Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Gruffalo: Games mobile app

Families have been flocking to download the first-ever Gruffalo: Games mobile app since it launched at the end of August, helping it to become the most popular Kids and Education iOS app this week.

Children can test The Gruffalo’s quick-thinking and super smart moves in a series of simple but classic games, helping complement the key skills they’re learning at pre- and primary school.

The team behind The Gruffalo: Games app is Oscar-nominated entertainment company Magic Light Pictures and is based on the much-loved picture book, The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The games are based on traditional and well-known children’s games that everyone will be familiar with, including snap, three-in-a-row, matching and jigsaws – but each with a monstrous twist!

In two of the games, 3 In A Row and Snap, children are able to play against The Gruffalo himself, who, despite his terrible tusks and terrible claws, is surprisingly good at card games. Children will find plenty of challenge trying to beat him!

The beautifully designed and illustrated app is aimed at 3-7 year olds and features six games set to music from the films. Gruffalo: Games captures the essence of the stories by featuring both The Gruffalo and other popular characters from the book, including Mouse, Owl, Fox and Snake.

The enduringly popular children’s character comes to life in this new mobile app which has been designed to entertain children and engage them with the real world, as well as The Gruffalo character.

The Gruffalo: Games follows in the footsteps of the highly successful Room on the Broom app which was launched by Magic Light Pictures in October 2013.

Martin Pope, co-founder of Magic Light Pictures, said: “We’re thrilled that The Gruffalo’s many fans seem to be enjoying the games so much, which are designed to be fun, challenging and encourage imagination. “

“It's been a pleasure and honour to work with Julia's wonderful rhymes and Axel's amazing illustrations, and we’ve worked closely with them to ensure we stay true to their characters.”

Magic Light Pictures developed the app with Stormcloud Games, who they had previously worked with on Room on the Broom: Games released late last year.

The Gruffalo: Games iOS app is available to download priced £2.99.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sunflower Seed Flapjacks

Good fats/bad fats... it can be a minefield out there with lots of dietary advice being thrown at us from all directions. Everyone loves a treat but finding an energy-rich, healthy snack can be tricky! That's why I love this easy to bake flapjack recipe.

Don't be mistaken, it's not a low-fat recipe by any means ('real' butter!) but it has the classic flapjack recipe base with oats (great for long lasting energy!) and you can add seeds (sunflower or pumpkin work best) to increase the 'good fats' in the snack. Dried apricots also work a treat as would any dried fruit to be honest! So give it a go for the after-school snack; I'm sure you and your children will love it!

Sunflower Seed Flapjacks
200g unsalted butter
6 tbsp. golden syrup
330g porridge oats
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds or a mixture of both)
2 tbsp. nuts (I like to use flaked almonds, but any would do)

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 4 and line a Swiss roll tin or 10" square tin with baking parchment.
  2. Combine the oats, seeds and nuts in a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt.
  3. Gently heat the butter and golden syrup together over a low heat until completely melted.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix gently. Spoon into the prepared baking tray and press down quite firmly to level the mixture.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 mins until golden brown. The flapjack won't quite be set, but leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out. I tend to score the flapjack into portions after about 10 mins of cooling but still leave in the tin until cold before removing.
  6. Enjoy! This will keep in an airtight container for a few days... if it lasts that long!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Kitting your children out for school with Aldi!

Aldi is fast becoming one of the leading supermarkets, but don't forget they also stock a great range of children's clothing including school uniform and shoes. We were approached to road-test some of the Back to School range and so here's our thoughts - from both a kids and parents point of view!

C says that the girl's cardigans are nice to wear with the sleeves not too long nor not too short. Or too tight for that matter! The skirts are long enough to fit nicely but still let you run around the playground. And the shoes are pretty and look nice with tights or socks.

J says that the sweatshirts are nice and don't make him itch! The trousers are the right length (J has quite short legs but the trousers weren't really, really long on him) and adjustable waists so they don't fall down! The polo shirts are nice and comfortable and don't make you too hot when playing with your friends at playtime.

