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Review & Giveaway: bakerdays letterbox cake

I love gifts that come through your letterbox. No more worrying about whether your parcel will delivered to the neighbours or shoved behind your wheelie bin, or how you will find the time to go and pick it up from the post office.

So when I found out about bakerdays, a company which makes and distributes personalised cakes, I was immediately drawn to their letterbox cakes. A personalised cake sent directly to someone’s door, and through their letterbox – what a fab idea!

My mum has recently started looking after our daughter two days a week since I have gone back to work, and while I know she is more than happy to do it, I also think it’s important to recognise the time she is giving up for us. Grandparents are definitely filling in the childcare needs of many working parents, especially with the astronomical cost of nursery. Even with two of us working full time, sending Phoebe to nursery more than 3 days a week would be simply unaffordable.

To say a big thank you, I thought a yummy cake sent to her door would be a perfect sign of our appreciation.

I hopped onto the bakerdays website and had a look through their amazing range of letterbox cakes. They offer cakes for tonnes of different occasions including birthdays, anniversaries and congratulations. I selected their thank you cake, and opted for the classic floral design, with the personalised message ‘thank you nanny’.

My mum is a fan of lemon drizzle cake, so when I saw that was one of the flavours on offer, I knew it would be a great choice. You can also choose traditional sponge, half chocolate-half sponge, and rich chocolate chip. There are also gluten free and dairy free options, which is great for those with specific dietary requirements.

I placed my order with bakerdays and selected a date when I knew I would be seeing my mum. Under normal circumstances I would have sent it directly to her address, but as I wanted to infiltrate the parcel to take blog photos I sent it to myself. I didn’t eat any of the cake though! I insisted she take it home to eat in peace and quiet as it was her treat.

The cake arrived on the day I had chosen and it did indeed slip straight through the letterbox. I opened the box to find a lovely tin inside, declaring its contents with an ‘mmm, cake’ slogan. I thought this was a really nice touch as the tin can be kept for storing more goodies in the future. There was also a card contained within the package.

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The cake was decorated exactly how the picture showed, with the text I had requested. So once I’d taken my snaps I presented my mum with the beautiful cake, which she was really delighted with. She was very touched and also very happy to have cake!

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She reported back that the cake itself was delicious, not overly lemony but certainly a very pleasant flavour and a nice light cake. She also told me that it is a lovely idea and a very thoughtful present. So a ringing endorsement for bakerdays – keep up the good work!

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Now two pieces of exciting bakerdays news – firstly, you can win yourself (or someone you want to treat) a bakerdays letterbox cake, woohoo! I’ve teamed up with bakerdays to give one lucky reader a chance to win a cake through their door. Just enter below via Rafflecopter before the 10rd June.

Secondly, if you’re not chosen as the lucky winner (who will be randomly selected) you can still win with a 15% off discount code, especially for readers of this blog. Simply use the code FULLFLAVOUR15 when making your purchase. It’s a great way to treat yourself or someone special with a delicious, personalised cake for any occasion.

Click here to enter with Rafflecopter

Thanks for reading and good luck in the competition!
Sarah

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Family Time: Why we love…The Collective Dairy Suckies yoghurts

Let’s face it, being a parent is hard. I’m sure we have all had moments where we question if we are doing a good job, wondering if we are doing the best for our children, and fretting about decisions we have made.

Well that’s me a lot of the time. I’m the first to admit that I’m a natural worrier anyway and since having Phoebe there have been countless times that I stress myself out over even the smallest of things.

One is her food. Will she grow up to be a good eater? Will she be fussy? Is she eating enough vegetables? What about fruit? Too much or too little? You get the picture.

But sometimes there are food brands that I discover that make such a positive impact on our daily lives, regardless of how small, that I feel having a blog is a great place to sing their praises and advocate them to other mums and dads. So I’ve decided to start a new series of blog posts, called ‘Why We Love…’. Today, it’s the star turn of The Collective Dairy and their Suckies yoghurts.

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Phoebe has always loved yoghurt; it’s one of the few things I could get her to eat in the early days of weaning. It also became a really important snack for her when we started transitioning her away from daytime milk feeds as my return to work drew closer. You can find my blog post about snack ideas here. I was fastidious about choosing yoghurts (and other snacks for that matter) that had no added sugar. I think there are going to be so many occasions in the future where Phoebe will end up having sugar, that finding food which doesn’t rely on it for flavour is really important.

