Masha & The Bear – Holiday On Ice DVD Giveaway

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The Little Squirrels love Masha & The Bear so I was thrilled to receive a copy of their latest DVD collection, Holiday On Ice, to review, and a copy to giveaway.

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We first became aware of Masha & The Bear on Netflix, and both girls instantly fell in love with Masha, a cheeky little three year old who lives in the forest, and her gentle and kind friend Bear, an old circus bear who yearns for a quiet life.

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Bear does his best to guide little Masha and keep her out of mischief, but often ends up the unintended victim of her escapades. Alongside an unlikely band of animal friends Masha & the Bear share adventures, friendship, and fun.

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Find out more about Masha & the Bear’s friends on the Masha & The Bear website

This special, seasonal collection features the following episodes:- Holiday on Ice, One, Two, Three! Light the Christmas Tree, Picture Perfect, Tracks of Unknown Animals, Watch Out!,
First Day of School, No Tresspassing, The Snow Maiden and The Wolf and the Fox.

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Picture Perfect

This is a really lovely collection of Christmas/Winter-themed episodes to entertain your little ones. If you would like to win a copy of Masha & The Bear Holiday On Ice – head on over to my Instagram account for more details on how to enter…

Roast Tomato Soup

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After a recent trip to see my Dad in N Ireland, I came back to Scotland laden with produce from my Dad’s garden, including an array of Dad’s own jams and marmalades, cucumbers, green peppers, and some plump, and beautifully red tomatoes from his greenhouse. I knew I wanted to make a tomato soup with the tomatoes. There is something so comforting about a bowl of tomato soup, especially at this time of year – it really is like a hug in a bowl!

I have tried a couple of recipes for tomato soup over the years, but have not really found a winner, until now…

I came across a recipe by Rachel Allen in her book Home Cooking. I love how simple this recipe is. The oven does all the work for you, roasting off all the dry ingredients before adding in some stock and blending. Roasting the vegetables brings out the most beautiful rich and sweet flavours from the tomatoes, onions and garlic, and fills your kitchen with a heavenly aroma. I have adapted the recipe a little to my own liking. I hope you like it as much as I do…

NB – this recipe works best when your tomatoes are very ripe. 

The Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 300ml vegetable stock
Method
Preheat the oven to 180ºC, and grease a large tray with some olive oil to prevent the vegetables sticking to the tray.
Remove the skin from the tomatoes, then halve them, and place in the baking tray with the sliced onions, garlic cloves, and thyme leaves.
NB – the best way to skin the tomatoes is to make a small nick on the base of each tomato using a sharp knife, and place in a large bowl. Cover the tomatoes with boiling water, leave for 1 minute, or until you see the skin starting to peel away from the flesh, then transfer to a bowl of cold water. Once cool enough to handle the skin should just slip away from the flesh.
Sprinkle over the sugar, and then drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and the extra virgin olive oil.
Place the tray in your preheated oven for 30 mins, until the vegetables are softened.
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Decant the contents of the baking tray in to a liquidiser, including any juices from the pan. Add in the stock, blend until smooth, and pour in to a large saucepan.
Enjoy!
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A Night At The Fairmont St Andrews

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If you are a regular reader of the blog you will have seen that in September I spent two days in Fife experiencing the very best of Fife’s larder. I was very kindly offered a room in the Fairmont St Andrews for my overnight stay.

Situated on a 520 acre estate, Fairmont St Andrews is a luxury resort offering peaceful surroundings and panoramic cliff top views of St Andrews and the North Sea.

My first visit to the Fairmont St Andrews was back in 2007 for a friend’s hen do, where we had a lovely lunch in the clubhouse and got to experience the spa and treatment rooms. The Fairmont St Andrews really is the perfect setting for celebrating, relaxing, and pampering.
Since my last visit, the hotel has undergone extensive refurbishment, bringing it up to date, and ensuring it maintains its place as one of Scotland’s leading luxury hotels.

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The lobby of the Fairmont St Andrews

The designers have been really successful in reflecting the surroundings of the hotel in their interior design. The Atrium area features a spectacular lighting sculpture by renowned artist, George Singer, named Zephyr, which emulates shoals of fish in St Andrews Bay and the blowing reeds on the cliff tops.

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Zephyr by George Singer

The colour palette in the public areas (which is remarkably similar to my own living room!) is warm, inviting and relaxing. I particularly loved the library and only wish I had a longer stay so I could have really enjoyed the facilities at the hotel.

