Children’s Craft Idea… A Colourful Paper Bowl

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Half-term is upon us already so here is a perfect craft activity to keep your children occupied for a while. They’ll love the finished bowl too, and it can be used for so many things. Halloween is round the corner so this would make an ideal container for all the yummy treats and sweets. You could make it with just orange paper and make it look like a pumpkin. Or how about a gift for a teacher at Christmas? I used to work in the Reception class of a local primary school, and had so many gifts at Christmas and end of the school year. The handmade ones were always my favourites. They were more personal and unique, and I still have them now all these years later. Your child could make a small version of this bowl and put a few chocolates inside. The possibilities are (almost) endless. My son made the one in the picture and uses it to hold some of the play food in his play kitchen. It is very messy to make, but that makes it extra fun! Just put lots of newspaper or a mat on your table to protect it from dripping glue!

To make it, blow up a balloon to the required size. Luke wanted a big one so we inflated the balloon to its maximum size. Cut up lots and lots of paper into small pieces. You can use any paper you want, but we cheated and used quilling paper from The Works. It is ready cut into strips so it is a lot quicker to cut into pieces. (I was going to put the link up for it but I can’t find it on their website now. I’m sure other places sell it too, or just cut up sheets of paper).

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Use a paintbrush to cover your balloon with PVA glue to the height you want the bowl. Hold it by the knot to do this and cover the other end with glue. Stick pieces of paper on until all the glue is covered, and rest it on a cup or container to dry. This will take a couple of hours. Luke had fun peeling the glue off his hands at this point. Remember doing that when you were at school? Ah, happy memories….

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When it is dry, cover all the pieces with another layer of glue, and stick more paper on top. Repeat this process of drying and adding more until your bowl is nice and sturdy (at least 3 layers of paper pieces). Cover it all with glue again and leave to dry. The final layer of glue will protect it and make it stronger. It will dry see-through and will make the bowl rigid.

When it is dry, pop the balloon gently and peel away from the bowl. You’ll now have a very rough shaped bowl.

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This is the trickiest part so best for older children or adults to help with… carefully cut around the edge to make it a nice tidy bowl.

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And there’s your finished bowl! Well, this is Luke’s but you know what I mean. Your children will have had lots of fun, and you’ll have a snowstorm of paper bits to hoover up but it will have been worth it 🙂

I’d love to see your finished bowls if you make them with your children. Happy crafting!

Sweet Surprises… Degustabox – Review of September Box

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I was very lucky to again be sent a yummy Degustabox to review on my blog. I loved the one I had received in August so was very excited to see what would be in the September box. Well it was even better than the month before. I’m a bit late putting the review up… preparation for an operation I had recently left me behind on things, but I’ve caught up now 🙂

If you didn’t see last month’s review, Degustabox is a monthly subscription box full of food and drink surprises, many of which you might not normally come across on your weekly shopping trips. It usually costs £12.99 per month, but the very lovely people who create these amazing boxes have kindly given me an extra special treat for you all. More on that at the end. The products are worth more than the cost per month, and delivery via DPD is included in the price! Well worth trying!!

So what did I get in the September box? I’ll show you…

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  • REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS x 2… I have to admit I had never tried these before but have heard people say how yummy they are. I was sent 2 packs which each had 3 cups in. If you’ve never tried them, they are basically peanut butter covered with Hershey’s chocolate. I love peanut butter, I love chocolate, so I loved these! I even used them to make a peanut butter and jelly cheesecake which was AMAZING, even if I do say so myself. The RRP for these is 85p per pack. My verdict is 10/10.

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  • UP & GO x 2… Another new product for me. These are breakfast drinks very much like milkshakes, ideal for busy days when you don’t have time to sit down to eat breakfast. You can just grab one and drink it on your way out. One of these contains the same amount of protein, fibre and calcium as a bowl of bran flakes with milk, and is fortified with vitamins and minerals. They are low in fat and made with wholegrain oat flour, so you feel satisfied after drinking one. I was sent 2 flavours to try, chocolate and vanilla. The vanilla one is now a regular purchase for me, I loved it so much. They were both delicious but the vanilla one was my favourite. It tastes like custard! Mmmmmmmmm! The RRP of these is £1.39 each, although I did find them in Sainsburys for £1 each not long ago. Definitely a 10/10 from me.

