My squishy little dumplings

Introducing The Squish 
The adorable Doe, Dip, Dee and Dot have arrived. Can YOU resist The Squish?! The My Squishy Little Dumplings from My Squishy Littles are on a world tour. First stop the UK and we were so excited to be the first to get our hands on this new toy.

There are four adorable little interactive characters with BIG personalities to collect. They come with the cutest accessories to match! Arlo was besotted with Dot and his little glasses and cap, and he ran off to find his own accessories to match. My Squishy Little Dumplings are the perfect pal that fit in the palm of your hand. You squeeze their cheeks to pop out their unique personalities, and they spring in to life.

They have a whole host of funny noises, from a funny little laughter like sound when their body pops out to all sorts of other quirky little giggles and I think I may have even heard a hiccough too. They have over 50 reactions so Arlo has been playing with Dot to explore exactly what he can do, and when you throw them up and down his hair and cheeks light up too. The colours all mean different things – there’s no surprise Dot is often green which shows he’s feeling energetic – the perfect companion for Arlo!

 The more you squish their cheeks the more they say – this little guy sings a little song and then when you turn him upside down he sings “weeee wooo Boomba” – it’s hilarious and our parrots love the noises too – this new language is called Squish Pop and the box gives you a handy guide or “squishionary” to get to know these little dudes.

They are available now for £14.99rrp from Smyths Toys, The Entertainer, Amazon.co.uk, Very.co.uk and other retailers and we have been kindly given the chance to host a competition for you to win your very own.

Click the image below to enter.

(Terms and conditions apply, competition closes at midnight on 10th August, click here for more details)

Summer Pavlova

There’s no dessert which screams summer louder than a strawberry Pavlova, and I had to make one at the very first opportunity I had this year with some left over egg whites, having been experimenting with mayonnaise as part of a practical session at uni. Squeezing in this recipe between making three different kinds of pastry recipes was no mean feat but we managed to pull it off.

For this recipe you will need:

  • Four egg whites
  • 250g caster sugar
  • A tea spoon of white wine vinegar
  • A tea spoon of vanilla essence
  • A tea spoon of cornflour
  • Vegetable oil

For the cream

  • A tub of cream
  • 50g of icing sugar
  • Vanilla essence

For the topping

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwi fruit

There’s a couple of steps when it comes to making the meringue base that are absolutely vital. First things first Pre heat the oven to a low heat around gas mark two. Then whisk the egg whites until the mixture forms “peaks” – you’ll notice you go to a white fluffy stage where the eggs look bubbly and you have to go beyond this so that it almost looks like a creamy shaving foam consistency.

Then you need to whisk and add in the sugar, and take this very slowly, one spoonful at a time to ensure that the consistency remains constant. You’ll notice that the mixture changes and becomes shiny but should still be light and fluffy, and you can mix in the vinegar, vanilla and cornflour at this stage.

Line a flat sheet with baking paper and then brush it with a light coating of vegetable oil and gently spoon your mixture in a round shape, making a dip in the centre to form a natural bowl for your cream and fruits. Then bake this in the centre of the oven for an hour. Once the hour has come to an end turn the oven off but leave the meringue until it is cooled down completely. If the oven starts to develop condensation on the inside of the glass then open the door slightly.

During this time you can prepare your fruits and cream.

Whip up a whole tub of cream with a couple of heaped spoonfuls of icing sugar and then add in your vanilla essence. You’re looking for a rich and thick consistency.

Slice up your fruits and then leave these in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the pavlova. Spoon the cream in to the well in the centre of the meringue and then pile it high with your fruits before serving immediately for a fabulous summer dessert.

My favourite colour is rainbow

If you have been following us for a while you will know that when it comes to decorating the house, I am never ever going to be finished because I keep finding new colours I want to cover my walls in. I’d describe my style as eclectic (to say the least) and I love how something as simple as painting a wall makes such a dramatic change to a space.

There’s no space untouched – and this includes the garden. I’ve managed to paint six pallets in bright pink with exterior wood paint which provides a fabulous splash of colour and for good measure I also painted an old wooden fireplace bright yellow which is the perfect place to display all my funky coloured candles.

One of my favourite things to do is “colour match” with trade paint supplies. I find things around my home, or pictures which I love and then just have to have that exact shade in my home. I made sure to get the exact shade of purple paint used on the friends set for Monica’s apartment and I painted a door and the alcove under the stairs in this colour which created a funky little space with just the vibe I wanted. I still haven’t found the right flooring for the space but we’re half way there.

