Thursday, 5 March 2015

My Love for Le Creuset

When I was a teenager I had a 'bottom drawer' filled with household items that I planned to one day use in my own future home.  I loved homewares and really longed for my own kitchen where I would have free reign over the cooking and baking.  Eventually, I got to use my bottom drawer goodies, and my pride and joy was, without doubt, my three piece Le Creuset pan set.

The hazelnut brown enamelled cast iron Le Creuset cookware came all the way from France, where, back in the 1980's, they were much cheaper than here in the UK. I bought the three different sized pans with their separate matching lids on a day trip to Boulogne. My Le Creuset buy turned out to be an even bigger bargain than I had originally thought. In addition to the pans, my parents and I had a trolley full of wines, beer, cheese, chocolate, baguettes and all the other continental delights we had crossed the channel for. It was only when I got home and looked closely at our receipt that I realised that the cashier had only taken for the lids and not for the pans themselves. Being back in another country and not fluent in their language, I felt that phoning the hypermarche to explain their error was not really an option, so I pushed aside my buyer's guilt and enjoyed my absolute bargain.

Over the years the Le Creuset range and its accessibility has grown.  Stainless steel toughened non-stick pans, bakeware, stoneware and ceramics have joined the cast iron cookware. The innovation , quality and performance of Le Creuset has put it at the forefront of cookware brands for over 100 years and it remains a favourite of professionals worldwide.

I love the range of colours available: Cerise, Coastal Blue, Cassis, Volcanic, Teal, Almond, Soleil, Cotton, Kiwi, Marseille Blue and Satin Black.  They offer so much choice when it comes to matching your kitchen decor or making a bold culinary statement.

le creuset, homewares, House of fraser

The new cast iron Signature Casseroles from Le Creuset are absolutely gorgeous.  They come in round and shallow, with sizes from 20cm to 30cm diameter.  Prices range from £79.20 to £210.  In my ideal kitchen I would have a set of these casseroles in Satin Black ready to cook up some wonderful vegetarian delights.  I love that they are stylishly designed while still retaining a homely, traditional, farmhouse quality.

Le Creuset is such an iconic brand and the products last for years.  They aren't cheap but you are paying for their timeless design, quality and durability.

Unfortunately I don't have my pans anymore.  At some point in my late 20's when we moved house, we made the decision to buy a new lightweight, non-stick, fancy looking saucepan set and gave away my cast iron Le Creuset.  I wince when I think of what a bad decision this was.  That replacement set of pans have been replaced ten times over, but I bet my Le Creuset pans would still be cooking up a storm had I have kept them.  I do however, still have a cast iron rectangular Le Creuset oven dish that is over 20 years old and is still going strong!  I use it for lasagne and vegetarian shepherd's pie and love being able to serve my food from it.

You can see the Le Creuset collection of products at House of Fraser where you can currently claim a free 18cm stoneware dish if you buy a Signature cast iron casserole plus you can find some homeware items on sale too.

This post has been written in collaboration with House of Fraser but I retain all editorial control.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

New exhibit CLAWS coming to Sea Life Manchester this Easter

Goodbye to the star attraction

Sea Life Manchester is preparing to say goodbye to the stunning Starfish which have been on display since May 2014, as they prepare to move across the country to be exhibited at Sea Life Birmingham.

Sea Life

The starfish, which have been on display, include Giant Pink and Sunflower Starfish, as well as the Brittle and Common Starfish, which are native to the UK.  We loved seeing the huge starfish when we last visited, they are such strange creatures!  Freddy loved climbing through the tunnels and popping his head up into the glass domes to get a close look at the wonderful displays. 

Sea Life, Manchester, star fish

The Manchester aquarium is now getting ready to welcome an exciting new exhibit CLAWS which will arrive in Easter.  CLAWS suggests to me that some crabby inhabitants may be moving to Manchester to entertain the crowds very soon!  

The CLAWS exhibits will be joining Ernie the Green Turtle, the brilliant octopus, the Blacktip Reef Shark, the seahorses and the other incredible creatures housed at Sea Life Manchester.  

