Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Ravensburger 3D American Flag Sneaker Puzzle (review + giveaway E: 7 August 2017)

best jigsaw puzzles, teachers' gifts

If you're on the lookout for a quirky and unusual gift for your child's teacher, how about a Ravensburger 3D American Flag Sneaker puzzle for them to keep pens and pencils in one place?!
If the American Flag version is not to your taste, there is a similar Graffiti sneaker puzzle, and I've seen somewhere an Animal Trend sneaker as well.
It would definitely make a different present. There are so many Best Teacher Ever mugs one person could have, and I imagine 30 boxes of chocolate or smellies might also be not that welcome.

We have quite a collection of 3D puzzles from Ravensburger at home, they last well (if you don't knock them down).
The puzzle comes in a sturdy box and includes 108 puzzle pieces, plus the plastic sneaker base and a pencil holder insert.
All the puzzle pieces are numbered in the back and have a mini arrow, which shows where the next piece should be attached. The pieces slot into each other with ease and hold well.

Once the upper part of the sneaker is assembled, attach it to the base and insert the pencil holder inside the sneaker.

best jigsaw puzzles, gifts for teachers

Eddie's colouring pens now found a new home. He loves his colourful pencil holder. It looks bright and cheerful on the shelf with the DVDs, or on the table, when Eddie is colouring his school projects.

Disclosure: We received the puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Lovely people from Ravensburger have offered a prize for my blog readers.

One lucky winner will receive their own 3D American Flag Sneaker Puzzle.

To be in with a chance of winning, please enter via Rafflecopter form.

The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will contact them regarding address details, if they do not reply within 28 day, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs.
The prize will be posted by Ravensburger.
Giveaway ends on 7 August 2017 (midnight).

Good luck!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 17 July 2017

Jerte Picota Infused Pimm's

summer drinks, summer cocktails

After a few cooler days we are back to hot and humid again. Sigh. I'm not made for this weather, I'm a Northerner through and through. I could never live in the properly hot countries.
On hot summer days we drink lots of iced tea, both bought and homemade.
Ice cube trays are replenished daily.

Pimm's is the quintessential British summer drink. All the pubs in town have boards with offers of jugs of Pimm's. We don't often indulge in it. The last bottle of Pimm's I bought to use in a recipe, lasted me over 2 years. I added it to berry salads and fruit crumbles a little bit at a time, and still it took ages to shift it.
There are many variations of the Pimm's cocktail: some prefer to add borage instead of mint, some go for a ginger beer rather than lemonade or soda water.
Strawberries are lovely, but you can always swap them for another juicy berry or fruit.
Have you tried Pimm's with cherries?

summer cocktails

Jerte Picota cherry is the perfect addition in a delicious glass of Pimm's.

Jerte Picota Infused Pimm's (recipe courtesy of Dialogue Agency)
100ml Pimm's No.1
225g Jerte Picota cherries, pitted
200ml soda water or lemonade
2 sprigs fresh mint
2 slices of cucumber
fresh Jerte Picota cherries, to serve
ice, crushed
1.Place the cherries into a food processor until a smooth puree is produced.
2. Put the cherry puree, cucumber slices, 1 mint sprig and Pimm's in a jar and mix well.
3. Pour in the soda water/lemonade and add crushed ice, then gently stir
4. To serve, pour into glasses and garnish with fresh mint leaves and Jerte Picota cherries.
Enjoy this refreshing and tasty drink in time for summer!

Spanish cherries

About Jerte Picota P.D.O.
The Jerte Picota is not only unique because of its PDO status, but also because it's harvested without its stalk. Its shape, too, is unique, with the slight peak at the base prompting the name Picota or peaked.

I managed to find Picota cherries in Sainsbury's (currently at £1 per punnet). I know that the Co-Op used to sell them as well, but I couldn't find them there this year.

They are only available for six weeks per year, but their taste is worth the wait.
For more information, visit Picota.

If you cannot find Picota, or when the season is over, you can always swap them for British cherries.

I fancied trying the recipe, but didn't want to buy the whole bottle, so used a pre-mixed tin of Pimm's with lemonade, as you can see from the photos.

summer drinks

Of course, if you are entertaining, it makes sense to buy a big bottle and mix your own cocktails.

This is a lovely summer cocktail, with beautiful flavours all along.

Are you a fan of Pimm's?

summer drinks

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Banana yogurt cupcakes with chocolate chunks

easy cupcakes, what to do with overripe bananas

Honestly, sometimes I'm exasperated with my family's eating habits. My boys, all three of them, are fussy eaters. Both kids refused to even try the boiled fruit cake I baked the other day.
I knew that Sash would not eat bakes with visible fruit inside, though he would eat a carrot cake with sultanas. Eddie is another fusspot. Thankfully, I had a couple of friends over yesterday, and they enjoyed my cake with a cup of coffee.
Sasha was looking quite forlong, venturing in the kitchen and opening the cake tins, hoping that something would materialise to his taste. I couldn't have my boy feeling sad, so decided to bake a batch of cupcakes to cheer him up.