There’s literally no space of my home which hasn’t been given the chaos treatment but somehow it all comes together nicely – this little corner of my home is in the kitchen, with buttermilk coloured walls, a dusky pink on the wooden tongue and groove and then a sage green on one of the dining chairs – you’ll have to check out my Instagram page to see the colours of the other chairs – I used sample sized pots in four different colours, and when I get time and a sunny day I’ll be finishing those off with a coat of varnish.

In stark contrast the dark green colour I’ve used in my front room is an entirely different vibe. This room is one of those spaces which changes its use constantly, it’s been a play room and a craft room but I adopted it as a space to work from home last year and so it needed a more grown up feel. I painted one wall in this dark green colour, making a feature and also ensuring that the room still felt bright and spacious and I think it works well, especially as it’s now a place I can use some of my inherited pieces of furniture which are darker wood.

I’ve already got another two large tubs of paint for my next big project – We have moved around all the furniture upstairs, swapping spaces so that Arlo has the biggest room for all his toys as I don’t want to give up my front room and I’m going to be transforming my bright yellow bedroom in to a more tranquil and feminine space. I can’t wait to share the transformation with you.

Globalink- outdoor string lights competition

(Competition prize provided by Globalink)

I have been searching far and wide for the perfect lights for my garden. I’m loving the alfresco dining and long summer evenings which summer brings and I wanted to add a touch of magic to my outdoor space for the evenings but without making it look like I was setting up my Christmas decorations too early.

This set from Global Link (available on Amazon) is great value for money at £32.99 but you can grab 10% OFF  using the code: 2PLNE5JH  – end date: 31/12/2021.

The set arrived with my prime membership next day delivery and extremely well packaged with three spare bulbs too. I was expecting breakages as these are made from glass hence ordering a box which came with spares but the individual bulb packaging worked well – as soon as they arrived I set about hanging them up all along the garden.

The length is 11.7m which includes 3m lead to the mains powered plug and then all of the lights distributed along almost 9 metres. The low voltage output power makes them ideal for outdoor use and they’re IP65 waterproof. I’ve left my set up outdoors since the day I had them, there’s been plenty of rain typical of a British summer and they’ve remained just as fabulous as day one. The plug end itself has a little screw so you can undo the wire and thread it through to your shed/garage to plug in to the mains which is convenient.

The bulbs are a lovely size, not quite 4cm in diameter which makes them a great fit for even small spaces and they give off a glow rather than a bright light which gives off a warm ambient feel and makes the space feel really special, the bulbs don’t get too hot either which is important to me as I placed mine in and around my plants.

My favourite feature is the little clips on each bulb making it really easy to put these up around the garden and making them easily adjustable. It was quite literally a ten minute job to put them up. Being LED these will last a long time. 

To be in with a chance to win your own 11.7m set of Global Link outdoor lights (rrp £32.99) simply Click here or tap the picture below before midnight on 31st July to be in with a chance to win. I use rafflecopter to collate entries, you can enter daily to increase your chances of winning.

Terms and conditions apply – click here for more info.

Top Tips to Enjoy the Sun Whilst Working From Home

We all wait for the summer months to arrive so we can bask in the British sun and get our money’s worth out of the deck chairs that spend most of their time stuffed into the garage. However, the reality is often really different when you’re stuck behind a desk for seven hours a day – even when you’re working from home. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of top tips that will help you to enjoy the sun and warm weather whilst still ticking off all of your to-do list.

Tip #1 – Make the most of your lunch break

As tempting as it is to make a quick lunch and collapse onto the couch with Netflix during your lunch break, or worse, skip your lunch break altogether, it’s one of the best times to get outside and enjoy the weather.

So prepare your lunch in advance, or prep something quick before grabbing your trainers and walking socks and heading out for a brisk lunchtime walk. This will allow you to bask in the beauty of the Great British weather whilst simultaneously getting some physical activity into your daily routine.

Tip #2 – Work outside

Ultimately, the best way to enjoy the sunshine when you’re working from home is to combine the two together. If you can work using a laptop, just move your office outside for the day. This could be in your garden, on a flat balcony, or even in the local park.

Lots of outdoor spaces have free wifi, especially if you can situate yourself near a cafe. Alternatively, use your mobile phone as a data point for your laptop. This is a great way to soak up some Vitamin D, and reduce your sunshine FOMO.

If you’re worried about screen glare, you can use this helpful hack guide that shows you how to create a DIY Laptop Sun Shade using household items.

Tip #3 – Work near a window

Sometimes, your day is just too jam packed with meetings and deadlines to get outdoors. If this happens, the best thing to do is make sure you’re working near a window so that you can still enjoy some sunlight exposure without disrupting your daily routine.

