An evening of chocolate and alcohol

My blogger life has reached its pinnacle. Last night, Red Letter Days invited me along to a chocolate making workshop with MyChocolate. That’s right … someone plied me with both alcohol and chocolate in return for my blogging and social skillz. I’m not sure it’s actually going to get any better than this.

I’ve always rather liked the Red Letter Days concept. Many years ago, I used it to buy my boyfriend (now husband) a flying lesson. I’m not saying the gift had a direct connection to our eventual marriage, but it was a great way of getting an unusual present for someone who didn’t need more stuff. At the time, my boyfriend lived in a shared flat where his bedroom was basically the pantry. It was just off the kitchen, and only big enough for a mattress and nothing else. The first night I stayed over, I had to leave my shoes outside the room because there was no room for them inside the room. Then all of his flatmates teased him. So he really didn’t want more stuff. But I digress… you wanted to hear about the chocolate and alcohol, right?

The first thing we did was learn how to make chocolate martinis. To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever had one before because I’m a bit of a traditionalist. If I’m somewhere that has martinis, I tend to get one “shaken not stirred” or, if I want to go crazy, I get a “dirty” one. I thought a chocolate martini sounded a bit sickly, but it wasn’t at all. The one we made had a perfect chocolate to sweetness to alcohol balance. And, she taught us how to make cool squiggles on the martini glass.

After drinking the martini, they decided to test our fine motor skills by allowing us to design our own chocolate button. You choose either a dark or milk chocolate mixture and smooth it into a shape you’d like, then take the other type of chocolate and make pretty designs and squiggles. Here’s the one the instructor made:

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You were also allowed to add flavouring to your chocolate button. I was very inspired and decided to make a mint-flavoured leaf. It was going to be beautiful and delicate. I’m not sure if I can blame my martini for the result:

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At best, it’s a giant chocolate apostrophe. Let’s not say what it is “at worst”. Moving swiftly on…

Next, we learned how to make a chocolate ganache, stick it in a piping bag, and then pipe it out to make the beginnings of chocolate truffles. It’s the first time anyone has successfully taught me how to use a piping bag, and a bit of a revelation really. I’m going to try it out at home sometime soon.

We then got to have some prosecco and taste some different types of chocolate while our lovely and knowledgeable instructor taught us about the history of chocolate and the “proper” way to taste it. I failed to take a picture of the prosecco because I was too busy necking it … but here is the chocolate.

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Did you know that chocolate has over 400 distinct flavour notes? That’s (apparently) loads more than wine. We had to sniff the chocolate, feel the way it snaps when we break it, and then allow it to dissolve slowly on the tongue. It all made me feel very cultured.

All of this was a clever way of distracting us while our previously piped chocolate ganache set. It all looked like little poos on the paper, as you can see below. We then had to roll and shape them into something prettier using cocoa powder.

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After that, we could dip them in chocolate again and get creative with all sorts of decorations such as strawberry curls, honeycomb and sea salt.

A chocolate martini and two proseccos in, combined with my natural lack of fine motor skills, resulted in these lovely truffles.

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But it’s okay, because they gave us a bag to hide them in and take them home. The pizza box housed my beautiful “mint leaf”. At least I know how to curl a ribbon.

The verdict? I am rubbish at making food look beautiful, but I had a wonderful time. Also, I ate the entire bag of the truffles that I made, just now whilst writing this blog post. They weren’t much to look at, but they were delicious. Just like many things in this world.

I heartily recommend Red Letter Days and this chocolate workshop in particular. It would be fabulous for a party, a date, a good night out with your friends or even a work do. One of the best things about it was that it incorporated a bit of team work and got me chatting with the other bloggers there, even though I didn’t know them beforehand.

Thank you to Red Letter Days for inviting me along to this experience free of charge.

Mission Mindfulness
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How to go on a date with your partner when you have young children

Recently, my husband and I really, really wanted to see the latest Star Wars movie together. In order for us both to be away from our children long enough, we both had to take a day off work. And by the time we added on a modest lunch at Nandos, cinema tickets and some popcorn, we’d spent around £50.

