Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Planning Holidays For Summer 2015!

Waking up this morning to face yet another day of school runs, household chores and work made me realise why it's so important to have holidays and breaks away from the stress of every day life! Sometimes, even going out for a meal or ordering a takeaway takes the stress out of cooking at dinner times, so imagine having a all inclusive holiday with no extreme cleaning and not one bit of cooking!

Now Spud's a little bit older, I am starting to feel comfortable with the idea of taking him abroad. I've never took him out of the UK before and have always holidayed at home, now he's getting more older, I think he would be able to cope with the flying and will actually enjoy the sights from the sky!

We've picked up so many holiday brochures from the travel agents, and whilst Spud isn't particularly old enough to make holiday decisions, I do let him have a look in the brochures and he points out to me where he would like to visit one day. For me, wherever we holiday, whether at home here in the UK or abroad, the destination has to be children friendly and great for families!

After considering our options and narrowing down our choices to the ones that caught our eye the best in the brochures, we've both decided we'd like to visit Tenerife. I've never been to Tenerife but my parents have been and have said it would be great as our first holiday abroad together with Spud! Of course, I'm sure Spud is just looking at the water slides and all the swimming pools and not so much the beaches and scenery like mummy!

I've heard the backlog at the passport office has started to calm down, and even though this holiday I'm planning isn't until the school summer holidays 2015, I like to be prepared. First of all, you need a passport to go abroad, and mine expired when I was 16 years old, eight years ago, whilst Spud has never had one.

Then there's also choosing the dates, I won't have to worry about Spud's school because it would be in the school summer holidays but I need to think about work for myself. Also whilst it's summer over here (or so it's meant to be) during the summer holidays, I really don't want to be going abroad for some fun and sun whilst it's nice weather back here in the UK!

Then there is the need to look for suitable accommodation, again wherever we stay would need to be child friendly with some children activities of some sort taking place. Sunbathing, reading and relaxing is for the adults, when you've got children, you need to think about them, it's their holiday too!

Next up is the flights to Tenerife and back, it would be Spud's first time flying and I'd like it to go as smooth as possible for him! Of course, I'd appreciate a smooth journey too, and when I say smooth I don't mean just the flight itself, but the whole experience! I know some airlines have some on board activities for children to enjoy!

Then there's the saving money part, which ideally should be starting now, like this minute, but that's near impossible with Christmas just around the corner! I need to go into my bank and speak to the manager about opening up a savings fund I can't access until a week before our holiday!

There's also shopping prior to the holiday, for clothes, suitcases, shoes, accessories, suncream and other essential holiday bits and bobs! Then there's the packing and sorting out who's going to watch the house and pets and all the rest of it!

So actually, there is quite a bit to do prior to the holiday, but lets just think about it. As soon as you step off that plane, you've landed in a different country ready to enjoy your summer holiday!

Jada x

Monday, 15 September 2014

My Very Own Toy Story!

When you first become a parent, you don't think of the thousands of toys, figures and DVD's that are going to over take your home in just a few years time. You don't think about the TV programs your miss out on, so your child can watch the episode of Horrid Henry - of which you've both seen at least 12 times. You don't think about putting your child to bed in their favourite character pajamas to be scared only a few minutes later by one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I know there was only one thing I really focused on at first, and that was doing the best for my boy as I possibly could, I tried finding the best 'routines' - not really routines as I don't like them, but more things that worked well for the both of us. I concentrated on capturing as many moments as I could, because friends and family all warned me at how quickly babies grow. One day they're babbling, one day they're arguing back with you!

In time, your child accumulates an impressive chest of toys, you start stocking up on them stackable toy storage units and soon start to realise you need a mansion just for your child's items. Gone are the days of going shopping child-free and treating yourself to a coffee, you feel so bad for being child-free enjoying yourself so much, you end up leaving with something for them anyway!

I don't like picking the toys up, although I have to - well, I help as Spud has got a lot better with his toy mess and I don't like the scary looking toys or them annoying ones that won't stop going off by themselves! There is one thing I do love though and that's having flashbacks of myself being a child and the countless hours I lost playing in my own little world.

Image Source: Hasbro
My favourite childhood toy by far has to be my Furby, my Furby was pink with a white chest, I can't remember her name, but I do remember I loved her, and would try to get off of school just so I could stay and play with her. It broke my little child sized heart when she died, and it broke my heart when she died altogether and refused to go back on - even with brand new high branded batteries.

