We all have that dish that reminds us of our childhood. Maybe it’s the one that your mum still cooks for you when you go back to visit, or one that you now make for your own family – a dish that puts a smile on everyone’s face.
So Pancake Day (or Shrove Tuesday) is coming up fast! The lovely chaps at Abra-ca-Debora make scrummy ready made pancakes, so even if you’re not in the mood (or simply don’t have time) to make your own pancakes, there’s no reason why you should miss out. Abra-ca-Debora do three different products: the plain ones are great for all sorts of things including savoury crepes, the sweet ones are perfect for drizzling with honey, or rolling up with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar, and then there are some cute new fluffy little sweet ones, ‘diddy’ pancakes (known in Holland as poffertjes), which are fantastic for dipping in all sorts of lovely, sticky things.
Often, the most stressful part of travel is getting to the airport. On my last trip, the flights were difficult to book and I ended up flying from Heathrow, but returning back to Gatwick. We always use APH meet and greet parking (I love being met at the airport by someone who whisks your car away leaving you free to walk straight into the airport, then magically returns it just as you walk out again after your trip) so I decided to drive to Heathrow, leave my car, then get an airport coach back from Gatwick on my return. APH were wonderful, and moved my car to Terminal 5, the nearest terminal, so I had the shortest journey possible to pick up my car again. I was delighted.
If you’ve been in Tesco recently, you’ll have seen that they’re currently running a sticker promotion where you can save up to 70% on exclusive Berndes cookware products (collect one sticker for every £20 you spend – once you’ve collected five stickers you can use them to buy the discounted cookware. Tesco very kindly send me one of the casseroles to try. They’re wonderfully chunky and heavy – perfect for soups, stews and casseroles. I tried my hand at a little one-pot cooking:
It’s no secret that I love my wine. And although I’m no expert, I’ve got to the stage where I’m interested enough to start recording my thoughts about wine that we’ve tried and liked, and want to know what other people think about wines.
What have you got planned this autumn? It’s the perfect time to get out and about, I always think – crunching through piles of golden leaves and wrapping up, getting out and discovering new places, all looking beautiful in their glowy autumn colours. To give you a bit of inspiration, I’ve teamed up with English Heritage to give two lucky winners a fabulous 12 month English Heritage family membership.
Has anyone noticed how all of a sudden it seems like summer is over? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? For Sunday lunch, we had slow braised brisket and dumplings, for goodness’ sake. It’s all wrong!
So this week, my little corner of the internet is celebrating its eighth birthday. Eight whole years of talking waffle! I was telling someone recently (in the manner of a very old lady) that when I started out, I knew most of the other ‘mummy bloggers’ out there. There weren’t very many and we all felt like friends, commenting on each other’s blog posts and actually meeting up in real life occasionally too! Read more
So Europe’s largest motoring garden party, Goodwood Festival of Speed is coming up again shortly. We went to Goodwood back in 2011 (I just looked at the pictures – the boys look SO young!) and had an absolutely brilliant day. There are all sorts of amazing things to see – the famous hillclimb, displays, races, F1 teams and drivers, concept cars… you name it.
Woohoo! Summer really feels like it’s here today! The garden chairs are out and I was pottering in the garden, sipping fresh mint tea this morning at 7.30 in my shorts. Unbelievable.
As you know, I’m a huge fan of Farmers Choice – they’re a small, family run business selling nothing but great quality, free range meats from hand-selected farms across the UK. I’m delighted that they’ve agreed to run another giveaway with me. With perfect timing, the prize is their really wonderful BBQ Essentials pack, containing all manner of scrummy things like kebabs, burgers, chump steaks, drumsticks and chicken wings.
I love Easter. Firstly, it’s my birthday, then there’s all that chocolate, the chance of sunny days, gorgeous spring lamb, daffodils, more chocolate… it’s just a big combination of lots of things that I really love.
I’m ridiculously, stupidly busy. Working from home, with deadlines galore, two teenagers, a hubby who is away on duty for two weeks at a time, an evil cat and a new puppy, means that there aren’t many hours in the day that aren’t filled with either work, home or walkies. I try and find time for myself too, which isn’t easy, but often an hour in a lovely bubble bath with music on and a nice glass of wine is all I need to recharge my batteries.
