23 November 2013

Christmas Gift Ideas for Teenage Girls

Teenage girls are sooooooooo hard to buy for.  At first it seems as though there is loads to choose from, but how many of these products are actually useful and appropriate is another matter entirely.  Raising aspirations is my thang, I believe that all young people have a right to feel powerful, worthy and valued, and yet when I started really looking at the items for sale it seemed that there was hardly anything that really supported this.  I get that teenage girls love to experiment with make-up and are learning how to become women, but so many gifts seem to promote an idea of women that is inappropriate or plain rude.  These gifts that I have selected here are, I hope, the sorts of things that teenage girls would LOVE to receive, but without all the guff and silliness.  

  • This All About Everybody Journal is a great place to write those funny memories and notes about the other kids you meet both in and out of school
  • Music is a really important part of being a teenager and a good way for young girls to express themselves.  Plus they are called hearmuffs - you have to buy them!
  • With so many different shades of nail polish many teenage sleepovers involve the applying and reapplying of varnish.  This Blow Monkey Nail Dryer makes drying your nails a whole lot cuter.
  • Instagram is a BIG thing and challenging yourself to take even more interesting photos has just become easier with this trendy little beast of a camera.
  • You are never too young to develop a handbag habit and this darling gingerbread satchel looks good enough to eat.
  • Charging the phone seems to be a perpetual problem in our house and there are so many times when this emergency phone charger would have been useful.
  • You are lying if you say that you have never used your hairbrush as microphone.  You don't need to be embarrassed any longer with this actual micro brush.  Watch out Lady Gaga!
  • Lip balms are just lush! Owls are just cute!  Owl lip balms - omg, just buy them.
  • Everybody needs a compact mirror at some point, so it might as well say something motivating.

Please understand that this all my own opinion and I have not been paid or sponsored or otherwise encouraged to feature these products
22 November 2013

Christmas Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

If you are the parent of a teenage boy then I share your pain.  Kids want super expensive gifts like iPads, PS3's or mobile phones, and the problem is that these generally take up your whole present budget.  Now I know that teenagers are too cool for christmas stockings, but I bet your kids still expect a whole bunch of stocking fillers to supplement there 'main present'.  Choosing these smaller gifts is a real challenge and I know only too well how easy it is to blow the whole budget on these little bits with nothing left for the big gift.  I have been surfing the net looking for some ideas and I thought I would share a few of them with you here:

  1. This Laser Alarm Clock can only be turned off by firing the laser gun at the target.  Guaranteed to get any teenage boy out of bed.
  2. My teenage son is currently covering his uncool wallpaper with every poster he can lay his hands on.  It would have been so much easier if we had just used this Banksy Panda Wall Sticker in the beginning.
  3. Playing the guitar is so cool when your are a teenager, but guitar picks get lost all the time.  So what better accessory than this Pickpokit Guitar Pick Wallet.  
  4. Teenage boys spend hours in bed.  These fun pillowcases frame their perpetually sleeping heads so you can take a photo and put it on instagram (just saying…).
  5. Do you get the feeling that I spend a lot of time trying to get my teenager to get out of bed.  If the other alarm clock runs out of battery then why not use the Digiflex 7 LED Pyramid Colour Changing Alarm Clocks.
  6. Teenagers have stuff - lots of stuff.  If they are to ever have a tidy room (pah!) then they need places to put their stuff.  These fun origami boxes help.
  7. Back with the messy wall problem, I wonder whether these giant Scrabble wall letters would help.  However, there is a small chance that they will just be re-arranged into rude words (or is that just me?)
  8. Have you ever seen a teenager without some sort of electronic device in their hands.  These gloves allow your teen to stay warm without ever needing to put their phone down.
  9. Kids love to share their music.  This sound jar can be taken anywhere and does not need batteries.  I think there is a volume control on it too, so you parents are not deafened by their poor taste in music :) 
  10. Onepiece onesies seem to be the latest thing in the onesie world.  They look slightly less ridiculous than the others, however prices are ridiculous.  Beware if your child has this on their stocking filler list.

21 November 2013

What to buy your husband this Christmas?

