With this chocolate (and wine) you are really spoiling me!

When I was asked by Ferraeo if I would like to try some of their chocolates and some wine that had been matched to it and I didn't have to think long.  I responded with a great big YES please.  Now it might come as a big surprise to you that I am not really a wine drinker or a massive chocolate eater, but do indulge at Christmas.

ferraro

 

Raffaello

Matched with Martini Asti NV from the Piedmont region of Italy.I had never had Raffaello before, but they are now my favorite Ferraro chocolate.  They are like little christmas snow morsels wrapped in a coconut waver and are very moreish.  In fact me and Cass struggled to put these away and loved this combination.  Martini Asti is my MIL's favorite tipple and is perfectly matched to these delicate and delicious chocolates.

Ferrero Rond Noir

Matched with Dows Finest Reserve Port.  I really wanted to love this combination, but couldn't.  Normally I am a dark chocolate person, but for some reason I wasn't as keen.  Now this may have been due to the fact that I really loved the Raffaello and nothing would match that perfect combination.  However, MadDad loved the richness of both the chocolate and port and said if was the perfect indulgence for an evening in front of the fire (If we had a fire)!

Classic Gold Ferrero Rocher

Matched with Croix Milhas Rivesaltes Ambre‘ (Languedoc-Roussillon, France).  Christmas isn't Christmas without these delicious balls of heavenly crisp and soft chocolates.  No one in my tasting team liked the wine on it's own, but when paired with the chocolates it made a real difference.  They really brought out the best in each other.    This  combination really testing me and I found that once I had a couple it really was appealing.  MadDad did not like the wine at all. I was firstly amazed at just how big the Ferrero range was and secondly just how delicious chocolate can be when paired with the right wine.  It takes the whole chocolate experience up a notch and also makes it a really enjoyable experience.  
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How to film Nativity plays

Does your school let you film the Nativity?  Ours does, but this year neither of the boys have done a nativity, however, this morning there is a service at the local church and Maxi has a solo singing part of we three kings.

Panasonic sent me this fab guide to filming a nativity, so I decided to share it with you.  I will be enjoying the singing in the church and coming back to a warm mince pie.  I do hope this helps you.

IMG_0365

As the Christmas season draws upon us, many parents will be gearing up to take on their annual role as ‘Movie Director’ to film their little one’s starring moment in school productions and carol services. Whether they’ve got a leading role as Mary or Joseph, or will be taking a star turn as one of the farm animals around the manger, parents want to do the best job of capturing the precious moment on film. But you don’t have to be the next Scorsese to film a great video, here are some top tips to help you film a video even the Three Kings would be proud of. Top tips for filming a Nativity play 1)      Get in position early - The single most important thing to consider when filming a school play, nativity or anything on stage is position. Try to get in-situ early and claim a spot close to the stage. Ask someone who has been involved with the play where the best spot would be, that way you will hopefully get them on side and they will tell you if there are any special stage entrances or exits to look out for. 2)      Pay attention to the light - You will be filming indoors so it’s likely to be in low lighting. Many school halls will have large windows so try to get the sun behind you if it is during the day. As a rule of thumb, the better the lens, the more light it will capture – look out for camcorders with large wide-aperture lenses to get clear, natural lighting indoors. 3)      Choose the right mode on your camcorder - Lots of camcorders have settings to help you. For example, Panasonic camcorders have a dedicated spotlight mode which is specially designed to film indoors with theatrical lighting. You will probably need to use the zoom so keep this in mind. Zooming indoors requires a very high quality lens so look out for the “f” number (usually printed in small letters on the edge of the lens). A small f number – such as f1.8 on a Panasonic V700 camcorder – means a wide aperture and more light. 4)      Get the sound right - Trying to record little voices from across a large echoing hall may well be your toughest challenge. If they are using a speaker system, position yourself near enough the speakers so the camera can record the sound. Alternatively, look out for camcorders with a “zoom mic” function – this feature focuses the sound recording in the direction you are facing, so you hear more of the play, and less of the chatting in the audience around you. 5)      Keep it steady - Finally, whatever you film, remember to keep movements smooth, and the zooms slow. It will be much easier on the eye when you watch it back. Consider using a tripod – even just a cheap mini tripod – so you can leave the camcorder to do its thing and enjoy the play rather than spending the entire time staring at a small screen!
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A Frugal Christmas and a Debt Free New Year

