Easy Recipe: Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties

We were sent a selection of Violife vegan cheese to try, so we made these vegan cheese and baked bean pasties. All images and opinions are our own.

At some point in my late 30’s I started to develop what turned out to be lactose intolerance. As a cheese lover, this was something of a blow to me. I’ve been a vegetarian for 32 years now, and I find myself more and more cutting out dairy from my diet. I can take tablets to help me digest non-vegan cheese, but it’s just nice to be able to sit down and enjoy a meal that I know won’t make me poorly. Vegan cheese has come a long way since I first tried it several years ago, and Violife seem to be leading the way in making a range of vegan cheese products for all kinds of different vegan recipes.

I was chatting to a girl I work with who is vegan, and she recommended the epic extra mature cheddar as being the best vegan cheese she’d tried. So following her recommendation, I made a batch of vegan cheese and baked bean pasties for my hungry family. They are ridiculously easy to make, you don’t need any extra special culinary skills and they are so good, my 11 year old was scrabbling for more!

Easy Recipe: Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties

This recipe makes four pasties, to make more, just double it, or triple it. It’s so simple to throw together and they make a lovely warming lunch, or pre-swimming snack in our case.

Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties

Ingredients:
A sheet of ready made puff pastry
1/2 tin of baked beans
4 big pinches of grated vegan cheese
Vegan egg wash, I used melted vegan spread.

How to make your Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties:

Pre-heat your oven to 200°. Unroll your sheet of ready made puff pastry and cut into four rectangles – have a look at the picture below which shows you the process.

Easy Recipe: Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties

Open your tin of beans and tip them into a sieve to drain off some of the excess bean juice. Some brands are juicer than others, ideally you don’t want to add too much juice to your pasty as that will encourage them to leak out. Once they’ve drained off a bit, add about a tablespoon of beans to one side of the pastry and top with a large pinch of grated cheese.

Fold the pastry over and press the edges together. Using a fork, press the fork around the edges to seal them together. Arrange your pasties on a baking tray so they’re not touching and then brush with your preferred vegan “egg wash”. I used melted vegan spread and I was rather generous with it.

Easy Recipe: Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties

Bake in your pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden and gorgeous. Take them out of the oven and leave them to cool for a few minutes. Do not be tempted to dive right in as the filling will be as hot as molten lava!

Easy Recipe: Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties

Once they’ve cooled off a little, eat them however you like. We ate ours on a park bench after school on our way to swimming, and very excellent they were too!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try my vegan sausage rolls.

Vegan Cheese and Baked Bean Pasties

How to make a Minecraft Block Birthday Cake

My now 11 year old is mad on Minecraft and has been for a couple of years now. He loves everything Minecraft and asked for a Minecraft block birthday cake for his 11th birthday. I lack the skills (and time and enthusiasm) to bake and decorate something really complex, but I can bake a good sponge cake. I figured if I did some kind of grass block, then if it looked a bit rough and ready, it would be all the better for it.

Although this is fairly simple, it is a bit time consuming. Baking the cake layers took me a couple of hours and I made sure I had an hour or so free the next day to put it together and decorate it. I did cheat and use ready-made tubs of frosting, but you can make your own if you want to.

We baked four layers of sponge using a 20cm square cake tin. My son loves the look of rainbow sponge cakes, so I coloured each one a different shade using some Wilton cake colourings I had. I always find they work really well; just remember that once you bake the cake, the colour gets darker, so go easy.

How to make a Minecraft Block Birthday Cake

We used my regular sponge cake recipe, but instead of splitting it into two tins, I just threw it all in one tin and had an extra thick cake. I needed to adjust my baking time upwards, to around 35 minutes. But just bake until you get a clean skewer when you poke it in the middle.

I baked four of these thick sponge cakes, but you may need more or less. I wanted my cake to be as tall as it was wide, in other words, it needed to look like a cube, or a Minecraft block. We bought sugar paste Minecraft figures off the internet, because I lack the skill and time to tackle making those for myself.

I try and make a cake every year for my son’s birthday and he really, really loved this cake. It was worth the fairly small amount of effort I put into it. I’m not an exert cake decorator by any stretch of the imagination, but this was pretty impressive.