Research shows that people who sit in close proximity to a window are more likely to find creative solutions to problems at work, whilst also experiencing better sleep patterns than colleagues who sat away from their windows.

Plus, you can often feel the heat of the sun through your window, so grab your favourite summer outfit and your sunglasses, and settle in for a bright, sunny and productive day working from home.

Whilst it may not be possible to head to the beach during your working day (unless you’re feeling brave with your mobile data!), it’s certainly possible to add some extra sunlight to your daily routine, brightening up your work day.

Medicine in the Mailbox

This week I had the opportunity to head out to Medicine in the Mailbox and I took along my mum so that we could be ladies who lunch, I have to say it’s been a while since I’ve been able to do this and so it was a real treat for both of us. We were offered a choice of tables with the restaurant having several different areas each with a slightly different ambience. I knew that the first incarnation of the brand was based on the Medicine Bar in Digbeth which I recollect from my student days, although my memories are somewhat hazy.

It was actually hard trying to decide where to sit because every corner of this restaurant is so beautifully decorated. Medicine as a brand reclaims abandoned spaces and turns them in to something beautiful. A new format of social space. This dining space literally feels like it belongs on a Pinterest board, the rich colours, wooden features and the houseplants create a wonderful backdrop for a meal. Eventually we chose to sit in a quiet corner and began to ponder the menu.

I opted for a cocktail whilst mum had lemonade and our expectations were surpassed immediately, before we even had the chance to try any food. Fresh and zingy with excellent sized measures. I could certainly come back enjoy several of these cocktails on a warm summer evening in this setting, it’s just such a welcoming space and feels so relaxing.

The restaurant delivers table service and so we ordered our meals from a waitress who was happy to offer advice and give recommendations on the menu. It was difficult trying to decide what to go for but eventually I opted for the watermelon and chicken salad whilst mum chose a grilled halloumi burger.

What a spread! Everything about this restaurant is well considered, the plates and table wear is just as beautiful as the decor which adds to the experience but the food really is the star of the show. With everything freshly prepared it really makes a difference and flavours come pouring out of every mouthful.

The grilled halloumi burger was on a bouncy brioche bun which was smothered in smashed avocado with chilli jam and a tomato salsa, and came with a thumbs up from my mum. It’s great to see exciting combinations of food and flavours in vegetarian options which often get overlooked. I thought this was extremely reasonably priced at seven pounds.

I was most intrigued by the fried buttermilk chicken and watermelon salad on the menu. Two of my most favourite foods and I have to say I’ve never tried them together so this was a first for me. The watermelon salad was a delight. Fresh and juicy fruit cubes with mint and a sweet dressing with pomegranate seeds made for a really refreshing burst of flavour. The star of this plate however, was the chicken.

If you follow me on social media you’ll know that chicken is basically considered a main food group in our household, I’ve grown up having the opportunity to eat home cooked meals – my aunt’s recipe for fried chicken is based on a recipe from St Kitts and I’ve never been able to sample chicken which measures up to these standards. After the first bite at Medicine I said that this tasted like Auntie Maxine’s and it just got better and better. The coating crumbled nicely and the chicken breast inside was tender and juicy. If I was being picky my only request would be for more of the honey hot sauce for dipping.

I’m really impressed with the experience we had, the food really did live up to expectations and now I feel like I need to head out to the other venues, at New street and come back to sample the bakery as I’ve heard many great things, this really is one of the best places to eat in Birmingham. You can order for collection from both the Mailbox and New Street venues, explore the menu and book tables online via the website

JAQKS chicken – food review

This new chicken shop is based in the awesome venue that is the Cube in Birmingham, and I have to say I was surprised to find out there was a chicken shop based in such a prestigious food venue, however having being given the opportunity to sample their wings I can see why they’re sharing a space in a building with Marco Pierre Whites flagship restaurant.

I visited with Arlo, he wanted some chicken wings and now that Lockdown has ended I thought it was a great idea to take him to eat out somewhere informal just to see how he gets on as it’s been a while since he’s been in a restaurant. This kid loves his food so I don’t know what I was even worried about, the service style is simple at JAQKS, they have paper menus which Arlo enjoyed poring over choosing his meal based on the pictures and of course the huge boards up behind the counter are there to glance at if you’re heading in after an evening in many of the surrounding bars.

Arlo opted for a simple kids wings and chips and couldn’t wait to get the box open, wings with a subtle spiced coating and a crumbly crunch to them. Served with fluffy on the inside chips. What more could you possibly want from a chicken shop?

I opted for a Korean Burger meal which came with a huge portion of chips. The chicken in the burger was tender and juicy, the sauces on the chicken were oozing out in a non greasy way so this was easily demolished. The best thing about this is that the meal came with two sauces to try, and you’re really spoilt for choice with the many options available. There’s something for everyone.

