I feel a bit cheeky calling this a recipe really, because it’s just so simple.  But, it does seem to be one of those things that people just don’t know about/haven’t thought about doing!
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I love using my slow cooker, even now that I’m at home with the children during the day I still prefer to have something cooking away in it and being able to relax a bit knowing that I’m not going to be rushing around in the evening trying to make something.

Now, I know that jacket potatoes aren’t particularly tricky or stressful to cook in the oven or the microwave, but I do still find those methods a bit of a faff!  I don’t think I’ve never actually done them in the oven and I always get annoyed when I microwave them because you get the nasty spot on the bottom that’s just hard and horrible.

So for me, being able to do them in the slow cooker is perfect.  I pop them in the in the morning, prepare toppings in the afternoon, then they’re all ready to serve at dinner time!

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So, how do you go about cooking jacket potatoes in the slow cooker?  Easy peasy!

  • Get some foil or baking parchment and scrunch a few pieces into balls and put them in the slow cooker.  You want enough to cover the base.

 

  • Rub a bit of oil, salt and pepper into the potato skins.

 

  • Wrap them in foil.

 

  • Put them in the slow cooker, on top of the scrunched up foil/baking parchment.

 

  • Cook on low for about 8 hours.

 

  • Remove and top with whatever you fancy – we normally go for tuna mayo, beans and cheese!

 

  • Enjoy!

That’s really all there is to it.  A few things to note though:

  • As is the way with slow cooking, the skins won’t be at all crispy, so if that’s important to you then you might want to either stick to oven cooking them, or cook them this way then pop them in a hot oven for 5 minutes to crisp them up.

 

  • You really don’t need to add any water to the slow cooker.

 

  • I’ve never pricked the potatoes and they come out great every time.

How do you like your potatoes?!

Cuddle Fairy

We buy a lot of bananas in our house.  It’s probably the most eaten fruit in our fruit bowl.  But every so often I get carried away and buy too many, and a few start to over-ripen before we manage to eat them.  Which is awful, because it means I’m forced to make this chocolate banana bread!

Now, I’m not a huge fan of plain banana bread because, and this may sound a little silly, it’s just too banana-y.  But this version is delicious.  The banana taste is still there, but it’s balanced out by the chocolate and the brown sugar crust.  So, here we go, my yummy chocolate banana bread:

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Ingredients

100g Softened Butter
175g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
2 Ripe Bananas (mashed)
225g Self Raising Flour
About 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Handful of chocolate chips
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 tablespoons Milk
A few teaspoons of brown sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Fan 160C / Gas 4.
2. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
3. Measure all the ingredients into a mixing bowl in the order they’re listed above and mix together.
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface
5. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top to give it a nice crunchy finish!
6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 1 hour, until well risen and golden brown.  A skewer or knife inserted in the centre should come out clean when the loaf is ready.
7. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn it out and leave it to cool on a wire rack (or just a wooden chopping board if you’re like me and don’t have a wire rack!)

A few things to note:

  • The recipe says to use two ripe bananas but it seems to come out just as tasty if you use just one, or if you use three.
  • When I make this with Rhys we do it properly and mix everything up by hand in a big bowl.  When I’m on my own and just want it made so I can tuck in, I pile all the ingredients in the food processor and mix it up that way.  Again, tastes just as good whichever way you do it!
  • I’m quite generous with the sprinkling of the brown sugar on the top, and I press it gently into the mixture too so it doesn’t just crumble off when you eat it,

I hope you enjoy making (and eating) this as much as we all do!

I first posted this recipe on my photography website in the blog post ‘Baking with a toddler – chocolate banana bread‘, if you want to read a bit more about it!
Cuddle Fairy

Sunday 17th May 2015 is national children’s day which is looking to spread the word about how important play is to children.  It’s not just about them having fun.  On the national children’s day website they explain that “Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child (Article 31)”

So in celebration of the importance of play, I’ve put together this list of my 3 favourite ‘play’ quotes!

