Friday, 18 April 2014

Review - Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate

I've never been a tea or coffee drinker, but sometimes I still want to sit down and relax with a nice hot drink. On these occasions I always turn to a hot chocolate, and so I was delighted when I was asked if I'd like to try a sample of Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate.

hans sloane drinking chocolate review

Sir Hans Sloane launched his first drinking chocolate in London over 325 years ago, and today the range includes three main variants - Smooth Milk Drinking Chocolate, Rich Dark Drinking Chocolate and Natural Honey Drinking Chocolate.

Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate doesn't look anything like the powder that I'm used to adding to water. Instead it's a box of pure chocolate beads, which are melted together with hot milk or water to produce a hot chocolate drink which really is chocolate actually made for drinking.

I made my first mug using milk. The recommended quantity is three heaped tablespoons of the chocolate beads melted into 200ml of water or milk. I couldn't resist trying one of the beads on its own and it was delicious, you could easily just eat them by themself! The hot chocolate drink itself was equally yummy, it really was just like drinking actual chocolate. The texture was beautifully smooth, and the only slight remnants left in the bottom of the mug were pure chocolate, a pleasure to finish with!

My Dad happened to be visiting, so he tried a  mug of the Rich Dark Drinking Chocolate. He's a fan of dark chocolate anyway, and he pronounced it delicious!

Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate Review

The recommended retail price for the packet is £4.99, and each packet will make approximately six servings. It's not cheap, although having said that that, my usual hot chocolate brand doesn't work out particularly cheap eitehr, and the quality is nowhere near as good as this. And of course it's nothing compared to what you would pay for a hot chocolate when you're out and about. But the fact that it's 351 calories per serving (when mixed with semi-skimmed milk) also means that it's a drink for indulging rather than every day drinking! A packet would make a lovely, luxurious gift for someone like me that doesn't drink tea or coffee.

I would imagine that the chocolate beads are pretty versatile too. As well as simply snacking on them, you could easily use them in baking - perhaps in cookies, or to flavour icing. You could even just sprinkle them across the top of a chocolate cake, or melt to make fridge cake or rice crispy cakes.

I'm certainly not going to have any problems getting through my boxes!

I received two boxes of Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate for the purpose of this review. Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate is available in Waitrose and Tesco stores nationwide with a RRP of £4.99 for a 270g packet.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mamma Mia, here we go again...

Mia isn't named after the Abba song. Obviously we couldn't avoid thinking of it when we chose the name, and I do remember singing it to her occasionally when she was a baby (often while she was screaming, and the 'here I go again' line really resonated with me). But other than that I wasn't particularly familiar with the song at all.

Then a couple of months ago I had her in the car and she was making a bit of a fuss. This makes me stressed as I'm an anxious driver and I need to concentrate, so I asked her if she wanted to hear the 'Mia song'. Luckily my husband has some kind of USB set up in the car so we can access all our music through it. Of course she said 'yes', so I put it on for her and she was delighted. She kept repeating 'they're saying Mia!' in a kind of awed voice. It finished and she demanded 'again!' so I kept it going for the rest of the journey.

This made the journey very pleasant, so the next time she was in the car and asked for it I put it on. It kept her quiet when we arrived at school early to collect Harry on a rainy day and had to wait in the car. It motivated her to even get into the car in the first place if she knew that she could listen to it. Harry is fairly easy going and so he tolerated it too, and I'm always one for an easy life.

Of course, fast foward a few months and we are all totally sick of the song. Even good natured Harry has started to rebel and demand the Frozen soundtrack from time to time. If Mia is in a good mood then she'll let him listen to one song before making her demands. If she's not then she'll scream all through his song, then brighten up miraculously when Mamma Mia is turned on. I'm trying to teach her to take turns, but the lesson doesn't really seem to be going in.

Then the last few nights she has been asking to listen to it on the iPad before she goes to bed. Last night instead of the usual lullaby that I sing her she wanted Mamma Mia. When we are about to go out in the car, before we even leave the house she is checking that she can listen to it on the way. If I'm sitting at the computer she'll come up to me, force her way onto my lap and ask to watch it on YouTube.

I know it's not unusual for a toddler to become obsessed with something. And I also know that it won't last, which is why I've written this post as it's another little part of her childhood that I don't want to forget!

Share my pain!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Dyed eggshell Easter Egg mosaic craft

With term having broken up two weeks before Easter this year, we seem to have had plenty of time for Easter crafting. Harry has also developed a bit of an obsession with Easter Egg hunts after I made him a treasure hunt with clues, which is no bad thing as it's giving him lots of practice with his writing as he writes out clues for me to follow.

A little while ago I experimented with dyeing some eggshells, with no clear idea what to do with them when they were finished. Then it struck me that making them into Easter Egg mosaics would be the perfect craft for the dyed bits of eggshell, and it was a great craft that we could all do together.

