Sunday, 30 November 2014

My Sunday Photo - Christmas Tree

We normally wait until December, but it's near enough.
I let the kids decorate the tree and then I tidy it up afterwards, I can't be doing with two baubles on one branch!

When do you put your Christmas tree up and do you let the children decorate or do it while they are not around?


Friday, 28 November 2014

Word of the Week - Old

As predicted last week, this weeks word is old, however, I don't feel as bad about it as I was expecting too. I've been expecting it for a while you see, it nibbles away at you sometimes. When you are young birthdays are mostly a time of fun and celebration with lots of looking forward. Then you find yourself speeding towards old age and suddenly you wish the birthdays would just stop already. This wasn't a big birthday, that's next year, but it's one step towards it. I remember going to a 50th birthday party many moons ago and thinking why would anyone want to celebrate being THAT OLD! Ah the ignorance of youth. You have no choice, it's going to happen anyway, so why not make the most of it.

So, my birthday is over now and I'm a year older this Friday than I was last week. I don't really feel any different though. My main gift was to go and see Kasabian live at the LG arena. I've seen them several times before and I love them. I know they are not everyone's cup of tea and as a regular listener to Il Divo and Michael Buble, it does surprise people sometimes. Now, when I've seen them before it's been in smaller places like the NIA. So I was a little worried about the LG arena and it's hugeness, particularly as I'm not good in crowds. But on the night I really let my hair down and I was in the 'mosh pit' albeit not right in the middle, there were thousands there and most of them were behind me...eeek! The woman not far from me looked a fair bit older than me, and there were two guys in the seats to my right who had to be at least 20 years older than me!! Wow! If they can do it so can I. I had the time of my life.

The next day I was aching from being on my feet all night dancing but my head was clear and I was good.

This year, for a change, most of my family remembered my birthday without prompting. (not that I would prompt anyway, which is probably where I've always gone wrong.) I had some lovely gifts and cards. We had lunch out and a take out for dinner and I didn't have to do the washing up. It was a good day, and so what if I'm a year older, it happens to everyone.

So, my word is old but I still feel young, so it's not a bad word. And everytime I tell someone my age and they look shocked and reply "I didn't realise you were that old" I will take it as a compliment (whether they mean it or not!)

By the way, on my birthday the Little Man decided that I was 35, so if you don't mind, that's how old I will be for now.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Smiggle in Town

Last week we went to visit the new Smiggle Shop which has opened in the Bullring Birmingham.

I'm a big lover of stationary and I think Boo is too, she often goes to bed scribbling away in a notebook.

Smiggle is a children's stationary shop which originated in Australia. They have just started opening shops in the UK and plan to have 200 stores by next year. Smiggle is all about inspiring their customers creativity with fun, colourful and original stationary. Their shops are full of sensory excitement and the staff passionate and friendly.

The first thing that struck me was the lovely arrangement inside the stall. I will admit that I am more than a tad obsessive compulsive and I was delighted with the order of the shop, it was very pleasing.

Now that's what I call colour co-ordination.

The products are bright and fun and there is something to suit all tastes, including grown-ups. I loved that they had some fabulous boys products too. I was told that the stock is changed regularly so their is always something new to see.

Not only are you taken in by the beautiful colours there are also many textures to enjoy and even smells.

When I mentioned that I'd visited the shop on my social media a couple of my friends said they had thought the shop was nice, but over priced. As a fan of stationary I know that you can buy cheaper stationary on the high street, but there is not as much to choose from and it's not as nice. There are also a couple of shops I like to browse where I don't buy anything because I cannot justify paying so much..those are the expensive shops. I believe that  Smiggle lies in between. In fact I found them pretty good value. I bought gifts for four of my children that worked out less than £10 each and they were all really happy. I'm sure they would make great Christmas stocking fillers.
One daughter had a konnichiwa pencil case and some scented macaroon erasers which she loved, another had a light up snap band and my son loved his stencil book and spy pen.
Boo, my stationary loving little girl had asked me to get her a new notebook. Well, as she loves to take a notebook to bed I was thrilled to find a furry notebook. I chose a blue bunny one (blue is her favourite colour) and also bought her a new multi-coloured pen. Now she can fall asleep cuddling her furry bunny once she's finished her writing. She absolutely loves it.

