Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Blog Camp Birmingham

I did think that having been to Blog Camp before that there was only so much you could learn, but I always leave with lots of new knowledge and it's always a pleasure to meet up with other bloggers. At this year's blog camp I learnt that waffles with maple syrup is just as nice as having cake, among some other stuff.

As I'm always desperate to  brush up on my photography skills (or non-existent skills) I was happy to spend the morning in the presence of Phil Tragen while he taught us some great tips on taking headshots and photographing products. The top three tips for headshots that I took away were;


  • good light
  • visually simple 
  • clean background

Here is  Phil giving us an example of how to take a good photo



For products the top three tips I took away are;


  • Use a tripod
  • pick your environment well
  • think about how your product wants to be seen
One more tip which got everyone excited was that you can buy a blue gel sheet (ctb - colour tone blue) from craft stores, which if you put over a lamp it will give you a more natural daylight look. Great for indoor photos when there is not much natural light.

Then it was lunch time, and while everyone was taking gorgeous pics of their lunches and posting them on Instagram, I was getting stuck in...that'll teach me to forget breakfast! 

After lunch I decided to go to Sian's talk on vlogging. This is something I'm always in two minds about. I want to but I don't. I'm not comfortable on camera and as much as I love seeing my kids on film, and they love being on camera, I'm not totally convinced I should be sharing everything online.  I'm still not sure if this is something I will pursue, but at least now I know how to set up my YouTube channel to make it more appealing and user friendly.  Pop over to Sian's blog if you missed her talk, all her tips are there.

Then it was time for cake and coffee...what? no, cake? Instead we had waffles and maple syrup which was incredibly yummy. Oh yes, cake is so last year! 


For my next session I decided to join Fiona and her writing workshop. I found this really interesting. Over the years I have been blogging I've been through many changes in my writing as I have felt that I've been writing for different audiences. For example, when I had a personal blog  it was full of emotion and writing straight from the heart. My business blog was, well, more business like. My baby blogs have been more like diary entries. This blog has also been around in circles, when I write a review I think it has to be written more like a business blog and approach it different to when I write something more personal. Since the beginning of this year my aim has been to claim back my own voice on my blog and I want to write every post just how I want to. My blog is, after all, an extension of me. 
The writing workshop gave me loads of good tips which I will definitely be following from now on. One of the main things I realise that I do that is wrong is posting straight away. I tend to tap it out, spell check and then hit publish. I have, on many occasion, gone back and edited a post, but now I am going to leave it for while before hitting that publish button, not be in such a rush to get it out there. 

Here are a few tips from the workshop that Fiona described as the Fairy Dust of writing;
  • Rule of three's, things always look better in 3s
  • Anaphora, repetition of certain phrases
  • Contrasting pairs
  • Alliteration
(just to disrupt my fairy dust a little I've made a  list of four not three, what a rebel!)

So I will end here with a big thank you to Sally and the Tots 100 team for making the Blog Camp so wonderful (And free) and for bringing it to my hometown of Birmingham. 

Just one more thing, I spotted this on the way out...do you think it's bigger on the inside?

 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Why I'm Doing the Race For Life























I've signed up for the Race For Life. Part of me is thinking 'what the heck have I done?' but I know that it's something I really want to do. I can't run, some days I have difficulty walking, but I want to do something now, raise some money, make a difference, just do something so I can say that I did it.

My walk/race is on 28th June and it's only 5k. I can do that, if it's a good day I might even be able to jog a little. I'm giving myself eight weeks to train, that's plenty of time.

So why am I doing it?

In 2008 I lost my mum to cancer. She didn't stand a chance, from diagnosis to death was a matter of weeks, not months or years. Despite already being ill and having regular check-ups and x-rays, her cancer was very aggressive. Thankfully it's not always like that and a lot of people have a fighting chance. More and more are surviving cancer and with more research that number will keep on increasing.

My Twitter and Facebook friend Gavin went to the dentist to have his wisdom tooth out. It turned out something wasn't right and he was sent for more checks. He had cancer. He fought but lost his battle.

My next door neighbour Marie also lost her battle with cancer a few days after we moved away. She was not much older than me.

My friend Clare found out she had cancer when she found a lump after having her first baby. She fought her battle for five years, all the time knowing it was going to take her one day because it was so aggressive.

My friend Alexandra is currently winning her battle and my friend Maggie has just begun hers. I wish I had a magic wand for them but I don't. Doing this race gives me the chance to give a little bit towards their battles.

