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Happy Halloween from Scottish Mum and the Co-op

I always do a post on Halloween, though it’s not always about foodie things, although this year it is.  To help me out, the Co-op sent in a box of goodies, to make Halloween go with a bit of a bang, or rather, a bit of a sugar sweet high, but that’s what Halloween is all about – right?


I actually quite like the night itself.  One thing about having a special needs boy, is that he always wants to dress up and knock on doors, even though he’s the same height as me.  I try to find some accommodating person, who’s got a little one or two with them, and tag along, so people think we’re part of that group.  Method in the madness on my part, but stops him being pretty much looked at as if he’s got two heads when he recites his joke, or even forgets it and stands there doing nothing but shifting from foot to foot.  He flashes a great big smile, and those who’re just wanting him off the doorstep, hand out the sweetie bowl, then he goes away, happy as a lark.  Some people look bewildered when we walk away, but most twig pretty quickly when he tells his joke.

We only go to houses with a pumpkin outside.  That is telling the world that you’re in on it, and it’s ok to knock on the door.  I don’t know how people do it in different areas, but around here, it works pretty well.

A few years ago, we put our pumpkin outside when I was ill and nobody could take middler.  The poor kid stood at the door with his tub of sweeties and nobody came.  We usually have loads of people.

After a while, we looked out to where our pumpkin was, as it was out of sight of our window, and the wind had blown it out.  We quickly ran to the end of our street, and handed out the sweeties to everyone that passed by in costume.  Cue one happy boy after all, as I sneezed, snorted and coughed my way through a freezing winter night.  This year, I think it’s going to be pretty warm, so kids taking part will have a ball.

In our house, we have plenty goodies to set us up right.

The co-op food magazine has some pages with quick halloween hacks we can do, to make tables look spectacular.  I’ve had a very bad week, so it was nice this afternoon, to make some goodies with middler.

We’ll use the rest up for tomorrow night, but for tonight, we made the Benjamin Bones tray of brownies, with a co-op pumpkin lollipop at one end and arranged the Co-op mallow bones on top to make the skeleton.  I tend not to like marshamallow, but the ones with jelly in the middle are actually ok.


It was pretty simple actually, and quite easy to do with a standard brownie pack and some marshmallows.  I like the style of whoever thought it up.  All we had to do, was put the brownie mix into the mixing bowl, crack two eggs in, and 150ml vegetable oil.  I had some coconut oil in the fridge, which did very nicely indeed.  I’m quite surprised how well the coconut chocolate brownie turned out.  Very much moreish.

I had a go at the Scary Worms, which was simply to make up some jelly, pop it in a tall glass and let it cool, then add some double cream.  Then pop straws into the glass and let them set, before squeezing out the jelly, to make little worms.  I used them to decorate the top of our Spooky jelly bowls, which was pretty popular, with 2 layers of jelly, squirty cream, and the worms on top.



co-op-food-magazineFor all of you going out Trick or Treating, or as we know it up here, ‘Guising,’ stay safe, make sure you know how to get home, and have a great time.  Tomorrow we’ll be making Zombie eggheads and Terrifying tortillas, but I’ll need to head to my local co-op to get some Tortilla wraps, or I’d have made those today.

Thanks to the co-op for our lovely box of treats to make Halloween go with a spectacular spooky bang in the Scottish Mum household.


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Review: Captain America Nerf Slide Blast Armour, Magnetic Shield & Gauntlet

This is a great wee duo. Captain America is possible for two to play….

One child can happily wear the magnetic shield and gauntlet, allowing them to fend off the foam darts of the Nerf Slide Blast Armour when they comes flying toward them.


Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the youngest ones who began to play with this initially….  Scottish Dad and the oldest teen got their hands on the goods first, and decided to have a good old shoot out.  It was pretty cool to see to big strapping lads play like little kids again……

The man did have a little trouble fitting the Nerf Slide Blast Armour onto his hand, but with careful shuggling, he managed just fine.

I’ve got three boys, and two nephews, so Nerf products are always well received in our house.  I don’t think age is a barrier to enjoying these.  At my sister in law’s house a couple of weeks ago, the kids, and by kids, I mean the grown up men, as well as the kids, ran about with Nerf guns, whacking the bullets off each other.

Even mum was able to get a few choice shots in with one of the rapid fire guns…..  Who says Nerf is just for pre-teens?


For ages 6-10 (plus all grown ups).

These toys are great for all good superhero fans…..

Toysrus Hasbro Captain America Civil War Iron Man Slide Blast Armour.
The Nerf Iron Man Slide Blast Armour toy is from the Captain America film, and a 2  year old even enjoyed himself with the armour here.   The armour covers almost the whole arm of a child, clipping over the arm.  You pull the trigger, hold down one button and then press the other to release the darts, which go a good few feet before falling gracefully to the ground if the miss their target.  The fire action isn’t hugely powerful, so they landed without causing damage here, although they did end up being fired towards the ceiling on occasion.

Toysrus Hasbro Captain America Civil War Shield and Gauntlet.
The shield and gauntlet is in two pieces.  One piece goes on the arm, and the shield part snaps onto the gauntlet fairly firmly.  I like how the shield comes off if a little one gets caught in a door etc, as the magnet releases.   It’s fairly tough stuff, and kids can pop on and remove the shield without having to remove the arm gauntlet all the time.  We did initially have an issue with the shield falling off easily, but found we hadn’t put it on right in the first place.

