Thursday, 31 December 2015

The easiest vanilla tray bake ever!

I don't know about you, but one of my finest memories at school was definitely school puddings. Thick jam sponge with jam on top, rice pudding, tapioca they were all fab, but there was one for me that stood out by a mile and to this day is still my all time favourite school pudding.

Iced sponge and custard. Thick pillowy sponge with a thick slab of ice white icing dribbled down the side with a huge helping of sunshine coloured custard. Bliss.

I have always been a big fan of baking but every time I tried to make what you would imagine was a fairly simple sponge recipe something just was not right, that was until a couple of summers back. We were gathered for our annual Brown family summer bash and my cousins grandma, Nanny Maureen as we know her had come and had made this sponge. It's one of her trademark bakes and one that was gobbled up within minutes and it was delicious. She gave me the recipe and it's the one that I have turned to time and time again when wanting to make this cake. It's such a versatile cake as it's perfect as an after school treat with a glass of milk for the children or cut into thick squares and smothered in custard for an ideal pudding.

So, here's how it's made.....


For the cake

175g really soft butter or baking spread (Nanny Maureen swears by Stork)
225g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
175g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
3 Tblsp / 45ml milk

For the icing

225g of icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4 and line a tin (I use the Delia Smith oblong tin and matching liner

Pop all the above CAKE ingredients into a bowl and mix with an electric whisk for a couple of minutes until smooth and it "plops" off the spoon. 

Spoon and smooth down into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes and until golden brown and the sponge springs back to the touch, leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

When the sponge has cooled mix the icing sugar with enough water to create a smooth spreadable consistency. 

Sprinkle with hundreds and thousands or topping of you choice!


Big love, 

Nathalie x


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Blogger request. Can anyone help me? Vintage Tea Hire needed....

So, it's the littlest ones turn for Baptism shortly and compared to the shindig we threw for Charlie, the spare heir will only be having a small but beautiful affair, just family and a couple of very close friends.

I have grand visions of throwing an afternoon tea after the ceremony. Finger sandwiches, bubbles, bitesize sweet treats, scones, bunting, homemade jam, you know where I am going with this.

Well, I wondered if you lovely lot might be able to help me find a company who might be able to help me with vintage tea hire?

If you're a company and you think you might be able to help me, I would love to hear from you!

Huge thanks in advance,

Nathalie x
aka This Surrey Mummy

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

#NOSPENDJANUARY - This Surrey Mummy's January 2016 Challenge

So, 2016 is just around the corner and it's got me thinking about the new years resolutions I've made and broken in years gone by. I've lost count of the times I've said I will give up chocolate, carbs, drinking, sweets and that I am absolutely going to go to the gym three times a week only to have sacked it in within the week. Admit it, we've all done it.

Well this year I have decided to set myself a January challenge. This Saturday marks my return to work after a lovely long 8 months maternity leave and also marks the start of a new year with good intentions. This January I plan to embark on a month of what I shall call #NoSpendJanuary.

My challenge to myself in 2016 rather than saying that I am going to give up chocolate or carbs or all the other failed resolutions of years gone by is to try and go the month of January without spending a single penny on the non essentials.  Yes that does mean those little purchases in the January sales will not be happening this year, nor will my weekly...ahem daily Starbucks or Costa that I love to partake in during work and my beloved lunchtime "nips" to Waitrose will also be a no no. I will warn you, if you've got a birthday in January and you're expecting a pressie chances are you'll be getting something homemade, or baked. I won't lie it will be tough, offensively tough.

I am crap at budgeting. This month alone I dread to think of how much cash I've wasted on stuff that I really did not need and that's on top of Christmas which we all know is hideous when it comes to outgoings and I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who thinks this.

Mary Poppins once said "In every job that must be done must be an element of fun. You find the fun and....Snap! The jobs a game" and that is the way that I shall look upon this challenge this month. It's a job that needs to be done and I shall make it fun!

"In every job that must be done must be an element of fun.
You find the fun and....Snap!
The jobs a game"

Ok.... so here are the allowed spends this month....

- Food (I am going to budget £450 this month and with some savvy shopping around this will be possible and that's to include nappies, washing poweder blah blah blah, you know the usuals)

- Petrol / Diesel

- All our regular outgoings/direct debits including insurances, rent, bills, childcare etc

- My Slimming World weekly subscription (I have a countdown that's already paid for so that's allowed)

What's NOT allowed....