So many people. I do remember when I didn't know anyone who had battled cancer, but now, not only do I know all these, practically everyone I know knows someone. It's scary. We have to do something, anything, we have to find ways to beat this awful disease.

So over the next couple of months I will be giving you updates on how I'm getting on. I will be telling you about my own battles that I have to face to do this. I do hope you will support me along the way.

I'm not very good at asking for things but I'm going to pop my JustGiving page link wherever I can over the next two months. If you see it and you can spare a little to sponsor me then that will make it all worth while and I will thank you from the bottom of my heart.

https://www.justgiving.com/raisiebay

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Going For Gold

Last Friday I attended a special awards assembly at the littlies school for attendance. Now Boo and the Little Man are no strangers to receiving 100% attendance awards despite their sister having so much time off sick and in hospital, we have tried really hard to keep them in a routine of attending school regularly.

This was the first time for Star though, her first term back at school after thirteen months off and she gets a gold award. Truly an amazing achievement.

I'm proud of all three of my little ones. We don't always have an easy time with school, but we all try really hard and it shows.

Star and the Little Man wouldn't pose for photos with their awards so here is my beautiful Boo showing off hers.









































“Our

Monday, 20 April 2015

Kids the Kitchen - Pear Tart Tatin

Welcome to this weeks Kids in the Kitchen. We love to share our recipes and invite you join in with our linky to share yours. We have a fabulous Pinterest board where I post up everyone who links up. I will also share posts on Twitter and here on my blog.



Follow Anne's board Kids In The Kitchen on Pinterest.

Pear Tart Tatin

I've never made tart tatin before so I decided to ask Boo to help me make one. We chose pears for our fruit. There is some hot pan cooking to do so it's probably not a good recipe for little ones, but Boo is getting very good at stirring hot pans. If the Little Man had been able to tear himself away from Minecraft to help he could have rolled the pastry, all kids love that job. 

So, after looking up loads of recipes I was surprised at how easy making a tart tatin was. Basically you cook your filling and put it in a pan and then cover it with puff pastry and cook it in the oven...upside down. Then you turn it over to serve. This keeps the fruit nice and juicy and the pastry dry and puffed.

We kept ours quite simple, but now we've made one I'm sure we will be experimenting more.

Ingredients:

100g butter
100g caster sugar
3 pears, peeled, cored and cut in half
1 cinnamon stick
1 packet of puff pastry

Method:

roll out the pastry and use the tin to cut around a circle 
put the butter and sugar in a large frying pan and cook until hot then add the cinnamon stick
add the pear pieces and stir until covered
turn down heat a little and cook pears until soft and caramelized
arrange the pears in the bottom of the tin
cover with the pastry circle
bake for around 20 minutes until pastry is golden
leave to cool for about 10 minutes then put a plate over the tin and turn upside down until the tart comes out onto the plate.
serve warm with whipped cream



Not the prettiest of desserts, but very tasty.




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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Saturday, 18 April 2015

My Sunday Photo

This week I bring you the Bell Tower of the wonderful Bournville Carrilon






































The tower is actually the entrance to a primary school.

The copper cupola above the tower houses 48 bells, but this is no ordinary bell tower because the bells are not rung by ropes but by a carillon. The bells are fixed and don't move, the sound is made by the clippers or tongues of the bells and these are worked by a kebyoard called a clavier.

Here is a short video of the Carillon being played. The sound doesn't really do it justice as it's much nicer from the outside. It's an amazing instrument though, I'm sure you will agree.


 


I am very lucky to live near the Bournville Carillon and on a sunny Saturday afternoon there is nothing nicer than sitting on the village green opposite and listen to it being played.

If you ever visit Cadbury World in Birmingham be sure to take a look, it's just across the road.




OneDad3Girls

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Gadget Show Live 2015

I've always been a big fan of the Gadget Show and was thrilled to be able to attend the Gadget Show Live this year at Birmingham NEC. The Gadget show is filmed in Birmingham and aired on Channel 5. It's been around since 2004 and each show offers advice on the latest consumer electronics to hit the market and the latest development in gadgets. The Gadget Show is sponsored by Currys PCWorld.

As well as visiting the exhibition and having a nosey at all the latest new technology I also got to see the Live Show in the Super Theatre, get to take a look around back stage and meet and greet with the stars of the TV show. Truly a day to remember.