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The library

I was lucky enough to spend the night in one of the hotel’s suites. The suite was spacious with a separate sitting area, dining table, a desk to work at, the comfiest of beds, and a luxurious bathroom. Here is a room tour…

Due to a busy itinerary for the Feast Of Fife Bloggers Weekend I had very little time in my room, but I had a wonderful night’s sleep in beautiful surroundings, and an excellent breakfast the next morning.

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Left – obligatory hotel robe selfie
Middle – bed of dreams
Right – a perfect breakfast to start your day

I can only dream of a child-free break with Mr Hungry Squirrels here in order to further enjoy the luxurious setting that the Fairmont St Andrews provides. The suite would also be perfect for a stay with the Little Squirrels. However, the thought of some adult-only time is a little more appealing. There is so much to take in at the Fairmont St Andrews, from two championship golf courses, to the sumptuous Signature Spa, to an array of eating and drinking facilities, not to mention the Savoy Afternoon Tea.

With Christmas looming, I can highly recommend gift vouchers for the Fairmont St Andrews as the perfect present for your loved ones in need of some rest, relaxation, and pampering!

Many Thanks to the Fairmont St Andrews for having me for the night. I hope to see you again soon…

Foodies Festival Christmas 2016 At Edinburgh EICC – Ticket Giveaway

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Foodies Festival Christmas launches at EICC Edinburgh on the 25th, 26th and 27th of November, and promises to get you ready for the culinary Christmas season!

The Chefs Theatre has a fantastic line-up of chefs sharing their tips for a tasty Christmas, including MasterChef 2016 Winner Jane Devonshire, Jamie Scott of The Newport, Scott Davies of The Three Chimneys, Mark Greenaway of Restaurant Mark Greenaway, and Gillian, Nichola, & Linsey of Three Sisters Bake to name but a few!

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Top – Jamie Scott of The Newport
Bottom – Gillian & Nichola of Three Sisters Bake

There will also be a Cake & Bake Theatre, a Drinks Theatre, an Artisan Christmas Market and an Elves Cookery School to keep the younger visitors entertained. My favourite part of the Foodies Festival when I visited last year was the great selection of Street Food Stalls… can’t wait to see what’s on offer this year!

If you fancy visiting Christmas Foodies Festival tickets are on sale now at foodiesfestival.com or by calling 0844 995 1111.
All children aged 12 and under go free when accompanied by an adult.

I have 5 pairs of day tickets to give away to my lovely readers. To be in with a chance of winning click on this link to submit your details and enter the competition.

Terms & Conditions

  • This competition will run until 12.00am on November 13 2016
  • The winners will need to respond within 48 hours of being contacted; failure to do this may result in another winner being selected.
  • This giveaway is open to UK entries only. 
  • Entrants must be age 18 or over.
  • The prize is offered and provided by the Foodies Festival. The prize is one of five pairs of adult day tickets to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival Christmas on the 25, 26, or 27th of November 2016.

27 Years With Mum

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Ten years ago today I lost my Mum. I could write all day long about how much I miss her, how much I want to hug her, talk to her, phone her… Yes, I am terribly sad about what both my Mum and myself, and the rest of my family, have missed out on over the last ten years without Mum, but I also recognise that I am incredibly lucky to have had her in my life for those 27 years. Some of us lose our Mums much earlier in life, so I have to be grateful for the time I did have with her. With that in mind, I have decided to mark the 10 year anniversary of her passing with some memories of Mum…

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Mum & I at St John’s Point, Co Donegal

My love of food comes from both my parents, but my love of cooking and baking definitely comes from Mum. I have many fond memories from my childhood of standing on a kitchen chair watching Mum whip up a batch of shortbread, wheaten bread, border tartlets, and delectable desserts for entertaining… Mum got me involved in the kitchen from an early age, and for that I am so grateful! Since starting this blog, I have shared many of the recipes that I hold dear to my heart as I consider them Mum’s signature bakes. I hope you all get as much enjoyment from these recipes as I do!

Mum worked hard and she cared passionately for people. She was a Social Worker, and throughout her career she worked with people affected by blindness, deafness, learning difficulties, and dementia. She taught me the importance of fairness and empathy whilst caring for others, and I use these skills in my own career as a health professional. Many of Mum’s old colleagues speak highly of her and I only hope that I am as highly thought of by my patients and colleagues as she was.

My love of music comes from both Mum and Dad. It was through music that my own parents met. My Mum was a church organist in Belfast and my Dad was visiting her church to hear the new pipe organ that she was playing. Their first date was to the cinema to see The Sound Of Music.
Throughout my childhood my Mum was the organist for our own church and was the leader of the junior and senior choir. At the time, I have to be honest, I was not overly impressed at having to don the choir gowns, but of course, now I am hugely grateful to both Mum and Dad for growing that love of a wide variety of music.
One of my happiest memories of Mum was at my eldest brother’s wedding reception. Dexys Midnight Runners Come on Eileen was playing… I have never seen my Mum dance so enthusiastically. Her face was beaming, and every time I hear that song now it brings the biggest smile to my face.

