Tuesday, 2 September 2014

My Holiday Must-Haves

Okay, I'm taking a lot more than this, but these are some of the things I know will make my holiday. That and the all-inclusive aspect, and a week of work in the sun. Obviously.

I have lost over two-and-a-half stone now.

That's a lot.

And do you know what? My belly is still a mum's tummy. It's never going to lose that title. But I have worked really hard to hope that I will fit in and look decent in this bikini (which is from ASOS and also comes in blue) and I can't wait to wear it now. I'm sure I'll be nervous but it's been a goal of sorts and it will be nice to finally make it!

I'm looking forward to using the Piz Buin 1 Day Long Long Lasting Sun Lotion again (mouthful), I love how easy this is to apply - once before you go out in the sun and then if I feel like I need a top-up, I've a Nivea spray to get the job done. I can't stand applying suncream, so this is perfect for me. I tan very easily, so SPF 30 and SPF 15 will be fine for my skin.

That said, I do up the factor on my face. Which is where my RMK UV Face Protector SPF 50* comes in. It's specially formulated for sensitive facial skin and the addition of cucumber, aloe vera and chamomile make it extra soothing for the skin too.

I'll also be taking my Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water (with some extra large cotton pads) as, in that heat, I want to purify my skin and keep it free from too many nasties. I think I may keep this in my bag by the pool, to freshen up my face throughout the day too.

My sunglasses are actually cheap ones that I bought in Menorca last year after William destroyed the brand new ones I had bought specifically. I have learnt my lesson. He can break these and I will buy more cheap ones, if needed.

And finally, I am so excited to try this Moroccanoil Volume and Style Travel Pack*. My hair doesn't do well in the heat. It's not that it goes frizzy, but it get sun-damaged very easily as it's so fine. This set, which includes the Extra Volume Shampoo and Conditioner, Strong Hair Spray and Moroccanoil Oil Treatment will be perfect. I will be covering the ends of my hair with the treatment during the day, and these products will keep my hair soft and smooth every time I wash and style in the evening. I've saved this purposefully for this holiday and it'll be a real treat for me.

Finally, I'll be taking my iPhone, mini speakers and my DSRL of course. I've already got a few of my Spotify playlists downloaded to my phone so I can listen offline, and the speakers will be perfect to have a listen on the balcony at night while Mark and I are having a few drinks and playing Rummy like the goofs we are.

I'll be posting some Instagram snaps as I go, as the hotel has free wifi, so you can follow me here (I'm @CharlTaylor) if you can stand my unbridled happiness.

I'll probably do a video of how I found all of these when I come back if you like. Let me know in the comments below.

What We're Taking To Entertain Bill On The Plane

It's Saturday afternoon. Aside from the odd pair of knickers, toothbrushes, makeup and numerous electronic chargers, I think we are packed.

I'm waiting for Mark to get back from the match, and I'm toying with putting William to bed an hour earlier than normal, so the 3:00am wake-up call won't destroy him (and us) too much.

I'm so ready for this holiday (by the time you'll read this I'll of been there a few days!) but I won't lie - I'm really nervous about the flight. We fly very early, and the last flight I endured with a 16 month-old William wasn't one of my fondest parenting memories. I simply didn't realise how bored and frustrated he'd become. And I didn't have barely anything to entertain him properly.

This time, I'm prepared. I think.

I've taken on the advice of lots of my chums on Facebook (you can see this treasure trove of advice here) and I've thought ahead.

I've got some new books and sticker books - like the Pepper Pig Happy Holiday  one. Or the Mickey Mouse one that Granny and Po bought for William. I have the old favourite that is Balloonia, because this book is guaranteed to calm him down.

I have some little treats in the form of toys. I bought some cheap toy cars from eBay, which he hasn't seen before. I'll be packing some beloved animals, as they are a necessity! I got a little Moshi Monster toy to play with. And I kept an old Happy Meal toy for him to open and play with too. As well as some free Doc McStuffins domino cards I got free with a £40 shop at Morrison's (bonus!).

I've also packed an empty juice beaker, which I'll fill up once we have checked in and use throughout the holiday where needed. And I've also backed William's bumblebee backpack that is actually reins in disguise. I love these and they were so handy last time, and for moments when he wants to feel independent.

I bough these headphones from Argos. They are specially made for children and come with stickers so you can customise them. I love them and William is learning how to use them, and hopefully will understand the need for them on the plane.

Our iPad has been stocked up with plenty to watch. I've downloaded some Peppa Pig and Mickey Mouse Club House episodes from iTunes, and I've also downloaded the Video Downloader Super Plus app from iTunes. 

This is so worth the investment - it's only £2.49 - as you can download any videos from online and store them on your iPad to watch offline. I have download a few episodes of William's favourite programmes, along with some of his favourite songs from his favourite YouTube channel, Super Simple Songs. I really recommend checking that channel out. He LOVES it.

I obviously can't forget to mention that Teddy and Dale the Duck will be joining us too. Teddy has flown before, but it's Dale's first time and, as you can see, he's very excited.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Butternut Squash, Mushroom & Chive Risotto

One of my most-favourite meals has to be a good risotto. Especially when the cooler months return. You can't beat a gentle steaming plate of creamy rice, with a glass of wine and good company.

This dish all came about because the cheeky chaps at Lindeman's sent me a surprise food hamper and a bottle of wine*, on the premise that I created something tasty to eat.

As you can see, I was pretty spoilt, with a bottle of the Lindeman's Bin 65 Chardonnay, arborio rice, red lentils,  walnuts, a bulb of garlic, two onions, some chives, some walnuts, some Knorr chicken stock cubes, some brown sugar, olive oil and a butternut squash.

As I cooked this the day before we went on holiday, my fridge was pretty bare, but I did have a handful of spinach, some chestnut mushrooms and parmesan to add to the mix.

And, to me, there was no choice in it. This screamed risotto.


A large glass of wine (and one for the chef too).
150 grams of arborio risotto rice.
Half a butternut squash, cubed.
A handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced.
One onion, finely chopped.
Two cloves of garlic, crushed.
500 ml of chicken stock (use the stock cub and boiling water) if you need more water, just add some more boiling water to your rice).
A handful of parmesan.
A sprinkle of fresh chives.
Olive oil.
Salt and pepper.


Firstly, prep your ingredients as above. Done?

Pop the kettle on and get your stock cube ready in a large measuring jug (so much easier to use a jug rather than ladle your stock in) and then preheat a large frying pan on a medium heat.

Add a splash of olive oil and add your onion and garlic. Let this begin to soften.

Meanwhile, pop your squash cubes into a bowl covered with boiling water. Pop this in a microwave for around two/three minutes (test after two), until the cubes are yielding to the touch of a sharp knife. Drain them and add to the pan.

Add your mushrooms to the mixture and let this sauté and soften.

Now add your rice.

Now, add your rice. Let the rice cook dry for a few minutes, stirring quickly so as not to let it burn.

Then, pour in your wine and reduce down, keep your heat low and stir once or twice and make sure your rice doesn’t stick. Now is the time to start adding a bit of the stock at a time. You may use all of it, you may not, you may need more. As your rice starts to expand, keep tasting it for texture. You don’t want rice pudding, you want a saucy, al-dente spoonful. Learning this part is a bit of an art, but you will know. Just keep the heat on low and take your time.

When you are almost happy with it, add your Parmesan and stir through gently. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. And sprinkle a flourish of chives over the top and serve with a grin and another big glass of your Lindeman's Chardonnay - which is bloomin' lovely by the way!

*I was given this hamper of food to produce a recipe for you all. I hope you enjoy as much as we did. 
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