The show was really good fun, there was some audience participation with some chosen kids in the audience being asked some very difficult questions in return for some nice prizes. (They were given a lot of help with their answers!) We also had a race which was noise activated and we had to shout at the microphones to move our cars into different lanes on the big screens.
There was music provided by Afishal, a visual DJ...check him out,he's brilliant!




and dancing by Feeding the Fish, also brilliant, a visual treat.



Throughout the show prizes were being added to a golf cart for one lucky audience member to win at the end.

Then they had feature on Back to The Future. In the films the main character travels to the future...2015, so they talked about the thing that were mentioned in the film that have been invented now, and those that haven't...like the hoverboard!
Then they brought on Jason Bradbury's brilliant DeLorean made up just like the time machine from the films.



The show finished with more music and dancing and the winner of the prize bundle was announced.

After the show I was able to get a closer look at the DeLorean which was a thrill as I am a huge fan of Back to the Future. Then we went back stage to see how things worked which was all really interesting. I've never been backstage before.



Finally we had a meet and greet with the presenters of the show.
















All the presenters were really lovely. I didn't get a photo with Amy Williams M.B.E. but my daughter did. She was thrilled to meet a female group and stated that most females that turned up were either dragged along by their partners or their children. Then she seemed to assume that my daughter had dragged me along when actually it was the other way around. So, yay for female gadget geeks, but don't forget they can also be middle aged female gadget geeks.
We also had chats with Jon Bentley, who has promised to read my blog, Ortis Deley and Jason Bradbury. It was really nice to meet them all.

Then it was time to take a look around the exhibition. I do love going to exhibition and the Gadget show is great in that it's not all focused on buy this buy that but there is so much more to see and do. We watched a great round of Robo Challenge where we watched Little Hitter, Mini Mighty Mouse and Wedgie battle it out, with Little Hitter winning the round.

There were retro games consoles and retro computers you could take a go on. Nothing I'd not really seen before, but nice to see again.

I was fascinated by the 3D printers.







































I'm sure that these will soon be quite the norm in many households in the future.


At the Gadget Wheels Race Track you could take a turn on a Segway, a Hovertrax, an Airwheel or an Evolve Skateboard. It looked fun but queues were long.

For the younger kids there was the Kids Tech toy Trail which included Crayola Colour Alive, Real FX, I Que and My Friend Freddy Bear.

The show was a real treat with so much to see and do, and things to buy as well. I'll definitely be going again next year.



































Super Busy Mum



Disclaimer: I was given tickets to attend the Gadget Show Live, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

My Sunday Photo























I'm a Back To The Future Fan....This is a DeLorean made up just like the one from the films. This is when it arrived on stage at the Gadget Show Live, I got to see it close up after the show....more about that very soon.


OneDad3Girls

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Our Top Five Family Favourite Video Games

When I was 18 I used work as a bingo caller and after work I loved playing the video games in the arcade. This was a long time ago and *gasp* there were no games consoles available to play at home. Well, actually there was the ZX Spectrum but it wasn't really like the console gaming you see today. Think 'Pong'


My favourite Arcade game was Dragon's Lair featuring Daring Dirk on his amazing adventure through the lair to rescue his Princess Daphne from the Dragon. I completed the game Christmas 1983.



We didn't really have a games console at home until the kids came along. First it was the NES, then the Super NES, then the N64, Gamecube, Wii and WiiU. It was a while before we started adding Playstation to the collection but we've had them all too, and the Xbox. The Nintendo consoles have always been the family favourites though as we've always enjoyed playing games together. 

As the kids have grown and become more ardent gamers, they even play ones in Japanese because they've not been released in this country, we still make time to play together and include the little ones too. 

So here is my list of our all time favourite family games. Yes, we do get the old consoles out sometimes but a lot of them can be downloaded on the newer consoles too.

1. Super Smash Bros

Super Smash Bros was realeased in 1999, followed by Super Smash Bros Melee in 2001, Super Smash Bros Brawl in 2008 and Super Smash Bros for WiiU in 2014. 
This has to be the Little Man's favourite family game. It's basically a key bashing knock 'em out the ring game. There are tons of characters to choose from (well, 51 in the latest edition) and loads of different playing fields. You can even make your own. 
All the family join in with the battles and we have loads of fun. I like playing a Villager (from Animal Crossing, another favourite game of mine) you plant a seed, grow a tree and then chop it down and throw it at your enemy! Of course, it is possible, if your enemy happens to be another villager, for them to catch the tree and put it in their pocket....then they can throw it back at you!


