Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Gallery - Frightful

As it is half term, we have our Granddaughter staying with us. We always look forward to her visits because she is such a joy and she is always making me and Papa laugh our heads off. Full of character, she never ceases to entertain us, especially Grandad. The moment he arrives home from work, She runs rings round him. Especially when She decides to be Nurse Syder.

Papa asks her "But why so many bandages?"

She replies "Because you have been very naughty and have been chewing the furniture!"

Apparently lots of People chew furniture.
A Frightful Fact!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Prima Princessa - The Nutcracker Review

Nutcracker-for-kids-smcvThe Prima Princessa DVD series features three different ballet shows and was created by two mums in the US who were inspired by their dance loving young daughters.

Best friends Stephanie Troeller and Mary Kate Mellow are the moms behind Prima Princessa.

“We were inspired by our dance loving daughters to create a ballet DVD series just for kids and came up with the idea during a play date for our girls,” explains Mary Kate.
“Taking a young child to the ballet can be not only expensive, but it is difficult for toddlers to sit still for a 3-hour performance. Our shows are designed to expose 3-6 year old children to classical ballet through a fun interactive, animated, and educational experience, where they are encouraged to get up and dance along,” says Stephanie.

“Prima Princessa Nutcracker” is the first to be released in the UK and all in time for Christmas 2012.

My six year Granddaughter reviewed a copy of the DVD and from the moment I pressed play on the DVD player, she was totally glued to it. Almost immediately out come the ballet moves.

The DVD is a 60-minute Christmas show for children ages 3-6. It features the world famous Birmingham Royal Ballet performing excerpts from “The Nutcracker”. The cartoon fairy Prima Princessa takes a group of real pre-school boys and girls on a magical Christmas journey to see a live performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet.  

The ballet is narrated so that children can really understand the plot, and then between acts, they return home and learn ballet steps from students at SAB the official academy of the New York City Ballet. After the show, the fun continues with bonus features of Holiday Freeze Dancing, Holiday Party with Gingerbread House Decorating, and fun Christmas Crafts!

Bottom line - What did we think?
We loved this DVD. My Granddaughter was completely entertained throughout the whole 60 minutes. Excellent value for money at only £5.99. I really cant recommend it enough. 
Available to buy from Amazon  

*We were sent a copy of this DVD free of charge for the purpose of this review. We did not receive any financial reward and as a family we give an honest and unbiased opinion.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Magpie Monday - A Picnic Surprise

Wow, where has the week gone? It seems to have flown by. I've got some great thrifty finds to share with you for this weeks Magpie Monday. 

I picked up this great picnic bag. At first I thought it was just a regular backpack. It looked new and I thought it might come in handy for our holiday, for swimming gear.

I opened it up and was very pleasantly surprised to find a picnic set inside. Perfect for next summers walks along the river. A bargain for £2.

I've been looking out for some kind of picture or a white photo frame that will go above the door in my lounge. I spotted this and loved it. Another bargain...£1.50.

What thrifty finds have you managed to get this week?

Me and My Shadow

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Harry Potter For Kinect Review

The all-new Harry Potter for Kinect video game exclusively on KINECT™ for Xbox 360® allows players to experience Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the wizarding world like never before!  Through the innovative KINECT capability, each player can scan their face to create a wizard avatar in their likeness – and then play as their avatar in the game. Using controller-free and voice recognition technology available only on KINECT, players will attend Hogwarts, interact with professors, students and friends, call out spells to cast against opponents, brew potions, and even fly as they race on broomsticks to be the first to catch the Golden Snitch in a Quidditch match.  

· For the first time, create a witch or wizard character in your likeness that will become part of the gameplay through KINECT’s scanning technology.
· Experience unforgettable moments from all eight films -- from having your wand choose you at Ollivanders and being Sorted as a first-year student at Hogwarts, to battling You-Know-Who in a climactic wizard battle.
· Cast spells at your opponents by performing the proper casting manoeuvres and calling out spell names using KINECT’s controller-free and voice recognition capabilities.
· Hone your casting, brewing and duelling skills (among others) in class to unlock even more lessons and challenges.
· Challenge a friend in competitive mini-games, or join forces against a mutual opponent in co-op games.
· Jump, duck and dodge the wild branches of the Whomping Willow, swipe at annoying and sometimes dangerous pixies, repel terrifying Dementors, swim among Grindylows in the lake, and shove opponents out of the way as you soar above the Quidditch Pitch. 

