Friday, 31 December 2010

New diary!

This time of year brings the inevitable questions about new year's resolutions. Each December I try to field them politely, swatting them away gently without wishing to offend.

The simple truth is I don't believe in new year resolutions.  If you really want to change something then the date is not important.

Just for the record, I have no need or desire to lose any weight; there is absolutely no way on God's earth I would contemplate running a marathon; the hounds of hell couldn't force me to join a gym and I have absolutely no intention of giving up my few vices/pleasures/addictions*!   (*delete as applicable)

The only thing I'd like to do in 2011 is get organised. I mean properly organised.  No longer will I write down addresses on scrappy bits of paper only to lose them within days.  I shall remember people's birthdays and RSVP to my daughter's party invitations.  I shall deal with my mail - and not leave it unopened in a pile and gasp in horror at my domestic ineptitude when the final demand arrives. I shall pay my bills on time, even better I shall get round to setting up direct debits. I will send out Christmas cards next year, and I will promptly send newborn gifts to friend's babies rather than wait until I first see them by which time they are usually crawling.

This week we hit the sales in London and I came back armed and dangerous in the organisation department.  First up was a delightful trip to Liberty's where the other half bought me as a late Christmas present, the much coveted leather ipad case (my ipad having previously been won in a twitter competition).

This truly is a thing of beauty.  I know ipad cases are intended to protect the ipad, but I suspect I shall be keeping the case inside it's cotton drawstring bag to protect IT!

Ianthe Embossed Leather iPad Folio in Black, Liberty London for Apple

Price £90.00

I could have happily remained in Liberty's all day. There was much to make my eyes sparkle and my heart quicken.  My head is now full of ideas and I'm quite possibly warming to the idea of moving house just to re-decorate and buy new cushions.

I also purchased  fabric covered A-Z London maps, one each for myself and the old man.  My current disorganised chaos means we inevitably end up buying a new one each time we go to London, but these will remain proudly in our respective bags.  Sadly, the beautiful peacock feather design was sold out, but my cycle enthusiast fella chose this one, and I picked one with a blue print of fisherman's cottages as it reminded me of cornish holidays.

Phillipa Liberty Print Mini A-Z, Liberty

£19.50 (Was £39.00)

Next was on to Selfridges in search of a personal organiser. It would seem that these are no longer popular in this digital age, but I prefer to write things down the old-fashioned way.  The Filofax section was fairly uninspiring, but then I spotted a beautiful embossed leather organiser by Cross.  At £130 it wasn't cheap, but I actually decided I preferred the design of a different one in the display case.  Looking at the Rosa one, I was a bit miffed to find that all the inserts were in Spanish.  The assistant explained that this was because it was made in Spain, but even so (and without wishing to sound like a Daily Mail reader), we're in England!!  My knowledge of the Spanish language is non-existent, so reluctantly, I put it back and left empty-handed.

Back home, I checked the Cross website and found that the design I preferred was not real leather, but synthetic, and therefore nearly £100 cheaper.  The site showed the organiser empty, so I snapped it up thinking I could fill it with English Filofax inserts. Amazingly it was delivered the next day, complete with a complimentary Cross pen, full diary and loads of inserts - some in Spanish and some in English, but enough for it to be usable for me.  I was most chuffed with this bargain!

Flower Fossils Black Personal Agenda


Finally, how could I resist this Charlie and Lola family organiser calendar from John Lewis.  My love for Charlie and Lola is far greater than my 2 year old daughter's and I shall be more than happy to have this on my fridge for the duration of 2011.  I struggled so hard last year to find a calendar with a pocket to hold all those vouchers, invites, appointment cards etc etc, so I'm really pleased I've found this one. It also has loads of stickers to mark off dentist appointments, end of term and sleepover dates.

Charlie and Lola Extremely Useful Activity Planner 2011

So 2011, bring it on!! I'm ready for you.
Happy New Year to you all x

EDIT: Oops! Just realised I've put the wrong link for the Charlie & Lola planner.  It was the only one John Lewis had listed on their site, but not in fact the one I bought!  The one I got is not available online, but you can get it online at Ryman's and (grrrr!) it's now reduced to only £4.99. This is the link.  Sorry about that ( and I haven't even started on the Babycham yet...)

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Who's afraid of the Bogeyman?

Raymond Briggs' Fungus The Bogeyman -picture credited to BBC

Whilst I realise that this might not sound like a particularly festive topic, it was actually Christmas that got me thinking about this.

When I was little we grew up in an old, cold house. It was full of dark corridors and creaky floorboards. It's exactly the kind of house I now love, but back then it gave me the heebie-geebies! I distinctly remember lying in bed, seeing strange faces in the wallpaper, and shivering whenever I walked past a particular spot on the landing which seemed to always have a mysterious chill about it.

