A weekend in the garden

I married a farmer's son, so it was inevitable that we were going to grow stuff in the garden and not just flowers.  This became even more important to us when we had children.  We wanted to show them where their food came from and to encourage them to grow their own.  This year we are growing shallots, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas, runner beans, broad beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, salad leaves, radish, spring onions, tomatoes, strawberries (in hanging baskets) and an array of herbs (dill, basil, cress, flat parsley, chives, mint, sage and fennel). Center Parcs challenged us to share with you a day in our garden for this months Tots100 Center Parcs Outdoor Challenge. So this weekend I gave my phone and camera to the boys and here is a weekend in our garden.  It helped that this weekend was a perfect one weather wise with lots of sun. Garden Collage MadDad wields a pen all week in his job, so loves getting his hands dirty at the weekend and this weekend has been no exception, he has build a planter out of scraps of wood.  He has relaid a patio and cleaned it too.  Hard to believe that eight years ago this was all just mud as we live in a new build. The boys and their friends pretty much come and go in the garden and the grass sees games of football, cricket, rugby and tennis on a regular basis (we are lucky that our neighbours just throw the balls back)! This weekend also saw the first of what we hope to be many BBQ's on our trusty charcoal outback BBQ which is now over ten years old. This weekend also saw me taking a rather nasty tumble which I ended up on the garden fork, thank goodness I am OK though and it was a blunt fork.  My Trousers bear the holes and not my legs which are rather cut and scraped to say nothing of my ego as all the neighbours saw and heard.  I was well looked after though as one is a GP and two are nurses! CenterParcs Family Blog Club ‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and I visited Whinfell village with my family (See our review here). If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how http://bit.ly/1okzxJv’ 
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My go to spring sandwich

I adore advocardo's.  They seem to be one of those things that people either love or hate.  Me I love them, but I find it really hard to predict when they are just right to eat.   So when we were challenged to make our perfect sandwich with Primula by the Tots100 to To celebrate National Sandwich Week I decided to crack open the avocado.  Kids primula Avocado, primula (instead of butter) and chilli flakes on brown bread or brown toast of you are feeling the need for a little crunch to your break. I hadn't had Primula for what must be over 30 years till very recently.  Primula have brought out a children's version, Primula Kids and it actually contains the lowest salt, fat, calories and highest cheese and calcium content of any branded spreadable cheese on the market. primula I was going to tell you all about my Primula memories, but Laura from Littlestuff has done that and much more eloquently than I could have done.  But it is good to see that the Primula still comes out with the crimped edge just like from a fancy piping bag! Since getting our Primula kids it has become a firm favorite, especially for Maxi who doesn't like butter or spread on sandwiches.  We have been using the Primula instead and it has stopped his bread getting soggy and he loves the taste (winner). When I was unwell as a child my favorite food was tomato soup and primula on bread to dip in to it and eating it has brought memories flooding right back.  My mum loved the prawn version on crackers. Fancy winning a fab two night break in a double room in any of the 25 Urban Village locations on a bed and breakfast basis?   All you need to do is create your Primula sandwich, share your photo on Twitter or Instagram (or both!) and tag @tots100 using the hashtag #PrimulaSandwich giving the details of your sandwich too! You need to share before 11.59am on 23rd May 2014 to be in with a chance of winning. The Tots100 website has more information about the competition and the full terms and conditions. Oh and any tips on how to tell if an avocado is ripe, please do leave me a comment.  3.  
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A spring collection with the Cricut Explore

I thought I would start off with a really simple craft on the Cricut Explore.  Some table decorations for a spring themed tea party. I wanted to get the hang of using the new design space software and use the free images and do something simple with the boys. Spring cake cases and straws Materials:
  • Cake cases in three sizes
  • Cardstock
  • Glue or double sided tape
  • paper straws
  • Craft knife
spring themed party crafts

How to make

We chose the shapes for the flowers on the Cricut Design Space and resized them, which is really simple using the onscreen scale.  I then cut them on cardstock, which is super simple with the new Cricut Explore as you just follow the instructions on screen after you press the go button. design At this stage you can also choose the amount of cuts you want to make, rather than copy them all in the design space.
Hint - If you want to manually arrange the cutting layout change the size of the cardstock from 12 x 12 to 12 x 24 and then you can rearrange them to optimise them for your size of paper.
spring themed party I purchased my paper straws and cake cases from ebay, in fact I have put together a collection on ebay for Cricut accessories. This craft was as simply as cutting out the shapes on the Cricut explore and then gluing on the cake cases.  I used a craft knife to cut an x in the smallest cake case to slip a straw though. We made pink which was the boys choice, but they would look fantastic in any colour or event with patterned card. 3.  
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Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer Review