How to make a Minecraft Block Birthday Cake

You will need:

4 layers of sponge cake, rainbow coloured if you like
2 tubs of vanilla buttercream
Green food colouring
Green sprinkles
3 tubs of chocolate buttercream frosting, I used chocolate orange flavour
A packet of chocolate biscuits, I used bourbon creams
A cake board
Sugar Minecraft figures, optional
Birthday cake candles, mandatory

How to make a Minecraft Block Birthday Cake

How to make a Minecraft Block Birthday Cake

Once you’ve baked your layers, it’s time to build your cake. You may need to trim the tops off your sponge layers to level them out a bit. The important thing about this cake is that it’s level and a cube shape.

To build the cake, using a palette knife put a dab of the buttercream in the centre of the cake board. If you’re using rainbow cake; decide which order your rainbow layers will go and place the bottom layer on top of the blob of buttercream. This will help to anchor your cake in place and stop it sliding about.

Spread a layer of buttercream on top of your first layer and top it with your next sponge layer. Cover that with buttercream and continue until all the layers are stacked. With the top layer, even if you’ve trimmed the top off the cake to make it level, if you flip it upside down. It will guarantee that the top of the cake will be perfectly level, which is what you want.

Once it is approximately a cube shape, it’s time to decorate it. I began by covering the sides of the cube with the chocolate frosting. While I was doing this, I gave my son the job of smashing up a packet of chocolate biscuits into crumbs. This was so I could press the crumbs into the buttercream to make it look like soil. I wasn’t too bothered about the crumbs being uniform in size; in fact some bigger crumbs just made it look muddier. Once you’ve covered the sides of the cube with chocolate frosting, carefully press the crumbs into the sides until they sides are covered.

How to make a Minecraft Block Birthday Cake

For the grass layer, I mixed two tubs of vanilla frosting with some green food colouring. Just add a few drops until you get to the shade of green you’re happy with. Carefully spoon the frosting onto the top of the cake; making sure it stays on the top and doesn’t run down the sides. Once I’d done this, I used green sprinkles on top to add some grassy texture and then I put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.

When you’re ready to present and serve your cake, arrange your Minecraft figures however you’d like, light the candles and sing Happy Birthday in your best voice.

How to make a Minecraft Block Birthday Cake

Recipe: Super Easy Shreddies Pancakes

I’ve been making these Shreddies pancakes for a few years now. They’re an easy way of getting some of the good stuff into my son, whilst at the same time he feels like I’ve given him a bit of a treat. Shreddies have long been one of my favourite cereals, they’re delicious just in a bowl with milk, or whipped up into these hearty pancakes.

Shreddies contain wholegrains, and are high in fibre. They’re also fortified with five B vitamins and iron. They’re a healthy start to the day, and if you can spare a couple of bowls of Shreddies from your box, these pancakes are well worth making.

Recipe: Super Easy Shreddies Pancakes

This recipe makes thick, American style pancakes. Making around 6 thick pancakes, they are very filling and this is enough for my little family of three to have a hearty breakfast. You can easily double up the recipe if you have more mouths to feed.

Top them however you like. We like them best with fresh fruit and a drizzle of golden syrup, sometimes with blueberry jam. Sometimes we add squirty cream, sometimes I add some cinnamon to the mix and top them with sweetened apple purée. If you wanted to up the protein, a drizzle of warmed peanut butter would work well with a chopped banana. These pancakes can stand up to being topped with pretty much anything you fancy.

Recipe: Super Easy Shreddies Pancakes

Super Easy Shreddies Pancakes

Ingredients
80g Shreddies cereal
80mls milk
3 medium sized eggs
2 tablespoons of sugar
Oil or butter for frying

Recipe: Super Easy Shreddies Pancakes

How to make your Shreddies pancakes

Using a food processor (I tend to use my Nutribullet for little things like this), blend your Shreddies into powder. If you don’t have a food processor, putting them in a sealed plastic bag and smashing them up with a rolling pin works just as well.

Recipe: Super Easy Shreddies Pancakes

In a large bowl, mix your powdered Shreddies and the rest of the ingredients until they are well combined. I use a whisk for this just to make sure I can beat a bit of air into the mixture. Once you’ve done this, set the bowl aside for ten minutes, this will help it thicken up a bit so you can dollop the pancake batter more easily. When you’re ready to cook your pancakes, give the batter another quick stir and you’re good to go. If you think it is too thick, add a little bit more milk until you’re happy with how it is.

Put some oil or butter in a non-stick frying pan and when the pan is hot, dollop a couple of tablespoons of the thick batter into the pan. This makes one pancake. Have the pan on a low-medium heat; the pancakes are thick and need to cook through without browning them too much. When I see little bubbles start to appear around the edges of the pancake, it’s time to flip it over and cook the other side, I use a fish slice for this. Cook this pancake until it is nicely brown on both sides. Repeat the process until you have used up all the batter.