Our absolute favourite became The Collective Dairy Suckies range. Here are three reasons why:

  1. They are made with whole milk yoghurt and fruit, with no added sugar. Repeat, no added sugar. After all, why is this needed when you can sweeten with fruit? The ingredients are all natural, which again is a big bonus. And the whole milk yoghurt is filling, and has lots of the fats needed for transitioning from milk to solid food.
  2. The packaging is great. The handy pouches are great for meals away from home, and are perfect for getting some food into Phoebe if she’s in an ‘I don’t want to eat from a bowl or with a spoon’ mood. She’s also enamoured with the dog on the pouch and will gaze at it lovingly while tucking into her yoghurt.
  3. They are genuinely delicious. On many occasion I have ended up eating a spoonful if Phoebe hasn’t finished everything or to show her how it’s done. And I have to say they are really tasty yoghurts. It makes me wonder why so many ‘grown-up’ yoghurts are unnecessarily loaded with added sugar. The blueberry, raspberry and peach flavours are the biggest hits with Phoebe, and you can also choose from banana and raspberry.

Suckies are available in all major supermarkets, we buy ours from Ocado or Sainsburys. They are around 75p each and I know Ocado quite often has a multibuy deal. You can find your nearest stockist with their handy store locator or you can email The Collective Dairy at hello@thecollectivedairy.com to find out where to buy.

As a lovely brand they have a kids page over their website which includes some fun activity sheets for little ones. There is lots of encouragement for getting your kids involved physical activity too, in partnership with triathletes the Brownlee Brothers and their Foundation, which they set up to give children all over the UK a positive sporting experience. By the way, I googled the Brownlee brothers and remembered seeing the coverage of them from 2016, of Alistair helping his brother Jonny over the finishing line of a race in Cozumel, Mexico, even though it meant him losing the chance to win the race. Which is pretty nice, isn’t it?

http://www.thecollectivedairy.com/the-collective-kids/

So a big thanks to The Collective Dairy for helping me find my feet along the sometimes bumpy path of weaning.

Have you tried The Collective Dairy? Do your little ones love them too?
Sarah

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Family time: Snack ideas for weaning babies

Weaning can be an *interesting* process. I personally found it a little confusing when I was trying to figure out how to transition Phoebe from milk to solid foods, as there is so much information out there. And there are lots of conflicting opinions. A friend recently told me that she attended a class where the advice was that babies need to be on three meals a day two weeks after starting solids! This might work for some babies, but my gut instinct (and certainly evident in my daughter) is it takes time to build up to three meals.

As my return to work approached and I wanted to gradually reduce breastfeeding so I was only doing a feed before bed, I found that it worked well to replace her mid-morning and mid-afternoon feeds with healthy snacks. I appreciate that extended breastfeeding works for some families, but for us my return to work was the right time to finish breastfeeding. So at 9 months I worked on dropping the mid-morning feed, and at 10 months I replaced the mid-afternoon feed. It helped me to pre-plan Phoebe’s snacks so that I knew she would have something she enjoyed, and help to make the transition to no daytime feeds easier.

We were pretty lucky that she adapted quickly to the change in routine, and I feel that choosing snacks wisely helped this process. I wanted to share some of the snacks that worked for us, hoping that they may be helpful for other parents undertaking weaning and looking for ideas to help the process. This post focuses on my favourite shop-bought snacks, which certainly helped us through this crazy journey called parenthood when there just seem to be a million and one pressures on your time.

I appreciate plenty of parents out there prefer to stick to homemade food, and I will be adding some posts on homemade snacks over the next few weeks, so watch this space…

Kiddylicious wafers, veggie and cheesy straws

downloadDefinitely one of Phoebe’s favourite brands, there are plenty of healthy options within the Kiddylicious range. Just make sure you check the age recommendations on them, as they vary from product to product. Phoebe started out on the wafers when she was about six months, she enjoyed both the blueberry flavour and the carrot and apple ones.download

We still offer the wafers to Phoebe from time to time, but generally she wants something more substantial. She now really enjoys the veggie and cheese straws, which are truly yummy (occasionally mummy pinches some for herself!) and she likes being all grown up and helping herself from the packet. You can buy them in packs of four for £2, which isn’t bad value at all as one packet can last 2-3 snack times for her.

