Entries in fun (12)

Sunday
Apr092017

Easter Fun from Marks and Spencer

 

Marks and Spencer hollow milk chocolate eggs in a traditional egg carton are fun and sparkly for Easter.  They come in sets of 30 eggs and are brilliant for Easter Egg hunts. 

 

They also work really well as gifts from teachers to children or if you have any little people visiting your home this Easter, they will love to pick an egg for themselves.

 

 

These Marks and Spencer cloth chick bags are filled with milk chocolate jewel foil covered easter eggs.  The bags are firm favourites with children who can use them during an Easter Egg hunt and fill them up too the brim with chocolate.

The little Marks and Spencer jewelled eggs because they are covered can be hidden all around the garden for children and adults to find.

These little jewel eggs are filled with beautiful smooth milk chocolate, and the half eggs are filled with rich runny caramel. They are addictive - I challenge you to eat only one!  Opened out of their net bags and filling coloured glasses they make beautiful hostess gifts, or Easter presents.  I like to fill glasses with them and leave them all around the house on Easter Sunday for people to nibble throughout the day.

These Marks and Spencer wobble tins are filled with chocolate chip shortbread.  The tins are bright and cheery; great fun for little children who can push the tin and watch it wobble.

My favourite themed egg from Marks and Spencer for children is this dinosaur who sits proudly atop of speckled eggs.  Lots of little boys and girls will love this on Easter Sunday.

These little praline eggs are for adults and some older children wrapped in sparkling gold, they are easy to eat.

These little half egg chicks are filled with gooey caramel.

Easter is a time to celebrate, new life, the triumph of life over death, light and the joys of Spring - I hope you have a joyful day full of celebration.

Happy Easter,

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Dec122016

Gingerbread Houses - Ikea flat pack gingerbread house party

 

My table was covered in sweets.  There was icing on the floor and the walls.  Sprinkles had got into places you couldn't even begin to image.  It was noisy, joyful and sugary.  Friends and family gathered around my table for the Cahill's Annual Gingerbread House Party.  


Here from Granny's and Grans to babies, Grandpa's, Daddy's, Uncles, Aunties, Toddlers and little people gathered to build a Gingerbread Village.

Everyone is welcome round my table to build their Ikea Belfast flat pack Gingerbread House.  

Decorating with a stash of sweets that would have made Hansel and Gretzel smile. 

 Some worked to a theme - with careful construsction and an eye for symmentary.

 

 

 Others were more eco-consciou inserting solar panels and a wood pile for their log burning stove.

 

 There was laughter and smiles from all involved.  There is nothing like the joy that comes from creating with your own hands a project made entirely of sweeties.

 Others too a more hapzhard approach to decorating their houses.

 That's the thing about decorating - its personal and open to interpretation - there is no right way to decorate a gingerbread house - there is no perfection.  There is only fun and laughter, sugar highs and for some a little competition.

 Proud Mummy's and sons, with a house of splendid construction.

 

Careful thought and imagination come to the fore.

Christmas music pumps out of the stereo - we join in singing around the table.  Some come dressed in festive spirit.

Icing goes everywhere - this is a messy business.  Who cares?  Certainly not me, I want everyone to embrace their inner creative and have fun.  Ikea supply the flatpack gingerbread houses, we supply the sweets and the icing - how the house is decorated is up to you.

 

Sweet secret tip - always build the house before adding sweeties, otherwise it will collapse.

Laughter and seriousness.

 

Candy canes are perfect fonder and decorative.

 

Little one's like to take part and try the sweeties.

 

Others like a seat beside the Christmas tree for a story, while the kitchen mayhem continues.

After all that creativity, it is time for a toes up - and dinner.

Champ, cocktail sausages in a sticky cranberry, honey, seasame and chipotle glaze.  Spinach salad with cranberries and goats cheese.  Everyone is craving savour food - dessert is not welcome.

 

 

 

 

 


Building Gingerbread Houses from Ikea is one of my favourite parts of Christmas.  Why don't you have a go with some little or older people in your life this week.

 

It really is the best fun you will have.