The descriptions tell us the shield can be thrown just like Captain America does.  We found it tricky to get it to work like a frisbee, but it was easy to pull off and throw.  I wouldn’t recommend trying to throw the shield back onto the gauntlet

With these toys, kids can role play as characters from the film.  All they need to do, is snap on their goods and save the world at home, by pretending to be one of the best super heros ever imagines, blasting into fabulous imaginative play, which is always good for kids.

If only we could invent super powers to finish the complete package…..

Where to buy.

Available from all good toy stores, including Toysrus and Amazon.  As of 12 October, 2016, the Shield is currently on offer at £11.99, with the Slide Blast Armour at £19.99.

(Affiliate Links)

Disclaimer:  Thanks to Hasbro for the Captain America Nerf Slide Blast Armour, Magnetic Shield and Gauntlet, which we received free of charge to test as part of the Toy Tribe.  All opinions are our own.

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Furby Connect – Stick it on your Xmas list.

furby-4Yep, Furby’s are back, and they’re jazzily souped up for this year.  I know, raising the Xmas or Christmas as a subject has most people throwing their hands up in horror.

“But it’s October, go away,” I hear you all say in the back of my skull, as I chatter away with our most recent review toy.

Furby’s are now hi-tech, with lots of key features that change this to a far more interactive toy than any previous versions of the plush pal.  I’m way too old to have had an original Furby, so this has been all new to me – completely…..  Who knew how addictive these things really are?  I spent about ten minutes giggling my head off when I switched it on. I’m easily pleased…..


Furby Plays Without The App

I woke Furby, and he said, “I’m so hungry, why you no feed me,” or something like that.  And when I stopped speaking to Furby, it started whistling at me….  Then asked for “meatballs,” and “Gimme gimme.”

furby-2All we need to do with Furby out of the box, is tickle him, shake him, or pet the fur.

At one point, Furby asked us to turn him upside down. When middler did, he came out with “bat furby.”  I don’t know who laughed the most.  Me or the boy…..  There are around 150 expressive animations, which work by the LCD eyes, ears and the light-up antenna, which we can press, and sometimes Furby sings….

Furby goes through a range of emotions and mood changes.  He can be happy, sad, scared or excited, and they’re all amazing to watch.

There’s a sleep mask included, so now Furby sleeps all night long.  I’ve heard stories from others, who’ve woken up Furby Booms and not been able to get them to sleep afterwards.  Furby is pretty easy to wake up, and the eyes are amazing.  Flickering through different emotions and images, they’re super cute.  I love the heart one, and as much as I tried to capture it for the blog, I never seemed to click my shutter fast enough to show you.

Middler was too shy to let me take a picture, so you’ll have to put up with me…  On the other hand, he’s had Bee-Boo on and yakking for the last six hours, so I  might have to put Furby to sleep before he goes to bed, or I imagine Bee-Boo will be singing all night long…..

furby-1    furby-sm

Furby Connect World App

Connecting our Furby to the Furby Connect World was really easy.  Make sure Bluetooth is switched to “on” for your gadget.  Open the app, switch on Furby and the screen guides you through furby-3connecting until Furby announces it, and lets you choose a name…. We named our Furby Bee-Boo, or Strong Beak.

With the app, Furby knows which time of year it is, so even on Valentines or Xmas, your Furby has a world of surprises for you.  In the app, you can collect eggs and baby furblings, feed your Furby, and even take him to the toilet.  When something new is downloaded to your Furby, his antennae will flash.  Press it, and you’ll hear what the download is.

It’s important to realise that anyone can play the Furby Connect World app.  You don’t need a Furby to play, although you’d get so much more fun out of watching your Furby Connect interact as you flick through the activities, and watch videos with our Bee-Boo.  I am soooo looking forward to seeing my youngest nephew, who is 2, having fun with this toy….


Furby Connect is available in Pink, Purple, Blue, Turquoise.

Where To Buy

From all good toy stores.  I did a quick search and saw Furby Connect in ToysRUs, House of Fraser, Argos, Amazon, and Smyths.  I’m sure there are many more.  If you’re a Twitter friend, you can see the chat at hashtag #FurbyConnect, and find out what everyone is saying about their new furry friends.

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Disclaimer: Hasbro provided our Furby Connect free of charge, as part of the Toy Tribe.  All opinions are our own.

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Review: Wentworth Wooden Puzzles

My middle boy quite likes a puzzle or two, and although he struggles with much of life, sitting with someone to do a jigsaw is very satisfying for him, when it’s one he can cope with.

For my review, I chose a 50 piece puzzle rather than a larger one.  It’ one he is likely to be able to do for himself, with simply someone sitting beside him for a little support and guidance, and to give reassurance that he’s doing well.  Wentworth have all kinds of puzzles, for all kids, big and small….as well as their parents, grandparents, and anyone looking for a little distraction time.


Wentworth Wooden Puzzles are suitable for everyone.  The farm scene is something that he is passionate about.  Actually, anything digger, tractor and farm related has him a very happy boy indeed. And as anyone knows, pleasing a special needs teenager is never an easy thing to do.

Wentworth Puzzles come in a broad range, to cover everyone.  From art to animals, nature, nostaligia and dedicated children’s jigsaws.