It’s no secret that I love my food. I’m pretty active (being dragged round a field by a small and perpetually enthusiastic whippet is incredibly exhausting) but still occasionally I do worry about what I eat. We eat a decent meal every night, but I do have a bit of a cake habit. Generally, I try and balance this by forcing myself to eat a healthy breakfast, at least on weekday mornings.
So Valentine’s Day is coming up fast and even if, like Mr English, you’re not the whole flowers and chocolates romantic type, an amazing steak is the perfect way to celebrate with the one (or ones) you love. My lovely chums Farmer’s Choice are offering you the chance to win a really amazing Farmers Choice ‘Love Steak’ pack, containing two 250g fillet steaks, two 250g sirloin steaks, two 325g t-bone steaks and two 400g wing rib steaks, so basically everything you need for several romantic dinners, not just one!
To be in with a chance to win, all you have to do is tell me what your ideal Valentine’s Day dinner is. Remember if you’re a first time commenter on English Mum, your comment won’t show up straight away.
There are also a couple of ways to increase your chances of winning: for one bonus entry, just like Farmers Choice on Facebook. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry.
For a further bonus entry, follow @FarmersChoiceUK on Twitter. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry. Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This giveaway ends at 9am on 9th February (to give us time to get the prize to the winner in time for Valentine’s Day) . Winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!
***This competition is now closed – congratulations to Gloria Christiansen who won the ‘love steak’ pack!***
Ah I’ve absolutely loved looking through all the amazing bakeoff entries. Now it’s down to our lovely judge Catriona to choose a winner to receive all those lovely Yeo Valley goodies. Good luck everyone!
So once upon a time, back in… ooooh… 2010, I did this competition called The Great Cupcake Challenge. The entries were fab, and encouraged by this, the competition morphed into English Mum’s Big Bakeoff, (yes, before that one on the telly) and since then we’ve had various different ones, including the ‘baked with love’ bakeoff for Valentine’s Day, an Autumn bakeoff and even a fresh bread bakeoff. My fave, though, has always been the Christmas one.
So without further ado, I give you… The Big Christmas Bakeoff 2013!!
As usual, there really are no rules, and since the ‘send English Mum a piece of your entry for testing’ rule was scrapped (dammit) these are the only ones that remain:
1. You actually must have baked something yourself (although see below re: sneaky rule breaking) – doesn’t need to have been specifically for the bakeoff though.
2. You must take a picture (there’s none of those dodgy ‘I baked it, but then I ate it’ excuses…). The picture MUST be of your baking and MUST be original (I do check them!).
3. Email it to me at english[dot]towers[at]gmail[dot]com, telling me what it is and who you are. Entries must be received by midnight on the closing date (see below).
The Cheaty Bit
Hey, it’s Christmas, and any bit of Christmassy cookery is basically fair game. And I do like a healthy bit of skulduggery amongst friends, so any entertaining reason why your entry should be considered will be looked upon favourably. For example, if your trifle is beautiful, but obviously not exactly baked, let me know. I’m a flexible type and I’ll probably allow it. No lying though.
Okay, a bit of lying then, but not too much…
The Social Media Bit
If you’re a blogger, please link back to this post, and if you’re on Facebook or a tweeter or Instagrammer, please use the hashtag #bigChristmasbakeoff - if you’re none of the above, then just ignore this bit completely.
The Exciting Bit!
Those lovely little pixies down on the farm at Yeo Valley have very kindly agreed to give the winner a copy of their brand new cookbook. The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook, plus a lovely cool bag full of delicious Yeo Valley goodies!
The Inspirationy Bit
Get that camera or phone out and snap a picture of your home made mince pies, your festive cupcakes or your Grandma’s old Christmas cake recipe. Or maybe you can have a go at my jaffa cake Christmas trees, or some cranberry and pistachio biscotti. Whatever floats your boat.
And don’t think you have so be some sort of uber super duper food stylist. The bakeoff is all about the fun.
The Judgy Bit
Entries will be displayed in one enormous blog post and accompanied by the usual descent into hysteria while I wrestle with pixels and uploading and all that other complicated stuff. Follow me on twitter (@englishmum) to witness the carnage as it happens.
The very lovely Catriona from the very popular Irish food blog Wholesome Ireland has very
foolishly kindly agreed to be our judge this year. You can find her on Twitter @wholesomeIE if you want to attempt a bit of online judge tampering. The judge’s decision is final. No arguing. She’s an Irish mammy y’know, she’ll take none of that boldness.
