Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New Ryvita Flavours and Recipes

Whenever I think of Ryvita, I think of dieters eating cardboard trying to lose weight!

Everyone know's Ryvita is good for you, but it has the reputation of being tasteless and only for those trying to lose weight!

But that was until I was sent some samples of their new flavoured Ryvita's and some recipes created by acclaimed chef Mark Sargeant, owner of celebrated restaurant Rocksalt in Folkestone, to create some fabulous summer and autumn toppings.

After graduating college Mark Sargeant worked at Reads Restaurant in Faversham and during his 3 years as a Sous Chef the restaurant gained it's first Michelin Star. Afterwards Mark worked in London at Oliver Peyton's Coast Restaurant where he won Young Chef of the Year in 1996 and where he also met Gordon Ramsay. In 1997, Mark began working with Ramsay at his restaurant Aubergine before going on to open Restaurant Gordon Ramsay as Sous Chef and working there for 4yrs, during which time the restaurant won 3 Michelin Stars. In 2001, Mark was rewarded with the position of head chef at the new Gordon Ramsay restaurant at Claridges. Here, not only did Mark gain a Michelin Star a year later, he was also awarded the title of Chef of the Year. In June 2011, Mark opened two restaurants in the coastal town of Folkestone in Kent. "Rocksalt" is the harbour-fronted restaurant and bar, while "The Smokehouse" is the fish and chip restaurant and take-away. Mark is also food director to restaurant group Canteen, and was delighted to have been chosen to create exclusive menus for Royal Ascot 2012. Mark's first cookbook was published in October 2011 "My Kind of Cooking" and Mark appears regularly on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen and Food Network UK shows.
Summertime Recipes

For a light lunch on a hot summer's day, why not treat yourself to Mark's subtly spiced Potted Crayfish Tales and Peppery Watercress on top of the new flavoured Ryvita Hint of Chilli Crispbread, perfect with a cold, crisp glass of Pinot Grigio for a long leisurely lunch. Serves 3-4 for a light lunch.

8 Ryvita Hint of Chilli Crispbreads
75g of Butter
1/2 tspn of Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tspn of Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tspn of Ground Mace
250g Crayfish tails, peeled and cooked
2 drops of Tabasco Sauce
Salt and Black Pepper

Place the butter in a pan to melt with the pepper, mace, nutmeg and Tabasco. Once melted, add the crayfish tails. Stir well over the heat and season. Place the crayfish tails into a large bowl and chill in the fridge for an hour. Remove from the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature, then mix to incorporate the spiced butter. Serve on Ryvita Hint of Chilli Crispbreads with watercress and a lemon wedge

Or what about a temptingly tasty canapĂ© for an outside, candle lit soiree, why not serve Mark's Succulent Salt Beef, Peppery Watercress and a dollop of Dill Pickle on Ryvita's Dark Rye Crispbread.

10-12 Ryvita Dark Rye Crispbreads
200g Cooked Salt Beef
20g young, peppery watercress, picked and cleaned
2-3 Radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 a large dill pickle, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp Cider vinegar
1/2 tspn English Mustard
1 clove of Garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 tbsps Olive Oil
Zest of 1/2 Lemon and the juice of half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pull the salt beef into thick strands (this is easier to do if the beef is at room temperature) and set aside. Now make the dressing. Put the vinegar, mustard, garlic, zest, juice and oil in a bowl, then whisk to emulsify. Add the beef to the dressing and coat well, then leave to steep for a minute or so. Add the radishes, dill pickles and watercress to the beef and toss gently, then pile between 10-12 Ryvita Dark Rye Crispbreads and cut each into 4 or 6 to make bite size pieces for canapĂ©s. Season well with black pepper and just a touch of sea salt. 

Autumn Recipes

Before you head down to the fireworks, treat the family to a seasonal spread of Ryvita Pumpkin Seed and Oats Crispbread with Curies Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, Yoghurt and Fresh Mint. Or, accompany a delicious cheese board with Ryvita Sunflower Seeds and Oats Crispbread piled high with Mark's cracking Waldof Salad. 

