Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Review, Norfolk

Press Invite | On Sunday we visited Roarr Adventure which is situated in Norwich. We weren’t too sure what to expect but Ita really enjoys dinosaurs so we were happy to take the long drive to see what it was like. To be honest, I wish I had researched it more beforehand because the truth is there is SO much to do and planning would have been really beneficial to the day. I am going to share some tips to make sure you get the best from your visit.

Although Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure has bee around a while, it has undergone a lot of renovations over the years. We found out on the way there that the park is run by a 4th generation family of palaeontologists. The current owner is the great-great grandson of a Victorian explorer who claimed to have discovered a hidden valley, where dinosaurs still exist. I mean, that’s quite cool and even if it isn’t true, when we told Ita this she felt like it added to the excitement. We actually had to remind her that dinosaurs were indeed extinct! 

We arrived at the gates at 11 and it was really quiet which meant no queues. The park opens at 10 so I imagine it may have been a bit more busy at that point. It was only when we were inside though that we realised you have to book your splash pad slot. There was still quite a big queue of people waiting to book their 20 minute slots so we decided to explore the park and see what times were available afterwards. Luckily we were able to grab a time slot. It really would be worth heading there immediately at 10am although since the slots are only 20 minutes long, I think there is enough time for everyone to get one! The splash zone is brilliant and frankly it made Ita’s day so don’t forget to bring a costume. It is spacious with lots of different fountains for children of all ages. You can also buy swimsuits and towels from the gift store for around £10 each if you do forget yours.

The Dinosaur Trail is by far the best we have ever (ever) encountered. It is quite long and set in woodlands and there are so many different dinosaurs. I have honestly never seen anywhere like it. If your child is into dinosaurs then this really will blow them away. The huge brachiosaurus really is something else. It is pushchair friendly too as the walk is down hill with a flat ground.

There are a few ‘rides’ such as Raptor Racers and Dippys Raceway. Some of these are only available during school holidays and on weekends so bare this in mind when you do visit. There were constantly queues for this and we decided to keep exploring with the intention of returning back but in the end there was too much to do and see.

There is of course a few ‘Meet and Greet’ opportunities with Dippy. We watched the dance along show and at the end the assistant to the mascot abruptly told the children to get back – this meant everyone huddled together, quite confused. She then proceeded to call children out, one by one with no reason or rhyme, for their photos to be taken. It was really confusing and calling children up one by one was frustrating and indicated that there was some sort of preference system. We watched one child with extra needs crying their eyes out because they were upset they were not called up. There definitely should have been a queuing system here for safety but also to indicate to children when it is their turn. There were a few other issues around this and I am addressing this directly with the company. This was the only negative to our day. My honest opinion here would be to miss the dancing stage show and meet Dippy after his theatre show where it is far better managed.

One of the highlights of the day was the Live show in Dippys Theatre and also the short movie too. (These are two separate shows in the same theatre). The recorded show is on at different times throughout the day whereas the Live Dippy Shows are at 2.30 and 4.30 although you can only meet Dippy at 3.30 I believe. It is definitely worth planning your day around these as the theatre is gorgeous – not what I expected at all. If it is particularly hot outside too then this is the perfect haven.

At Roarr! There is also an indoor soft play area. We were granted beautiful weather on the day we visited though so we did not venture inside. On a wetter day this would be s handy though. We also saw that there were Predator High Ropes (think go ape style) at the end of the dinosaur trail and this is included in your park ticket price. Ita is a bit too small for this though so we chose not to try it out, but it looked really fun (and maybe a bit scary too). They also have Jurassic Crazy Golf but we are doing a crazy golf later in the week and I wanted to make sure Ita was still going to look forward to it! This again, is included with your ticket.

There is also a Secret Animal Garden where you can pet small animals daily. (12pm is Guinea Pig Petting, 2pm is Tortoise Time and 3pm for Guinea Pig Petting). This can get really busy so if you do want to do this then arrive in that area about 10 minutes beforehand. 

One of the best things that the park have included is Dippy and his friends. To children, these mascots are so fun but it encourages a clear theme so the park really stands out.

As mentioned previously, it really was a long drive. It took us just over 2 hours 40 minutes to get there (and then much the same getting home). It is actually really worth doing a staycation as there is so much to do locally. For example Great Yarmouth is only 45 minutes away. In fact, the website has a really helpful section of recommended accommodation close by.

https://www.roarrdinosauradventure.co.uk/where-to-stay/

You must book in advance via the website (link below). Adults and children over 90cms are £18.95 for the day. Children under 90cms are free.

https://buy.myonlinebooking.co.uk/DinosaurAdventure/sessions.aspx?tid=1516&_ga=2.183258406.1682791040.1622528277-336884737.1622528277

Would we visit again? Absolutely, but only if we were planning a staycation. It is quite far for a day trip (totally my fault) but there are so many positives to Roarr! Dinosaur Park that it is definitely somewhere to add to your list of places to visit.

Peter Rabbit Afternoon Tea Review, The Dilly

PR Visit | On the weekend we headed to Piccadilly to enjoy the Peter Rabbit afternoon tea. We had actually had this tea a good few years ago now, but we really enjoyed it. So when we were invited back to review it, we were really excited!