I'm sure we will be popping in to Smiggle every time we visit the Bullring. There are so many things I saw that I'd like to buy. I'm also looking forward to opening my Smiggle Advent Calender with a little piece of stationary behind every door.

You can shop at Smiggle online, but I'd thoroughly recommend a trip to one of their shops as it really is a lovely experience. Check the website for a shop near you. I'm lucky as I currently live in the middle of two of them.

The Reading Residence
Disclaimer: I was invited to the Smiggle shop opening and received a goody bag. I was not asked specifically to write anything about them and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christmas Planning - What to do in Birmingham

Christmas is exactly a month away today. I can't help feeling excited this year. I still have all my family at home and my littlies are still small enough to believe in the magic of Father Christmas. It's been six years now since my mum passed away on Christmas Day, I will still be sad about that and I will still remember her as I do every year with flowers and candles, but this is the first time I feel calm about the whole period. So let the festivities begin.

So what are we going to be doing around Birmingham this Christmas? First up it will be some ice skating at the rink on Centenary Square. It opened on November 15th and will be there until January 4th. We plan to go this weekend. Unfortunately Star won't be able to skate but there will be fun things for her to do around the German Christmas Markets.

We go to the German Christmas Market every year, often several times and they never fail to get us into the Christmas Spirit. If you search you can even find stalls making hand crafted goods rather than the commercialised ones found on most stalls.

I never leave without my Schokokuss or chocolate kisses...yum yum

We've not yet taken the littlies to a pantomine yet but we do like to visit the theatre at Christmas time and this year we are going to see The Tiger Who Came to Tea at Birmingham Town Hall. Based on the book by Judith Kerr, the stageshow runs from 23rd December until 14th January with a relaxed performance on 11th January for those with learning difficulties or sensory disorders.

I'll be writing up my review after we've been.

Also at the Town Hall, if you are around with your little ones on Wednesday 17th December there is a free Musical Picnic hosted by jazz singer Sarah Colman. It sounds great and I'll definitely be looking to visit more musical picnics in the new year.

I'm taking the girls for their first concert at Birmingham Symphony Hall on December 20th when we go to see Christmas Classics. I'm sure they will enjoy it, they will be taken away by the music. I'm also looking forward to seeing the marvellous Brian Blessed. Symphony Hall has lots on to celebrate Christmas for all tastes and ages. You can find complete listings on their website and there are many shows with half price tickets for children here.

If you do fancy a Pantomine then Jack and the Beanstalk is on at the Birmingham Hippodrome from
19th December to 1st February, with celebrities Jane McDonald and Duncan James taking lead roles.

Have a Merry Christmas Everyone x

Monday, 24 November 2014

Kids in the Kitchen - Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits

Welcome to this weeks Kids in the Kitchen.
This week we made Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits, with a traditional cream and strawberry filling for the grown ups and a strawberry icing for the littlies.

Last week we were joined by the talented Miss T who made the most delicious looking Southern Mud Pie with Eric Lanlard's recipe. Thank you for joining in Miss T and I'm glad you are feeling better.
 You can find a collection of all posts shared with Kids in the Kitchen on our Pinterest Board, it's great for inspiration.

Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits.

There are many recipes for strawberry shortcake to be found, I made something similar before but it was more cake like. This recipe is more biscuit like, but the biscuits are very soft and buttery. Sometimes it's a fine line between biscuit and cake. I really wanted to do the strawberry shortcake with a thick whipped cream and strawberry filling....but the kids had other ideas and wanted strawberry flavoured icing on theirs. So we made both.