On special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, our dates are even more expensive. We’ll hire a babysitter, go to a decent restaurant and have a few drinks. By the time we’ve paid for the babysitter, the meal, the drinks and the taxi, we usually spend in the range of £200.

Having quality time with your partner when you have young children gets expensive and is often inconvenient too. I always worry about leaving my kids with a babysitter. Which is why “date nights”, for us, only happen a few times per year.

So I was excited when I was approached by Date Delivered to review one of their dates-in-a-box. They send you supplies for a fun and creative activity to do at home, ostensibly after the kids are in bed and actually sleeping. The boxes cost £33.95, which sounds expensive at first, but when you think back to how much you spend on going out, it’s a bargain.

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You can sign up for a subscription to receive a box every month, or every 3 months. Or you can just buy it as one-off. There are options to send them as gifts as well – a great alternative to a more traditional hamper. There is a fun quiz on the website about what you like as a couple, which helps determine what sorts of boxes you will receive.

The cocktails

The best sort of date for my husband and I turned out to be alcohol-related. Fancy that! So Date Delivered sent us a rum cocktail making kit. It came with the cocktail recipes, the rum and other special ingredients, some snacks and a list of conversation starters. It all looked so pretty and enticing in the box.

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And indeed out of the box. Yum. Rum.

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At this point, I should probably caution my readers who are planning on trying the cocktail-making kit that you really do need to read the instructions before you start. There is extra stuff you need to find. Ice, for starters. Luckily we had some ready in the freezer, but it was depleted because my 4yo son has a serious ice-water habit. We also needed some lime and grapefruit juices, a cocktail shaker and something to measure out the ingredients.

Luckily because we’re a boozy sort of household, we had all this stuff on hand. Although it would be good if the kit could include something to measure the booze. Because my husband is a scientific type and makes his own beer in his spare time, we used a graduated cylinder. Like total geeks. Maybe we’re a bit uptight, but we had to get it exactly right!

My husband also will divorce me if I don’t mention that the cocktail recipe card said you could make 4-6 cocktails with what was provided. He pointed out that the measures were exact and therefore you could only make precisely 5 cocktails with what was provided. Whatevs, though – 5 was definitely enough!

The conversation

So the cocktails were super tasty, as cocktails usually are. The salted caramel popcorn that we had with it was delicious as well. But surely the important thing about this product is whether it actually made for a romantic date night. Did we reconnect? Did we feel amorous?

Yes! We were both a bit surprised by how much fun we had. It was funny because I was spectacularly bad at making the cocktails. So we bickered a bit and then laughed about me not knowing how to shake a cocktail shaker. Here is my husband demonstrating while he laughs at me:

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The conversation starter card that came with the date was also surprisingly good. When I read them on my own, I thought they sounded pretty cringey and that we’d be too embarrassed to try them. But once we had a couple measures of rum in us, we went through all of them and enjoyed laughing about old times.

One of the questions was, “if you could recreate one of our dates, which one would it be?”. My husband wanted to replicate our very first date, but not for the reasons you’d think. He thought it was funny because I ordered a filet of fish at the restaurant but then sent it back because it had bones in it. As far as I’m concerned, the word “filet” means “bones have been removed”. Some men would have been turned off by my diva-ish attitude, but apparently my husband found it endearing.

Another fun one was, “If you could name a cocktail based on me, what would it be called?” That was a tricky one. He named my cocktail “The Clumsy Wife” and I named his “Mr Know-it-all”.

It was great to flirt and tease each other. We didn’t discuss the kids or household admin for a change. We just had a fun chat with no mention of the washing up or who needed to go where the next day.

The verdict

We had a great time! It’s a fantastic way to ensure you and your partner make time for one another without all of the hassle and expense of arranging a date outside the home. And it is so exciting to receive a mysterious box and find out what your activity is going to be this time. I think I might actually sign up to receive a quarterly box myself.

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Win one for yourself!

Date Delivered has very kindly agreed to provide one of the cocktail making date boxes to one of my lucky readers.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY.

Giveaway terms & conditions

  • This competition will open on 2 February and will close on 18 February at 12am GMT.
  • One winner will be selected at random.
  • The winner will receive one cocktail-making date-in-a-box, sent directly by Date Delivered.
  • UK entrants only.
  • No cash alternative will be offered.
  • The winner will be announced on The Mum Reviews’ social media outlets, not the blog.
  • The winner will have 28 days to respond to their winner’s email.

