2016 | Modern Mummy

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Signing Off for Christmas with a Mince Pie in a Glass from 31DOVER.com


Today is the first day of the Christmas holidays, and boy has it been a long time coming!

I'm knackered, the kids are knackered, we're totally fed up of the dark mornings and early starts, and are well and truly ready to embrace the lazy mornings and generally slow down a bit. I've decided to take a whole two weeks away from the blog this year to spend time with those little ratbags of mine, so thought I would wish you all a very merry Christmas and sign off with a delicious festive cocktail recipe to kick off the holidays in style!

I'm lucky enough to work with drinks company 31DOVER.com fairly often, but I am also a regular paying customer of theirs. Since discovering them this time last year, they have been the only place I've gone to when I want to top up my drinks cabinet. Not only do they sell a huge range of really special spirits that you won't find on the supermarket shelves (of course they sell all your favourite beer, wine, fizz, liqueurs and mixers too), they have a price match promise so you know you'll never pay over the odds and the pièce de résistance is their next day delivery, which is free on orders over £75, or just £5.95 if you spend less than that.

They also gift wrap their bottles in really elegant packaging for just £4.95, which makes them the perfect place to go to for emergency last minute presents at any time of year!

I've just placed my festive drinks order with them, which consisted of a bottle of Hendricks, a bottle of Bulleit bourbon and a case of Christmas Day fizz - plus they have very kindly sent me a bottle of Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka as an early Christmas present, which is the main ingredient of the cocktail I'm sharing today.


Two Birds vodka is created right here in England (Market Harborough to be precise) and the Christmas Spiced vodka has been described as 'a mince pie in a glass'. Whoever said that was completely and utterly right; I have never tasted anything so festive and delicious in my life - you really can taste the cinnamon and nutmeg and spices!

I've created a spin on a White Russian to create a truly festive drink (although it has to be said, this stuff tastes equally amazing over ice, on its own). In actual fact I think my mince pie in a glass cocktail might replace my obligatory Christmas Night Baileys this year!


Mince Pie in a Glass
Ingredients.
Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka
Milk or cream
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Ice

Pour a generous measure of vodka into a glass filled with ice. If you're going for milk as a mixer go for a long glass, if cream then a brandy glass is perfect. Add your mixer and sprinkle with grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Serve with an actual mince pie! This is seriously the perfect combo for a cold Christmas night!

Merry Christmas, one and all. See you in 2017!

If you want to place a drinks order at 31DOVER.com - make sure you use my discount code MODERN31D for 10% off!



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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Busy Mum's Guide to Creating a Pinterest-Worthy Festive Feast (Even When Your Culinary Skills Leave a Lot to be Desired)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias


I'm not, never have been, and never will be one of those Pinterest-mums. You know the ones, they bake with their kids, and do crafts with them, and prepare amazing meals every night and then hand make costumes for school plays and dress up days. I'm crap in the kitchen, when the kids get the glitter, paints, and play doh out I start to twitch, and I have absolutely no idea how to use a sewing machine. I might like clutter, but I can't abide mess. And anything that involves cutting or chopping, and glueing or painting, or mixing sends my OCD into overdrive.

I'm not a mean mum, promise! But I am a very busy, single, working mum. And besides, we have other ways in which we prefer to spend our time together, and more often than not it involves a road trip to the coast, or a train trip into town. Generally we like to get out and about, and to explore new places.

One way we like to spend slightly more relaxing, quality family time together though, is with our weekly movie nights. On Fridays we usually watch an 80s or 90s classic and order Dominos for dinner, but last week I threw caution to the wind, searched for things I've never searched for before on Pinterest and decided to prepare the kids a festive feast to accompany the festive film we planned to watch (Home Alone 2, if you're interested ;))

Being the antithesis of a Pinterest-mom, and more than aware of my limited capabilities in the kitchen, I decided to cut as many corners as possible when creating my edible Christmassy masterpieces.




Evie and I set off for Waitrose while Daisy was at school and bought all manner of goodies in order to recreate a few ideas we'd seen on Pinterest; reindeer sandwiches, cheesy puff pastry stars, banana penguins, strawberry Santas, Christmas pudding biscuits and marshmallow snowmen!

This ended up being our favourite movie night of the year! The girls LOVED their teatime treats, and I may have shot myself in the foot a bit because they've asked me to do it again next week (!)

So without further ado, here are a few ways to create a seriously simple, entirely Pinterest-worthy, festive feast of your very own!