Organix

When Phoebe was younger she used to like the Organix carrot sticks and sweetcorn rings, in fact some meals they were all she would eat (the source of much angst for this mama). Now she’s a bit older she seems less fussed by these but it still a huge fan of lots of the Organix range (we have their porridge and cereal).

downloadWhen it comes to snacks, one of her favourites is the Organix Oaty Bar. She particularly loves the strawberry and apple, and also tucks into the carrot cake ones. I’ve also recently been buying the mini oaty bites, which are a great size if she only needs something small (either she had a later lunch or we are having tea a bit earlier).

 

Also in the Organix range are apple and date bars, which again are a big hit with Phoebe.

Collective Dairy Suckies

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I’m a big fan of these yoghurts as they don’t contain any added sugar, the sweetness comes from fruit puree and juice. Phoebe’s favourite flavours are blueberry and strawberry, but they also come in peach, raspberry and banana.

The other benefit of these yoghurts is that they’re made with whole milk, so they contain the important fats that Phoebe needs at this age. They were also a great alternative to breastmilk when I was weaning her, as they seemed to be more filling for her than some other yoghurts. We tend to use these for desserts now instead of snacks, primarily because she likes to feed herself and it gets very messy if she is having a snack in the living room!

Check out more about this progressive brand over on my first ‘why we love’…post.

Ella’s Kitchen 

imagesFor several months Phoebe adored Ella’s Kitchen melty puffs, in all flavours. As she got older she moved onto the melty hoops, which are suitable from 10 months upward. I think she liked the challenge of picking up something smaller and trying out her fine motor skills. I used to put a handful in a bowl for her and she would eat them very earnestly :o).

I haven’t bought anything from the brand lately but I’ve seen they offer plenty for older tots, and given how much Phoebe liked their snacks before I would definitely give them a try.

And some other ideas:

  • Crumpet with butter
  • Toast fingers with peanut butter or marmite (but only a small smattering as marmite is quite salty)
  • Fruit – Phoebe particularly likes blueberries; we cut them into quarters or halves
  • Cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
  • Cow and Gate banana yoghurt; again this does not contain any added sugar only fruit and yoghurt
  • Mini bagels lightly toasted with butter or jam (I only use St Dalfour as it doesn’t have any added sugar, it’s made purely from fruit. This doesn’t mean it’s not sugary – it is as fruit is naturally quite high in sugar – so we only have this very occasionally as a treat).

Every baby is of course different, so what works for one won’t for another. But hopefully this post provides some tried and tested ideas, to help you navigate the weaning process. Best of luck and remember, there will be ups and downs but surely all of us get there in the end :o)
Sarah

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Out and About: Review of The White Swan, Birmingham

The White Swan in Edgbaston is a very well-renowned establishment in these leafy suburbs of Birmingham. I’ve spent many a happy hour there either having a drink or two, or dining with friends and family. I last went there in the summer before my daughter had started solids – since then, we tend to stick to less refined places as I’m sure other diners would not want to witness the complete carnage meal time can be with an 11-month-old.

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When I was invited to check out the place following it’s recent refurbishment, I was intrigued to see the changes that had been made. Not that there was anything particularly obvious that needed updated, but it never hurts for places to have a refresh every now and again.

Roping in my mother-in-law for a spot of babysitting, my husband and I headed off for an adults-only lunch. While we absolutely adore our daughter, there is something nice about just having a few hours to chat and relax, without the need for the constant entertainment of a little one. It was also lovely to head out of the door without having to make sure I had my giant mum-bag filled with toys, nappies, wipes, snacks, and all the paraphernalia required for even just two hours away from home.

Arriving at the White Swan I was pleased to discover parking is now free again. For a while you had to pay to park (only a pound I think, which was refundable with a purchase in the pub) but as someone who never has change, I found this to be a bit of a faff.

We were shown to our table which was in the corner of the restaurant, so I had a good view of the refurbed space. The new decor is very chic while also feeling homely. Overall, a great new look.