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  • MALLOW AND MARSH… I received a pack of 3 huge fluffy raspberry marshmallows and these were the first things we tried from the box. There are 3 of us in our house so we agreed we would have one each. These are absolutely divine! They are the softest fluffiest marshmallows i have ever tasted, made with real raspberries so the taste was amazing. They are not overly sweet like some marshmallows can be as they are 100% natural. Just perfect. I would love to use these in some recipes, but then again they are too good to mess with. Gorgeous! RRP is £2. My verdict is a huge 10/10.

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  • MAYNARDS WINE GUMS… Carrying on the sweet theme this month with these wine gums. Everyone I know always goes for the red and black sweets in packets. The poor old yellow and green ones get left behind. Well Maynards have solved the problem by bringing out packs of just the blackcurrant and strawberry ones. Hooray! I tried a couple and loved them. The packet then disappeared into my Other Half’s work van, never to be seen again. The RRP is £1.50. My verdict is 9/10.
  • BASSETTS JELLY BABIES…. Like Maynards, Bassetts have realised most people prefer the berry flavours, so have brought out a packet containing just the blackcurrant, raspberry and strawberry ones. We love Jelly Babies in our house so these disappeared very quickly. I used some to make these cookies before they all went though. Another yummy idea to use these with is a lot more grown up. Place some in a bowl, cover with vodka, and leave for at least 12 hours. The Jelly Babies absorb the vodka and you are left with very boozy babies. That doesn’t sound at all right… I mean the jelly kind! They’re a bit fiddly to pick up as they go slippery, so grab a spoon and try one. Remember though, they are then full of alcohol and yes, you can get drunk on them!!! The RRP is £1.50. My verdict is 10/10.

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  • PORTLEBAY POPCORN… I was sent 2 flavours to try, cappuccino and sweet & salty. These are hand popped in Devon using rapeseed oil and unrefined raw cane sugar. I love popcorn so did enjoy these. There was just the right balance of flavour and the perfect amount of crunchiness. The sweet and salty was my favourite of these 2 flavours. Very tasty. The RRP is £1 per pack. My verdict is 8/10.

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  • TG GREEN TEA… I was sent 2 flavours of these to try; Ginseng, and Mandarin and Ginseng. With only 30 calories in a bottle these are great for people on calorie-controlled diets. They are low in sugar but high in flavour. I really enjoyed these. Extremely refreshing and I felt revitalised after drinking them. I will definitely be looking out for these in shops, especially the mandarin one. The RRP is £1.80 per bottle. My verdict is 10/10.
  • SWEET SALLY TEA… This Winter Spice flavour tea is absolutely delicious. It is perfect for these Autumn days. It is made using Ceylon black tea, Spanish oranges, Sicilian lemons, organic sugar, cinnamon and cloves. You can imagine from that list how good it smells too! Thoroughly enjoyed this. It would be great to use in tea loaf recipes too! The RRP is £2.40. My verdict is 10/10.

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  • THE GOOD CIDER OF SAN SEBASTIAN… I received 2 flavours to try, apple and pear. My Other Half was very excited to see these as he loves cider but had never heard of these ones. I had a sip of each while he drank the rest. I preferred the pear but he preferred the apple. These Craft Ciders are also available in peach, and wild berries flavours. Del said they were very refreshing with a perfect flavour. The RRP is £1.50 each. Our joint verdict is 10/10.