Why Wentworth Puzzles

As a present, especially, they’re presented in a lovely box, with the puzzle pieces kept in a drawstring bag, which ensures they never get lost.  It’s so easy to lose one or two small pieces from a box once it gets tatty, or has been well used.


The puzzles are made in the UK from sustainable sources, and are 100% UK made.   On their website, you can even turn your own photo into a personalised puzzle.  Now that’s a great and unusual present for anyone.

Children’s Jigsaws

Jigsaws have benefits for school-aged kids, at any time of the year, but especially during school holidays, particularly when encouraging them to take a break from technology.   Mindfulness is the word Wentworth use, to explain the calming effect of a jigsaw puzzle on our moods.  So, if jigsaws are good for those who suffer from stress and anxiety, it makes sense to include one or two in your Xmas shopping baskets over the next few months.

These are especially good for children, as the thick wooden pieces mean the edges don’t get dog eared and ripped easily, which is always a good thing if you want to pass puzzles down to younger children or donate them when you’re finished.

And in case you’re already on the lookout for your Christmas Shopping, how about this Farmyard at Christmas for a lovely post Xmas day parent/child bonding session…

Image Courtesy of Wentworth Wooden Puzzles
Image Courtesy of Wentworth Wooden Puzzles

Find Wentworth at their website, or below on social media.

Disclaimer:  Thanks to Wentworth Puzzles for our review Puzzle.

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Me. Yes. In a Dress!

This is what happens when you ask a child who’s in a hurry to take some pix for you. Ever so arty, squint and wiggly, slightly sepia photos, but there was nobody else around to help, and as I don’t get the opportunity to dress up too often, I thought I’d share a part of my life….

lesley-4Wearing dressy clothes just isn’t usually on my radar, as I’m often uncomfortable in dresses.  For holidays, perhaps one or two, but when I go out at home, it’s usually with a pair of black trousers and a nice top.

This is the first new dress I’ve had for going out, for around oh, 15 years or so……  I do have a function coming up, and was on the looking for something I could wear, and then again to anything else in the next wee while.  I’ve still got a bit of weight to drop, but this dress will still fit, even if I go down a size.  It’s a bit like magic material in this one.

lesley-jd-dress-2From JD Williams, the lace detail dress is part of the Together range, and at £85, it’s a good price for an occasion dress. It’s part of their maxi dress lineup and there’s another one that I’m itching to get my hands on. I’ll have to wait a while for that one I think.

I changed the straps underneath for something more comfortable and supportive for me.  I’m not averse to changing something if it’ll be more practical for me.

lesley-shoesSo.  I’d had the dress in my wardrobe for a while, and had just been waiting for a pair of shoes to wear with it.

Finally, in Matalan, I found a bargain for £6 a couple of days ago, so although they’re not navy, they go fine, and I needed insoles for them.  I bought them too big, so I could put in nice squishy soft insoles.  I don’t do sore feet….

This could be the only time anyone sees a photo of me in a dress for going out in the UK this year.  I often wonder if I’m the only dress adverse person out there, but I’m sure there are many others, just like me.  I have to say a big thank you to JD Williams for persuading me that I could actually wear a dress over here in cold, wet and windy Scotland, and still be comfortable.

As for the shoes, I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to wear them for too long at a time.  On the night, I suspect I’ll be carrying a nice comfy pair of flatties with me, just in case…


Disclaimer: Thank you to JD Williams for providing the dress for my function.

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Skoog 2: Making Sweet Melodies

For the budding musician in all of us.

Imagine being a child, and then imagine being a child, or an adult, who can never learn to play their own music….  Then imagine being a child or an adult who not only can’t learn to play their own music, but also doesn’t have the manual dexterity to operate a keyboard, or press the tiny button on an app.  It’s a significantly difficult thing to even begin to imagine for most of us.

We all seem to enjoy and want to play music at some level, especially if we’re young, disabled, or even musically challenged, but how do we do it?  Sometimes, just listening isn’t enough, and music apps can be pretty challenging to learn, even for those of us who don’t struggle to read and write, or find it difficult to learn new things.

Skoog asked me to review their cube music box, which I think would be fabulous for schools, parents, clubs and music groups, and not just for those with special needs.  I can think of many hours over the years that all my boys would have spent with one of these if we’d had one.


The Skoog is an easy to play instrument for almost everyone, and I mean everyone who can reach out and touch.  With a special needs youngster, I am always on the lookout for things that are good fun and easy to use.  You don’t have to be musical, or know anything about pitch, scales, instruments or anything to use it.

Skoog says “The easy-to-play instrument for everyone.  Free the musician inside.”

I’d been looking forward to this one for a while, and rightly so.

How to use the Skoog

The Skoog is so very simple it’s incredible.  Just a little light pressure on the foam, and it activates perfectly.  For people who have no ability to apply pressure, it’s even adjustable, so that simply resting a hand on the Skoog should get it going.  The battery life is around 10 or so hours, and works within around 10 metres of the iPad, so they don’t need to be next to each other to work perfectly.

How does it work?

The Skoog has 5 big soft buttons, one on each side as a visual aid, and helps control the little cube.  The whole Skoog is touch sensitive though, even the area around the buttons, but just not the bottom that rests on your table or desk, or knee.