What Do We Think?

The initial set up of the game is a bit long winded, it does seem to take forever but don't let this put you off. Persevere with it because it really is a good game. You can add your own face to the character in the game, which the kids thought was funny and a little different from the other Kinect games they have.

The game follows all eight of the Harry Potter books, so if you are fans then this game is a must have. The graphics are impressive and give the players a really magical experience. What we like about Kinect games are that they are physical games, whereas the player has to move about a bit rather than just sit on the sofa. The Harry Potter game varies physically from level to level.

Bottom Line - Would we recommend it?

Yes, If Santa left this game under the tree this Christmas the recipient wont be disappointed. Good, fun game. 
Available to buy from GAME and other good stockists 

*We were sent a copy of the Harry Potter for Kinect game free of charge for the purpose of this review. We did not receive any financial reward and as a family we give an honest and unbiased opinion.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cooking On A Budget - Bolognese Pizza

Pizza is usually a family favourite in our house and I know you can pick up ready made ones really cheap from the supermarket, but a fresh homemade one is much tastier, more filling and really easy to make. 

Ingredients serves 6 - Meal Cost £8.40 (inc garlic baguettes & corn cobs)

For the pizza base
- 225g of self raising flour
- 90 mls of warm water
- 50 mls of olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt

Method For Base
1. Empty the flour & salt into a mixing bowl
2. Gradually add the water & olive oil and mix until it forms a dough.
3. kneed the dough on a lightly floured work surface for a few minutes, then roll out into whatever shape you like and place on a baking tray. 
4. Put to one side.

Ingredients For Bolognese Topping
- 500g minced beef
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 chopped green pepper
- 1 tin of chopped tomato's
- 1 tin of sweetcorn
- tomato puree
- 1 tsp of mixed herbs
- grated cheese

Method for topping
1. Gently fry the onion and garlic
2. Add the mince meat and fry until browned
3. Add the pepper & sweetcorn (and any other ingredients you may like ie; mushrooms, carrot, chillies etc)
4. Add the puree and the tinned tomato's.
5. Simmer for a few minutes, then leave to cool.
6. Once cooled spoon onto your pizza base and top with grated cheese.
7. Pop into the oven gas mark 7 or 220 degrees for about 10 minutes.

I served our pizza with garlic bread and corn on the cobs  (the kids love these). Another successful meal that the whole family all enjoyed.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Simple Living - Thrifty Plus Size

I Love yellow, but not all shades suit my skin tone. Pale shades of yellow tend to make me look a bit washed out and bright yellow just looks odd on me, so when I spotted this yellow cardigan I wasn't sure it would look OK on me. However, teamed with a dark green, I think its not too bad. What do you think?

Yellow Cardigan - originally G21 - Charity shop - £2.00
Green Sweater - originally M&S - Charity shop - £1.50
Flowery print Skirt - originally Dorothy Perkins - £2.00
Green Leggings - New Look - £7.99
White Pumps - Primark - £1.99

Total for whole outfit - £15.50

Linking up to  Frugal  Friday Fashion Show

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Gallery - Books

I love books. I always have. To me there is nothing more comforting in a home than a book shelf full of books. Old ones, new ones, clean ones or dusty ones. I don't care. I love them all...

That is why my little corner of the house has books. I can sit in my corner and reach for any book I want. I know where each book sits and if one is missing I notice.
I wish I had more book shelves up and I do have plans for Hubby to put some more up for me, probably after Christmas now.

Do you like books?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Mercado Shopping Bag For Life Review

I always prefer to use a proper shopping bag when I'm out & about looking for my many bargains. I also like a bag that has lots of compartments so that I don't have to go rummaging for keys, pens etc. The Mercado shopping bag from Quirky is a large Eco bag perfect for farmers markets, boot sales or general grocery shopping.

The bag has nine different compartments. The main body of the bag is roomy and has two elasticated straps to secure bottles or fragile items. The front of the bag has two mesh comparts with 4 small pockets, ideal for fruit or veg items. Either side of the bag has two pockets, good for french stick or other fresh produce.

Because of all the different compartments it does fit in a lot of shopping. Not the most fashionable looking of bags, it has more of an organic look to it. I personally really like it because it is good strong quality and great for use at local farmers markets.

Available to buy from priced at £20.