- No big pre New Year supermarket shop to stock up the freezer

- Take aways

- Meals out

- Buying lunches whilst at work

- Coffees, hot chocolates etc from ANY coffee shops

- Trips to soft play or paid for activities with the children

- Impulse purchases for the children or me

- Nails (OMG how am I going to do this?? Will Harriet at Clay Hair, Oxshott's manicure that she did
for me on the 23rd December last until the end of next month?!?!?)

- Amazon prime purchases (you know the cheeky ones that slip into your online basket at stupid o'clock in the morning when the baby has woken you up and you can't sleep, yeah you know the ones, they are a no no.)

We shall go in search of free fun with the children. I shall be inventive in my meal planning and cooking. I am pressing the reset button on the 2016 finances, I will do it and I can't wait.

So, will I make it through the month? Who's with me?

Keep on track of my progress via my instagram @thissurreymummy and use #nospendjanuary2016

Big love,

This Surrey Mummy x


Monday, 28 December 2015

This Surrey Mummy visits Center Parcs, a review of Elveden Forest.

For the last couple of years, during the first week of the Christmas holidays we join forces with Charlie's Godparents and head off for a mid-week of pre festive fun to Center Parcs, and this year was no different. 

We packed the car up so there was barely any room to breathe and headed towards Elveden Forest, just over two hours away from Cobham. With Chris Rea and Mariah Carey accompanying us on the journey we began to relax and start to get into the festive feel of things. 

According to the Center Parcs website "Elveden Forest is set in over 400 acres of stunning forest in delightful rural Suffolk, which inspires an outdoor lifestyle." Like all of the Center Parc locations The Village Square is at the heart of all the action, with the Subtropical Swimming Paradise on one side and the Sports Plaza on the other and a variety of places to relax, eat, drink and shop. Having only visited Elveden Forest and speaking with friends who have visited other sites we are led to believe that Elveden is pretty flat compared to others which was a big consideration to us when booking as we are still at that stage of parenthood where a pram/buggy comes everywhere with us. 

We opted to stay in a four bedroom Woodland lodge and paid extra to be within a 5-10 minute walk of The Village Square as with little kids who don't or can't at the moment ride bikes for us closer was better. This time around and being our third visit this year to Elveden we pin pointed the exact lodge that we wanted to stay in and opted for 738, a four minute walk to all the main action and backing on to a lake. 

The settings are beautiful. Once you've unloaded your car you must return it to the main car park which means there are barely any vehicles on the roads that intertwine throughout Elveden. Despite being set in a "woodland" setting you are not having to negotiate muddy paths to get from A to B which is a bonus. Our lodge as I say had four bedrooms (two doubles, two twins) with two bathrooms (one shower room) and was perfectly large enough for a family of four adults and four children to roam about without trampling on everyone. 

An example layout of the four bedroom woodland lodge. 

Enjoying half hour alone with Eastenders on catch up using the free Wifi that's available around the site.
We booked a number of activities including pottery painting (extra charge), making a woodland habit box (extra charge), the Magic Olly magic show at The Pancake House (extra charge), an Elf Hunt (extra charge), as well as a lot of swimming at the Subtropical Swimming Pool (a free activity). 

The Subtropical Swimming Pool is fantastic. Charlie is nearly four years old and as of yet is not a fully confident swimmer and the toddler pool here is set off from the main pool and safe enough that those who are competent enough can go up and down the slides, obviously under parental supervision. We love the pool and the main slides for the older folk are brilliant too. The cyclone is definitely one to do....if you are brave enough! There are loads of changing rooms so you never have to wait for long to get a changing space. Remember to use your £1 coin on the giant air dryer that you as a family can stand in whilst it blows hot air and dries you, perfect for those chilly winter months when you want to avoid your little ones getting colds from wet hair!

Charlie's Godmother unfortunately the week before ruptured her Achilles heel and it was touch or go whether she would actually make it or not. Luckily she was given the all clear to come and despite not being able to do any of the physical activities she was able to rent a mobility scooter for a reasonable fee of £50 for the week enabling her to move around the site with ease and more importantly meant the whole family could all come still, without this mobility aid getting around would have been near on impossible. 