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Onto the food. As it’s not very often we get to slow down and take our time over our food, we went for 3 courses. I started with deep fried brie, which was delicious. Oodles of gooey cheese wrapped in crispy panko breadcrumbs, with an apricot and cumin chutney which offset the buttery richness of the brie.

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I followed up with the lobster and crab fishcakes teamed with a side of sweet potato fries. On reflection I didn’t really need the fries as the fishcakes were filling enough, although I still managed to tuck into them as they were cooked beautifully – super crispy with a sprinkling of parmesan. The fishcakes were very tasty, perhaps a bit heavy on the potato for my liking, but very enjoyable and I would have them again.

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When it came to dessert I was pretty stuffed so I opted for one of their mini desserts with a coffee. I chose their chocolate brownie with a decaf latte, and personally I think it’s still a generous portion. I was also pleased the decaf latte was enjoyable, as decaf coffee drinks can sometimes be a bit tasteless compared to a fully caffeinated version.

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I was happy with my choice but I do have to say my husband’s dessert was a showstopper. Being a chocolate lover, he was instantly drawn to the melting golden chocolate orange bomb. It’s teamed with praline ice cream and chocolate popping candy, and the server pours hot Belgian chocolate sauce over the bomb at the table. It is spectacular to watch it melt and reveal the inside of the chocolate bomb! The perfect food theatrics without being too pretentious. I didn’t manage to get a before shot, but here it is in all its melty glory.

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Having had the lobster and prawn pot followed by a steak, James said this was his favourite course. While it wouldn’t have been for me, I can see why he loved that dessert so much.

To sum up, we had a lovely meal; good food in a relaxing and welcoming environment. I really liked the new decor and look forward to visiting again soon.
Sarah

Thanks to McCann Erickson for inviting me to sample the menu at The White Swan, where food and drink were provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. As always my reviews are honest and are not influenced by the provision of free products. 

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Baby-friendly Chicken Casserole

At nearly 9 months Phoebe has certainly become more adventurous with her food, as well as dropping more of her milk feeds so she is hungrier for solids. As I mentioned in my Vonshef slow cooker review, I want to get her used to eating the same as us so once I’m back at work we can all eat together. It will also be easier if I can just prepare one meal for the three of us instead of two different meals.

So I put together a baby-friendly chicken casserole recipe based on my previous experience and some ideas I found in a slow cooker recipe book. It’s very low in salt so it is ideal for babies up to a year old. I didn’t try Phoebe on this until she was over 8 months, but each parent knows their own baby best and can judge when they are ready for something like this.

These quantities made two good dinner portions for me and my husband, a smaller portion for Phoebe and a leftover portion which was another lunch.

You will need:

  • 6-8 portions of chicken, dependant on your appetite. I used one and half chicken breasts for my husband as he’s not that keen on other cuts, and for Phoebe and I, I used 6 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 large potatoes or 4 smaller ones
  • 200g pack of mushrooms
  • 1 onion (I personally prefer red but white would do fine)
  • 250ml of chicken stock – I used a Boots stock cube suitable for babies, which contains limited salt
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp of mixed herbs, alternatively you could use 1 tsp oregano, 1 sprig of rosemary and 1 bay leaf
  • Optional 1 additional stock cube

What to do:

  1. Peel the carrots and slice into rounds. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks; if using a large potato then about 6 chunks will be fine, smaller ones can go into three or four pieces.
  2. Chop the onion into small pieces and cut the mushrooms into halves.
  3. Add the vegetables to the slow cooker, spread along the bottom of the pot.
  4. Put the chicken pieces on top and then cover with the stock. Add a bit more water if necessary.
  5. Add the herbs and the tomato puree.
  6. Put the lid onto the slow cooker and if you have an auto setting, then switch to this. If not, use high if you have 6-7 hours to cook your casserole, or low if you have around 8-10 hours.
  7. Leave your slow cooker to do the work.
  8. If you want to thicken up the sauce at any point, you can mash one of the potatoes into the juice, or use a teaspoon of cornflour.
  9. Once your casserole is ready, remove a portion for baby. If you want to, you can then add the normal stock cube and cook for another hour. I would highly recommend this as it does add to the flavour; the baby stock cubes are fine but a little blander than we are probably used to.
  10. Serve in bowls and enjoy the hearty meal.