Top Tips:
Before you start, make loads and loads and loads of little eyeballs using ready made white and black icing (for sugar crafts).
Smarties are notoriously stingy with the orange ones! Next time (if there is one, ha) I will try M&Ms.

ps It took me an hour and twenty minutes to prepare this spread in its entirety.


Reindeer Sandwiches
Use a cookie cutter to make festive shaped sandwiches. You could go for a Christmas tree or an angel, but we went for a heart shape and turned it into a reindeer using pretzels for the antlers and a cherry tomato for a red nose. (I used more black icing for the eyes, which we picked off before we ate them - you could use olives or capers or similar if you have any).


Cheesy Puff Pastry Stars
Oh, hello ready rolled puff pastry and pre-grated cheese! Nice to meet you.
All you need for these tasty morsels is a baking sheet and a suitably shaped cookie cutter. Cut out your pastry, lay on a baking tray and sprinkle with cheese (not much - just a tiny bit so that it crisps up. Too much will make your pastry soggy). Ten mins in the oven at 200 degrees, et voila!


Banana Penguins
These are my favourite!
Halve your bananas. Melt some chocolate. Dip the tips of your bananas in said chocolate. Lay on a plate. Add your pre-made eye balls. Make small incisions and insert orange smarties as the beaks and feet. Spoon more chocolate over any dodgy looking bits. Freeze until the chocolate hardens (this also stops the bananas going brown if you're not going to eat them for a while).


Strawberry Santas
Now these were the hardest of the lot! I probably should have whipped my own cream so that it was thicker but I opted for lazy squirty cream which melted almost straight away and resulted in a plate of collapsing Santas that had to be eaten quickly!
Pick the biggest strawberries you can find. Chop off the stalks to create a flat base, the chop the points off too, to create the hat. Squirt a little cream onto the strawberry, add the hat and I used a skewer to dollop a tiny bit more cream on the hat as a bobble. The eyes were teeny tiny bits of black icing.


Christmas Pudding Biscuits
Pinterest told me to make my own biscuits - but what's the point in that when there are ready made and ready to buy dark chocolate digestives?! A packet is cheaper than the ingredients you need to make said biscuits, you save yourself heaps of time, plus they are guaranteed to be tasty (which is more than can be said whenever I bake anything!)
Whip up some thick white icing (icing sugar and water). It needs to be thick to stop it running off the biscuits (I learnt this the hard way). Put in the fridge to harden - once set use icing pens to draw on little sprigs of holly.


Marshmallow Snowmen
These were so easy to make and the kids liked them the best. All you need is white marshmallows, little icing eyeballs, ready made sugar carrots for the nose and a little icing to hold them in place. I used one of the pens from the set I used to draw the holly onto the Christmas pudding biscuits.

Merry Christmas everyone!
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Friday, 16 December 2016

Have Yourself a Very Lindy Christmas!


Everyone knows that one of my favourite festive traditions is getting dressed up for Christmas dinner. The girls get brand spanking new party dresses every year, so after a lazy morning in our Christmas Eve pyjamas, we're always super excited to put on our glad rags ready to celebrate in style with friends and family.

I'm a massive fan of vintage style dresses so was really thrilled when Lindy Bop approached me to collaborate with them. They sell a huge (and I mean huge!) selection of vintage repro clothes, all of which are priced amazingly. The most expensive day dress is just £30 - and anyone that buys a lot of vintage/repro will know that this is more than reasonable!

They offered to send me something pretty to wear at Christmas and I am not exaggerating when I say I spent about three hours on their website; there is just so much choice and I couldn't decide!

In the end I went for an Audrey swing dress, in blue floral stripe, with a royal blue petticoat to wear underneath. I chose this dress because it can be dressed up or down, depending on your footwear and whether or not you wear the petticoat with it. It's also a dress that can be worn across seasons - I've been wearing mine with a simple blue cardigan and sheer tights during this cold spell, but it would look equally good as a summer frock, worn with a pair of saltwaters and bare legs!



When my dress arrived, the first thing that struck me was the quality. It really is exceptional - I wasn't expecting such perfection for the price. The dress is fully lined, comes with a removable faux leather belt and is a really authentic fifties design.

Bateau necklines are my absolute favourite when it comes to vintage dresses, and I love the wide flared swing skirt of this one. The fitted bodice is really flattering and, when teamed with the petticoat - which has a 7" deep elasticated waistband - it really does give a smooth and slender silhouette.



Both c/o Lindy Bop
Red 'Betty' clogs, £51 c/o Moheda Toffeln

The entire Lindy Bop collection really is amazing, so if you're looking for something special make sure you head over to their website and take a look. They stock sizes 6-26 and standard delivery is only £3 (or free if you spend over £85) and super quick! And there is still time to get a new frock for Christmas if you go for the next day delivery option.
 