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  • COMPETE ENERGY BITES… I was a bit dubious about these at first. I’ve tried so-called energy drinks before and have felt no difference in energy levels, so was expecting the same from these. I tried one in the days leading up to my operation when I needed extra energy to keep me going while I was running round getting everything sorted for a stress-free recovery when I came home. I have to say, I was impressed! They are mocha flavoured square chocolates, and you get 6 in a pack. They are individually sealed so no worries about having to use them all within a set timeframe. There are 44 calories per chocolate, and one chocolate gives you the equivalent amount of caffeine as one large premium coffee, or 135mg of caffeine to be precise. The packet contains lots of advice about recommended use, and warns that these are not for children or pregnant women. They recommend 1 chocolate for moderate energy or 2 for maximum effect. I had one and I actually felt the benefit! It gave me the boost I needed to get everything done when I was starting to feel tired. The RRP is £4.49 per pack of 6. My verdict is 9/10.

As you can see from everything I received you get a lot of products for the price. £12.99 is very tempting for all of this isn’t it? Well as I said earlier, I have been given an amazing deal to offer to you. In last month’s review I was able to offer you a discount of £3 off your first box. The lovely Degustabox folk decided that they could go better than that too! So how does £6 off your first box sound??? Fantastic I know!

All you have to do to take advantage of this brilliant discount is click HERE to register, and enter the code BLDEG15 in the payment option section. You’ll then receive your first box for just £6.99 including delivery! What a bargain!!

I would love to hear what you think of it if you do sign up, so let me know 🙂

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Cookies Recipe – Zombie Jelly Babies

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I seemed to enjoy PB&J treats this month! First the no bake cheesecake, and now these cookies. I was sent these Bassetts Jelly Babies in the September Degustabox (review for that coming later) and thought they would be perfect in a cookie. My first attempt went terribly wrong. I discovered that Jelly Babies have a knack of disappearing when you cook them, leaving a jelly stained hole where they had been. I refused to be beaten by a Jelly Baby though so I finally have the recipe for you. If you cook them whole, Jelly Babies vanish. Cut them into pieces and they just melt. Perfect! I wasn’t going to put a Jelly Baby in the melted jelly but my son Luke said it would look as if they were either melting or forming out of the jelly, so we decided we would call these Zombie cookies. As you can see by the picture though, the black ones had mostly already been gobbled up by this point so we only managed one black jelly zombie. Oops! Anyway, these are very quick and simple and great fun to make with children, and would be a perfect treat for Halloween. Here is the recipe:

PB&J THUMBPRINT COOKIES – ZOMBIE JELLY BABIES

70g unsalted butter, softened

70g golden caster sugar

1 large egg, beaten

200g plain flour, sifted, plus a bit extra to help roll the cookies

2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

20 Jelly Babies

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Add the flour and peanut butter and mix well until thoroughly combined. The cookie dough will be a bit sticky but stiff.
  • Knead the dough together briefly then divide into 8 portions. Dust your hands with a bit of extra plain flour, then roll each portion into a ball. Place on to the baking tray and lightly flatten each ball. Dip your thumb (hence the name) into water, then press into the middle of each flattened ball. You want a nice round hollow, but make sure you don’t go through the bottom of the cookie.
  • Cut 12 Jelly Babies into quarters, then place 6 quarters into each thumbprint hole. Place on the middle shelf of your oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden.
  • Remove from the oven and place one whole Jelly Baby carefully into the melted jelly of each cookie. Leave on the baking tray for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

If you do make these with children, please just remember that melted jelly is extremely hot and sticks to skin, so make sure little fingers are careful when placing the whole Jelly Babies into the baked cookies.

Happy Halloween!

Cinnamora – The Cinnamon Soft Drink Review

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I am a huge fan of cinnamon. The smell of it, the taste of it…. delicious. To me it symbolises cosy nights snuggled up in front of the fire while the wind and rain batter against the windows. It brings back thoughts of Christmas baked goods, or days out with a friend, stopping for a cinnamon swirl pastry and a coffee in an independent coffee shop. It is a warming spice that instantly evokes warm memories. So when the kind people at Cinnamora invited me to try their cinnamon drink, I was ever so slightly (ok, massively) excited.

It says it is best served chilled, so I popped it into the fridge for a few hours to enjoy it as it is meant to be. I’ll be completely honest, when I first tried it I wasn’t sure what I thought. My head seemed to be confused by the fact it was cold. My brain automatically links cinnamon with warmth so there was a bit of a battle going on between the yummy taste of the cinnamon against the fact it was icy cold. The taste is perfect. The cinnamon is just right. Not too strong so as to be overpowering, but not too weak so you can’t taste it either. It was just the temperature that I wasn’t sure of.