The most beautiful afternoon tea

The tea itself is beautiful, visually it has to be one of the best teas that we have had the pleasure of having. The Mr McGregors Garden is really very obvious, especially in the child’s version which is served in a little box with green coconut to resemble grass. The little touches like adding fresh vegetables and flowers is so clever. Almost everything is edible, including the plant pots that Peter is resting on! The treats are not only aesthetically pleasing though, they are one of the best we have had and everything tasted so fresh, adding to the garden theming. One thing that really stood out was the child friendly cocktail – Ita loved this!

Child’s version

Prices start at £39 for adults and £29 for children. There really is quite a lot offered but it is worth noting that they are very happy to provide more sandwiches. We even asked for plain ones for Ita and they were kindly brought to her within moments.

The Dilly itself is situated in Piccadilly, and afternoon tea is served in The Terrace which is situated on the second floor. It is just across from Fortnum and Masons and if the weather is on your side, then there are tables outside for you to enjoy your tea there. The views are gorgeous! T

he Terrace is equally as beautiful inside though with lots of foliage and so much space.

Social distancing is not an issue here at all. The Terrace is spacious and the tables are well set out. You do need to also scan the QR code upon entry and hand sanitiser was dotted around too.

Themed to perfection

The Peter Rabbit afternoon tea is served Monday through to Sunday from noon to 5pm and is bookable via this link below. You will also find the menu here too.

https://thedillylondon.com/food-drink/afternoon-tea/

Vegetarian and fully vegan options are also available but you will need to let them know in advance so it is prepared as necessary.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and I can’t think of one negative at all. It is the perfect children’s afternoon tea and well worth booking!

Ita’s cocktail

Opening the Hamleys Store in London

Making special childhood memories is really important to us and there are some things that money simply can’t buy.

My two favourite memory makers involves theatrical openings of two particular toy stores: the Disney store (check out our previous blog or social media post) and the opening of Hamleys store in Regents Street. Both are exceptionally special but for this post we’re focusing on Hamleys.

Today we headed to Hamleys and Ita was called to the front of the store and told to open a special box that Bakewell Bear (the Hamleys bear) was holding in his paws. Inside was a bell! The entertainment team encouraged an energetic countdown and then Ita rang the bell, officially opening the store. As it was her birthday last week, everyone (including members of the public) sang happy birthday and it was a really memorable moment – Ita was so shocked!

However, did you know that this is something Hamleys can possibly do for your child too? Although it’s not promised, if you contact contact Hamleys ahead and let them know you are visiting because of your child’s birthday, they will try their best to allow your child to ring the bell and open the store. You can contact the store via their Customer Services Team for further info. This experience is free.

We then had a private tour of the store with a member of the entertainment team, Lauren, who was fantastic and so well informed. She told us all about the fascinating 258 year history of the store as we walked around the 7 floors. This tour I understand is at a separate cost, bookable in advance and finishes with a special Hamleys goodie bag – to book this tour you can contact Hamleys via their Customer Services Team for further info.

There is also a private VIP shopping experience where you can book to visit the store when it’s closed to the public.

There are lots of events taking place throughout the day at the store and one of the most fun areas is on the 2nd floor where the Frozen 2 castle is. The entertainment team here often put on a special reindeer training show and encourage your child to take place and walk the red carpet. Lauren explained this was almost daily during the week where it tends to be a bit quieter.

To see what other events are available see the link below.https://www.hamleys.com/what-s-on-at-hamleys

Vax Platinum SmartWash Review

Last week we received the new Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner by Vax and I have been so eager to try it out! We have ivory carpets on our stairs and in all of our bedrooms and after 5 years, it’s fair to say that they needed freshening up.

Now that’s not to say we haven’t tried to maintain our carpets but lockdown especially saw my efforts go by the way side and so we ended up hiring a cleaner from a reputable company – I’ll get back to that!

Easy to manoeuvre in the hallway

The Vax Platinum SmartWash is the UKs first carpet washer with “motion sense” technology which means there is no trigger. It automatically washes and dispenses clean water and antibacterial solution when you push forward and then it dries when you pull back. Push forward – washes. Pull back – dries. It’s such a simple idea but it’s brilliant and means your carpets aren’t wet for hours on end. It also has a dry only feature too!

The brush bars in the front are specially designed, flexible bristles. They are designed to distribute the correct energy into your carpet fibres to effectively agitate and lift stubborn dirt and stains. Around skirting and doors especially I noted that our carpets had become marked – I think from dust. The machine has completely removed the marks from under the doors and significantly reduced marks by the skirting. I am so impressed with this.

The Platinum SmartWash also comes with a SpinScrub hand tool and a 2.5m hose. This was especially handy for the stairs and I plan to use it on our sofas soon.

The muck it collected – this was after using a different cleaner only a month before!

One of the best features is the Auto Mix. When we used a hire cleaner it was a complete hassle trying to mix the right amount of solution. It was also very easy to refill once the clean water had been used and because of this it made cleaning the carpets much quicker.