DISCLOSURE: I was sent this dress and petticoat by Lindy Bop in order to write this review. All my words are honest and my own. 

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Cooking with #CiaoGustoItaly


I might not be any good at cooking but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate good food; I love eating well - I always choose locally produced, organic and seasonal food whenever possible - and I am a firm believer that high quality ingredients really do make the difference between an average meal and an amazing one.



Recently, the lovely folk at Ciao Gusto Italy sent me a hamper full of amazing Italian delicacies, which I have been working my way through over the past couple of weeks (it's a tough job, but someones got to do it ;)).

It really did reaffirm my belief that if you've got a couple of good quality ingredients, you can make the most incredibly tasty meal - and this should be music to your ears if you're a terrible cook like me but still want to feed your family well.

My hamper contained a huge selection of items and some of my favourites were:


Zonin Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore (£14.49). This prosecco was so drinkable it was ridiculous!


This classic panettone from Bauli - I have been known to eat an entire 1kg panettone in three days. Needless to say, this only lasted one sitting. It was amazing!


Noberasco soft apples (£1.36). These babies are rich in fibre and potassium and contain no added sugars, so they make a brilliant, sweet, after school snack. The girls love them too and they are now on our weekly shopping list.

I also loved the Negroni salami Milano (£2.19) and managed to polish off the entire packet, by itself, within about 5 minutes of opening it (hence the lack of photo).



But my absolute favourites were the Giovanni Rana Beef + Mushroom ravioli (£2.49), the Filippo Berio extra virgin olive oil (£7.20) and the Parmareggio 30 month parmigiana reggiano cheese (£5.99). Three simple ingredients that, when combined, formed the most perfect, authentic Italian meal - and in less than five minutes too!

Ciao Gusto is a family of high quality and world renowned Italian food and drinks brands, working together to spread the love of Italian food and culture! Find them online here, at Ocado here, and on Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.

Many thanks to Ciao Gusto for sending me this hamper of delicious goodies!
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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Introducing.... JORD Wood Watches



Last month, American watchmakers JORD approached me to review one of their gorgeous wooden watches.

Being the daughter of a carpenter, I've always had a thing for beautiful wood, and I also love analogue clocks and watches (nothing beats the sound of the ticking second hand as you're drifting off to sleep if you ask me!). I have lots of different pieces of wooden furniture in the house; some smart, some rustic, all from different kinds of trees and with different finishes - and I love them all. You'll also often find me or the kids posing in front of a distressed wooden backdrop over on my Instagram. Wooden watches were things I'd never really considered before!


I chose the Frankie in dark sandalwood + emerald from JORD, which retails at $189 (that's £149 to you and me, plus shipping is free to the UK) and fell head over heels in love with it the moment it arrived. The packaging impressed me before I even got to see the watch itself; it came inside a beautiful solid wooden box, presented on a hessian cushion.

It goes without saying that the watch really is something special; the grain of the dark sandalwood strap is just gorgeous, and that huge, vibrant emerald green watch face really is perfection. I'd wanted an oversized watch for forever but didn't want to buy anything too similar to anything I already had. This couldn't be more different to my leather and metal watches!

JORD watches are made to measure so my watch arrived ready to wear and, despite it's size, it really is super lightweight compared to my metal watch. Being a natural material, it's also really kind to the skin which is an added bonus when wearing something so large. It has a metal clasp with an easy to use locking mechanism - and I absolutely have to mention the fast, free delivery to the UK. Mine arrived in just six days which is pretty incredible! Be warned though that you may incur an additional customs charge - I had to pay £13.65 to collect mine from the sorting office.




What I love most about these beautiful hand crafted watches though, is that each one is completely unique - no two pieces of wood are ever the same so each watch really is one of a kind 

Be sure to check out the JORD website for both women's watches and men's watches - there's a huge selection to choose from, and the collection is constantly being updated too. Clink on the image below to head straight to their online store:

Watch Gift Ideas

JORD are also hosting a brilliant giveaway at the moment - to win a $100 e-gift code! - which you can enter here. All entrants will receive a $25 e-gift code, so everyone's a winner! The contest will close at 11:50pm on 15th January 2017. All gift codes will expire on 31st March 2017.



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Thursday, 8 December 2016

One Week to go until Save the Children's #ChristmasJumperDay!


Next Friday is Save the Children's annual Christmas Jumper Day; a chance for you to put on your favourite festive knit and help save children's lives, by donating £2 to Save the Children.