Setting up your Skoog

My version works via Bluetooth, but as our grown ups iPad is a second generation one, it doesn’t work as it’s so old, so we went to the PC to make the most of it initially, and hooked up ours via the cable rather than Bluetooth at the beginning.  I downloaded the Skoogmusic for PC direct from their website, knowing I could go to the app when one of my children actually gets off his iPad mini at some point.  It’s always nice to know that it’s accessible for those of us who are still on old school type machines too, but it’s far preferable to use the iPad for us.

With setting up, I was being extremely dim, when it’s actually pretty simple.

The Skoog is designed to be best used via Bluetooth I think.  Make sure your iPad is updated to the current software, and to get the best use out of it, install Garageband alongside it.  When the Skoog is charged, log onto the Skoog app from the Apple Store, press the button on the bottom of the Skoog to turn on the Bluetooth, and when you see the blue light flashing, use the app to connect your Skoog, not the general iPad settings.  When the Skoog is connected, the bluetooth light stays lit.

It’s compatible with iPads supporting bluetooth low energy.  This means iPad 3rd & 4th Generation, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini, mini 2, mini 3, iPad Pro + onwards.  Our old iPad 2 is not compatible.  Thankfully, we have an iPad mini, and we got it set up, when I updated to ios 9, but Garageband needed to be updated too, for the best effect.   Unfortunately, it’s not available for Android yet, but I’m sure if enough people ask for it, it’ll be considered.

The sound comes out of your iPad, and not the actual Skoog, which confused my middle child for a while.  It can connect via USB to PC or Apple Mac, but does need the accompanying software. I’d recommend going the iPad route.


Apps to Use with Skoog

How genious.  The Skoog lets you connect to apps to interact.  Hold onto your hat here.  It’s amazing and opens up a whole new world of things to do with your Skoog 2.

Skoog says:

Skoog can talk to any app that supports MIDI. Examples are Garageband, NOISE by Roli, Nanologue, Orphion and ThumbJam. It is also compatible with Network MIDI, which will allow you to connect your Skoog to apps on any compatible device via your WiFi network.

What did we think?

It’s fabulous.  When my kids were younger, they’d have spent endless hours popping the buttons on this, and my special needs boy is finding it incredibly easy to use.   I think any school would find this amazing when coupled with the Garageband app on an iPad, never mind what else it can do.  When I played music, it searched through the music to see if it could find a score for the song.  I haven’t had the time to play around with that yet to see how it works, but I’ll let the boys figure that one out.

My Final Thoughts and Where to Get Your Own Skoog 2

As a toy / music maker / sensory tool, it’s well thought out and does far more than I expected.   We’ve had ours a wee while now, and while they’re not cheap, retailing around £199, the value for money in this, far outweighs the price if it can be done for a school, kids group, or hospital.  It’s sturdy, and as it’s squishable, I imagine it’s hard to break.

I can’t even begin to say how good I think this is, especially for children who struggle to control the regular music apps for themselves.

We’re really just beginning to find out what this nifty little gadget can do, a couple of months after getting it, and it’s going to get a lot of use here.

Find out more at Skoogmusic.  You can buy it at the Apple store online or at Amazon.  Apple even have a new section for Accessible Accessories, which included the Skoog.  That’s brilliant recognition for this gadget.

Honestly, if you’re looking for a fabulous gadget to supplement a school music department, or you’re part of a parent teacher association, you don’t have to look further than this as an unputdownable teaching aid and sensory gadget.  Try and find somewhere that has one, and give it a go for yourself if you think your budget could stretch to one.  My middle boy tells me there’s one at his special school, which is really great news.

I did try to take my own video, but the ones from Skoog actually demonstrate this far more beautifully than I ever could.  We’re looking forward to many long years with our Skoog.

Disclaimer:  A very heartfelt thanks to the people at Skoog for providing us with our review Skoog 2.


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What’s the best soup maker machine for me? Kettle Style?

Ok, so I’m in the market for a new soup maker, but which is the best soup maker?  I make soups so often, that my kids should really go around with vegetable heads……  Since I’m going through all the options, I thought I’d share what I turned up with you all, and hope I can make my decision by the end.  I don’t know how to take reviews on websites, so I’m just comparing functions for what I could do with them, apart from making soup.

My current model is a Morphy Richards Soup Maker, with non stick coating, and saute function.  I have cherished my machine, but I’d also like a different option, and to keep my existing one as a spare or back up.  There may even be days, I use my old machine, alongside a new one, as quite often, I need more soup than a small machine can handle at once, and it would save me from making two batches back to back.

The drawbacks to a largish household, is massive food output……and I make so many soup maker recipes, that whichever machine I choose, has to stand up to a lot of use, and I mean a lot…  And these days, we don’t want just a blender that cooks soup.  We want to use it for other things.

There seems to be two styles available on the market.  The jug style, which I mostly use, and a blender style, which I have not had the pleasure of using yet.


Kettle Soupmakers (This post contains affiliate links, served as images.)

Morphy Richards    

The one I have currently is dependable, finishes soup pretty well, and is actually cheaper than when I bought mine.  It’s easily identified by the rounder handle on the top. I’ve had two of these in the last few years. The update to my Morphy, is the new version, with a slightly flatter handle, and is a bit more expensive.  Both versions seem identical to me.

  • Capacity 1.6 litres
  • Functions:  Saute
  • Soup Features: Smooth & Chunky
  • Additional Features: Juice & Blend
  • Pause: Yes

I can’t see what the difference is between the two styles, apart from the different lid, but I’d be happy for someone to enlighten me.  Some do come with a serrator blade, which others don’t, so I’d look out for one of those if I were buying Morphy Richards again.