Find out more about Sea Life Manchester at:

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Making whites three shades whiter - Vanish Gold for Whites Challenge

I have taken part in my first challenge from the Vanish Blogger's Club.  I received a box containing a pot of Vanish Gold for Whites along with a white shirt, which has been aged to give that characteristic dingy grey colour, that can come from washing and wearing whites.  The challenge was to restore the white shirt back to its dazzling glory with the help of Vanish Gold for Whites!


To help monitor the restoration of its original white colour, we were given a white colour chart. The shirt matched the greyest of the whites on the chart.  As Kezia wears white shirts as part of her school uniform, the slow decline of bright whiteness to dinginess is a laundry problem that I am all to familiar with.

Vanish Gold for Whites

The Vanish Gold for Whites powder comes with a scoop and can be used three ways:

1: As a pre-wash by adding one scoop to 4 litres of warm water and soaking for up to six hours, thoroughly rinsing then washing as per the garment's washing instructions.

2:  As a pre-treat stain remover by mixing a quarter of a scoop of powder to three quarters of a scoop of water to make a smooth paste, which can be applied directly to the stain for 30 seconds (up to a maximum of five minutes) and then rubbed in, before washing.

3: As a boost to your detergent, by adding one scoop in with your normal detergent to boost its stain removal power.

Vanish Gold for Whites

Vanish Gold for Whites is safe to use on cotton and washable synthetic blends such as polyester.  For delicates there is a gel, and colour/fabric testing is recommended before use, by pre-treating in an inconspicuous place.

Vanish Gold for Whites

I used the Vanish as a boost to the whites wash, adding it straight into the drawer, to enhance the effectiveness of washing with my usual detergent alone. To get three shades whiter, five to seven washes with the Vanish Gold boost is recommended.

Vanish Gold for Whites

I used a 1 hour 40 minute wash at forty degrees to wash my loads of whites washing, which is the usual programme that I use for my laundry.  So my challenge was not assisted by using a hotter or longer wash. The only change made to my usual laundry routine was the addition of the Vanish Gold for Whites powder.

Vanish Gold for Whites

Vanish Gold for Whites has a RRP of £5.75 for a 470g tub of powder or a 940ml bottle of gel.  This is a small price to pay to preserve the pristine look of white garments.  I hate it when pure white tops start to look dingy and grey, so to avoid that would definitely add to the long term wearability of favourite items.

Vanish Gold for Whites

The results are in...after just five washes with the Vanish Gold for Whites there is a distinct improvement in the whiteness of the shirt.  Using the colour chart, the colour is indeed between two to three shades whiter. The shirt's colour has definitely been restored.  Kezia's school shirts, which were starting to look slightly grey have had their whiteness lifted too, especially around the collar and cuffs. They look brighter and smarter.

Vanish Gold for Whites

I was slightly sceptical as to whether the Vanish Gold would live up to its claims, but was genuinely pleasantly surprised by its results on discoloured white laundry.  I haven't tested it on heavily soiled whites washing, but I am definitely impressed on the results on lightly soiled and well worn whites.

Eat Your Heart Out Chocolate Cake Recipe #evenbetterbaking

Chocolate cake is one of life's little pleasures.  There is not many things to rival a piece of rich, moist, chocolate cake topped with an indulgent frosting.  So when Dr.Oetker challenged me to try a new chocolatey bake, I decided to make a heart shaped chocolate cake, perfect to share with my lovely husband (and the kiddies too of course!)  We missed our Valentine's celebrations this year as Freddy was very poorly, so by making a gloriously romantic chocolate heart cake, Ian and I will get to have a belated celebration.  Chocolate always tastes better if it's shared with the one you love!

Dr Oetkers, chocolate cake

The recipe I chose, Eat Your Heart Out Chocolate Cake, is from the Dr.Oetker's website, where you can find lots of baking inspiration for chocolate cakes and bakes.