My Furby would come everywhere with me, for sleepovers at my grandparents and to my fathers boat (before I lived with him on that very same boat), we'd have picnics and car rides, sofa days and garden days. I didn't understand half the functions she had, but I knew it was important to feed her, let her sleep, play with her and most importantly love her.

I soon grew older and one by one, just like the toys in Andy's toy box, I slowly stopped playing with them all. In was make up, posters of boy bands on my wall, handbags and accessories whilst out went the multiple toy boxes full of toys.

In the last few years, we've seen the Furby re-released, in a much more advanced state, compatible with smart phones and taking care of baby ones too, I'm not sure about today's Furby, I've not took a bond to Spud's newer one, which surprised me because I was so excited when he received it, as mentioned in  previous paragraph, I couldn't understand half the functions of my Furby many years ago, let alone these new ones that pair up with the iPhones!

I suppose you could say I'm old 'skool', I always prefer the originals, like Grease and Grease 2, why did they even try to make a Grease 2 with so many different actors? If you keep things the same, but maybe change the scenery surrounding such, then I think that works better. Add accessories and different play sets, introduce new characters, but don't forget the originals!

Let's take Thomas the Tank Engine for example, the theme tune has changed on the program, but that's about it I believe? Thomas still has that same colour blue that we all recognise, the same number he's always had and that same smiley face. Thomas still has his friends Percy, James, and Edward, but he also has some new ones!

Coincidently talking about trains, this weeks Toy Story with John Lewis is all about trains! Each week John Lewis is featuring a different retro toy from all era's of childhoods, previously featured retro classic toys have been the Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone, the Rubix cube and the teddy bear, all of which are still around these days!

What's your favourite retro toy from your childhood? I'd love to jump back to the 90s with any other 90s kids out there!

Until next time,
Jada :)

My Cupcake Creation #bettabakeoff

If you've ever met me, or if you know me, you'll see I'm on the plumper side of life. I've tried diet after diet and I've tried to cut out the 'bad' things, but I must have the worlds biggest sweet tooth, to date, the longest a 'diet' has lasted for me has been three days, then I went to a desert parlour and caved in. I think I could of ate the whole display stand, glass included, my weakness is cakes, brownies and did I mention cakes?

I'm not a professional baker, far from it, I'm someone who doesn't really enjoy cooking, but someone who loves baking - mainly because I get to taste the delicious creations at the end. I'm fortunate that my mum has always been a keen baker, she's been a cook at many schools and I loved being her little taste tester on weekends when I was younger when she would come up with new recipes!

I loved watching mum bake, even now when I look back I'm sure she had some magic power hidden up her sleeve, no measuring spoons, jugs or scales, mum weighed nothing out and got everything just perfect. Two of my favourite bakes from my mum has to be her gypsy tart and gooey triple chocolate brownies.

I've tried making the brownies, I've tried making the gypsy tart, I've not tried once and given up, I've tried maybe a few hundred times (maybe a slight exaggeration) and they never go right, just like the apple crumble and Tiramisu I've tried making more then once! There is however one thing I can get right, and that's cake including cupcakes - the simple, but delicious and moist sponge type! 

I'm just a mum, like my mum, who likes baking. I bake with Spud and I bake alone, I love following recipes found online, passed down from my mum and sticking anything and everything together that suits my fancy to create one of my 'masterpieces'. Apart from friends and family who've tasted my cakes, asked me to make cakes for them and who's witnessed my many Facebook cake statuses, I've never shown any of my creations to my blog readers - until now.

To celebrate National Cupcake Week (15-21 September 2014) Betta Living have a fantastic competition running for bloggers to be in with the chance of winning an impressive £750 worth of vouchers and a equally impressive runner up prize of £250 vouchers! To get involved in the #bettabakeoff, please visit the Betta Living website where you will find the full terms and conditions!

In short, competition entrant's have to write a post containing photo's of their cupcakes along with the recipe. Please be kind when reading on further, I've never shown my baking skills off to anyone outside my friend and family circle, it's already taken me three days to write and re-write this post and still now I'm really nervous about the feedback!

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My Oreo Cupcake Creation

Every November, me, my sister Paula and my brother Paul go on a adults day out to Swindon to purchase Christmas presents. Last year browsing the local market, I come across a cake stall, and me being me naturally bypassed all the other stool sellers and headed straight to the lady with the elf hat selling cake! I purchased a Oreo cake for myself, and a gingerbread man one for Spud.

To be honest, although the sponge was moist, I'm not sure what the baker used for the colouring but the taste of the sponge wasn't quite nice. Wanting to make something similar using Oreo (it's my favourite biscuit), but without the same sponge, I got practising until I finally come up with something I'm not afraid to let friends and family taste!

