Orlando with eight and nine year olds (not Disney)

Can you believe that it is nearly a year since we all went on holiday to Orlando.  We spent 2.5 weeks in Florida with my Brother, Sister in Law and Niece and I just realised that I never actually shared anything about our holiday! Orlando with eight and nine year olds (not Disney) We had an amazing time and the boys loved every minute of it.  So what apart from Disney did we do! Seaworld We all really enjoyed seaworld, in fact Seaworld Orlando tickets for the family are an essential in my opinion Seaworld offers the perfect mix of action rides, educational exhibits, hands on interaction and amazing shows which went down really well with all The Mad Family. We made a plan of our must see's before visiting and the boys really adored the shows that we got to see. Find out more about what we thought of Seaworld here. Universal Universal was the boys favorite theme park that we visited.  In fact we visited three times during our visit.  If it is busy I would recommend purchasing express passes, especially if you have young children. The boys adored the rides at Universal, they are a mix of thrill and 3D.  If you are fans of Harry Potter then Universal is a MUST.  We had an amazing meal at The Mythos Restaurant to celebrate MadDads birthday and I would really recommend making a booking. Here are our tips for getting the most of of Universal. LEGOLAND Orlando If you have children under 12 then LEGOLAND is a must visit.  Everyride is suitable for them and there are some amazing thrill rides to.  It also has some of the same rides as in the UK, but others included FLying school that were new to us. Find out what my Mini thrill seeker thought about LEGOLAND Florida and all our tips for visiting. Busch Gardens Now I know that officially Busch Gardens isn't in Orlando, but it is certainly worth visiting when you are there. It had THE BEST trill rides and the animals were amazing. It was the perfect mix for my boys and we had so much fun.  We went to the Madagascar live show and rode the Cheetah hunt. 3.
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The perfect family weekend in London with 8 and 9 year olds

As a family we love London and we love visiting, however, as we reside in the frozen North of England it is a long journey and sometimes weekends can be stressful and hectic.  Not anymore as thanks to Superbreak we had the perfect family weekend in London and I want to share with you what made it so special.

Make it for all the family

What made this weekend so perfect (even with Mini feeling under the weather) was there was something for everyone in the family.  We talked about what we all wanted from the weekend before we started planning and discovered that we all wanted to do different things.  Mini wanted to see a show, I wanted some culture, Maxi wanted ice cream at Fortnum and Mason and MadDad wanted a five Guys! We also knew that we wanted to have fun and some not rush from one things to the next, but we also wanted to make the most of it as we live so far away.  So this was our itinerary Friday after school We traveled to London on the train.  I made sure that I packed a picnic for the train and remarkably the boys both fell asleep on the train, which is unheard of! To make life easy we traveled with the bare minimum, in fact we took a couple of rucksacks and that was all. Mini on the train Saturday My boys are early risers so we were up early and  had an amazing breakfast at the hotel around 7.15am before purchasing day travel ticket the tube (Children under 13 travel free with an adult) to the Tower of London to see the Poppie exhibition.  I was glad that we arrived early at the Tower as when we were leaving the crowds had got quite busy and being early meant that the boys got fantastic views, in fact Mini took control of the camera and took this amazing image. Poppies by Mini We then made our way to The Parlour in Fortnum and Mason (which was next door to the hotel) for amazing icecreams before heading to see Matilda the Musical matinee tickets at the Cambridge Theatre.  The musical was breathtaking.  Ity is hard to say just how good it was, but all four of us thought it was the best we had seen and we loved it.  We then went to Covent Garden for burgers at Five Guys before making our way back to the hotel. Sunday Sunday started early for us with another amazing breakfast before we set off to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of Brick Lane for the The Art of the Brick Lego Exhibition for our timed entry.  We all really enjoyed the exhibition and again I think going early was a great idea as it was starting to get busy as we left and we all had time to really look and get close to the exhibits.  The models were amazing and the fact that it was LEGO made it really interesting, inspirational and accessible for kids of all ages. Again Mini took control of the camera. Maxi at the art of Brick We then popped to a cafr for some lunch before picking up snacks and sandwiches for the train home.  