Of course meals come with a drinks refill if you’re eating in and this delighted Arlo. The restaurant is immaculately clean and there’s plenty of space, but the real delight is that food is available to order online from Deliveroo and Uber Eats to satisfy your chicken cravings. I don’t know if it’s just me but I often feel the need for dirty jumbo wings and JAQKS really do hit the spot.

These wings are cooked to perfection and they really go to town with the sauces, there’s no short measures and it’s a delight to get stuck in to these, you can order in threes or sixes in five different flavours, from BBQ, to Jerk, with Peri Peri, Buffalo and Korean in between.

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to come along, we will be back very soon because Arlo has been asking for more chicken wings every day this week!

Yakinori Solihull – restaurant review

Yakinori is a Midlands based Japanese restaurant with (at the time of writing) four branches now open across the region. We were kindly invited to try a meal for two at the Touchwood shopping centre branch in Solihull. I originally came across the Pokénori bowls on Instagram and they caught my attention as I’ve been searching for salad inspiration now I’m on a bit of a health and fitness journey.

Yakinori has a menu which has so much variety – unsurprising for a Japanese restaurant as there’s simply so many awesome dishes which spring from this cuisine. I chose to visit with my sister for a girls night out and we agreed to order different items off the menu with the intention of trying each other’s, and we ended up sharing everything as it all looked and tasted great.

The first thing we both ordered was bubble tea, the menu had a variety of soft drinks, including juices plus a selection of Japanese beers but neither of us had tried Bubble Tea before (I know, we must have been living under a rock). All I can say is that everyone needs to try these at least once. You can customise your drink with flavours of the juices and the bubbles, and the sensation of flavour when the bubbles burst in your mouth is nothing short of fun. These drinks were sweet and refreshing served cold but not too heavy or overpowering for the meal. I’ll be popping in just for a tea every visit to the mall.

The restaurant itself was bright and cheerfully decorated, with an open kitchen and a dedicated section for collection of take out orders – which was busy all night, and there was a queue for “walk in” tables so I highly suggest booking a table to avoid disappointment. The sound system was playing chart music and there was a buzzing atmosphere, yet the tables were set to accommodate social distancing and we felt extremely comfortable during our visit.

The style of service is ordering at the table with a waitress, and as standard they bring out the usual condiments and chopsticks. We did request cutlery and this was no trouble at all. Throughout the evening the team we encountered were all extremely friendly, happy to recommend dishes, explain the menu and ordering process and checked back but without any feeling of intrusiveness.

I opted for Shichimi Chilli Calamari to start, served alongside Edamame. Laura chose to order the Duck Bao Buns and these came out as and when they were ready, alongside a Miso Soup which is included with the Bento Box Main. The team bring our dishes as and when they’re ready and this for me is ideal as I absolutely love small plates and a sharing style of eating.

I have to applaud the attention to detail with all of the dips and extras. The Yuzu dressing with the Calamari was light and had that unusual citrus tang, a perfect accompaniment to the Calamari prepared in a Tempura batter and served with Asian Slaw which was zingy. Slaw is one thing which often falls far short of the mark but this was clearly freshly prepared with a crunch and a burst of flavour.

The duck Bao buns were a delight,the fluffy steamed dough makes these a great but filling option. One was enough for me, a £6.95 portion comes with two buns demonstrating great value for money. The marinated crispy duck was so great we went for this in our Pokénori salad bowl.

Pokénori is a fusion of Hawaiian bowls inspired by Japanese cuisine. The unique Yakinori style of ordering means that there’s countless different combinations and that each bowl is unique to the customer. You can choose the size of bowl, then a base, a protein, up to four salad ingredients and then two dressings, and then add extras too. If you’re the kind of person who struggles with decision making then don’t worry as there’s some awesome signature bowls to choose from on the menu too.

We opted for Udon noodles, with duck, carrot, cucumber, spring onions and coriander. We got our dressings in little pots on the side to really savour the different flavours. This went down a storm. The duck was marinated to perfection and crispy but not tough in texture. The noodles were light and fluffy, and all of our salad was fresh and crisp too.

The star of the show however was the Bento box we ordered “ultimate chicken” was the description on the menu and it arrived to the table in a very generously sized box with a lid and the aromas radiating out when this was lifted were mouthwatering. Bento boxes are great if you want to sample lots of different things – with sticky rice and more of the Asian Slaw working well with all of the different flavours of chicken. We had chicken Katsu Sushi and chicken Katsu in sauce – the sauce was great, rich and light. It had no hint of oil or grease residue which you often get with Katsu.

