It's Christmas!

25 December 2013

I wish you all a very merry, fun-filled Christmas.

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This Week #10

24 December 2013

Oliver wrote his name in 30 Christmas cards for his classmates, bless him  ●  Absolutely beautiful sunrise  ●  Our small but perfectly formed Christmas tree  ●  Diamante nails for a night out... but one fell off! ●  We 'lost' Lydia one afternoon and found her asleep in bed!  ●  What the hell was I drinking on my night out?!  ●  Hubby brought me a much needed coffee in bed the morning after  ●  More glittery nails, this time in gold  ●  Loving the design of the December Glossybox  ●  And the contents are pretty good too  ●  Wrapping... done!  ●  I love the wreath on our front door  ●  I made some yummy Chocolate Fudge... a Christmas gift for Oliver's teachers  ●  Getting my money's worth out of my Nails Inc glittery polish set  ●  Lydia learned how to put clips in her hair!  ●  Wrapping my present from Hubby as I wanted the outside to look as nice as the inside!

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Mincemeat Crumble Slices

23 December 2013

I thought I'd squeeze in one last Christmas recipe before the big day. I've been very organised this year {apart from a last minute dash to Boots for the Hubby's present this morning!} which has meant I've had time for lots and lots of baking. I feel like I've baked every day for the past few weeks! I made these Mincemeat Crumble Slices yesterday and today I've done another quick batch of Chocolate Fudge which is now chilling in the fridge.

So I'm finally 100% ready for the big day. I finished work last week, everything is wrapped {well, except for the aforementioned pressie for Hubby!}, gifts delivered to family and friends and the cupboards are bulging with festive goodies.

I absolutely love Christmas Eve. I've done a Christmas Eve Hamper for the darlings again, which they'll open tomorrow morning. It's full of lots of goodies and surprises for them and I can't wait to see their little faces when they open the box.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, we always to to the Christingle service at our local church with my parents, sister and nieces. It's a lovely family service and everyone gets to make a Christingle candle and we sing some carols by candlelight. It's one of my favourite times of the whole festive season. Before bedtime, we'll leave out a mince pie and glass of milk for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. Then sprinkle our reindeer food outside in the garden and hang the darlings stockings in their bedroom. When they're fast asleep, I whizz over to my parents house to collect their presents {great hiding place!}, and take them home to fill their sacks and stockings. Finally I'll sit down with a huge glass of Bailey's and probably one of these yummy Mincemeat Crumble Slices!

Mincemeat Crumble Slices

Makes 12
Preparation time 15 minutes
Baking time 20 minutes

225g plain flour
125g porridge oats
85g soft brown sugar
140g butter
400g mincemeat

Preheat oven to 200C {400F} Gas mark 6.

Put the flour, oats and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Cube the butter, melt it in the microwave and add to the bowl. Give it a good stir then break up any big lumps with your fingers so that you get a fine-ish crumble.

Sprinkle half the mixture into a 20cm square cake tin or roasting tin. Press down well to make an even layer.

Cover with the mincemeat in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture on top and press down lightly. Pop in the oven, on the middle shelf, for 20 minutes.

Leave to cool completely in the tin then cut into slices.

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Hello Kitty Birthday Cake

21 December 2013

Last week was Lydia's 3rd birthday. I just can't believe she's three! She's the sweetest, cutest, kindest little girl, if I could keep her this age forever, I would! When I'm having a bad day or get a bit stressed, she'll come and put her little arms round my neck and suddenly everything is alright again.

Of course I had the task of making her birthday cake and she wanted a Hello Kitty party and cake. As usual with my own kids, I only started making the cake the day before so it's lucky that I love making and decorating cakes! I had a fab time making the Hello Kitty figure and it actually wasn't that difficult. The hardest part of the cake was making the letters for Lydia's name... I hate those damn letter cutters!

We had a little tea party at home with the four of us, plus grandparents, auntie and cousins. I decorated the living room with Hello Kitty bunting and pink balloons and we had matching plates, cups, napkins and tablecloth! She loved it.

After tea, we did some party games... musical bumps, musical statues and lots of dancing to Gangnam Style and What Does The Fox Say! It was the perfect party for a three year old!

My beautiful birthday girl.