Dyed eggshell Easter Egg mosaic craft



I used the egg shells saved from four eggs and I went for three colours - red, blue and yellow. I just used normal food colouring, with a generous amount added to water in three bowls. The red worked the best and the yellow the least, by the time we came to use the eggshells it had faded to white. I thoroughly washed and dried the eggshells, then left them in halves to soak in the dye for a couple of hours.

How to dye egg shells

Then I removed them from the dye and left them to drain and dry on kitchen paper before breaking them up into smaller pieces.

How to dye egg shells

I cut the egg shapes from pastel cardboard, drawing round a template which I found on-line. I kept them quite small so that they wouldn't be overwhelming. Then we used PVA glue to stick the pieces of shell to the egg. I encouraged the children to make patterns, but Mia was quite happy to just cover the egg with glue and sprinkle the pieces on. Harry also used a few bits of shell to decorate an Easter card that he had made. You could easily use the egg shells for more complex mosaics, as they can simply be broken up to fit the size of gap that you want to fill.

Dyed Easter Egg eggshell mosaic

I think they look really pretty, we'll be using them as Easter decorations of some sort, perhaps stringing them up to make bunting.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Review - Nomad ChargeCard and ChargeKey phone chargers

Recently launched in the UK, the Nomad ChargeCard and the Nomad ChargeKey are the world's smallest and most portable USB charging cables. Available as a lightning cable (to charge the iPhone 5/5s/5c, Lightning iPad and iPad Mini) or a Micro USB Cable (to charge many other types of smartphone, including Android and Windows) they are a great way to ensure that you always have a way to keep your devices charged. I was sent a Nomad ChargeCard and a Nomad ChargeKey to review on the blog.

The Nomad ChargeCard is in the shape of a credit card, and is designed to fit easily into your wallet, allowing you to use USB port to charge your phone. It really works best if you can plug it into a laptop, as it will allow your phone to lie neatly on the desk beside you. The centre strip of the card pops out and is very flexible and twists back completely on itself, meaning that you can have your phone resting in many different positions.

Nomad Charge Card Review

It really is very flexible and it's perfect when used in this position, as in the photo above. However it's not so good if you are trying to charge the phone from another type of USB port, for example from a desktop PC or other unit, because it's difficult to get the angle right and it does feel as though it's putting a bit of pressure on the charging socket on the phone as it twists.

But if you are someone that travels a lot and you take a laptop with you, it's a perfect solution to avoid having to take another charging cable along.

Nomad Charge Card Review

The Nomad ChargeKey really is tiny. It fits easily onto a keyring, and it doesn't take up any more space than a standard key. Again it is very soft and flexible, and once again perfectly designed to charge your device from a laptop. I love the convenience of being able to take this charging cable around with you along with your keys, as you'd always have it with you. The cable doesn't have any kind of protective cover, which does make me a little wary, although according to the manufacturers they are engineered to be both scratch and damage-resistant when used on a keyring.

With the ChargeKey you are also pretty much restricted to plugging it into a laptop, as you'd have to leave your phone hanging from most other types of USB port and that's not something that I'd want to risk. But if you generally always have access to a laptop then this type of cable would be perfect for you.

Nomad Charge Key Review

These chargers charged our phones just as quickly as the standard charger. As well as charging your phone, you can also use them to sync data, just like the USB cables that come with your device.

Nomad Charge Key Review

With phone batteries running down so quickly, we are becoming more and more reliant on finding ways to charge our devices. You can almost always find a USB port somewhere to use, whether it's around the home, in the office or in the car or plane. If you find yourself constantly carrying around a charger cable then one of these products would be a great alternative to save yourself a bit of space, and as they are easy to keep on you permanently then you also save the hassle of remembering to pack the charger.

I received a Nomad ChargeCard and a Nomad ChargeKey for the purpose of this review. Amazon links are affiliate. 

Blog Your Heart Out

Fab blogger Swazi at Chocolate is Not The Only Fruit has tagged me in this meme, Blog Your Heart Out, a way to share a bit of information about me and my blog. All I have to do is to answer some simple questions! So here goes:

Who/What encouraged you to start blogging?

I had actually had several blogs before I started this one but this is the only one that I've stuck at for a reasonable amount of time. I was probably originally encouraged by my sister Anna and her blog Beep Beep. I also read a few big US blogs which inspired me at the time although they did set the standard rather high. The only UK blog that I had ever discovered was Red Ted Art after seeing it featured in Tesco magazine, so I was a bit taken aback when a couple of months in I discovered the UK blogging community and realised how huge it was!

How did you choose what topics to blog about?

I just write naturally about the things that interest me and the things that I get up to, the things that I've made. I knew that the blog would have a crafty focus because that's what I'm interested in. I deliberately chose a name for my blog that didn't include the word Mummy or make any reference to my family size, because I hoped that it would be something that I would continue, and I wanted it to be future proof. Although my other blogs didn't last long, I really wanted Jennifer's Little World to be something that I'd continue with, and so far it has!

What is something most people don't know about you?

It's difficult to find something about me that hasn't already been shared on my blog! Um....two of my teeth are the wrong way round, I have a swapped canine and a molar on one side of my mouth. It just happened that way when I had a tooth removed and a brace when I was younger and I didn't think anything of it, but now whenever I see a new dentist they are fascinated by it, one even called his assistant in to have a look!