How to have the perfect Family weekend in London

The perfect family weekend in London with 8 and 9 year olds Use an agent to book everything We first came across Superbreak when my Brother used them earlier in the year to book his family break to London.  They has such a great time and not only did using an agent take the stress out of booking, it also was less expensive than them booking direct. Superbreak took all the aspects of what we wanted in a weekend and booked everything for us and then sent us the tickets and the itinerary in the mail. Let the train take the strain By booking our train travel in advance we had great seats and a table.  Both the boys love travelling on the train and fell asleep going.  I find train travel really relaxing now and there is no worry about finding a parking space in London and for us it is faster than the car.  Plus if you travel as a family you can save money using a Family Railcard. Even better Superbreak booked our rail travel for us with East Coast (even the seat reservations) saving me even more time. Stay central Location is everything when it comes to a hotel. We stayed at the 4* Cavendish Hotel (in two rooms) which is in a great location. Easy to access from the Tube, but also within walking distance of some of London's amazing tourist spots. It was a fantastic hotel with great breakfasts included. The staff were amazing, picking up on the fact that Mini had a temperature just from an instagram picture.  Oh and remarkably Maxi actually slept in past 6am, which is unheard off! Price: from £1,240 per family (based on a family of four) based on two nights at the 4* Cavendish Hotel, including full breakfast, plus tickets to see Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge Theatre and tickets to The Art of the Brick Lego Exhibition. Return rail travel can be added. Valid until 12th December 2014 . You can book online at www.superbreak.com or by calling 01904 717 359
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The power of printing without a computer – Canon Pixma MG7150 Review

We use a lot of technology in the Mad House and one thing that we have been trying to do more lately is less reliance on screens, so having the ability to print activities, colouring pages and papercrafts without even turning on the computer or tablet is amazing. The power of printing without a computer  - Canon Pixma MG7150 Review For the last three months we have been using the Canon Pixma MG7150  for our printing requirements and one of the benefits of this printer is its LED screen and ability to print directly from the printer using a series of child friendly menus without even turning on the PC.  The amazing thing is that this piece of technology has actually reduced the boys reliance on screens. Activity Packs direct off the printer This means that when Mini was complaining the other day that he had nothing to so that he could use the Canon Pixma and print off a Monsters University activity pack all by himself. Print straight from tablet or smartphone  It also meant that I could print off images directly from my Iphone when we were in Blackpool for the boys scrapbooks.  It meant that we could look through the images and make a decision on what each of them wanted. Creative Paper Craft straight from the printer  It has also empowered the boys to print birthday cards for their friends too using Creative Park Premium, which is a premium content service available exclusively to owners of select Canon PIXMA printers - and only when all of the software and the colours of genuine Canon inks are installed. autumn mandela Photocopy using the printer One of the other things that it has enabled the boys to do themselves is to make copies of things using only the printer. They have copied drawings they have made, mandelas for colouring in and well everything and anything, but the biggest excitement for them was being able to copy a list of all of their football card swaps for their friends!

What we like about the Canon Pixma MG7150

  1. It is wireless
  2. You can use it direct from your tablet or mobile phone
  3. It can copy, scan and print
  4. It is very user friendly, even children can use it
  5. You do not have to have the computer turned on to use it
  6. It also has SD and Memory Stick Pro Duo card reader on the printer's front edge
  7. It has six ink cartridges including grey, perfect for black and white printing.
  8. It took 220 gsm cardstock and printed on it effortlessly
  9. Touchscreen technology makes it easy to navigate the menus
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Kid friendly slow cooker recipes and a giveaway

We are now over two weeks in to #Crocktober and we have been making the most of our slow cooker crockpot.  As a busy mum I love my slow cooker and it is perfect for family meals. Kid friendly slow cooker recipes

Slow cooker jacket potatoes

  1959472_10204829354916684_1933311859880860446_n Baked potatoes are fantastic in the slow cooker and they only use about 10p of electricity, so they are a super economical meal too. I wrap four large potatoes in tinfoil and place in the slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Now if you like your skins crispy, then take off the tin foil and cook on high for 20 minutes to dry them out.