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Quick Chocolate Fudge

20 December 2013

There's not been a whole lot of blogging going on recently has there? Like everyone else at this time of year, I've just been incredibly busy. I've had two Christmas parties with work, been to Oliver's school nativity and carol concert, Lydia's playgroup concert, the toddler group Christmas party, taken them both to see Father Christmas, wrapped all the presents, delivered cards and gifts, and done lots and lots and lots of baking! Plus Lydia's birthday was last week so there was her party to organise and cake to make! There have been a couple of moments of stress but overall December has been great. I think it's safe to say I'm finally ready for Christmas.

Oliver finishes school today for the holidays and I thought it would be nice to give a little gift to his teacher and teaching assistant. I was going to just get them a box of chocolates each but then I saw this recipe for Chocolate Fudge and thought that not only would it be much cheaper {always looking for ways to save the pennies!} but homemade gifts are so much more personal and thoughtful. I wrapped the fudge in baking paper, covered with festive tissue paper, tied with a ribbon and a homemade gift tag... they looked lovely.

This really is the quickest, easiest, no-bake recipe ever. Anyone - and I really mean anyone - could make it! And it's absolutely yummy. This is definitely going to be top of my list of quick edible gifts!

Quick Chocolate Fudge

Makes 50
Preparation time 10 minutes

397g tin condensed milk
350g plain chocolate
30g butter
Pinch of salt

Pop everything in a medium sized pan. Melt gently over a very low heat stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Pour into a 20cm square baking tin lined with baking paper. Level the top with a spatula and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.

Cut into squares. This should keep fine for a couple of weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Monday Motivation #7

9 December 2013

How do you feel about Mondays? Some people hate them and dread them coming around so quickly. Personally I don't mind them... mainly because I don't work on Mondays! I might feel different if it was a work day for me but I don't remember disliking them when I worked full time.

Anyway, this week's Monday Motivation quote is a cracker! In these social media obsessed times of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs and the like, people share more of their lives than ever before. It's easy to look at the lives of the little people in your phone and think it all looks so much better than yours. I'm definitely guilty of this, especially on Instagram. I get so green-eyed over someone's beautiful kitchen or a perfect looking garden!

But it's important to remember that you're only seeing a tiny snapshot of their life. It may look perfect but I highly suspect it's not. Someone may post photographs of her shiny new Michael Kors watch, but it might have been bought by her cheating husband as a 'guilt gift'. Hmmm not so perfect now is it? And remember too, that someone will be looking at the photos of your life and thinking it looks pretty fabulous.

Have a wonderful week ♡

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Five things...

6 December 2013


that have made me happy this week...

♥  The nights are drawing in and it will soon be the shortest day, but this week has been a week of the most beautiful sunsets... like this one which I photographed a few days ago.

♥  I had a wonderful time at my works Christmas party last night. We had a fabulous venue, gorgeous food, a fantastic live band, lots of dancing, drinking and laughter. The agony of my feet was so worth it!

♥  The prospect of lots of exciting Christmas activities this weekend. Tomorrow we're going to Winter Wonderland which is a huge event each year with Santa's reindeer, fairground rides, craft activities and stalls selling their festive wares. Then Sunday is our visit to the big man! We went to the same place last year as their Santa is the best ever... I actually believed he was the real thing!

♥  I'm loving glittery nails at the moment. The more sparkly the better! They might be a nightmare to remove but they just look so pretty.

♥  Only 4 sleeps until Lydia's birthday and my baby girl will be 3 years old! Bless her, she's so excited about her birthday and her Hello Kitty themed party. I'm looking forward to making her cake as I haven't done a birthday cake for a while :)

What's made *you* happy this week?

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Candy Cane Peppermint Bark

3 December 2013

peppermint bark

I've been looking forward to making this Peppermint Bark for such a long time. I love making bark as it's super easy and can be so easily adapted... just throw something different on top to suit the occasion.

I was a bit doubtful about peppermint bark as I'm not a fan of minty chocolate. But I actually loved it and couldn't stop at one piece! In fact the whole family dived in and it was gone in half a day. If you can keep the family away from it, it would make a fabulous alternative to those boring After Eight mints with your coffee after Christmas Dinner!

peppermint bark
peppermint bark

If you know how to temper chocolate {I really need to learn how!} I would recommend that you do it for this. Tempering chocolate gives it a nice dark glossy look, a higher melting point so it won’t melt all over your fingers as you eat, and makes it 'snap' into pieces, rather than crumble. There's a good guide over at The Pink Whisk.