I had a rummage around the kitchen, what did I have at hand? One over-ripe banana, remains of ground almonds, sugar, flour, a sample bag of oats, yogurt, margarine and chocolate chunks. Perfect.

I'm not sure if technically what I cooked are called cupcakes. They are more of sweet muffins, as there is nothing on the top, but then for me personally the line between the two is blurred.

Banana yogurt cupcakes with chocolate chunks (makes 9)
1 banana, very ripe
100g caster sugar
100g margarine
2 medium eggs
25g ground almonds
40g porridge oats
120g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
100g plain yogurt (Greek style)
50g chocolate chunks

In a medium sized mixing bowl mas up a banana with a fork. Add the sugar and margarine and cream them together. Beat in the eggs. Add the almonds and oats, sift in the flour and baking powder, add the yogurt and mix well. Finally add the chocolate chunks and mix again.
Spoon the cake batter into 9 paper muffin cases inserted into a muffin tray.
Place the tray in the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Check if they are ready with a wooden toothpick, if it comes clean, the cupcakes are ready.
Cool them on a wire rack. Eat warm or cold.

what to do with overripe bananas

Sasha could hardly wait, and started "working" on the cupcakes, while they were still pretty hot.

what to do with over-ripe bananas

I had a little bite, and these cupcakes are lovely, fluffy and flavourful.

what to do with overripe bananas

As I used some of the ends of packets in this recipe, adding this post to #KitchenClearout linky run by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.

And as there are chocolate chunks used in this recipe, I'm joining in #WeShouldCocoa linky run by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Berry yogurt swirl: summer with EasiYo

easy summer dessert, EasiYo yogurt

Summer food for me equals quick easy meals, simple (or none at all) cooking. Who wants to spend hours by the hot oven? I tend to offer lighter meals to my family, we eat lots of salads and fruit, or even have picnic-style dinners in the garden. We don't necessarily sit on a rug, but we love the idea of finger foods, dips and crudites. We also eat more yogurt in summer.
I do buy yogurt, especially the non-dairy variety, like coconut yogurts, and I enjoy playing with my EasiYo yogurt maker. Greek Style yogurt is one of my top favourites. It is such a versatile yogurt, great for all kinds of recipes, from simple dips with herbs to cakes, from salads to easy berry desserts.

Berry yogurt swirl could be made with any berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, red currants or fruit like fresh figs. It's not exactly a recipe, more of an idea of a quick and easy summer dessert which can be made in minutes, with yogurt either bought or homemade.

Berry yogurt swirls (per serving)
2 big strawberries, blitzed
about 4-5 heaped tbsp of Greek style yogurt
a handful of red currants
mint leaves
1tbsp pistachio nuts, chopped

Blitz strawberries with a hand blender or in a smoothie maker. Assemble your dessert: strawberry sauce first, then yogurt, and repeat. Add fresh red currants, mint leaves and chopped pistachios on top.

easy summer dessert

EasiYo is an iconic brand which has been around for 20 years, and recently a new redesigned pink EasiYo yogurt maker has been launched.
The new variety incorporates a host of technical, ergonomic and thermal improvements such as an easy grip to twist and open, new sleek shape and size, non-slip feet for added stability, New Zealand wool insulation and an easier to clean jar.

The entire EasiYo Yogurt Maker and jars are manufactured from US & UK FDA approved polypropylene grade PP130RE1. All parts are BPA-free, which is reassuring to know.

It is easy to clean. I've had it for several months, and have used quite a lot.

It is incredibly easy to operate. You just fill in the smaller container with water half-way, add the sachet of powdered yogurt mix, put the lid on and shake well. Then top up with more water and shake again. Place the yogurt tub inside the yogurt maker and pour boiling water to the top of the spacer. Cover tightly with the lid and leave it to "cook" for 8-12 hours or overnight. Chill before serving.

It makes 1kg of delicious yogurt, with no artificial ingredients.

making yogurt at home

There is a good choice of different flavours.

homemade yogurt

We love all berry and fruit flavours, but the Greek Style is probably the most versatile.
I add it to soups instead of the soured cream.

And it takes just minutes to assemble the easiest summer dessert of yogurt, berries and nuts or granola.

EasiYo yogurt

If you like the sound of EasiYo, at the moment there is a good offer at Lakeland - you can buy an EasiYo 1kg Yogurt Maker and two sachets starter kit at £9.99. I don't know when the offer expires but if you always fancied trying it, now it's a good time.