185g of caster sugar
185g unsalted butter
1 happy egg
275g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

for toppings: whipped cream and strawberries
and strawberry flavoured icing made with icing sugar, strawberry flavouring and a little water.
sprinkles optional.


Today's helper was Boo although all the littlies had a go at decorating their own biscuits with icing and sprinkles.

First Boo mixed the sugar and butter until smooth. We always use a wooden spoon, although we have a mixer, we just enjoy it more.
Then Boo added the egg. She's getting really good at cracking eggs and getting the whole lot in the mixture minus it's shell.
Then she sifted the flour and baking powder and folded them into the wet mixture.
We then rolled the dough into cling film and put it in the fridge.

We left it for about an hour and then took it out and rolled it gently.
We cut out round biscuit shapes with a cutter. They were quite large and we only made 12 biscuits from the mixture.

We left big spaces in between the biscuits on the greased baking trays and cooked them for 10 minutes at 180C or gas mark 4.

The littlies then decorated their biscuits while I filled the grown ups biscuits.

So now it's over to you, get in the kitchen with your kids and come and share what you've cooked,
I'd also be mighty grateful if you included my badge in your post so others can see it and come along and join in. (although adding the badge is not compulsory to joining in)

Thank you for reading, if you like my blog then please Subscribe to Raisie Bay
You can find out more about Kids in the Kitchen by clicking here.

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What is Snow?

We have been invited to take part in the House of Fraser Christmas competition to celebrate their Toy Section this year.
We were given a story and asked to finish it. The girls were happy to have a go.

We read the story together which was all about Fraser Bear drawing a picture with snow in it, then having to explain to Baby Bear what snow was.

Star finished the story off.

"Fraser Bear wished there was a way to show Baby Bear what snow was......

Just when he had no ideas left and then he thought and said "Let's look outside" so they did. Baby Bear looked out side and saw snow.
Baby Bear recognized snow and he knew what Fraser Bear had meant.
He came to play with Frazer Bear and they had a lovely Christmas Eve.
Boo also added a little bit with her picture of Baby Bear and Frazer Bear Playing in the snow.

After that the bears went back into the house and Fraser Bear said to Baby Bear "do you know what snow is now?" and Baby Bear said "yes"

Strangely, Boo seems to think that snow is purple? 

We are big lovers of snow and hope we get some this winter. Of course, snow is best when you don't actually have to go out anywhere. You can just go and play in the garden and come in and get warm afterwards.

We had a surreal time in July when Boo had her Frozen birthday party. We had snowball fun with polystyrene balls and made some fabulous 'magic snow' using a powder that expands to look and feel like snow. The kids thought it was brilliant having all the fun of the snow on which turned out to be the hottest day of the year.

fake snow.

This is our entry into the House of Fraser Story competition to win £250 of House of Fraser vouchers

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My Sunday Photo

Kasabian at the LG Arena Birmingham 22nd November 2014

I may be aching all over this morning but it was worth it....boy what a night!


Friday, 21 November 2014

Word of the Week - Blur

Is it really Friday already?

This week has passed in a blur. Last Friday I was okay, but then I woke in the night with a migraine. I managed to go downstairs and take one of my migraine pills (completely forgetting I had an emergency supply hidden in my bedside drawer) Around 4am I was feeling a hundred times worse so OH had  to go and fetch my forehead ice pad and painkillers. I didn't get any better.

Saturday was a blur, as was Sunday. The pain relief was doing nothing. I was doing nothing.

Monday I started to feel a little better, as in I just had a headache from hell.

Tuesday, the headache was still present but at least I could move and watch television again.

Wednesday came the migraine hangover. I was sick and dizzy but my head was clearing.

Thursday I could drive again...yeah. I also managed to get on with a cake I've been commissioned to do this week, thankfully not a too complicated design.

I went to a Blogger Event yesterday evening which was nice but I did kind of feel like I wasn't really there. It's really difficult to explain, everything sounds and looks different and it's hard to focus.