One of the highlights is the meet and greet with Father Christmas (added extra) and it's well worth it. Not only do the kids get a pretty great toy, this year the fire engine was a huge hit you also get a good length of time with the big man himself as well as a free printed photo in a frame. 

As we had four kids between us we decided to eat in in the evenings and the Park Mart (the supermarket on site) is brilliant and not massively more expensive than what we were used to paying. It's also worth noting that the onsite bakery is phenomenal. Honestly I challenge you to find a larger cream slice at any other bakery! But, you must buy early in the day to avoid disappointment! 

We did eat out a couple of times including the carvery at the Pancake House where Magic Olly has a weekly show. This is a must see. We've seen it twice now and the act is just as funny if not funnier second time around. Magic Olly is a credit to Center Parcs, a great entertainer who is at one with the kids as he is with the adults and it's a brilliant show to watch. The carvery also has a cracking chocolate fountain which let's be honest, who does not LOVE a chocolate fountain!??!

One really nice touch is the collaboration that Center Parcs have with Heinz Baby Food. All baby food is free in their restaurants when dining in which means you don't have to think about packing lots of jars and pouches in your suitcase. For the even the fussiest eater there is something that they are bound to eat. You must try the Dining In option which is available in all villages. The menu is vast to say the least and you may even find yourself getting severe food envy when someone orders something else that you might have fancied. 

For us the draw to Center Parcs is the fact that it really is so so easy for young families like us, and here are a few reasons why....

1. Soft play in most restaurants. Ingenious yet such a simple idea meaning that we can all eat together and after whilst we enjoy a glass of vino the kids can go to the soft play in eyesight of us. 

2. It's safe. If like us you have little ones who like to scoot or ride their bikes but are unable to learn properly Center Parcs is the ideal place to learn to. 

3. It's a real escape. You switch off and you can relax and spend some quality family time. 

4. For us it's close enough to be not a mission to get to but far enough that you feel you are away away. 

5. It's a home away from home. Cots, high chairs are provided free of charge and there is even a daily maid service should you chose it so you won't have to lift a finger. 

We love Center Parcs and struggle to holiday in England anywhere else. If you get the chance try and squeeze a break in at one of their villages in 2016 and make some memories that will stay with you for life and with prices from £299 for a mid-week you won't be disappointed!

Why not take a look at our video from our week away....

Big love, 

This Surrey Mummy x

Disclaimer. The holiday was booked and paid for by us solely and Center Parcs have not offered any incentives for this review. The thoughts and opinions above are all my own. 


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas 2015...done.

Well that went quickly didn't it? Since November, I've been buying, preparing, Pinteresting for ideas from entertaining a toddler to how to decorate the perfect tree and within a matter of hours all the presents have been ripped open, we've lost that those vital Lego bits before we've even completed step 3 of the instructions, the Christmas dinner has been cooked and eaten and I've gained 4lbs. It's the same every year. That said, we've managed to cram a lot in in the past four weeks.

So, December arrived and as well as preparing for the biggest event of the year, finishing another term at school as well as preparing to going back to work we had the small task of moving house two weeks before going away for our annual pre Christmas getaway. Stressful? Just a bit, but we did it and I am happy to say that as I sit here on Boxing Day evening having a cuppa I look around and my house feels very homely and we have had an amazing Christmas. I am a firm believer in starting the celebrations early so normally our Christmas tree is up the last weekend in November but then it comes down Boxing Day evening, and this year is no different so there is no longer a Christmas decoration in sight and normality can now resume.

This month some of our highlights have included LaplandUKPainshill Park, seen my brother in law James Heming perform in four panto's in one day as part of Heart FM's Have A Heart Appeal, held the annual NCT Babies of 2012 Christmas party, travelled to the o2 for Disney On Ice 2015  and also had a wonderful week away at Center Parcs. Pop back later in the week to see some of our memories of Christmas 2015 but in the meantime here are a few pics of our mad month!

Big love, 

This Surrey Mummy x


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The finishing line is in sight....cue three weeks of Christmas madness!

Ho! Ho! Ho! The start of the Christmas holidays is finally in sight and the last couple of weeks here have been beyond manic. The usual dramas that end of term brings with a toddler and teacher in our house as well as moving house has meant that the start of Christmas has been a bit delayed. Finally our Christmas tree is up and the fairy lights are on and we are very much looking forward to spending the holiday season in our new home!