Mark says "Ryvita provides a great base for these seasonal toppings. I particularly enjoy eating Curried Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, Yoghurt and Fresh Mint on top of a Ryvita Pumpkin Seed and Oats Crispbread - the combination works perfectly, and gently warms you from the inside."

Ryvita Pumpkin Seed and Oats Crispbread with Curies Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, Yoghurt and Fresh Mint

16 Ryvita Pumpkin Seed and Oats Crispbreads
2 tbsps Vegetable Oil
1 Onion (roughly chopped)
3 Garlic Cloves (crushed)
250g Butternut Squash (seeded and cut into chunks)
1 Sweet Potato (cut into chunks)
200g Potatoes (cut into chunks)
1 Apple (peeled, cored and cut into chunks)
2 tsps Mild Curry Sauce
1 tsp Turmeric
2 1/2cm piece of Fresh Ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
2 Bay Leaves
250mls Vegetable Stock
25g Raisins
Black Pepper
4 tbsps Plain Yoghurt
1 Bunch of Mint

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions for 4-5 minutes until golden. Add the garlic, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes and apple. Stir in the curry paste, turmeric, ginger, bay leaves, stock, raisins and plenty of seasoning  Bring to the boil, stir well and then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender and the sauce is lovely and thick. Set aside to cool. Mix the yogurt with the finely shredded mint and season. Spoon onto Ryvita Pumpkin Seed and Oat Crispbreads and add a spoonful of yoghurt and mint over the top 
Serves 4-6 as a light supper

Ryvita Sunflower Seeds and Oats Crispbread with Waldorf Salad

10 Ryvita Sunflower Seeds and Oats Crispbreads
2 Braeburn Apples
1/2 Lemon (juiced)
4 tbsps Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Grain Mustard
2 Stalks of Celery (peeled and cut into crescents)
Handful of Walnuts
Couple of handfuls of Watercress

Cut the apple into chunks and toss with the lemon juice. Mix together the mayonaise and mustard and toss with all the other ingredients. Spoon over 10 Ryvita Sunflower Seeds and Oats Crispbreads.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The London Eye Review

Last weekend we went to London for a couple of days and we were lucky enough to be given two tickets to ride the EDF London Eye!

The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel on the south bank of the river Thames in London. Built to celebrate the new Millennium (and originally called the Millennium wheel) it was officially opened on the 31st December 1999 although due to technical faults it wasn't opened to the public until the 9th March 2000.

Since March 2000, the London Eye has become an iconic landmark and a symbol of Britain with over 3.5 million people visiting and riding the London Eye each year. It has done for London what the Eiffel Tower did for Paris by giving London a symbol and allowing people to climb over the city and look back down on it, as well as creating a focal point for New Year celebrations, with 10-minute displays taking place with fireworks launched from the wheel itself.

The London Eye has 32 passenger capsules, representing the 32 boroughs which make up London and are an entirely new design for an observational wheel. Instead of being under the wheel they turn within circular mounting rings fixed to the outside of the main rim. 

The result is a stunning 360 degree panoramic view from the top of the wheel, allowing you to see around 40km (25 miles) from the top and as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day. See Big Ben towering over the Houses of Parliament, follow St James Park as it sweeps down to Buckingham Palace where you can try and spot the flag flying to signal that the Queen is at home. 

Each capsule also has heating and cooling system and bench seating and following the upgrade of each capsule which was completed earlier this year to coincide with the Olympics, they each have Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices providing a more interactive way to take in the capital's best sights. 

Features include key information on landmarks that can be seen from the London Eye as well as a 3D view of each sight, further bringing it to life. Additionally, innovative 360 degree non-stop-24-hour filming has granted the London Eye and it's guests the first ever multi-dimensional views of the spectacular sights of the capital.

Each rotation takes about 30 minutes, meaning a capsule travels at a stately 26cm per second, or 0.9km (0.6 miles) per hour - twice as fast as a tortoise sprinting, allowing passengers to step on and off without the wheel having to stop (although it can if needed to allow disabled passengers on and off).