*Find Me A Gift sent me this bag free of charge for the purpose of this review. I received no financial reward and I always give a open & honest opinion.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Magpie Monday - A Little Something For The Kitchen

I have a few things for the kitchen this week for Liz's Magpie Monday. I nearly tripped over my own feet when I spotted some vintage Judgeware pans, sitting outside the charity shop, looking lonely & cold I knew they would be right at home in my kitchen. A fiver for the pair, so thrilling.

I love cheese & crackers in the winter, munching out on a cold winter evening with the fire roaring is bliss. I usually have a tray with all my crackers & cheese, but then I spotted this fab, kitsch cheese board. I love it. £2.50

I've been after some lolly moulds for ages so was chuffed when I managed to get these for 50p. bargain.

Me and My Shadow

Friday, 19 October 2012

Cooking On A Budget - Sausage Ragout

Feeding a large family on a budget can be tough sometimes, not just because of counting pennies but finding something everyone will eat, all at the same time can prove difficult for some families. I'm lucky I have a husband who is a really good cook and I love his food, his only downfall is he will give the kids a menu, so he usually ends up cooking 3 or 4 different meals for one sitting. Crazy, I know.

When I cook I don't mess about, its one meal only in my restaurant, and do you know what? They all eat it. I get a few groans because I refuse to cook them what they fancy, but they do eat my one meal menu and they enjoy it. I dont have time for fussy eaters.

This recipe is really easy, cheap and perfect for the chilly winter evenings (around  £1 per person for a family of six). It takes just over an hour and is also great, budget grub to share with mates, if you double the ingredients.

You could cook it in a slow cooker if you have one, however I don't so I'll be cooking mine in a regular pan. I've based the recipe on a family of six, if you need quantities for a family of four then drop me a tweet @mamamakes

Ingredients - Serves 6 - Cost £6.00 

(In my grocery shop the cost to buy all of the ingredients for this recipe was £9.64, bear in mind some of the ingredients will be left over for another meal - the amount of ingredients I used for this meal works out at about £6.00)

12 Sausages 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions finely chopped
3 garlic cloves crushed
Large jar of passata (most supermarkets sell a 680g jar)
400 ml rich beef stock
400g tin of Plum tomato's
1.5 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage 
Salt & Pepper

Some chopped chillies for those (like me) who like a bit of a kick to their food (you can add this separately from the kids serving, after you have dished theirs up).


1. Fry the sausages in a  pan until browned, remove from pan and set to one side.

2. In a larger pan heat the oil and fry the onion & garlic until softened.

3. Add the passata.

4. Make up the beef stock in a jug (according to the instructions on the box), then add it to the passata.

5. Add all other ingredients and stir well, bringing to the boil. 

6. Turn down the heat, cover and leave to simmer for about 50 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

7. Slice each of the sausages into small pieces and add to the sauce, simmer for a further 10 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, cook some pasta, serve onto separate plates and add the sausage ragout. ( Don't Forget the chillies if you want your spicy kick - so at this point add your chopped chillies to the sauce after you have served up the kids)

This is a big hit in our house and the servings for six are plenty. Grub on a budget, yum!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Thrifty Plus Size - The Candy Stripe Dress

This weeks thrifty plus size outfit is a dress that I love. I wore it all summer and now winter is on its way, worn with a cardi, leggings and boots I can still wear it during the colder months too.

Dress - Originally F&F at Tesco - Bought from Ebay £5.00
Black Mac - Originally F&F at Tesco - Charity shop - £4.00
Black Cardigan - Originally F&F at Tesco - Charity Shop - £2.00
Black belt - Charity shop - £1.00
Small black handbag - Charity shop - £1.00

Total for whole outfit - £13.00

Winter Essentials 
Boots - Ebay - £15.99
Black leggings - Next - £10.00

My Sister in Law found a bargain this week and she loves it...

Polka dot rain mac - Originally Dorothy Perkins - Charity Shop - £5

Have you found any bargains this week?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Tots100 Home Renovation Challenge

People often comment on my kitchen and tell me they love it, but I think that is more to do with my collection of Kitchenalia rather than the actual kitchen itself. My units and worktops are so ugly and dated and I don't mean in a nice vintage way, more of a bad taste kind of way.

I can not stand the blue doors and drawer fronts or the black marble effect counter tops, they bug me every time I walk into the room. I would love new doors & drawer fronts in a crisp, clean white and a beech work top for a country kitchen look. And the flooring is even worse! Groovy blue tiles that I hate, I yearn for a lovely black and white checker board lino. Oh and some fresh blinds up at the window and back door.