Disclosure: I received a Date Delivered box for purposes of this review, but all views are my own.

Listed on The Competition Database and Loquax.

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Come to the Dark Side. We have cakes. (bakerdays review & giveaway)

When bakerdays contacted me to ask if I’d like to review their range of Christmas cakes, I was so excited. Somebody wants to give me cake in exchange for my blogging! I must be getting good at this blogging malarkey.

I excitedly checked their website and quickly found that I could choose from a wide range of Christmassy designs, and personalise the text on the cake. Because I am a bit of a sci-fi geek, I quickly chose the one with Darth Vader wearing a Santa hat, and added my social media handle to promote myself and stuff (as you do).

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I was totally lacking in Christmas cheer until Darth Vader popped through my letterbox in cake form.

A cake through a letterbox? What is up with that? Well, let me tell you.

Cakes like my lovely Darth Vader cake above are designed to fit through a letterbox. You can send them as a gift to a friend with whatever picture and text you would like. You can choose from a wide range of clever designs on the bakerdays site, or upload your own pic.

And they’re not just for Christmas. You can send them for birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations of lost virginities … whatever you like. There are even One Direction cakes, if that’s your thing. And they are available for next day delivery, because we all forget birthdays until Facebook reminds us. They are 5″ in diameter and produce at least 4 servings of delicious cake to be consumed with the hot drink of your choice. Or booze. I like heating mulled wine in the microwave.

I think these cakes would make an excellent alternative to sending a greeting card. You know when you want to send something to someone, and a card just isn’t enough? But you don’t want to spend lots of money just to send something naff that they won’t even want? These cakes are the perfect solution. Everybody likes cake, right? And you can put their name and a picture of your kid on it (e.g. I love you grandma), or include some lame inside joke that only the two of you understand.

The cakes come in 5 different flavours: vanilla, chocolate, fruit, half & half, gluten free or dairy free, so you can even send it to your vegan friends. I chose the chocolate cake and it was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t believe that this cake got sent through the post, got dropped through my letterbox, fell 3 feet to hit the floor with a bang, sat on my kitchen worktop for a week before I got round to opening it, and was still intact and utterly scrummy.

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It came impeccably presented in a small cardboard box, which I opened to reveal a neat little tin (that I can keep and reuse) and a Christmas cracker. The cracker added extra fun for my kids and included a paper crown, a joke and some Christmas stickers.

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The cake was moist and chocolatey with a sturdy but not overwhelming coating of icing. My favourite bit was cutting into Darth Vader’s head.

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There is no hope for me now, son.

However, you might be able to tell by now that I am easily pleased by sugary goodness and free stuff. But my little monkeys are much harsher critics. I can faithfully report that both of them enjoyed their (very small) share of the cake (because Mummy hid in the pantry and had an extra piece). Here is my youngest shouting for more:

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So I highly recommend these letterbox cakes as affordable gifts for any occasion. They also do larger cakes – up to 12″ – if you need to feed more people and don’t feel like baking (but big ones won’t fit through your letterbox).

Would you fancy receiving a free letterbox cake of your very own? Of course you would. It’s free! It’s cake! What’s not to like? Please click on the link below to enter my Rafflecopter giveaway and you will be able to choose which personalised letterbox cake you’d like.

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED (VISIT GIVEAWAY PAGE TO WIN FREE CAKE)

If you’d like to learn more or even go ahead and buy a cake, then please check out the bakerdays website.

How do you feel about cake? What would your personalised cake look like?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Giveaway terms & conditions

  • This competition will open on 23nd November and will close on the 3rd December at 12am GMT.
  • One winner will be selected at random.
  • The winner will receive a personalised letterbox cake to be arranged in liaison directly with bakerdays
  • UK entrants only
  • No cash alternative will be offered
  • The winner will be announced on The Mum Reviews’ social media outlets, not the blog
  • The winner will have 28 days to respond to their winner’s email

Disclosure: I received a cake for purposes of this review but all views are my own.