1) “Children need the freedom and time to play.  Play is not a luxury.  Play is a necessity”

Play quote

 

2) “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.  But for children play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of childhood”
quote about play

 

3) “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”
quote about play
Do you have a favourite quote about play?  Do you like the three quotes I’ve found?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Cuddle Fairy

I’ve mentioned in a few posts recently that Nerys has started to sign ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ which makes me really happy!  I was also really pleased the other day when she signed ‘wait’ to me when she wasn’t ready to get out of her buggy yet.

I love how she can communicate with us so much better now that she can sign a few things.  I think she’d be much more frustrated if she didn’t have that tool.

We watch ‘Something special’ on Cbeebies most days and she seems to really enjoy watching them all sign, and Rhys enjoys it too, especially now that he can copy the signs much more easily than when he first watched it as a baby.

For anyone who doesn’t know any baby sign language, here are my 5 favourite and, in my opinion, most useful signs to teach your baby:

My 5 favourite signs for babies and toddlers

 

1) Please/Thank you

This was the first sign that both Rhys and Nerys learnt.  Maybe because it’s the sign that Steve and I use the most when talking to them, I’m not sure.The sign is the same for both words which makes it really easy for them to learn.

Signing please and thank you
2) Eat
This one is really useful for helping babies explain what it is that they want!  Nerys uses it in the mornings to tell me that she’s ready to have some breakfast.
signing 'eat'
3) Drink
A good one to teach alongside ‘eat’, to help ease their frustration at not having the words to tell you if they’re hungry or thirsty!
Signing 'drink'
4) More
This is one I’m just starting to teach Nerys.  I ask her verbally if she wants more and she can answer me, so she understands the word, but I think it would be helpful for her to be able to just ask for more if she wants to!
Signing 'more'
5) Sleep
Sometimes babies are cranky and you’re not always sure why.
On some occasions it’s because they’re tired and could do with a little sleep – this sign could be really helpful for them to express this!
Signing 'sleep'

These are the signs that I think are most useful to start with, if you’re new to baby signing.  Although ‘milk’ is another good one, especially for younger babies!  We also sign ‘wait’ a fair bit, and I still find that one really useful to sign to Rhys if he’s a bit too far away to hear me or if I’m on the phone and want to tell him to wait without interrupting the conversation!

I’d love to know what you think about this – do you sign to your babies/young children?  What signs do you find most useful?

Nerys seems to have experienced a bit of a developmental leap.

All of a sudden she’s found a real confidence on her feet and is communicating more and more.  And, I have to admit, she’s caught me by surprise a little bit!

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Here are some of the things she’s suddenly discovered she can do:

  • Run.  She’s been walking for about 3 months and has suddenly discovered that she can also run.  Normally away from me, laughing maniacally.

 

  • Climb the stairs in 3 seconds flat.  Seriously, when did she get so fast?!

 

  • Open things.  The kitchen drawers, the dishwasher, it’s all fair game now.  I’m spending a lot of my time saying ‘no’ and moving her away from things.

 

  • Get what she wants by signing ‘please’. Well, she thinks that if she points at what she wants and signs ‘please’ then she can have it.  It works when she wants her brother’s hat.  Doesn’t work when she wants the sharp pair of scissors on the table!

 

It is so much fun watching her develop, the look of glee on her face when she realises she can do something is just brilliant!  Have your little ones started doing anything new recently?

I would love to say that we had loads of leftover chocolate from Easter and that’s why I made this.  But that would just be a complete lie!  I went and bought chocolate and mini eggs specifically to make this bark.

But, it’s a great recipe to use if you do happen to have leftover chocolate that you want to do something fun with!

It’s so simple to make and is really tasty – it didn’t last long in my house (I’m glad I took the photos of it as soon as it was made!).