And from a parent's point of view... the clothing seems to wash well and holds it's shape when dried. The test will be how they stand up to the first full term of school paint! The hems are well-stitched and look kid-proof. The shoes are well made and look nice as well as being practical. There's not a huge selection of colours so make sure you check that your local store stocks the colour that you need. The prices are very reasonable and you can also stock up on underwear and socks, at least starting the new school year with all matching socks! As a side point, there's also stationery, lunch boxes and other school essentials available so you could get basically everything under one roof for a bargain price! A stress-free shopping trip sounds perfect! 

So pop down to your local Aldi and have a look at the uniform on offer - I'm sure that you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

31 things to do in August!

Here comes August! We've been waiting for you for sooo long - so don't disappoint and make sure you keep the sunshine with us for a few more weeks!

Here's our list of the 31 things we hope to do during August - some indoors, some outdoors and some necessaries which aren't exactly adventures....
  1. Go on a bike ride - we're spoilt for choice where we live but we probably will embark on a northern cycle up the Wales Coast Path.
  2. Have a kid's bedroom 'sort out'! Refurbish our local charity shop with anything that we have outgrown - toys and clothes!
  3. Paint a picture.
  4. Paddle in the sea.
  5. Buy new school uniforms and shoes.
  6. Plan our Cardiff weekend away (October can't come soon enough!).
  7. Have at least(!) one day where my 2 children don't fall out!
  8. Go for a swim in the sea.
  9. Go for a swim in an indoor pool.
  10. Have a movie marathon.
  11. Make something out of papier mache (my kids love this, whereas I hate it!)
  12. Walk the MawddachTrail.
  13. Following my eldest's eye test (next week), get her kitted out with new glasses.
  14. Visit Bendigedig Indoor Play Centre.
  15. Sort out pre-school haircuts.
  16. Visit the library once a week to join in with the Reading Challenge.
  17. Visit Lake Vyrnwy.
  18. Have a BBQ on the beach.
  19. Make a new dessert with the kids - not cupcakes!
  20. Visit a National Trust property.
  21. Knit something.... probably a scarf!
  22. Cross my fingers and either celebrate or commiserate when my Welsh exam results arrive!
  23. Have a board games evening - some of our favourites include The Logo Board Game and the Deadly 60 Tracker game.
  24. Go to the cinema.
  25. Fly a kite.
  26. Crack the 100-word spelling list my youngest has to learn over the school holidays... we're over half way there 2 weeks in!
  27. Go out for Sunday lunch - a luxury for us to have an afternoon off during the school holidays!
  28. Help my eldest with her fundraising plan to raise money to help pay for a class trip.
  29. Plan the Autumn Term for Brownie meetings.
  30. Make something useful out of loom bands!
  31. And finally, have at least a little fun and smile every day!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sticky Hot Dog Jackets - Recommended Recipe!

Sticky Hot Dog Jackets
Serves 4, takes about 1 1/4 hours including 1 hour cooking

4 baking potatoes, each weighing about 225g/8oz
olive oil, for brushing

For the sausages and glaze:
2 tbsp maple syrup or clear honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp tomato puree
8 pork sausages

For the mayo:
8 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 tbsp snipped chives or finely chopped spring onion

  1. Rub the potatoes with a little oil, then sprinkle generously with salt (preferably flakes) and black pepper. Wrap each one in double-thickness foil and cook on the BBQ for 1 hour, turning frequently, until cooked. Or bake unwrapped in the oven at fan 180C/200C/gas 6 for the same amount of time.
  2. Mix the maple syrup, vinegar, mustard and tomato puree to make a glaze. Brush over the sausages and cook on the BBQ, turning and basting often, for 10 mins until cooked and sticky. Meanwhile, mix the mayo ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Unwrap the potatoes and split down the middle. Add mayo and sausages (like a hot dog). Serve with a leafy salad.
Per serving: 740 kcal, 19g protein, 56g carbohydrate, 50g fat, 13g saturated fat, 4g fibre, no added sugar, 3.49g salt.

Recipe source: unknown

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Staying safe at the seaside this summer with the RNLI

School summer holidays often mean a trip to the seaside. Some of you may know already, but my husband is part of the local RNLI crew. Seeing first hand how often the ILB (inshore lifeboat) and ALB (all weather lifeboat) get called out during the summer months is quite frightening. Anything from a lost child to a boat in distress out at sea prompts a launch.