My lanterns inspired by Nordic House

Elmo is ready to greet our Christmas guests this holiday season! This was handmade for us by one of my best friends the uber talented Sara H!

In the This Surrey Mummy household we currently have one very tired toddler who seems to think despite his sheer exhaustion that 5am or earlier is a perfectly suitable time to rise to start his day, well sunshine, it ain't, as well as a very tired teacher Daddy who is looking forward to saying goodbye to school for a full three weeks so Friday really can't come sooner. Three weeks? Yes you heard me correctly. Three long weeks.

Our aim in these three weeks is to pack in as much as we possibly can before I return to work first week of January.

We have loads planned and we can't wait to share some of our memories with you in the forthcoming weeks. Just a few highlights include the "NCT Babies of 2012 Christmas Party", Disney On Ice - World's Of Enchantment, a trip to Center Parcs, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, hosting our annual Scandinavian Christmas Eve as well as many many more exciting things.

In the meantime, I'm off to attempt to decorate my Gingerbread House that has kindly been given to me by my Nanny as an activity to be done with the children. She must be crazy if she thinks I am letting the rugrats anywhere near this. Wine in hand, my Spotify Christmas playlist belting out some festive numbers in the kitchen and away I go!!

Big love,

This Surrey Mummy x


Sunday, 29 November 2015

Lapland UK 2015 - This Surrey Mummy's Review

Charlie is finally at that age where he is getting Christmas and I mean really getting Christmas. I kid you not the child will watch Arthur Christmas at any given chance and he is fascinated daily by the arrival of our elf in residence Jack Tingle.

We were very lucky to be invited to visit Lapland UK and this morning with John Lennon, The Pogues and good old Chris Rea on the Spotify playlist, we headed twenty minutes down the M3 to Whitmoor Forest in Ascot. The boys were dressed head toe in festive attire kindly given to them by our friends at Next clothing and they really looked ready for Christmas!

Lapland UK is set in the heart of the Whitmoor Forest and all the action is set in the "enchanted forest". The entrance to this magical land is approached by a rather muddy winding path so be warned if you visit, bring your wellies!

The entrance tent really sets the scene, dimly lit with fairy lights and a beautiful earthy smell. The tent was warm from heaters which was a blessing as it was bitterly cold today. We checked in and were met by one of the enchanted forest's elves who issued us with our Elf passport. We then exchanged our human money for "Jingles" which are special elf currency. This is quite fun and really adds an air of authenticity. We exchanged £30 for 30J. What I was surprised at was that whatever Jingles you did not use you were able to exchange back into human money but naturally how many Jingles do you think we had left at the end? Exactly none. So Jingles in hand, we were then assigned groups. We were in the husky group and were each given stickers with a big husky footprint stamped on it.

We were met by a couple of elves who lead us through to the start of our adventure. The warm tent was turned into a woodland stage and the smell of fresh wood and pine that filled the air made you feel like you had been transported into a wood straight out of a Shakespeare's Midsummers Dream. 

Here we met the oldest elf in the wood. Now, as elves go he was brilliant, in fact all of the "elves" were brilliant, the event organisers have clearly taken time to cast expert actors as these guys and girls were very good and they genuinely made you believe they were elves. After being told the story of where elves come from, you know they come from pine cones that are wrapped in wool and the an elf grows from it, well of course you do, we are met by our husky leader who led us all the way to Father Christmas' toy factory. 

What is very apparent from the first ten minutes of observation is that it is not a cheap and nasty experience. Quality is very much at the centre here. The buildings are solid and tastefully decorated and the attention to detail is second to none. Here at the toy factory Charlie helped make reindeer stuffed toys and also a wooden walking horse. After he had helped his elf passport was stamped and we made our way to Mother Christmas' kitchen. 

We followed the windy snowy path all the way down to Mother Christmas' kitchen and we knew it could not be far as we could smell the sweet scent of gingerbread in the air. Mother Christmas welcomed us into her kitchen where all the tables were laid out with gingerbread decorations for the children to do and festive jumpers were kept squeaky clean with the help of aprons and chefs hats! 