Slow cooker chicken curry

  10354178_10204867897160216_4029518682530508239_n
  • Leftover chicken Meat or uncooked chicken
  • 2 Onions (sliced)
  • 1 or 2 chillies (deseeded and chopped) or dried chillies if it is all you have
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped (you can freeze any spare)
  • half teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • half teaspoon chilli powder
  • 5 tomatoes or tin of chopped tomatoes or pasata (I use what ever we have in)
  • 1 teaspoon garam Marsala
  • Veg - today it has carrots, peppers, swede and halved new potatoes in as that is what I in
Make sure the veg is covered with liquid by adding more water.  I thickened the gravy at the end with cornflour mixed with water.
Tip - Use frozen cubes of chopped chilli, garlic and ginger instead of fresh
Again I cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low. I always serve my curry to the kids with either natural yogurt or coconut yogurt so they can mellow the heat if necessary.

Quorn Bolognese

  IMG_5456
  • Bag of frozen Quorn mince
  • Pasata or chopped tinned tomatoes
  • One diced onion or frozen chopped onion
  • tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
  • two tablespoons of tomato puree
  • herbs - I used a dried italian mix
Cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low

Chicken Stock

This is super simple and makes THE BEST chicken stock.  Once you have made it this way you will always make it this way.
  • Chicken Carcass
  • Boiling water to cover
  • Odds and ends of vegetables
  • seasoning to taste
Cook overnight or for at least eight hours and strain.  You can also remove any meat from the boxes to use in soup.

Beef and Ale

  • Diced stewing steak or braising steak
  • 2 onions
  • Can of Guinness
  • Seasoning
  • Cornflour to thicken
  • Worcestershire sauce
Brown off the beef and add to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.  Cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low.  I serve this with dumplings or make double and make a pie too.

Win a Crockpot and Food Warmer

WIn a Crockpot and Food Warmer
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Paper plate Autumn/Fall leaf wreaths

An autumn paper plate leaf wreath is the perfect fall activity or craft to make with your kids whatever their age.  Paper plates remain one of my favorite ways to make wreaths with kids due to their affordability, but also their flexibility. Autumn fall paper plate leaf wreath  

What you will need to make your paper plate wreaths

  paper plate wreath how to

How to make your Wreath

As my boys are older they cut the middle from the paper places leaving the outside ring, this step is something you can do for younger ones. They then decided on which leaf they would use where and Mini stuck his on using a Bostik Extra Strength Sticki Dots. Maxi being a little older is getting more and more proficient on using a glue gun.  We use the Tec305-LT12 Low Melt gun from Glue Guns Direct. Both carried on round until the wreath was covered in leaves and you couldn't see the paper plate at all. Using some ribbon from my stash me made a loop and secured it on the back of the paper plate with sticky tape. fall paper plate wreaths

Variations:

We love these tissue paper fall wreaths from Happy Hooligans, they are great for preschoolers and toddlers as they love to scrunch and stick tissue paper. Real leaves look stunning too and Buggy and Buddy show you three ways to preserve leaves in this post. You could also laminate your leaves to make them last longer. Simply designing show us how to make stunning paper plate wreath with real leaves. Don't have either of these then take a look at these stunning wreaths made with paper leaves and Mommas fun world takes it one step further by colouring in the leaves. bostic
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Autumn/fall leaf suncatcher

The Autumn sun is a lot lower in the sky and now is the perfect time to make some wonderful Autumn/Fall leaf sun catchers. The boys and I have such fun making these suncatcher and they are really effective and look beautiful when the sun shines through them singing the colours on to walls. Autumn cuncatcher Materials
    1. Cardstock - we used black
    2. leaf template
    3. Coloured Cellophane (this is one of the reasons we save sweet wrappers)
    4. glue