Now in it's fifth year, this has got to be one of the best days in the lead up to Christmas. I love seeing people making their way to work and school wearing brightly coloured knitwear, with silly characters and patterns; you can't help but smile!

Please consider getting involved this year - and rope your friends, family and colleagues in too! Don't forget to share photos of yourselves in your jumpers using the #ChristmasJumperDay hashtag - you can follow Save the Children on Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.

You'll be in excellent company too, as a whole host of celebrities have popped on festive pullovers of their own to show their support of the campaign, including a few of my favourite celebrity mums; Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Lauren Laverne and Anna Friel.



And if you want to take part but bright and bold isn't your thing, then take a look at the Save the Children X Selfish Mother collaboration, with no less than twelve designs to choose from - thought up by the likes of Poppy Delevigne, Laura Bailey, Erin O'Connor and Karen Elson.


In simple block colours, and adorned with festive words and slogans, 50% from the sale of each sweater will be donated to Save the Children. Sounds like a good reason to go shopping if you ask me! Check out The FMLY Store here.
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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Five Favourites ♥ Isabella Oliver AW16 Sale

I absolutely loved being pregnant with the girls. I suffered from poly hydramnios with both of them, which meant my bumps were huuuuuuge from very early on in both cases, so I fully embraced the stretchy material and elasticated waistbands of maternity wear. One of my favourite places to shop was Isabella Oliver (now I love to shop at their sister store, the non-maternity Baukjen) and today saw the launch of their end of AW16 sale.

Famous for their iconic jersey dresses, that grow with your bump (and are great once you've given birth too), Isabella Oliver have been dressing pregnant women around the world for thirteen years now. I first discovered them when I was pregnant with Daisy and ended up buying my entire maternity work wardrobe from them. They were always my first port of call for going out clothes and evening wear too.

I couldn't resist taking a peak at the end of season reductions this evening, so have put together my five favourite pieces from the sale:


1. Brunswick maternity dress - was £99, now £79 // 2. Relaxed maternity jeans - was £95, now £76 // 3. Granville tie front maternity shirt - was £85, now £68 // 4. Merewood wrap maternity coat - was £199, now £119 // 5. Eliot maternity dress - was £99, now £69 

Why not take a look at my previous posts on maternity wear here:
buying formal maternity wear //
putting together a capsule maternity wardrobe //
the perfect maternity jeans //
buying, selling + wearing second hand maternity wear //
sale shopping for maternity wear //
making adjustments to maternity clothes when you can't sew //
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Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Deck the Halls with Poundland (fa la la la laaaa la la la la)

Snowflake window stickers, 18 for £1 (and they're reusable!) 
When it comes to Christmas (in fact when it comes to most things....) I'm a firm believer that more is definitely more. Last year I decided to let the children choose ALL the Christmas decorations, and this year I have totally embraced our 80s, multi-coloured, chip shop theme!

When we were approached to work on a campaign with Poundland, I couldn't resist. I'm a big fan of Poundland; I just don't see the point in spending mega bucks on things that you can get for a fraction of the price so I head there to buy lots of office supplies and cookware plus, of course, seasonal bits and pieces - like Hallowe'en and Christmas decorations!

Tinsel and festive 'baby it's cold outside' and 'Merry Christmas' cushions all Poundland

This year Poundland have really excelled themselves. Their decorations and festive homewares are absolutely brilliant, and the collection is vast too.

As part of this campaign, I was challenged to buy room decorations - and when they sent through their look book  I knew I wouldn't struggle. Of course there is an abundance of tinsel (which, if you ask me, is a Christmas ESSENTIAL) but also little festive knick knacks, like pretty paper snowflakes and giant sparkly stars and glittery reindeer ornaments ;)

Tinsel, 2m for £1 // paper snowflakes, 3 for £1 // stars, 2 for £1

Mini glass baubles - 9 for £1

Most of the ornaments we have on our Christmas tree have been chosen individually for different, special, reasons but you always need fillers, and Poundland's tiny glass bauble selection are perfect for this purpose. I also used them as hanging decorations on our kitchen dresser!

Paper snowflakes, tinsel, mini baubles and red glitter reindeer all Poundland


I really like festive ornaments and silly little bits and pieces everywhere - we have all sorts, including a musical singing westie dog (don't ask), a festive Mickey Mouse from Disneyland Paris, ceramic pine trees and I collect Emma Bridgewater crockery which fills my dresser at this time of year. This year I added this sparkly reindeer from Poundland to the mix, and these gorgeous wooden letters too!