Our husky heard leader then sent us in the direction of the "Elf Village" where we had just over an hour and twenty minutes to amuse ourselves. The elf village is great and there is certainly lots to do. 

One of the main attractions is the ice rink where small folk and big folk can try their hand at ice skating, something that Charlie has been desperate to do, and there is no additional cost for this activity. 

Here we also met Amber one of the resident husky dogs, sent postcards to our loved ones from Lapland UK (1Jingle each), wrote our letter to Father Christmas, we also visited the sweet shop to stock up on some sweet treats and browsed the gift shop.

By this time we were starting to get peckish and went in search of some food. There are two places to get food. One is a kiosk selling hot bratwurst, hot chocolates and coffees and the main restaurant where we chose to eat. Food is what you would expect from a busy attraction but refreshingly it was not a rip off. We had Swedish meatballs, mash and gravy, an adults fish finger sandwich, a children's fish finger sandwich and two drinks and it came to just over £20. 

After lunch the time had come that Charlie had been waiting for. We were off to meet the main man himself Father Christmas. We followed the windy path towards Father Christmas' wooden house passing his wooden sleigh and also his reindeer!

Here we were met by more elves who checked us in and also checked (without Charlie listening) that the information we had provided them was up to date. Prior to today, we had to update via the event website information on Charlie so as to make the experience more believable. 

Father Christmas' was a jolly old soul. Warm and welcoming with more than enough "ho ho ho" and also a remarkable beard, extra points for his rounded tummy too! Here he greeted Charlie and Hector and proceeded to have a good old chat with them. I will never forget the look on Charlie's face when he asked where Buddy was? It was a picture. Father Christmas knew that a Lego policeman station was top of the list and also that he is due to be a sheep in the nativity - Charlie was speechless and his face was beaming with excitement! Father Christmas thanked them for all their help and rewarded them with a husky dog cuddly toy for Charlie and an elf for Hector. After a good ten minutes of chatting and gift exchange it was photo time! Now whilst you are not allowed to take any photos inside you can video the meet and greet should you so wish, we were just enjoying watching him so decided against taping it. The photographs were £15 each with the added bonus of having the image to download at home. Obviously we shall be turning ours in to the Webb Christmas card 2015 coming to a letter box near you soon!

In summary, wow what a place. It's not cheap and it is by far the most expensive Christmas experience around in the UK at this time with prices starting from £49.50 up to £89.50 per person but compared to having to travel to the real Lapland it's a snip! You cannot deny it, it is magical and as a once in a lifetime experience it is definitely a must for the small folk in your life. Obviously, with Hector being so small we shall have to wait a couple of years to take Hector back but for Charlie I really hope that he remembers this for a long time to come. 

We would like to thank the event organisers for inviting us to Lapland UK, we enjoyed every minute of it, it's a very very special place and the Webb family are now most definitely feeling Christmassy and festive.

Big love,

This Surrey Mummy x

Lapland UK kindly gifted us a family ticket to the above experience but the views in the review are entirely my own. 


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Say "Hello" To Jack Tingle....

So, with December just around the corner I'll be honest I've started to get bored of the "Father Christmas" threat that I've been using daily since October already so I've decided to whip out the "Elf On The Shelf" a little earlier than scheduled this year.

Jack Tingle and Charlie's invite to Lapland UK. 

This weekend coming we are very lucky to have been invited to Lapland UK and Charlie's personalised invitation arrived this morning so what better way to have it delivered to him than by our family's elf, Jack Tingle.

We'd been through the front door no less than five minutes when Charlie bounced into his room and started shouting "Mummy, Mummy, Mummy", I knew that Jack Tingle had been spotted. For the last couple of weeks we had told Charlie that Jack Tingle would be coming to stay and keep an eye on his behaviour and that he would return to Lapland each night to report to Father Christmas on his behaviour so he was not surprised to see him. He also saw the letter and asked me to read it to him, which I did...

This will be our first visit to Lapland UK and if the invitation and personalised letter is anything to go by we just know it'll be fabulous!

Jack Tingle will stay for us until Christmas Eve and there are so many ideas on Pinterest which I will be consulting daily for inspiration to make Jack Tingle's stay even more magical, believable and fun for Charlie!

We are off to Lapland UK on Sunday and I can't wait to share with you our experience!

Big love, 

This Surrey Mummy x

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