Teachers Homemade Gifts- Ice Cream Hamper

I’m not sure why it started but creating a hamper at Christmas and the end of year for the teaching team at school has become a bit of a thing.

At the end of the last school year we had fun creating a gardening themed gift, this year with the weather pretending we were going to experience a sun-filled summer we decided on an ice-cream themed hamper.Teachers Ice Cream HamperOne of the things I always struggle with is what to put our hampers in. As we make hampers for the LSAs and teachers, this for us totals 8 (and I hate to think what it will be next year with B & E going into separate classes!). Baskets tend to add to the expense, and yet aren’t what the gift is about. This year, coincidentally I bought the children a load of shoes in the Clarks’ sale and I decided to use them by covering the boxes in brown paper and getting the children to decorate them and lined with tissue paper. Perfectly individual and really, really low-cost.

We filled the hamper with:

  • Ice-cream sprinkles
  • Salted caramel sauce
  • Malteser Vodka
  • Ice-cream tubs
  • Ice-cream spoons
  • Napkins
  • Cocktail umbrellas

There were other things we could have included, such as ice-cream cones or an ice-cream scoop, or you could go with sundae glasses if you had more pennies to spend. As it was for us, the contents fitted perfectly in a shoe box, and we wrapped with cellophane as the lid wouldn’t fit.

I did change the presentation from the version above by separating the tubs and placing the sprinkles into the tub.Teachers Ice Cream Hamper GoodiesThe tubs, napkins, spoons and umbrellas all came from Dotcomgiftshop. The sprinkles were from Asda and Morrisons. I thought they’d look better (and cement the clue that there was an ice-cream theme!) putting them in cellophane bags (from The Works) and adding a topper which matched the tubs and napkins. I created them on Picmonkey and printed them as nine to a page of card which seemed to work. I then cut them folded in half and stapled them over the filled cellophane bag.Confetti ice-cream hamper printableFor the home-made gifts I must admit to finding convenience this year over previous experiments.

Both the vodka and caramel sauce were presented in jars which needed sterilising. 

I sterilised them by washing in hot, soapy water, rinsing, and them placing in an oven, fan heated at 120 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.For the Malteser Vodka I added 70g of maltesers per 100mls of vodka and mixed in a Nutribullet until blended. You do need to do this a few days in advance and shake every day as it’s really about the maltesers melting into the vodka. Using the Nutribullet takes the stress out of the process with (according to Mr J) delicious results.
Teachers Ice Cream toppersThis year I decided to try making the caramel sauce using a slow cooker. The results definitely worked but were a little trial and error.

The best way was to put baking paper in the bottom of the slow cooker, put tins of condensed milk on top, fill with water until the tins are covered. Either put the slow cooker on low for 18 hours or on high for 10 hours. 

Take out of the water and leave until completely cool. Open the tin and fold in sea salt to taste.

Fill up the jars and seal shut.


And they were hopefully well received and consumed!

Good coffee at Academy Espresso Bar – Barry

I function on coffee. I wish it weren’t true. I’m weak like that.
Although I guess it’s another sign that I’m getting old that I drink herbal tea in the afternoon, more than ever appreciating the effect of caffeine.
But good coffee, well, it’s a holy grail.
So discovering a new place locally that meets the brief. It deserves a little happy dance (no doubt caffeine induced).Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeBarry’s pumping station has seen a complete overhaul, and now features Academy Espresso Bar. Within this grade II listed building, the decor of the place instantly makes me feel happy.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeWith the kind of leather armchairs I always imagined having in my home thanks to Carrie Bradshaw, the industrial flooring not only is in keeping with the design but also serves an additional function, in making the place very pooch friendly.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeIt’s also very parent friendly, I had to recite “do not approach the mum of twins” over and over as I people-watched so many parents enjoying a bit of time in these gorgeous surroundings.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good Coffee Because as you sit, you are able to take the time to breathe it all in.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeThese features which only serve to make you happy.
Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good Coffee And I have never tasted an almond croissant quite as delicious.Latte & Almond Croissant With coffee which more than stands up to the mark.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good Coffee And great company, of course.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeNow, I just need to find out if there’s wi-fi. 