This is how I made it; but it’s really versatile so you can use pretty much whatever chocolate and toppings you fancy!  There are loads of bark recipes on the internet if you want some inspiration for what toppings you could use – I’ve gathered a few together on my Pinterest board if you don’t know where to start looking!

So, to make my mini egg bark, I took 300g of milk chocolate and melted it in a saucepan (no fancy bain marie for me!).  While it was melting I covered a baking tray in greaseproof paper, then when it was ready I poured the chocolate onto the paper and spread it out with a spatula.

Next, I took a bag of mini eggs and popped a few handfuls onto the melted chocolate and pressed them down slightly.

Then I took a handful of white chocolate buttons and melted those (in a bowl in the microwave this time!).  Once that was melted I drizzled it all over the bark, then put the whole thing into the fridge for a few hours to set.

Once it’s set, just cut or break it up into pieces and enjoy.

Simple!  And so yummy!

Do you have a favourite bark recipe?  I’d love it if you would share it with me, I think it’s one of my new favourite treats to make!

My daughter turned one last week.  Now, I don’t know if it’s because she’s breastfed and digesting the milk quickly, or if it’s because she just has a big appetite, but I have spent a huge amount of time in that year feeding her.

I know that us mothers are supposed to enjoy every second of breastfeeding; spending the minutes and hours gazing into our babies’ eyes and basking in the beauty of what we’re doing (ha!) but, come on, after the first few minutes you really need some other form of entertainment!

For me, that entertainment has come in the form of binge-watching tv shows.  Some on the tv and others streamed on the ipad.

Here is my list of the shows that have kept me awake and entertained while I’ve been feeding my baby:

Charmed

I would call this a guilty pleasure but, you know what?  I don’t feel guilty about it!  I love Charmed.  In all its ridiculousness, I think it’s great!  I’d watched the middle few series quite recently when they were on tv, but hadn’t seen the first few with Prue in or the very last series for ages.  So I was really quite happy when I saw that all 8 series are on netflix!  This one kept me going for quite a while of evening and night time feeds!

Friends

I love the fact that, even after all these years, Friends is still on tv practically all the time and it’s still funny!  And, every now and then, I hear a line that I swear I’ve never heard before!

Prison Break

I watched the first 2 series of Prison Break when it was first on tv and really enjoyed it, but stopped watching when it started to feel a bit ridiculous after Michael ended up in another prison, trying to find a way to break out.  But I decided to give it another go when I found all 4 series on Amazon, and I actually really liked it.  I’m pleased I gave it another go and stuck it out to see how they ended the whole thing.  There seemed to be a fair bit of debate online about whether the ending was any good or not.  For my part, I was pretty satisfied with how it all worked out!

Gilmore girls

I have all the series of Gilmore Girls on DVD, but I’ve still been taping it from channel 5 recently so it’s there on the sky box when I feed Nerys during the day!  I absolutely love this show.  It always makes me smile and holds really good memories for me from when I first started watching it.  It’s like an old friend.  Although it really freaks me out when I think about the fact that I was closer in age to Rory when I first watched it, and now I’m the same age as Lorelai!

Alias

This is another series, like Gilmore Girls, that I actually have on DVD but I’ve started watching it again on Amazon instant video.  My husband loves to mock Alias, and I know that it’s a bit cheesy, but I love it!  Pretty much all the characters “die” at some point, Sydney kicks ass in the most ridiculous of outfits and Bradley Cooper is in it.  All makes for good entertainment in my book!

Orange is the new black

This was the first ‘mystery’ series that I watched on netflix.  I’d heard of it but didn’t really know what to expect.  As it turned out, I must’ve liked it as I watched it in record time…and was then a bit gutted when I realised I’d reached the end of the second series and that the third hadn’t been released yet!

Please tell me I’m not the only one who relies on multiple tv series for entertainment during endless feeding sessions?!

Does anyone have any good recommendations for new programs to watch?