Recipe: Using only good quality ingredients! 

For the sponge:
8oz butter
8oz caster sugar
4 medium eggs
8oz self raising flour
2.5ml vanilla essence

For the butter cream:
6oz butter
12oz icing sugar
2.5ml vanilla essence
A dash of milk.

Special ingredient:
Oreo biscuits - mini or regular size - quantity depends on how many cakes you want to bake, and you'll also need some for the butter cream topping. 

Method for the sponge.

Preheat over to 180 degrees. Using cupcake cakes, add two Oreo's into each case.

Beat the butter, then add the caster sugar, beat them two together then add the vanilla essence.

Add one egg at a time beating in between each one, sift the flour into the mixture and continue to beat the mix together.

Add a equal amount of cake mix into each cupcake case fully covering the Oreo's.

Bake for around 14-18 minutes until golden brown. You may want to press down on the sponge to see if it bounces back - if it does, it's cooked! You can also use a clean knife, insert it into the middle of the cake and if it comes out dry, the cakes are cooked.

Method for the butter cream.

Beat the butter, then gradually add sifted icing sugar, continue to beat and add the vanilla essence. Beat the mix until its starting to look pale, then add the dash of milk.

Using a sealed sandwhich bag, or something similar, place a regular sized Oreo biscuit, or two mini Oreo biscuits into the back and seal making sure there is no air. Bash the sandwich bag with a rolling pin until the Oreo/Oreo's are all crushed.

Add the crushed Oreo's into the mixture and leave in the fridge until firm. Once the mixture is firm, beat it once more and either add it to your icing bag and swirl onto the cupcakes, or do what I do when I've got no one to impress, or I'm just being lazy and use a spoon to add a equal amount onto each cooled cupcake.

Then finally...

Enjoy your cupcake! If anyone does follow my recipe, I would love to see some pictures of your designs!

Ohh and don't forget to at least lick the spoon from any left over butter cream :)

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I still have lots of practising to do with my icing, I need to have a whole day of watching cake decorating tutorials on YouTube, but for now, when you stick the cakes on a fancy cake stand (courtesy of a review) add some wrapping paper in the background, they do look quite presentable I think. They taste amazing, and I'm not just saying that because I made them, but after changing the ingredients a few times and having a mess around, I believe these are just perfect.

Considering only two years ago for the Queens Jubilee I cooked this batch up below, I do think I've got MUCH better with my icing skills! I've not paid for courses, I'm not a professional, I don't bake every day, or even every week, I do try things a few times before I admit defeat and I do self teach myself thanks to the thousands of tutorials around on the net for free.

Apologies - this photo was taken on my old BlackBerry phone, and as you can see the picture quality isn't that great!
The Oreo idea kind of come around the same way as I made the batch above, friends and family have asked me so many times how I do it, and I tell them, but they don't always get it right, it reminds me of my mum and me! I don't have magic powers and neither does my mum, it's just practise and with that practise does make perfect!

Everyone's amazed at how I get a little bit of vanilla sponge at the bottom, then a big chunk of chocolate sponge in the middle, and again more vanilla at the top!
The secret? Fill your cupcake case as usual preferably with vanilla/white sponge but leave room for around a quarter (1/4) of a different coloured sponge. Using two teaspoons, use one to cup the different coloured/flavoured sponge, in my case chocolate, and using the other spoon, drop the sponge into the middle of the case.

Using a knife, push the newly added bit of sponge mix as far down as you can and watch the original sponge cover on top. Bake as usual, let them cool and decorate. Make sure your cake eating guest bite slowly, so they can 'see' the magic inside!

I hope you've liked my cupcake creation for the #bettabakeoff competition with Betta Living. Do check out the website if you would like to enter yourself! I wish every single entrant, myself included the very best of luck!

Until next time,
Jada x

Saturday, 13 September 2014

My Perfect Office Competition

The lovely folk over at LondonOffices are currently holding a competition for bloggers to win Made vouchers, for all the requirements including terms and conditions, do check out the website! For now, this is my competition entry, of which I hope you all enjoy!

When resourcing information for my entry, I found it quite difficult to find items that suited my needs. At home, the office is my bed, my sofa or my dressing table, I've even sat in the playroom before working, wherever there is space, I'll work - I do have one BIG condition though - the space has to be comfortable!

With that in mind, I knew my dream office would have to be comfortable, warming and colourful, three characteristics from my life that I would need to take to work with me! I attend the hospital three days a week and stare at blank white walls, with the dullest of chairs and scenery facing me, I've started to embrace colour lots more since I started my treatment, I've always been warming and I've always loved my comforts.