Even if you don't temper the chocolate, it's still equally as delicious but just keep it in the fridge and  have some baby wipes on hand after you eat a chunk! Lydia held on to her chocolate for 10 minutes and ended up in a right mess!

peppermint bark

Peppermint Bark

150g milk  or dark chocolate
150g white chocolate
6 peppermint candy canes

Peel the plastic off the candy canes, place in a double plastic big and bash them with a rolling pin. Make sure there are some fine crumbs and also some bigger pieces.

Melt the milk chocolate for the lower layer. I melt mine in the microwave in 30 second blasts on 50% power and it took 2 minutes. Give it a good stir and pour into a baking tray or tin lined with baking paper or a silicone tray {no paper needed}.

Refrigerate for about 30 minutes until set.

Now melt the white chocolate in the same way. Tip in the finest pieces of the crushed candy canes and stir into the white chocolate.

Pour over the milk chocolate layer and top with the bigger candy cane pieces. Spread them out so you’ve got a nice even distribution.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or so then remove from the mould/tin carefully. Break up into uneven pieces and enjoy!

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Monday Motivation #6

2 December 2013

It's the start of a new week and it's the start of a new month too. And what a month this is going to be! I'm excited about what December will bring and have lots of things to look forward to.

I only found this quote a few days ago {on Pinterest of course!} but it really struck a chord with me. You see I have a bit of a thing about being kind. I'm a big believer in karma and 'what goes around comes around'. To me being kind is a choice, it's about doing the right thing. The right thing is not always the easiest thing though. Being kind might actually be the hard choice sometimes, like giving up your seat on a packed bus for an elderly person when you've had a tough day at work and feel miserable and knackered. But you know deep down it's the right thing to do.

I might be having a crappy day but doing something kind, however small, is a sure fire way to release a few feel good endorphins and get me feeling happier. I'm not saying I try to be kind to make myself feel good! But when you know you've helped someone or brightened someone's day, it makes you feel good too.

Choose kind. You'll get it back and I don't think you'll ever regret it!

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Glossybox November 2013

29 November 2013

I think it's safe to say that last months Glossybox should have been renamed Crappybox. Four out of the five products were sample sizes and the products were just totally meh. But it looks like Glossybox have listened to the feedback from last month and upped their game for November.

The theme for the November Glossybox was the Glossy Wishlist. Which is not much of a theme really as absolutely anything could fit into that category. I was hoping the wishlist theme would mean it would be full of must-have/mega- hyped products. Sadly not. I don't really think you could call anything in this box a must-have and I'm not sure they would be on many wishlists either.

Having said that I was pleased with the contents. I wasn't wowed  and it wasn't the best box ever but it was still good. Shall we take a closer look at what was inside?

Yves Rocher, Cacao and Orange Hand Cream {full size}
Terry's Chocolate Orange in a tube! I have this hand cream on my desk at work and first thing every morning I apply some... then spend the next couple of hours intermittently sniffing the gorgeous chocolate orange scent on my hands! Not only that but it's the most un-greasy hand cream I've ever used. It just sinks in to the skin and leaves my hands really soft and moisturised. Even better is that it costs the bargainistic price of £1.95. What's not to love?
Full size price £1.95 for 75ml

Elegant Touch, Rapid Dry For Nails (full size}
With my ongoing love affair with nail products anything nail related is going to be a huge hit with me. And I really love something that speeds up the whole nail painting process. The product actually does what it says on the tin. It doesn't immediately dry the nail polish but it does help them to dry within a minute or so. Like it!
Full size price £3 for 125ml

Vichy Idealia Life Serum {3 x sample sizes)
Inside the cute little organza bag, there are two tubes of the 'Idealia Life Serum - Skin Idealizer Serum' and one of  'Idealia - Smoothing and Illuminating cream'. Each tube is 3ml so a total of 9ml of product which makes it a nice little sample when the full size is 30ml. Serum is a very important part of my skincare routine so I love trying new ones. Previous serum's in the Glossybox have left me unimpressed but these were actually fab. I liked the feel of it on my skin and I'm sure with continued use it may well live up to their claim of transforming your skin. Unfortunately it's way out of my price range.
Full size price £29.50 for 30ml