Super Easy Shreddies Pancakes

Recipe: Luxurious Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Here in Manchester, we are currently being battered by our third big storm in a week. To say our February half term has been a wash out might be an understatement. We’ve battened down the hatches, snuggled ourselves in blankets and done the most sensible thing possible, we baked and ate a lot of cakes, and I’ve made several batches of my delicious hazelnut hot chocolate.

It’s properly good, rich and silky and something you’d probably pay nearly a fiver for in a fancy coffee shop. Really it is very easy to make, it takes hardly any time at all, and even my son likes to get in on the whisking action.

Hazelnut hot chocolate recipe

It’s excellent on its own, but we usually top ours with squirty cream and marshmallows, but you can do what you want. Add crushed nuts, chocolate sprinkles, or even a cherry. Do what makes you happy, because when the wild winds rage outside, a mug of extra rich hot chocolate just hits the spot.

This recipe makes two big mugs, but the recipe can be easily doubled, or quadrupled if you are making hot chocolate for a crowd.

Hazelnut hot chocolate

Luxurious Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

500mls milk, I used semi skimmed, but use whatever milk you like
50g milk chocolate, broken into squares
2 tablespoons of JimJams hazelnut chocolate spread, or similar chocolate spread

Top with squirty cream, chopped nuts, marshmallows, chocolate sprinkles, whatever you fancy!

Recipe: Luxurious Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Method

Heat the milk in a pan until just before it starts to boil.

Break your chocolate into chunks and after taking the pan off the heat, add the chocolate chunks and whisk through until it has melted.

Add the spoons of hazelnut spread and whisk again until the spread has melted. Make sure you whisk until the milk is frothy.

Carefully pour your hot chocolate into mugs and top with squirty cream, chopped nuts, marshmallows, chocolate sprinkles; or whatever you fancy!

This is such a brilliant, rich hot chocolate, it always goes down a storm. It’s really quick to make too, and perfect for warming your cockles on a cold winters day.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try this speculaas hot chocolate.

Hazelnut hot chocolate

Things to do in Derby – a city full of culture!

We were invited guests of Visit Derby. All images and opinions are our own.

One of the few upsides to the pandemic is that although I feel less inclined to jet off to far flung places, I’m more minded to explore some of the wonderful cities we have in the UK. I’d heard good things about the city of Derby (mostly from a real ale drinker) and I was excited to be invited by Visit Derby to explore the city for a weekend with a small group of bloggers.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

Derby is a not a huge place. I really liked that it was such a compact city that you could explore most of it on foot. Derby has thrown its hat into the ring to become City of Culture for 2025, so Visit Derby drew up a list of some of the must see cultural things to do within the city and we set about visiting them.

The Stay Company Serviced Apartments

My good friend Jenny and I stayed in a lovely serviced apartment on Friar Gate, just a short walk away from the beating heart of the city. The apartments, were clean and comfortable; home to the best shower I’ve had in a long time. We were close enough to the action, but not so close that we were disturbed by the late night hustle and bustle of the city. Staying in an apartment means you don’t have to be up at a certain time for breakfast, and there’s a lounge you can flop about in. Not to mention a decent kitchen to cook in or serve takeaways in. We liked it a lot, and we decided it’s a great option for families as well as groups of friends, like us.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

Annie’s Burger Shack

We travelled over on Friday afternoon, and after ditching our bags, we headed to Annie’s Burger Shack for a bite to eat. It’s located in a converted church building and its comprehensive burger menu appeals to hungry lumberjacks, people on date nights, children celebrating birthdays and groups of friends alike. I was very taken with the huge portion of curly fries (the king of fried potato products) which came with my burger, and Terri said her chicken burger was the best she’s ever had.