I received a parcel of Dr.Oetker's delicious cooking chocolate and edible decorations to use in my bake.  The range makes cooking with chocolate so easy, and with a variety of different products from white chocolate to 90% extra dark chocolate, there is something for all tastes.  The chocolate melts so well whether you chose to use a microwave or to melt it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Dr Oetkers, chocolate cake

Eat Your Heart Out Chocolate Cake Recipe

Dr Oetkers, chocolate cake

Cake Ingredients

50g Dr.Oetker Fine Cooks' 72% Extra Dark Chocolate
115g butter
225g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
150ml set yogurt
200g SR flour
25g Dr.Oetker cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients

85g Dr.Oetker Fine Cooks' 72% Extra Dark Chocolate
115g butter
175g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Dr.Oetker milk and white Chocolate Hearts
Dr.Oetker Silver Pearls
a dusting of cocoa powder


Preheat oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees C
Melt the Fine Cooks' Chocolate (I used the microwave on a medium setting but you could melt it in a bowl over simmering water).
Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar.
Mix eggs and yogurt together and add to mixture along with other ingredients including melted chocolate.
Beat for 2 minutes.
Place into a 10 inch heart shaped prepared tin (I used a silicone mould with Cake Release).
Cook for 40 - 45 minutes until cake is risen and springs back to touch.
Leave to cool for 15 minutes then turn onto cake rack.

Dr Oetkers, chocolate cake

To make frosting melt the chocolate.
Beat together the icing sugar and butter.
Add vanilla extract and melted chocolate and beat until smooth.
Spread over cake and around edges.
Dust lightly with sieved cocoa powder.
Decorate using Dr.Oetker's milk and white Chocolate Hearts and Silver Pearls.

Dr Oetkers, chocolate cake

Throughout March, Dr.Oetker wants to celebrate all things chocolatey and is running a competition on Twitter to encourage everyone to have a go at baking their own yummy chocolate cakes and bakes.

To enter, simply Tweet @DrOetkerbakes a photo of a chocolate bake you've made and tell them who you will be sharing it with using the hashtag #evenbetterbaking. You could win a deluxe hamper of Dr.Oetker chocolate products!  

You could try the Eat Your Heart Out Chocolate recipe that I made or one of the other delicious chocolate recipes at

Dr Oetkers, chocolate cake

Monday, 2 March 2015

Blaze and the Monster Machines Twitter Party on March 6th

This Friday at 4pm, a brand new series starts on Nick J,  Blaze and the Monster Machines.  

Blaze is Axle City's greatest hero and its number one racer! Fast and fearless he's unbeatable on the track thanks to his blazing turbo speed. But he not only drives fast, he can think fast too. Blaze knows everything about science, technology, engineering and maths. When things get really tough he can use his scientific know-how to transform himself into any machine such as a hang glider or a hydrofoil by adding new parts. Blaze's driver is his best pal AJ. AJ and the other monster trucks help Blaze on his adventures by exploring the physics of how things move, tackling problems and discovering the component parts needed to make everyday technologies work.

To celebrate, we will be hosting a Twitter party with UKMums.TV where we will be exploring science, technology, engineering and maths through taking part in some fun experiments and activities.  We will also be sitting down to watch the first episode of Blaze and the Monster Machines on Nick Jr and sharing our thoughts.

Join in from 3.45pm to 5.45pm on Friday 6th March over on Twitter.  Be sure to follow @UKMumsTV and the hashtag #NickJrBlaze to join in the fun and for the chance to win some great prizes.

science, engineering

Blaze and the Monster Machines

Friday, 27 February 2015

Mother's Day Gifts from Artistry - Indigo Skies Colour Collection Make-Up

If you are looking for a gift for your mum this Mother's Day, cosmetics can be a good choice.  I'd definitely enjoy receiving some lovely new make-up, especially as some of the things in my make-up bag are older than my children!  The huge range of beauty brands available means there are lots of choices to suit every taste and budget.  

For great quality products,  Artistry, which is one of the world's top five skincare brands, offers beauty products created to push the boundaries, using beneficial ingredients and advanced technologies. New from Artistry comes the Indigo Skies Colour Collection of cosmetics, designed by makeup artist Rick DiCecca. The limited edition Indigo Skies Colour Collection is inspired by the springtime, in a soft colour palette ranging from pale blues to rich indigos to shimmering beiges.