Are you cutting back this Christmas?  Research by the Co-Operative Bank shows that a third of us are spending less this year than last year and nearly two thirds of us keeping our budget the same. I am a great believer that in order to have a good christmas, you need to take a step back and realise that it isn't about what you get it is about spending time with the ones you love and really enjoying spending time together.  We have had a fantastic advent, making, baking and just generally having fun together and I am so looking forward to spending some time with all my family over the next couple of weeks. Looking at the infographic below as was shocked to find that I live in the region spending the most and just how much less we have spent.  This just goes to reinforce with me that you do not have to spend to find happiness. 2012 Christmas Infographic A Frugal Christmas and a Debt Free New Year - An infographic by the team at The Co-operative Bank 18
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Some last minute christmas Gift ideas

If you are still wondering about what gifts to give people, then why not take a look at my last minute gift guide. All Terrain KartATK All Terrain Kart - £175 Now I do not have a review for you on this as the weather has not been kind to us and we haven't had time to really put it though it's paces, so will be coming back to you in Spring with a full review   What I will say is it is a great size for older children when they outgrow their other ride ons.  It is aimed at 7 to 12 year olds and it is a perfect pitch.  My boys are beside themselves to go on it for more than 5 minutes! IMG_7896 Sound Asleep Pillow - From £12 My boys love listening to music in bed and often go to sleep with either music on or listening to a story and with these fab pillows they can listen to MP3 players without having to use speakers or headphones.  Mini's has come in very handy to play his Relax Kids MP3's which I swear by.   You can see Miss Frugal using hers.  The boys are younger, so I make sure that I put the music on for them. 81DXYHywaRL._AA1500_LEGO Creationary - £20 We love LEGO.  In a BIG way.  We bought he boys this for last christmas and it has been one of our most played family games.  We ALL love to play this together, even I can win at this.  You choose a card and have to build what is on it and your team member has to guess what it is.  The wonder of LEGO games is that you can change the rules to suit you, so we have timed races, who can built the best, build offs and lots of other games all from the one box.  It is brill and I do not say that lightly. Tea-Set-MOOD4-1-300x300 Brabantia Tea41     I am a tea monster and I love this set from Brabantia as it is perfect for me during the day when I want a cup of tea, but do not want to make a pot as I am a tea leave user.  It is also perfect for herbal teas and infusions such as mint tea.  It contains everything you need to enjoy the perfect cup of  tea.  The tea buddy is so handy it attaches to the side of the cup and can be used to  carry your biscuit, cake, chocolate or even put your used tea bag in (Yes I know not everyone uses leaves). A967P Pirate Shrinkies - £5.99 We are lovers of shrinkies and these pirate ones are a super gift.  Easy to make nad fun to do.  A great way to get boys crafting. A949PMicro Football table - £8.99 We have a large football table in Maxi's room, but love this Micro one as it is easy to-assemble  and portable table. It has a dual scoring system and non-slip handles. Size 34cm x 22cm x 6.5cm. JDDP wii 3D packshot.png.png   Just Dance Disney Party - £19 Perfect for all the family and Disney lovers, Just Dance Disney has over 25 songs from Disney Channel’s hottest shows and songs from beloved Disney Movie Classics including  Shake It Up, Hannah Montana, A.N.T. Farm, Jessie, Wizards of Waverly Place, Camp Rock, Phineas and Ferb, High School Musical and Good Luck Charlie.  The movies tunes include:  Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Tangled, Aristocats, Mary Poppins, Lilo & Stitch, Tinker Bell, Enchanted, The Muppets and Bolt. Now let me warn you, this will get your dancing too not just the children, it is great fun.  I however, have no coordination and the boys just laughed at me.  I can not wait to do this with my niece and the rest of the family over christmas
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Join me on Wednesday for a #StorkBaking chat!