Your visit on the London Eye begins before you even get to your capsule, as included in your ticket price, there is now a new 4D Experience of a ground breaking 3D film with spectacular in-theatre effects including wind, bubbles and mist to add a breathtaking 4th dimension. A touching story of a little girl in London, whose views of famous London landmarks are obscured by jostling crowds and traffic When a seagull draws her attention to the London Eye and her father sees the opportunity to give his daughter a unique view of London... and through her London Eye flight she finally gets an amazing view of the city.  

This was the first time any of us had ever been on the London Eye, despite seeing it before, and everyone really enjoyed it. 

The kids kept running to look in all directions, trying to see what they could see and of course seeing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament was a huge hit and I thouroughly recommend it as a fantastic way to view London. 

The London Eye also have the ability to perform weddings or civil partnerships. What better way to celebrate your union in a private ceremony decorated with flowers. When you and your partner arrive, you will meet the representatives from Lambeth Register office in a private room for the pre-ceremony interview. Following the interview, you and up to 19 guests are escorted to your own private capsule to begin your hour experience which is two rotations of the London Eye. Your vows will be exchanged at the top of the wheel, 135 meters above London, surrounded by friends, family and breathtaking scenery - the perfect backdrop for photographs. On the descent the signing of the register will take place whilst the corks are popped and the party served chilled champagne. If you want you can enhance your package with additional food and champagne to enjoy during your second rotation and whilst having your wedding photographs taken.

Ticket prices vary but begin at £18.90 (£17.01 if bought in advance) for an adult standard ticket, £11.10 (£9.96 if bought in advance) for children aged 4-15 (children under 4 are free), £15 (£13.50 if bought in advance) for seniors and £60 (£48 if bought in advance) for a family ticket of four. You can also buy fast track tickets to ensure you don't have to queue to go on the Eye or maybe combine it with a river cruise or enhance your experience with one of the many experiences that the London Eye has to offer such as Champagne Experience or Day and Night Experience. For more information on ticket prices you can find them here.

LolliBop Festival for Kids 2012

Finally, after weeks of waiting and asking "Is it time yet" the weekend of our big trip to London arrived. But why were we heading from our tiny coastal town in North Wales, in the middle of nowhere, to London? Because... much to my children's delight... we had been offered tickets to attend LolliBop!

Held for the 2nd year in a row at Regent's Park in London on a glorious sunny day, we attended the last day of the event on the Sunday. The journey down to London was long (see The Long Journey), but the big question was... was it worth it?

Yes, I think it was. 

There were a few bad points,the main one being it was VERY busy which meant that there were queues everywhere. This meant we did miss a few things because my children are very impatient and don't like queuing at all! In fact they saw the queue for the B&Q Mini Workshop and although they were itching to go in and make something they didn't want to queue, same with the John Lewis Lane, which is a shame because it looked a lot of fun! Also food and drinks were very expensive, but then wherever you go, especially to festivals like this, then you will find it very busy with queues and expensive food and drinks. 

However they did enjoy making some clay models and so did daddy. Just a shame that they didn't make them home safely.

There was lots to see and do in LolliBop, DS couldn't wait to go to Skylanders Arena and have a go, especially as we don't have the game, but it is now #1 on his Christmas list! 

It was even a hit with Mark Owen and I'm just sad he wasn't there the same day I was!

The girls both loved Mister Maker! But were sad we didn't see Clifford the Big Red Dog.

My favourite was Titan the Robot! He was fantastic and DS loved the fact that he got squirted!

Stavros Flatley was also great fun, I even saw the dad walking around and I was so upset I didn't have hubby with me as everyone says hubby is his twin and they even dance alike! Would have loved a photo of the two of them together!

And of course, the highlight of Sunday and well deserved a mention... Shrek the Musical! This was brilliant and a good way of introducing young children to shows like this!

I was also impressed at one point when I heard CBeebies presenters Katie (from I Can Cook) and Alex telling all the children to come to the front and the adults to stay back, as I did find that sometimes children couldn't see what was going on because adults were standing up in front of them or in their way.