Merry Merry Sparkling, sprinkly Gingerbread Christmas,

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

Tuesday
Sep232014

Time for afternoon tea at Titanic Belfast

In our house we always stop for tea.  Like most Irish families, the kettle is never far from the boil, and tea is drunk at every opportunity.  It does really make things better.  The act of drinking the inky black liquid with a splash of milk, or a touch of honey, the moment spent stopping from the busyness of the day, it’s a short release that can change our perspective.  There’s usually a slice of cake, or a biscuit from the tin (occasionally homemade).

Making and taking tea is a way of being present to the moment, is a ritual that stretches across the world to the tea ceremonies of Far East Asia and allows us to savour life, a moment in slowness.   There is nothing that can’t be tackled no matter how difficult after a cup of tea.


Tea mostly water, finds it flavour from the taste of tealeaves infused into the liquid.  There is a history and element of ritual, perhaps art and celebration even to taking tea.  Maybe this along with the cakes and the thrill of doing something different in the middle of an afternoon, the notions of civility and getting together with friends explains the joy of taking afternoon tea.

Titanic Belfast, offer visitors the chance to take tea in their grand ballroom on the 5th floor.  This thickly carpeted room, looks out over the Titanic slipways to Belfast Lough and the Irish Sea beyond.  White starched table cloths cover round tables, and comfortable dark wood heavy chairs, with black leather hide sit proudly around them.  A replica of the Titanic’s staircase which was made by local Northern Irish craftsmen fills a corner of the room.  We like others taking afternoon tea that day, enjoy having our photographs taken on the stairs.

Champagne Henri Abelé, shimmers as it is poured into sparkling glasses.   The taste is a clever balance of bold and buttery, assertive and toasty with complex citrusy notes, and a gentle bubble that is easy to sip.  The rounded flavour works well with the variety of finger sandwiches, sweet things and pastries which form the basis of the afternoon tea’s food.

The scones are perfectly sized and are made with a light hand, as the crumb is soft with just a hint or resistance to the bite; they are served with little pots of strawberry jam, and clotted cream.

After choose our tea from a choice of six, I go for Red Berry and Naomi chooses Green Tea.  The teas are sourced from Northern Ireland tea merchants Punjuna, and are loose leaf, poured from silver pots through strainers, the flavour is full.  A cake stand with finger sandwiches scones, little puddings, and a selection of fancies is set in front of us.  The plates of the stand are prettily patterned in pale pinks and dark blues with white.

Finger sandwiches in soft white and brown bread with crusts cut off are filled with Belfast honey ham, and cheese roast beef, tarragon aioli and rocket, a sharp piccalilli with cheese, Smoked Irish Salmon and the most delicious cucumber ribbons.  These are served to bright white porcelain with the Titanic White Star logo

The most delicate homemade French Fancies, are made of soft light chiffon cake, covered in the palest of pink icing and topped with ruby raspberries.  Homemade Oreos combine a rich slightly bitter dark chocolate biscuit which has a firm bite that reveals a soft crumb with the smoothest sugar cream filling. 

Gâteau St Honoré has a sweet pistachio pastry cream and is finished with a rich caramel, the mixture of dry nuts and sweet caramel, is always good.  Light crisp strawberry white chocolate macaroons are very morish as they melt in the mouth, while the blackberry macaroons have a richer flavour, but the same perfectly formed shell, and fine texture.

Also served are small clear plastic glasses filled with Raspberry champagne jelly peach custard, Coconut sponge lime marshmallow oatmeal crumble and a sweet white chocolate mousse with a passion fruit curd.

Thick slices of sheet cake are served at the table, we try a moist sweet red velvet, a deliciously flavoursome Banana pecan cake which has a warm toffee flavour, and soft Dundee cake full of plump luscious fruit.

Siobhan Petit’s sultry voice fills the room with jazz standards, and the odd chorus of happy birthday.  Even though the room is busy and the tables are filled with families, couples, groups of girlfriends and tourists, the ballroom doesn’t resound noise, there is a sense of silence, which in the noise of life in the 21st century is to be welcomed. The acoustics are good enough to make this large space feel very personal and private.  The tables are spaced with the skill that knows how to create intimacy in such a big room without feeling like people are sitting on top of each other, or that conversations echo in the fear of eavesdrop.

