Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The 'big shop' made easy - Trolley Bags Review

Bit of a strange one today but I thought you'd all like to hear about my Trolley Bags. I'm sure you've seen them, either on an infomercial or on a video on Facebook. They are like the new-fangled gadget for the weekly shop.

I'm an avid shopper at Aldi, so when I was gifted these bags at Christmas by my Mum I knew they'd be a lifesaver. Aldi cashiers do all they can to get your shopping through their checkout as fast as humanly possible. I'm sure some of them aren't even human, the speed they put my items through! Anywho... so with my shopping whizzing at my at 100mph and a need to bag up my shopping there and then - ain't no chance I'm stepping to the side to re-pack! - these bags are a godsend.

They wrap up within themselves for when you are browsing the shop and I simply hang them on the little loop at the front of the trolley until I need them. Then when all your items are on the conveyor belt you can whack out the Trolley Bags, un-velcro them and spread them across the trolley. Now I'm ready to take on the packing, at super speed!


I usually use the big orange one for my bottles and cans, then on to veggies in my green bag, red is for meats and fridge stuff and the little blue is for anything else. That's just my little routine, nothing is set out saying that's the way you have to do it.

I usually get some funny looks when I get these out and the other day a lady approached me - as I was packing my shopping at super speed I might add - asking about the bags. She said she'd seen them in Lakeland but not in real life. I let her know that they are really useful and she was on her way, probably to buy some herself I assume!


If you want a way to ease your weekly shop, especially now we all have to bring our own bags to the shop, then pick up some Trolley Bags. They make bagging up your shopping so quick and easy. The size that I have are massive, so even if you have a  family of four you will definitely fit your items in! I think there are smaller versions although they are still quite spacious.

Do you have Trolley Bags? What do you think? Would you recommend them?
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Monday, 21 March 2016

Mini Egg Rocky Road for Easter

I'm back with another Easter-themed recipe. I'm just a little obsessed with producing recipes and crafts for seasonal celebrations and Easter is no different. You will have already seen my Tie Dye Pretzel Bark, which is full of white chocolate. Today's recipe is full on dark chocolate goodness filled to the brim with biscuit, marshmallow and Mini Eggs. Mini Eggs are pretty much my favourite thing about Easter. I rate them above Creme Eggs as they are just so moorish, you can't just eat one or two.

With this in mind I decided to take on an old favourite but mix it up with Mini Eggs. Oh and the results were divine. Get your hands on some Mini Eggs and let's get baking...

Mini Egg Rocky Road - Easter Themed No Bake Chocolate

Mini Egg Rocky Road Recipe Easter

Mini Egg Rocky Road Recipe Easter

Mini Egg Rocky Road Recipe Easter

Mini Egg Rocky Road Recipe Easter

Mini Egg Rocky Road Recipe Easter

Mini Egg Rocky Road Recipe Easter

Ingredients
200g Dark Chocolate
2-3 tbsp Golden Syrup (I only had Honey so used this instead)
135g Butter or Margarine
100g Mini Marshmallows (or large ones chopped up)
100g Digestive Biscuits
100g Mini Eggs
Icing Sugar to dust

- First things first, measure out your ingredients and line a small to medium sized baking tray. Put your biscuits and Mini Eggs in a freezer bag and smash them up with a rolling pin. Put these to one side.

- Melt the butter, golden syrup and chocolate in a pan on a low heat stirring constantly to ensure there are no lumps. When it's melted take it off the heat.

- Add your marshmallows, biscuits and Mini Eggs to the pan and mix well until its all covered by chocolate. Pour this into your lined baking tray making sure to spread it out and reach all corners.

- Put it in the fridge for around two hours and then dust with icing sugar, cut into pieces and enjoy!

This went down an absolute treat at work (official taste testers for Gingerbread Smiles - they just don't know it) and it was all gone by the end of the day. I've never been so happy with a creation of my own, it smells amazing and is so tasty. This is definitely one for you to make as soon as you can!

What do you think? Is this one you'll try?
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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

A break away for the weekend - Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review

Before Christmas a very exciting email arrived in my inbox inviting me for a night away near Scarborough at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel. As we are only an hour and 15 minutes from Scarborough it seemed like the perfect short break and the pictures of the hotel were certainly inviting. As we had lots on at the beginning of the year including a trip to Dublin and a new bathroom installation we decided to book up for mid-March.

We set off on Saturday afternoon taking the country roads to get to our destination. On arrival at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel we were happy to see it was just as we imagined and more. Set amongst the North York Moors, the location is so quiet and serine. As we walked up to the reception we noticed the beautiful scenery all around the hotel, so much greenery in every direction. It was bliss. When we got inside we were greeted immediately, checked in very quickly and then shown to our room.