Wooden NOEL letters from Poundland

Although they're not officially 'room decorations' there's no denying the Christmas tree is a pretty important room decoration in itself... so I couldn't resist buying some of these beautiful (huge!) glass baubles for ours. I thought the Poundland collection had a real vintage vibe to it, with old fashioned shapes and lots of bright colours rather than just the tradition red, white and gold. I loved the antique bronze glass baubles (so bought two!) and the glittery silver one (top left) is my absolute favourite; I think it looks amazing next to it's much more expensive companions.

To see more of Poundland's Christmas range, take a look here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here! (And make sure you do because my fellow bloggers have really excelled themselves in their festive styling!)


We will be talking all things festive over on Twitter THIS FRIDAY, from 12:30-2pm. Join in, using the hashtag #CrackingValue, to be in with a chance of winning some brilliant prizes!


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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Oh HELLO Christmas Jumper 2016!


When you think of Christmas jumpers, you think of garish, multicoloured novelty things, right? Or maybe you think of chunky, snuggly Nordic or Fairisle knits. Either way, I always think of busy prints and lots of colour - perhaps because I always associate Christmas itself with busy-ness and colour.

But when it comes to clothes, sometimes (only sometimes, mind ;)) it's nice to keep things simple - and when the whole world is jam packed to the rafters full of colour and lights and glitter, I think that's a pretty good time.

Which is why this year I opted for a minimalist number while choosing my Christmas jumper. Yes really! A lambswool crewneck reindeer jumper from GANT to be a little more precise.

And I'm in love with it. Head over heels! I love how soft it is, and how warm it is too - but it's lightweight at the same time which makes it perfect for layering.



I think it looks perfect up against a busy, rainbow backdrop - which is why I'm planning on teaming it with my new Marks & Sparks metallic midi and cream New Look ankle boots (and these pretty pearl earrings) for our annual Christmas Eve-Eve gathering this year!



Clockwise from top right:
Crewneck reindeer sweater, £110 - GANT // Metallic midi skirt, £35 - M&S // Triangular mother of pearl earrings, £24 - Oliver Bonas // Cream ankle boots, £27.99 - New Look 

What do you think? Are you a fan of simple or busy when it comes to festive jumpers?

DISCLOSURE: GANT sent me this jumper in exchange for this post.
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Dear Father Christmas, Please May I Have A Baby Sister This Year


Erm..... no girls, you may not.

That could be the end of this post but that's not the end of the story. Needless to say I am not expecting child no.3 after an Immaculate Conception - but we do have a new baby (of sorts) in the house!


Evie has been desperate - DESPERATE! - for a doll she can feed real 'milk' to (and, more importantly, one that wees) for FOREVER, so it goes without saying that she was thrilled when she was asked to review the BABY born Happy Birthday interactive doll, which comes with a million accessories - including the much coveted REAL bottle, nappies and potty. Her release coincides with BABY born's 25th anniversary so she also comes with everything she needs to have the party of all parties to celebrate, like cake plates and forks, a pretty party dress and even a tiara!

So let me introduce you to our new addition, Holly (previously known as Poppy, and before that, Lulu, and who will no doubt be called something else by the time I finish writing this post). Since the lovely people at BABY born sent her to live with us last month, she has earned herself the very prestigious Favourite Toy title and so far has hung onto it for almost four weeks, which really is the highest of accolades. She gets carried around pretty much everywhere (by me mostly, as you may have noticed on my Instagram Stories) and has acquired a wardrobe of clothes to rival Sarah Jessica Parker's (take note, as lovely as the BABY born clothing collections are, early baby and newborn pieces from the supermarket also fit these dolls perfectly).


We love the BABY Born brand - I got Daisy the interactive sister doll when Evie got the Happy Birthday one, and it's perfect for a slightly older girl as she comes with long hair that can be brushed and plaited (hair styling is the current thing for seven year olds by all accounts).

From a mum's point of view, these toys are really robust and hard wearing - so it's worth spending that little bit extra to know they will stand the test of time, and can be handed down between siblings, cousins, friends etc. Also, as a bit of an aside, two top tips for you for keeping your dolls (any dolls) in pristine condition..... Cif removes biro from faces/bodies and diluted fabric conditioner helps to get knots out of hair!


The BABY born Happy Birthday interactive doll comes at an RRP of £49.99 and is available at all good toy shops, like Toys R Us, The Entertainer, Tesco etc etc.

DISCLOSURE: We were sent the Happy Birthday Baby Born doll for the purpose of this review.
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