Disclosure: I received a pink EasiYo yogurt maker back in spring for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Boiled fruit cake

cake made with fruit soaked in tea

Ever since reading Alison's - of Dragons and Fairy Dust fame - post about a boiled fruit cake, I fancied trying the recipe myself. Her cake is a delightful tea treat.
I have also liked the sound of a tea soaked fruit cake found on National Trust site. My cake is an interpretation and amalgamation of two recipes.
Recently I have being playing with Clipper Extra Strong tea, making both hot and iced tea, and I wanted to bake a cake with fruit soaked in strong tea.

fruit cake made with fruit soaked in tea

Boiled fruit cake
2 strong black tea teabags
200ml water
360g mixed fruit (sultanas, raisins and dried apricots)
3 medium eggs
160g demerara sugar
200g margarine (e.g. Flora)
1tbsp mixed spice
360g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsbp spiced rum

Pour hot boiling water over 2 teabags in a big mug, cover and let it steep for 10 minutes. Remove the teabags and discard them. Put the raisins, sultanas and finely chopped apricots in a medium sized pan and pour the tea over the fruit. Bring to boil, then lower the heat, keep cooking for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave the fruit to infuse for two hours, or more if you have time.
This plumps up the dried fruit.

In a big mixing bowl beat the eggs with the sugar, one at a time. Add the margarine and mix well. Sift in the flour, spice mix and baking powder, and mix well together. Finally add the soaked fruit and a spoon of rum (optional) to the cake mix, combine all the ingredients together.
Line the cake spring tin with a foil or parchment paper and lightly oil it.

Pour the cake batter into the tin. Place the tin in the oven preheated to 180C. Cook for 50-60 minutes.
Check readiness with a wooden toothpick. You might want to cover the cake with more foil, half-way through cooking, if it gets too browned.

fruit cake made with fruit soaked in tea

It is a crumbly moist cake, lovely with a cup of tea.

In this recipe I used Clipper Extra Strong tea, but any good quality black tea, plain or flavoured, would work.

Mixed spice that I used is Waitrose Signature Spice which I bought around Christmas time. It is a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, star anise, black pepper, tangerine oil and cloves. You can use any similar mixed spice or make your own from spices you have.

Since I have finished the bag of sultanas, bought for making mincemeat last year as well as the remains of the demerara sugar, I'm adding this recipe to #KitchenClearout linky run by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Heroes and Villains: Witney carnival parade 2017

Witney carnival takes place in July, and every year a new theme is announced.
I remember watching the parade for the first time seven years ago, when I was heavily pregnant with Eddie who was due in a few days. My Mum came to stay with us for six weeks to help with Sasha and the new baby. We were shopping in town, when the parade started. It was a very cheerful and jolly affair, and I wiggled my big belly to the rhythm of the catchy music to the amusement and concern of my Mum, who had this vision of me going in labour in the middle of the parade.
Since then we always try to catch the big show in town, which starts on the Leys and moves through the town centre. The crowds are friendly, people come with young children, put the rugs along the streets and cheer the procession.
All the profits raised from the carnival go to the community and help local charities and organisations.
We love seeing all the floats - schools, marching bands, steam engines. This year's theme was Heroes and Villains.
Oxford Caledonian Pipes and Drums Band is usually leading the procession, just after the local beauty queen makes her entry and disperses kisses (see video above).

The popularity of Star Wars was reflected in several floats.

Star Wars

Star Wars

It's pretty cool to see Darth Vader walking through the centre of Witney.

The stormtroopers

Eddie's school picked 101 Dalmations as their theme, with the Head playing the part of Cruella de Vil.

I believe the next group was The Rotary Club of Witney who chair the Carnival Committee and organise the procession.

The Incredibles looked, well, incredible.

We were impressed by the young cheerleaders.

The Marvel Superheroes

The prize for the coolest float goes to the Batmobile without doubt.

And the prize for the best dance routine goes to Pirate Fitness. They always make us smile. Last year they were dressed up as prehistoric women in skins, carrying clubs. They are a real hoot.

It was not just superheroes, but community heroes as well - firefighters and police officers.

The majorettes in matching outfits

The colourful procession is only one part of the carnival. There were lots of food tents, trade and crafts stalls set up on The Leys, as well as activities planned including a gigantic bouncy castle, slides, donkey and mini train rides, music events, static displays, circus and much more.

Eddie begged me to let him have a go on the Flight simulator. The queue was enormous, and I nearly fainted there, in the middle of the field, as it was very hot.
Eddie was ecstatic though, and kept shouting "I'm flying! I'm flying", so it was all worth it.

We also spotted the Batmobile, but by the time we had a chance to come closer, Batman went on a loo break, so we couldn't have a photo taken together with the Batman. Eddie now wants us to have a Batmobile.
Who wouldn't want a Batmobile?!