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

Set away from the main part of the hotel, off a little courtyard, our room was stunning. We had a main area with a sofa, TV, dressing table and wardrobe. Then off the main room was the bedroom, which had the biggest bed ever! We've only got a queen bed at home so the size difference was massive! Next to the bedroom was the bathroom and oh man it was amazing. 

From ceiling to floor it was covered in an amazing cream stone making it look the height of elegance. There were his and hers sinks with a very large mirror sitting next to the big luxurious bath. Lastly but not least the shower, cordoned off with a glass divide, it was a huge waterfall shower. The shower of dreams. 

We chilled out in our room for a bit before getting ready for a meal in the restaurant. When we were ready we took the short trip to the cosy communal lounge area. Alive with the buzz of the other guests, the lounge had a number of seating areas with a warm fire as its centrepiece. We were brought over two glasses of Prosecco, which has to be one of the nicest bottles of Prosecco I've had, even Matt liked it and he isn't a wine person! Once sat down we were handed the menu to decide what we wanted before going into the Courtyard Restaurant. 

When they were ready for us in the restaurant we were taken through to our table. For starters we both had cream of tomato soup, and let me tell you, it was the best I've ever had. Honestly we both couldn't put our finger on what made it so nice but we both thought it was delicious. These were served with a small selection of yummy breads.

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough Courtyard Restaurant

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough Courtyard Restaurant

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough Courtyard Restaurant

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough Courtyard Restaurant

For my main meal I had sirloin of beef with an oxtail, beer braised shallot and spelt cottage pie, horseradish kale, turnip and port jus. Matt chose the lamb which was stuffed and rolled with sweet breads, whipped goats cheese, onion puree, lyonnaise potatoes and wild garlic pesto. We both really enjoyed our mains and were super full but there was some unusual desserts on the menu that I was eager to try.

As per every restaurant visit, Matt chose the sticky toffee pudding. In keeping with our opinion of the rest of the meal, Matt said it was the best sticky toffee pudding he's had. The sponge was just the right consistency, very light and fluffy. I decided to try something I never would normally pick, although I do love all the different aspects. I chose the peanut butter, white chocolate and banana bread pudding with banoffee sorbet. It was like nothing I'd tried before, the texture was squishy but it was lovely and warming. The flavours went perfectly together, I mostly tasted the banana but there was definitely an underlying nuttiness. It has perked my enthusiasm for trying more bread and butter puddings! After our meal we went back to the room and had a lovely nights sleep in the massive bed.

After a cosy night, we were ready for more food. In the restaurant there was a menu of cooked options with a small table full of continental items such as fruit, yoghurts and cereal. I can't resist a hot breakfast when I'm offered one so I had to go with that. I had toast, bacons, sausage, tomatoes and mushroom. The one thing I missed was beans, they didn't have any! Beans make an English brekkie for me so I was a bit disappointed they didn't have any but I soldiered on and enjoyed my breakfast regardless.

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough Courtyard Restaurant

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review Scarborough

When we were all packed up it was time to trek to Scarborough to explore and relive our childhood memories. To get there from the hotel took only about 5-10 minutes and it was just as we remembered. We were really lucky with the weather as it was bright, clear and not too cold. We parked up the top near the high street and walked down then along the seafront.

It definitely brought back a lot of memories with the arcades, sweet shops, the funfair and lots of cute little fishing boats. On the day we were there it was bustling. People of all ages were out in force enjoying the English seaside. After a we'd soaked up the sun for long enough, we decided it was time to get back on the road to Middlesbrough.

Scarborough - Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review

Scarborough - Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review

Scarborough - Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review

Scarborough - Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review

We had such a relaxing break at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, I would definitely recommend it to anyone for a little weekend away. If you are looking for a Scarborough hotel, this has to be the one.

Have you been? What were your thoughts?

*We were invited for a complimentary nights stay with dinner and breakfast included in exchange for a review. All opinions are solely my own and always honest.
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Friday, 11 March 2016

As much Chinese food as you want... Peking Garden Review, Stockton

Finally I'm back with a food review. Seems I've only been eating in my own house recently, or I just haven't eaten anywhere fancy/tasty enough to write about. But now finally I've got a foody post for you with deliciousness cooked for me by someone else. The joy.

I'd like to talk to you about my new favourite Chinese buffet. Okay, okay, I know what you are thinking. Chinese Buffet?! I thought you said this was going to be good. And it is, calm your boots.