2. Mario Kart

Marion Kart is always a huge favourite. we started with Super Mario Kart back in 1992 and have since enjoyed Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Double Dash, Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8. It's just a super fun family racing kart game with loads of characters to play on lots of different courses including the infamous Rainbow Road.

You start by choosing your character, then your kart and finally your course, or set of courses if doing a grand prix. Then it's time to race avoiding obstacles like chain chomps, penguins and snowmen and picking up items from the item boxes which you can use to attack the other racers, like shells, or help your race, like speed-up mushrooms.

 I remember my older kids mocking me in the earlier days because I would move my controller around like a steering wheel, but I had the last laugh when they brought out the steering wheel for the Wii remote, I'd had years of practice. We all get very competitive when playing Mario Kart, but it's always good fun.





3. Mario Party

First released in 1989, Mario Party is now on it's 10th Addition. We love it! A classic board game set up, you roll the dice take your move and collect things along the way. There are also mini-games galore where you all compete against each other (or with each other against the computer) and games of chance. Between the games you see most of Nintendo's much loved characters such as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Bowser, Gumbas, Ba-bombs the list goes on and on. 
As some of the games can be a little complicated they are not generally aimed at younger children but with the family helping out we've had no problems playing this together with the little ones so long as they know how to hold a controller. It also teaches kids about fair play, taking turns and what it feels like to lose...because not everyone wins, but playing is loads of fun.















4. Mario and Sonic Olympics

Mario and Sonic first appeared at the Beijing Olympics with a game released for the Wii in 2007. We didn't catch up with them until the Winter Olympics in Vancouver 2010. The girls absolutely adore this game and still play it loads. They love the ice skating and have both gained a passion for Tchaikovsky because of this game. We also have Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympics which is much played, we all get very competitive but just as in any sport we have different strengths and weaknesses. Ironically, I'm good at swimming and I can't swim. We have yet to buy the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi but I'm sure we will. 


5. Just Dance


There is nothing more fun than getting out our wii remotes and putting on a Just Dance Game. You can get a little exercise while you follow the characters on screen and bop along to some groovy tunes. With up to four people playing at the same time it's a great family game but one that the girls particularly love as all little girls love dancing. There are plenty of versions available with songs old an new to choose from, and if you do well you get rewarded with more songs to dance to. The characters on the screen are fun and pretty easy to follow. You can choose to do a harder version if you wish or if you are feeling lazy like Daddy you can sit on the settee and wave the remote around and still score ok. The game is also fun at parties.



Do you have family gaming fun? What are your favourite games? Have you tried any of our favourites?


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Kids in the Kitchen - Chocolate Overload Cake

Welcome to this weeks Kids in the Kitchen. I hope you all had a happy Easter. We had a lovely time. We made our own chocolate treats and Hot Cross Buns as well as a Simnel Cake. We had an egg hunt on Sunday morning and after the Littlies had found all the little eggs the Easter bunny had hidden they were given one last clue to the hoard of eggs hiding in the kitchen.





















We love it when you share you recipes with us or even just tell us about what you have been up to in the kitchen with your kids. All post that join the linky will be shared on my Pinterest Board and on Twitter and I will give you a mention here on Kids in the Kitchen.

Last week Tickle Fingers shared some fantastic 3D Dinosaur biscuits with us, they really are amazing, do go and look.

Chocolate Overload Cake

This week I'm cheating a little as I made a chocolate cake, (just a basic chocolate sponge cake recipe) but I had Boo help to decorate it.
First we filled and covered the cake in chocolate butter cream.






































Then Boo very carefully stuck on chocolate fingers all around the outside. We used two packets but we still had gaps so maybe we should have used three? It was an 8 inch round cake. The on the top we used a large packet of Maltesers, again we didn't quite have enough to completely fill the top. It still made a pretty impressive chocolate cake though, Boo was pleased anyway.












































































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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The Plough - West Midlands Beefeater Grill Review

On Bank Holiday Monday we were lucky enough to enjoy the hospitality and the wares of a local Beefeater Grill at the Plough, Solihull. The restaurant is easy to find on the A34, Stratford Road, not far from the M42, junction 4. Also, not far from home for me, it took me just ten minutes to drive there, so although I've never been before, now I know where it is I will be sure to visit again.