To reach the bathroom you had to walk down a very long, narrow corridor. It had sash windows down the corridor, but still it felt like it was closing in on you. It was much like walking past train compartments on an old fashioned train. Beyond the bathroom was another room, supposedly a bedroom but as it could only be accessed via the bathroom it was only ever used as a storage room.

Because I was a nosey little blighter, and I suspect because my mum and dad knew I was wary of this cold, neglected room, at Christmas time they used to hide our presents in here before 'Father Christmas' delivered them to the tree on Christmas Eve. To make doubly sure I didn't sneak a peek, my mum and dad told me that 'Mr Jones' lived in the box room.

To this day I couldn't tell you why this imaginary bogeyman struck terror into my heart, nor can I describe what I imagined him to look like, or explain why the hell he'd be living in our box room. But it had the desired effect of keeping me away from my presents, and such was my fear of Mr Jones that if I woke in the night and needed the loo, I'd have to wake my brother and plead, beg or bribe him to walk down to the bathroom with me. One year I had to trade my entire haul of easter eggs just for him to chaperone me in the dark - and even then the little sod ran off and left me in the bathroom rather than wait outside the door as was our agreement!

When we moved house (I think me and my brother were around 9 yrs old), Mr Jones of course came too. This time taking up residence in the cellar. My parents thought it was hilarious to send me down to the cellar to retrieve something from the freezer or switch the immersion heater on, shouting after me "watch out for Mr Jones".

It got me wondering, was I alone in this irrational fear of unseen monsters? I had a boyfriend once who had grown up in a house which backed on to a railway line. His parents had told him as a child he must not venture beyond the garden shed or the 'man with long arms' would get him! How utterly terrifying! 'The man with long arms' - what an odd bogeyman to make up! I can see why they did it, but hell, they scarred him for life!

Even as an adult I can't go to sleep if the wardrobe door is open, and I can't sleep with my legs or arms hanging over the edge in case the monster under the bed gets me.

What about you? Who were your childhood bogeymen and have you made up any for your kids to keep them from danger - or maybe just for fun?!!! Your fun that is, not theirs - he will haunt them for years...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

My Christmas message

I just want to wish everyone who has read my blog; supported me since I started in August; offered help and encouragement and to the lovely companies who have sponsored various posts and competitions.

To all my lovely Twitter friends who are always there when I need them - who says online friendships are less valid than real-life ones?

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Apologies for the awful quality of this video - I have asked Santa for a new camera. I did have another clip which was better quality, but also featured the dog in the background licking her bits, and I felt that wasn't quite festive enough!


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas Giveaway - personalised stockings & sacks from Never Forget

Thank you for all your entries - this competition is now closed.  The winners, drawn at random were:

Santa sacks - @TheKiss1970 and @Fraoch1 (please get in touch)

Personalised stockings - @bella165 and @mummiafelice

Santa hat - @roxanneclements 

 I was recently lucky enough to win a fantastic personalised Christmas sack from Never Forget. I'm so looking forward to filling it up with all Ruby's presents.

It turns out, that the lovely lady who runs this company is in fact a neighbour. We've been chatting online oblivious to the fact that we've probably been queuing in the local shop for a pint of milk together! What a small world.

So Never Forget have kindly offered me some beautiful personalised Christmas items to giveaway. Each item will be embroidered with your choice of name - my sack had Ruby embroidered in a very pretty 'daisy and dots' font like the one shown below, but you can choose a different font (Times Roman or Script).

Large personalised santa sack from £6.99

The sacks and stockings can of course be used year after year, and if you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint, you can use these and get away with no wrapping at all!  Measuring 60 x 90cm they are also perfect for large or awkward shaped presents. 

I have a number of prizes to give away, so please do enter.  The first and second names drawn at random will each win a large personalised sack like the one shown above. The third and fourth names drawn will each win a large personalised Christmas stocking (40 x 20cm) - perfect for hanging up Christmas eve.

Large personalised stocking reduced to £4.99

We will do our absolute best to get the items to you in time for Christmas - but please make sure I can contact you and you respond quickly with your details.  As this is only going to be a short competition, I'm offering an extra prize incentive to those that help spread the word on Facebook.  If you fulfil the additional Facebook entry you will not only get another entry into the draw for the sacks and stockings, but all Facebook entries will be put in a special draw to win your choice of fun personalised santa hats.  Click on the photo below for the range available, but this one's definitely the one I'd go for!

Personalised santa hat reduced to £3.49

Take a look round the store, Never Forget offer a great range of personalised gifts for babies, children and adults.  Order now for pre-Christmas delivery.

How to enter the giveaway:

1. Follow my blog (buttons over on the right of screen) then visit Never Forget's online shop, and leave a comment here telling me which is your favourite item - it doesn't have to be Christmas related.