So that’s it, then. You’ve got loads of time, plenty of inspiration, and some very ambiguous rules. Let’s get baking!
The Small Printy Bit
This competition is open to everyone in the UK and Ireland. No age limit. The closing date will be Wednesday 18th December at midnight. There is no cash alternative to the prize. If you’re outside of the UK and want to enter, please feel free. If you win, I’ll mail you the cookbook but I’m afraid the yogurt won’t travel!
So donning my Santa hat once more, I’ve got another lovely giveaway for you all. This would be a fab present for those who love to travel and explore new countries. Or maybe you’d like to keep it for yourself and learn to chat away with the locals next time you’re away? It’s also a really fab thing to do as a family – I’ve had a go myself and it’s really quite easy – you can listen and repeat and the app will tell you if you’re pronouncing it correctly.
All you have to do is visit Rosetta Stone’s website, then leave a comment and tell me which language you’d like to learn and why. The winner will receive an online 6 month language course of their choice.
For a bonus entry, send a tweet to @englishmum and @RosettaStoneUK saying which language you’d like to learn, using the hashtag #RosettaMum and comment to confirm that you’ve done so.
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This giveaway ends at 9am on Tuesday 10th December 2013. New commenters please note that your comment won’t show until it has been moderated. Winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!
**This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for all your entries – congratulations to winner Beth Gurney! **
It’s an expensive old business, Christmas. This is why I love it when people like the lovely chaps at Farmer’s Choice give me fab stuff to give away. This Christmas, they are offering you the chance to win a really amazing Farmers Choice Christmas hamper to give away, stuffed with all sorts of lovely stuff, including a huge 2kg beef topside, smoked salmon, lamb, streaky bacon, a gammon joint and loads more, worth £84.
To be in with a chance to win, all you have to do is take a look at the Farmers Choice Christmas dinner page and let me know what, for you, is the best part of Christmas dinner. Remember if you’re a first time commenter on English Mum, your comment won’t show up straight away.
There are also a couple of ways to increase your chances of winning: for one bonus entry, just like Farmers Choice on Facebook. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry.
For a further bonus entry, follow @FarmersChoiceUK on Twitter. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry. Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This giveaway ends at midnight on 15th December 2013. Winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!
**This competition is now closed – winner to be announced shortly!**
What’s your favourite holiday photograph? I have so many. This one, of Mr English on the deck of the Celebrity Infinity as it set sail from La Rochelle…
Or this lovely one of all of us during our visit to Aquatica on the SeaWorld trip:
Holiday Inn hotels are running a lovely social media competition all based around your holiday memories. The competition is in two parts:
The first part is being run by ten hotels on twitter who are asking their followers to submit their best family or childhood holiday images to Twitter. You can do this by tweeting the Holiday Inn hotels… any of the following:
Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury – @HIBloomsbury
Holiday Inn London Regent’s Park – @HIRegentsPark
Holiday Inn London Mayfair – @HILondonMayfair
Holiday Inn London Heathrow M4, Jct. 4 – @HIHeathrowM4J4
Holiday Inn London Gatwick Airport – @HIGatwickHotel
Holiday Inn Edinburgh – @HI_Edinburgh
Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport – @HIGlasgowAirprt
Holiday Inn York – @HolidayInnYork1
Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum – @HIKensington
Holiday Inn Bristol Filton – @HIBristolFilton
…with your image, using the hashtag #himemories. The winner will receive a free weekend stay in that hotel.
The second part is being run by the 49 other Holiday Inn hotels. Followers can win a free night in any of these hotels by submitting a tweet describing their best family or childhood holiday memory in a tweet, again using the hashtag #himemories.
This is a brand new competition so GET TWEETING THEM NOW! You have a really good change of bagging yourself a lovely weekend or night in a fabulous hotel. Good luck!
I hate to mention the C word, but I’m already starting to collate gift guides (stay tuned – some wonderful ideas on the way) and search for beautiful things to give my friends and family.
One of my favourite sites is The Cotswold Company, not just for their scrummy oak furniture (I adore their wine racks) but for all the lovely accessories too. I use their baskets on top of my kitchen units to store things I don’t use every day like big platters and special baking tins, and their lamp tables are just gorgeous. They also have cushions, throws, all sorts of lovely stuff.
I’ve teamed up with The Cotswold Company to provide you with a little treat: £100 to spend on whatever you like! So, if you’ve got your eye on something bigger, like one of their amazing oak dressers, this will be a big chunk towards it, or maybe like me you’re in love with all those baskets?
