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Review: Culture Vulture measuring spoons

When I have to rustle up meals for my family I don’t worry very much about precise measures or amounts. My day-to-day style of cooking is definitely ‘it’ll be fine’ or ‘I think this is what I did last time’. But then I get into trouble.

If it turns out well and I want to share it with you, my lovely readers, I can’t say ‘just add a smidgen of this and a dash of that, oh and don’t forget a pinch of salt’.

Well actually now I can! The lovely people at Culture Vulture have found exactly what I need, measuring spoons that can measure a smidgen, a pinch and a dash.

image_3Based in rural Cumbria, Culture Vulture are experts in sourcing unusual home furnishings and gifts, celebrating the creativity of artisans from around the world, from kitchen and dining ware to furniture and home accessories, from clothing and jewellery to food . In their online catalogue you can find the most wonderful gifts for foodies, including ceramic pots of Mediterranean sea salt, fig flavour pearls, Calabrian liquorice jellies, French Kir syrups and even a cheese-making kit.

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The smidgen measuring spoons would make a great stocking filler for the foodie in your life. While they’re a fun gift, being silver-plated they feel high quality in your hand. They come tied together on a leather cord with a cute floral hook to hang them on your wall.

It’s a shame that the attention to detail and cuteness doesn’t extend to the packaging which is quite plain, especially for an item that would mostly be bought as a gift. However, these are by far the cuteness kitchen accessory I’ve seen in a long while.

Culture Vulture Smidgen Measuring Spoons

Now if only I could get all of you to buy them…

Have you decided what you’re buying the foodies in your life for Christmas?

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Culture Vulture. My opinions are honest and my own.

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The Monster Books of… – book review

Over the Christmas holidays we were lucky enough to receive two books from My Little Big Town (MLBT) to review, both of which are perfect for early readers.

‘The Monster Book of Colours’ and ‘The Monster Book of Numbers’ are from a series written and illustrated by MLBT’s founder, Calvin Innes, who’s a dad himself. The publishing house, based in Yorkshire, prides itself on producing books children WANT to read, so you’ll find lots of monsters and creepy crawlies, along with the odd pirate, in their books.

Nicholas loves both his ‘The Monster Book of…’ books. They’re a good size for small hands (16cm x 16cm), with lovely thick glossy paper. I love how the wonderfully fun illustrations take up the whole page (actually it’s a double-spread for each colour or number) with their vibrant colours.

My Little Big TownThe monsters in both books have fantastic names such as Squiddlepuss and Twiddlypuff, which Nicholas loves repeating. They’re more silly-looking than scary and sometimes even cute.

The books are a quick read (perfect for readers with short attention spans!), but also have lots of scope for engaging your little ones in more than just identifying the colours or counting. I love the double-spread of monsters at the end of ‘The Monster Book of Colours’ which has monsters from the other books in the series; we’ve had lots of fun trying to remember their names and find them in the other pages, and make up names for those we can’t.

I like that ‘The Monster Book of Colours’ also includes navy, lilac and maroon, while ‘The Monster Book of Numbers’ not only has 1-10, but also 15, 20, 25 and 50 (although two of the 50 eyes are tucked away in the spine, unfortunately).

These two books are dedicated to Calvin Innes’ son Cohen. Calvin was unable to cuddle Cohen when he was a newborn because Calvin was going through treatment for thyroid cancer which made him radioactive. Thankfully they can have lots of cuddles now.

‘The Monster Books of…’ (RRP £4.99) are currently on sale on the MLBT website as well as on Amazon, and you can enjoy more of Calvin Innes’ wonderful illustrations on his website.

If you’re a budding writer or illustrator, and not just of children’s literature, MLBT want to discover and nurture new talent – go to their website to submit your work for review.

I’ll leave you with Nicholas’ favourite monster which I think is probably mine too. Can you guess what his favourite colour is?!

My Little Big Town, Calvin Innes

Disclosure: We were given a free copy of each book to review; my opinions are my own.

We're going on an adventure
I’m linking up with Tried and Tested Tuesday, a weekly round up of reviews hosted by the lovely Kate at Family Fever and Colette at We’re going on an adventure.

Review: Annabel Karmel’s Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes

Annabel Karmel, the saviour of many parents when it comes to feeding little ones, has a new recipe book coming out this week, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to try out her new recipes over the past month.

I know many mums (me included) who found Annabel’s ‘Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner’ a godsend during those initially challenging weaning months. So no surprise then that since it’s publication in 1991, it’s remained the number-one bestselling book on food for children. Her new recipe book, ‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’, is a great follow-on from it.

Annabel Karmel's Quick & Easy Toddler Recipes

‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ has the same look as Annabel’s other books with lots of lovely photographs of the recipes and also some cute drawings scattered throughout. It’s a lovely book to look at with an excellent index and useful chapters (Breakfasts and Snacks, Pasta, Fish, Poultry, Meat, Vegetables, and Fruit).

The recipes all have easy-to-follow instructions with ingredients either already in your cupboard or easily bought. The number of portions each recipe makes can be seen at a glance, although as the book’s aim is feeding the whole family with one recipe, adult serving sizes would be useful too.