You can get additional entries by completing these steps, and telling me in the comments that you have done so.

2. Tweet the following: "I'm entering @missielizzieb 's blog #competition to win personalised Xmas gifts from @neverforgetcouk"

3. 'Like' Never Forget's Facebook page and post on your wall "I'm entering Missie Lizzie 's blog competition to win personalised Xmas gifts from  Enter here: "

If you complete step 3 then you will also be entered into the draw to win a santa hat.

This competition closes at 8pm on Friday 17th December.  Sorry - UK entries only.  Winners drawn at random.

Good luck!

This is a sponsored post and the prizes are kindly supplied by Never Forget

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Slow Cooker Sweet Aromatic Lamb Tagine

This recipe is one that I've tinkered with, but essentially it's a bastardised version of a recipe from Nigella Lawson's book 'Feast'.

Strictly speaking it can't be called a Tagine as it's not cooked in one, but I don't have one so there! Nigella places her recipe under the heading 'Funeral Feasts' but don't let that put you off. As a family we eat this meal very regularly - a lot more regularly than we attend funerals thankfully.

Despite owning heaps of cookery books, I am not great at following recipes (or, I suspect, writing them). I'm a kind of 'make-it up as I go along' kind of girl, so measurements are vague, but are not too important in this recipe - it's quite forgiving. Nigella uses honey (which I detest) and molasses (which I sometimes add but to be honest the fruit makes it sweet enough).

Serves 3-4


Approx 500g diced lamb (as it's slow cooked you can get away with more economical cuts, I often use neck fillet, you can also use leftover roast lamb, but obviously don't cook for as long)
1 red onion - sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice / all spice
2 star anise
1 pint hot water
1 large glass red wine
1/2 tube tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon chopped chili (I use the tubes from Gourmet Garden - what's the point in chopping chili?!)
Handful dried apricots - halved
Handful dried prunes - halved.


Gently fry the onion in a pan to soften it slightly.  Add the lamb and stir. Once the meat is sealed and browned lightly on all sides, add the spices (except the anise stars).  Stir well until all the meat and onion is coated in the spices.  Careful not to burn it at this point as it will make the finished dish bitter.

In a jug, mix the hot water, tomato puree, chili and wine together until all the puree has dissolved.

Add the liquid to the pan, and turn up the heat.  Bring to the boil and leave to bubble for about 5 minutes, so the liquid reduces slightly and the alcohol burns off.

Place the star anise in the slow cooker and pour over the meat, onion and sauce.  Place lid on and cook for at least 5 hours - preferably longer.  Approximately 2 hours before serving, add the apricots and prunes.  If you add these at the beginning you'll find they soak up all the liquid and you'll constantly be topping up.

If the dish is drying out at all, add a little more water and stir.

I serve this with lime and coriander couscous, which offsets the sweetness of the meat - add the juice and zest of one lime to dried couscous, and stir in a handful of chopped fresh coriander. Then make up as normal with boiling water.

I promise this tastes nicer than it looks!

A perfect winter-warmer recipe. In my book any food you can eat out of a big bowl, shovelling down without the need for a knife is great comfort food!  Even mixed with the couscous this freezes and re-heats well - when Ruby was smaller I used to pot up small portions of this and pop them in the freezer.
This is a real family favourite - everyone is always guaranteed to clear their plates.  I love it because it is maximum taste with minimum effort, as it cooks it fills the house with delicious aromatic spicy scents.  It's also a great way of sneaking fruit into my daughter without her knowing - never in a million years would she willingly eat a prune!!


Christmas Time - Cinnamon and Wine

Last week while we were wrestling with the Christmas tree and trying to prettify the house with fairy lights, I stupidly (as I joke I hasten to add), started prancing around with Ruby singing Cliff Richard's Mistletoe and Wine.

For the life of me I don't know why - I loathe that song, but for the past week it has been stuck on a tortuous loop in my head, occasionally escaping from my lips as the old man looks despairingly at me wondering what medication I'm on.

Anyhow, all this singing about mistletoe and wine, with logs on the fire etc etc reminded me of @beckicklesie's Oui Chef theme for December - cinnamon and wine. Tenuous link I know, but that's how my mind works.

So here's my entry. A lovely simple recipe, perfect for unwinding after a hard day's shopping / cleaning / tweeting / whatever.


1 cinnamon stick
1 large glass of red wine (my preference would be Merlot, but whatever takes your fancy)


Well, it's fairly self explanatory I think.....

Serving suggestion - Slanket optional!


Monday, 13 December 2010

The Nativity...according to a 2 & 3/4 year old

DISCLAIMER: I am possibly about to inadvertently offend people here - so apologies in advance.  I am not mocking people with firmly held religious beliefs in any way. 