And if they’ll put up with me working there every once in a while*.

(*Which probably means at least once a week).


Jamie’s Italian Super Lunch Menu Review

When the sun is shining and you get to spend time with friends and/ or family, I’d have to say I enjoy nothing more than sitting down with good food and drinks to while away some time. And this week I got to spend some time with my best girls at Jamie’s Italian in Cardiff to enjoy the super lunch menu.Jamie's Italian CardiffWe really couldn’t have planned it better to take advantage of the half term good weather, and we were able to enjoy watching the world go by as we dined on The Hayes in Cardiff. And whilst it couldn’t have been more perfect for four women and a baby, I couldn’t help but think eating inside or out, the atmosphere created really works.Jamie's Italian CardiffWith enough time to while away the afternoon we managed to get through the three courses of the Super Lunch Menu. Available between 12.00-18.00 Monday to Friday, and priced £10.95 for two courses or £12.95 for three, it really does offer value for money, especially in the city centre. 

For starters we went for the Fritto Misto and Pâté Bruschetta. As a huge lover of fish (and mocked in work for my tendency to always go for squid in restaurants), the Fritto Misto was perfect, the garlic and lemon aioli was a great accompaniment and the batter was so light it didn’t overwhelm or over-faze. Jamie's Italian Fritto MistoThe Pâté Bruschetta was picture perfect, with pancetta, vin santo & Parmesan it didn’t last long. Jamie's Italian Pate BruschettaFor mains we went with Spaghetti Primavera and the Superfood Salad. Jamie's Italian Spaghetti PrimaveraThe superfood salad featured roasted beets, fennel, quinoa, black rice, curly kale, sprouting broccoli and  pomegranate and was perfect and similar to the favourite salads I pick up on lunch breaks when working away. It was accompanied with avocado and spicy harissa & creamy cottage cheese, at this point I wished I had read the menu more closely, I don’t do spicy and wished I had the foresight to have requested it without the harissa, as it was one of those things I kept eating because it was delicious… as my senses streamed.Jamie's Italian Super Food SaladIt’s fair to see we’re all dessert girls, and unlike our mains we ended up selecting one of each from the menu: chocolate orange cheesecake (Brownies were off, but it was great to have an alternative option offered); orange blossom polenta cake; strawberries and frozen yoghurt; and chocolate ice-cream with berry compote and smashed honeycomb.
And they were, of course, absolutely lush.Jamie's Italian Chocolate Orange Cheesecake Jamie's Italian Chocolate Ice-cream, Berry Compote, Smashed Honeycomb Jamie's Italian Strawberries & Frozen Yoghurt Jamie's Italian Orange Blossom Polenta CakeThe three courses were delicious, more than filling, they definitely offered value for money. The service was prompt without being overbearing, and as my latest bugbear in restaurants is how long it takes to pay, I was really impressed that from beginning to end there was no waiting around. The relaxed atmosphere of summer days was definitely achieved and enjoyed.

Disclosure: We were invited to try the Super Lunch Menu by Jamie’s Italian, Cardiff. All views and opinions contained are our own.

Siblings – May 2016

I’m sharing my Siblings post with a hint of pride in them, especially, but also this time in my improving skills behind the camera.

My new camera arrived last week, my 30th birthday present from hubby.
All of the photography skills I learned from Sara-Jayne were brought to the fore, as I took the photographs I had wanted to take for years.
After so long seeing siblings in fields of yellow.

It will be a long time before I am happy with my photographs, the same problem I had with my Theatre Studies A-Level, the more you learn the more you critique.

But, oh, the fields of yellow.
And these three.

I am learning.

There’s no point in asking these three to look at a camera- no amount of requests for chants of rude words will achieve that.