So I’ve alluded to the fact that last month we hired a carpet cleaner from a big brand. To put it bluntly, I was not impressed. The machine was huge, heavy and impractical for a home. The cleaning solution was a nightmare to mix and attach to the machine and my hand was left in agony by the trigger button. After all that work, my carpets did not look visibly cleaner and my rug actually looked worse. When I went on to the Vax website it stated “the Platinum SmartWash effortlessly outperforms the UKs leading rental and delivers a deep clean 7 times more effective than vacuuming alone”. I have to agree.

In motion…

It had never occurred to me to own a carpet cleaner. I had always assumed that the relatively low cost of renting a machine would suffice. However the effort to hire meant that 5 years passed without bothering to make the effort and after hiring a machine last month and paying £130 for the privilege, it really seems like false economy. By contrast, the SmartWash retails at £299 and I can see myself using it quite frequently which I hope means we might get another few years out of the carpets!

Overall I am hugely impressed. The machine is built so it can be used frequently and results are instant.

Want to check it out for yourself? Here is the link:

https://www.vax.co.uk/vax-platinum-smartwash-carpet-cleaner?utm_source=garciafamilyuk&utm_medium=blog&utm_campaign=smartwash

* PR product gifted for review.

Blenheim Palace

Yesterday we visited Blenheim Palace, based in Woodstock Oxfordshire. Although the weather was absolutely against us, we had a brilliant visit and we were so glad to have ventured out in the miserable rain and wind.

Blenheim Palace is a beautiful estate built back in the early 17th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is so much that Palace offers families including a number of walks around the Palace (4 to be precise) with buggy friendly and dog friendly routes and the walled garden has a little play area for children. In this particular garden there is a wonderful little café selling pizzas. Definitely recommended.

There is also a beautiful miniature train just by the entrance that we did not get to go on this time but it is on our to do list when we head back soon. The miniature train runs back and forth between the palace and the walled gardensbetween 11-5pm daily and it is suggested that a £1 donation is offered. As the palace is currently closed (due to the government restrictions) we were unable to go inside, but again, this is something we will definitely do next time.

The beautiful water fountains

Aside from being a stunning palace with beautiful grounds, Blenheim Palace also hosts a number of events throughout the year. From next month the Luna Cinema will be showing various movies. There is even a jousting tournament!

https://www.blenheimpalace.com/whats-on/

One event not to be missed however is the annual Christmas at Blenheim Palace which is an after dark illuminated trail. Over a million lights, lasers and seasonal sounds full the gardens and this event is something that sells out almost immediately. 

New for this year is the story of The Nutcracker where the palace rooms will be transformed and filled with hidden surprises. It sounds magical! This is something we cant wait to see for ourselves. Tickets are on sale now!

https://www.blenheimpalace.com/whats-on/events/christmas/

Blenheim Palace is arguably the most beautiful stately home we have ever visited. It was no surprise to learn that as such, the palace has featured in a number of movies such as Cinderella (2015), Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix (2007) and Transformers: The Last Knight (2017).

Outside the palace

As the Palace is over 300 years old, restoration is underway and is classified as the biggest restoration to date. All funds raised through the likes of ticket sales go right back into the property through repair and conservation projects.

Pre-booking is essential for all visits now which is entirely to be expected. Currently the park and gardens are open and from later on in the month, the house will be too. There is a fantastic offer on at the moment where if you buy one visit then you will be given an annual pass upgrade for FREE!

https://www.blenheimpalace.com/tickets-booking/

If you work for the NHS, a blue light service or the defence, then you can gain 30% off your entry by using code NHSBP30 (NHS) or BLC30 (blue light and defence).

We really enjoyed our visit and we cannot wait to return for some of the fun events that Blenheim has to offer.

Leaving you on this little bit of trivia for you… Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal estate to hold the title of Palace!

Our visit was an invite for PR purposes.

The Little Beach Hut, Mersea Island

Yesterday we headed to Mersea Island Beach in Essex to enjoy the sun and have some family friendly fun!

Outside our beach hut

If you aren’t aware, Mersea Island is in Colchester and is quite literally its own little island. The island is divided into two areas – West Mersea and East Mersea and connected to the mainland by The Shrood, which is a little causeway that floods at high tide creating the island. Mersea Island is really quite famous for its oysters and beautiful beach huts.

Our visit was mainly because we were invited to use the beach huts by a local business called The Little Beach Hut company which has 4 huts on the island and is a fantastic way to have a hassle free trip to the seaside. The huts are named Peggy, Bertie, Lotty and Kitty, and they’re all individually decked out! It was such a pleasure to visit the beach without bringing everything needed for the day.

Yesterday we used Peggy – a front row hut with a decking area outside. This size hut is currently available for 6 people and is a really good size. Inside (and free to use for our visit) was beach toys, cutlery, plates, kettle, a wind breaker, deck chairs and two has rings with gas. Literally everything needed to have a fantastic trip to the beach.
https://www.thelittlebeachhutcompany.co.uk/peggy.html

Interior of Peggy

In terms of food, we decided to bring our own picnic hamper but the company can also assist with catering too.
https://www.thelittlebeachhutcompany.co.uk/catering.html

The huts are suitable for all types of weather as they all either have interior glass doors or large windows. All of the huts have kitchen areas with sinks and gas cookers. I have to admit, the fact that Ita could play just outside in the sand, whilst I sorted lunch and Dominic relaxed in the deck chair, was enjoyable in itself.