  • Capacity 1.2 litres
  • Soup Features: Smooth & Chunky
  • Additional Features: Blend, Keep Warm and Easy Clean

Von Shef

The Von Shef by Domu UK, is one I had my eye on for a while, but am disappointed not to see a non stick coating on it.  It’s more like my very first first soup maker, but still a good price.

  • Capacity 1.6 litres
  • Soup Features: Smooth & Chunky
  • Additional Features: Blend


  • Capacity 1.6 litres
  • Soup Features: Smooth & Chunky
  • Additional Features: Simmer & Pulse


There is a Salter Soupmaker, but I can’t find a product image, so it’s a comparison only.

  • Capacity 1.6 litres
  • Soup Features: Smooth & Chunky
  • Additional Features: Blend & Clean


From these, my choice would be the Morphy Richards again.  You might have different needs, or not need the extra functions that I use, and can buy a cheaper model.  Before I decide, I’m off to look at the other styles.  Perhaps I’ll go for a whole new world of soupmaking, to compare with my kettle soup maker, rather than having two of the same one.

I think I’ll go and research the blender style now.  My heart slightly sank, as I was actually hoping I could find a slightly larger capacity soup maker, but it seems not.

I’ll share those too.

Happy Reading.


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Jealous Sweets. Vegan and Gluten Free.

Remember back to when you were a kid, unless you’re like me, and you can’t remember that far back…

Joking, but what were your favourite sweets?

I know when I think back a couple of decades, I used to like fizzy sherbet and all things face wrinkling.  I don’t know many people who didn’t.  I also have boys, for whom, the more sour the better when it comes to sweets, so trying the new Jealous Sweets seemed like a good idea.

Image Courtesy of Jealous Sweets

When I used to think of gluten free sweets, I tended to think of cardboard sweets with no taste. Thankfully, the advances in making confectionery over the years has improved to the point where it’s impossible to tell at all.

I was convinced I wouldn’t be tempted to eat any of them, as the sophisticated grown-up I’ve turned into wouldn’t like something so obviously childish!

So – I went for sours and fizzies, to make sure I didn’t.  Nope, that didn’t work.  The little pinky round sweeties that were sour beans, were my downfall.  I popped one into my mouth and then another, and yet another.  To the point where I boxed them back up and sent one of my boys packing, to hide them where I couldn’t find them….  I am diabetic after all…..although a little of what you fancy does no harm at all.


We tested Sour Beans, Tangy Worms and Fizzy Friends.


jealous-sweets-4Weirdly, we all liked a different one.  For me, it was the Sour Beans.  Middler and youngest preferred the Tangy Worms and the man liked Fizzy Friends.   When my middle boy tried the Sour Beans, he puckered his face up, but not with the Tangy Worms.  Go figure!!!!

The pretty boxes would make for great stocking fillers, and persuade adults to revisit their inner child.

About Jealous Sweets

The people from Jealous Sweets say:

Come and live the Jealous Life with us

The story begins with two university friends Imran and Taz. Both with respectable careers in the city, in chartered accounting and banking. They couldn’t deny the temptation to escape the city and do something that would make others jealous.

Armed with a belief in a life less boring, the pair created the Jealous brand – with a mission to create irresistibly enticing products and set out first to tantalise the tastebuds of adults around the world with their Jealous Sweets.


Colourful, tasty, and free from anything artificial, at around 170 calories for a 50g pack of sweets.    No artificial flavours or colours.  Gluten-Free, vegetarian, vegan and no alcohol.

Sweets come in 50g for £2.50 and 200g for £8.99 online.   They’re also sold, among others, in Claridge’s, Selfridges &Co and Harvey Nichols.

You can even buy them at Amazon. (Affiliate Search Box)


  • Yummy Bears
  • Tropical Wonder
  • Fruitilicious
  • Sour Beans
  • Tangy Worms
  • Fizzy Friends
  • Grizzly Bears

The sweets created by Jealous Sweets, are beautifully grown up.  The ones I liked were lip smackingly eye watering, but oh so good.

Great presents.

Disclaimer:  Thanks to Jealous Sweets for our samples.



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Can you do a whole week of shopping in Aldi?

As part of the new Facebook launch of Aldi in Scotland, they set me a lovely challenge.  At the moment, there are around 300 Scottish products in the stores up our way, so it’s a good choice for local food and Facebook is where you can ask any questions directly.

I wanted to write about the Aldi experience, as there was just so much choice on offer, but could I do a whole week of shopping in the one place?  I normally flit about between several shops, but I have gone to Aldi in the past.  It’s not that far away and has a big choice of food and necessities, but is it possible to do a whole week in one place?  I have to feed the equivalent of 6 adults, with three of them being teen boys.  They eat enough for two or three adults each, so we go through a lot of food, and often cheap fillers too, such as lentils and pulses etc.

I went in, armed with £100 of vouchers, to also cover necessities like washing up liquid etc etc, not just food.  I came out with a heaped trolley, that ended up as £119, but I’d added new bathroom scales, kitchen scales, a small wok, and a single egg pan, as well as a little stocking filler towards Christmas, so if I’d taken those out, my bill would have been under the £100, for everything we need for this week, and most of next week too.  We have a plot, which is furnishing us with lots of fruit and veg just now, so it was mostly cupboard things we needed.  I don’t buy terribly much in the way of frozen food, but there was loads of choice.