Artistry Indigo Skies Colour Collection

Featuring seven products including the Indigo Skies Eye Crayon Trio (£43.05), Signature Eyes Volume Mascara (£23.80) and Signature Colour lipsticks or Sheer Finish lipsticks (£19.95) the Indigo Skies Colour Collection will give women the freedom to create a bespoke seasonal look.  I was sent the eye crayons and a lipstick to review.

The Eye Crayons can be used as both eyeshadows and liners to shade, define and highlight the eyes. The crayons are sleek and black with a twist up function. They have a long-lasting, lightweight formula and glide on smoothly, drying to a smooth, powdery finish. The three shades are Indigo, Sky Blue and Desert Sand.  The brighter crayons can be used as accent colours for a bold look, whereas the Desert Sand crayon is very natural, perfect for an everyday look.

Artistry Indigo Skies Colour Collection

The Signature Colour Lipstick and Sheer Lipsticks are formulated with plush pigments and contain hydrating ingredients to coat and condition lips. Available in Sandstone, Rose Quartz and Coral Sunrise, the Signature Colour lipsticks colour lips with high-pigment hues, whilst the Sheer range gives  a high-gloss hint of colour.

I love the Sandstone coloured Sheer Lipstick, which is a nude shade with an orangey undertone and a shimmery finish. Lovely for everyday wear, it can also be dressed up, making it a very versatile lipstick.  It feels very moisturising on the lips and the subtle colour lasted well.

Artistry Indigo Skies Colour Collection

Also available is the Signature Eyes Volume Mascara™ in indigo blue is a revolutionary, colour-intense FullFx formula mascara, which claims to increase volume by up to 600%.  It contains conditioners to smooth, gloss and enrich lashes.

The Artistry range includes make-up, skincare products and accessories.

Find out more from the Artistry product portfolio.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Pink Parcel - Celebrating Womanhood on International Women’s Day

International Women's Day 2015 takes place on March 8th. All around the world, International Women's Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.  #MakeItHappen is the 2015 theme encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women globally.

As a female brand with a mission to care for and bring joy to women every month when their period strikes, Pink Parcel is naturally proud and passionate about International Women’s Day. 

To celebrate, Pink Parcel is offering one free parcel to anyone that signs up to the subscription service on Sunday 8th March. (Usual full price is £9.99).

Pink Parcel is the latest monthly beauty subscription service for women for periods. Each month, Pink Parcel works with your cycle dates to bring you a luxurious box of full size beauty, grooming and lifestyle products, as well as a supply of feminine hygiene essentials. Brand partners include St Tropez, Elizabeth Arden, OPI, ROC, Maybelline, Rimmel and Bio Oil.

OPI, Maybelline, Witch

I was sent a box and am so impressed with the contents.   It includes full size OPI Nail Lacquer, Witch redness relief moisturiser and Maybelline The Smoother anti-age primer, plus a bar of Doisy and Dam goji and orange organic chocolate, a Pukka Love tea bag and a sample of Yardley body lotion.  There are also twenty five regular Tampax tampons and a drawstring bag, all neatly boxed and packaged in a Pink Parcel box.  Receiving it through the post, definitely helps brighten your mood, at what can be a pretty miserable time of the month.

periods, tampons

Pink Parcel also recently launched a teen-only version, TeenParcel, designed especially for girls between the ages of 11 and 17 featuring brands such as Teapigs, Flamingo candles, Yardley and Binky London.

It's easy to subscribe to Pink Parcel:

1: Visit and select ‘subscribe’ to get started
2: Choose your favoured sanitary brand (Tampax, Lil-lets, U by Kotex or Always)
3: Choose the level of absorbency required – Individual (Lite, Regular, Super or Super Plus) or Multi (a selection of different absorbencies)
4: Choose your delivery dates based on your cycle

The subscription service is £9.99, including delivery, monthly. You can cancel at any time.

Remember, subscribe on March 8th and get your first box for free!


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