Just leave a comment and let me know what wine you’d put in this fabulous Costswold Company wine rack and the winner will get £100 to spend on anything they like on the Cotswold Company website. Off you go, then!
The Small Print
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. Competition ends Friday 11th October at 9am. UK only. Prize comprises: £100 to spend online on cotswoldco.com. Winner will be chosen at random. New comments will not show straight away as they require moderation.
**This competition is now closed. Congratulations to Mark Hawes who won the £100!**
As you probably know, we’re all serious chocoholics here at English Towers. Our latest obsession is the very peculiar range of Marvellous Creations bars (the Cola Pretzel Honeycomb one is ridiculously good). Imagine our delight, then, when a delivery of new Cadbury Dairy Milk Pebbles arrived on the doorstep! They’re yummy – think a combination of Cadbury Mini Eggs and Smarties (sorry, not Cadbury!) and you’re about there. But because they’re absolutely nothing to do with Easter you can eat them ALL YEAR ROUND! I’ve also recently seen glimpses of a special edition Winter Wonderland bar with milk and white chocolate trees. Yum.
To celebrate the launch of these delicious little beauties, I’m giving you the opportunity to win a family ticket to Cadbury World, PLUS Cadbury have very kindly offered to fund off peak rail travel for the lucky winner too! So even if you don’t live close, you can still experience the magical world of Cadbury!
All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me your favourite Cadbury product. I’ll even throw in a bag of new Dairy Milk Pebbles too. What are you waiting for?!
The Small Print
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. Competition ends Friday 27th September at midnight. UK only. Prize comprises: one family ticket to Cadbury World (two adults, two children), plus rail travel costs funded from the winner’s home mainline UK railway station to Bourneville Station only, and return – off peak. All other expenses to be covered by the competition winner. New comments will not show straight away as they require moderation.
** This competition is now closed. Congratulations to Kirsty Caffrey for winning the tickets and travel! **
On our recent trip to The Grove Hotel, we’d arranged a visit to the Warner Bros Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter at Leavesden Studios. The tour, based in the studios originally used to film the series, has some absolutely amazing things to see and do – loads of props and costumes, sneaky peeks behind the scenes and much more. It’s a difficult one to review as I’m conscious that I don’t want to spoil it for you if you’re planning a visit yourself, but here’s our top ten tips for visiting the Warner Bros Studio Tour:
If you want to visit the tour, you MUST book. They don’t accept any walk-ins at all and we saw quite a few people who had paid a lot of money to travel from London who were turned away at the ticket office. You cannot buy a ticket at the studios.
2. Check prices
There are options for family tickets which work out better value than buying single tickets. At the moment, the adult ticket is £29, child is £21.50 (age 5 to 15) and under 4s are free. The family ticket (two adults, two children or one adult, three children) is £85.
3. Invest in the audio visual guide
The guide costs £4.95 and basically narrates your journey around the tour to you through headphones. It’s narrated by Draco Malfoy, which is a rather lovely voice to have in your ear as you wander round the tour. It’s invaluable as it stops you missing bits out and also is full of really interesting facts too. Oh, and if you buy the guidebook, don’t look at it as you’re queuing – it contains lots of spoilers!
4. Check the website before you book
There are often special events – for example over the summer holidays (Friday 26th July to Monday 2nd September) there’s the ‘Summer Spells’ special events where you can learn more about some of the famous spells from the series and take part in wand choreography lessons.
5. Be prepared to queue
The staff let about 100 people in every half hour, so you might queue for a short while.
6. Take your time
The tour is SO exciting, and there’s so much to see that the temptation is to rush round everything. However, once you’ve left the first studio, you can’t go back in, so if you discover you’re pretty quick round the second part, you can’t go back! This is another reason why the audio visual tour thingy is worth the money as it encourages you to pace yourself.
7. Hogwarts Castle
Don’t rush past the model (you won’t want to anyway, it’s beautiful) as the lighting is adjusted from night to day over a 4 minute cycle – perfect for pictures.
8. The shop
Be aware that the tour filters you out into the shop, so you’re going to have to be prepared to run the ‘can I have this? Can I have that?’ gauntlet. If you’ve got younger children it’s worth setting a budget before they’re exposed to all the goodies!