Ask them to show affection.

That’s what mine were made for.Siblings May 2016 Siblings May 2016 Siblings May 2016

The Me and Mine Project

Lego Dream House Competition

Well, I missed up entirely on this one according to CM, problems with a memory card means these couldn’t be shared in time for the Ocean Finance Lego Dream Homes Competition.
But CM was so excited about her creation, and to be honest so was I, that I agreed that I’d still share it.
CM is very excited about the prospect of moving house, albeit it’s not going to be on the agenda until I have a bit more job security, but since new homes started popping up around the corner from us, there’s been much interest in how homes are built.
CM started off as a good architect should, with a plan of what her home essentials would be.Lego house creationShe set to build, using predominantly the Lego from her Disney Castle and Friends collections, as they had the “colour range” she was seeking- I think this meant the flowers and diamonds. Lego house creationShe wasn’t happy that we didn’t have windows on the front, so tried to find a window which would mean the side of the house could be one big window, whilst we didn’t manage that, we did find a window over the side of the house, which also meant B & E could have their way in adding a ladder straight up to the roof. Lego house creationThe interiors were where CM’s imagination really came into play, the essentials of a bed, and a sofa, and a table to eat and drink. Lego house creationAnd when it came to the roof, well, CM’s logic really did beat mine. She decided she wanted a swimming pool roof. So, the blue roof was chosen, and a tap.
But then CM realised there wasn’t a desk for her to do her drawings on, and as it wouldn’t fit in the house, it went on the roof. I questioned the practicality of this. But it seemed what would be wrong with your feet getting wet once you started work? And, showing due consideration, a bag was added “So things don’t need to go on the floor like they do in your office mummy.”
Lego house creation

And so, this is CM’s dream house- functional, practical and full of colour.

Disclosure: We were sent a Lego Creative Building Box to enable this creation.

Smoothies – preparing in advance for a healthy week

If you follow my instagram account you’ll know I’m trying to improve my diet by introducing smoothies and overnight oats each day, focusing on my evening meal as predominately vegetables as the main element, with meat as a side.

I am trying to lose weight, but more importantly I’m trying to have a better diet, making choices which don’t feel like I’m going without, but supplementing with better choices.

One of the main difficulties is that chocolate keeps forever and my fruit and vegetables don’t, but rather than admit defeat I decided to look at different options.

With my overnight oats, the introduction of frozen berries has meant I’m never without my fruit topping, a pint of milk and a pot of no-fat yoghurt can last the week, and I can make my pots up in advance if I’m feeling organised.

Smoothies required a bit more thought, attractive looking smoothies are always welcomed by the little people, but I wanted to introduce good foods to my diet, so I’ve opted for the following ratios:

2 cups leafy greens

3 cups fruit

2 cups liquid

And used the equivalent of 50g/ 100mls = 1 cup, which is just my approach and does create a great mix.

The benefit of planning in this way is that you can stock up your freezer to ensure you have smoothies for the week and you won’t find any fruits or leaves which can only become waste.

As smoothies taste better a bit colder, by freezing the ingredients there’s no need to add ice.

Freezing ingredients for smoothies

The recipe below shows some of the variations I’ve been enjoying:

Healthy Smoothies
Serves 1
An options approach to smoothies
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 100g of leaves, such as spinach or kale
  2. 3x 50g of fruit, such as raspberries, strawberries, mango, pineapple, blueberries, and as equivalents, 1/2 banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 kiwi fruit.
  3. 200mls liquid, such as water, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, coconut water, yoghurt.
  4. As a meal supplement add either 50g oats or a spoonful of protein powder or nut butter.
  5. For added nutrition add a tablespoon of chia seeds or flax seeds.
  6. For added taste add cacao powder, cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla to taste.
  1. Add 1/2 frozen ingredients and liquid and blend until smooth.
  2. Add remain frozen ingredients and blend.
  3. Add dry ingredients to taste.
An Organised Mess http://anorganisedmess.com/