So, if you're heading for one of our beautiful beaches this summer, the RNLI offers the following advice for keeping safe:
  • Wherever possible, swim at a lifeguarded beach.
  • Always read and obey the safety signs, usually found at the entrance to the beach. These will help you avoid potential hazards on the beach and identify the safest areas for swimming.
  • When on a lifeguarded beach, find the red and yellow flags and always swim or bodyboard between them – this area is patrolled by lifeguards.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Be careful not to get cut off by the tide when walking along the shore.
  • Wherever possible, surf at a lifeguarded beach and follow the advice of the lifeguards.
  • Inflatable ​toys are great fun in pools, but we strongly advise against using them in the sea, as there is a high chance of being swept out.
  • If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
  • If you see someone in difficulty, don't attempt a rescue. Tell a lifeguard, or, if you can't see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
  • If you are hiring equipment for a surfsport, try to do so from a member of the Surf Hire Safety Scheme. Scheme members check equipment regularly for damage, rent out equipment suitable to your ability and offer safety advice for the local area.

Have a look for yourself at the number of launches listed on the RNLI website here. Also, as they rely heavily on public donations, feel free to click the 'donate' button too! :)

Friday, 18 July 2014

Lake Garda - a dream holiday... one day!

I, like many of you I'm sure, have a mental list of all the places that I would like to visit before my number's up - Lake Garda being one of them!

Even after the end of summer, the Lake Garda is a place to discover, where you can relax among breathtaking panoramas, street food, fish and many other local products such as oil, high quality wines, restaurants and much more. Here are some ideas for an itinerary with suggestions for wineries visits, events, restaurants and hotels.

On Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th September, Ciottolando con Gusto will be on stage in Malcesine, with a sort of treasure hunt along the roads full of “ciottoli” of the medieval hamlet which overlooks the lake.

The event is dedicated to the discovery of the flavors of Garda Lake, from fish, to Garda Dop Olive Oil to the product of Monte Baldo. With the map of the little hamlet in hand, foodies will have the chance to choose among the different menus of the several bars, wine-shops, restaurants and pizzeria, which will join the initiative.

Each food & wine lover, thanks to a coupon that everyone can buy at the Ciottolando info point, will be able to create its personal menu, opting for a first course in a venue, and then the second course in another one and so on until coffee and dessert.

In the Giardino del Gusto, Via Navene, you will have the chance to buy the typical products of Monte Baldo, from cheese to honey, oil and many more.

Sunday, October 19th, the town of Malcesine will become the stage for Tutt'Olio, the event that will give tastings, walks among the olive groves and themed menus to discover one of the typical products of the Garda, its olive oil. The full program of the event will let you know this product in all its forms, from the tree to the table. A real journey in an all-round excellence of our country....

In case, you want to visit a winery….
Founded in 1936, Gerardo Cesari has soon become synonymous of the wines of Verona in the world. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Franco Cesari, in the early Seventies, Cesari Amarone is among the first wines in Valpolicella sold in the five continents. Just a few kilometers from the Lake Garda and from the city of Romeo and Juliet, the winery located in Cavaion Veronese offers to tourists and wine lovers the opportunity to get to know the place where the most popular wines of this area are born.

Cesari wines have been recently recognized abroad with the title of “Bester Amarone des Jahres 2013” assigned by MUNDUSvini 2013, one of the most important German wine contest.

In addition, in order to promote the culture of its territory, the winery has decided to support the Juliet Club, the association that replies to the thousands of letter to Juliet from all over the world. The Cesari wines are in fact becoming the wines of the lovers.

For a gourmet stop…
Leandro Luppi is the chef of the Restaurant Vecchia Malcesine, a little venue overlooking the small houses of Malcesine town centre.

Twelve years ago, Leandro arrived in this place after several working experience in Alto Adige and Trentino and took over a typical trattoria and bravely transformed it in a place of the taste, with a cuisine which combines the creativity of the chef with local seasonal products.

For a vacation spot …..
Villa Cordevigo Wine Relais is an 18th century Venetian Villa with formal Italian gardens and an age-old park which has recently be entirely refurbished as a 5 star hotel with its Oseleta Restaurant. The spectacular entrance along a drive flanked with tall cypresses leads to the Relais itself with its olive groves and woods, a 100 hectare estate on the hills of Cavaion Veronese above Lake Garda and just a few kilometers from the famous city of Verona.

Obviously, there are many more sights to see but these are now all on my list! Where would you love to visit?