This post is going to be a little bit tricky to write.

It is supposed to be showing off all the bargains I picked up on my latest visit to 99p Stores, but I made a bit of a tactical error in planning my shopping. In fact it would be fair to say I have been a little bit stupid.

Not as stupid as when I left all our passports, my purse and our Eurostar tickets in the bedside table after checking out of our Disneyland hotel last weekend, but still pretty silly.

99p Stores, I thought to myself, would be a brilliant place to pick up some presents for Christmas. Stocking fillers, chocolates, arts and craft things for Belle’s friends, that sort of thing. Seriously, 99p Stores is a virtual Aladdin’s cave of stocking fillers.

So far so good.

Off I went, filling my basket with all manner of toiletries, pen sets and festive sweeties. Father Christmas would have been so proud. We had £50 to spend, which sounds like an awful lot of money when everything is 99p, but when you’re shopping for Christmas it’s easy to get carried away.

There was loads to choose from, and we even picked Belle up a 99p chocolate advent calendar. Bargain.

Still sounds OK doesn’t it?

So then I get everything home, and start arranging it all on the kitchen table to take some photos to show everyone what I bought.

Ah.

Then it dawned on me. All the people I had bought things for read my blog.

D’oh!

I felt rather silly.

So, all you can have I’m afraid is this picture of Belle’s calendar.

"Disney Princess advent calendar"

You’ll just have to use your imagination for the other £49.01…

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Is it OK to have cake for breakfast? I’m not sure, but I just did it anyway, because I’m a grown-up and I can.

"Cake for breakfast"

Ha!

The cake in question was the Whitworths’ ‘Scrummy Ginger and Pear Cake with Toffee Sauce’. I made it last night, so if tomorrow you want to be having cake for breakfast, here’s what you need to do:

Ingredients

  • 150g ready to eat dates
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g Whitworths for baking fine caster sugar
  • 50g Whitworths for baking dark soft brown sugar
  • 125g butter at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm pieces

For the toffee sauce:

  • 100g Whitworths for baking light soft brown sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 150ml double cream
  • Whitworths for baking twist and sprinkle icing sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Line a round 22cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper. (Or if like me you realise you don’t have any, greasing the pan and then covering it with flour works well.)

Coarsley chop the dates, place in a heatproof bowl and add the boiling water and bicarbonate of soda. Set aside to cool and then coarsley mash with a fork.

Beat the caster sugar and dark soft brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until pale and creamy. NB This takes longer if you can only find one of the whisks:

"Pear and ginger cake"

Add the egg and continue to beat for one minute.

Sift the flour and ground ginger into the bowl with the date mixture and pears. Using a large metal spoon fold until well-combined.

"Pear and ginger cake"

Pour into the tin and bake for one hour ten minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 50 minutes and if the top is browning too quickly cover with a piece of foil and continue to cook.

"Pear and ginger cake"

For the toffee sauce:

Place the cream, light soft brown sugar and butter into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve the warm cake with a drizzle of toffee sauce and decorate with icing sugar. Or simply on a plate with a cup of tea at 9am.

Delicious!

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This is my 500th post.

I know right? Five hundred posts. That’s got to be at least 150,000 words, quite a lot of them a little on the dull side and many of them saying things like ‘I know right?’ and ‘So anyway…’

So anyway…

I thought it might be apt to make this birthday type post the post I use to tell you about our trip to Disneyland Paris, where they are currently celebrating their 20th birthday. We visited as guests of Disney, along with four other lovely bloggers –  Pippa, Sian, Rosie and Sophie – and were treated to an advance screening of the fantastic new Disney film, Wreck it Ralph, out in the UK in February.

We also got to stay in the Disney hotel, the one right by the park gates where Mickey casually strolls around the corridors. It was certainly different from when we went last year and stayed in the Santa Fe barracks.

Last weekend also happened to be the weekend that Disney were officially launching Christmas, so there was the odd bauble here and there, and I think I may have heard one or two Christmas songs quietly playing from time to time.* Fortunately I LOVE Christmas, so I was quite happy to have ‘Dashing Through The Snow’ stuck in my head for days.

We had such a wonderful time that I thought I’d sum it up in photos. A picture is worth a thousand words after all…

"Disneyland Paris rides"

Our favourite Disneyland Paris sign – ‘No doing the night fever dance on this ride’

"The Tower of Terror"

About to take a ride on the service elevator of DOOOOMMMMM!!!!