I hope this helps you on your weaning journey. What is your baby’s favourite meal?
Sarah

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Reviews: VonShef slow cooker

I’m well aware I’m becoming a bit of a bore on my blog, talking about how things are different in our household since having our daughter. But it’s so true! One thing that is certain is I have less time to prep and cook elaborate meals. While ready meals and ‘slam in the oven’ food was super helpful for the first few months with a newborn, for me it was soon time to get back to home cooked fodder.

I’d been toying with the idea of getting a slow cooker for a while, as I imagined it would help me cook healthy and tasty meals with ease. Also now Phoebe is on solid food, I wanted to get her eating what we are having sooner rather than later, so once I go back to work we can all eat together without me having to make two different meals.

With this in mind, when I was kindly offered the Vonshef 6.5l electric slow cooker to try out, I jumped at the chance. The 6.5l version is a good size for us, as the plan is once I am more experienced with a slow cooker I can cook larger portions and freeze half for another day.

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I’d always imagined slow cookers to be clunky and old fashioned, but the Vonshef version I have is rather stylish. Not that my kitchen is particularly modern or very well co-ordinated, but the slow cooker certainly doesn’t look out of place sitting on the work surface. If you had plenty of cupboard space you could pop it away when not in use, but with our limited kitchen storage I’ve decided to just leave ours out.

I like that the Vonshef cooker has fast, slow and auto settings. The first time I used it, I fiddled around a bit too much and kept changing it from slow to fast, so the next time I set it to auto and let the cooker do the hard work. This will be perfect for when I am back at work as I won’t be here to mess with it all day!

My first two cooks in it have been chicken casserole (you can read the recipe here). To make life easy for myself, I prepped my vegetables the night before I was making my casserole once Phoebe had gone to bed, and then in the morning just popped everything into the slow cooker. It cooked everything beautifully; the vegetables were soft but not falling apart, and the chicken was tender and moist. My husband loved the casserole and my daughter tucked in as well, which was lovely to see as it was her first taste of chicken.

Something to note is that as I was making a portion for my 8-month-old, normal stock cubes are too salty for little ones. I used a Boots baby stock cube to start with, then once I had taken out a portion for her, I added a normal stock cube and left it to cook for another hour or so.

The slow cooker is pretty easy to clean too, what I would say is don’t leave it too long before you wash it out though as it will be harder work. But with a good scrub the pot and lid came up nice and clean, ready for the next use.

For anyone who wants to cook homely meals with ease, I would definitely suggest investing in a slow cooker. And, having tried it for myself, I can highly recommend the Vonshef electric slow cooker. It does everything you need it to, and with a price tag of just £34.99 you can’t go wrong.

For more information you can view the slow cooker on Domu’s website.

Would you consider getting a slow cooker?
Sarah

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Foodie Finds: Christmas Gift Guide for Foodies

I’m well aware that Christmas is fast approaching and even though I haven’t bought, prepped, or planned a thing, I still wanted to put together some Christmas gift guides. Being a food blogger, I naturally started with a gift guide for foodie fans, but this year as I’m now a mum I’ve also put together a separate toys gift guide.

If you’re anything like me, and are yet to think about presents let alone buy them, then perhaps my suggestions for gifts for foodies will give you a helping hand. They might even provide inspiration for what you’d like on your own list this Christmas.

I’ve included links purely to try and be helpful so you can find a retailer if you want to buy any of the items, they are not affiliate links or at the request of any of the companies listed. Prices are RRPs, but I’m pretty sure some of the items are cheaper (particularly those found on Amazon).

Without further ado…

Brr Ice tray – Black and Blum – £10

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When the clock strikes Gin and Tonic o’clock, it’s always handy to have a supply of ice ready to go. Freezer bags and trays can be a bit of pain to use, so why not opt for something easier and more fun! The Brr ice tray is easy to fill, load into the freezer and decant individual cubes of ice. Fill up the bear until the water escapes from his back, then pop him into the freezer on his feet. No more worrying about spilling the water or struggling to just get one cube or two rather than the whole tray.

Sandwich box – Black and Blum – £31.95

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While this is a bit pricey for a sandwich box, it is pretty special. The antibacterial bamboo lid doubles as a chopping board so you can prepare your lunch on the go. The sandwich box is a good size which holds different size sarnies including bagels and rolls.