This is uncharted territory, and I may be about to commit the cardinal sin (no pun intended) of blogging by even mentioning religion. This may be mummy blogger suicide on a par with my Fruit Shoot post (No, obviously I'm not comparing Jesus to a Fruit Shoot...)

Here goes.

Last week when we'd ambled home from Nursery, Ruby spent a good part of the afternoon wandering round the house cradling her doll and calling her 'baby Jesus'.  I was quite taken aback by this - we have never discussed religion in our house, and as far as I know none of her grandparents have either.

It's not that we are non-believers - both myself and her dad have our views, but these are private and we don't discuss them openly.  I was raised as a Sunday-school-attending Methodist, and the other half as a practicing Roman Catholic.  He was an alter boy and was educated by nuns.  This enforced religion at a young age has turned us both off traditional worship and it was always our intention that we would allow our daughter to discover religion for herself (or not).

This is why I was quite shocked that, with no forewarning Ruby suddenly starts shouting about baby Jesus and singing snippets of a song with the words 'kneel and pray'.  She actually attends two different nurseries - one is at a local SureStart centre, the other is a private nursery group held in a church hall.  It was the SureStart group who have filled her head with 'baby Jesus'.  I was really surprised by this - when you constantly read in the media about 'political-correctness gone mad' I would have thought the least they could do is inform parents they were going to talk about Christianity.  Even back in the dark ages when I went to school we were given the option to opt out of religious teaching (though I suspect this wasn't the case with the other half - I imagine the nuns would have had something to say about that!).

Many lovely people on Twitter sent me kind and reassuring replies to my angst filled tweets about this. They didn't (as they probably should have) say "get a grip woman, it's 3 weeks before Christmas, the subject of Jesus in a manger was bound to come up".

I know I should have seen this coming, but disorganised as ever I didn't.  I hadn't planned in my head what I was going to tell her about the meaning of Christmas. I tend to take the ostrich approach to parenting.  I still think discussing religion with children should be the choice of the parents.  I want her to learn about all faiths, and grow up tolerant and understanding of others.  I haven't noticed any other celebrations discussed at nursery...

Today, I dropped Ruby off at her other nursery - the one at the church hall.  I was met at the door by her key-worker who told me that the vicar was visiting today to tell the Christmas story. I was given the option, if I didn't want her to listen she could go to another room with a play leader and do another activity instead.  I chose to let her stay and hear the story - at least she could hear it from a vicar, who presumably would know what he was talking about, and might put her right on a few Jesus wasn't a girl.

This approach was much appreciated, and to be honest what I would expect from any pre-school setting.  When I collected her at lunchtime, we wandered home and I asked her what she'd done today.  This is how the conversation went:

Ruby: "The vicar came in today and told us all about baby Jesus"

Me: "That's nice.  Did he tell you about where Jesus was born?"

Ruby: "Yes, in a stable. And some horses came to see her"

Me: "Him"

Ruby: "No, her."

Me: "Did anyone else come to visit?"

Ruby: "No."

Me: "What about the three wise men?"

Ruby: "Yes, three old men came too. And a cow."

Me: "And did they bring any presents?"

Ruby: "No. Father Christmas brings the presents, but he hasn't been yet.  When he does he's going to bring her a Thomas the Tank Train Set."

Looks like I have some more explaining to do on this.  Or maybe not.

From Slummy Mummy to Yummy Mummy - thanks to Cocktail Cosmetics

Thank you for all your entries - this competition is now closed.  The winner, drawn at random was @pipersky1 

In the days BC (before children) I used to spend ages on myself, doing my nails, hair and make-up.  Nowadays the most I can manage is a scrape of mascara and a dash of lippy as I hurtle out of the house in the mornings dragging Ruby behind whilst yelling 'We're late!!"

This is partly because I don't have the time, but mainly because said daughter decided to completely trash my make-up bag one morning while I was in the shower.  Lathered up with shampoo I thought she was being ominously quiet, and when I emerged from behind the shower curtain and my eyes had adjusted to the steam-filled room, I discovered her caked from head to foot in foundation, lipstick and eyeshadow. There were mascara streaks up the wall, my brushes were clogged with lip gloss, my pressed powder had been gauged and stabbed and the bathmat was smothered in nail varnish.  She'd had a wail of her time with her 'Bourjois dirty protest' I on the other hand was fuming!  Re-stocking a make-up bag from scratch is a costly business.

That's why I'm so pleased to have found Cocktail Cosmetics.  Not only is the name itself glamorous enough to make you instantly feel more yummy, but they have a great range of products and offer fantastic service.  With the party season upon us, it's time I smartened up my act!

I'm delighted that Cocktail Cosmetics have offered me the chance to try out some make-up brushes from ecoTools, and they've given me another set to as a competition prize for my readers.