I think my collection of vintage kitchenalia need a nice country looking kitchen to compliment them, don't you? Maybe something like this... renovation

The Gallery - Old

I love old photos. A while back I made a montage of the women in my family. Six generations of women starting with my Great Grandmother, my Nan, my Mum, Me, my Daughter and my Granddaughter.

My Great Grandparents (on my Mum's side) were from East London. She was from a well to do family and she worked for members of the Royal family as a nanny. He was a cheeky cockney working as Grenadier Guard (you know the ones who guard the palace with the big black furry hats). From opposite sides of the track they fell in love and married against her Mothers wishes.

During the 2nd world war my Great Grandmother was killed during the Blitz, protecting her children in an air raid shelter. She was only 56 years old. My Nan (age 13) and her older Sisters were all rescued, but along with their Mum they lost all their neighbours and Friends. The blitz haunted my Nan for the rest of her life.

These old photos are so precious and they make it possible for me and my children to feel some kind of connection to the family who walked before us. The family we never met.

This next photo is my ultimate favourite 'old' photo. I even have it as a large canvas on my wall. It is my Grandad (Mums Dad) and he was the greatest person in the whole world, ever. Grandad was a big, rosy cheeked Irish greengrocer who lived for his family, especially his tribe of Grandchildren. This photo was taken in one of his East End shops and as I am the eldest I'm lucky enough to remember it well.

I loved being at the shop, it was such a wonderful place to be. The smell of the fresh fruit & veg, the dusty potatoes, the immaculate rows of tinned beans, sardines and sweetcorn. Nan polishing apples, making tea, weighing out veg while Grandad chatted & laughed with his many loyal customers, (over) filling brown paper bags of veg. The memories of Granddad's shop are so bright and vivid and this old photo transports me back in time.

Grandad was raised in a big old house (below) on a farm in Southern Ireland. Being the eldest Son, Grandad was all set to inherit the farm from his father. However, he fell in love with my Londoner Nan and was disinherited. Why? Because she was Catholic and he protestant. Back then mixing the two religions was almost unheard of.

The house is still very much in the family and my Great Uncle raised his own family there. Grandad was very fond of his time on the farm and growing up in this house. He would tell me stories of his time there and how much he loved the old place. Its fascinating to look at this house and imagine my Great Grandparents living & working there and Granddad as a child  running around its big old rooms. My favourite old story that he would often tell me, still with his very strong Irish accent, is how he would catch salmon from the river with his bare hands. I would sit in awe of him, my Grandad was the original Bear Grylls and I adored him.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Listography - 5 Things I'd To Be Reincarnated As.

Oh wow Kate has really given us a good one this time hasn't she? 5 things I'd like to be reincarnated as really got my mind working and this is what I come up with.

1. A fly on the wall - I've lost count of the amount of times I have said "If only I was a fly on the wall". How funny it would be. So nosey, but c'mon who wouldn't want to be?

2. A huge tree - I would love to be a big old tree at the bottom of a garden, complete with tyre swing & tree house. Full of kids playing, laughing and having fun. That would be so cool.

3. A camera - How fab would it be to be a treasured camera. My owner capturing all of life's memories. I'd love that.

4. A vintage teapot - A used teapot that has passed through many hands, sat at many tables, shared many stories about life and love. Witnessed tears, laughter and joy. Yeah, that would be wicked!

5. Christmas tree fairy - Not just any old Christmas fairy, I'd want to be one that gets past down from family to family, preferably with a pink sparkly dress. A fairy who lights up the faces of its family every Christmas.

What would you come back as?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Magpie Monday - The Countdown to Christmas begins

This week at our local charity shop someone had donated all their old Christmas decorations, so of course I couldn't resist having a rummage and this is what I took away with me...

Love this kitsch Santa basket, so cute. Will probably fill it with sweets. Cost £1

A freezer bag full of small Christmas tree decs - 50p

Love this Christmas stockings. My 4 kids all have their own stockings that they have been getting out every year since they were small so these will be used for decoration purposes. They were 50p each.

Lastly, some Christmas garland. I will wrap this around the stair banister along with the above Christmas stockings.

Ho Ho Ho!

Me and My Shadow

Oh and if you missed my last weeks thrifty fashion finds, then you can find them here.

It was also featured on the Tots100 Good Reads


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