Ombre mugs – Root 7 – £9

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You can’t go wrong with a good mug, especially ones as pretty as these from Root 7. There are three vibrant colours available to brighten up any kitchen. My particular favourite is this totally tropical Flamingo colour, which would be a lovely ray of sunshine on those grey winter mornings.

Coffee canister – Coffee Gator- £30

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Coffee has made such a resurgence over the last few years; we must all know someone who takes their coffee drinking seriously. For those who always have a fresh supply of coffee beans, storage is important. The stainless-steel coffee canister from coffee aficionados Coffee Gator offers the perfect solution – stylish and practical. The one-way valve protects the coffee beans from the air, which would oxidise them and impedes the flavour.

Any sharp pro – Aydya – £17.49

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Blunt knives can be a real hindrance when it comes to kitchen prep. This handy gadget from Aydya, the Any Sharp Pro, rejuvenates knives hands free, which makes its very safe. Just give the knife a few light strokes through the Any Sharp Pro and the knife will be super sharp again. It’s also surprisingly compact, so can be kept out of sight in a kitchen drawer or cupboard until needed.

Ion8 Slim – Aydya – £9.99

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As a new mum who likes to get out and about when I can, having a supply of water with me is important, particularly when I’m out with my daughter in the pushchair which is good exercise! For those on your gift list who are on the go, and would benefit from ready access to water, this water bottle from Ion8 is the one to plump for. This slim bottle is perfect for carrying with you, with extra grip for when you’re multitasking (for me this means pushing the pushchair one handed whilst drinking!). It’s comfortable and doesn’t drip like some water bottles. In addition, it’s BPA free.

8 bit chopping boards – The Fowndry – £19.99

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As a big gamer, and a foodie, how could I not include these chopping boards which combine my two loves? For those who love to game and cook (obviously not simultaneously), look no further than these 8 bit chopping boards from the Fowndry. Inspired by the Nintendo’s iconic cartridge, control and game boy, these fun and funky chopping boards are crafted from laser-etched bamboo.

I hope these have provided some inspiration and food for thought (ahem). Happy shopping and merry Christmas!

If you’re looking for some gift ideas for a 6-12 month old, then head over to my gift guide for the little ones in your life.
Sarah

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Family Time: Christmas Gift Guide for 6-12 month olds

The amount of choice available for Christmas gifts for little ones is staggering, with so many options out there. I personally think toys are always a winner, as babies grow so rapidly and newborn toys are quickly outgrown.

One of my favourite brands for our daughter has been Hape, who make and sell beautiful toys that are fun, developmental, and many are manufactured in stylish and sustainable wood. I’ve therefore selected from their range for my gift guide as I can attest to the quality of Hape toys, as well as the enjoyment my daughter gets from them.

Prices are RRP, and most items on this list can be bought online, I’ve included links where I can. As with my gift guide for foodies, these links are not affiliate and are not at the request of Hape, I am just trying to be helpful :o)

Penguin Musical Wobbler – £12.99

E0331 Wobbling melody Penguin

This super cute and engaging penguin toy helps to encourage hearing and vision skills. The wibbly wobbly penguin is fun for little ones, making a lovely jingly sound. Suitable from 6 months, this penguin will surely become a much loved member of the toy box family.

Trail Rider – £99

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Most kids have a sense of adventure and a scooter or bike can really help with their exploration skills. I know Phoebe will absolutely love bombing around on this trail bike, which is recommended from 12 months upwards (we’re planning on buying it for her first birthday). Hape toys are always great quality so I’d be happy that this is sturdy and will keep her nice and safe. It can be used indoors before heading out into the big wide world and exploring the outdoors.

Baby Drum – £19.99

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A drum may not be every parents cup of tea, as let’s face it, it’s going to be noisy! Phoebe already bangs pretty much all of her toys anyway so she might as well have a drum to do it properly :o) This bright and vibrant drum also rolls along the ground and helps to develop hand-eye coordination.

Friendship activity cube – £59.99

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This eye-catching activity cube offers lots of fun and games for babies, recommended from 12 months upwards. There are five different play surfaces, including a ball maze, shape puzzles, turning gears and panels that open and close. Because of the multiple play surfaces, it can help children play together but is also perfect for entertaining baby on their own.