 

A children’s menu with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and thick malted chocolate milkshakes is available.  The smooth pale chocolate drinks with their bright red and white straws make me wish just for a moment that I’d like to be a child again.  Staff member Eoin provides serice with a smile.

Staff in smart uniforms are attentive and friendly without being overbearing, nothing is too much trouble, and they have a genuine desire to please, for those taking tea to enjoy their time in this remarkable venue.    And that’s the thing about taking afternoon tea at Titanic Belfast, it is an experience to relish, and the staff know this.

 

 

But that thought is soon dispelled when we meet James the barman and master cocktail maker.  James’s passion to mix memorable drinks in remarkable, and we enjoy a good conversation with him.  After asking us what flavours we liked he created cocktails off menu especially for us, it is always so very impressive when barmen go off menu, to meet the palate of the drinker.  James was very knowledgeable and a pleasure to talk to, we discussed many things and tried the Titanic signature whiskey, his drinks were smooth, had a good kick of alcohol mixed into a well blended drink.

 

 Whilst a Japanese watermelon liqueur and gin based cocktail was refreshing and sweetsharp.  

 

The berry cocktail was bright red with a twist of orange, and served ice cold.  

The espresso martini combined ice cold silky smooth coffee liqueur with cream, drizzled with a hazelnut syrup, it was rich and warming.  

Afternoon Tea at Titanic Belfast is memorable and remarkable.  Much thought and care has gone into the preparation of the food, and drinks, the service is warm and attentive, from the moment you enter the building crew members guide you to the ballroom and the atmosphere is warm, welcoming and wonderful. It is the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and definitely an experience you would want to share with visitors to Belfast.

 

That’s it for now ...

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Wednesday
Feb192014

What you are ...

I love you my readers - you are lovely

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
Feb122014

Children's Valentines Teaparty

Children love Valentines Day.  There's no worry or stress about romantic entanglements, instead it is a celebration of the love they hold in their hearts for their parents or friends.  

Why don't you hold a Valentine's Tea party for the little girls in your life, and their friends too, if you are feeling brave.  Maybe they are your daughters, or nieces, or the children of friends.  

Boys can of course be invited too, but in general I've found they'd rather be building the huts outside to have the party in, than actually partaking in the bubbles and sparkle.  Although put a tea table in front of little boys, laded with sugary treats, and fizzy pop, and they will devour it in an instant, then ask for more.

This French Soda from Marks and Spencer comes in an old fashioned bottle, which has a top that pops.  There will be smiles of glee and laughter, as the top is popped in front of children.  Get a second and maybe a third bottle because without doubt they will want to pop the tops as well.  There is such a thrill for children in doing something so grown up.

Pink and fizzy, with a sweet herby taste split with just a dash of lemon, I served this French Soda, in tiny crystal liqueur glasses, which feel very special when held, by little hands.  Don't forget small children love little things, and are intimidated by big glasses, or plates of food, with huge biscuits, cupcakes or the like.  

Keep the treats you serve at your tea party small and dainty.

These Marks and Spencer  chocolate brownie hearts topped with a pink white chocolate mouse, and pale pink hundreds and thousands, look cute as a button and are the perfect size for tiny hands. 

Want to make breakfast in bed for Mummy or Daddy or what about creating some homemake chocolates, there are lots of fun, love filled activities that children can take part in with your help this Valentines Day. Learning about love by doing, is much more effective than being told about love.  After all 'Love Does'

 

Happy Valentines,

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable 

Tuesday
Feb112014

Valentine's Dinner with a twist

There's nothing I hate more, than restaurants putting on supposedly special Valentine's Menus.  The only thing special about them is the cost - inflated.  These meals often accompanied by a 'free' bottle of wine which when poured is like drinking vinegar from a glass, make me very cross.  They are totally unnecessary.  A restaurant does not need a Valentine's special, if their food is good enough.

That's why when it comes to red letter days, like Valentines, I want romance.  I want ease.  I want time to relax and enjoy with my loved one.  

I want to cook with simple ingredients, drink a good bottle of wine and savour a large box of chocolates from Marks and Spencer in front of a roaring fire, twinkling candles and listening to music - La Traviata - is our choice this year.