Peking Garden, located in Stockton, is a Chinese buffet, but a Chinese buffet with a difference. Basically you pick what you want, and as much as you want, and they bring it all out fresh just as they would in a normal restaurant. No food on a buffet line, sneezed on by god knows who, that's dried up and not at its best. It's all made fresh and brought to your table. It's brilliant and very tasty. I said it would be tasty didn't I.

So I've actually been here twice over the past two weeks. Once for a catch up with my friend (where I forgot to take a photo of my main dishes) and then again with my Mum. So I can without a shadow of a doubt tell you it's great food.

Peking Garden Stockton Chinese Restaurant Review Buffet

I'm not a very adventurous soul when it comes to Chinese food so I can't give you reviews on all the wonderfully spiced dishes they do, but here is what I had.

Peking Garden Stockton Chinese Restaurant Review Buffet

Peking Garden Stockton Chinese Restaurant Review Buffet

For my starter I had vegetable spring rolls, crispy seaweed and salt and pepper chips. I could eat my starter for mains it was so good. The spring rolls were super yummy with a sweet and sour dip. I'd never had crispy seaweed before but I enjoyed this. And finally the salt and pepper chips. I am in love. They are quite salty but the flavour is delicious.

Peking Garden Stockton Chinese Restaurant Review Buffet

For mains, over my two visits, I tried; (1) sweet and sour battered chicken, noodles & mushrooms and onion. (2) chicken curry, egg fried rice & mushrooms and onion again! Both sets of food was lovely. I'm always very cautious with chicken in a Chinese and always normally go for veggie options but I was pleasantly surprised that all the chicken was good quality and very nice.

So what do you think? Fancy a trip to Peking Garden with me, I'm game to go back anytime.
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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

More candles to add to my collection

You know I'm obsessed with candles. I can't help my addiction. I love a good smelling candle which fills the whole house. Recently I've been adding to my collection, as I do, with a few candles from a number of shops I haven't tried before. Some even came all the way from America!

The White Company Wild Mint, Peppermint and White Tea Candle Review

The White Company Wild Mint, Peppermint and White Tea Candle Review

I picked up this Wild Mint, Peppermint and White Tea candle (RRP £28) from The White Company on a recent trip to Harrogate. I've always seen bloggers talk about The White Company but have never been able to find anything I like in there that hasn't got an extortionate price tag. I luckily snapped this candle up when there was 20% and considered stocking up as I am in love with the scent. Honestly, this is one of my favourite scents ever. It is so sweet, not overly minty like the name would suggest but just a subtle hint. I can't wait to burn this, I hope it's a goody!

Bath and Body Works Mini Candles

Bath and Body Works Mini Candles

Next up are my little beauties that came all the way from Bath and Body Works in New York City, courtesy of my Mum. She picked these candles out for me on her recent trip to the Big Apple. Ever since hearing about Bath and Body Works I've wanted to visit so I could raid the shop. As Mum was making a trip, I begged for some candles. She selected a medium Guava Pina Colada and three little scents including Island Margarita, New York - Beautiful Day and Pineapple and Mango. The small ones are in the cutest little jars. I can't wait to burn them but as they are so small, they will be gone in no time!

Kiss Air Strawberry Daiquiri Candle Review

This divine smelling candle was picked up on a recent visit to Crimple Hall with fellow blogger, Kirsty (Number Twenty Six). At Crimple Hall they have a garden centre and an antiques hall. Both parts are jam packed with loads of cool stuff and I couldn't help but come away with a few bits and pieces. This candle was part of my mini hall. As the name suggests, this candle smells so much of strawberry! It's so sweet and fruity, I'm in love. It's a Kiss Air candle, which I haven't tried before but seen a few mentions of them on twitter, so I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Yankee Candle Simply Home Margarita Party Review

This Yankee Candle is from good ol' Tesco. I love a good snoop around for home pieces in Tesco and as we've got one five minutes away from our house, I'm a resident shopper. This one caught my eye as I absolutely loved The Body Shop's Virgin Mojito with it's lime scent and this is it's candle equivalent. Yes I know in cocktail form, a Mojito and a Margarita are different but in scent these both are fresh and citrusy! This is a great sized candle that burns really evenly. I definitely recommend purchasing one of these.