Today my head is clear and I feel almost normal again. I'm just kind of at a loss as to where this week went. I could easily have dreamt it all and we could be back to last Friday.

I really can't tell you how I've managed to get the kids to school each day, cook and clean all week, I guess it's a kind of overdrive where our bodies continue to do our chores without the brain being present?

My next step is to get myself excited about going to a gig tomorrow night. I've waited for months having buying my tickets during the five minute sell out period. Now, the thought of all that noise is scaring the life out of me. I think I may be getting old *sigh* which is probably going to be next weeks word of the week...I can feel it coming!

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Owl and The Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussy cat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat.....

As a child I loved this poem by Edward Lear. It was so romantic and also a little crazy, which was just fine with me. I was really happy to re-discover the poem with my children. Of course the girls were straight in there with the questions, "what's a runcible spoon?" and "What's a Bong Tree? Is there really an island where they grow?"
Boo decided that a runcible spoon is probably what we would call a spork, a kind of spoon with fork prongs. Star decided that a bong tree would be a tree which 'bonged' when you bumped into it, or if a bong fruit fell off.
That is the magic of Edward Lear, he used words that didn't necessarily have to make sense, children find them so much fun.
I was sent a brand new copy of the Owl and the Pussy Cat with illustrations by Charlotte Yoake and a forward by Julia Donaldson.

 I loved the imagery, you could relate to it even though the poem is 143 years old.

 The pictures are bright and fun, Very attractive to young and old alike and bound to create more questions from the little ones as they enjoy the poem.

Did you ever wonder what happened to the Owl and the Pussy Cat after they were married and danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon?

Julia Donaldson did and now she has written a perfect follow on poem, in much the same style as Edward Lear. This book is also illustrated by Charlotte Yoake.

The book can also be purchased with a CD which contains the story read aloud by Julia Donaldson. She also sings the poem like a folk song on the CD.

 I won't give the story away but the ring gets stolen and the owl and the pussycat set out on a mission to retrieve it.

 Julia Donaldson also introduces some more of Edward Lears characters from other poems such as the Pobble who has no toes and his Aunt Jobiska.

My children really loved the books and have since been practising their own poetry.

You can purchase both The Owl and The Pussycat and the Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat from Amazon. They would make perfect Christmas presents for any child.

Here is a little introduction to the book by Julia Donaldson herself.

I was sent copies of both books for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Kids in the Kitchen - Pitta Bread

Welcome to this weeks Kids in the Kitchen and my apologies for posting late. I've been suffering from a migraine for the last five days. I'm feeling better today but I have the most awful tinnitus.
This week we made Pitta Bread. It was unplanned really, I'd made pulled pork for dinner and needed some bread to go with it, so I grabbed the kids and asked them to help.

Last week we were joined by Little E from All About a Mummy blog. What a beautiful little helper you have. I'll look forward to seeing who joins us this week.

Pitta Bread

As I said, we decided to make Pitta Bread to go with our Pulled Pork which is a new favourite of mine. For many years I didn't Pork because for some reason my mum had told me it made me sick. Maybe I grew out of it, but it certainly doesn't make me ill now. I'm still not a huge fan of pork, but I love slow cooked pulled pork marinaded with spices. I like to serve it with a lovely salad of fresh leaves and tomatoes with a tasty vinaigrette. Salads tend to get neglected during the winter months but they need not be. In fact, I'm on a mission to eat more and am planning on a salad with bread-crumbed Camembert later. You can find lots of healthy salad recipes which can be used all year around. I do love the handy bags of salad leaves you can pick up at the supermarket.


  • 200g Strong white flour
  • 7g sachet of fast acting yeast
  • 1tsp salt
  • 160ml warm water
  • 2 tsp olive oil


mix together the flour yeast and salt in a large bowl.
Add the olive oil
Mix in about half the water and then keep adding a little at the time until it all comes together in a dough.
Turn out and knead the dough. 
This is one job kids love to do

Heat oven to 250C gas mark 9
Place a baking tray in the oven to warm up
Leave the dough to prove for about half an hour to an hour
break into six pieces
stretch or roll each piece into pitta bread shapes

Place pitta breads on warmed tray and place in the oven for 5-10 minutes until puffed up and golden.
We did ours in two batches of three pitta breads.