The menu for Valentines night this year, is stress free to make, with only a tiny amount - we are talking ten minutes max. here - of preparation.  The food is light but filling.  Puddings of any kind can be very heavy at the end of a dinner, and on Valentine's eating heavy food is never a good idea, that's why we are suggesting skipping dessert for a box of chocolates - the sort of chocolates you don't eat everyday - and they feel as special as they taste, coming in a huge heart shaped box.

Valentine's Salad - toss baby spinach, Cashel Blue cheese, croutons, maple syrup candied walnuts, slices of peeled pear and dried cranberries, dressed in lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, with a grind of salt and pepper - light, easy to digest, always important when romance is in the air.

This salad can be made in advance, just hold the dressing until serving.  Creamy cheese, sits comfortably with firm baby spinach, sweet sliced pears, chewy dried cranberries, texture comes from crisp croutons, and sweetly candied crunchy walnuts.

A glass of a good red like Marks and Spencer's Tasmania Pinot Noir, is a good match to this salad.  It's dry medium body bringing a sense of fullness to the palate when drunk as the accompaniment to creamy cashel blue cheese, and the firms pears of this salad.

As well as being an enjoyable bottle of wine that can be drunk with pleasure over the course of the evening. The Tasmania, pinot noir is light, fruity, soft and very drinkable, with aromas of strawberry, cherry and green herbs.  It can be served slightly chilled if you wish - which we found made a good match for the box of chocolates, we had for dessert.

One of the splendid things about Valentines is eating delicious chocolates.  

These special Valentines Chocolates from Marks and Spencer, are made in Ireland, and feature hearts, little cubes topped with love bird cartoons, and a large solid milk chocolate heart.  Dark, milk and white chocolates have fillings of marc de champagne, salted caramel, raspberry, and dulce de leche.  Opening the box feels as decadent as the chocolates taste.

It doesn't get anymore romantic than snuggling in front of the fire, with a glass of red, your loved one, and this big box of chocolates.  

Happy Valentines.

Today I have linked up with Kent Weakley's Sweet Shot Tuesday/p52 I hope you'll join us. 

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Dec162013

Gingerbread House Party with a little help from Ikea

Ikea sell the best Gingerbread Houses on the market.  The packs contain the walls, roof, gables, and chimney of the house, and each bit is made of crisp, lightly spiced gingerbread.

Children love being creative - and they adore spending time with family and friends making gingerbread houses at Christmas.  

A Gingerbread House Party is a really fun way to spend the weekend before Christmas.  Assemble some children, adults and prepare to have a blast.

All you need to gather are a range of sweeties - small and colourful are best - pop them into small bowls and glasses, arrange in the middle of the table within easy reach of the children.  Ikea do a range of jellies and pick n mix.

I also put out edible glitter, hundreds and thousands and other sugarcraft Christmas decorations.

Make Royal Icing using the powedered sugar and an egg white, according to packet instructions - having used lots of icings, I have always found McKinney's to be the best.  I make my icing in my Kitchen Aid, with the paddle beater, as this creates a firmer icing them making it in a food processor.

The icing is firm and thick, it will split cheaper icing bags - so get bags that are made from a strong fabric and not plastic.

Cover trays in foil, to build the houses upon and allow each child with the help from an adult to create and deocrate their houses to their hearts content.  

Improvisation with an icing bag made out of a sweetie packet.

Adults have as much fun as children.

Sometimes the icing ends up in tummies and not on the gingerbread.

Building the houses can be a little tricky, but with patience and laughter, it works.  Allow the foundations to set before putting on the roof.

Children love to be in control of the icing bags, and they create marvellous houses, which they are so proud of.

The pride on the children's faces when they finish their houses is mighty!

Gingerbread village.

Gingerbread House Parties are fun, festive and full of laughter.  Creativity runs in the blood of children, and giving them the opportunity to create and decorate their own houses gives such a sense of accomplishment and pride in their creativity.

Go on, head to Ikea stock up on Gingerbread Houses, invite children and parents and throw a Gingerbread House party this Saturday or Sunday, its a real antidote to the madness of the High Street at Christmas.

Send us some of your pictures, and we will share them.

Happy Christmas, 

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable