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Quick and tasty dinners with Old El Paso

One Pan Rice Meal from Old El Paso

Ok, confession time: I don’t always cook from scratch. I’d like to and I try to whenever I can, but sometimes I just don’t have the time or motivation to slave in the kitchen for an hour and that’s when products like Old El Paso’s tasty Mexican dishes come into play.

We’ve been Old El Paso fans for a long time. Their fajita kits are great for a night with friends and super easy to make. You simply chop up some chicken and peppers (or you go for the frozen variety, if you want to be even quicker), add the spice mix and ready is your Mexican dinner. Recently, Old El Paso have also sent us some of their other products to try out. We received some Old El Paso One Pan Rice Meals, a fajita kit, the Enchilada dinner kit as well as some spice mixes and a squeezy salsa and sweetcorn relish.

We already knew the fajita kits and we love them, but I think I’ve got a new favourite. The One Pan Rice Meals are absolutely amazing. You basically throw everything into a large frying pan/wok and let it simmer away for a couple of minutes. Initially, I thought that there’s no chance on earth that I’d need just one pan, but it’s true. Super quick and efficient and really tasty. We have already repurchased a pack. The enchiladas were really easy to make too, but could have done with a little more of a kick. Amy really enjoyed them, but her favourite by far was the sweetcorn relish for some reason. I think, if I had let her, she’d have eaten it spoon after spoon.

Overall, I think that Old El Paso offer great meal options for families who like authentic Mexican flavours without the hassle that comes with preparing an authentic meal from scratch. The taste is brilliant and you can play around with flavours and ingredients (there are ideas and suggestions on the back of each pack) creating meals that really suit your needs. Old El Paso is easily available in supermarkets and even corner store.

We received the products mentioned for the purpose of this review.

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Live and Learn — Fun Educational Days Out in London

fun and educational days out in LondonThe school holidays are upon us. Long summer days and endless bright evenings stretch ahead, daring you to relinquish the remote to your little couch potatoes and occasionally overlook the rules about snacks. Inevitably, at least one day trip will be expected by your little prince or princess. Panic not. It has been proven possible (though perhaps not by science) to have an interesting and educational day out as a family unit. Up sticks, strike out for London and discover something new.

For curious minds: Ripley’s Believe it or Not

Even the most recalcitrant visitors find themselves compelled by the quirky horde of artefacts and wonders housed in this curiosity collection in the heart of London. Amazonian shrunken heads, a mirror maze and an upside down tea party make up just a few of the 700 curios that were once curated by Robert Ripley himself. If you’re keeping an eye on the pennies, you can reduce the entry price by searching online for a Ripleys Believe it or Not London voucher.

For budding historians: The London Dungeon

Hidden beneath ground level, the London Dungeon is one big, theatrical thrill ride, populated with shadowy figures and sinister villains from the city’s foggy past. Descend in a creaking lift cranked by a leper, become a confidante in Guy Fawkes’s gunpowder plot and be threatened by a giant, holographic Henry VIII on an eerie boat ride, perfectly realised by a giant, holographic Brian Blessed.

For the aspiring zoologist: London Zoo

This animal house in Regent’s Park is home to exotic critters like sloths, tiger cubs and komodo dragons. As well as the usual feedings and talks, the zoo offers special experiences for those who want to get closer to the animals. These range from a straightforward one on one session to the opportunity to become a junior keeper for the day, perfect for aspiring zoologists. Just remember to book in advance.

For mini culture vultures: The Tate Modern

Housing the most famous, the most extensive and perhaps the most hyperbolised modern art collection in Europe, the Tate Modern is anything but dull. If the neon-bright Andy Warhols don’t captivate the kids, the Damian Hursts will certainly snag their attention. You can fuel their imaginations and engage them in a discussion of the various art works. It’s endlessly surprising how insightful kids can be.

Some come to see Big Ben. Some come to see the Houses of Parliament. Some just to say they’ve been there. Fantastic buildings, but where’s the fun in them? Taking the kids to see them will entertain them and they’ll also learn a thing or three. Isn’t that perfect parenting!

This is a promotional post, which is hopefully helpful for all of you who are planning some fun and educational days out in London this summer. Images from Ash Chuan, Anthony Kelly, Pelican and Xiquinho Silva via Flickr. 