Amenities free to use…

There are 2 car parks close by (really reasonably priced too) and the hut that we used was very close to the public toilets also. In fact, one little gem was that there was a small children’s play area in such close proximity with a cafe too.

The huts are available to rent by the day or for longer periods. They’re perfect for families especially but also for a little gathering too!

Mersea Island seems very small and quaint and before travelling, I couldn’t find much to do there. One adventure that stood out was a little boat trip “Lady Grace” however this was booked up way in advance (we had checked back in March!). I think the boat trip would have been really fun so if you are planning on visiting Mersea Island do check them out. https://www.essexboattrips.co.uk/index.php/en/

The experience of having a beach hut for the day has really changed my perception of having beach days in general. Typically I wouldn’t do day visits to the seaside simply because there is too much to bring and lug around in order to have w good day. The fact that everything we needed was already here for us made the whole experience a pleasurable one!

I would absolutely recommend The Little Beach Hut Company – perfect for a summers day out!

Nap time

* This review is part of a Press Trip

The Church Farm Ardeley, Hertfordshire

On the weekend we headed to Church Farm in Ardeley, Hertfordshire for their new Teddy Bear Surprise trail.

A brief overview of The Church Farm is that they are a not-for-profit farm, food, care and education enterprise. They offer a fully functional farm with several different farm animals, such as pigs, cows, geese, goats, sheep, chickens and rabbits.

The farm is open daily to the public and they grow and produce fruit, vegetable and meats that they also sell. This is sold through the onsite café, the Jolly Waggnoer Pub (right by the farm) and the food box delivery service which they also offer.

Detailed Map of The Church Farm

We purchased tickets for entrance to the farm, the Teddy’s Big Surprise and a bag of animal feed, which we thought was a good price.

We arrived on time for our Teddy’s Surprise slot and were greeted by a member of staff that gave us all the information about the day ahead, what we could expect and the best way to navigate around the huge area. So we headed straight to the Teddy area, which was situated in a beautiful apple blossom orchard. Ita was so excited as we passed several of the farm animals such as the geese, goats, sheep and Ita’s favourite for the day, the pigs and piglets.

Ita feeding the piggies

As we headed through to the apple orchard, we were met with the first Teddy Bear, they gave a workbook and some information about the experience ahead. There were Teddy Bears everywhere, we spotted bears playing and having their picnics, playing chess, hanging from trees so there are untold amounts of photo opportunities.

We were met with a number of teddy’s that needed our help with counting bears in trees, nursery rhymes and helping the bears go to sleep. I must say, the bears were so good at entertaining us and Ita and made the experience so much more enjoyable. Once all the tasks were complete, we headed to the final gazebo were Ita could pick and choose her choice of toy.

Helping the bears solve a riddle!

The Teddy Big Surprise is running every Saturday and Sunday from 17th April until the 9th May, and all children that come in disguise, they will receive a rosette.

Having checked and been advised by a lovely follower on social media, all children (even those under 1 years) require a ticket for this which seems a little unreasonable.

https://churchfarmardeley.checkfront.co.uk/reserve/?item_id=452

We then went back on ourselves and having picked pig feed at the beginning of our visit, we went around looking at the cute piglets. Ita really enjoyed seeing them interact with each other and the different sizes of all of them.

The Church Farm offer other activities when you visit, one of them is to see their all new Farm Fairy Trail which comes with an activity booklet to complete. This area is really well made, with a couple playhouses, rabbits and lots of different fairies to spot and read about.

Another activity you can pre-book is the Lamb Bottle Feeding which I know we would have all enjoyed and is available for people of all ages and is such a unique and amazing experience to have.

Finally you can join in with the egg collecting on the farm. You can help collect the eggs from over 300 free range hens and then take them home which I think is another amazing experience.

Overall, we had a really enjoyable morning at The Church Farm and would highly recommend the Teddy’s Big Surprise experience. All the information you need can be found here:

https://www.churchfarmardeley.co.uk/

Ita with her special toy!

Easter Baking Ideas

Following the well received Valentines Day Baking Ideas blog post we did last month, we thought it would be a good idea to do the same for Easter!

Jump to the Easter Macarons Recipe
Jump to the Creme Egg Blonde Recipe
Jump to the White Chocolate Easter Egg Cheesecake Recipe
Jump to the Hot Cross Bun Recipe
Jump to the Easter Tiffin Recipe
Jump to the Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Over the next few weeks we will be adding loads of different Easter themed recipes!