Bring Back Paper #PaperyPeep

This month, I thought I’d do a bit of an update on my office, only because I unexpectedly had some wonderful things to add to it as part of Capture by Lucy‘s #Summertimesurpriseproject

So here goes:

What I’m Reading

Please wish me luck for this month, after soooo many good months of reading fab books I seem to have fit a wall. After finishing The Rosie Effect at the end of last month, I decided to buy ‘Us’ by David Nicholl as I had heard such good things, and I’m finding it really difficult to get into, and then I read even more great reviews, so I called it a day, and picked up Jodi Picoult’s ‘Leaving Time’ as I’ve never not loved a book by this author, and I took it as a sign as I picked it up from Paddington Station as I really wanted to read a good book, and I got home and hubby had also bought it for me, knowing I’d love it. And I took it on holiday with us, and really struggled, falling asleep more often than not whilst reading it…. I’m gutted, as I was so enjoying reading again.

So, for my train journey tomorrow I’ve packed Caitlin Moran’s newest book, even though I’ve read some bad reviews of it, I’m hoping maybe this will keep my focus.

What I’m Creating

This month has been mainly spent focused on teacher’s gifts, which I’m hoping to write a post about as it was a lot of fun, at the end of the month the #SummerTimeSurpriseProject happened, and I was fortunate enough to be buddied up with Sian from The Mama Story, and was over the moon with the fantastic packages which arrived, they definitely added much needed summer to our rain drenched world.


I’ve been decorating the office over recent months, and a little task avoidance at work along with these lovely additions inspired me to finally hang my prints- I really hadn’t been looking forward to trying to get them lined up on the wall, and even though they’re not perfect, I did it myself- as well as give the print from Blogtacular pride of place. I also updated my pegboard with our summer plans, to remind me whilst I’m sat working what it’s all for.

Happy office prints Peg Board

So, please wish me sunshine and good books for the forthcoming month!

The Reading Residence

Afternoon Tea at Park House, Cardiff

Park House, Cardiff is a wonderful property on Park Place, probably one of my favourite areas of Cardiff, the civic centre and where I went to university.
Park House was built in 1874 by the Marquess of Bute and designed by William Burges, the architect of the renewed Castell Coch, the building is now Grade 1 listed and described by Cadw as ‘perhaps the most important 19th century house in Wales.’

Now renowned for its Michelin-star consultant, a perfect wedding venue, a member-style restaurant, our afternoon tea started with the “should we/ shouldn’t we” dilemma when faced with a sign reading “ring this bell”. The venue is the perfect ‘treat’ offering a personal experience. The House is split across a number of floors offering something special, and a little different, on each.

We went up to the second floor where we had been second guessed and given two very comfortable sofas to enjoy our afternoon tea. Perfect because, whilst we love the ritual of the tea, it is of course the perfect excuse for us each to commit to leaving home and work to have a proper catch up.

We chose Park House simply because of an offer found on Amazon Local, coincidence would have it that some very exciting news in the meanwhile meant this very special location was the perfect venue to celebrate an engagement and begin interrogating wedding plans.
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffWhilst there is the real chance that the good mood tinted impressions I might bravely say this Afternoon Tea was the best I’ve ever enjoyed. Usually I don’t manage to make it through the entire selection but this time the pace and almost lightness of the scones and sweets meant the task was accomplished.

The tea was a more limited selection than others offer, and I was a little disappointed that there was no citrus or fruit infused tea but going with the recommendation of Lapsang was a great surprise. As smoky as the description it was really enjoyable and has taken me off my beaten track which can only be a good thing.

The sandwiches included cucumber, roast ham, smoked salmon and cheese & chutney. Obviously I am sure they had much better descriptors but oddly the website does not have this season’s menu on so you’ll have to believe me when I say they were good.