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How to get kids active outside

The summer holidays are just around the corner and let’s face it, if you don’t want your kids bouncing of the ceiling, you need to find ways to get them active and allow them to get rid off excess energy. Luckily, kids don’t need a gym to tire themselves out, so there are lots of ways of getting them active through play. If you need some inspiration, why not try one of the following ideas

  • Build a den
  • Climb a tree (with help and under supervision)
  • Play catch or hide and seek
  • Wheel around on a scooter, bike or skateboard
  • Play garden games, e.g. boules, croquet etc
  • Play hopscotch
  • Go to the beach, jump through the waves, build a sand castle or explore rock pools
  • Fly a kite
  • Roll down hills
  • Turn the music on and have a mini disco in the garden

Alternatively, check out this fab infographic that the people from HFE (Health & Fitness Education) have brought out to inform you about ways to get active outdoors.

why outdoor play is important for children and adults

What’s your favourite way to exercise and what are your tips to getting your children active?

This is a promotional post

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The 25 best summer salads

the 25 best summer salads, summer salads, salad recipes for summer

I don’t know about you, but in summer my cooking and eating habits change completely. I don’t cook any hearty grub like stews, roast dinners or other meals that requires me to slave in the kitchen for hours – because a) it’s too hot and I’d rather spend time outside and b) I don’t really fancy any heavy and stodgy meals. Summer is when I really enjoy salads. They’re light, healthy and quick to make, especially if you are using pre-washed and cut salad leaves like the ones from Florette that you can get in almost any supermarket.

There are a couple of Florette salad recipes on their website too, but today I thought, I’d share with you summer salads that are a little different and who better to ask than my favourite bloggy friends. So here we go, the blogosphere’s best summer salads – just for you. Colourful, fresh, healthy and utterly beautiful to look at. I hope you enjoy them:

Summer Pasta Salad
Caramelised Walnut, Blue Cheese and Pear salad
Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic
Rustic Egg, Bacon and Potato salad
Avocado, Spinach. Lentil and Egg Salad 
Beetroot,Carrot & Cottage Cheese Salad
Epic Potato Salad
Trout, Asparagus and Fennel Salad
Spinach Salad
Easy Greek Salad
Vegetable Salad with Seaweed and Miso Dressing
Zesty Summer Salad
New Potato and Tuna Salad
Thalassini Salata – Seafood Salad
Asparagus and Orzo Salad with Lemon and Tomato
Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw
Vegetarian French Salad
Avocado and Parma Ham Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Strawberry, Mango and Spinach Salad
Nutella Jar Turkey Pesto Salad
Rainbow Trout and Citrus Salad
Jersey Potato, asparagus and 3 leaf salad
Tabbouleh Salad
Kale, Chard, Watermelon and Avocado Salad
Fennel and Pomegranate Salad with Cashews and Pumpkin Seeds

Are you a fan of salads? What’s your favourite? Make sure to leave a link below, if you have blogged a recipe.

I have received a goody bag and recipe book in return for this blog post. Copyright for all images lies with the author of the recipes linked. 

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Flower Paste: The Essential Product For Decorating A Wedding Cake

how to decorate your wedding cake with flower pasteWhen you’re making a wedding cake the issue of decorations will always be at the front of your mind. Even if you just want a classic white, multi-tiered cake you’ll want some kind of topper or decoration to set it off. And if you’re going for a more extravagant design then the look of the cake is as important as the taste. Flower paste is your best friend when it comes to decorating a wedding cake.

If you want some ideas on what kind of decorations you can make using flower paste then here are a few to get you started.

  • Flowers.

    A wedding without flowers would look very dull. Nobody’s saying you need petals scattered all over the place, but the bride’s bouquet is a major part of the day and they’re often used to add colour to the ceremony and reception. Given its name you shouldn’t be surprised that flower paste is the best medium for making flowers. Because flower paste has a stiffer consistency than fondant you can work with much thinner pieces, making the creation delicate petals and blossoms easy. You can colour the paste too, or paint onto it after it’s hardened. And because it becomes very stiff the flowers hold their shape well.

  • Butterflies.

    Flower paste butterflies can be a beautiful addition to a wedding cake. It’s easy to make a variety of sizes and you can have them cascading down the cake, or resting atop as if about to take flight. Using a scriber you can etch the fine details such as the veins in their wings. They can be painted to co-ordinate with the wedding colour scheme or simply left plain white and given a dusting of edible shimmer to bring them to life.

