Festive Food Treats with Tesco.

The (uneaten!) portions of our lovely gift of spending Finest food hamper from  .

A couple of weeks ago I got the most fantastic (and unexpected!) hamper of gifts through the post from Tesco Food. Since budget really don’t leave much money for foodie treats, I think it is safe to say we were all pretty thrilled. The kids did a quick audit to make sure Max and I didn’t snaffle anything without them knowing, and I cheerfully tucked into the chocolate liqueur drink, which arrived at an extremely opportune moment ;)

Such things as Salted Caramel Truffles, extremely posh chocolates and Pig in Blanket crisps were particularly fabulous as Max and I fought our way through one of the toughest work Xmas seasons in a good few years. We really loved having something to just cheekily nibble on without budget guilt. A long time ago a relative used to send us a hamper each year; more recently suppliers did but austerity has stopped all that so this was a splendid treat!

Last week I visited the Peterborough Serpentine Green branch to partake of their #TescoChristmasTasting event. Armed with Maddy for assistance and my new camera on my new phone, off we trotted to see what festive nosh is all about. We are an alarmingly bad family for Xmas food. Running a toy shop means we are all always too tired to think about it all and tend to flop and eat ordinary food. We had bacon and eggs for Xmas lunch a couple of years ago!

This year, it might well be different.

Teeny weenie all butter mince pies. Small enough to not feel guilty about. Unless you eat 4.

From the opening gambit of impossibly yummy all butter mini mince pies (3 is not enough!)

I honestly didn't realise they sold so much yummy stuff

To ready decorated cakes that could pretty much pass as wedding cakes too.

So I was told tonight this chap is the most passionate baker in the whole of Tesco. About his bread, of course.

Bakers (the top Tesco baker in the country, no less!) who seem to live and breathe the products they make. This chap got seriously passionate about making Panettone, which they are creating fresh every day for the princely sum of £2 a loaf. (It’s worth it, trust me).

As for their bread selection… there must have been 20 varieties of them all sitting there for us to try. It was gorgeous and they are so proud of what they make.

Honestly, suddenly I have an urge to do a huge Xmas food shop. We never do that. In fact, 2 years ago we had bacon and eggs for Xmas lunch!

The sweeties and puddings are all very delicious, whether made in store and sold fresh or prepackaged (there was the MOST divine salted caramel sauce for pancakes and croissants on offer) but Maddy and I fell most in love with the savouries.

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Gorgeous olives… oh how I love olives. I could probably eat nothing but for the rest of my life.15863614909_787c113a9f_z

The Mexicana cheese was incredible; seriously spicy and totally delicious. And don’t start me on the Dolcelatte. Max and I met working on a deli-counter… did you know that?16048858932_a729df4cae_z

Marvellous meats. Really, really marvellous meats.

I think we’ve all had our grumbles with Tesco over the years; I know I have. I think it is important to remember that these places (and having worked as a manager on a deli counter I have some understanding) is that whatever a corporation is going through, they are made to work by people. People who care and are passionate about their jobs and who have lives to live and a living to make. What really shone through at this tasting evening was how much they cared. They had worked so hard and were really nervous about how we would feel and if we would like it. All the departments had knowledgeable staff on hand, many of them greeting well known customers by name as they circulated. They knew about their foods and the fresh food service they were providing and they wanted us to enjoy what they could do with it. They smiled, they joked and they showed off some great festive treats and an even greater in store community spirit.

Well done Peterborough Tesco. You nailed it. And you know what, I’ve scraped together a little spare money to pop by next week and pick up a few tasty treats too. You got me ;)

Editorial: Child Benefit Building Blocks.

Over the last few years we have been incredibly grateful for the benefit system, which caught us firmly when life made it almost impossible for us to function and rescued us through a recession and a time of family tragedy that made trying to rebuild a business ravaged by credit crunch and huge corporations something we were completely unable to focus on properly.

We were very lucky to have it there when we needed it. The following infographic may help struggling families who don’t know what help can be available.

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Dealing with the government benefit system can be tricky. Their processes seem filled with red tape, terms and conditions and what can feel like impenetrable doublespeak. They all seem to be designed for the soul reason of confusing and irritating you but crucially, can put people off applying for fear of making an error in claiming that will have to be paid back later.

Sometimes these can processes can be tolerable, but when it comes to living costs and making sure you have enough to take care of your children, it is important not to struggle or give up, especially if it can result in your family receiving less money than you’re entitled to.

To help make sure parents are getting all the help they need, the Money Advice Service have put together a complete list of all 12 allowances new parents could be eligible to claim.

Take a look at the list below and make sure you’re not doing without.

Child Benefit Building Blocks

In association with Child Benefit Building Blocks - An infographic by the team at Money Advice Service.

Editorial: protecting children from flu.

fluvac

I want to preface this by saying we are a vaccinating family: that is something I have thought long and hard about and I’m absolutely happy with my decision. I stopped engaging in conversations about whether or not I should be a vaccination mum a long time ago. All my children are up to date with their pre age 12 inoculations.

Recently the 3 asthmatics in the family had the nasal flu spray. It isn’t something we have done before, because while the above applies, I’m wasn’t  a massive fan of holding them down to inject something into them that I considered an optional extra vaccination rather than an essential one.

My views on this started to change a year or two back when Bene had bronchiolitis. It was stunning to watch him go down hill so fast with something respiratory and despite the fact that I already knew from personal experience that a chest infection can be fatal, I found it profoundly upsetting to be so helpless in the face of something that had only limited treatment. Again. And then last winter the entire family succumbed to Norovirus; in a large family it is nearly impossible to stop something that infectious spreading like wild fire and we were just all so ill despite my best efforts to clean hands and keep our germs to ourselves. Once both adults were down, it was nearly impossible to keep the household running and as most of our yearly profits rely on a good Xmas shopping period, being ill at that time of the year is devastating.

