30 January 2017

Learning Through Play with Fundels (REVIEW)

I have to say that I love games. And I'm really pleased that my boys love games too. Board games, card games and of course, electronic games. They love playing them, they love winning and they love having family games nights. So when we were asked to review some new Fundels games, that are just about to be launched by Cartamundi, the boys were very excited.

educational games review for fundels multiplications and drawing with numbers by cartamundi

27 January 2017

My Boys Tech Club - Minecraft (Pocket Edition)

My boys love playing the Pocket Edition of Minecraft on the iPad. This month in 'My Boys Tech Club' my 9-year-old wants to tell you his top 5 facts about Minecraft and why he loves playing it. And why he is really looking forward to Nethermined 3 - coming soon to Newcastle ...

25 January 2017

How to Celebrate Chinese New Year in the North East

UPDATE: This is 2017 for the 2018 Chinese New Year Post please click here ...

This year, Chinese New Year - The Year of the Rooster - begins on Saturday, January 28 and lasts until February 15th, 2018. There are lots of great ways to celebrate in North East England with events taking place in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham city centres plus an amazing array of Chinese restaurants across the region in which to celebrate, and a growing number of Chinese supermarkets if you’d like to try your hand at cooking your own Chinese celebratory meal.

The best places to celebrate Chinese New Year - the year of the Rooster 2017 - in North East England

The countdown to Chinese New Year is officially on, with celebrations taking place across the country at the end of this week. Nearly 200,000 Chinese people live in the UK – and hundreds of thousands of people, of all nationalities, will welcome the Year of the Rooster with them.

Chinese New Year is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival. 

So what’s happening in North East England?

24 January 2017

Where I’d Love To Go (again): A Trip to Easter Island

This blog is all about how I am enjoying life with my family of boys. But I also want it to be a place where we can look back at our lives, our memories and share these with the boys. 

Before the boys came along, for me and hubby travel was a big part of our lives. We loved travelling and experiencing new things, different cultures and actually getting to see things that we thought we'd only ever be able to dream of. So this year I’m focusing on 12 places that I’d love to return to in the future, but hopefully next time with the boys.

First up is one of the most memorable places I have ever been. Sitting in the Pacific Ocean, 8,349 miles from the UK is Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island.

A once in a  lifetime unforgettable trip to the remotest place on earth Easter Island Rapa Nui

20 January 2017

Two TV Treats to catch-up on - January 2017

My regular look at what's good to watch on TV via catch up.

After the boys have gone to bed, I’m always looking for something to watch on catch-up TV? 

If you are too, then here are my Top 2 Things to watch on TV catch up this month.

18 January 2017

Beetroot Brownies: Taste so much better than they should.

In The Guardian this week, there is an article about bribing children to eat vegetables, they’ve called it ‘Cash for Courgettes’. Just like sneaking vegetables into dishes this is just another way of getting kids to eat up their veggies. So I suppose Beetroot Brownies fits this bill too - not sure I'd have to bribe my boys to eat cake, though.

Using the 'hidden veggies' option means that food such as soup is a really easy way to increase our kid's intake of more healthier foods. As are sauces for bolognese, chilli, or pie fillings. I haven’t tried avocado chocolate mousse yet but I'm assured its delicious. And of course, we’ve all eaten carrot cake and persuaded ourselves it’s the healthy option.

dairy free chocolate brownie recipe with beetroot

16 January 2017

Five ways your family can save money when you already shop at Lidl and Aldi

With so much in the media about how to save money simply by changing where you do your weekly supermarket shop, it has started to make us think. Think about how we can save more money, so that we can spend more on days out and family holidays, rather than all on day to day living expenses. 

The smaller supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl don't have as much choice or a large variety of products, but we have always found the produce virtually impossible to tell apart from the more well-known brands, except being cheaper. If you are happy to try out a new brand then you can make substantial savings. But the problem we have found is how do you save money when these are already the places that you buy your families groceries? It got us thinking ...

Five ways your family can save money when you already shop at Lidl and Aldi

13 January 2017

My Boys Tech Club - Angry Birds Go

This month in My Boys Tech Club my seven-year-old wants to tell you why he loves playing the ANGRY BIRDS GO game, on his Amazon Fire Tablet, with his top 5 facts.

My Boys Tech Club - Angry Birds Go

11 January 2017

The Bohemian, Newcastle - A Vegan & Vegetarian Delight

To celebrate the New Year (slightly early), me and the hubby ventured out without the boys on December 30 and, ahead of Veganuary (where people try going vegan for the month of January), I booked a table at The Bohemian on Pink Lane in Newcastle upon Tyne.