‘Breakfasts and Snacks’ include buttermilk blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with tomato salsa, ideas for sandwich fillings and quick snack ideas (although the inclusion of popcorn as a toddler snack is a worry – see why here).

Annabel Karmel's buttermilk bluleberry pancakes

All the ‘Pasta’ recipes would be suitable for the whole family plus there are some quick sauce ideas. The recipes also include pasta bakes and pasta salads.

The ‘Fish’ chapter includes some pasta recipes as well as the tasty-sounding orange and soy sole, teriyaki salmon kebabs and lemon sole goujons.

Annabel Karmel's lemon sole goujons

‘Poultry’ recipes, the biggest chapter of the book, also has some pasta dishes, as welll as ideas for wrap fillings, soups and meatballs.

It’s great to see a veal recipe (schnitzel) in the ‘Meat’ chapter. There’s also sticky lamb chops, pork fillet stir-fry, and sweet and sour pork, just to name a few.

There are a couple of soup recipes in the ‘Vegetables’ section along with some risotto recipes, pasta recipes, fritters and a frittata recipe.

The most disappointing section for me is ‘Fruit’ and this is where I have to admit I have an issue with Annabel Karmel’s recipes. The one issue I have across all the recipes of hers I’ve tried and perused (and not just in her new book) is the lack of sugar-free sweet recipes. Every single recipe in the ‘Fruit’ chapter, as well as her fresh fruit salad in the opening ‘Breakfast’ chapter, has sugar. Every single one. And this worries me.

Scattered throughout the book are time-saving tips for hassled parents which is a nice addition. Advice includes buying ready-grated cheese, using just boiled water from the kettle to cook pasta, putting dinner leftovers in your little ones’ lunchboxes the following day and buying frozen vegetables (although this last one isn’t reflected in the recipes with several asking for just a couple of spoonfuls of tinned corn!). The suggestion to reorganise your kitchen so you have easy access to the equipment you use the most is good advice, but how many of us would actually do it?

My biggest gripe about this book, especially when it’s being marketed at busy mums and dads who need quick and healthy meals, is the lack of timings. There aren’t any cooking or preparation timse given for any of the recipes. Being able to see at a glance how long each recipe takes would be really helpful for hassled parents.

It’s also a shame there aren’t more suggestions or advice for getting toddlers to help you cook, in fact I can only see one which encourages them to blitz fruit. While you can certainly have your munchkin make her or his own wraps (although do you need a recipe for that?), it would’ve been good to have some recipes that just involved measuring and mixing to fully engage a toddler. For instance, the apple and sultana muffin recipe needs the butter and sugar to be creamed rather than including a muffin recipe where the butter is melted and cooled then all the remaining ingredients just mixed in, which is very do-able for a toddler.

It states there are “tips and tricks to encourage fussy eaters” which I was very enthusiastic to read considering my recent confession to you, but I found no real advice for frustrated parents. Reading the book from cover to cover deciding which recipes I’d try out first, I dismissed many thinking Nicholas would just pick out the vegetables or just not want to try them because of the size of the chunks of vegetables. Yes, you can dice up vegetables so the pieces are tiny and keep your fingers and toes crossed as you serve it up, but I think exasperated parents would welcome even the simplest practical advice to be explained.

However, for the many mums and dads out there who are stressed, tired, often catering for the multiple culinary demands of their family, battling to get their little ones to eat, and in need of help, Annabel’s new book will definitely inspire. There are plenty of easy recipes that can be quickly whipped up (130 to be exact!), saving many of us tearing our hair out not knowing what to feed our family this evening.

Look out for some of Annabel’s new toddler recipes over the next few weeks as I share some of my ‘tests’ with you!

‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ will be published by Ebury Press on 20 June 2013 (RRP £9.99).

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of Annabel Karmel’s ‘Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes’ to review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Review: Baker Days Letterbox Cake

Cake. Any day that has cake is a better day. And if cake drops through your letterbox, well then it’s a perfect day!

When someone offers you free cake (in this case the lovely Andrea from Baker Days), you’re not going to pass the offer up, are you? And I was very curious to experience their petite and personalised letterbox cake (how does a cake get dropped through your letterbox thudding to the floor below and remain in one piece?!).

Not having a specific occasion to celebrate, it took me a while to decide on my cake. There are so many different options to choose from on the Baker Days site, from the obvious birthday designs to engagements, from bon voyage to get well soon and, my favourite, ‘just to say’ cakes (who needs a reason to send someone a cake?). But, in the end, I couldn’t resist trying a photo upload cake.

The Baker Days site is very easy to use with clear steps to follow. After choosing your cake design, you select the size of your cake (from the petite letterbox size up to a large party cake), then the flavour (a plain madeira cake is standard with other options including gluten and wheat-free costing a little extra). You then have the option of personalising the cake with your own choice of text (you can’t change the font, colour or size of the text though which is a pity), before seeing a preview of your cake.

If you want to upload a photo to be put on a cake, there are many design options to choose from. You can simply have your photo draped over the cake or combine it with other designs; you can also add text. Because of the many choices, you can spend quite a while deciding your preferred design.

I ordered my letterbox cake on Friday and heard it thud to the floor on Saturday morning. If someone had sent this to me, I would have been very excited to discover the box’s contents.

Baker Days letterbox cake

Inside the box there isn’t any bubble wrap or any other cushioning hiding the contents (which is nice). Instead you immediately see a cute round tin, a blank gift card (if you were giving this in person to someone) and a cute party pack (2 candles, a party blower and 3 balloons). While the party pack may not always be relevant to the cake, having unexpected extras in the box is always a plus. There’s also a flyer advertising the other cakes you can order (I would have liked to read some more about the company’s background and where they’re based, although the photo of the Baker Days team is a nice addition).

The tin was in perfect shape, as was its contents. I was impressed! The letterbox cake is 5 inches/12.5 cm in diameter and about 1 inch/2.5 cm high. It’s advertised as a 3-4 portion cake; the portion size is small but big enough for a small sweet treat. The plain madeira sponge I chose was surprisingly moist and light with a lovely vanilla flavour. I’m not a big fan of bought cakes, but this was a pleasant surprise – definitely better than I was expecting and a cake I would happily send to someone.

Baker Days madeira cake

Like any store-bought cake there is a list of ingredients, clearly displayed inside the box, along with the cake’s best before date. Baker Days say their cakes stay fresh for 2-3 weeks. The letterbox cake is wrapped in a clear plastic bag and the tin seems airtight. We ate the second half of the cake two days after opening and it still tasted fresh.

So what did I have put on my cake? Well as hubby was returning from one of his many business trips the day after I ordered it, I thought it would be nice to give it to him 🙂
Baker Days letterbox cakeI loved that Baker Days matched the text colour to Nicholas’ t-shirt. The cake brought a tear to hubby’s eye so it was definitely a great gift to give him (and something I may need to repeat in the future!). And I was very happy with the results of the photo on the icing.

Starting from £14.99 a Baker Days’ letterbox cake is a great alternative to sending flowers, chocolates or a card to someone, and you don’t have to be worried about them being in to get it. Baker Days even deliver to other countries. There’s always an occasion to send cake! I’m off to order another for a friend’s new baby and thinking that one of Nicholas’ drawings on a cake would be a great grandparent gift.

If you’re on Twitter, Baker Days are giving away a letterbox cake. Just RT their 1D cake pic before 24 April 2013.

Disclosure: We were sent a personalised letterbox cake from Baker Days to review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Review: Silentnight Kids Bedset

For my regular readers you’ll know that apart from recipes, the other thing that often crops up is my hatred of cold weather. Hubby is the same and it seems as if Nicholas is too. Today at nursery his love for the outdoor pedal cars (sometimes that’s all he plays with) couldn’t compete with the cold; he kept going out to look at them, but then running back in!

Nicholas has also well and truly outgrown his snuggly sleeping bags. I’d been checking duvets (that’s ‘quilts’ for the non-UK readers) and deciding what bedding we could move on to in order to keep Nicholas cosy in bed, when the lovely Michelle from The Bedding Company contacted me. Thanks to her, we’ve been able to try Silentnight’s Complete Kids Bedset.

Silentnight Kids Bedset

The bedset comprises a 6 tog single quilt/duvet, a waterproof mattress cover and a pillow from the trusted Silentnight brand (did you know that the company started in North Yorkshire in 1946?).

The duvet and pillow cover are 50% cotton 50% polyester, and both have a polyester hollowfibre filling. They’re non- allergenic, machine-washable and suitable for tumble-drying. The waterproof mattress cover is polyethylene-coated polypropylene with an elasticated skirt.

The duvet and pillow are very soft, but also quite thin. Having said that, the duvet has kept Nicholas very warm during the night, and although the pillow gives the impression that it will sag after not much use, it seems to be a good height for his neck. While Nicholas has not yet moved to a single bed, the larger duvet is easily tucked down the sides and I think keeps him more covered and therefore warmer than a smaller cot-sized one.

The size of the duvet isn’t stated on the packaging (nor anywhere else I’ve searched online). I’m fairly sure it’s a standard single bed size (90cm x 190cm), but it would be nice to have that confirmed.

The bedset is let down a bit by the waterproof mattress cover. It’s very crinkly and noisy under the sheet, and reminds me of the disposable shoe covers you get in hospitals (not that surprising when they’re made of the same material). It seems of a cheaper quality than the duvet and pillow. I have read though, that it becomes softer and less noisy after it’s been washed a few times.

Overall, Silentnight’s Complete Kids Bedset at £17.99 is a great value first set for a toddler. Nicholas is happy and warm during the night, and that’s what’s important!

The Bedding Company sell Silentnight’s Complete Kids Bedset with the choice of three different togs for the duvet (4.5, 6 and 10.5). They range in price from £17.99 to £22.99.

Disclosure: We were sent Silentnight’s Kids Bedset from The Bedding Company to try. My opinions are honest and my own.