I was also resolved to try a lot of non branded goods.  I’ve done this for a while, but often reverted back to the brands, and although I used to shop at Aldi quite often, I’d got out of the habit.  I’m pleased to say, that with the amount of goodies I came home with, I’m kicking myself for not going so much recently, and I’m going to sort that out from now on.

One of the things I worried about, was getting my high protein yoghurt, but I found a Greek Style Fat Free version with over 7g protein per 100g, so I’m happy with that.


I must admit, I felt a wee bit sorry for my checkout assistant when I got to the till.  My trolley was heaving.

aldi-trolleyI started putting my stuff on the belt, and it just seemed to go on and on and on and on.  She asked if I wanted a hand, then came round to help me put it on the converyor belt, with a smile.

When I finally got it all through and back on my trolley, I did it as fast as I could, trying not to hold up the shoppers behind me.

My last experience with a competitor shop went badly, with the assistant huffing and puffing on me, and being quite sarcastic, but I didn’t have that in Aldi.  I wish all customer service assistants were as nice.

I asked to take her photo when we were finished, which gave her a bit of a surprise, but she took it all in her stride, and was still smiling when I left.  No doubt, she’ll be worried about where it ends up….  I forgot to tell her.

I half expected the trolley to be around £200+ with all I’d put in it, especially since I’d added the scales etc, but it was a lovely call to find it wasn’t anywhere near what I’d expected it to be.


As for what was in the shop.  Oodles of choice.  I think I actually like this.  I bought non branded crisps, washing liquid and fabric conditioner, non branded biscuits, bread, rowies, croissants, fruit, veg, some meat, and so much that I can’t quite believe I got this much for the money.  I had to put some of it on the shelf at the back of the room to get it all into the picture.  Much of all this will last us for much longer than a week, especially the staples like rice and pasta.  We use a lot of tinned fruit too, so I liked picking up the choices to try a few different types.

I even found a substitute for my youngest’s obsession for cheesy pasta.  I did sneak in a few bottles of my diet irn bru though.  Good to see one of my favourites on offer.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to a supermarket and came out with four little bags for over £100.  This doesn’t compare.  I’m actually quite shocked to be honest.




The choices on the shelves were pretty large and far more than I remembered Aldi to have.  The seasonal items were in aisles in the middle, with lots of baking and a fair few Disney items that would make great Christmas pressies if someone was quick enough.  I remember seeing fishing gear, some gadgets, baby yarn, and a lot of paint and paintbrushes etc.

There’s nothing surer than I’ll be back.  It’s great value for money, and given the food my family goes through, having treats in the budget is a good thing.

So, the question I was asked, about doing a whole week of shopping at Aldi!

Yes, it can be done, and quite well too.  I’ve got my yoghurt, so I’m happy.  That’s one of my must haves.  I’m sure we all have our own favourite branded treats, but in many cases, we can’t tell the difference at all.




Disclaimer: Thanks to Aldi for our vouchers to use for the Aldi Shop.  All opinions are my own.

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Review: Abakus Dried Jujube Fruit (Red Dates)

I don’t choose to try things, unless I know my kidlets or I will actually use them, so two items came top of my list recently, one of them being the jujube fruit

I’m a date snob, in that the only ones I like are Medjool dates, and I eat loads of them in a month.  They stop me craving sweets, and as they taste so caramel like, I never feel the need to eat any sweets.  That’s why I said yes to trying the Jujube dried fruit.

Abakus Jujube

Image Courtesy of Abakus Foods

The Jujube fruit, from Abakus Foods, is known as a red date, and has been eaten in Asia for thousands of years.  Jujube tells me that it’s used in Chinese Medicine for vitality and wellbeing.  As a natural sweetener, it was worth a try, and I wondered if the dried Jujube fruit might be an alternative for my Medjool date obsession.  It’d be nice to have something slightly different.

Dried Jujube Fruit jujube-fruit-3

You know when you open a pack of sweets, and five minutes later the pack is empty, depsite resolving only to try a couple?  Yup, that was me.  Couldn’t stop popping these into my mouth.

They tasted sweet, quite dry and spongy, with a slightly nutty taste to me.  It’s very pleasant indeed.  I could quite easily eat these instead of sweets though, which is always a good thing when it comes to fruit.  At 289 calories per 100g, a whole pack from Abakus only weighs 40g, which is the perfect snack size.   At 115 calories for about 14 of these red dates, it’s a great snack for me.  They’re a source of antioxidants and have no added sugar.

I’m hoping I can find these easily in shops to be honest.  They lasted me longer than a packet of crisps.

Suggestions from Abakus are to enjoy as a snack, add to porridge, salad and soups, use in baked goods and add to smoothies.  The actual dates, I’d just eat as they are.  I did eat them as they were.  I wouldn’t need suggestions for how to use these, they’re among my new favourites.

Jujube Crisps jujube-crisps-2

Jujube Foods says these are crunchy, light and sweet.  I found them slightly chewy crunchy, but that was fine, as they’re really really good, and would be much better for me than a packet of crisps when I’ve got a craving.  They are slightly higher in calories at 350g per 100g or 72 calories per 20g pack.

They make a decent snack, and would look awesome as part of a party susan, if that’s even what they’re called nowadays, with the lovely bright red colour on the outside and the pale middle.