For anyone reading who doesn’t know of The Bohemian, it is a Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurant with a bar and it's own vinyl record shop! They offer everything from a light lunch, or a cocktail and tapas, to a 3-course evening meal. The Bohemian will also be part of North East Vegan Restaurant Week but more of that later.

Trying out Veganuary or North East Vegan Restaurant Week here is a review of the Bohemian in newcastle

10 January 2017

How to clean your house - naturally!

Today is Houseplant Appreciation Day. Who knew? But after receiving a Peace Lily as a Christmas present from a friend, and following my subsequent googling on ‘how to care for it’ properly, this led me to multiple pages informing me about the amazing ‘cleaning’ properties of houseplants, and the Peace Lily in particular. 

And the fact that today is the day we should be appreciating our houseplants!

Houseplants that can help clean the house. Houseplant Appreciation Day 2017

6 January 2017

Dining In – The New Eating Out – Mexican Family Feast

We Brits love our takeaways. The UK takeaway market is worth a staggering £5.5 billion each year. Research also shows that New Year’s Day has emerged as the biggest single day of the year for sales of takeaway dinners delivered to the home, yet as we head into January are we are more likely to stay at home and cook as we await the first payday of 2017?

Dining In – The New Eating Out – Mexican Family Feast for a tenner

Sometimes there is nothing I like better than to simply order a takeaway. The convenience,  perusing the menus, ordering online or by phone, the taste and the variety of food on offer. Not to mention having hot food delivered to your door, ready to eat.

4 January 2017

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

Happy New Year everyone and to celebrate I am continuing the popular – FREE family event post into 2017. Every month I’ll highlight some of the great FREE events, places, attractions and things to do with your family across Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside,  Teesside, Durham, and Northumberland.

North East England has so much on offer there are many great paid for attractions and events as well but as we tighten our belts after the festive season here are some events you can enjoy for free in January.

1. Asteroid - 'Seeriously' fun optical games at Great North Museum
    Saturday 7 January 11.30am – 3pm

Pop along and help the Great North Museum test some fun games with researchers from Newcastle University. There will be optical illusions, bean bag targets and distortion goggles for a fun filled day of optical games!

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

2. Augmented Reality Trail at Durham City Centre

    Until Saturday 7 January
Launched in December, this augmented reality trail across Durham is a great fun way for both children and adults to explore the city. Download the free app for your phone, then keep your eyes peeled as you walk around Durham's historic streets and shops. Take some snaps and hey presto, see who pops up!

The first of its kind outside of London, the digital trail that ends on January 7, encourages visitors to hunt for posters to find festive 3D characters. There is a total of seven posters and fun characters to find which are unlocked as the app scans the secret codes within the posters. Visitors are also able to take photos of themselves with the augmented reality characters and share with friends on social media.

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

3. Make Your Own Mini Masterpiece at Woodhorn, Northumberland
    Saturday’s & Sunday’s throughout January 12noon – 3pm

Have a go at making your own miniature work of art inspired by the current David Watson exhibition - Steel, Flesh and Bone: The Industrial paintings of David Watson. You can even make your own tiny easel to put it on!

David Watson has spent his life immersed in and making paintings about, the connected industries of steel and shipbuilding, industries fed by the northern coalfields. Watson’s work captures a north east working world and way of life now lost. 

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

4. Reading Hack at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word in South Shields

    Thursday 12 January 4pm – 5.30pm

South Tyneside’s new state-of-the-art cultural venue, situated in the heart of South Shields, is brimming with exciting new experiences, activities, and facilities for people of all ages to enjoy. On Thursday 12 January, young people aged 12-16 are invited to combine the latest tech and reading at a free event where they can make an animation, design a comic book, create a novel-inspired Minecraft or turn your favourite book into a film.
10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

5. Benedict Biscop Day at Sunderland Museum & Wintergardens

    Saturday 14 January 11am – 12.30pm & 1.30pm – 3pm

Drop by Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on Benedict Biscop Day and celebrate the life of Sunderland’s patron saint Benedict Biscop with a family activity day including stained glass window crafts and an Anglo-Saxon treasure hunt.

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

6. Go Stargazing at Hamsterley Forest

    First clear night between Tuesday 17 January & 19 January 2017

The dark skies above Hamsterley Forest make for a great place to stargaze. The Milky Way is clearly visible arching across the skies and thousands of more stars can be seen compared to our towns and cities.