So now it's over to you, get in the kitchen with your kids and come and share what you've cooked,
I'd also be mighty grateful if you included my badge in your post so others can see it and come along and join in. (although adding the badge is not compulsory to joining in)

Thank you for reading, if you like my blog then please Subscribe to Raisie Bay
You can find out more about Kids in the Kitchen by clicking here.

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Friday, 14 November 2014

My Christmas Cake - recipe

I like to make my Christmas at least six weeks before Christmas. often earlier. This year I made it last week and it's already had it's first 'feed'. It's now wrapped up in greaseproof paper in a cake tin at the back of a cupboard. Each week I will unwrap it lovingly and pour over a tablespoon of brandy to keep it moist. This is definitely not a cake for the kids, but that's okay because they will have plenty of their own cake to enjoy.

I did get Boo to help me mix up the cake this year, she wanted to cook so I gave her some jobs. She was not impressed though and did ask if it would be okay if she didn't eat any.

rich fruit christmas cake

When making your Christmas Cake you need to prepare your tin. I used an 8" round tin with a loose bottom. It has to be lightly greased and lined with greaseproof paper. Then you have to cover the outside of the tin with folded greaseproof paper and tie it on.


  • 1lb mixed fruit and candy, you can buy bags from the supermarket expecially for cakes.
  • 5tbs of brandy
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark muscovado sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 tbs of treacle


Place the dried fruit in a bowl and cover with the brandy. Leave overnight to soak.

  • preheat the oven to 140C gas mark1
  • cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  • beat the eggs and add them a little at a time, beating thouroughly after each addition
  • sieve flour, salt and spices into a mixing bowl
  • fold the flour and spice mix into the butter, sugar and eggs mix
  • add the soaked fruit and excess brandy
  • add the ctrus zest and treacle
  • mix to combine all ingredients
  • pour into prepared pan
  • bake for 4 hours

Here is my finished cake. In the week before Christmas I will decorate it with marzipan and icing. I've not decided yet on the decoration, but here is last years cake.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

No Place Like Home

I am currently embarking on a huge task of decorating my home. Every single room in the house was magnolia. Well, now I have my first room almost completed. All I need are some new lightshades.

I recently visited the Grand Designs Exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre. It was there that I fell in love with this collage from 1Wall. 

1Wall at the N.E.C. Many more designs are available on their website

I was really excited when I was one of twenty bloggers chosen to review something from 1Wall and of course I chose the collage.

It arrived in a box with a picture of all the pieces inside on the back. I found this useful when making up my design, it saved searching through the box.

I had already decided that I wanted to spell out something rather than just put them up alphabetically, so I knew which letters I was looking for.

My next decision was how to place them on the wall. I tried placing them on the floor but it didn't give me an impression of what they would look like. So I put a tiny piece of blu-tack on the pieces I wanted and experimented by sticking them up. It took a while and a lot of shifting patterns before I decided to go with a neat block of letters. To be honest, I do have a problem with abstract and random things so it made sense to go neat and uniform. That's just my style.

Once I was certain of my design my next step was to measure where they would go. I knew each line would be eight pieces long, so I blu-tacked eight pieces back on the wall to measure where I wanted them to start and finish.

My next job was to measure how far from the ceiling they would go and to lightly mark the wall so I knew where each piece on the top line was going. Because I wanted them uniform the preparation had to be done.

I sorted out each piece I was using and put them in order. Then I began pasting them. I was provided with the paste which just had to be mixed with water.
I found that working with four pieces at a time was best, it was just enough time, around two minutes, for each piece to soak up the paste and be ready for hanging.

The top line took longest as I had to make sure it was all straight and neat, after that the job was a lot easier and it took me just under an hour to complete.

