert here;




Mum of Five is now feeling very festive. I have that warm, fuzzy feeling and diving head deep into the Christmas shopping! 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The BRAND NEW limited edition Bugaboo Buffalo Escape. The all terrain pushchair for stylish escapes. Information here for the brand new release coming February 2015

Introducing a new addition to the Bugaboo family. The new limited edition Bugaboo Buffalo Escape is coming in February 2015.


With a washed cotton canvas exterior in Balsam Green and striped weaved interior giving it an 'outdoorsy' look, its perforated faux leather handle bar and carry handle gives it a warm yet rugged look.


Faux leather handle bar and carry handle detailing


Also including a matching tote bag in the same Balsam Green and striped interior comes with longer straps so it can hang easily from the pushchair. 


Matching tote bag


Whether you are walking through town or hiking through the woods the Buffalo is ready to tackle any terrain with its large rugged wheels. Giving a smooth ride to it's occupant as well as cosy with it's large seat, good coverage from the hood and the comfortable fabrics too. 



In carrycot mode and inside of the hood


It's versatile, robust and spacious but with a one piece fold option making it easy to use but still with the same fab storage options it's easy to navigate around, giving you and your child the best options and still stylish. 

The Bugaboo Buffalo Escape pushchair complete with matching tote bag will retail at £1,025 and is available as a limited edition in stores worldwide from February 2015








Monday, 3 November 2014

MOVIE REVIEW; Our trip to the UK premiere of Nativity 3; Dude Where's My Donkey. The festive must see film for all of the family. Plus, Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day, December 12th 2014


Yesterday we where invited to the UK premiere of Nativity 3; Dude Where's my Donkey. We arrived at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square and walked into a Winter Wonderland. There was cookie decorating, balloon artists, face painting, festive photo's and the all important festive pick 'n' mix.


Festive face painting



Festive pick n mix sweets



On arrival the children had been handed a lovely elf hat and a Nativity 3 activity booklet with an Advent Calendar on the back. We spent around half an hour enjoying the wonderful atmosphere. The girls got their face painted, Thing 4 got a balloon Santa's hat and they queued for some festive sweets to take in to watch the film.

Both our girls have been to the cinema in previous years to see Nativity 1 and 2 and so both were very excited to see what Nativity 3 had to offer, and we weren't disappointed. We settled in our seats and cracked open the popcorn.

Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton) is back in Nativity 3 and he didn't fail to have us in fits of laughter all the way through the film. Joined by Martin Clunes (Mr Shepherd), Catherine Tate (Sophie), Adam Garcia (Bradley Finch), Ralf Little (Sophie's brother), Jason Watkins (Gordon Shakespeare) and many, many more fab cast members plus the amazing Archie the Donkey of course!

Mr Poppy and the children of St Bernadette's have to hurry to reunite the new teacher (Mr Shepherd) with his fiancee Sophie in New York after he loses his memory in a bizarre accident, and Archie the Donkey too. Amongst an array of flash mobs, dance scenes and festive music the children and Mr Poppy try and get Mr Shepherd to remember his promise to his daughter Lauren that he will get her a new Mum for Christmas and marry Sophie. Also, he has to remember where Archie the Donkey is! To achieve this they have to enter the Flash Mob contest, up against the ultra-competitive Gordon Shakespeare and judged by Bradley Finch, Sophie's ex boyfriend.


The festive wonderland, excuse my blurry photography!


In our festive jumpers and elf hats!


It was a fab film with laughs from start to end. The cast is fabulous, the whole festive flash mob, dancing and singing theme carries throughout the film and the children in the film are amazing. It really is a must see festive film for the whole family. With it's impending release on November 14th at cinemas nationwide it really will get you in the festive spirit.

The children thoroughly enjoyed it and there was a round of applause from the audience at the end, It was also Thing 4's first cinema experience and even he managed to sit through it and laughed throughout.

Honestly you will skip out of the cinema singing 'Hey Dude, Where's My Donkey, Hey Dude Where has he gone'!!


The train ride home and the London Eye which features in the film with lots of Santas! 

We wore our Christmas jumpers in aid of the Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day on December 12th 2014. For more details and to get involved take a look at their website. http://jumpers.savethechildren.org.uk/