Of course we did have a few tantrums from my 5yr old who kept wandering away, she wanted a balloon but after I'd seen so many flying away that I was surprised that London hadn't had to close the airport, there was no way I was going to risk her losing one (not to mention the nightmare of trying to get it all the way home safe and intact!)

Everyone had a really good day, even when we had a brief shower and thunderstorm, it didn't spoil anyone's enjoyment and since it was such a hot day clothes quickly dried. If anything it was too hot, but of course that wasn't LolliBop's fault and had it been raining it wouldn't have been such a good day!

I would definitely take the family to LolliBop again and if they host it again next year, I recommend it to everyone!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Foooz Pro Set Game by Drumond Park Review

What little boy doesn't like football?

But sometimes you can't play it as often as you'd like! It's raining, you're not allowed to play ball in the house and you don't have the room for a table top football game...

But now there is a new product from Drumond Park, ideal for the little footballer in your life!


Foooz, the ultimate table football game, in your pocket!

Grab your Foooz figure and with a single twist you can shoot it, bend it, chip it and blast the ball, just like your favourite footballers!

An action game for the young and old, men and women, which can be played anywhere, on any surface, at school or at home, at work in the office or at lunch in the canteen. Play as individuals or togehter, one-on-one or team against team. You can even organise matches, freestyle or to the rules, or even practice by yourself to perform great trick shots or amazing top corner volleys and even over the head flips to get the ball in the net!

Just like in football, the aim of the game with Foooz is to score goals, but Foooz is not only about how many goals you can score, but how you score the goals! 

Fooz is available to buy in all good toy shops as either;
The Challenge Set - Containing 1 goal, 1 Foooz figure, 1 ball, sticker sheet to personalise your player, 1 hang-up target and 6 collectable skill cards 
The Pro Match Set - 2 Foooz figures, 2 goals, 2 balls, target card, 2 click on boots for special tricks, sticker sheet to personalise your players and 8 collectable skills cards. 

We were set a copy of the Foooz Pro Set for my son to try and he enjoyed using the target and trying to score as many points as he could by getting the ball into the goal, he even challenged daddy to play and cannot wait to go back to school so he can challenge all his friends!

An ideal gift for any little boy!

We were sent the Foooz Pro Set Game for free on the understanding I would write an honest review of what I thought about the product. I received no payment and the review is my own honest and unbiased opinion of the product and I retain full editorial control and integrity 

Artzooka Clingzooka Robots Review

Artzooka is a creative brand by Wooky Entertainment, which is designed to inspire children aged 5+ to get crafty using their artistic skills and imagination. Each Artzooka project includes instructions and a unique challenge making it the perfect activity for a rainy afternoon! Children can collect different kits and show off their work when they've made their masterpieces. 

We were sent the Clingzooka Robots to review. 

With Clinkgzooka you get 10 background scenes and over 250 stickers for you to design your own robot. Once you've chosen your scene (either a plain scene or one with a central object that you can use as the body of your robot) you just peel of the static stickers and stick them wherever you like on your scene to create the most fantastic robots you can imagine. Most of the stickers are of ordinary everyday objects you might see around your house, and all can be peeled off and reused giving endless hours of fun and design! There is even a handy storage pouch for you to store your unused stickers until you next need them!
The pack also includes ideas that you can use for robots and a challenge for you to complete! 

All 3 of my children had lots of fun creating their own robots and laughing at each others creation. A perfect rainy day activity which can even be used on days that aren't rainy!

We were sent a box of Artzooka Clingzooka Robots for free on the understanding I would write an honest review of what I thought about the product. I received no payment and the review is my own honest and unbiased opinion of the product and I retain full editorial control and integrity. 

Artzooka Wooden Spoon Puppets Review

Artzooka is a creative brand by Wooky Entertainment, which is designed to inspire children aged 5+ to get crafty using their artistic skills and imagination. Each Artzooka project includes instructions and a unique challenge making it the perfect activity for a rainy afternoon! Children can collect different kits and show off their work when they've made their masterpieces.

We were sent Wooden Spoon Puppets to review.