  • Bride And Groom Topper.

    The classic wedding topper is back in fashion and flower paste is vital to a successful model. Don’t use the paste alone, but instead mix it 50/50 with standard sugar paste. Then you can create intricate models that don’t collapse under their own weight.

  • Custom Decorations.

    The beauty of flower paste is that it can be used to create anything you can imagine. So if the bride and groom are having a themed wedding, or have characteristics that are strongly identifiable, such as being musicians or compulsive travellers, you can create decorations that relate to them and make their cake truly unique and individual.

If you’re making a wedding cake, for your own wedding or someone else’s, make sure you’ve got a good supply of http://www.renshawbaking.com/flower-paste.html/” target=”_blank”>flower paste on hand. With that, some tools and a bit of creativity you can create decorations that will make the cake a stunning centrepiece for all to enjoy.

This is a promotional post with an image from Ryan Polei via Flickr.

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The new ISA (NISA) and what you need to know

new ISA rules and saving for your childrenIf you have an ISA or are considering to use an ISA to save your hard-earned cash, then there are a couple of things you should know before the new ISA rules become applicable from 1 July 2014.

From 1 July 2014, all existing ISAs will automatically convert into a New ISA (NISA) and all ISAs that you take out from then will also be following the new rules. If you want to know how you can benefit from the changes and what the differences are, check out the video below that the clever people at Scottish Friendly have put together for you:

If you prefer having all the details black on white, then continue reading here, because these are all the basic facts you shold know about the new ISA:

  • old ISAs will automatically be converted
  • the overall subscription limit for 2014/15 will be raise to £15.000
  • new subscriptions can be split in any proportion between a New Cash ISA, New Stocks and Shares ISA, which gives you more choice over your investment
  • any contributions made into an ISA from 6 April this tax year will count against your New ISA limit for 2014/15
  • you can transfer a Cash ISA into another Cash ISA or move it to a Stocks and Shares ISA
  • from 1 July 2014, the New ISA will also allow you to transfer your savings from New Stocks and Shares ISAs to New Cash ISAs
  • My Choice (ISA) accepts ISA transfers and will automatically increase your limit to 15k
  • applications can be made online or your local branch
  • the value of your investments can rise and fall as well as your payout
  • tax matters depend on your personal circumstances

Do you feel informed about the new ISA and do you think it will affect the way you save for the future?

This is a promotional post, but I hope it helps you understand the new regulations a little more. If you have any detailed questions, hop over to Scottish Friendly’s Twitter feed.

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Test the waters with a mini cruise

discover Europe and go on a mini cruise

If you like the idea of a cruise, but don’t know if it is for you and you therefore don’t want to commit to a two week trip, then a mini cruise might be the perfect option for you. A mini cruise allows you to enjoy the same comfort and entertainment as a longer cruise holiday while giving you the chance to test the waters for two to three nights.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines offer a great range of mini cruises leaving from UK harbours close to you. Setting off from cities like Southampton, Liverpool or Bristol, the company’s cruise ships call into the ports of Ireland, France, Belgium or the Netherlands giving you the chance to discover the countries on our doorstep.

Mini cruises are not only a great way to test, if cruises are in fact for you, they are also the perfect trip when you want to surprise your partner with a romantic getaway or celebrate special dates such as a birthday or even a hen night or stag do.

In the past, I have even taken part in a congress while taking a mini cruise from Kiel in Germany to Oslo in Norway. During the crossing, I attended seminars, discussed the developments in the world of investigative journalism and hosted panels, while on shore leave I had the chance to tour Oslo, climb on top of the ski jump at Holmenkollen and snap pics of Vigeland’s crazy statues at Vigeland Sculpture Park. We even squeezed in a visit at Norway’s biggest daily newspaper, so don’t let the length of the trip be deceiving. You still have plenty of time to explore and soak in the atmosphere of your destination and when you’re on board you get to enjoy beautiful meals. I still remember by very first taste of reindeer…

Have you ever been on a mini cruise or even a longer cruise holiday? Which destinations can you recommend?