Are you like me and get in to a baking frenzy at this time of year.  I have already made mince pies and peppermint bark and a gingerbread house along with spiced cookies instead of cards for the boys to take to school  Or are you lacking in inspiration? mince pies Whichever is you, please come and  join me over on twitter at 1pm tomorrow (Wednesday 19th Dec) as I will be co-hosting a twitter chat with @amylane in conjunction with along with Tots100 and Stork. We are really looking forward to hearing all your favorite baking recipes, handy hints and top tips for baking with children. I am excited to be chatting alongside the team from Stork, who have more than 90 years of baking expertise and fill me with lots of memories of Christmas pasts. And as if sharing your knowledge and learning new recipes wasn't enough to tempt you to join in, there’s even going to be prizes  You could win vouchers for Lakeland! All you need to do is pop over to twitter Wednesday 19 December from 1pm to 2pm and use the hashtag #StorkBaking to join in. Make sure you are also following me @mum_themadhouse @Tots100@bakewithstork and @amylane. You can find out more details on the Tots100. 18
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Three Layer Peppermint Bark

I first came across peppermint bark three years ago on SouleMama blog and was intrigued   I love the look of candy canes, but we never eat them, so decided to give Peppermint bark a try and guess what we all love it.  The boys included. pappermint bark   The secret in making this a grow up and delicious peppermint bark is buying the best quality chocolate you can afford.  The dark chocolate needs to be 70% plus and the white chocolate needs to have cocoa butter in (so no milky bars!). Ingredients
  • 500 grams white chocolate,  chopped
  • 30 candy canes,  coarsely crushed (I did this by popping in two two plastic bags covering with a tea towel and then bashinf with a rolling pin)
  • 200 gramsof dark chocolate, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp of double cream
  • half ts. peppermint extract
Method
  1. Turn a large baking sheet upside down, and cover it securely with tin foil. Mark a 9- by 12-inch rectangle on the foil.  I use my glass worktop saver for this.
  2. Put the white chocolate in a heatprool bowl, and place it over a saucepan of barely simmering water.
  3. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth
  4. Turn the pan off
  5. Remove the chocolate from the heat. Pour half of it onto the rectangle on the foil. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate to fill the rectangle.
  6. Sprinkle with half of the crushed candy canes.
  7. Chill until set (I pop mine outside for 15 minutes)
  8. Meanwhile, combine the dark chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract in a saucepan. Warm over -low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is just melted and smooth.
  9. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes and pour the dark chocolate mixture over the white chocolate rectangle.
  10. Using a spatula chocolate in an even layer.
  11. Chill until very cold , which is about 25 minutes.
  12. Rewarm the remaining white chocolate over barely simmering water  and then pour the white chocolate over the firm dark chocolate layer, using your spatula to spread it to cover.
  13. Sprinkle with remaining crushed candy canes.
  14. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.
peppermint bark At this point you should be able to remove the bark from the foil on to a chopping board and you can trim the edges  Carefully lift the foil from the baking sheet onto a large cutting board. Trim away any ragged edges of the rectangle. Cut the bark in to bite sized pieces. Pack into an airtight container, Store in the refrigerator. When serving let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to emphasise the softer middle layer.
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Home made Christmas wreaths

There is something about Christmas that just inspires me and I think I have said before we do not buy the adults in our family Christmas gifts, so this year I decided to make use of my dried orange slices and make some home made christmas wreaths for my mother in law and sister in law.  make your own wreath   Materials:
  • Artificial wreath (I wanted it to last year to year)
  • Dried orange slices
  • Florists wire
  • Cinnamon sticks (from the florist as they are much cheaper)
  • Florists wire
  • Ribbon
  • Glue gun
  • Decorations (I used both wooden ones and also felt one too)
wreath collage I got my smaller wreaths from Tesco for 97p and the larger ones from Hobby Craft on a three for two for £3.49 Method:
  • Firstly I dried my oranges slices  and allowed them to dry.
  • For each wreath I made five orange, ribbon and cinnamon decorations by tying a bow in the ribbon and threading some florist wire through the back, then thread the wire through the orange slice.  Using the glue gun apply a blob of glue to the rear of the orange and attach the cinnamon stick and wrap with the wire and allow to dry.
  • Then position your orange decorations on the wreath and using the wire tie them in.
  • Attach any other decorations or embellishments either with florists wire or a hot glue gun.
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Swagbucks Update

