Monday, 22 September 2014

Coffee, coffee, coffee....

If there's one thing that I couldn't give up, then it would be coffee!


The story of coffee
Despite being readily available, coffee has a colourful history dating back to the 9th century. To give you a better understanding of the world’s favourite drink, Logic Vending have put together this guide covering everything you need to know about coffee!

When was coffee first discovered?
According to legend, coffee was first discovered in the 9th century by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. He realised that the beans has miraculous ‘perk-me-up’ qualities when he noticed that his goats became spirited and sleepless after eating berries from a certain tree. Kaldi recounted the phenomenon to the local monastery whose abbot made a drink with the hope of staying awake for evening prayer. After experiencing the energising effects first hand, the abbot shared his new found knowledge with other monks. Thus the coffee craze was born!

The Arabian entrepreneurs
While coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, the Arabs were the first to actively cultivate plantations and start up a thriving trade market for the beans. During the 15th century production was limited to the Yemeni district however by the 16th century, production had extended to Turkey, Egypt, Persia, Syria and beyond.

Coffee arrives in Europe
Compared to the East, Europeans didn’t discover the delights of coffee until the 17th century when whispers of the black brew reached major cities. While consumers were sceptical at first and referred to the drink as the 'bitter invention of Satan,’ it was soon given the seal of approval by the Pope himself! By the mid-17th century London played host to over 300 coffee houses.

The US invasion
America was the next nation to taste the bitter bean when merchants brought coffee to New York (then known as New Amsterdam) in the mid-1600s. While tea remained hugely popular, King George’s 1773 ‘tea tax’ turned Americans against the leaf based beverage and coffee emerged as the drink of choice.

The spread of plantations
As the world began to develop a growing taste for coffee, European nations decided to stir up the Arabian coffee plantation monopoly. While they did encounter resistance, the Dutch eventually got their hands on some seedlings in the mid-17th century and attempted to plant crops in Indonesia. The beans thrived in the warm climate and today, Indonesia remains a primary producer of coffee. In 1714 the Dutch showed a streak of exceptional generosity and presented a coffee plant seedling to King Louis XIV of France. The seed was sewn in the Paris’s Royal Botanical Garden where it thrived! However in 1723, a young officer is thought to have stolen a seedling and transported it to the French Caribbean Island of Martinique. Thus the beginning of the South and Central American coffee revolution!

Where is coffee produced?
Today, coffee plantations are grown in countries across the globe. Asia, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands are all popular coffee producers however it’s Africa and South America that really steal the show.

So if you love coffee just as much as me and are looking for a high quality coffee machine to rent or buy, Logic Vending has a huge selection of models to suit cafes, restaurants, bars, salons, offices and more. The Fracino Romano 2 Group is a great commercial coffee machine to lease and features an hourly output of 400 cups. For smaller settings, bean to cup machines are ideal. So, have a look at their website and choose what would be best for you!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Expecting the unexpected through the post!

ascdirect.co.uk has been providing a wide and varied range of corrugated box solutions for over 30 years. These can be designed to exact specification including recyclable, lightweight or heavy duty for export. The boxbuilder tool allows customers to design a bespoke design tailored to their exact needs which keeps postal costs to a minimum and offers great environmental savings.
To mark the re-launch of its new website ascdirect.co.uk has released a list of the weird and unusual things its customers have posted with boxes made through the boxbuilder function:

  1. ‘Breathable’ boxes for a bee breeder;
  2. Snake carrier;
  3. Worms (for fishing enthusiasts);
  4. Double walled box for posting frogs;
  5. Motorcycle box (whole);


One customer requested a box be made so he could post his daughter out to visit his parents in Australia. Though a box could be made it is illegal to put children in the post!

Andrew Woodhead, Managing Director at ascdirect.co.uk said: “We have had some very unusual requests but we enjoy providing the perfect solution to all our customers packaging needs. These have ranged from a request for boxes to post live crickets to reptile pet owners as food, and a box to post a bee hive safely.”
 

“We are always looking at ways to support the individual packaging needs of a growing network of entrepreneurial home-workers who are fuelling our extraordinary cottage industry in the UK. Now our customers can design their bespoke boxes easier and quicker than ever before. The process has being simplified down to three simple steps, improving our customer’s on-line experience but with our great value prices remaining the same.
 