Connock London, Kukui Eau De Parfum {sample size}
OK enough of the perfume samples! I've changed my Glossybox profile now so that I don't receive any more as I'm sick of them. Anyway, I won't go on about the top notes and layers and all that malarkey but it's supposed to smell like the Hawaiian Islands. I thought the scent was floral and musky and would say it's a mature scent without being old-ladyish. Quite nice.
Full size price £75.00 for 100ml

Emite Make Up, Micronised Eyeshadow in Dams {full size}
The only make up product in the box {I would have liked more!} so I was excited to see this. Emite is a brand I've heard of as a previous Glossybox contained their fantastic eyelash curlers. They say the eyeshadow is oil-free and highly pigmented and yes it is, but really it's just another black eyeshadow and no better than Blackout in my Urban Decay Naked2 palette.
Full size price £19.00

Glossybox have redeemed their selves with this box. After last months big box of rubbish, the November box didn't exactly blow me away but was so much better. Could have done with more make up products but I'll live with it.

Now I absolutely can't wait for the December box. I'm expecting fantastic things from the Christmas box and the anticipation is building even more as I've just received an email saying it's going to be sent out a little later this month due to such high demand. Please don't disappoint me Glossybox!

What did you get in your Glossybox? What did you think of this month's box?

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Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake

28 November 2013

So it's just under 4 weeks until the big day. Hands up who's feeling in the Christmas spirit yet? I'm not quite... but I'm getting there. I've finished my Christmas present shopping and bought the darlings birthday presents which I always like to get done as early as possible. Just the wrapping to do, cards to write, advent calendar to fill, Christmas Eve box to organise, make everything on my list of Christmas baking and about a million other things!

Oh and there's Lydia's birthday party to plan and birthday cake to make in about 10 days... but I'll just gloss over that! We don't put our Christmas tree up until after her birthday, so I should be well and truly in the swing of things by then.

Anyway here's one more to tick off my Christmas baking list. You already know that Bailey's is my favourite drink... alcoholic drink I mean! I personally don't know why anyone would just buy Bailey's at Christmas... I have a bottle in my fridge all year round!

When I made this I just happened to have the orange truffle flavoured Bailey's in the fridge so I used that... and it was amazing. The Bailey's flavour is quite subtle but is the perfect partner for the chocolate and creamy cheesecakeyness!

Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake

Serves 8
Preparation time 15 minutes
Chilling time 3 hours

100g butter
250g digestive biscuits
500g full fat cream cheese
50ml Baileys
100ml icing sugar 
300ml double cream
100g grated chocolate
 Cocoa powder to decorate

Break up the digestive biscuits and whizz them in a food processor until they turn to fine crumbs. Alternatively, you could put the biscuits in a strong plastic bag, fasten tightly and bash with a rolling pin until you get fine crumbs. Tip into a bowl.

Melt the butter in the microwave and add to the biscuit crumbs. Tip the mixture into a 20cm/8" loose bottomed flan dish or cake tin and press into the base with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Put in the fridge to chill for about 1 hour.

Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks and leave to one side. Lightly whip the cream cheese then beat in the Bailey's and icing sugar. Fold in the whipped cream and grated chocolate. When smooth, spoon evenly onto the biscuits and smooth the surface with a spatula.

Spoon the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base and smooth the surface. Place back in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Dust with the cocoa powder or grated chocolate.

Linking up with these lovelies...

Link up your recipe of the week
Tasty Tuesdays on
Festive Friday at Thinly Spread

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This Week #9

22 November 2013

Getting rid of the grey  ●  Preparing to make homemade mincemeat  ●  Visiting the Blackpool Illuminations  ●  My mincemeat waiting to be bottled  ●  Remembrance Day  ●  Testing out a new playgym... it got the darlings seal of approval!  ●  Oliver/Batman with his balloon sword  ●  Loving the November Glossybox  ●  Mincemeat finally ready in pretty jars  ●  Filo Mince Pies... look and taste incredible!  ●  So it begins... Father Christmas arrived in town  ●  Uber chilly morning  ●  Pretty sunset on the school run  ●  The darlings having some autumn fun with the leaves  ●  Christmas Tree Brownies... Yum!