Teddy and Friends Bath Squirt – £9.99

E0201A Little Splashers—Teddy and Friends Bath Squirts

What’s bathtime without some fun friends to share it with? Teddy and friends will no doubt be a welcome addition to the tub, especially when baby discovers they squirt water. Featuring friendly characters including a blue whale and teddy in a rubber ring, babies will love to have playtime while having a good soak.

Sea animals rattles – £11.99

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If there’s one thing I wish I’d thought about sooner, it would be to have a toy ready to stick on the highchair and entertain little miss while I’m either prepping food or clearing the table off. This sea animal rattle set is a perfect addition to the high chair tray or table to keep your little one entertained (very helpful when eating out too!). The set features the turtle shown in the pic above, as well as a whale and an octopus. They make different sounds and their bright colours are great for keeping babies interested while you grab two minutes to get on with something.

So those are my top picks for toys for 6-12 month olds this Christmas. Hopefully it’s provided some ideas for your Christmas shopping for the little ones in your life.

If you’re also looking for some inspiration for the adults in your life, check out my gift guide for foodies which is also now live on the blog.
Sarah

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Out and About: Afternoon Tea at Rofuto

If you’re a previous visitor to my blog you’ll no doubt have discovered that I, like many people, am rather partial to a spot of afternoon tea. There is something about adding an extra meal in between lunch and supper that appeals to me, especially when that meal is filled with sweet and savoury delights.

So when I was invited to partake in a tasting of the new Japanese afternoon tea at one of Birmingham’s top spots (reputation and height), Rofuto, how could I possibly say no?

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Leaving my little one with my husband for the afternoon, I donned my stretchy jeans ready to overindulge in some tasty treats. Having not yet visited Rofuto, I was impressed with the beautiful Japanese décor, and of course, the view. You really do get a sense of Birmingham’s extensive green space when you’re peering down from the top floor of the Park Regis hotel.

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Rofuto’s afternoon tea comes with the option of free-flowing prosecco, which we were offered upon arrival. It would have been rude to turn it down (ahem) so I indulged in a glass while checking out what was in store on the menu. The prosecco was just the right level of dry for me and the perfect complement to the sweet treats that lay ahead.

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There is also tea and coffee available; I opted for a decaf coffee which was very thoughtfully presented. The coffee arrived on a wooden tray with an individual sugar bowl – lovely not to have to lean across the table to reach for a sugar lump. I’m also pleased to report this was a delicious decaf coffee. Sometimes they can be a bit ropey compared to their caffeinated counterparts, yet this was anything but.

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20171027_144020After some lovely time chatting to the other bloggers at the event, the three-tiers of loveliness arrived. You can see on the menu photo everything on offer, which I won’t list as it’s quite extensive. Instead, I’ve picked out a few of my personal highlights:

Coronation chicken bao buns – what a novel idea to pair classic English afternoon tea with a Japanese twist. The bao bun was so soft, it almost melted in your mouth, while the coronation chicken was creamy and flavourful. Definitely a winner for me.

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Avocado nigiri – I love avocado and always have. Sometimes you find that they can be under-ripe in sushi and therefore tasteless, but this was perfect. There was also a generous amount compared to the rice, so you truly got the avocado flavour coming through. I dipped mine into the soy sauce provided, which I really enjoyed as it wasn’t overly salty which I find with many soy sauces. Delicious.

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Mango, coconut sesame roll – As a mango and coconut fan, this was a perfect treat for me. The sweetness of the mango with the bite of the coconut was an absolute delight, like a tropical holiday wrapped up in a dessert. Yummy.

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I also want to pay tribute to the inclusion of the classic scone, which is always a favourite of mine – particularly when smothered in clotted cream. Rofuto serve theirs with strawberry jam or for the more adventurous, lemongrass curd. I again thought this was a lovely twist on the traditional afternoon tea treats.

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I would highly recommend Rofuto’s afternoon tea, especially for those looking for something that little bit different. I thought the food was delicious and so wonderfully presented, which for me is all part and parcel of an afternoon tea. The view, ambience and attentive service are all icing on the (bitesize) cake.