I tried it again a few days later but this time I warmed it first. Confusing thoughts over. It filled the house with a scrumptious cinnamon smell as it warmed, and it tasted beautiful. A truly warming drink on a cold day. I also heated it and used it to make a hot chocolate. I won’t name the brand but I used one of the instant hot chocolate sachets that you just add hot water to. Well instead of hot water, I added hot Cinnamora and it was absolutely heavenly. Perfect now the cold dark nights are drawing in.

So what do I think of Cinnamora? I like it. A lot. I must admit, I do prefer it hot, not chilled as recommended, but it certainly makes a refreshing change from the normal range of “flavoured waters” that you find. I like the fact it is sugar-free and free from artificial flavours or colours. It gets a thumbs-up from me.

If you want to try it for yourself visit their website for a list of stockists, or to find a link to buy it online through their Ebay store. Their website can be found HERE. Enjoy!

No Bake Peanut Butter and Jelly Cheesecake Recipe with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

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I was lucky enough to receive another yummy Degustabox in September and one of the scrumptious food items was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (We’re still getting through the other items but my box review will be up when we’ve tried it all).

I was lucky enough to receive 2 packets of these peanut butter cups, and each packet contained 3 cups. I must admit, I had never tasted them before so was excited to try them. Chocolate covered peanut butter… heaven! Well, I liked them so much I had to buy more for this recipe!

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I was wondering what I could make with them and decided that as Reese’s is an American company, I wanted to try the favourite American combination of peanut butter and jelly. I had to spend some time Googling this… should it be jelly like we eat in trifles, or jelly as in jam? What flavour should it be? I discovered that it is jamlike, and traditionally grape flavoured. However I couldn’t find grape jelly/jam anywhere here so I used strawberry. I think any berry jam would work just as well. In this recipe I used 8 peanut butter cups and the peanut butter taste was strong but delicious. If you want a more subtle taste I would use 5 or 6. You can always add more if you want it stronger. Also, I like quite a deep cheesecake as it’s a really indulgent creamy dessert, but if you like a thinner one, just use half of the ingredients. I made this in an 8 inch deep cake tin. Anyway, enough waffling, here’s the recipe:

NO BAKE PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY CHEESECAKE

250g digestive biscuits

80g unsalted butter

1 tbsp caster sugar

560g cream cheese

250ml double cream

80g icing sugar

5 to 8 Reese’s peanut butter cups, depending on how strong you want the flavour

3 tbsp strawberry jam

  • Line a deep cake tin with foil, getting rid of any big creases by pressing them down. Blitz the digestive biscuits in a food processor, or crush in a sandwich bag until there are no big chunks left. Mix in the caster sugar.
  • Melt the butter and then pour on to the biscuit crumbs. Mix well and then transfer to the foil lined tin. Spread it all over the base and press down firmly with the back of a metal spoon. Place in fridge for 30 minutes to harden.
  • Place the Reese’s peanut butter cups in a heatproof bowl and either melt over a pan of barely simmering water making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, or heat in the microwave checking every few seconds so they don’t burn. Stir the chocolate and peanut butter mixture well until it is all combined and is one colour.
  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the icing sugar and continue to beat. Add the melted Reese’s cups and beat well until it is all combined. Add the cream and beat until the mixture thickens. Alternatively you can beat the cream in a separate bowl until soft peak stage, then fold it into the peanut butter cheesecake mixture.
  • Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and spread evenly.
  • Very gently heat the jam until it just starts to go liquidy, then sieve to remove any lumps of fruit. (You just want the “jelly”). Use a teaspoon to drop little blobs of the jam on top of the cheesecake, then use a cocktail stick or skewer to make a swirly pattern. Place in fridge and chill for at least 4 hours until set.
  • To remove, gently lift the foil out of the tin, peel away from cheesecake and serve.

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