It was however the cakes which were something to write home about.
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffThe scones were deliciously light and the perfect ‘middle course’.
Where to begin with the sweet treats!
Well, you will need to tolerate my lack of memory as to what they were but…
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffWow!
That little puff pastry with cream. So the most deceptive thing on the plate. I started with it as it looked a bit boring.
Potentially my descriptions will now likely contain an overuse of the word ‘lush’.
It was lush.
A vanilla infused sweetness with a thin pastry which just oodled deliciousness.
My favourite would be the macaroon with a raspberry overtone but the most perfect hint of rose-water to make it something special.
My least favourite (but only because the others were too lush) was the pistachio based slice, it was good and lovely to admire but overall the base overwhelmed it for me.
And the perfect pick-me-up was the coffee, chocolate and cream slice. Perfectly balanced in flavours, the kick of coffee gave it an extra something.
Afternoon Tea at Park House, CardiffBeing blissfully ignorant where fine dining is concerned, the balance and variety of flavours were absolutely perfect.
And maybe it was the glass of bubbles which had to accompany our Afternoon Tea (purely for celebratory purposes), the laughter and good company, but I didn’t really want to leave.
Park House is now on my list of places to return, definitely for Afternoon Tea but also to explore the other floors and menus on offer.

Afterschool Smoothies

Since starting my latest ‘fad’ of smoothies the little people are eager to join in. 

It seems even they have their boundaries, and drinking anything green is it.

After attempting to just throw milk and strawberries in the blender also resulted in their upturned noses, I’ve honed this treat, which now the summer holidays have dawned now makes a perfect ‘Elevenses’.

Strawberry & Banana Smoothie
Yields 4
Perfect for after-school treats and getting good foods into diets
Write a review
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
  1. 300mls milk
  2. 2 tbsps natural yoghurt
  3. 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  4. 1 banana, sliced
  5. 8 strawberries
  1. Measure ingredients into blender.
  2. Blitz.
  3. Serve.
  1. For breakfast smoothies, add 1 tbsp of oats.
  2. For a little extra, add 2tsps of chia seeds.
An Organised Mess http://anorganisedmess.com/

Bring Back Paper

Like my last Bring Back Paper post, this is two months worth of an update. I really should get better at this, but last month I realised I hadn’t been reading that much, needless to say I’ve gone a little over the top in making up for it.

What I’m reading

Bring Back Paper

I seem to be continuing my spate of choosing good books, wanting to reach the end of the story is such a good feeling, there is nothing worse than not wanting to carry on reading a book (and I’m guessing no-one wants to hear that about the book they’ve spent time writing either!).

I’ve managed to make my way through ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’, ‘The Minaturist’, ‘The Husband’s Secret’, ‘The Rosie Project’ and I’ve just moved on to ‘The Rosie Effect’. And oddly, if nothing else if was a great order to read these books in (obviously the best way to read the two Rosie books).

I have really enjoyed all of these books, especially as they were more random purchases as for years I have just stayed with authors I know and love. Of them all I think ‘The Rosie Project’ is the one I’d recommend, it was the only I really couldn’t put down, laughed out loud throughout and loved the way it was written.

I’ve now run out of books, so don’t really want to finish ‘The Rosie Effect’ so am trying to pace myself. Fortunately this week I don’t have any train journeys so I should be ok. But please… recommendations on what I should be reading would be very much welcome!

What I’m scribbling over

Blogtacular introduced me to a fantastic planner from Lollipop Designs. I’ve been loving their wall planner and weekly planner which have been fully incorporated in my day-to-day, the idea of a planner to carry around with me is something I’m quite excited by and enjoying trialling out the prototype which was part of our goody bag.

Lollipop Designs Planner

What I’ve made

Creativity this month has taken a pause as our home gets a lot of love as we prepare to put it on the market. This has meant my office is finally beginning to feel like a great space to work- oh the irony of having to start this over again. I now have floor space thanks to a new storage unit, and I am loving finally getting my pegboard on the wall which now features another goody bag favourite from Blogtacular.

Home office decor


The Reading Residence