The competition deadline is the 14th of September, so I've not done a full design as I hoped, including a function/meeting room and the bathroom. In my defence I only found out about the competition yesterday (Friday the 12th) but I have been able to put together my dream office reception area, the actual office area itself and the staff/dining room.


The Reception Area

When I walk into office reception area's, I'm usually asked to wait due to me being super early, which of course I don't mind, I do however want to be comfortable and relaxed in the area and prefer refreshments when I'm ready and not first thing on my arrival. I take in rooms in every detail, the flooring, the ceiling, the walls, the furniture, decorations and accessories so to me, everything would need to be covered.

Style: Modern & Comfy
Colours: White and Browns.

Walls: Brick wallpaper from ILoveWallpaper
Flooring: Brown floor tiles with glitter from Crown Tiles.
Lighting: Fan style lights from John Lewis.

Sitting Furniture: Comfortable but stylish pieces from Natuzzi and Solutions-4.
Reception Desk: Circular reception desk from Office Furniture Box.
Accessories: Magazine/newspaper rack from Houzz and ClockClock in White.

Beverages: Douwe Egberts BeMoved coffee machine and Brita built in wall water dispenser.


The Work/Office Area

I've worked from home for two years  now, I know how easy it is to lose concentration, maybe I am easily distracted, who knows? Working for me would be fun, as you will see in the next section, but a business means business, and business isn't going to get done if you have eye appealing features, no skyscrapers with amazing views - sorry but that proposal and parachuting jump you just witnessed was time away from work, precious time as time is precious!

Leading from the reception area would be white and brown stairs taking you up to the office/working area. I would also have a elevator for disable access not discriminating any staff just because the way we get around! Just because I believe we're never too old for some fun, I'd have a slide next to the staircase - for visitors and workers of course!

Style: Modern & Stylish
Colours: White and Blue.

Walls: White painted walls.
Flooring: Blue floor tiles with glitter from Crown Tiles.
Lighting: Blue hanging ceiling lights from Sparks Direct.

Office/Desk Furniture: Partitioned blue screen, white desk found on Strong Project and blue & white office chairs from The Back Store.

Accessories: Blue floating shelves from Houzz.

File Storage: White sliding file/bookshelf system from ANTMP.


The Staff Room/Lunch Area.

Lunch and break times are most probably every workers favourite time, no matter what type of working environment you're in. It's a time to relax your mind, have a lunchtime meal and a break from the work you've been working on. In all the jobs I've had, the staff rooms and surroundings have been so boring, I've usually gone out for lunch.

If you worked for me in my office, unless you had a lunch date, or was after a certain favourite coffee, there really would be no need to have to venture out! If lunch time wasn't my workers favourite time before they worked for me, I'm pretty sure it would be once they see the room of fun!

Style: Modern & Fun!
Colours: All the colours of the rainbow and more!

Walls: Lego stud walls, the Lego creations would be endless!
Flooring: Black floor tiles with glitter found on Polyvore.
Lighting: Mood lights from Wedgroup.

Dining Items: Colourful chair, table and bench designs from Spaceist.
Relaxing Furniture: This pod featured complete with a TV was designed by student John Snodgrass, I don't know why they're not on the market yet, but I'd buy them! I'd also have lots of bean bags scattered around ready to be dived on!

Kitchen Items: Silver kitchen units containing cupboards along with accessories including a kettle, toaster, microwave, dishwasher, sink area and even a cooker. I'd also have a big American fridge from Samsung, again in silver - just because I've not got room for one at home!

Accessories: Wooden Lego style toy boxes from Houzz filled to the brim with Lego bricks! I'd also have staff lockers, that would need to be designed by a company from my idea's as none out there designed already really fit in with my fun and unique idea!

Fun: Along with the pod mentioned above, I'd have a chess table from PBS and a candy station from Rosetta - just because you're never to old for sweeties and fun! I'd have a 70inch television, with subscription TV and a DVD and book library, with thousands of films, cartoons and books!


Well, I hope you like my dream office design as much as me, I'd just like to say thanks to LondonOffices for running such a fabulous competition, and I wish myself and all the other entrants the very best of luck! Don't forget to check out the LondonOffices website yourself for your chance to be involved!

Remember that smiles, laughter and fun is for anyone of any age. Sing like nobody's listening, dance like nobody's watching and remember you're never too old for a little bit of fun!

Until next time,
Jada xx