So today Mum, I’ll be thinking of you, missing you, and listening to this…

 

Feast Of Fife – The St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company

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Day two of our Feast Of Fife Adventure started with a trip to Falside Farm. Situated just 8 miles from St Andrews, and 4 miles from Anstruther, Falside Farm is home to the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company – Fife’s only unpasteurised cheese makers. The land here has been farmed by the Stewart family since the 1930s. In 2008 Jane & Robert Stewart began cheese production, with their original Anster cheese. Since then they have opened up a coffee shop and have expanded their range of cheese, and are winning awards for their beautifully crafted traditional cheeses.

Stepping out of the minibus I was struck by the stunning views… fields of lusciously green grass rolling down to the Firth of Forth, and of course the beautiful Friesian Holstein Cows that produce the milk that makes St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese.

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We were all seated in the Coffee Shop and were welcomed by the very lovely and charismatic Jane Stewart.
Jane spoke to us about how their cheese business began in 2008 when milk prices were low. Jane & Robert recognised a gap in the market, in that no one else in Fife was making cheese. Jane spent some time in Wales with a traditional cheese maker who was retiring, learning her craft, and was then able to buy the equipment she would need to start cheese production. This wonderful video from Andy Swinscoe of The Courtyard Dairy in Settle shows how the cheese is made, and illustrates perfectly Jane’s enthusiasm and passion for what she does!

 

Jane explained that at St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company they are about making the best top quality cheese that people want to buy. They have five varieties that they have mastered. We were served a cheeseboard allowing us to sample the wonderful cheeses that Jane & her team produce, alongside some beautiful cheese scones, cheese biscuits, and oatcakes and chutney.

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Left – a beautiful board of the five cheeses produced by St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company
Right – homemade cheesy biscuits and cheese scones

The original Anster is a Cheshire-style cheese, matured for 2-4 months, with a crumbly texture and a tangy taste. The Mature Anster is matured for 7-9 months and as a result has a more pungent flavour and a flaky texture. Red Anster is the sister cheese to Anster, made using the same recipe but with the addition of a natural red colouring and garlic and chives. Smoked Anster is smoked in nearby St Monans, using traditional methods with real oak and beech chips. Finally St Andrews Farmhouse Cheddar is aged for 9-12 months, resulting in a bold creamy cheddar.

I am fond of my cheese, so it was a real treat to sample the beautiful cheeses that Jane and her team produce. I particularly loved the original Anster and the Farmhouse Cheddar. If you are visiting Fife, St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company is well worth a visit. The coffee shop is set in a beautiful location, and offers a lovely menu of freshly cooked food and home-baking using locally sourced ingredients. There is also a great deli section where you can buy some of the UK’s best farmhouse cheeses.

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Glasgow-based cheese lovers can pick up some Anster cheese from Iain Mellis on Great Western Road or from George Mewes on Byres Road.

Hello Pumpkin… Pumpkin Picking at Arnprior Farm

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Autumn is most definitely upon us…. The temperature has dropped, the air is fresh, fallen multicoloured leaves are crunching underfoot. Halloween is just round the corner.

Last weekend Mr Hungry Squirrel mentioned paying a visit to a pick your own pumpkin farm just 40 minutes from home. I may have squealed with excitement at the mention of this! I had a romantic notion of family photos amongst the pumpkin patch North American style…

So on Sunday morning, we all jumped in the car, and drove over the Campsie hills to Arnprior Farm, just a few miles from Kippen, Stirlingshire. Dropping down in to Arnprior we were greeted with the view of early pumpkin pickers scattered across a field adorned with beautiful orange jewels.

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I loved our visit to Arnprior Pumpkins. Pumpkins, haybales, coffee truck, The Extraordinary Sausage Company, face paining, dig up your own potatoes and turnips, a kale maze, pumpkin-themed selfie and photo opportunities aplenty (compliant small children-allowing)… there is everything to float your Autumnal boat!

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I didn’t quite mange to get the beautiful family photos amongst the pumpkins I had dreamed of. A grumpy 3 year old and a clingy 1 year old made that difficult! Nonetheless, I had a blast and came home with two beautiful pumpkins, and am looking forward to my visit next year already!

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If you fancy picking your own pumpkins, you have two more weekends to visit Arnprior Pumpkins. Remember to wrap up warm, wear wellies, and make sure your little ones have emptied their bladders before you take them!

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