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

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Staying safe at the seaside this summer with the RNLI

School summer holidays often mean a trip to the seaside. Some of you may know already, but my husband is part of the local RNLI crew. Seeing first hand how often the ILB (inshore lifeboat) and ALB (all weather lifeboat) get called out during the summer months is quite frightening. Anything from a lost child to a boat in distress out at sea prompts a launch.

So, if you're heading for one of our beautiful beaches this summer, the RNLI offers the following advice for keeping safe:
  • Wherever possible, swim at a lifeguarded beach.
  • Always read and obey the safety signs, usually found at the entrance to the beach. These will help you avoid potential hazards on the beach and identify the safest areas for swimming.
  • When on a lifeguarded beach, find the red and yellow flags and always swim or bodyboard between them – this area is patrolled by lifeguards.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Be careful not to get cut off by the tide when walking along the shore.
  • Wherever possible, surf at a lifeguarded beach and follow the advice of the lifeguards.
  • Inflatable ​toys are great fun in pools, but we strongly advise against using them in the sea, as there is a high chance of being swept out.
  • If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
  • If you see someone in difficulty, don't attempt a rescue. Tell a lifeguard, or, if you can't see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
  • If you are hiring equipment for a surfsport, try to do so from a member of the Surf Hire Safety Scheme. Scheme members check equipment regularly for damage, rent out equipment suitable to your ability and offer safety advice for the local area.

Have a look for yourself at the number of launches listed on the RNLI website here. Also, as they rely heavily on public donations, feel free to click the 'donate' button too! :)

Friday, 18 July 2014

Lake Garda - a dream holiday... one day!

I, like many of you I'm sure, have a mental list of all the places that I would like to visit before my number's up - Lake Garda being one of them!

Even after the end of summer, the Lake Garda is a place to discover, where you can relax among breathtaking panoramas, street food, fish and many other local products such as oil, high quality wines, restaurants and much more. Here are some ideas for an itinerary with suggestions for wineries visits, events, restaurants and hotels.

On Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th September, Ciottolando con Gusto will be on stage in Malcesine, with a sort of treasure hunt along the roads full of “ciottoli” of the medieval hamlet which overlooks the lake.

The event is dedicated to the discovery of the flavors of Garda Lake, from fish, to Garda Dop Olive Oil to the product of Monte Baldo. With the map of the little hamlet in hand, foodies will have the chance to choose among the different menus of the several bars, wine-shops, restaurants and pizzeria, which will join the initiative.

Each food & wine lover, thanks to a coupon that everyone can buy at the Ciottolando info point, will be able to create its personal menu, opting for a first course in a venue, and then the second course in another one and so on until coffee and dessert.

In the Giardino del Gusto, Via Navene, you will have the chance to buy the typical products of Monte Baldo, from cheese to honey, oil and many more.

Sunday, October 19th, the town of Malcesine will become the stage for Tutt'Olio, the event that will give tastings, walks among the olive groves and themed menus to discover one of the typical products of the Garda, its olive oil. The full program of the event will let you know this product in all its forms, from the tree to the table. A real journey in an all-round excellence of our country....

In case, you want to visit a winery….
Founded in 1936, Gerardo Cesari has soon become synonymous of the wines of Verona in the world. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Franco Cesari, in the early Seventies, Cesari Amarone is among the first wines in Valpolicella sold in the five continents. Just a few kilometers from the Lake Garda and from the city of Romeo and Juliet, the winery located in Cavaion Veronese offers to tourists and wine lovers the opportunity to get to know the place where the most popular wines of this area are born.

Cesari wines have been recently recognized abroad with the title of “Bester Amarone des Jahres 2013” assigned by MUNDUSvini 2013, one of the most important German wine contest.

In addition, in order to promote the culture of its territory, the winery has decided to support the Juliet Club, the association that replies to the thousands of letter to Juliet from all over the world. The Cesari wines are in fact becoming the wines of the lovers.

For a gourmet stop…
Leandro Luppi is the chef of the Restaurant Vecchia Malcesine, a little venue overlooking the small houses of Malcesine town centre.

Twelve years ago, Leandro arrived in this place after several working experience in Alto Adige and Trentino and took over a typical trattoria and bravely transformed it in a place of the taste, with a cuisine which combines the creativity of the chef with local seasonal products.

For a vacation spot …..
Villa Cordevigo Wine Relais is an 18th century Venetian Villa with formal Italian gardens and an age-old park which has recently be entirely refurbished as a 5 star hotel with its Oseleta Restaurant. The spectacular entrance along a drive flanked with tall cypresses leads to the Relais itself with its olive groves and woods, a 100 hectare estate on the hills of Cavaion Veronese above Lake Garda and just a few kilometers from the famous city of Verona.

Obviously, there are many more sights to see but these are now all on my list! Where would you love to visit?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Summer photography tips and tricks with Jessops' expert help!

Capture every moment spent with the children this summer! I love to take photo's of my children and the mischeif and mayhem that they sometimes get up to, but how to get the image right? Ian Savage, Head of Training at Jessops has these great tips for taking the perfect photo!