With only a few weeks to go, now is the time to start thinking about gifts.  I have been scouring the internet for gifts for my husband, and I thought I would share with you some of the lovely things that I have found.




These are just a few ideas, but there are lots more on my pinterest board

What ideas do you have for great christmas gift for the men in your life?
20 November 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Photo from Martha Stewart

There are only 34 days till Christmas  - eek!  This year I have decided to switch it up a gear and to get super organised.  I have 13 to dinner this year and I want it to be the best christmas ever.  I will be sharing a christmas activity every day between now and the big day to help you to feel prepared.  

I have bought a stack of magazines and my pinterest board is full to bursting with ideas.  As well as making lots of delicious goodness, I want to try my hand at some crafts and some handmade gifts.  Of course I am reading lots of blogs with lots of great ideas for Christmas and I will share these with you if I think you will be interested.  If anyone has any resources that they wish to share then please let me know.

Today I made these lovely Christmas Chelsea Buns.  The recipe was from BBC Good Food and can be found here.  I have to say that these turned into monsters in the oven and were enormous once they had cooked.  But they were absolutely delicious with the fruity mincemeat adding just enough of a festive vibe.  

If you are thinking it is too early to start the big christmas gorge just yet, then you could make these now  and pop them in the freezer.  Defrost them the night before you need them and then give them a 15 minute blast in the oven.  They will make a great christmas day breakfast.

16 November 2013

Minced Beef Parcels

The past two days have been busy as I was delivering a coaching workshop in the beautiful city of York.  So today I just wanted to bake, chill, catch my breath and spend some quality time at home.    Whenever I have days like this I always over-commit and honestly believe that I can create thousands of baked masterpieces like a true domestic goddess.  The reality is of course totally different and in fact I made two things one of which grew into a monster in the oven (more in another post).

In my fridge I had a pack of steak mince, some sweet potato and a pack of filo pastry that had been languishing for a few days, so I decided to concoct some little minced beef parcels.

I fried up an onion with some garlic and then added the mince and a teaspoon of curry powder

While the mince was browning, I boiled the sweet potato until soft and cut my sheets of filo pastry into squarey-rectangles that were about 20cm x 10cm

Once the sweet potatoes were cooked I chopped them into tiny pieces and added them to the mince.

I took 2 sheets of filo pastry and added about 3 tbsp of the mince mixture to the middle

I them made them into parcels, drawing in the corners like so:

I brushed them with beaten egg, popped them onto an oiled baking tray and baked for 20 minutes at 180 until golden.

They were really lovely served with some tzatziki and mango chutney

The Recipe for Minced Beef Parcels

Olive oil
500g minced beef
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp curry powder
2 sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
1 packed filo pastry
Egg for glaze

Serve with 
Mango Chutney

  • Preheat oven to 180
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan 
  • Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the sweet potatoes 
  • Add the onion and garlic and sweat until translucent
  • Add the mince and fry until brown
  • Add 1 tsp curry powder and leave to simmer until the sweet potatoes are cooked
  • Drain the sweet potatoes, dice and add to the minced beef mixture
  • Cut the filo pastry into 20cm x 15 cm 
  • Take 2 sheets of filo pastry and add 3 tbsp of minced beef mixture
  • Assemble the pastry into parcels
  • Place the parcels onto an oiled baking tray
  • Glaze with beaten egg
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins until golden brown
  • Allow to cool then serve with tzatziki and mango chutney


14 November 2013

  1. Chantelle tells it how it is in How to be a Nice Human
  2. It is not just the girls who have body image issues
  3. And is it any wonder when the images are photoshopped so much
  4. Dancing at bus stops is always funny
  5. This was scarily accurate, and I don't even really believe in astrology
  6. I would happily stay in any of these
  7. A field guide to procrastinators - need we say more?
  8. Who hasn't dreamed of walking out on work
  9. I actually cried at this video
  10. Imagine being able to create photographs like this
13 November 2013

The worlds best ever Goodie Bag - Blogfest 2013

I flipping love goodie bags and have been known to pick conferences purely on the basis of the potential contents of them.   Oddly (for me, anyway), I hadn't even considered the goodie bag for Blogfest 2013, so boy did I get a lovely surprise when I opened it.