Jujube Powderjujube-powder

This would be fab for adding to smoothies, desserts and sweet baking.  I actually quite liked just eating the powder, as it’s more of a crumbled biscuity texture.

I’d quite like to see how it performed as the base for a cheesecake, but that could work out rather expensive, so perhaps I’d try it to reduce how much of a biscuit base I use.

What do I think?

I had a look to see where I could get some of these, but my local supermarket doesn’t stock them, so I’ll have to head to Abacus itself.  Keep an eye out for these on the shelves though, especially if you like dates, and would like to try one with a nutty flavour.   I ate both packets of dried fruit and the crisps at once sitting, since both packets were open.  I couldn’t help myself…….  I’d all good intentions of adding these to cooking, but they didn’t last long enough, although that’s fine at 187 calories for the two packs.  That’s a good sign in my world, especially when it’s a healthy food.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Abakus Foods for the review samples.

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Review: Aberdeen Altens Hotel High Tea

Aberdeen Altens LesleyMy family and I took a wee trip, courtesy of the Aberdeen Altens Hotel, along to theirs, and try the new High Tea offering.  I’m used to High Tea being more of a cake and sandwich affair with
a pot or two of tea thrown in, so having a meal as part of high tea was fairly interesting.

As per tradition, the first offering in the meal was a pot of tea and coffee, with some toast and butter as the starter.  High tea is served from 3 – 6pm, Thursday to Sunday, so it really is evening meal for most of us.

Aberdeen Altens Tea

The choices on offer for the high tea menu at the Aberdeen Altens Hotel, were quite varied.

  • Traditional stovies.
  • Gammon and egg.
  • Steak pie and mushy peas.
  • Haddock & tartare sauce.
  • Beef burger with smoked bacon and cheese.
  • Macaroni cheese.
  • Breaded scampi.

(All served with chips & salad)

  • Cold meat salad with your choice of ham, chicken or poached salmon.

Aberdeen Altens Scottish DadWhen I saw my middle boy’s meal, I was a bit jealous, I have to say.  He’d ordered gammon steak, and there was masses of it, as well as two perfectly cooked eggs.  I’d have forgone the chips, but the gammon was gorgeous.

I had to have a taste, and there was more food on his plate than he could even eat, and he is a big eater.  Even the man sitting opposite us commented about the gammon and egg dish as it was set down to my boy.

Aberdeen Altens Gammon

The Scottish dad went for fish, which he thoroughly enjoyed, so that’s always a boost, as he’s quite a fuss pot when it comes to his fish.  He did have a go at the gammon as well though, as he just couldn’t let any of it go to waste…..  The plateful of gammon above, just doesn’t show how much of it there was.

Aberdeen Altens Fish

My youngest went for the safe option for him, of the macaroni cheese.   He’s always going to be happy with a plateful of pasta, and nowhere can go wrong with offering it.

Macaroni Cheese

I chose the stovies, although they were served with the traditional oatcakes and beetroot, rather than chips, which I didn’t mind.  I love my oatcakes and much prefer them over chips any day.

Aberden Altens Stovies

To finish the meal, it’s a plate of warm scones with jam and cream.  I don’t think I know anyone who actually doesn’t like scones, and they were lovely.

Aberdeen Altens Scone

For £12.50 a head, it’s a lot of food.  I felt completely full afterwards, and thought it was value for money.  If there was anything I’d change, it would be to have more space to juggle the pots, cups and plates around…

It’s a fabulously filling three course evening meal at a reasonable price, and a good drop in option for locals wanting something a little different, but also not breaking the bank, while eating in comfortable surroundings.

I always judge a meal by the one final thought, and that’s whether I’d go back and pay for the same meal in the future.  I’d love to take my mum here.  She’d appreciate the quiet dining area, with plenty of choice, and the scone at the end, so yes, I’d go back.

When we were leaving, the Partick Thistle football team coach was just arriving.  One boy was kicking himself for finishing his meal too early, in case some of the players then came down to the bar, and he could have seen them close up…..   Out of luck this time round, and I’m sure the team were looking forward to a relaxing evening before their big match with Aberdeen.

When we lived in Cove, close to the hotel, we used to use the fitness centre, pool and sauna regularly.  I really missed it when we moved house, so it was nice to be back in familiar territory for the grown ups.   It’s been a long time since we’ve been to the hotel.

Disclaimer:  Thanks to the Aberdeen Altens Hotel who provided our meal free of charge, with no obligation to review.

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Review: THAIKHUN, Thai Street Food.

Being terribly adventurous with food hasn’t always been my cup of tea, so when Thaikhun offered us the chance to try their menu, I swithered for a while, and then decided to go with it.  As a blogger, trying things that might be just outside my comfort zone, has to be done… excuses.

With my complete foodie fan child away for the day, it fell to my youngest to accompany me along, and we duly found our lovely lunch date venue with no trouble, as it’s part of a local shopping mall at Union Square in Aberdeen, although Thaikhun has eateries in different cities up and down the country.

Thaikhun 1

First impressions were really good.  The eatery has a sort of shabby chic look to it, which is one I like.

Inside was quite impressive, with the attention to detail, and I especially liked seeing the covers over condiments on each table that makes sure any bugs don’t get into them before diners sit down.

The kitchen is open, and if we wanted to, we could watch our food being cooked in the back.