As you know I have been taking part in the Tots100 Swagbucks competition along with 12 other fantastic bloggers and I wanted to tell you about my experience before the winner is announced next week.  I am not sure yet that Swagbucks is for me, I haven't been very stressful with it, but I do think there are a number of reasons.  Firstly the toolbar doesn't work in Chrome and that is my preferred browser and secondly the major one for me is that I think it is possible to get many more points if you are willing to use Swagbucks to register with gambling sites, but I don't gamble, so it didn't really work for me.  Another issue was that often people post hints and tips to the Swagbucks facebook page and with the changes on facebook I often didn't realise they were there until to late.   swagbuckssearch I am not sure that this time of year was the best time for me to focus on Swagbucks, as I am short of time and I think that if you have time to use it to do the daily poll, survey and searches via them you can make a lot of cash.  Wendy made £100 in just three weeks, where I made less than £10!  Pippa also made an amazing number of points too, which highlighted to me that it is more than possible and it was me that wasn't using the site right! Also I think it is really important that you get other people registered and using swagbucks as you get a proportion of their bucks too and neither of my referrals used the search function. So my top tips would be:
  • Get in to a routine (I will try again after Christmas)
  • Use the search toolbar
  • get your referrals to use swagbucks
So I am going to try again in the new year when I have more time and if you want to have a go with me, http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/MuminTheMadHouse
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Let me introduce you to decay the next skylander!

  jinglejolly   Skylanders, I am sure that if you have children then they have not escaped you. The thing is I am a bit of a sticker when it comes to toys and I refused to let the boys have Skylanders when they first came out.  I had concerns.  I was worried that they would want all of them and it would be out of my price range, especially as we are early adopters.  So I said no. And I have kept saying no.  But the boys love them and want them.  They have played on Skylanders with Master Frugal and I am coming to realise that they will not need them all as they can share and swap with friends.  Plus all their friends have them and they love to talk about them. However, we have a rule at christmas, they are only allowed to ask for four things and as they both really want bikes, Skylanders are out of our price range   But thankfully the Tots100 might be able t come to our rescue with their great Skylanders competition. So this is Decay.  He is a magic Skylander with his candy cane light saber which shoots sweets at you and tricks you in to getting bad teeth!
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Keeping hypersensitive heads warm with Zaini hats

Maxi hates hats.  He is one of those children that has sensitivity issues.  There was a time when it used to take an hour to put on a pair of socks  but thankfully those days are over, however  we are left with the fact that hats itch and make his head uncomfortable. Believe me when I say I have drawers full of hats, I have tried every possible combination for him and at nearly eight I was losing hope.  He would ware one for 3 minutes and then off his head it would come. So when we were offered a set of Zaini hats, I didn't hold out much hope.  In fact I measured my head to make sure the one he picked could double up as one for me! Zani Hats The boys chose their hats from the Zaini Kids range. All Zaini Kids hats are fully fleeced lined for the utmost comfort and quality and are made from 100% acrylic which is extremely durable towards rain, snow and wind. It is not waterproof , but it will resist rain without altering the hat. They can be hand washed only at 40 degrees. The idea of Zaini started in 2010 in a ski resort in Northern France, when Scottish ski instructor Miranda Harper started hand knitting hats for friends because she couldn't find the kind she liked. Since then Zaini, and  Zaini Kids, has become an established brand which sells and distributes hand made products throughout the world. So back to the hat, how did it fair.  Well he has been wearing it for a week, as it is fleece lines it doesn't itch per say and he is doing much better than he has with any other hat.  He loves the pom pom on the top and it has withstood both hail and rain.  At £14.99 it is much more than I have ever paid for a hat for him, but as a cost per wear it is the best value hat I have ever had for him too!  So it has got a big thumbs up from all of us.
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