What three words describe your style?

My blogging style? Crafty, chatty, and rambling!

What do you love to do when you're not blogging?

I love reading, all sorts of crafts (at the moment mainly cross stitch, I'm re-discovering knitting, Hama beads...), organising the house, swimming, going on days out with the family, travelling, watching films with my husband and eating pizza.

I'm terrible at tagging people in these things, but if you are reading this and would like to take part please do consider yourself tagged!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Easter sensory tub

With Easter fast approaching, I decided it would be fun to put together an Easter sensory tub. It's been a while since I last made one, and I knew that I had lots of things around the house that I could use to put one together. I love setting up a sensory tub in an inviting fashion, even though I know that my beautiful set-up will be completely destroyed within seconds!

Easter themed sensory tub

The base material in the tub is dyed rice. This particular brightly coloured rice has been around for a while now, it is the mixed up remains from our dyed rice Rangoli and beach sensory tub. It's very easy and cheap to dye rice, you just need some basic white rice and food dye. Mix up the rice with a few drops of food colouring and leave to dry for a short while. If you want to speed up the drying process you can use a couple of squirts of an anti-bacterial hand gel, but I find that it dries pretty much instantly anyway, and certainly within a few hours.

Of course the rice does end up everywhere. I place the tub in the centre of an old table cloth to try and minimise the mess, but I've found that it's easiest to just clear as large a space in the room as I can and stand by with the hoover for when they've finished, making sure to brush the children down thoroughly before they stray into the other rooms! I also make it clear to them that any rice that ends up off the tablecloth will be hoovered up, so there will be less for them to play with next time.

I found our small plastic eggs very cheap in the Costco sale a few years ago, they are exactly the same size as real eggs and came filled with tiny sweets. I've seen similar ones in the supermarkets this year. I arranged them inside a cardboard egg box. I find that my sensory tubs are more successful if there is some sort of activity for the children to do, and with this tub I provided spoons so that they can fill the eggs and the compartments of the egg box with the sensory materials.

The pastel pom poms were in the craft supplies that I was sent by Craft Merrily as a MAD Blog Award finalist. I don't remember exactly where the (somewhat misshapen) little chicks came from, but they are quite easy to find in craft shops at this time of year and it's a nice activity to hide them inside the plastic eggs.

Easter themed sensory tub

As you can see, it was the first day of the Easter holidays, and Harry was having a onesie day! At the moment I'm working on colours with Mia, so we used the egg box together for sorting and naming colours using the pom poms. Including a good range of pom pom sizes also lets you sort by size and order from largest to smallest. Her favourite activity though was using the spoon to fill the eggs and then putting them back in the egg box. I had to go and retrieve all our plastic eggs so that she could fill them up!

Easter sensory tub

Being that bit older, I wanted to encourage Harry with some small world play, so I included some shredded paper with the idea that he could use it to make nests for the chickens. Again it's something left over from previous crafting projects. He didn't disappoint, and made up some lovely stories with the chickens, also putting them inside the eggs, and then building them nests and making sure that they had plenty of food. I also caught him pretending to lay an egg himself!

Easter sensory bin

We had a lot of fun with this sensory tub and I know that it will be coming out again and again over the Easter holidays, before I adapt it into a new theme!

Some of my other sensory play ideas:

Spring sensory tub
Firework sensory tub
Halloween sensory tub
Beach sensory tub
Dinosaur Island

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Finding a new long term craft project

So a few weeks ago I finally finished my cross stitch sampler. I had been working on it for around seven years, not continuously, but it had always been in the drawer close at hand. One of the reasons that it took me so long was because I liked knowing that there was always something there that I could pull out to work on. I'm so pleased with the finished sampler, and the final push that I put in to make sure that it was completed. I keep going into the room where it is hanging to admire it.

But I will admit that now I feel at a bit of a loss. I'm not sure that I'm ready to commit to another large scale cross stitch project yet, and I do have a couple of very small pieces that I can work on if I feel the cross stitching urge. But I am thinking that I would like to have something else around to work on.

The idea of making a crochet blanket has been at the back of my mind for some time, but after my attempt at crochet failed last year I don't think I'm going to get far with that idea. But around that time my Mum did set me up with a simple knitting pattern to knit little hexagons that can be joined together in a blanket. Each one measures about 7cm across. I worked very hard on it, and over about six months I produced thirty six hexagons that I was very proud of. Or at least I was, until I worked out that to make a blanket measuring a reasonable size I was going to need over a thousand, and so I became disheartened and put it away.

Knitted hexagons for blanket

But now I feel that it's time to have another go. The hexagons are very quick to knit up even for me (I'm not a great or confident knitter) and I can just about manage to complete one around the children, for example while they are in the bath is a good time to get one done. I'm trying not to think yet about the amount of time that it will take to sew all the things together!

Look out for a post in at least ten years time, when I proudly show off my new blanket!
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