We went for lunch and were seated in a booth. The restaurant was really nice and there was plenty of room at our table. The Little Ones were excited to choose their food from the Mr Men and Little Miss menu. You can choose from one, two or three courses and a drink. We decided to go for two courses and they all chose something different. Prices are fairly reasonable starting at £4.49 for one course, £5.49 for two and £5.99 for three, which is the best value. If you go on a Saturday lunch time, the kids can eat free. Full details are on the website.

Star had Mr Perfect's Poppin Chicken, Boo had Pizza and the Little Man had a 3oz burger. To keep them happy while they waited for their food they were provided with colouring books and crayons.






































Taking children to a restaurant can always be risky as they can get bored of waiting around, It was nice to have some activities provided for them until the food arrived.

They were really happy with their food which is no mean feat as I generally have three fussy eaters. Boo refused any toppings on her pizza even though they were offered, she was happy with just cheese and tomato. The Little Man and Star requested garlic bread with their meal which I ordered as an extra side dish.

Kids Main Courses















We chose our meals from the lunch time menu although we were given the option to order from the evening menu. I'm not a huge meat eater so I went for Sausages and Mash, while my Other Half went for the 8oz steak with chips.

Adults Main Courses























With the daytime menu starting at £4.99 I thought they were good value lunch time meals.

Then it was time for the desserts. The kids had a hard time choosing but in the end they all went for the Ice Cream Sundae which they loved. I had a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and the Other Half had a Rocky Road Sundae, which I did think was a little expensive at £4.99 but it was rather impressive.

Desserts















Overall we were really happy with our dining experience. Our waitress was really nice and helpful without being too obtrusive. I am a little fussy when dining out, I don't like being asked if I need anything every five minutes but I also don't like having to wait for ages to get some attention, it's great when the balance is just right.

The setting was nice, the table large and we had plenty of room and we didn't feel overcrowded even when the restaurant was full.

The food was probably a little more expensive than your local pub grub but less expensive than a restaurant so a fair inbetween. We had no complaints about the food, it was all really nice and we ate it all. OH even managed that huge Sundae! The Little Ones were happy, they were suitably entertained while waiting for their food although they were getting a little restless towards the end of our visit and couldn't wait to get outside and run off some of that ice-cream.

Our total bill for two courses for three children and two adults, three drinks for the children, a pint of beer for OH and a pot of tea for me was £48.05

Disclaimer: We were provided with vouchers which paid for most of our meal. All thoughts and opinions are our own. 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

My Sunday Photo

I took this photo on my mobile the other day, it's three of my four cats looking out of the patio doors at the rain.


OneDad3Girls

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Kids in the Kitchen - Chocolate

Welcome to this week's (a little late) Kids in the Kitchen. We are late because we had a bit of a disaster with this weeks recipe. Star wanted to make some more marshmallows and being as it's nearly Easter we decided to make chocolate ones...but they didn't set properly. They were ok when they came out of the fridge for a little while, but soon became a gooey sticky mess. Never mind, we made up for it with lots of chocolate.

failed marshmallows


Well it's a new month and a new linky so I'm really looking forward to see what you are up to in the kitchen with your kids this month. Please join in whenever you can, I'm happy for you to link up old or new posts and you don't have to include a recipe so long as you are showing your kids having fun in the kitchen. All posts get pinned on my Pinterest Board and I will also tweet them and give them a mention here on Kids in the Kitchen each week.

Follow Anne's board Kids In The Kitchen on Pinterest.

Chocolate

After our marshmallow disaster we decided to have some fun with chocolate. We made some mini eggs and chocolate bark. The ingredients are simple...chocolate and mini marshmallows.
We actually used Candy Melts because they come in lots of different colours and set quickly. Real chocolate does taste nicer though.
You can melt your chocolate in the microwave, but be careful, burnt chocolate is really not nice. I prefer to do it in a bowl over simmering water. 

We used a mould for the mini eggs but the bark is really easy, you just pour the melted chocolate onto a baking tray and then add the marshmallows and mix it up. Try not to add the marshmallows when it's too hot though or they will melt. 

 The Little Man had fun adding the chocolate to the bark and swirling it around.

The mini eggs in the mould, we decided to do all three colours



When the chocolate had set we removed the eggs from the mould and broke up the bark into pieces. Previously we'd been able to cut the chocolate with cookie cutters but the candy melt was too hard so we just broke it up.
































The chocolate bark and eggs looked pretty when put in little gift bags tied with ribbon.





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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