I post on Instagram LOTS! You can follow me @mydarlingsandme
Feel free to leave a comment with your instagram name so I can follow you :)
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Filo Mince Pies

21 November 2013

Last Christmas I made mince pies and they were seriously bad. I used shop bought mincemeat {how watery is that stuff?!} and flavourless ready made shortcrust pastry. Yes they were edible but I think I ended up throwing some away as no one wanted to eat them. I didn't even blog about them, they were that bad.

On Sunday I made mince pies again and this time they were a million times better. I used mincemeat made by my own fair hands which quite frankly tastes incredible. Yes I used ready made pastry again but anyone who's ever seen The Great British Bake Off will know that filo pastry is a pain in the arse to make! Hey if you want to use shop bought mincemeat too I promise I won't hold it against you.

These mince pies are mega simple to make. There's actually only three ingredients... well four if you count the icing sugar to dust them with! But how impressive do they look? I posted a photo of them on my personal facebook page and now have a massive list of friends waiting for me to make some more so they can try them!

Filo Mince Pies

Makes 12
Preparation time 15 minutes
Baking time 16-20 minutes

1 x 270g pack ready made filo pastry
600g Mincemeat
1 egg, beaten
Icing sugar to decorate

Preheat oven to 190C {375F} gas mark 5. Lightly grease a 12 hole deep muffin tin with vegetable oil or spray oil.

Lay the sheets of filo pastry on top of each other on the work surface. Cut in half vertically so that you have two large squares. Then cut each large square into four quarters.  Take three of the small squares and place them on top of each other, off-setting them slightly to make a kind of star shape.

Gently push the 3 filo pieces into the muffin tin, making sure you push it right to the bottom and up the sides. Repeat until all 12 muffin holes are lined with filo. There should be 12 squares of filo left, cover these with a lightly dampened tea towel so they don't dry out.

Spray each filo case with a little oil and pop in the oven for 6-8 minutes until crisp and a pale golden colour. Remove from the oven and fill each case with mincemeat. Take the remaining squares of filo and gently scrunch each one up and place on top of each pie. Brush lightly with the beaten egg.

Place on a preheated baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until crisp and golden. Dust with a little icing sugar. They're great either hot or cold with a dollop of brandy flavoured cream.

Linking up with...

Romanian Mum
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Christmas Tree Brownies

19 November 2013

Thank you once again to the wonderful world of Pinterest for the idea for these Christmas Tree Brownies! Pinterest really comes into it's own at Christmas with the endless ideas for baking, crafts, home decoration and activities. I've been pinning like crazy these past couple of weeks! Pop over and take a look at my huge Christmas board if you so wish.

Anyway! If you're a brownie lover {like me!} then you just have to make these at Christmas. They'll be a hit with both children and grown-ups and they look like you've spent lots of time on them when really they're incredibly easy to make. Just take your favourite brownie recipe, cut into triangles and decorate. Couldn't be more simple! Here's how I made mine...

Christmas Tree Brownies

Makes 12
Preparation time 20 minutes
Baking time 30 minutes 

200g dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
120g plain flour 
150g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
12 peppermint candy canes
Green coloured icing

Preheat oven to 180C {350F} Gas mark 4. Line a 25 x 20cm baking tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water or in a microwave on 50% power in 30 second bursts. Give it a really good mix and set aside to cool slightly. 

Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with a hand held electric mixer until really thick and creamy. Add the chocolate mixture, plus the orange zest and juice and beat again. Sift in the flour and fold in gently, until the flour is just combined. Pour into the prepared tin. Sprinkle the chocolate orange chunks over the brownie mixture in the tin. 

Pop in the oven for 30 minutes. When ready it should be set and crispy on top but still gooey in the middle. Gently wobble the tin and the middle of the brownie should slightly wobble when it's ready.

Leave to cool in the tin for at least 2 hours before you even attempt to cut it. If you cut it up too soon, the brownie will leak all over the place. 

Cut the brownies into triangles. Decorate with green icing {make your own or use writing icing in a tube} and stick the Smarties on. Break the curved part of the candy canes so you just have a straight piece and insert that into the bottom of the brownie to make the trunk.


Linking up with these lovelies...

Link up your recipe of the week
Tasty Tuesdays on
Hosted this month by Rebecca at BakeNQuilt
Romanian Mum
Festive Friday over at Thinly spread
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