So those are some of the reasons that this year, in the effort to prevent the family being sideswiped by flu, I took 3 of them for the spray. I can’t really afford to do us all privately but protecting Fran, Amelie and Bene reduces the risk by a margin. I appreciate it is ONLY a margin and far from complete protection but it helps me feel I’ve done what I can. As a family exposed daily to 5 different school and work environments, I’ve done something to try and reduce the germs coming home. For me, as a mother who lives with the reality of wishing I had done something differently, that is important.

And there is my one other reason. I know, though it will never be proved, that getting flu while I was pregnant with Freddie probably caused the problems that made him so ill equipped to deal with being born. I know that it was during that period that he lost tone and responsiveness and I was ill for the rest of my pregnancy with the after effects. It was the year of swine flu and I was ill the week before the vaccine was offered to pregnant women. I don’t know if I would have done it then but I know now that I wish the person who passed on that bout to me hadn’t done so. And so I can try to avoid being the family that do the same to some other pregnant woman.

If you are passionately anti vaccine, this won’t convince you of anything of course but if you didn’t know that 2, 3, 4 year olds and ‘at risk of poor health’ children can now have the spray version, do take the time to consider it. The video below, hosted by the (gorgeously funny and ridiculously daft at times) Dr Ranj, gives an insight into how germs  spread and his opinion as a health educator and professional on why children should have the vaccine. You can find out more about the programme at the Share Good Times Not Flu website too. And of course, take the time to read around the subject until you feel fully informed from all angles.

In association with the website mentioned in the article. Words and opinions are my own.

Christmas Craft #1: Family Fun Wish Labels

advent activity with our   box

I’m optimistically going to try and do at least 20 crafts for Christmas over the next month. Quite how, I have no idea, but I think I need a goal to make myself work at.

All of us are feeling like our family time has gone horribly wrong over the last few months and we are aching to do some things together that make us feel like a unit again, so I came up with this, which is a twist on the advent calender we hang up every year, made with items from our Bostik Family Craft Blogger box.

There are 24 old fashioned luggage labels, in festive colours, in the basket, each one decorated with an assortment of pretties, mostly stuck on with our Bostik Glue Dots. The backs are blank and each day of advent someone will fill in some simple family activity that they would like us to do together during our precious 2 weeks of family time together. (No panto! Yay! I put my foot down this year.) It can be anything we can actually achieve (not ‘go to Lapland’) and everyone has to think of 6 different things to write (so we don’t end up with more than 6 films to watch).

Josie decorated our paper bag with pretties and through December our bag should fill up with lovely things to do together during our holiday. It’s something to look forward to.

advent activity with our   box

Here are some other ideas for advent calendars.

Box Calendar - simple and beautiful

Advent Gingerbread House – I don’t reckon it would last the month!

Baby Socks Stocking Calendar – gorgeous and much easier than crocheting them!

Pretty decorated canvas bags – gorgeous!

My own crochet advent calendar from last year.
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And a rather fabulous set of toilet roll holders!

My Christmas craft Pinterest board is as popular as ever:-

Follow Merrily Me’s board Christmas Crafts on Pinterest.

And I have extra ideas on Simple Crafts and on this site.

We are part of the Bostik Craft Bloggers network and the link to buy glue dots is an affiliate link.

Peaceful Afternoon: Make with Mother Challenge.

Everyone is full of cold and off school. Maddy is busy writing a story & Josie and Bene are indulging in review playdoh and megablocks . Do you see my nice curtains

I can’t really believe it is 10 days since I blogged (Yeah, I started this a few days ago). Silence is always a worry, huh? We are mired under in Christmas at work, busy, stressed children and tired, ill, grumpy everything. There is lots I should write and record. And lots I just feel I can’t. (And now I have.)

Yesterday, with 2 girls off poorly and Bene on a home day, I decided to just sit and observe. I pulled out a pack of review products that arrived from House of Fraser and let Josie and Bene loose on them. I was hoping I’d get an hour or so of them both being a little happier than they’ve been recently.

 

The silence was golden. The sun was shining and the new red curtains were giving me a happy feeling. Despite the heavy colds and child refusing to go to school and the normally noisy toddler, peace reigned. And for one of the first times, Bene and Josie engaged in something together, playing alongside each other, rather than a rampaging toddler and a frustrated tween.

We chose a couple of PlayDoh kits from House of Fraser; because I’m mean I tend not to buy shop dough, because I always feel I can make it myself. There are, of course, a million places to find out how to make sensory versions of it and all singing and dancing versions – but you just can’t beat the real thing.

Totally absorbed

We chose a game, where you fire pressed balls of dough into a mad monster thing, which caused an enormous amount of hilarity even without the added battery that was actually required! The game also has lots of press shapes built into the frame of the game, which worked perfectly with our other choice, which was the Double Desserts set. With a tinging pudding over, a heap of moulds and plates and a dough prep area, Josie just loved it and dived right in to making up recipes for the day.

As you can see, they were engrossed. It was the calmest, happiest day for weeks.

Review halloo!

Last up on our set of activities is a simply MAMMOTH loom band thing called a Link-a-Loom, with 9 rows. It’s really chunky and impressive but we’ve yet to achieve anything meaningful with it! I’ll get back to you. Amelie and I are still working on it.

Thanks to House of Fraser who sent us our kits for a Make with Mother crafty afternoon. It really cheered us up and meant my kids got to play with stuff I don’t normally buy.