Candle Review - The White Company, Bath and Body Works, the Body Shop, Kiss Air

I hope you've enjoyed my round up of candles! If you are as obsessed with candles as me, then feel free to get in touch. I'm always happy to talk candles. If you want to see what other candles I've tried then have a nosy at my previous candle posts!
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Sunday, 6 March 2016

Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

I'm back to my crafty ways, this time with a easy peasy treat recipe to satisfy you're sweet tooth over Easter. Because obviously you won't already be eating enough chocolate.... As you know I really got into crafts and 'baking' last year when I took it upon myself to try out some ideas for Halloween and Christmas. Now Easter is upon us and I've decided to bring you some crafty ideas which I hope you'll all like to try and share!

First up is a sweetie bark made with Candy Melts, pretzels, sprinkles and marshmallows. I'm not sure if you've all seen 'bark' before, but it's just a sheet of Candy Melts (which are basically coloured white chocolate) sprinkled with all sorts of goodies. The colours that I've used for this make it perfect for an Easter treat to keep for yourself or give to your friends!

I will say that when I made this it didn't work the way I thought it was going to as the Candy Melts didn't melt as I anticipated. Instead of telling you what I did, I'll tell you what you should do...i.e what I did after to correct it!

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

You will need:
- A shallow baking tray (deep enough to make a layer of your bark)
- Three packets of Candy Melts (I've used blue, yellow and pink)
- 50g salted pretzels
- Two different types of sprinkles
- Mini marshmallows
- Microwaveable jug/container
- Palette knife spatula
- Air tight container to keep it in when you've made it

Start by breaking up your pretzels and laying them out over the baking tray. You can make these really small or leave them quite big, this is all up to personal preference. Then melt a whole packet of one colour of your Candy Melts, I used yellow for the base. Use the packet instructions to melt and make sure it's nice and smooth before you start to pour it on the baking tray over your pretzels.

I'll just warn you, this won't go smoothly! They don't seem to melt as much as chocolate does so you'll just have to start spreading this across the baking tray with the palette knife. Whilst you are spreading this, melt half a pack of the another colour. Dollop this onto your baking tray in different areas and spread this around. Repeat with the last colour until you have filled the baking tray and spread around in a tie dye pattern.

Once this is complete you can decorate. Take your sprinkles and shake them across the whole tray, then add your marshmallows in whatever placement you like. Make sure you have a shelf clear in the fridge as when you've finished decorating this needs to go in for around 2 hours.

When it's completely set you can lift it out of the tray and break it into chunks. I just got hold of it and started to snap it. It's quite a sickly treat so after I took my photos I've broken it up into smaller bits!

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

Easy Easter Tie Dye Pretzel Bark Recipe

This has been a hit with everyone that's tried it so far! 

What do you think? 

Is this something you'll be making as an Easter treat? I'd love to see any variations you try!
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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Stuffed Blondie Bars with Oreos and M&Ms

Recently my friends and I had a cocktails and cake night. As I was being super lazy with my cocktail, I made snowballs with a bottle of Advocaat I bought at Christmas, I decided I'd make some effort with the cake part of the night and try to make something. After browsing Pinterest for something simple I thought even I could make, I came across this recipe by Averie Cooks. It's basically a blondie mix with a load of Oreos and M&Ms.

This turned out to be a real hit with the girls and almost all of it was gone when home time rolled around in the early hours of the morning. The mix of soft blondie and Oreos with a topping of M&Ms is perfect. Just what you need for a night in eating junk and drinking cocktails.

Stuffed Blondie Bars with Oreos and M&Ms

Stuffed Blondie Bars with Oreos and M&Ms

Stuffed Blondie Bars with Oreos and M&Ms

Stuffed Blondie Bars with Oreos and M&Ms

Stuffed Blondie Bars with Oreos and M&Ms

Stuffed Blondie Bars with Oreos and M&Ms

If you'd like to make these stuffed blondie bars, follow the recipe below...

Ingredients
1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of light brown sugar
1 cup of plain flour
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
One packet of Oreos (broken up into pieces)
1/2 cup of crispy M&Ms

- Before you begin with the ingredients, line a 8 by 8 inch baking tin with foil and grease and preheat your oven to 180C.
- When you are set and all your ingredients are prepared it's time to start mixing it all together. Add your egg, brown sugar and vanilla together whilst melting your butter in the microwave. Give it a minute to cool before adding it to your mixture to prevent scrambled egg!
- When that's all mixed together until smooth, add your flour and stir until just combined, don't over do it.
- Next add your broken Oreos and stir. Pour your mixture into your baking tin, smoothing it our to ensure it's even. Place your M&Ms spread out on top, gently pressing on each one to sit them in the mixture.
- Place in the oven and cook for around 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. The top should be set and the edges slightly firm. Leave it to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and tucking in.

Will you attempting these crazy sugar-filled bars of joy?
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© gingerbread smiles.

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