The firecracker Karage chicken was special – the heat was mouth warming but not overwhelming, and the sriracha Mayo worked really well in combination. When we finished the Bento box we had to admit defeat and end our meal. We were so impressed with the food that after our review we ordered take out for the kids at home as we really wanted to try the sushi too (and I’m advised that this was demolished). The entire menu is available to order for collection or via deliveroo from their branches in and around Birmingham including Selly Oak, Grand Central and Bristol Park street.

In addition I also noticed that Yakinori offers a discount of 20% to students and NHS employees. Thank you kindly to the team for giving us the opportunity to review your restaurant and a special shout out to Grace and Tara who were amazing!

Visiting the Confetti Fields

This blog is going to be full of pictures, and I’m not even going to apologise for it.

The confetti fields have become some what of an Instagram sensation of recent years because of course it’s so beautiful everyone wants to get themselves the perfect new profile picture (including me). I first visited with Arlo’s as a baby and the sight of the vast spread of Delphiniums in all sorts of colours overwhelmed me. I wasn’t prepared, but of Course baby Arlo had 2/3 spare outfits in the bag and so we had a little photo shoot in the glorious sunshine.

If you’ve never heard of the Confetti fields, they’re owned by The Real Flower Petal confetti Company which is based in Wick, just past Pershore (a village worth visiting on its own merit) in the Midlands. The company makes wedding confetti from Delphinium Flowers which is of course a fabulous environmentally friendly product and as a side hustle, which has become a viral social media sensation, the company began opening up its fields for visitors to capture the flowers in full bloom just before the harvest.

This of course occurs for a short time and varies year to year based on weather conditions. Now this not so secret place has become a number one spot for photo opportunities and so when tickets are released they sell out fast – at this time of writing there are opportunities to visit but please check the website.

So the practical things to consider when visiting: this place is a field and as such is bumpy and muddy in places so you need to be prepared for this. Pack sturdy shoes, try a baby carrier if you want to walk down through the flowers as a pram won’t fit. The company provides portaloos and has a small pop up cafe which sells cake, ice cream and coffee’s – I strongly suggest bringing a picnic and a blanket to make the most of your time here. Arlo managed to find a fab spot to rest and enjoy his chocolate brownie.

The delphiniums really are the star of the show and as we visited on opening weekend we were met with an array of colour, you can see the potential in these flowers to bloom even brighter over the next few weeks of summer with buds waiting to burst all over. This year however we spotted a wildflower meadow as we arrived which was worth pausing to explore and photograph. If you’re planning on posting your pictures to Instagram then the best place to find the best hashtags is Catherine’s article here from her blog, The Growing Family. Get all these beautiful photographs out for the world to see.

This year due to social distancing restrictions the tickets were checked by the team upon entrance to the car park, which was a really efficient way to manage things and avoiding any long queues just to get in to the field. We had an arrival time and it was suggested to spend two hours at the fields to help maintain number levels and make it fair for everyone. This was plenty of time to walk in and around the fields twice and zig zag off the beaten paths too.

At various vantage spots around the fields props have been carefully placed, from haybales to the lookout tower and a vintage tractor and bus, there’s so many views to capture it’s impossible. In fact I put my phone away for half an hour just to enjoy myself and the atmosphere.

We played hide and seek together and raced along the back straight of the field where we met the team members working hard and driving back and forth to pick flowers and load them on to the wagon for sale at the exit. Everyone we met working seemed happy, and how could you not be surrounded by such beauty?

Arlo is a lover of nature and constantly outdoors, so he was in his element and I snapped away capturing him enjoying himself, and we watched from a distance as professional photographers set up shoots with models and extravagant costumes. (I think he was convinced that the fairies were real).

One thing I did do was pack a magnifying glass, an egg box and a scavenger hunt resource for him to play with – and he literally lay down in the ditches to greet all creatures great and small – he didn’t stay clean for long but I didn’t mind as he was having a great time. If you’re planning to visit to get some pictures then it’s worth considering what kinds of things will keep the kids busy and enjoying the day as we spotted a lot of disgruntled kids on our walk around.

As we left the field I chose to purchase two bouquets, one for us at home and one for nanny – Arlo wanted to carry the gift proudly but the bunch was bigger than him – at £10 these are extremely reasonably priced, cut fresh and hand tied by a team working at out in the middle of the fields all day.

On our way back to the car we decided to head over to the wildflower meadow and Arlo ran off miles ahead. He was most impressed with the ladybirds and bees in this area, not to mention that this field had the “whole rainbow of colours.”

The confetti fields are only open until 4th July this year so head over to their website to book