”With Ebay and Amazon sellers also playing a big part of our customer base, they are able to design their perfect box - offering savings on postal costs as well as environmental benefits.”
It is possible to send living creatures through Royal Mail and these include bees, caterpillars, cockroaches, crickets, destroyers of noxious pests, earthworms, fish fry and eggs, leeches and other parasites, lugworms, maggots, mealworms, pupae and chrysalides, rag worms, silkworms, spiders and stick insects. In order to comply with the tight postal guidelines** laid down by Royal Mail, the boxes used need to be secure and good quality to ensure that they do not break open during transit.
 

*Live animals and reptiles are prohibited, as are any creatures or insects classified as dangerous within the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (including certain venomous spiders). Please see www.royalmail.com/internationalprohibitedgoods for more information.
 

**They must be boxed and packaged to protect the creatures, Royal Mail staff and their customers from harm. Items must be clearly marked ‘URGENT – LIVING CREATURES - HANDLE WITH CARE’. The sender’s name and return address must be clearly visible on the outer packaging.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Gruffalo: Games mobile app

Families have been flocking to download the first-ever Gruffalo: Games mobile app since it launched at the end of August, helping it to become the most popular Kids and Education iOS app this week.

Children can test The Gruffalo’s quick-thinking and super smart moves in a series of simple but classic games, helping complement the key skills they’re learning at pre- and primary school.

The team behind The Gruffalo: Games app is Oscar-nominated entertainment company Magic Light Pictures and is based on the much-loved picture book, The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The games are based on traditional and well-known children’s games that everyone will be familiar with, including snap, three-in-a-row, matching and jigsaws – but each with a monstrous twist!


In two of the games, 3 In A Row and Snap, children are able to play against The Gruffalo himself, who, despite his terrible tusks and terrible claws, is surprisingly good at card games. Children will find plenty of challenge trying to beat him!

The beautifully designed and illustrated app is aimed at 3-7 year olds and features six games set to music from the films. Gruffalo: Games captures the essence of the stories by featuring both The Gruffalo and other popular characters from the book, including Mouse, Owl, Fox and Snake.

The enduringly popular children’s character comes to life in this new mobile app which has been designed to entertain children and engage them with the real world, as well as The Gruffalo character.

The Gruffalo: Games follows in the footsteps of the highly successful Room on the Broom app which was launched by Magic Light Pictures in October 2013.

Martin Pope, co-founder of Magic Light Pictures, said: “We’re thrilled that The Gruffalo’s many fans seem to be enjoying the games so much, which are designed to be fun, challenging and encourage imagination. “

“It's been a pleasure and honour to work with Julia's wonderful rhymes and Axel's amazing illustrations, and we’ve worked closely with them to ensure we stay true to their characters.”

Magic Light Pictures developed the app with Stormcloud Games, who they had previously worked with on Room on the Broom: Games released late last year.

The Gruffalo: Games iOS app is available to download priced £2.99.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sunflower Seed Flapjacks

Good fats/bad fats... it can be a minefield out there with lots of dietary advice being thrown at us from all directions. Everyone loves a treat but finding an energy-rich, healthy snack can be tricky! That's why I love this easy to bake flapjack recipe.

Don't be mistaken, it's not a low-fat recipe by any means ('real' butter!) but it has the classic flapjack recipe base with oats (great for long lasting energy!) and you can add seeds (sunflower or pumpkin work best) to increase the 'good fats' in the snack. Dried apricots also work a treat as would any dried fruit to be honest! So give it a go for the after-school snack; I'm sure you and your children will love it!

Sunflower Seed Flapjacks
200g unsalted butter
6 tbsp. golden syrup
330g porridge oats
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds or a mixture of both)
2 tbsp. nuts (I like to use flaked almonds, but any would do)

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 4 and line a Swiss roll tin or 10" square tin with baking parchment.
  2. Combine the oats, seeds and nuts in a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt.
  3. Gently heat the butter and golden syrup together over a low heat until completely melted.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix gently. Spoon into the prepared baking tray and press down quite firmly to level the mixture.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 mins until golden brown. The flapjack won't quite be set, but leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out. I tend to score the flapjack into portions after about 10 mins of cooling but still leave in the tin until cold before removing.
  6. Enjoy! This will keep in an airtight container for a few days... if it lasts that long!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Kitting your children out for school with Aldi!

Aldi is fast becoming one of the leading supermarkets, but don't forget they also stock a great range of children's clothing including school uniform and shoes. We were approached to road-test some of the Back to School range and so here's our thoughts - from both a kids and parents point of view!