1. Child’s play
Kids rarely stay still long enough for you to take their picture, but instead of resorting to bribery to get them to sit down for a photo, start photographing them on the go. Either choose your camera’s sports mode or select shutter-priority and continuous AF. In both cases, your camera’s autofocus will keep your subject in focus, even when that’s a toddler wobbling around a playground on a bike with stabilisers. It really is child’s play to get a good shot!

2. Get together
Whether you’re enjoying a barbecue in the back garden or a walk in the park, it’s a great opportunity to get some photos of everyone together. And with just a bit of planning, you can get some lovely photo memories. Before you gather your group, scout out a good spot and think about your composition. All in one long line is boring, so consider arranging them in two lines; ask some to sit, or have the kids kneeling in front; or how about running towards you? Lines, by the way, don’t have to be horizontal; think vertically, too, and have fun!

3. Beautiful portraits
Taking portraits outdoors means you can work with lots of lovely daylight, and at this time of year you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to stunning natural backdrops. When you position your subject, make sure they won’t be squinting or pulling a face because the sun is in their eyes. Face them away from the sun – side lighting works well – and ask them to stand in a shaded area for a more flattering, less harsh light. Then all you need to do is turn the exposure mode dial to aperture-priority, focus on the eyes and take the shot!

4. Action shots
Feeling a bit more adventurous with your photography? Then try panning. This clever technique gives your photos a sense of movement. Pick the point you want to take the photo and face it, but then turn to the direction the subject will be coming from. Half press the shutter button, and without moving your feet, turn smoothly to follow the subject, fully press the shutter button at your chosen point to take the photo and continue to follow the subject out of shot.

5. Childproof!
Many cameras are waterproof, sand-proof, dust-proof and even drop-proof these days – so if you want to take great shots without worrying about the kids’ grubby hands, or damaging your new piece of kit, consider a camera that’s up to the challenge.

Recommended by Jessops: Ricoh WG-4 GPS
If you need a super-tough camera to take with you on your adventures, look no further than the Ricoh WG-4 GPS. It’s waterproof to 14m, shockproof to two metres, and can survive being crushed by 100kg weights: perfect if you want a camera that’s safe around kids, without compromising on quality.

I think I'll be putting this camera on my birthday list.... roll on September! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Summer Food Tips

With the summer comes the sun (usually!). Here are ten top tips to help keep your tasty food safe over the summer months.
  1. Use small ice packs in your picnic bag to keep food cool, fresh and hygienic (especially anything that it dairy based).
  2. Add wet ingredients to sandwiches on arrival at your destination to avoid soggy bread.
  3. When picnicking, pack rubbish bags, so you can take your leftovers and packaging away with you.
  4. Don't attempt anything to grand - the most popular food is often the simplest. Quality, fresh ingredients always taste fabulous in the fresh air.
  5. Buy some simple mesh dome-shaped covers to keep insects away from salads and other foods.
  6. Stock up on paper napkins and hand-wash gel, and keep them in the car ready for impromptu picnics.
  7. Simple crudités with dips are great sharing food and work well for summer lunches and suppers at home or on a picnic.
  8. For sweet treats in summer, avoid chocolate, and opt instead for refreshing fruit salads and yoghurts, or finger foods such as flapjacks or shortbread.
  9. Use insulated containers to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
  10.  Try herbal or mint tea, or iced coffee as a refreshing, thirst-quenching variation.
(These great tips come from The Co-Operative Food)

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Summer Raspberry Sweet Treats!

Summer is a time for picnics and al fresco eating, but what's a picnic without a sweet treat?! Combine your outdoor eating with a good walk and you've every excuse for a tasty dessert!

We love these simple Raspberry Shortbread Bites - prepare in advance and then assemble just before eating... delicious!

Ingredients (makes 6)
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
100g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
100g cornflour

150g raspberries, washed (other soft fruits will also work really well)
Clotted cream, fresh cream or butter icing, which ever is your preference
White chocolate chips/shavings

6 ready made meringue nests

  1. At home, make the shortbread. Pre-heat the oven to Gas 5. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  2. With an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for approx. 3-4 mins. Sieve the flour and cornflour into the mixture and combine with the mixer for a further 4-5 mins.
  3. Roll out onto a floured surface to a thickness of approx. 2cm. Cut into rounds with a 6cm cutter. Re-roll the dough and cut further shapes if required (any leftovers can be your taste-testers!)
  4. Bake in the oven for approx. 10 mins - the edges should be golden brown. Once out of the oven, sprinkle with a little sugar - coloured sugar looks a little bit more special! Leave on the tray for a couple of minutes to cool and then cool completely on a wire rack. The shortbread will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container (if it lasts that long!)
  5. When you are ready to eat the delicious treats, place a meringue nest on your plate, top with a little cream, a sprinkle of white chocolate and a few raspberries. Finish off with a shortbread top and enjoy! 

So there we have it - my entry for the Sweet Treats category! I hope that you enjoy it as much as my family does.

This post is an entry for the #MorrisonsMum (or #MorrisonsDad) Summer Recipe eBook Challenge sponsored by Morrisons, which has recently cut prices on over a thousand every day products. Find out more here price checker tool.