Easter Macarons

Ingredients

Macarons

  • 200g Icing Sugar
  • 100 g Ground Almonds
  • 100 g Egg Whites (3 Medium Eggs worth)
  • 75 g Caster Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Food Colouring (Use Gel Colouring or Powered Colouring – for some reason liquid colouring didn’t work and helped the macarons to burn in the oven)

Macaron Filling

  • Lemon Curd
  • 75g Butter (Softened)
  • 150g Icing Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized bowl, sift 100g of the Icing Sugar, and 50g of the Ground Almonds. It is very important that both are sifted as this prevents lumps.
  2. In a second medium sized bowl, do the same with the other 100g of the Icing Sugar, and 50g of the Ground Almonds.
  3. Make sure the bowl and whisk you are using are spotlessly and whisk the Egg Whites.
  4. Whisk the egg whites up to stiff peaks, and start adding the Caster Sugar teaspoon by teaspoon until all is incorporated. Whisk for another minute.
  5. Add half of the meringue mixture to one of the bowls of Sugar/Almonds. Should be around 85-90g.
  6. In that bowl, add the 1 tsp of Vanilla and one of your food colours (we chose yellow) and fold the mixture carefully but making sure that its all combined.
  7. With the other half of the Meringue, add the other food colouring (we chose blue) and 1 tsp of Vanilla and whisk till combined. Add this to the Sugar/Almond mix and repeat the folding.
  8. With a disposable piping bag, add a small round tip or cut the tip of the bag. Carefully pipe the mixtures on a baking sheet (I drew some small circles using my husbands wedding ring).
  9. You should end up with equal amounts of yellow shells, and blue shells.
  10. Once piped, tap the trays onto the work surface 5-6 times to get any air bubbles out, and leave on the side for 1 hour to form a skin.
  11. Towards the end of the hour, turn your oven on to 130C Fan.
  12. Once the hour is up, put the Macarons in the oven to bake for 16-20 minutes.
  13. Leave them to cool fully on the mats before peeling them off (it’s very easy to peel them before they have cooled though)
  14. Once cooled, make your buttercream.
  15. Add your softened butter to a bowl, beat the butter for a couple minutes and add the icing sugar, little at a time until it comes together. Add the vanilla and a little bit of milk if the mixture is too tough!
  16. Add to a piping bag or use a spoon to add to one side of the macaron in the middle and then put them together!
  17. Or add lemon curd to the middle of your macarons.
  18. Put them into the fridge to set and the enjoy!

Creme Egg Blondies

Ingredients

  • 170g Butter (Softened)
  • 165g Light Brown Sugar
  • 100g Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg and 1 Yolk
  • 275g Plain Flour
  • Handful Mini Creme Eggs (We used approx 10)
  • 3 Creme Eggs, Halved

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven at 160C Fan.
  2. Whisk the Butter, Light Brown Sugar and Granulated Sugar until fully combined.
  3. Add one Egg and one Egg Yolk and whisk again.
  4. Add the Plain Flour until just combined.
  5. Spread into a baking tray, and then add the Mini Creme Eggs.
  6. Place in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the skewer comes out slightly clean when inserted.
  7. While still warm, add the halved Creme Eggs on top and leave to chill fully in the tray (Tip when halving the Creme Eggs, place in the fridge for about 30 minutes and cut from the top of the egg)

White Chocolate Easter Egg Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 3 Easter Eggs (Halved)
  • 200g Digestives
  • 75g Butter
  • 150g White Chocolate
  • 200g Cream Cheese (We went for reduced fat)
  • 50g Icing Sugar
  • 120ml Double Cream
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Decoration (Optional but we used)

  • Mini Eggs (please remember these are a choking hazard for small children)
  • Purple Colour Gel
  • Green Colour Gel
  • Pink Colour Gel
  • 40g White Chocolate
  • Carrot Decorations
  • Wafer Flowers

Instructions

Biscuit Base

  1. Half the Easter Eggs (I put them in the fridge to harden up for 20 minutes and then cut them from the top).
  2. Blitz the digestives in a food processor or put them in a sealed bag and smash with a rolling pin (this is what we did)
  3. Melt the butter in the microwave.
  4. In a bowl, tip the melted butter over the crushed biscuits and mix until combined
  5. Fill the Easter Eggs with the mixture and place back in the fridge until the filling has been made.

Filling

  1. Mix the Cream Cheese, Icing Sugar and Vanilla using a whisk or a spatula until smooth.
  2. When whisked, pour in the Double Cream and continue to whip the mixture until it starts to thicken (Remember not to over whip the cream mixture as it may split)
  3. Once completed, spread your mixture in the prepared Easter Eggs evenly. Leave to set in the fridge for 5-6 hours or overnight.

Decoration

  1. Melt 10-15g of White Chocolate and mix with Green Colouring Gel and decorate as you wish.
  2. Do the same with the remaining colours, Purple and Pink.
  3. Use the Mini Eggs, Wafer Flowers and Carrots for decoration.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

  • 225ml Whole Milk
  • 500g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 65g Caster Sugar
  • 8g Dried Active Yeast / Fast Action Yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg (or you can use a Mixed Spice instead)
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 50g Unsalted Butter (cold)
  • 150g Raisins
  • 100g Milk Chocolate Chips (when I make these again, I will probably omit these as I am not sure they added that much to the flavour)
  • 2 Medium Eggs