How to make your leaf suncatcher

suncatcher Collage We decided to make different shaped suncatchers, mine was a circle, but Mini chose a diamond shape.  I am going to demonstrate how we cut these out with our Cricut Explore, but you could also trace the leaf templates on to your card using a white pencil and then using a craft knife cut them out.  Just make sure that you cut both sheets of card the same. Mini actually did all the design work on the Cricut Explore himself using design space and once he had chosen which leaves and pinecones he wanted on his diamon he positioned the, and then cut 2 of the designs on to black card stock. He then glued coloured cellophane to one side of the card and allowed it to dry before gluing the other piece of black card with the cellophane sandwiched between them.  This means the suncatchers look great from both sides of the window. We used Blu Tack to stick them to the window, but they would look equally as lovely with a hole punched in them and ribbon strung through and hung from the window. Autumn  leaf suncatcher Follow Jen Walshaw's board Autumn and Fall crafts and activities on Pinterest.
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15 Tips for washing your kids hair

We have all been there.  The screams and tears over hair washing and that was just me not the boys!  Well I am here to let you know that it gets better and now at eight and nine my boys can wash their hair on their own and we no longer have any issues so here is what worked with us to make washing kids hair much easier. 15 Tips for making toddler hair washing less stressful

15 Tips for making toddler hair washing less stressful

 
  1. Kid's hair doesn't actually get that dirty.  I only really washed the boys hair once a week and sometimes even less than that and sometimes I just wet it!  We only really started with the true hair washing when they started getting really grubby.  When they were small I often would just wipe it over with a damp flannel.
  2. Wash hair at the beginning of the bath and get it out of the way
  3. Do not feel apprehensive about hair washing time, children can feed off your feelings.
  4. You could use a dry flannel folded up in to thirds for their eyes and either hold it fore them or get them to hold it to protect their eyes or you can get foam visors. Or if they really don't like water near their eyes you could always give swimming goggles a try.
  5. Get them to tip their head back and look at a point on the ceiling - you could pop a sticker or a safety mirror on the ceiling for them to look at.
  6. If they don't like tipping their head back try tipping it forward.
  7. We used to use a toy watering can to wet and rinse the boys hair.  They also loved using it for playing in the bath.
  8. Make it fun.  Make both bathtime and hair washing fun.  We used to have lots of toys for the boys to play with in the bath, they knew that they got to play after their hair was washed.  Water pistols were and still are a huge hit in my bathroom.
  9. Let them wash your hair.  We went through a stage where the boys refused to have their hair washed so we let them wash ours to show that there was nothing to be scared off.  I am a big believer in modelling behaviour you would like to see.
  10. Role play.  Why not let your kids play at being mum and washing their dolls hair.
  11. Using a shower attachment gets the hair rinsed much faster than a cup or jug which means the ordeal will be over faster!
  12. Let them do it themselves.  Sometimes giving them the responsibility is enough to let them not worry
  13. Try a different place, if they don't like it is the bath try moving hair washing into the shower.about it.  Kids love to be independant.
  14. Be prepared.  Yes bathtime can get a little messy and the floor can get a little wet, so be prepared and put bath mats down and towels too.  Bathroom Furniture is designed to get wet and is easily wipeable.
  15. Remember it is a phase.  this too will pass.
Mini bath 3.
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Autumn/Fall watercolour resist leaf garland