Annie's burger shack

Derby Cathedral

An early start on Saturday morning made me feel grateful I’d laid off the gin the night before. Freshly power-showered, we walked the short distance to Derby Cathedral. Jenny and I opted to have a look around the beautiful cathedral, while the rest of the gang went up the tower to take in the panoramic views of the city and beyond.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

Derby Cathedral is one of the most-visited attractions in Derby. It’s a beautiful calm, reflective space and one which feels so modern, despite being many hundreds of years old. It is home to some fascinating local history stories and you’re welcome to visit and learn all about formidable local woman, Bess of Hardwick; as well as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. You can pop in when it’s open and explore the cathedral, or if you’re feeling fit, book a guided tower tour.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

Derby Museum and Art Gallery

After our whistle-stop tour of the cathedral, we walked to the nearby Derby Museum and Art Gallery. The art gallery is home to a fascinating range of nationally important collections; including the world’s largest collection of work by the 18th Century artist Joseph Wright of Derby. We were given a tour of the various galleries. They’re rightly very proud of local boy, Joseph Wright and his stunning body of work. They have a whole gallery devoted to him, and it’s a wonderful place to explore and learn more about him, his life and his work.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

The Museum and Art Gallery could easily have filled an afternoon for us, there was so much to see and do, with many hands-on attractions for children to play with and learn. I’d very much like to go back with my son sometime and show him around, I know this museum would tick many boxes for him.

derby museum

After our tour had finished, we had a quick lunch in The Coffee House café in the museum. It has a small but excellent menu, I plumped for a quick sandwich and a cold drink before we headed off to our next cultural destination in Derby.

Déda Dance Studio

For the more athletic in the group, a trip to dance school Déda was a real highlight. Sadly my back would not permit me to join in with any aerial acrobatics, but that didn’t stop the rest of the group. Déda is a very cool space, with lovely light and airy dance studios and a great café. There’s currently an exhibition of photography by Camilla Greenwell, walls of striking photographs of dancers, which worked really well in Déda.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

White Peak Distillery

After our adventures in dance, we had the chance to pop back to the apartment and get changed for the evening. I was very excited about what was to come, we were booked in to have a tour of the White Peak Distillery in nearby Belper. The distillery had just released and sold out of their first batch of whiskey, but they did have plentiful supplies of their own rum and gin for us to sample and buy.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

The tour was exceptional. We were taken round by the owner, Max who walked us through the lengthy process of whiskey making, as well as showing us how gin and rum were made too. The room where the barrels of spirits were kept was so delicious smelling, I’m sad that my photos aren’t scratch and sniff! Once the tour was over, Max gave us the chance to taste some of their best selling gins and rum, all of which were available to buy in the distillery shop. It would have been rude to have left empty handed, so I treated myself to a bottle of Shining Cliff Citrus Gin, because I’m worth it.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

Makeney Hall Hotel

Once our time in the distillery was over, we drove to the nearby Makeney Hall Hotel for our evening meal. We were greeted by chef, Liam who chatted to me about my various (and personally quite annoying) food intolerances. He was kind enough to come up with a menu that would be both delicious and not make me poorly. I began my meal with a hearty bowl of leek and potato soup, with homemade bread and herb butter. My main was a Stilton, leek and red onion tart, and I just had to have a pudding, so I opted for the lemon meringue crème brulée. It was a fine way to finish a very fine meal. The three course set menu was just £30 per person, which is excellent value for a meal of that quality.

Makeney Hall Hotel

Alas, after a long day exploring Derby, it was time for bed, we had another busy day to look forward to tomorrow.

Museum of Making

Sunday morning dawned and with a strong coffee inside us, we headed off to the Museum of Making to check out the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (which runs until 13th March 2022). This is a really fabulous exhibition of automata made by a group of 12 contemporary artists; including Paul Spooner, Carlos Zapata, Wanda Sowry and Fi Henshall. The automata combine art and engineering to make curious (and sometimes completely bonkers) moving artworks; and there’s the chance to make your own. I had to have a go and I was very pleased with my simple automata.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

We then had a very quick tour of the Museum of Making, which would be very high on my list of places to take my lad. It’s jam-packed with history and there are lots of hands-on things to do while you explore. The museum is located in the Derby Silk Mill, which is widely regarded as the site of the world’s first modern factory, built in the valley that changed the world. It’s also home to a huge model railway, which runs at several times throughout the day. For those interested in the railways, there’s a whole floor of great things to explore.

Things to do in Derby - a city full of culture!