Topping

  • 30g Flour
  • 30ml Water
  • 1 tbs Caster Sugar
  • 1 tbs Boiling Water

Instructions

  1. Warm your milk in a pan until it is just steaming.
  2. In a bowl, add your Flour, Salt, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Sugar, Yeast and Orange Zest – add in your Butter and rub between your fingers.
  3. To the bowl, add your warmed Milk, and the Eggs, Raisins and Milk Chocolate Chips and mix it all together.
  4. Knead for 10 minutes until the mixture is smooth, elastic and springy to touch. I did it by hand and it is hard work but definitely worth it when the dough comes together, but you can also use a Stand Mixer with a dough hook.
  5. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with a tea towel. Leave to prove and rise until doubled in size – usually takes 1-2 hours (took ours 1 hour and 40 minutes)
  6. Once risen, remove from the bowl and knead lightly on a floured surface to knock the air out!
  7. Cut evenly into 12 balls (mine weighed 98g each) and add on a lined tray with about a centremetre gap between the balls.
  8. Cover with lightly oiled cling film, and leave to rise whilst your oven preheats to 200C/180C Fan. I left them for 60 minutes!
  9. Once the oven is at temperature – whisk together the flour and water and carefully pipe on to form the crosses.
  10. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes!
  11. Once baked – boil the water and mix with the sugar. Brush the Hot Cross Buns lightly with the sugar mixture if you like them sticky and shiny and then leave to cool fully.
  12. Enjoy!!

Easter Tiffin

Ingredients:

  • 175g Golden Syrup
  • 125g Unsalted Butter
  • 200g Milk Chocolate (Chopped)
  • 200g Dark Chocolate (Chopped)
  • 200g Digestives (Chopped)
  • 100g Raisins
  • 200g Mini Eggs (50g for Decorations)
  • 75g Mini Marshmallow

Instructions

  1. Line a 9×9″ square baking tray with parchment paper, leave to the side.
  2. Melt the Golden Syrup and Butter gently in a pan on a low heat – when the butter and syrup have melted fully and started to bubble a little, turn the heat off and add the chopped chocolate and stir until it has all melted.
  3. In a big bowl, add the Digestives, Raisins, Mini Eggs, and Mini Marshmallows and the pour the chocolate mix on top. Mix the ingredients together until it is all coated well. Pour into the tin and spread down firmly.
  4. Sprinkle the crushed Mini Eggs on top of the Tiffin! Leave to set in the fridge for 4-5 hours or until it is firm.
  5. Once set, remove from the tin and cut into pieces.

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

The Dough

  • 600g Strong White Bread Flour (Plus Extra for Dusting)
  • 14g Dried Active Yeast
  • 75g Caster Sugar
  • 90g Unsalted Butter
  • 275ml Full Fat Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg

The Filling

  • 45g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
  • 175g Light Brown Sugar
  • 1-2 tbsps Ground Cinnamon (We added more)

The Topping

  • 200g Icing Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3-4 tbsp Water

Instructions

  1. Sift the Flour into a large bowl and then add the Caster Sugar and Yeast. Mix until they are all distributed evenly.
  2. Rub the Butter into the mixture until it is like breadcrumbs.
  3. Gently heat the Milk until warm – but not hot (if you are doing it in a pan, you want the milk to just start steaming)
  4. Add the Milk, Vanilla and Egg to the dry ingredients.
  5. Knead the dough together for around 7-10 minutes (I had to YouTube the best way to knead as it is definitely new to me) or use your Stand Mixer with the Dough Hook.
  6. Once it is kneaded it will be elastic and springy to touch (not sticky)
  7. transfer into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a towel. Let is rise for 1-2 hours, or until it doubles in size (mine took 75 minutes)
  8. Whilst the bread is proving, we can make the filling. Mix together the Light Brown Sugar and Ground Cinnamon and leave to the side.
  9. Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to a rectangle. Mine ended up being around 50cm x 30cm!
  10. Gently brush the surface with the Melted Butter and then sprinkle over the Sugar / Cinnamon Mix.
  11. Roll the dough from the long side to long side so you have created a long sausage. Now cut into 12 pieces.
  12. You should cut the middle, and then two halves into two more, and then each into three pieces (I must confess I did this part wrong and cut too many times, so I ended up with 15 pieces)
  13. I used a large rectangular baking dish (around 30cm x 24cm) and put them in. They should be spaced out so they are not touching each other yet.
  14. Cover the dish with clingfilm and let them rise for another hour or so. By the end they should be touching.
  15. Towards the end of the second proving, preheat the oven to 180C / 160C Fan so that they can go straight into the oven.
  16. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cooking through.
  17. Leave to cool and make the icing! Mix the Icing Sugar, Vanilla and Water until a thick icing paste is produced. The spread it over the rolls.
  18. Enjoy!

Valentines Day Baking Ideas

We previously wrote a blog post about Ideas for a Lockdown Valentines Day (click here)

I thought it would be a good idea to give you some Valentines inspiration for baking for the kids and by yourselves.!

I posted a few ideas and recipes on my Instagram recently, but thought it adding them all here would be beneficial for you guys!