The ecoTools 6 piece brush set is the perfect set for anyone who wants beautiful make up and wishes to be eco friendly.  Made up of brushes that are made from synthetic cruelty free bristles, recylced aluminium ferrules and sustainable bamboo handles. The set retails at £14.95 and includes a blush brush, eye shading brush, eyeliner brush, lash and brow groomer and a concealer brush, all presented in a cosmetics brush roll made from hemp linen and cotton.

I love the eco-friendly credentials of this product, added to the fact they are great value and perform as well as other much more expensive brushes.  I found them great to use, each one performing its function well and there was no hair-loss which you sometimes get with low-cost brushes.

EcoTools have received great reviews from many beauty bloggers and experts, and overall I have to agree.  This set would make a perfect gift or stocking-filler for someone who likes to look good and cares about the environment.  Check out the ecoTools range from only £2.50 on Cocktail Cosmetics.

If you'd like to win a set of these brushes either to keep for yourself, or give as a gift, here's what you need to do...

1. Follow my blog (use the buttons over on the right to subscribe), this makes it easier for me to track down winners!

2. Visit Cocktail Cosmetics online store and tell me which of their stocked ranges is your favourite, or which new line you'd like to see them introduce.

You must complete steps 1 & 2 for your entry to qualify.

You can get additional entries by doing the following, BUT PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT BELOW FOR EACH EXTRA ENTRY.

4. Post on your Facebook wall "I'm entering Missie Lizzie's blog competition to win ecoTool make-up brushes from Cocktail Cosmetics. Read here to find out how you can enter too 

6. Tweet the following: "I'm entering @missielizzieb 's blog competition to win ecoTool make-up brushes from #CocktailCosmetics"

The winner will be picked at random. Closing date is 9am on Saturday 18th December - I will do my best to get the prize to the winner before Christmas, but please make sure you leave a way of contacting you - twitter ID, Facebook name, email etc.  Sorry, due to postage costs this competition is open to UK only.

Giveaway kindly sponsored by Cocktail Cosmetics who provided both the prize and the product for review purposes. No financial reward has been received for this promotion and any views are my own honest opinions. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A very lucky winner...

Yet again, I've had an amazing response to the competition - and with the mouth-watering prize supplied by Chocadores I can't say I blame you!

You don't have to thank me for introducing you to this fantastic company (but if you want to thank me, giant chocolate buttons go down well!)

Please pay their shop a visit, their bespoke fresh chocolate boxes make fantastic christmas presents, and you should perhaps stock up on the hot chocolate cubes before they sell out (or we get snowed in again).

Moving on, thank you all for entering, I have totted up all the entries and put the numbers into random generator, and the result was...

Comment number 77 - congratulations Stacy Ward @basehex. Well done Stacy, please could you get in touch with me via DM @missielizzieb or email me missielizzieandmyshadow (@) with your postal address so I can send your prize out to you. x 

I'd just like to say a big, big thank you to Chocadores for sponsoring this competition.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Charity Auction for The Children's Trust - Bid for a gourmet hamper of Chocolate, kindly donated by Chocadores

Well Chocadores have gone and done it again - as if I didn't think they were lovely enough, they have generously donated a mouth-watering hamper full of delicious chocolate to help raise money for The Children's Trust.

The Children's Trust provide care, education, therapy and rehabilitation to children with multiple disabilities, complex health needs and acquired brain injury.

Their services include the UK's largest paediatric brain injury rehabilitation centre, support in the community for children and young people with acquired brain injury, The School for Profound Education for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties, short breaks, transitional, palliative and long-term nursing care.

Please take a moment to read about how the charity has helped change lives, and to see the child rather than the disability.  Children and young people like 3 year old Charlie who has hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that puts him at risk of terrible seizures if his blood sugar levels drop too low. Find out how the Trust's outreach team are helping him and his family to lead a normal life at home. Or 5 year old Kayse who is benefitting from rehabilitation at the Trust after he was hit by a car on a family holiday and suffered life-changing injuries.

So how can you help? We'd like you to dig deep and bid what you can afford in our charity auction. I know times are hard, especially around Christmas, but sadly this is also true for charities who find it tough to raise money at this time of year.  Think of this fabulous auction prize as a Christmas present for a loved one (or yourself!), knowing that the full amount you have paid will be going to support a very worthy cause. 

What better gift for this season of goodwill?

So, with very special thanks to Chocadores, here's what you're bidding on:

all presented in a beautiful black and orange gift box.  Chocadores is including postage and packaging of this box to any UK address, so if you have submitted the highest bid, that is the total price you will pay.  Overseas bidders are welcome, only if you are bidding for a gift for a UK friend or relative (sorry, we cannot send outside of the UK).