Inside the box you find two wooden spoons and 6 sets of cardboard outfits and hair/hat that can be decorated however the child wants using the paint and paint brush provided or colouring pens. There is also an inspiration booklet with a challenge to make a pencil holder complete with instructions.

My girls had great fun creating the wooden spoon puppets. We decided to use colouring pens rather than the paint provided as my 2yr old was around and climbing on the table and getting in the way, so I decided it would be easier to use pens instead, plus it meant it was easier for my 5yr old to colour in a little neater.

I did think it was a shame that there was only two spoons provided, as it meant they had to choose between the costumes for the puppets, and even using both sides of the spoon meant that two costumes couldn't be used. It also meant that if you have more than two children, then someone is left out and cannot join in unless you buy an extra pack.

However, I think they are a wonderful rainy day, or even any day, activity and the girls enjoyed playing with the puppets afterwards with each other! I would definitely buy Artzooka products again. 

We were sent a box of Artzooka Wooden Spoon Puppets for free on the understanding I would write an honest review of what I thought about the product. I received no payment and the review is my own honest and unbiased opinion of the product and I retain full editorial control and integrity.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Longest Journey

Living in such a rural area in North Wales has it's good points and it's bad points.

Sometimes you don't even notice the bad points... until you have to relay on public transport!

Take last weekend for example. We were heading down to London to LolliBop which started at 10am and we had tickets for Sunday. I had managed to book us a cheap travelodge room for Sunday night, but that meant we had to travel down Sunday morning and of course being Sunday it made for difficult travel plans.

I did lots of research trying to find out which would be the cheapest and quickest way to London from our house. The problem was that most of the trains, wherever we travelled from (and I tried 4 main stations, some over 60miles away), didn't get you to London until after lunch!

Finally I discovered that the National Express did a coach which travelled overnight from Bangor to London and I thought that travelling during the night would be a good idea as the kids would sleep and we wouldn't have to entertain them.

Of course, not having my car as it is off the road, and being a family of 6, meant that we couldn't rely on anyone for a lift because they didn't have enough room in their cars, so this meant that we had to leave home on the bus at 4.45pm and we arrived in Bangor for 8pm with an hour long stop in Caernarfon to get something to eat.

So from 8pm until 1.30am we were stuck waiting at the bus stop, on a Saturday night! It didn't help that just after we got there we realised we'd left the coach tickets at home! I had remembered packing them in my bag but I had forgotten that hubby had pulled them out to look at them and had left them at home by the computer.

So we walked around Bangor, trying to find somewhere that we could use to print the tickets from my email again. But there was no internet cafe's and any shop or pub we went into couldn't help us. I even saw the security guard from work who was being a bouncer at the club and although he tried to help us, he couldn't and neither could the police when we asked two wpc's. Eventually I phoned National Express and explained our prediciment and the woman I spoke to was very helpful and said that because I had the email on my phone, she would phone the driver and explain that it was ok with them for him to let us on but ultimately it was his decision.

So once we'd sorted the tickets out, it was about 10pm and we sat on the bench by the bus stop waiting. Luckily it was a dry night and wasn't too cold, but we did see quite a lot of drunks walking past and even someone throwing up in a bus shelter which was thankfully no where near us! The police as well were aware of us waiting at the bus pass and they kept going past to make sure we were ok, especially as we had 4 young children with us!

Just after midnight, 2 out of 4 of the kids had fallen asleep but I began to worry about whether we were at the right bus stop, even though we had asked and been told it was. Finally at 1.30am, as the bus was 5 minutes late, I phoned National Express and was told the bus was running about 15mins late but that we should be at the right bus stop and because I had already phoned about the tickets the driver knew we were definitely there and waiting. Just after I hung-up, much to our relief the bus turned up and we got on and the driver knew we'd forgotten our tickets and was fine about it.

Considering the time of night, I was surprised at how busy the bus was and we couldn't sit together, but it had come over from Ireland and through Holyhead and Angelsey before reaching us.

Once on the bus, I was with the two youngest and as they were sleeping I dozed off as well. It was really strange though cos I fell asleep around 2am near Llandudno and when I woke an hour later we were just about to go through Birkenhead tunnel!