9. Food and drink
There’s a café in the foyer which serves decent food and drink, but if it’s a nice day, bring a picnic as there’s a nice picnic area by the carpark that you can use. You can also buy a drink and a snack in the outside area after the first studio – you can also buy butterbeer here and see the Dudleys’ house and the Knight bus where you can hop on and take photos!
10. Look out for hotel deals or store your luggage
The deal we reviewed was an overnight stay at The Grove. You’ll find more information, and prices, here.
Whether you’re travelling locally or you’re flying in from abroad, ABC Selfstore in Camden have a range of luggage storage facilities to make your trip around the Warner Bros studios more enjoyable and less weighed down!
I’ve also got a family ticket for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour to give away courtesy of the Current Accounts team at NatWest! Just leave a comment, telling me your favourite scene/quote/character from the Harry Potter movie series and the winner will be chosen at random. Usual English Mum giveaway rules apply. Giveaway ends at midnight on Friday 2nd August 2013.
**THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES – THE WINNER OF THE FAMILY TICKET WAS JOANNE BLUNT**
Want to win a dining experience unlike any other?
River Cottage evening events are a celebration of the River Cottage ethos, where the food, location and atmosphere take centre stage. You will be treated to delicious dishes whilst enjoying the familiar surroundings from the River Cottage TV series.
You will be seated outside on covered decking with beautiful views of the Axe valley below – should the evening be cooler there is an outdoor log burner to keep you warm and removable walls to ensure a comfortable evening.
When you arrive you will be met by members of the River Cottage team before getting on the tractor and trailer for the journey down to River Cottage HQ. Your host for the evening will greet you with a seasonal welcome drink and canapés will be served. You will have the opportunity to have a look around and soak up the atmosphere. Once seated, the chef will introduce the menu and talk about the dishes being served. You will learn about the River Cottage philosophy, the food, its provenance and how it has been prepared. You will enjoy further canapés at the table, before tucking into a four course menu made using the very best local and seasonal ingredients. The menu is decided on the day depending on what produce is at its very best. A wonderful evening is rounded off with coffee and petit fours. At this stage the tractor will be available to take you back to the car park when you are ready.
The prize is worth £140. There are a selection of dates available on Friday nights throughout the summer and all are subject to availability. To enter, just click the button and enter your details:
For further information about the dining events, cookery courses and other events at River Cottage visit www.rivercottage.net
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES! ANNOUNCING THE WINNER VERY SOON!
I’ve just come back from a gorgeous break on the Cote d’Azur: three glorious days of sun, sightseeing, food and relaxation. But my word, the STUFF you need, just for three days: dresses, heels and some sort of clutch for going out to dinner; shorts, comfy shoes and t-shirts for sightseeing; swimsuits, cover ups and flips flops for beach days; and don’t get me started on beauty products, make up and toiletry bags, sunscreen and perfume. And if you’re taking little ones you can pretty much do that all over again (bar the heels and make-up admittedly).
So with all this in mind, I’ve teamed up with the gorgeous bunch at Insure and Away, who incidentally provide annual holiday insurance, another must-have for your holiday, to give you a little bonus with which to purchase some essentials for all your travel plans this summer: a £200 John Lewis voucher.
So that’s £200 of lovely shopping money, plus experts in cheap travel insurance to boot. You don’t have to thank me, honestly, answer the simple question below to enter, and give me a little shout out on Twitter as one of the extra bonus entry methods…
To enter, just:
Answer the following question in the comments box below: what is your no fail tip for a stress free travelling experience?
Tweet the following phrase:
I’d love to #win a John Lewis voucher with @EnglishMum and @InsureandAway #competition http://bit.ly/17oJb7a
…and follow @InsureandAway on Twitter. Leave a comment saying you have done so and state your Twitter username.
Like Insure and Away on Facebook and leave a comment saying you have done so below.
The usual English Mum competition rules apply. The winner will be chosen at random and this competition closes at midnight on Tuesday, 28th May 2013. And finally, don’t forget that if you’re a new commenter, your comment won’t show up immediately as it has to be approved first. Good luck!
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES – WELL DONE TO KATIE H.
- Win a £100 lifestyle voucher with Quandoo.co.uk! March 11, 2015
- Rise in house prices leaves grown children needing financial support March 10, 2015
- Mothers’ Day loveliness March 6, 2015
- Travel checklist March 4, 2015
- The March #foodiephotoaday Instagram challenge March 1, 2015