Shortbread Hearts

Ingredients

  • 200g Unsalted Butter (or a suitable alternative)
  • 100g Caster Sugar (plus more for sprinking)
  • 300g Plain Flour (plus more for dusting)

Decoration (totally optional but we used)

  • 75g White Chocolate
  • 75g Milk Chocolate
  • Food Colouring
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Add butter and sugar in a bowl, beat together until fluffy (we used a hand whisk)
  2. Add in flour and beat until the dough has formed (make sure it is well combined)
  3. Lightly flour the surface and roll out the dough. Roll until the dough is around 1cm think.
  4. Cut out your shortbread hearts – we used a heart cookie cutter, but you can use any cookie cutter of course, or even make your own with a card.
  5. Carefully pick the shortbread up and add to a lined baking tray. Once they are all cut up, place in the fridge for 30 minutes
  6. Whilst they are chilling, preheat your oven to 180C / 160C fan.
  7. Once chilled, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until they’re turning lightly golden (if shortbreads vary in size, adjust the cooking times accordingly)
  9. Once baked, leave to cool. Then decorate and Enjoy!

Valentines Triple Chocolate Brownie Tray Bake

Ingredients

  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 200g Unsalted Butter
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 275g Caster Sugar
  • 90g Plain Flour
  • 35g Cocoa Powder
  • 100g White Chocolate (Chopped or Chips)
  • 100g Milk Chocolate (Chopped or Chips)
  • 100g Dark Chocolate (Chopped or Chips)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C Fan and line a 9′ square baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Melt together the Butter and Dark Chocolate in a microwave for 1-2 minutes until all melted. Leave aside to cool to room temp.
  3. Using a electric mixer, whisk together the Eggs and Caster Sugar for a few minutes until the mixture has turned pale and is doubled in volume.
  4. You will know it is done with you lift your whisk up out of the mix it will leave a trail for a couple of seconds before disappearing.
  5. When whisked, pour the cooled chocolate mix in and fold together carefully. Take your time as you don’t want to knock out all the air.
  6. Once completely combined, sift the Cocoa Powder and Flour on top of the chocolate mixture and then fold in again. Again be careful when folding!
  7. Once well combined, fold through the chopped chocolate and pour into the prepared tin – bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until you think it is moist enough! Once baked, leave to cool in the tin completely.
  8. At this stage, we added melted pink chocolate and sprinkles.

Oreo Ladybugs

Ingredients

  • 10 Oreos
  • 75g White Chocolate
  • Pink Food Colouring
  • Edible Eyes
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Melt the White Chocolate in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Use the Pink Food Colouring to colour the chocolate (use as much as you want to get the desired colour)
  3. Dip half the Oreo in the chocolate and set aside.
  4. The decorate with the edible eyes and the sprinkles
  5. Enjoy

Heart Shaped Cheese Nibbles

Ingredients

  • 120g Plain Flour (extra for rolling)
  • 120g Butter
  • 120g Cheese
  • Add spice for flavour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C / 150C Fan.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, using your hands (great to do with kids) until a dough is formed.
  3. Roll out the dough to a 5mm thickness on a lightly floured surface.
  4. Use your cookie cutter, we used a smaller heart cookie cutter, to cut out your biscuits.
  5. Place your biscuits on your parchment lined baking tray and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
  7. Enjoy

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Ingredients

  • Strawberries
  • 50g White Chocolate
  • 50g Milk Chocolate
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Melt your White Chocolate and Milk Chocolate in separate bowls in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Dip your strawberries in the melted chocolate and set aside.
  3. Use sprinkles or any other decorations to make the strawberries look amazing.
  4. Set in the fridge for an hour
  5. Enjoy!

Ideas for a Lockdown Valentines Day

As you may know, we always celebrate Valentines but we tend to celebrate it as a family rather than romantically. I think so much pressure is put on people when it comes to showing how much you love someone. In fact one Instagram mummy friend told me last year that she inadvertently ended up arguing with her partner having seen what others had received on Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t that she hadn’t received anything, (she had), but she felt that her partner hadn’t tried as much as others. What a waste of a lovely day!

Our Valentines Day usually involves heart pancakes for breakfast, an afternoon tea out and a later meal at home. We give cards to each other, Dominic buys me and Ita flowers and Ita makes a Valentines themed craft. And there are always balloons. Ita is obsessed and each year she wakes up to her bedroom filled with heart balloons!

This year may be different because of lockdown. We wont have the freedom to go out but we will still want to celebrate in some way and so here are some ideas for you too.

Decorating

We have some small decorations that we add to our living room. They’re deliberately small and easy to store away.

This heart bunting is only £2.19 from Partyrama and dresses up the mantle piece perfectly. They also have a huge selection of other decorative items so I have ordered some balloons from here too.

Heart bunting

Link for the banner (Click Here)

I tend to buy a cannister of helium to blow up our own balloons but so many places now post filled balloons.

The heart plate below along with the heart shaped board are both from Poundland. This year they have a pink version so we picked these up to have a themed afternoon tea at home! (Also below). Usually I will leave the plate out with some treats on the days leading up to Valentines, just because why not! Of course they were only £1 each so a complete bargain.

Heart plates from Poundland

I think places like Poundland, B&M and Home Bargains are the best places to head to for themed items.