C says that the girl's cardigans are nice to wear with the sleeves not too long nor not too short. Or too tight for that matter! The skirts are long enough to fit nicely but still let you run around the playground. And the shoes are pretty and look nice with tights or socks.

J says that the sweatshirts are nice and don't make him itch! The trousers are the right length (J has quite short legs but the trousers weren't really, really long on him) and adjustable waists so they don't fall down! The polo shirts are nice and comfortable and don't make you too hot when playing with your friends at playtime.

And from a parent's point of view... the clothing seems to wash well and holds it's shape when dried. The test will be how they stand up to the first full term of school paint! The hems are well-stitched and look kid-proof. The shoes are well made and look nice as well as being practical. There's not a huge selection of colours so make sure you check that your local store stocks the colour that you need. The prices are very reasonable and you can also stock up on underwear and socks, at least starting the new school year with all matching socks! As a side point, there's also stationery, lunch boxes and other school essentials available so you could get basically everything under one roof for a bargain price! A stress-free shopping trip sounds perfect! 

So pop down to your local Aldi and have a look at the uniform on offer - I'm sure that you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

31 things to do in August!

Here comes August! We've been waiting for you for sooo long - so don't disappoint and make sure you keep the sunshine with us for a few more weeks!

Here's our list of the 31 things we hope to do during August - some indoors, some outdoors and some necessaries which aren't exactly adventures....
  1. Go on a bike ride - we're spoilt for choice where we live but we probably will embark on a northern cycle up the Wales Coast Path.
  2. Have a kid's bedroom 'sort out'! Refurbish our local charity shop with anything that we have outgrown - toys and clothes!
  3. Paint a picture.
  4. Paddle in the sea.
  5. Buy new school uniforms and shoes.
  6. Plan our Cardiff weekend away (October can't come soon enough!).
  7. Have at least(!) one day where my 2 children don't fall out!
  8. Go for a swim in the sea.
  9. Go for a swim in an indoor pool.
  10. Have a movie marathon.
  11. Make something out of papier mache (my kids love this, whereas I hate it!)
  12. Walk the MawddachTrail.
  13. Following my eldest's eye test (next week), get her kitted out with new glasses.
  14. Visit Bendigedig Indoor Play Centre.
  15. Sort out pre-school haircuts.
  16. Visit the library once a week to join in with the Reading Challenge.
  17. Visit Lake Vyrnwy.
  18. Have a BBQ on the beach.
  19. Make a new dessert with the kids - not cupcakes!
  20. Visit a National Trust property.
  21. Knit something.... probably a scarf!
  22. Cross my fingers and either celebrate or commiserate when my Welsh exam results arrive!
  23. Have a board games evening - some of our favourites include The Logo Board Game and the Deadly 60 Tracker game.
  24. Go to the cinema.
  25. Fly a kite.
  26. Crack the 100-word spelling list my youngest has to learn over the school holidays... we're over half way there 2 weeks in!
  27. Go out for Sunday lunch - a luxury for us to have an afternoon off during the school holidays!
  28. Help my eldest with her fundraising plan to raise money to help pay for a class trip.
  29. Plan the Autumn Term for Brownie meetings.
  30. Make something useful out of loom bands!
  31. And finally, have at least a little fun and smile every day!


Monday, 28 July 2014

Sticky Hot Dog Jackets - Recommended Recipe!

Sticky Hot Dog Jackets
Serves 4, takes about 1 1/4 hours including 1 hour cooking

4 baking potatoes, each weighing about 225g/8oz
olive oil, for brushing

For the sausages and glaze:
2 tbsp maple syrup or clear honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp tomato puree
8 pork sausages

For the mayo:
8 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 tbsp snipped chives or finely chopped spring onion

  1. Rub the potatoes with a little oil, then sprinkle generously with salt (preferably flakes) and black pepper. Wrap each one in double-thickness foil and cook on the BBQ for 1 hour, turning frequently, until cooked. Or bake unwrapped in the oven at fan 180C/200C/gas 6 for the same amount of time.
  2. Mix the maple syrup, vinegar, mustard and tomato puree to make a glaze. Brush over the sausages and cook on the BBQ, turning and basting often, for 10 mins until cooked and sticky. Meanwhile, mix the mayo ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Unwrap the potatoes and split down the middle. Add mayo and sausages (like a hot dog). Serve with a leafy salad.
Per serving: 740 kcal, 19g protein, 56g carbohydrate, 50g fat, 13g saturated fat, 4g fibre, no added sugar, 3.49g salt.

Recipe source: unknown