As I said in my last post we really were given a lot of goodies - a wheelbarrow full in fact (and no, I don't know why I photographed them in a wheelbarrow, but it seemed 'arty' at the time):

I am not too sure where to begin with all the brilliantness (real word) so I will just rummage through the bag and describe the first thing I find:

If I am honest, I was less than thrilled to receive this number plate from the folks at Honda.  It was not actually in the goodie bag, but was given to us as a freebie if we visited their stand.  I do not drive a Honda and am not looking to change my car, so carting this number plate around with me all day was not exactly ideal.  Also, I am not sure what to do with it now?  I can't put it over my own plate as I think that is illegal or something.  I might stick it on the wall in the kids den when we eventually get round to painting it.  What is anyone else doing with there one?  I do suggest that the lovely (I am sure) folks at Honda rethink their brand reminders in the future - I can think of loads of more suitable things to giveaway.

The next thing I have pulled out is this leaflet and cute plastic keyring from Virtual Piggy.  Funnily enough I heard about these guys  on the radio the other day and have been meaning to check them out. Their website says that "Virtual Piggy was created to provide kids and teens with a safe environment to learn how to spend wisely, save for the future, and donate to charities. Our COPPA compliant technology empowers them to safely shop online, while keeping parents in control and creating a family conversation around financial literacy".   I have not fully investigated them yet, but at first glance   I would say that anything that encourages financial literacy can only be a good thing.  Over the next few weeks I am going to do some proper research and will report back more fully, but if you have any experience then do let me know.  Regardless, I think the plastic piggy keyring looks just great hanging from the lavender bush in my garden.

This little leaflet comes from Fever-Tree and these guys provided the mixers for the most delicious G&T's like ever. Not only that, but they served them in the best plastic tumblers I have come across  - they even had lovely little indents for your thumb. I can see that they are sold in supermarkets and I will definitely be stocking up this christmas.  

The next goodie was an intriguing cardboard box from Birchbox.  At first glance I assumed that this contained a child's toy (I don't know why), but to my delight it contained a selection of beauty goodies. In my box I had body oil, dry shampoo, moisturiser, nail polishes and eyeliner (in black - yay), all presented in a lovely linen drawstring bag.  The products look, smell and feel lovely on.  I have had a look at who Birchbox are and I am so excited that they are a monthly subscription service that sends you beauty products in the post.  I love the whole idea of this as I love receiving presents in the post (more on that in a later post) and I love beauty products.  I can see me spending a whole heap of time on this site and will of course report back if I decide to subscribe.  Does anyone else get this?

 Tucked at the bottom and wrapped in delicate tissue paper was this bottle of Aurelia Probiotic Skincare with a little muslin cloth.  This stuff is to die for and applies really smoothly.  It smells heavenly too.

Anyone who knows me will know how much I love Boden.  If I could afford to I would replace my entire wardrobe with Boden (I am getting there!), and every time the catalogue comes through the post I  waste devote hours selecting outfits and marking pages of things I want to get.  I flipping LOVE Boden - get it?  So to receive this lovely purse was just a dream come true.  I have just bought a purse, so I am saving it for best (who knew you could have a special occasion purse?).

We also received this box of Truly Sensational Champagne Truffles from The Co-operative and a copy of Richard Bacon's book - A Series of Unrelated Events.  The Blogfest tweet about licking Richard Bacon's face still makes me giggle now.  I am a huge, massive, giant, bit of a chocolate fan so loved these chocs.  I am also thinking of starting a book group, so might just include this book in the reading list.  Has anyone read it yet?

Harrods got in on the act too with this darling little pencil box and lovely kids magazine.  O immediately asked for the pencils, but I WANT THEM.  OK I can't draw, but I can pretend, surely.

Along with a free copy of The Times, we also got this notebook and pen (that reminds me of Blankety-Blank).  G wanted this for his acting notes, but I WANT IT and will probably use my Harrods pencils to create amazing art. that will sell for more than the latest Francis Bacon sketch.

O loves First News  and used to read it at his primary school.  I had a quick skim read and was well impressed - I might subscribe to it for me, it is about my level.