From the world’s smallest engine, to a seven tonne Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine suspended the atrium; there are 30,000 objects to enjoy, taking you through 300 years of making in Derby! The museum café, The River Kitchen, is also excellent. Located in the airy atrium, there’s a diverse menu, with something for everyone – they even have Derbyshire oatcakes!

derby railway

The Cottonworks Café and Bistro

Alas, our time in Derby was coming to an end. Our last stop was The Cottonworks Café and Bistro which is tucked away on the banks of the River Derwent in the oldest building in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Darley Abbey Mills. We were booked in to try their legendary Sunday roast, and we were not left wanting. If it doesn’t come with a Yorkshire pudding I could wear as a hat, then frankly I’m not interested. Thankfully I was not to be disappointed.

cottonworks

We had a few minutes to spare before our table was ready, so we had a quick mooch around the banks of the River Derwent, which helped build up an appetite equal to our giant roast dinner. I began my meal with a very moreish caramelised shallot pearl barley ‘risotto’, which was very richly flavoured; but somehow still quite light. It was a very excellent risotto (and I’m a bit fussy about risotto). My main was salt baked celeriac with roast potatoes, roasted carrot, tenderstem broccoli, a Yorkshire pud (you could wear as a hat) and veggie gravy. I turned down the mushroom fricassee as it’s one of the things which makes me poorly, but the dish did not suffer for it not being included. Several of the others had room for pudding, and with some regret, I did not.

cottonworks

The Cottonworks gave me the best Sunday roast I’ve had in a long time, it’s one of those things that’s so easy to get wrong, but for me, everything on my plate was excellent. It was a fine note to leave Derby on. We headed home with full bellies and heads swimming with culture.

Derby was not somewhere I’d have previously considered as somewhere to take my son to explore, or even for a romantic mini-break; but it’s such a good place to visit. The city centre is nicely compact, which makes exploring on foot a doddle. There are lots of museums and historic places to visit, as well as arts centres and studios. Walking down the streets and you have to be sure to look up, and down, because there are shimmers of history, architecture and culture all around. It’s a fine city, and one I’m keen to visit again soon.

For more information about Derby; what’s on and what to do, visit the Visit Derby website.

Recipe: Easy Baileys Irish Cream Cupcakes

As Valentine’s Day approaches, my thoughts turn to little bakes I can do to gift to my loved ones. When I was younger, Valentine’s Day was reserved for the one special person in your life, but these days anything goes. I tend to make a slight fuss of my boy, he’s a bit too young for actual romance, but he’s never to old to be told his mum loves him. One of the ways I express my love for him and others is in the kitchen, so I whipped up a batch of these Baileys Irish Cream cupcakes and decorated them in a manner fit for Valentine’s Day!

Easy Baileys Irish Cream Cupcakes

These cupcakes are really easy and decorating them is pretty simple too. I piped buttercream roses into mine, and they’re a lot easier to do than you’d think. If you’re not sure how to do it, watch this short video. You can add sprinkles, chocolates, drizzles of sauce, whatever you want. I went for some simple heart shaped sweets I got from a local shop and some chocolate hearts I spotted which I thought might fit the bill.

This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes and if you’re quick, you can have them baked, decorated and ready to it in about an hour. I love quick and easy bakes, I’m a busy mum and finding loads of time to bake these days is a bit difficult at times.

Easy Baileys Irish Cream Cupcakes

Ingredients
225g soft butter or baking margarine like Stork
225g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons of Irish cream, I used Baileys

For the Irish cream buttercream
150g soft butter
300g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
20g cocoa powder
6 tablespoons of Irish cream, I used Baileys

Easy Baileys Irish Cream Cupcakes

Method
Preheat the oven to 190c. Grab a couple of bun trays and put a paper cupcake case in each of the holes. You need to have 24 paper cases ready.

Beat the butter (or margarine) and sugar together until pale and fluffy. I used an electric hand whisk, but you can use a wooden spoon if you prefer. Add the eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla and Irish cream and mix together. Gently tip in the flour and baking powder and combine until it’s all smooth.

Using a spoon, drop the mixture evenly into the cases. If you were feeling like being precise, you can weigh each one to make sure they are more or less the same weight. This will help them look more uniform, it’s not essential, measuring by eye also works.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 18 minutes or so, until they are cooked through and risen.

Turn your cupcakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool fully. If you’re in a rush, you can pop them in the fridge for half an hour or so.

Easy Baileys Irish Cream Cupcakes

While you’re waiting for your buns to cool, it’s time to make the buttercream icing. Sift the icing sugar and mix with your softened butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Beat in the Irish cream and cocoa powder with the vanilla essence.

Once your cupcakes are cool, put your Baileys buttercream in a piping bag with a star piping nozzle – I used a Wilton 2D nozzle. Starting in the middle of the cupcake, swirl your buttercream around until you’ve got a buttercream rose shape. If you’re not sure how to do it, watch this short video.