"Monsters Inc"

Belle is confirmed as officially loud.

"Disneyland Paris"

Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris!

"Lollipops"

Edible lolly table centrepieces

"Wreck it Ralph"

The Wreck it Ralph car made of sweeties

"Disneyland Paris"

Belle watching the after hours laser show

"Woody"

Bye bye!

*Massive understatement

Find out more by following Disney on Facebook or You Tube.

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One of the things I love most about blogging is all the weird and wonderful events you get to go to, and the people you meet.

If it hadn’t been for Total Greek Yogurt dance class I went to for instance, I would never have met Laura Thomas, a lovely lady who has just very bravely begun a sabbatical from work to dedicate herself to her blog, Happy Sugar Habits.

Here we are, learning to tango:

"Tangoing with Happy Sugar Habits"

Today then, Laura has come over to Slummy single mummy to offer her top three simple tips for reducing your sugar intake, something I could definitely benefit from, as evident from the number of yogurt inspired muffins and flapjacks I scoffed after the dance class.

Please make her feel welcome, and if you have any tips of your own, please do feel free to add them.

Three painless ways to keep sugar in check

Ok we know sugar isn’t amazing for us but we’re not ready to go cold turkey just yet, especially with Christmas round the corner.

Unfortunately the hard facts are we’re eating too much and it’s a little bit addictive. However, it’s not all doom and banish the cupcake gloom, because there are some relatively easy ways to kick-start some happier sugar habits with minimal pain. Read on and get savvy…

1)      Suss out the lower sugar alternatives of your favourite foodstuffs.

OK so you love cereal and yoghurt for breakfast and there are times when a jar of tomato pasta sauce just sorts a quick family meal out in a rush.  The sugar in these products can vary significantly – like some manufacturers just chuck it in for fun I swear. Test and try a few till you find the lowest sugar variety you can live with.

I’ve done the standing-in-the-isle-looking-a-bit-obsessed research on cereals and yoghurts to find the low sugar sinners and saints. Tomato pasta sauce is next on my hit list – watch out Mr Grossman.

2)      Swap dried fruit for fresh

Whilst better than the Haribo, dried fruit is a bit of a killer in terms of sugar content, so opt for fresh wherever possible or even nuts as an alternative snack.

If dried fruit is fancy of the day, limit your portion and brush your teeth afterwards as it sticks to the pearly whites just as bad as a chocolate éclair.  Oh and try to siphon a few raisins out of the muesli bowl and replace with nuts – sorted 😉

A few more quick tips for reducing your sugar intake with fruit in general can be found at Happy Sugar Habits.

3)      Avoid main meals with sugar

I know that honey glazed parsnips are to die for, but in general, when eating out and about, try to avoid main courses that are made or contain added sugar. We’re talking things like honey glazed chicken, Thai food and processed supermarket fare. Making your own Thai, asking for a sauce on the side or in fact going for the steak might just save you some of your valuable sugar quota to use elsewhere.

Note: preferably not on a cheesecake…

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They say a change is as good as a rest, but when it comes to taking kids on holiday, I’m not so sure.

First off, there is all the stuff. For small people they certainly have a lot of luggage don’t they? Why is it that a baby a tenth of the size of a full-grown adult needs ten times as much paraphernalia? Then of course there’s the travelling, the disrupted routines, the squabbles over strange beds and food. You begin to wonder if it’s really all worth the effort.

One option, particularly when your kids are small, is to go for something targeted particularly at families with children – family breaks with plenty of useful extras laid on to make your holiday as stress free as possible – somewhere like Best Western Hotels.

Now I must admit that until now, I’d always imagined Best Western Hotels as one of those bland motorway service station type chains, but it turns out I couldn’t be more wrong – they have great hotel deals for everyone, whether you’re looking for a smart city break or an indulgent weekend in the country.

"BEST WESTERN Park Hall Hotel"

BEST WESTERN Park Hall Hotel

Best of all is their new Kids Club. If you’ve got kids aged between 6 – 10, they can sign up for their membership pack, including their own magazine, full of puzzles and stories, sticker book, membership card, luggage tag and a birthday card every year. Each hotel has plenty to keep kids entertained too – from horrible hotel histories to suits of armour, ramparts and dungeons to explore.

Maybe with Best Western a change really is as good as a rest…

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