Sweet Treats

Dominic will no doubt bake us some themed biscuits for us all to decorate together but I have also been on at home to bake a brownie tray too! I bought some small moulds from ebay to make little chocolate hearts in so that we could pop on top of the tray bake. Not only will these keep Ita entertained but we can then enjoy them for our Valentines afternoon tea.

Our little cake topper from eBay

This Valentines cake topper will be perfect for it! (Click Here)

I have also ordered some Valentines popsicles from Harrisons Bakery on Etsy. I also adore Jax Bakes on Instagram (Click Here)

When I last checked, Ita’s favourite, Laduree, are also delivering their special Valentines Boxes (Click Here)

If you fancy baking your own then companies such as Peggy Porschen are selling bake your own sets which could be really good fun. They have a few options starting from £30 and pre-orders are now open! This one that I have linked here s the red velvet set which makes 12 cupcakes (Click Here)

We have ordered the Love Heart Krispy Kreme set too because Ita really enjoyed this when we bought the set before Christmas. I had a good few messages from people telling me they had ordered this after seeing it on our instagram page and that they too thought it was really good. This kit comes with 4 ready-made glazed doughnuts, 2 of them heart shaped with sherbet kreme fillings. The set also comes with lemon and strawberry icings to glaze your creations, along with rainbow sprinkles, mini sugar paste hearts and 2 message plaques inspired by Love Hearts (Click Here)

Krispy Kreme DIY Kit

If you are more of a Doughnut Time person then they too have kits! We initially did these last Easter and found them to be quite messy though! I think there is more of a skill to these ones! These ones come with Vegan friendly options (Click Here)

Afternoon Tea

So as previously mentioned, we will definitely do a Valentines Afternoon Tea! You can of course make one at home (do check out or previous posts and Afternoon Tea Highlight on Instagram) but many places are offering home deliveries too.

We have booked a treat in Claridge’s (link below) but there are lots of other options around.

https://claridges-stvalentinesday.slerp.com/order

Cutter & Squidge have always done a home delivery set which has had really good reviews. They do a plain version and a special Valentines one too! I really like this set so I would probably recommend ordering the standard set for two at £29.90 and then order some themed treats too.

https://cutterandsquidge.com/products/afternoon-tea-at-home-uk-delivery

Lola’s cupcakes looks delicious and is a great option, although not too themed.

https://www.lolascupcakes.co.uk/Ordering/2012/Deluxe-Afternoon-Tea.htm

Movie Night

This year we are going to set the projector up outside and watch a movie in the garden (much like we did last summer and over Christmas).

Our mini portable projector was from eBay and was about £25 (Click Here)

However I have seen some priced around £28 on wowcher. Id suggest hopping onto google and searching ‘mini portable projector’ and then deciding which would work best for you.

Initially we used a cloth screen (at about £12) which we hung from the gazebo and it worked well in the summer months but for some reason, not so well in the winter. In all honesty I think the screen and stands are better value. We have a 70 inch screen and stand and it cost £39.99. It also folds away really easily so storage is not a problem (Click Here)

I also ordered these personalised movie night tickets from eBay but you could most definitely make these at home, just to make it a bit fun for children.

Personalised movie tickets

In all honestly, with so much of the last year been spent locked inside. These 2 buys have been so worth it. Although we have used them in the garden, you could easily use them inside too!

Our festive outdoor movie night will become a valentines one!

Cocktail Masterclass

One for the adults? Myself and Dominic used to love cooking classes and during lockdown we have done 2 cocktail making classes via zoom. They have both been so fun but I would really recommend Le Reve Bar because the way they packaged all the necessary ingredients was beautiful and felt like a present in itself.

https://lereve-bar.com/ or contact them via Instagram https://www.instagram.com/le_reve_bar/?hl=en

A photo from our cocktail masterclass

Teepee Hire

This concept is not new to us at all but it was something that Ita and her cousin enjoyed last year thanks to Tip Top Teepees based in Hertfordshire. They were absolutely brilliant and decked our front room out in everything needed for a Galentines party. (See our IGTV on Instagram!). It really was such a special treat and Ita often talks about it.

There are so many small businesses that do Teepee Hire now and are still able to by dropping the items outside for you to set up yourself. Perfect, given the current restrictions. Best of all, most companies will do a themed version for Valentines!

Last years Galentines Teepee sleepover

Hire a Hot Tub

Now I will admit, this is not something I would have considered any other year but with it being lockdown, it might just be what we need to break up the monotony! Many companies hire these out with themes now and we have found one quite local that actually has a Valentines theme! I’m still debating it…

When I researched this idea, it seemed that most companies hire these out over the course of 2-3 days and priced have ranged widely from £120-400 depending on where you reside. Definitely gather a few quotes and see what options best suit your budget and space!

Photo from Pinterest *

Hire an Igloo

Possibly the most extravagant recommendation? I mean this would honestly be the dream. We were booked to dine in one but Borris decided to punish us and place us in Tier 4 just a few days before our booking.

Interestingly, there are a few companies who do hire out igloos, but finding the price without calling them is very difficult. Only one company transparently put their price on their page. One south based company advised that from £375, you will be delivered an igloo, table and chairs, décor, heater and lights. So it really is a very pricey treat.

Many are able to set up even with the Covid restrictions so long as they have access to your garden.