It’s really simple, and if you’ve not happy with your first few efforts, you can scrape the buttercream back into the piping bag and start again. Once you’re happy with your cupcakes, feel free to embellish them however you want, with sprinkles or hearts or whatever you fancy.

Tip: Once you’ve finished decorating your rose cupcakes, you could pop them in the fridge for an hour so the buttercream firms up a little before serving.

These Baileys Irish Cream Cupcakes are really pretty and very easy to bake. The icing is much easier that you’d think. I’m no expert cake decorator, but with a little bit of practice and patience, you’ll be piping buttercream roses like a pro!

if you enjoyed this, you might also like to try my simple Baileys Irish Cream cake, or these simple heart shaped Danish Butter Cookies.

Easy Baileys Irish Cream Cupcakes

Crafting: Testing out the Paper FX Dream Weaver Kit

We were sent the Paper FX Dream Weaver machine for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

We love crafting and I have a particular fondness for paper crafting. My family have owned a small printing and stationery business for around 50 years now, so I’ve always had ready access to all the paper I could ever need, which is nice.

Testing out the Paper FX Dream Weaver Kit

This week we have been playing around with the newly re-launched Paper FX Dream Weaver machine from Flair. It’s a set which includes everything you need to weave paper into pretty new things. It’s designed for people aged 7+, though I think it would probably need an adult to help set up and show how the process works; but once they’ve done that, then it’s really quite simple.

Testing out the Paper FX Dream Weaver Kit

You can weave all kinds of beautiful accessories, gifts and decorations from old magazines, wrapping paper, posters, junk mail and scrap paper. It’s a great way of recycling waste into new items.

The kit comes with a really detailed set of instructions, which walk you through the process step by step. The instructions take you from basic weaving, up to more complex things, like making bags.

How to use Paper FX

To use the Paper FX Dream Weaver, you just cut some sheets of paper using the measure, then crease them using the creasing machine. You will need to supply your own glue stick, as you will need to glue the folded strips of paper together. Once the glue has set you can then weave the strips on the loom.

Testing out the Paper FX Dream Weaver Kit

The four step process is simple; tear it, crease it, weave it, make it. The set can be a little fiddly to use at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really very simple. We were really impressed with what we made with it.

You can make all kinds of things, like handbags, purses, wallets, belts, as well as mats, coasters and more. Once you get the hang of it, the only limit is your imagination.

Testing out the Paper FX Dream Weaver Kit

The Paper FX Dream Weaver costs around £19.99 and it doesn’t need batteries. All the moving parts are hand cranked. You need to supply your own paper and glue, but all the weaving equipment you’ll need is in there, plus a really detailed set of instructions.

Watch my Instagram reel on how to use Paper FX.

Testing out the Paper FX Dream Weaver Kit

We really liked that you can take waste paper and turn it into lovely upcycled accessories. We’ve been using some plain coloured paper; but I think mixing in some magazine pages or newspaper would look really great too.

Paper weaving

Paper FX is available now from Argos and Amazon now. It costs around £19.99 and is suitable for ages 7+. 

Days Out: 17 Tudor Halls to visit in the North West

Learning about the Tudors and the Stuarts is a big part of the history curriculum at school. It’s also a period in history which is filled with larger than life characters which children are naturally drawn to. Henry VIII is one of the most interesting Tudors and one who everyone seems to know something about; whether it’s his six wives, or the founding of the Church of England, he was a king during one of the more colourful periods in English history.

I always like to supplement the learning my son is doing at school with activities and visits to places which will broaden his learning. We’ve been to the Viking Festival, we’ve visited Roman ruins, Air Raid Shelters and now we are learning about the Tudors. This term we will be visiting some local Tudor buildings to find out more about that period in history.

17 Tudor Buildings to visit in the North West

If you’re planning to visit, please do check the opening times before you leave. Some of the houses are closed on some days and sometimes have special events on which they are also closed for. Some of the houses aren’t technically open to the public, but you can visit and enjoy the exterior of the building.

17 Tudor Buildings to visit in the North West

Adlington Hall, Macclesfield, Cheshire – One of the most beautiful country homes in England, Adlington Hall reflects both the history of English architecture and the 700-year story of a single family, the Leghs.

Baguley Hall, Wythenshawe, Manchester – Baguley Hall is a 14th-century timber-framed building in Baguley, Manchester. A former country house, historically in Cheshire, it is now Grade I-listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Bramall Hall, Stockport – Bramall Hall is a largely Tudor manor house in Bramhall, in Stockport. It is a timber-framed building; the oldest parts of which date from the 14th century, with later additions from the 16th and 19th centuries. The Hall is open to the public and hosts a number of events every year.