Thaikhun 9

My youngest wasn’t terribly adventurous and went for the kids meal, while I had no idea what to choose.

Our waitress came and introduced herself, and then explained how the menu worked, so that we could decide what to have.  Without that explanation, the names on the menu might have thrown me.  To those who are familiar with Thai food, names like Gieng Kiew Wan or Moo Dad Deow or Ka Nom Jeeb, might have been a bit much, but she patiently told us how spicy some dishes were, and that we could choose to have them not so spicy.  The menu explains the dishes fully, so once you’ve had a read through, it’s quite easy to work out what’s good for us to choose.

For my starter, I went with Tod Man Khao Pod, or to quote from the menu…

Sweet Corn Cakes.  When summer corn starts flooding our markets in September, corn fritters are the first seasonal treat we make.  Back home these corn cakes are served fresh from street vendors where they are fried up in huge batches.  We flavour them with red curry paste and aromatic kaffir lime leaves, served with a sweet chilli dip.

I don’t know what I expected.  Possibly something along the lines of our british flat fishcakes, but sweetcorn and spicy.  I was thankfully wrong.

Thaikhun 8

These sweetcorn cakes were surprisingly light and easy to eat.  Not big enough to spoil my appetite and nowhere near as spicy as I expected them.  Actually, they are fairly mild, with the spicy dip on the side.

They’re more an aromatic taste, rather than spicy and very pleasant indeed.  My middle child would have loved these.

For my main course, I decided not to go for my safe salad option, and plumped for a Chicken Phad Thai, which our waitress assured me was a good choice for a first try of Thai food and not very spicy.  She was right.

For Phad Thai, noodles are stir fried with egg, carrots, bean sprouts and spring onions, in a sweet and sour tamarind sauce.  I enjoyed this far more than I thought possible, which is even more surprising as I tend to dislike things in sweet and sour sauce.  I suspect the tamarind gives this a different flavour, and turned the sweet and sour into a taste I do like.  I was pretty pleased with my choice of main course.  At this point, my youngest, who had a bit of a face on, and who’d spent more time on his phone than talking to me, decided to lift his head and actually remember his mum was a living breathing person who actually likes to talk now and again.  Well, quite a lot sometimes, but I don’t admit that in public….. Whoops, I just did, well let me off.

Thaikhun 7

Kidlet decided to try the kids meal, which is a variation of the Phad Thai, but separate, so they can choose what to mix in their tray.  For very young diners I think this is a lovely colourful option, and lets them choose what to mix, or not, although my middle boy would have had the Phad Thai, the same as me, I suspect.   I can imagine it’s difficult to persuade a child to eat Thai food, and I thought they did a great job of making the food attractive for little ones who might struggle with rice and noodle dishes in general.   They can choose from rice or noodles, grilled chicken, port or mixed veg, and to serve, satay sauce with no nuts, or sweet BBQ sauce, or slightly spicy green curry.

The very interesting part of this kids meal, was the edible creepy crawlies served with every dish, although this is optional.  There are two versions, although ours were like little worm bugs.  I’m afraid to say I wimped out, although our waitress assured us they weren’t bad at all.  I did take them home, and let the hub try them out.  He munched and smiled, saying ‘yum.’  It’s a fab talking point, and my youngest is still talking about the pot of insects.  It’s not for everyone though.

When it came to dessert, I was feeling pretty full, I have to say, but I wanted to try something.  Middle boy had a friend meet us, who he was going out with afterwards, and they both opted for the Sticky Date Pudding, which usually comes served with Thai whisky ice cream.   They chose to substitute that with vanilla ice cream instead, although I was half hoping they’d opt for the Thai Bounty version, so I could taste the coconut ice cream.

Thaikhun 13

To say they loved this pudding was an understatement to be honest.  My youngest loves sticky toffee pudding, and this variety ticked every box with him.  I don’t blame him, it really looked much better than it does in my picture.

I toyed with the idea of the coconut ice cream, but went for something unusual for me, but then again, I am a bit of a chocolate head….  Yep, I am being sarcastic, but when you spot a chocolate tart on the menu, even if it says gluten free, a chocoholics eyes widen, and your mouth begins to water.

Thaikhun 12a

OMG.  This has to be the very best dessert I have ever had in a restaurant, ever……  Ever, ever, ever.  I didn’t want my slice of tart on an almond base to end.  It was chocolate, creamy, crunchy and all sorts of absolutely fabulous.  I want to know how to make this.  I really really really want to know how to make this.  Honestly, I do…

At this point, youngest and his friend were chatting away, buoyed by their sticky toffee pudding.  Bear cub went to the loos, and came back raving about how cool they were and I had to go and see if the ladies was the same, so apologies for the next two pictures, but I had to post them, to keep him happy.

Thaikhun 2

This is cool.  Normally when you see graffiti in a loo, it’s offensive, but this is way cool.  You don’t really get the full effect in a picture, but I think you get the idea.

Thaikhun 11

All in all, I’d go back to Thaikhun.  I’d definitely take my middle and eldest, along with my hub, for the experience of different food.  I’m glad I tried it out, and the waitress service was exceptional.

Thanks to Thaikhun for the lovely meal.  I was surprised to find out they also have a cook school at the premises and gift vouchers are also available online or from the reception team.  I wonder if they give lessons on making that chocolate tart…….

Thaikhun 10

Disclaimer:  We received our meal free from Thaikhun, with no obligation to publish a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.