The products, gift wrapping, delivery and packaging are worth around £50 in total, but as it's such a worthy cause, don't let that stop you from bidding more if you wish!!

If you need any more encouragement, just read my review of some of these products! While you're here, you can also enter my blog competition to win some amazing Chocadores products - read here and pop over to Facebook to 'like' their page.


Leave your 'bid' in the comment box below stating the maximum you wish to offer (please give as generously as you can).

The winning bidder must pay the full auction price at the end of the auction via the Just Giving page (you can pay by Paypal, credit or debit card). This page is set up for recent fundraising for The Children's Trust at The House of Baby's Christmas event last week.

Please leave a method of contact with your bid so we can get in touch (twitter name, facebook name or email address will be fine).

The auction closes at 10pm on Saturday 11th December, so please check back to see how your bid is getting on, and whether you have to increase it!  We will send out regular updates on Twitter and Facebook to let you know the current leader.

Bids submitted are binding and the winning bidder must send payment no later than 5pm on Wednesday 16th December.

If more than one person bids the same amount, the winning bidder will be the person whos comment is shown earliest on the posting.
Please share this link with your friends and family, and give as generously as you can.

Thank you, and we wish you and your families a safe and happy Christmas x

Who's going to start us off?...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Exclusive announcement and giveaway - Chocadores launch new products

Shhhhh!  Gather round, have I got some amazing news for you!  For the past few weeks I've been on a top secret mission with the fabulous Chocadores discussing the launch of their incredible new products.  How I've managed to keep my trap shut about this, goodness only knows.  Not even Wikileaks has got wind of this.

I wrote about Chocadores inspiring approach to chocolate a few weeks back.  Their passion is to bring pure unadulterated chocolate to everyone. To encourage people to move away from the mass-produced, overly sweetened, hydrogenated vegetable oil filled, tasteless blocks, and to try a purer product made from single origin beans.

Following on from my unashamedly rapturous tasting of the giant chocolate buttons, Chocadores have now launched their mini-buttons.  Available in either Ecuador 39% mini milk buttons or Madagascar 67% mini dark buttons, priced at £3.75 for 150g bag.  These are too cute for words, they're cute as a err... well cute as a button.  You can tell they are not mass-produced as each one is slightly different in size or shape. You will have to take my word for it (or better still, order some for yourself), you have NEVER tasted chocolate buttons like this before.  The milk buttons are smooth and deliciously creamy, with a slightly nutty taste.  The dark ones are rich, fruity and completely decadent.  Size-wise these buttons are about halfway between a chocolate chip and those kid's chocolate buttons (you know, the ones that come in a purple packet).

Also new to the range, the mini milk buttons are now available in a glass kilner-style jar (priced at £8.95), making them a perfect gift for a gourmet cook.  I reckon you could safely stash these in the kitchen cupboard with a 'keep off' sign, and treat it in much the same way as some do their cooking sherry, taking a surreptitious mouthful every now and again!

This time I was determined to use my sample buttons to bake with.  What better recipe for mini-buttons than mini chocolate cupcakes.  The small buttons melted effortlessly, and the smell in the kitchen was heaven.  Here's the finished result (sorry, not the most elegant as I couldn't find my piping bag or my palette knife, goodness knows where they've wandered off to, but I had to show you to prove I didn't scoff the lot again!)

Finally, the third new product is possibly my favourite.  I am a huge fan of hot chocolate, and at this time of the year there's nothing more comforting than curling up with a warming mug.  Chocadores are launching their brand new hot chocolate cube.  I'm honoured that I have already been able to sample this (be jealous, be very jealous).

When it arrived, I did have my doubts that it would work.  It looked just like a giant chunk of chocolate, and I know from previous experience that melting chocolate can be a bit hit and miss.  When melting it for cakes it can sometimes go grainy, or else it doesn't melt thoroughly and you're left with lumps, but most of all, it can take ages.  To be honest, I wasn't entirely convinced it would ever get to be introduced to the warm milk, such was the temptation to just eat it as it was...

But it worked magically.  I heated milk on the stove, added the cube to the hot milk, gave it a little stir and that's it - as simple as that.  No lumps, no sludgy residue at the bottom, but a beautifully even cup of hot chocolate.

Apologies to the purists, but I like to have a marshmallow (or 20) in my hot choc.  Often with the powdered or even flaked versions, the addition of marshmallows to an already over-sweetened drink can be teeth-rottingly sickly.  But as this cube is just pure chocolate and some cane sugar you can safely add marshmallows if you so desire!

I'm so excited about this new product. As far as I know it's an absolute first on the UK market and I'm convinced it is going to be hugely popular.  It's certainly going on my shopping list.