Bramall Hall

Gawsworth Hall, Macclesfield, Cheshire – Gawsworth Old Hall is a Grade I listed country house in the village of Gawsworth, Cheshire, England. It is a timber-framed house in the Cheshire black-and-white style. The present house was built between 1480 and 1600, replacing an earlier Norman house.

Hall i’ th’ Wood, Bolton – A rare surviving example of a Tudor wooden-framed house, Hall i’ th’ Wood was originally built as a half-timbered hall in the early 16th century. The house is home to a collection of17th and early 18th century furniture, objects and artefacts and learn more about the life and work of Samuel Crompton.

Little Moreton Hall, Congleton, Cheshire – Little Moreton Hall, also known as Old Moreton Hall, is a moated half-timbered manor house near Congleton in Cheshire. Visit this iconic Tudor manor house, with its wonky angles and quirky character. The hall, with its crooked walls and uneven floors, may seem fragile but it’s a remarkable survivor.

Ordsall Hall, Salford – Ordsall Hall is a large former manor house in the historic parish of Ordsall, now part of the City of Salford. It dates back more than 750 years, although the oldest surviving parts of the hall were built in the 15th century. It’s free to visit, easy to get to and it’s really set up for family and educational visits. You can read about our visit here.

Tudor Buildings to visit in the North West

Rufford Old Hall, Ormskirk, Lancashire – Rufford Old Hall is a National Trust property in Rufford, Lancashire. Built in around 1530 for Sir Robert Hesketh, only the Great Hall survives from the original structure. A brick-built wing in the Jacobean style was added in 1661. It sits at right angles to the Great Hall. Later, a third wing was added in the 1820s.

Samlesbury Hall, Preston, Lancashire – The hall has been many things in its past including a pub and a girls’ boarding school, but since 1925, when it was saved from being demolished for its timber, it has been administered by the Samlesbury Hall Trust. This medieval manor house attracts more than 50,000 visitors each year.

Shambles Square, Manchester – Shambles Square is a historic square next to the Exchange Square Metrolink station in Manchester. It is home to four very old pubs – The Crown & Anchor, The Old Wellington Inn, Sinclairs Oyster Bar and The Mitre Hotel. The four pubs were originally in different parts of Manchester city centre, but were moved, brick by brick to their current location in 1999. Shambles Square is free to visit, though you will have to pay for your pints. It’s worth stopping to admire if you’re in the area.

Smithills Hall, Bolton – Smithills Hall is a Grade I listed manor house, and a scheduled monument in Smithills, Bolton. Over the years the original Medieval Hall has been added to; and provides a fascinating history of the people who lived there. The buildings include Tudor and Victorian wings, in addition to the Medieval Hall, and a private chapel.

Speke Hall, Liverpool – Speke Hall is a wood-framed wattle-and-daub Tudor manor house in Speke in Liverpool. It is one of the finest surviving examples of its kind. It is owned by the National Trust, it is a Grade I listed building and it’s well worth visiting and exploring.

Staircase House, Stockport – Staircase House is a Grade II* listed medieval building dating from around 1460 situated in Stockport. The house is famous for its rare Jacobean cage-newel staircase. An audio guide recounts the full history of the house.

Turton Tower, Bolton – Turton Tower is a manor house in Chapeltown near Bolton. Turton Tower is a house that has been evolving over the last 600 years. From a stone tower house in the 1400s to the home of the Tudor Orrell; and later, the Victorian Kay Families. Turton Tower has been altered and adapted to suit the needs and tastes of those who lived here.

Tudor Buildings to visit in the North West

Underbank Hall, Stockport – Underbank Hall is a 16th-century town house in the centre of Stockport. The hall dates back to the 15th century and is a Grade II listed building. It was home of the Arden family of Bredbury until 1823 when it was sold to pay off debts. It later became a bank. A banking hall was then added to the rear in 1919. The hall is still used as a bank today and currently houses the NatWest branch for Stockport. Although technically you can’t visit for a tour; it’s well worth stopping to admire it and popping your head inside to look at the interior of the building.

Worsley Old Hall, Worsley, Greater Manchester – Worsley Old Hall is a pub and restaurant in Worsley, Greater Manchester. It is recorded on the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building. You can visit the hall today as it is still a working pub.