Learn how to find your way around the night sky and how to locate fascinating objects including those our eyes alone cannot see — you are welcome to bring binoculars or a telescope! Hot drinks will be available for a small fee and the event itself is free or charge. A car parking ticket will be required.

To see the stars depends on the weather, therefore this event will be short-notice and run from 7pm on a “first clear night” basis.

Click for more information or to register your interest in attending this event and to receive a notification when the exact date is known (1 or 2 days before).

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

7. Glass Blowing Demonstrations at Sunderland Glass Centre


See the amazing daily glass blowing, lathe and flame working demonstrations which are free and run throughout the day. Experience the heat of the 1000 degree furnace and watch their expert glass making team craft stunning pieces before your eyes. 

  • Flame Working: 11.00 and 15.45 (15 mins)
  • Glass Blowing: 12.00, 13.30 and 15.00 (30 mins) 
  • Glass Lathe: 13.00 (30 mins) (Excluding Tuesdays)
For more info:

 10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

8 & 9. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Every weekend

Family QuestEvery Saturday between 11.30-12.30 you can spend some creative time with the BALTIC Crew to find out more about contemporary art in an informal and imaginative way. Families can take mini tours, play games and enjoy fun creative activities all linked to current exhibitions.

On Saturday and |sunday afternoons join the Busy B's team between 2pm and 4pm and get creative with these drop-in sessions with activities for young artists inspired by our exhibitions. 

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

10. Chinese New Year in Durham, Newcastle & Sunderland28 & 29 January

The Chinese New Year has been associated with the Chinese Zodiac since the Spring Autumn Period (771 to 476 BC). The Chinese Zodiac runs on a cycle of 12 years, which each year being named after an animal. The 12 animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2017 will be the Chinese Year of the Rooster.

Durham City Centre
On 28 January there will be celebrations at various locations across Durham City. The dance of the Chinese lion is a tradition in Durham City Centre each Chinese New Year.  This colourful and noisy entertainment will feature performers from Ocean’s Apart Kung Fu Club.  The lion will perform an energetic routine before eating the lucky lettuce, chewing it and spitting it out to a chosen recipient. 

On the same day at Sunderland Museum & Wintergardens between 11-am – 3pm just drop in. There will be traditional lion dances and Chinese crafts, with Lion dances starting at 11am and 1pm from the museum entrance.

On 29 January there will be Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle. Around Chinatown on Stowell Street between 11am and 4pm, the city will come alive with a vibrant and colourful party complete with dragon and lion dances, firecrackers, children’s activities, performances and stalls to celebrate the Year of the Rooster.

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

Please let me know if there are other free events I should add to this list.

Deb x

Please note details and times subject to change. Please check with event organisers.

1 January 2017

Transform Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

Christmas and New Year leftovers can be just as exciting and delicious as the meal and the treats we indulge ourselves in during the festive season. Why not transform your leftovers this year into Pizza Swirls - perfect for that little reminder of Christmas and New Year celebrations, before the festivities finally end.

Transform Your Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

If you have Brie (or any cheese for that matter) leftover from your cheeseboard but now just sitting in your fridge, combine it with the remnants of your Cranberry Sauce jar. Honestly, even though it is delicious, who eats cranberry sauce at any time other than Christmas, to make these delicious pizza swirls. 

Transform Your Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

So much of the food we waste can be avoided simply by managing it better, and what better place to start than leftovers. Making Pizza Swirls will not only help you create less waste but your taste buds will thank you for it too!

Transform Your Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

  • Makes: One tree of 16 individual pieces
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 15-20 mins

  • 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
  • Leftover Brie or any other cheese
  • Dried cranberries
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Milk or egg

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Grease and line two baking trays or use a re-usable baking sheet. 
2. Unroll the sheet of puff pastry and spread evenly with a layer of cranberry sauce. 

Transform Your Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

3. Then place small slices of the cheese over the sauce, before topping with dried cranberries.

Transform Your Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

4. Tightly roll the pastry back up, like a swiss roll, being careful that the filling does not fall out. Cut into 16 equal slices.
5. Place the slices on the baking sheet. You can either keep them apart or, to hang on to what little is left of Christmas why not make a Christmas Tree by placing them in the shape of a tree, close together so there are no gaps in between.

Transform Your Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

6. Brush with a little milk or egg.
6. Then bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool then serve or store in an airtight tub.

Transform Your Christmas & New Year Leftovers - Cranberry & Brie Pizza Swirls

Other Pizza Swirl fillings include Blue Cheese, Mushroom, red Onion and Spinach or just Cheese and tomato.

What have you made with your Christmas & New Year leftovers?

Deb x