Apologies for the quality of this photo, but the Amazon Rainforest broke the autofocus on the camera (#firstworldproblem).  The lovely ladies from Genesis Research Trust were circulating at the meeting and I was lucky enough to chat with them at length.  This is Robert Winston's charity that supports research into all aspects of the health of women and babies.  They seem to run a heap of adventure challenges as part of their fundraising and I would love to join them on this one.  I am on a bit of a post-Peru slump so need to think about my next challenge - anyone want to sponsor me to do this?

I have used Portable North Pole myself last year when I arranged for both of my boys to get a message from Santa and will certainly do so again this year.  Check it out if you haven't already.

I don't know about you but I love Bonne Maman products and this marmalade was lush.  It had just the right amount of citrus'y goodness and was delicious on my toast.

Next was some Boob cream from Mama Mio.  I have already used some of this and it was great - in fact I used it on my neck, face, boobs, hands and shoulders it was that nice.  I love this packaging too.  The notes do also say that this is safe for breastfeeding mums, although I am not sure if you can buy it with your shopping vouchers (wink wink). (#bringbackbusymummy)

Finally in the worlds best ever goodie bag were these bath crystals from Mum & Me.  My 2 boys would be horrified if I poured these in their baths and took photos (pah - like they wash!), so I am waiting for my niece to come to play :) , watch this space....

Thanks for sticking through to the end - what else would you like to see in a goodie bag?

11 November 2013

Blogfest 2013

On Saturday I attend my first ever Blogfest.  This super event was put on by the amazing Mumsnet team and was choc full of bloggers.  Now this was my first event as a blogger and to say I was nervous is an understatement, but I have to say that everyone worked hard to make sure that us 'newbies' were made to feel as welcome and as entitled to be there as the many super successful bloggers attending.
I was impressed right from the outset, as instead of the usual label with our names on, we were given a brilliant gizmo to wear round our necks which we bumped with each other to share our blog, email and twitter addresses.

I was not too sure what to expect from the day and quite frankly if the only good thing was the lanyard then I would have been happy, but boy did the day pack a punch.

The opening session was a panel debate entitled The new Wild West: what kind of internet do we want? and after much group lusting after @richardpbacon in the Chair, we all joined in a super interesting debate on freedom of speech, twitter trolls and the right to feel safe online.  I think that everyone agreed that @stellacreasy was the star of this particular panel and the tweet wall certainly reflected this.

There were a number of optional sessions over the course of the day and I attended Social Networking for Beginners with the hysterical @daisygriffith .  I learned in this session that I need to write a schedule and to get on twitter pretty damn quick.  So this is my plea to you to follow me @englisheating.

I also attended sessions on "How to Monetise Your Blog" and "Blogging Do's and Dont's" with the super successful @mammasaurusblog @liveotherwise@jemimakissand @amummytoo amongst others.

There was a brilliant session on Think bombs with @ProfTanya@jonronson  and @Dr_Black 
These were the most inspirational slots of the day for me and Tanya Byron delivering the most sensible, inspirational and thought provoking stream-of-consciousness outburst I have ever had the privilege to hear and she really made me think about the state of the British education system under Gove (need we say more).  Jon Ronson delivered an hysterical and then terrifying speech about how his own twitter account was hacked by spambots.  Check out his youtube video here, I was shocked to say the least!

The final session of the day was a panel debate on Can you be a 'mummy-blogger', and still be a feminist?.  Sarah Ditum has, I think, summed up the debate beautifully here and I would urge you to read.

The last presentation of the day came from Jo Brand who did a great job of calming us all down after the heated feminism debate.  A video of her presentation can be downloaded from Mumsnet .

The day was rounded off with a scrummy G&T and champers reception and then we were presented with the most generous goodie bag I have ever received.  I will be blogging more about this soon, but needless to say we received a barrel load of freebies :)

I want to say a HUGE thank you to Mumsnet and to all the other bloggers who made the day so interesting and made me, a virgin blogger, feel so welcome and valid amongst all those blogging giants.  It certainly encouraged me to engage with this blog more - so watch out guys!


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