Wythenshawe Hall, Wythenshawe, Manchester – Wythenshawe Hall is a 16th-century medieval timber-framed historic house and former manor house in Wythenshawe, Manchester, located in Wythenshawe Park. Built for Robert Tatton, it was home to the Tatton family for almost 400 years. It’s currently closed to the public following a devastating fire in 2016; although you can still visit the park and check out the building from behind the fence.

I’m sure there are plenty more noteworthy Tudor buildings in the North West, so if I’ve missed any, please do let me know and I will add them. I’ve visited a number of these beautiful buildings, and each one has been beautiful and rich with history. I hope you enjoy exploring some of these amazing places.

Days Out: 17 Tudor Buildings to visit in the North West

Days Out: Adventure Now in Manchester

My son loves adventures. He likes learning and trying new things and I’m also up for a bit of that. Going to forest school is one of his favourite things. So for his birthday, as a treat for us both, I booked us on an archery session at Adventure Now in Manchester. We’d both separately done archery before, but we were very excited to have a session together. Proper mother and son bonding time.

I found Adventure Now on Google, I’d read the reviews, stalked their Facebook page and looked at all the photos. I was impressed by their set up and it was all easy to book online. The session cost £25 for kids and £30 for adults, so £55 for the two of us for an hour. They sometimes have special offers on their Facebook page, so that’s worth keeping an eye out for.

Days Out: Adventure Now in Manchester

They emailed me a set of directions to their location in the woods in Worsley, about 3 miles from the Trafford Centre. It’s a bit off road and down a dirt track to get there, so be prepared to get your car a bit muddy. There’s a car park and a small place to grab a coffee if you need to.

We were met by Vincent, our instructor for the afternoon. He ran us through the safety rules and precautions; showed us how to stand, how to hold the bow and load it with an arrow. Ben has dyspraxia, so he can struggle a bit with his co-ordination, so this was a great exercise in focus and control for him.

Days Out: Adventure Now in Manchester

We practiced shooting the arrows and we both improved throughout the session. 30 years ago I was a very keen archer, but the cost put me off carrying on with the sport. It wasn’t long before I found my rhythm again and it felt really good. I wasn’t too bad at it either.

Once we’d got our eye in, Vincent moved us on to playing some games. We had to hit various points on the target in a specific order, we had to shoot at and pop balloons and we competed against each other and teamed up for some games too. It was great fun.

We both absolutely loved our hour of archery. It was great fun and some gentle exercise for us both. I really enjoyed being outside in the fresh air. Spending an hour in the woods, quietly focusing on a target is a strange kind of mindfulness, but one I could easily get addicted to. We both said that we would love to go back, and that’s our intention later on in spring. We are both up for more archery adventures together!

Days Out: Adventure Now in Manchester

Adventure Now in Manchester offer a range of different outdoor adventure sessions. From axe throwing to archery; quad biking to air rifle shooting; throwing angels, crossbows and bushcraft; there’s something for every adventurous type!

For more information, visit their website.

We paid for our visit in full, I just wanted to tell you about it, because it was brilliant!

Days Out: Adventure Now in Manchester

Free Printable: Make your own Happy New Year Bunting

The period between Christmas and New Year can seem a bit flat. The kids can start climbing the walls and no amount of winter walks can fill the time. It’s a good time to plan some crafts. I have some New Year printables which I can pull out of the bag, or off the printer, but this printable Happy New Year bunting is 12 pages of fun colouring and crafting, which you can then use to decorate for New Year.

Free Printable: Make your own Happy New Year Bunting

Download the Happy New Year Bunting here!

New Year is usually a time for parties. We often get together with friends and their families over the New Year period, the kids love to sit and colour for hours. This Happy New Year bunting printable would be a fun way to occupy the family at New Year.

Just download them and print them out onto A4 paper. Colour them in however you like, you may have themed colours for your party, or you could let the kids go wild. You could add glitter, or stickers, or cover them in feathers, the only limit is your imagination!

Once they’re decorated how you’d like, cut them out carefully and fold over the flap at the top. Get a length of ribbon or string and using tape, thread the ribbon over the back and stick the flap down so it’s held in place on the ribbon.

Do the same with each one until you’ve spelled out H-A-P-P-Y-N-E-W-Y-E-A-R and then hang up your colourful bunting wherever you think best. But whatever you do, or wherever you hang your bunting, I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Download the Happy New Year Bunting here!

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Happy New Year Bunting