The driver decided he would go to Manchester Airport before Chester as he knew the Manchester cafe would be closed but Chester would be open for his break so he dropped us off an hour earlier and suggested we phoned National Express to see if they could get us on the 4am bus to London instead of the 6.20am but unfortunately it was full and we had to wait in Manchester Airport for 2.5hrs.

Finally we were off again and this time we were sat together and we all fell asleep, at least until 8am when the bus stopped at the services on the M6 toll for breakfast. After that everyone was wide awake and we had a stressful 3hrs trying to keep everyone occupied and playing musical chairs with tears and tantrums (and that was just from their dad!)

Eventually we made it to London for 11am... 18hrs and 45mins since we left home!!!

Personally, I would travel again by coach overnight, but then I'm lucky and can sleep anywhere unlike hubby who won't agree with me! But if we do travel again overnight, I will make sure that we don't have such long waits, 6hrs in Bangor was a killer!!! LOL

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Exclusive - The World's First Vending Machine for Babies

Nowadays, wherever you go, you are sure to find vending machines. Whilst they can be handy for getting drinks or snacks, a lot of parents find they have to give their children unhealthy snacks as there is never any alternatives.

This weekend Ella's Kitchen unveiled the World's FIRST vending machine exclusively for toddlers and full of healthy drinks and snacks at LolliBop. The vending machine has taken specialists over four months to develop and construct with bespoke features to make it easy for toddlers to operate. Standing at only 115cm tall, it is perfectly sized for the average one year old to dispense their favourite snacks. 

Ella's Kitchen decided to develop the baby vending machine after research revealed that up to 82 per cent of British parent's struggle to find healthy snacks for their little ones whilst out and about and 58 per cent of parents have been forced to feed their children unhealthy foods such as crisps and chocolate because there has been nothing else available. 

The mini vending machine will be filled with 12 different varieties of snacks from Ella's Kitchen's healthy, handy and tasty snacks; such as Smoothie Fruits, Nibbly Fingers and new Puffits, to show parents that foods for kids whilst on the go don't need to be restricted to sugary or salty foods. 

With over a quarter of parents (27 per cent) feeding their children at least twice a day whilst out of home, the vending machine aims to raise awareness of the difficulties parents have finding healthy snacks on the go. Toddlers have tiny tummies that need to be regularly topped up with small snack to maintain their energy levels as they grow and explore the world around them. Ella's Kitchen snacks are aimed at little ones from seven months and contain 100% organic ingredients with absolutely no concentrates or refined sugars. 

The top hotspots with a lack of toddler-friendly snacks on offer were revealed as;
* Beaches (43 per cent)
* Parks or playgrounds (38 per cent)
* Shopping centres (36 per cent)
* Theme parks (33 per cent)
* Zoos or farms (29 per cent)

Paul Lindley, Ella's Dad and founder of Ella's Kitchen, comments: "By creating the first tiny vending machine, we hope to stimulate little ones' senses and encourage them to enjoy eating healthy foods from a young age. Our snack products are designed to be healthy, handy and fun for both parents and their children allowing them to spend more time exploring the big outdoors without worrying about finding healthy foods. We can't wait for the little ones to try out the machine for themselves at LolliBop!"

This weekend, as we were in LolliBop we saw the Ella's Kitchen vending machine and it certainly seemed to be popular, with a small queue each time we passed and the staff had to keep re-stocking it with all the Ella's Kitchen snacks. My 2yr old was very impressed with the vending machine and enjoyed using it, feeling very grown up that there was actually a vending machine she could use! All children like feeling grown-up and with the Ella's Kitchen vending machine being so easy for toddlers to use they could feel very grown up using it and the added enjoyment that the vending machine was just for them - no grown-ups allowed!!!

I can see this vending machie being very popular and I hope that soon we will find them in a lot more places! Especially hospitals, as I've always found it ironic that wherever you look in a hospital you can find vending machines dispensing junk food, when your doctors are always telling you to lay off the junk food and eat healthily!