Inspired by Fun at Home with Kids fall watercolour resist leaves we decided to get our new glue gun out and make an Autumn/Fall watercolour resist leaf garland. We were sent two glue guns (one low melt, which is perfect for crafts and younger children and one high melt from Glue Guns Direct).  We decided to try the coloured glue to make the outlines. watercolour leaves   Materials required:
  • Card
  • Glue gun
  • Watercolour paint brushes
  • Cord
We started by printing off some leaves to use at templates.  The boys then drew around them on to a light coloured card with a pencil. Maxi and glue gun Then they used the glue gun to follow the lines and create a well for the watercolours.
Tip: Glue guns are great, but need to be used under adult supervision and you will know when your child is ready to use one.  The glue gun that we used was a high melt one (we wanted to use coloured glue and  the high melt one comes with this option). My boys are nine and eight and are becoming more proficient at using a glue gun, but I still remind them that they are hot.
They then filled in the leaves with water colours. They used liquid watercolours (you could use food colouring) They also used some standard watercolours too mini painting leaves We allowed the paint to dry before cutting out the leaves. watercolour resist leaves We then decided to thread them on to butchers twine.  We used a large eyed needed and again the boys did this supervised. watercolour resist leaf garland how to If you like this then you can find lots more Autumn/Fall crafts on my Pinterest board Follow Jen Walshaw's board Autumn and Fall crafts and activities on Pinterest.
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Walk to school month with Kia – tips for making mornings less stressful for all the family.

October in Walk to School month and I am joining in with Kia in trying to encourage you to get walking to school. I am lucky with the fact that the boys school is within walking distance and now that they are eight and nine they walk or scoot to school on their own, so mornings are so much less stressful for me.  My biggest tip is to remove all the obstacles from the morning that make life hard. Steps to feeling confident with your kids walking to school on their own

Tips for making mornings less stressful for all the family

 
  1. Delegate - encourage your children top be as independent as possible
  2. Get out school uniform the night before or better yet get the kids to put their uniform out
  3. We always get out the breakfast bowls etc out the night before too
  4. Make sure that school bags are packed and by the door
  5. We always keep school shoes by the door too, no more last minute rush searching for that missing shoe!
  6. Encourage your kids to get their breakfast
I am not going to lie to you letting the boys walk to school on their own wasn't easy for me.  It was a big step, but it was a good step forward for us as a family.  We live in a small village and the jungle drums beat faster than any phone call from them could!

Steps to feeling confident with your kids walking to school on their own

  1. Try a walking bus - Kia are sponsoring walking buses throughout the country in October and it is a great way to let go of the reins safely
  2. Try dropping them off closer to school or walking them halfway
  3. Safety in numbers.  The boys now scoot to school in a group with their friends.  So check out if other mums are thinking of letting their kids walk to school and group up with them.
  4. There is nothing wrong with following them at a discreet distance!
  5. Remember that you probably walked to school at their age and the world is not more dangerous now, we are just more aware of the dangers.
  6. My boys scoot to school and are sensible enough now to lock up their scooters when they get their.  It is amazing what our kids are capable of when we let them.

My stress points in the morning

Kia sent me a a heart monitor to wear for a for a week to see if there was a stress point in our morning routine. I know that if I had worn it on the days when I used to drive or walk the boys to school it would have been through the roof, but the only times it went high was when I was repeating myself asking the boys to brush their teeth!  So we sat down and talked about it and decided to bring a set of toothbrushes and paste to our downstairs loo, so they boys could have breakfast and then brush their teeth downstairs. Oh I tell a lie, it did get to 102 when Mini told me he had a poonami indedent just as he was leaving for school this morning! The fact is the mornings are not so stressful now my boys are older and more responsible.  Maxi even cooked breakfast for everyone two of the mornings and brought mine up to me in bed!   I would really encourage anyone thinking of allowing their kids to walk to school.  It really has transformed our mornings. Disclosure: this post is in collaboration with Kia. 
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Get a Birds Eye View and Win a Samsung Smart Camera

In conjunction with  Birds Eye I have a Samsung WB350F Smart Camera (White, 16.3MP, Optical Image Stabilisation, 3 inch LCD) to giveaway to celebrate the modern British mealtime and their Birds Eye View exhibition.

Birds Eye View Birds Eye have been on a quest to document the modern British mealtime with photographer Martin Parr. To help them understand mealtimes today, Martin's been visiting households across the country, from people who entered a competition to have Martin visit and photograph their meal times, delving into our nation’s food habits along the way. The tour concluded with Martin's findings and the best images from this competition being presented at A Birds Eye View’ exhibition in London earlier this week. Win a samsung smart camera Samsung WB350F Smart Camera
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