To celebrate the launch of these new products, Chocadores are giving away an exclusive gift set to one of my lucky readers.  The set consists of a pack of the hot chocolate cubes, a glass jar of mini milk buttons and a bag of mini dark buttons, all in a presentation box.  Seriously, chocolate doesn't get any better than this!

To enter, you need to complete the following 2 steps and leave me a comment in the box below.

Visit Chocadores on Facebook and 'like' their page.  Then leave a comment here on the blog answering this question: What would be the perfect chocolate related Christmas gift, and who would you give it to?

For example, your comment should look something like this:

I've liked Chocadores facebook page.  The perfect gift from me would be Johnny Depp dipped from head to toe in Madagascar dark chocolate.... excuse me a moment while I savour that image...

That's my fantasy chocolate gift, you need to come up with your own!

You can get additional entries for doing the following, BUT YOU MUST LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT FOR EACH

Post on your facebook wall "I've entered @Missie Lizzie's blog competition to win an exclusive chocolate prize with @Chocadores" (1 extra comment = 1 extra entry)

Follow @Chocadores on Twitter (1 extra comment = 1 extra entry)

Tweet: "I've entered @missielizzieb's blog competition to win an exclusive chocolate prize with @Chocadores #chocadores" (1 extra comment = 1 extra entry)

Make sure you leave a way from me to contact you - a twitter name, Facebook name or email etc. If the winner has not responded within 1 week of making the draw, I will pick another winner.

Sorry, due to weight this competition is open to UK entrants only.  Closing date midnight Saturday 11 December 2010.  Winner will be picked at random. Good luck everyone. x

Friday, 3 December 2010

Mirrorin - announcing the competition winner and a special offer

Thank you all so much for entering this competition. It was great to hear which mirrors you all like - the rock star one and the mini-butterflies were very popular.

Well, I have spent all morning trawling through the comments and re-numbering them (naughty naughty, you didn't all follow the instructions!).

Thank you all for following @kidsmirrors on twitter and Mirrorin on Facebook, stay tuned for more news and offers.

For those of you who were not lucky this time, fear not, the lovely company are offering you all 15% off until 15th December. The discount applies to any product from their store (including some which are already discounted). So if you had your eye on a favourite, why not order now or get an extra stocking filler. Please use discount code TCP15 at checkout.

So, without further ado, let's get on to announcing the winner. There were 256 valid entries, and random org drew number:

219 which was Heather Walsh's entry.  Congratulations Heather @HevWalsh, you chose the cute baby chick mirror.

Please get in touch with me via twitter @missielizzieb or email missielizzieandmyshadow (@) and I'll give you instructions for getting your prize organised.

Full of Beans - Jelly Beans from Online Sweets

I jumped at the chance to review some deliciously chewy jelly beans from Online Sweets.  I have a bit of a history with jelly beans. You see, more years ago than I care to mention, one of the first competitions I ever won secured me my very own jelly bean machine.  It was my pride and joy.  I lovingly fed it with coins, turned the little handle and out would roll a small handful of rainbow coloured beans.  To begin with I thought it would act as a money box - rewarding me with a little treat each time I saved some pennies.  However I soon discovered that a 2p coin would undo the base and allow me to re-use the same coin over and over.

So, not much use as a piggy bank, but still a beautiful object, a retro icon and a talking piece.  I carefully wrapped it and packed it through successive house moves, until it reached it's final resting place atop my fridge freezer in the kitchen.  Until that is, in typical bull-in-a-china shop style, my old man had to move the fridge to paint the kitchen walls.  Not realising it would be a sensible precaution to remove items from the top of the fridge freezer before moving it, inevitably it wobbled and teetered and finally toppled to the floor with an almighty crash, smashing to smithereens.  Quickly shooing the dog (nicknamed Dyson) out of the room before she cut her paws or tried to eat the sweeties mingled with glass shards, depressingly I had to sweep the whole lot up into a dustpan and throw it in the bin.  I was livid.  I'd had this bean machine for years. It only ever seems to be my things that he clumsily trashes.  Still now I like to think he's wracked with guilt and self-loathing for this mishap (I suspect not!).  In fact, writing this now has made me realise that I haven't yet forgiven him.  I still have an issue with this.  Maybe some kind of counselling is in order?  I suspect I may have post-jelly-bean-trauma.

Periodically I will point out jelly bean machines in shop windows, nudging him hard in the ribs and reminding him he owes me one.  In fact, Online Sweets sell the very one that he so heartlessly smashed, so I may well email him this link.  Christmas is not far off, even he should pick up this not-so-subtle hint...

Jelly Belly Bean Machine - available from Online Sweets £23.99 small or £41.99 large

If you are reading this, dear-heart it was the LARGE one you smashed. A large one filled with beans...