I was really pleased with the result. Like wallpaper they bubbled up a little after application but once dried they are smooth and flat. 

As the pack contains 64 pieces and I only used 24 I still have 40 pieces left (yay, I can do math too)
I'm thinking of putting these up in the alcove in my bedroom later on. The collage I created is 220 cm wide by 112.5 cm long

Overall, I found them really easy to put up and they look really effective. I painted my hallway a very light coffee colour a couple of weeks ago and they work really well. However, they are very neutral shades and would work with most colour schemes. They cost £49.99 for a pack of 64 including wallpaper paste. They can be cut to size or overlapped depending on your design. The pack comes with full instructions and decorating ideas. You can also find decorating ideas on the website along with a video. 

Disclaimer: As stated I received this collage from 1 Wall for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Kids in the Kitchen - White Chocolate Cheesecake

Welcome to this weeks Kids in the Kitchen. This week I had the Little Man in the kitchen as a willing helper. Together we made White Chocolate Cheesecake after finding a recipe over on The Reading Residence blog. It was incredibly delicious and so easy to make.

First I like to say thank you to those that linked up last week.

I was incredibly impressed with the Biscuit Castle made by T for a homework project over on Autism Mumma. How brilliant and it looks tasty too...I'm a terrible biscuit addict.

Then over on In the Playroom blog, I was really happy to find that I'm not the only mum to make fajitas with chicken dippers (I have one child who will only eat chicken dippers so I try to get inventive with them) These ones look very yummy, I wouldn't mind trying them myself

Thank you for linking up and I hope you will join us again. All posts can be found archived on the Kids in the Kitchen Pinterest Board.

White Chocolate Cheesecake.

We adapted this a little because I didn't have any Philadelphia in the fridge so I used mascarpone cheese. It is very similar but less acidic and a little more creamy. It did go just as nice with the white chocolate though.


50g unsalted melted butter
150g ginger biscuits (you can use digestives)

100g mascarpone cheese
100g white chocolate buttons
120ml double cream
30g caster sugar


we put the biscuits in a food bag and the Little Man had loads of fun bashing them up to crumbs.

We covered a 7" victoria sponge tin with tin foil, this helps to remove the cheesecake when set.
We added the biscuit crumbs to the melted butter and mixed well.
The mixture was then pressed into the bottom of the tin with the back of a spoon.
This was then put in the fridge to set while we made the topping.

In a large bowl we whisked the cream into peaks. The Little Man thought this was good fun and was amazed to see the runny cream turn thick and stiff.

In another bowl we added the cheese and the sugar and mixed them together.

Meanwhile I melted the chocolate buttons in a bowl over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water.

We added the chocolate to the cheese and sugar mixture and mixed well.
Then I folded in the whipped cream.

We poured the topping on the base and left in the fridge to set.

So now it's over to you, get in the kitchen with your kids and come and share what you've cooked,
I'd also be mighty grateful if you included my badge in your post so others can see it and come along and join in. (although adding the badge is not compulsory to joining in)

Thank you for reading, if you like my blog then please Subscribe to Raisie Bay
You can find out more about Kids in the Kitchen by clicking here.

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A little Note About Positive Reviews on Raisie Bay

Some people only write reviews when things go wrong with products, which is good because it lets people know that there could be potential problems. I've also seen negative feedback with say things like, I had to return this item because the colour did not suit this useful?

I write reviews on most items I buy because I like to give genuine feedback. If I have a genuine problem with a product I will write my review in the appropriate place.

I write reviews on my blog too, but they are mostly positive. Why? Because I only write reviews for the things I've loved. If I don't love them I let the person who sent me them know with details why and then let them decided if they would rather me write a negative review or not write one at all. It's always the latter.

This is my blog, my place and I'll let you know about the things I love. If you want to find out what other people have hated about the product then you will need to look elsewhere.

My reviews may all be positive, but they are still genuine.
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