This is a promotional post

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The Top 5 Benefits When You Sponsor A Child And Why You Shouldn’t Put It Off

sponsor a child for a healthy futureA lot of people think about giving to charity. They want to make a difference but often they can’t decide where to put their hard earned money and then they end up not making the commitment, especially when they begin to worry that the effect of their contribution is intangible.

When you sponsor a child though, the impact of your money is both far reaching and profound. These are the top 5 benefits that occur when you sponsor a child.

  1. You Help Lots Of Other People.

    The money you give when you sponsor a child doesn’t go directly to the child or their family. That kind of distribution can actually cause problems within communities as people can feel resentful as they aren’t receiving support. Instead your monthly donation goes into a fund for the country your child lives in. This money is then used to fund projects in their communities and across the country. Statistically, for every child sponsored a further 55 see the benefits.

  2. You’re Empowering People.

    There’s a tendency to see charity as just giving hand outs to people in a crisis and some people even come to see it as trapping people in a cycle of dependency. That couldn’t be further from the truth when you sponsor a child. Your money does help provide disaster relief in the event of crises, but the majority goes on development projects that help communities and individuals take charge of their own future, giving them a sense of pride and fulfilment.

  3. You’re Helping Support Child Rights.

    One of the major problems around the world, particularly in the poorer countries, is a failure to acknowledge and support child rights. This means that children suffer a variety of abuses that inhibit their growth and development, whether that’s lack of education due to discrimination, child labour or practices such as female genital mutilation. When you sponsor a child your money helps fund initiatives to protect children and educate communities about child rights.

  4. You’re Helping Create A Healthy Future.

    In the world’s poorest countries children go without adequate food, clean water and medical care. The result is high levels of infant mortality and illness. By choosing to sponsor a child you’re helping build water sources, hygiene facilities and medical centres as well as train staff and fund education projects.

  5. You’re Ending Poverty.

    The cycle of poverty is hard to break because it’s a complex and multi-faceted issue. Just throwing money at it isn’t the cure because many problems that create poverty are due to attitudes and social structures that reinforce the cycle. How can a woman secure meaningful and well paid work if she’s denied education as a girl and certain careers are denied her based on her gender? To sponsor a child is to make a huge contribution to ending poverty because your money helps fund projects and initiatives that provide infrastructure, training and education, and also works to change attitudes and laws that keep people trapped in a life of poverty.

sponsor a child and enable them to get an educationThese are the incredible benefits that occur when you sponsor a child. Don’t think that your money can’t have an impact because it will, in ways that are bigger than you think. And the longer you put it off the more likely you’ll convince yourself not to sponsor a child.

To find out more about how you can make a difference and to sponsor a child click here to visit Plan UK today http://www.plan-uk.org/sponsor-a-child/

This is a promotional post to help raise awareness. Images from Savva via Flickr.

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Wyld Wood Organic Cider

Hip Hip Hurray, it’s BBQ and festival season, so what better drink to enjoy than a cool glass of cider? I don’t know about you, but I fell in love with the West Country’s most popular drink when I moved to Bristol almost six years ago. It’s fruity, refreshing and doesn’t have the horrible bitter taste of lager.

Wyld wood organic cider and wyld wood organic still cider

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely people from Weston’s Cider got in touch and asked, if we would like to celebrate their involvement in The Big Festival with them and sent us some of the Wyld Wood Organic Cider as well as some of the Wyld Wood Organic Still Cider to try.

The sparkling cider comes in traditional 500 ml bottles and is perfect for a warm summer’s evening, whereas the still version is great for parties, BBQs or picnics. It comes in a 3l tetra pack with a tap and tastes best when served ice-cold from the fridge. Plus, it keeps fresh for a whopping 6 weeks after opening, which is super handy, if you ask me.

Both varieties were really enjoyable and a drink that I would definitely buy again. No surprise really that Weston’s Cider are a partner and the official cider supplier of The Big Feastival, a family-friendly festival in the Cotswolds that gathers 15.000 foodies and music fans every year. The event takes place from the 29th to the 31st August 2014 and if you pop along, make sure to visit the The Wyld Wood Cider Bar.  It will be located in a super cool teepee in the centre of the festival grounds.

If you can’t make it, no worries. You can find Weston’s ciders in all big supermarkets and, of course, in their very own online cider shop.

Are you a cider or lager fan? And have you tried Weston’s Wyld Wood Organic Cider before?