Afternoon tea at Rofuto is £25 per person or £35 per person if you want to include the free-flowing prosecco (go on, you know you want to).
Sarah

Thanks to Tara and the team at East Village PR for inviting me to sample the afternoon tea at Rofuto, where food and drink was provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. As always my reviews are honest and are not influenced by the provision of free products. 

 

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Out and About: Las Iguanas, Temple Street Birmingham

The amount of new restaurant openings in Birmingham is quite staggering. One of these latest additions to the restaurant scene is the new Brummie branch of popular South American chain, Las Iguanas. Birmingham is already home to two branches – at the Arcadian and Resorts World – and the new opening is located on Temple Street in the heart of the city.

Las Iguanas opens at Temple Street, Birmingham.

I was excited to be invited to check out this latest opening. In the main my enthusiasm was because I thoroughly enjoy the food at Las Iguanas (I’ve been to the Leamington Spa restaurant). Also, the fact that this was my first night out since having my daughter in March, and the thought of taking a small handbag with just essentials rather than my huge mum-bag full of nappies, toys and the like, added to my excitement.

The restaurant is housed in the former Temple Street Social and the new décor is very fun, colourful and funky. The tables are well spaced out (I personally hate tables that are crammed in together too tightly) with some booths for larger groups.

Las Iguanas opens at Temple Street, Birmingham.

After arriving at the restaurant and being greeted by very friendly staff, we were seated promptly. The menu was given to us which listed food on one side and cocktails on the other. We got straight into the drinking (although just the one for me as I’m breastfeeding – just pointing out there that I try my hardest to be a responsible mother) with a strawberry caiprinha which was fresh and fruity. There was a definite kick of alcohol, but just the right amount to give me a light buzz without being overwhelming.

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The menu has a great range of cocktails and the majority are 2-4-1 every day, which is an added bonus.

Last time I visited Las Iguanas I stuck to the more well-known Mexican food including nachos and burritos. I fancied being more adventurous this time, so I chose Bolinhos De Caranguejo to start, which are crab, prawn and potato croquettes served with lime aioli. They arrived quickly and were freshly cooked. The potato was light and fluffy, with the crab and prawn adding a delicious uplift to the taste. The lime aioli was indeed as the menu stated, zingy. Even though the croquettes are deep fried they did not taste too oily, which was very welcome.

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My friend went for the Pato Taquito which is roast duck and caramelised onion in a flour tortilla. She enjoyed them, and said that the spicy cranberry salsa served with the taquito was a tasty addition.

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For main course, I plumped for the Halloumi Churrasco Skewers, which were skewers of halloumi, beetroot, artichoke, red onion and pepper. While I’m not a veggie, I do love a good vegetarian dish and often choose the veg option if it looks interesting. Plus I adore halloumi, so it seems a perfect choice for me.

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The skewers were served with a honey peri-peri sauce, salad and cassava fries. I was pleased to see there was plenty of halloumi on the skewers, with a good helping of the vegetables as well. It was cooked really well, nicely grilled without being overdone. The portion of salad and fries were generous.

My friend had a dish which looked super interesting, called Xinxim (still not sure how you pronounce it). It is a Brazilian dish, featuring chicken and crayfish in a lime and peanut sauce. It’s served with spring onion rice, fine green beans, coconut farofa (Google tells me this is toasted cassava flour mixture) and plantain.

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I was slightly disappointed that while the starters were served about 10 minutes after ordering, we waited 45 minutes after our first course for our mains to arrive. The restaurant was really busy and I appreciate things can get held up, but this did seem a rather excessive wait.

In between courses we went in for our second cocktail of the night, the Citrus Samba. Mine was sans-alcohol, but even without it the taste was crisp and refreshing.

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Overall we had a great evening and the food was certainly very tasty. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit this branch again as the location is ideal, and overlooking the long wait between courses, the food was freshly cooked, thoroughly enjoyable and more interesting than many other chain restaurants. The cocktails are also particularly delightful and the 2-4-1 offering is nice and easy on the wallet (helpful as my maternity pay is drawing to an end!). Non-alcoholic cocktails are also available on the 2-4-1 menu.
Sarah

Thanks to Tara and the team at East Village PR for inviting me to the launch event, where food and drink was provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. As always my reviews are honest and are not influenced by the provision of free products.