Anyhow, now I've got that off my chest, on to the review.  The beans I am sampling are from the Jelly Bean Factory.  They are gourmet jelly beans, free from artificial colours or flavours (which is quite staggering when you see the spectrum of colours and the 36 different flavours).  All products from the Jelly Bean Factory are GMO, gelatine, gluten and nut free.  They are suitable for vegetarians AND they are fat-free!

You can purchase these either in mixed jars (once devoured the canisters would make great storage for pasta, ground coffee or...more jelly beans!)

900g jar - £12.99

or, if you have a particular favourite, you can buy the flavours individually.

Butterscotch Flavour - individual flavours £3.75 for 250g tube

There are different approaches to eating these sweeties.  You can either eat them separately, savouring the flavour of each one, discovering your personal favourites (mine happen to be Caramel Popcorn and Butterscotch), or you can do what I do and throw caution to the wind, chuck a handful in and discover what weird and wonderful cocktail you've come up with!  I'm often pleasantly surprised, but sometimes you get an oddball mix (Caribbean Coconut, Mint Sorbet and Cafe Latte together was pretty strange!)

Visit Online Sweets to purchase these and many, many other sweetie delights.  Which will be your favourite flavour?

A product was received free of charge for the purposes of writing this review, however I have received no financial reward and the views are my honest opinions.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snowy Wrapping Paper Printing

Today as I was fetching a ubiquitous Fruit Shoot from the fridge for Ruby (shock horror, I don't always give her freshly squeezed, organic fruit smoothies!) I happened to notice this little plastic lid.

I must have opened dozens and dozens of these drinks, and only now did I notice that the lid has a pretty little star shape to the top. 

Wondering if we'd be able to use these as paint stamps, I set about fishing a few more out of the recycling bin.  After a near miss with a tomato tin, and a sticky hand from a not-very-well-rinsed yoghurt pot, I soon had four little stampers.

They make pretty star shaped patterns, or as we were inspired by the weather outside, a snowflake scene.  So that's the Christmas wrapping paper sorted.  I've just got to buy some pressies to wrap now. x

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

When I Dream of ABC - a book review

The next book I'm reviewing for Top That Publishing is When I dream of ABC by Mr Henry Fisher.

I have slightly mixed views on this one, however I have to say the illustrations are incredible.  They appeal to my slightly gothic nature - think Tim Burton meets Ruby Gloom.  On the positive side, it is refreshing to find an ABC book that breaks with the norm and is more imaginative than 'A is for apple, B is for ball' etc.

I love the concept of this - with each letter of the alphabet the child is transported on a magical journey, meeting inhabitants of an enchanted dreamworld along the way.  Traditionally, some of these characters such as witches and giants are often used in children's book, but I found myself constantly explaining that such creatures as Mermaids, Unicorns, Vampires and Leprechauns weren't real.

The difficulty I had is although my daughter is very young (still 4 months off her 3rd birthday), she seems already to assume a 'learning' book like an alphabet book is more fact than fiction.  Maybe I'm imagining this, but I got the feeling that she believed what I was reading to be true.  The humour was lost on her.

"V is for Vampire. Vampires are very pale because they don't eat their greens.  They come out at night and drink hot chocolate, through little holes in their teeth." 

I suspect older children will appreciate the comedy, but would they necessarily need or want an ABC book?

When I dream of ABC is available from bookshops or online from Top That Publishers at £6.29.

A copy of this book was received free of charge for the purpose of this review, however the opinion stated is my own accurate and honest view.

Perfect Winter's Tale from Top That Publishing

I've reviewed a few books from Top That Publishing and they have become firm favourites with my daughter. I love the quality of them, so I was really happy to be asked to review a couple more for them.

The first is Baby Bear and the Big, Wide World by Ellie Patterson and illustrated by Dubravka Kolanovic.

We have had this book for a couple of weeks now, but with the Arctic conditions here recently it has really come into its own. It is the perfect snowy tale to curl up in front of the fire with.

The illustrations are stunning, and set in the wintry landscape they are serene and calm which helps to create a peaceful atmosphere - perfect if your little ones are fed up being trapped indoors!

The story is a heartwarming one of a baby bear who longs for a big adventure, and sneaking away from the safety of his sleeping mother's arms one night, he sets off to explore.  He finds himself alone and feeling very small, until he meets a new friend.  Together they discover that with a friend by your side, the world is not so scary after all.

This book is perfect for bedtime reading or winding-down time and absolutely great for sofa snuggles.  My favourite thing about this book is that afterwards Ruby always wants to re-enact it, with her as the baby polar bear and me as the mummy polar bear having a great big polar bear cuddle!

Available from bookshops and online at Top That Publishing priced at £5.39

A copy of this book was received free of charge for the purpose of this review, however the opinion stated is my own accurate and honest view.