Firstly I am going to admit that we already had a Karcher pressure washer, which was passed down to us via the in laws when they upgraded.  This machine is around 9 years old, so I know that Karcher Pressure washers are designed to last. The Mad House Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer Review As part of out Karcher Clean Ambassador program we have been sent a Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer to review, which is perfect for this time of year and cleaning the car and garden. We liked:
  • The patio kit and cleaner - this is brilliant. One of the things we hated about cleaning our patio previously was the spray and splash of muck when you used the lance on its own.  The patio cit stops the water and muck going everywhere.  it takes a little getting used to, but it dislodges all the much, but leaves it loose on the patio.
  • You can attach the machine to a water butt, perfect it you live in a hosepipe ban area
  • The dirtblaster lance which provides up to 50% greater cleaning power than a standard high pressure lance, it does this my sort of spinning the water. 
  • It comes with a three year guarantee
  • It is compact, so doesnt take up too much space in the garage and is lightweight so I can carry it easily
  • It has storage areas for the tools.
Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer Review We weren't keen:
  • It is an investment piece at £232.09, but will save you loads on car wash costs and cleaning products.
 
Karcher
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Making Magic with Innocent Kids

We were challenged by Innocent kids to reproduce a magic trick from the back of their Kids Juices packets as part of their magic circle.  There are seven #innocentmagic tricks and seven of the Innocent gangs favourite bloggers have been chosen to perform. We were sent a sample of Innocent's new juice flavour tropical, which both the boys loved.  Mini isnt a fan of orange juices, but really likes the tropical flavour, which is a blend apples, oranges, pineapple, mango and passionfruit and even better it has no bits, so no funny faces!  I love that these are the perfect size for lunch boxes and I will be putting them in when the boys go to football training during the holidays (they have school dinners normally). They also count as one of the boys five a day (which is great if you struggle to get fruit and veg in to your kids). mini magic We were set the "hovering water" trick below: We have practiced, practiced and better practiced and this is our video! As you can see we ended up very wet! However, take a look at Nia from the Ana Mum Diaries performing her trick really well! We might not have succeeded...................... yet, but we are having lots of fun trying.
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The Bloggers guide to encouraging and nurturing a love of reading

I am a book lover, I always have been and it is one of the things that I have always wanted to foster in my children.  We have books everywhere in The Mad House.  You can not go into a room without there being books. I wanted to share with you some information about the Scottish Book Trust, which is Scotland’s leading agency for the promotion of literature, reading and writing. The organisation works with writers, children, teachers, librarians and readers from all backgrounds to spread a love of books and reading. Don't worry if you are not in Scotland as  the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour (which has been running for 14 years) comes in to schools in England too and reaches on average 6000 children every year. Mini at nearly eight is just like I was as a child, he loves books, loves reading and often falls asleep with a book in his hand.  He learned to read before school from sitting watching Maxi read. Maxi, however, at nine is something of a reluctant reader.  This is not down to inability, oh no he has been reading at an advanced level since starting school. The Bloggers guide to encouraging and nurturing a love of reading So I put out the question to some amazing bloggers that I know and asked them what was their one top tip for encouraging and nurturing reading in children:
  1. Read everyday with your child. It's the single most important thing you can do! Growing Book by Book
  2. Provide lots of books, magazines, pamphlets, leaflets, letters etc. Anything and everything that can be read. And lots of variety! Swirly Arts
  3. Start reading to children from an early age, make it part of the daily routine and encourage children to choose books they enjoy as they get older The Life of Spicers
  4. Make it fun, We have homemade book marks that we've made together and we have reading charts that we use to record how much reading we’re doing by adding a sticker to it every time they read for half an hour.  When they get to the end we all have a family treat like an afternoon out or a treat tea! Dairy of a Frugal Family
  5. Be the example!! Have a stack of books you are reading, and talk about how you enjoy reading with your kids. If they see you do it, they will want to do it too. Chicken Babies
  6.  Start reading when they are babies, regular visits to the local library where they can choose their own reading material greatly helps Rambling through parenthood
  7. Not pressurising them to conform and most importantly find them books they like reading...nothing more off putting than being 'forced' to learn to read with a really dull book Cherished by me 
  8. Read books that have been made into movies. When you're done with the book you can watch the movie together, compare the movie version to the book version,etc.. Suzy Homeschooler 
  9. Change it up by listening to books on audio together while traveling. Ask comprehension questions! Still Playing School
  10.  I would suggest having a reading routine. For most parents, the easiest time to do this is bedtime. Make it a "special" time. Sit in a comfy chair. Snuggle up. Cover yourselves with a special blanket. Give your child your full attention and block out other distractions. Try and do it every night...even a quick book on nights where you're putting your child down late. All these things help show kids how reading is an important and precious activity!  One Time Through
  11. Take them to the library regularly and let them choose their own books. What do we do all day 
  12. Start reading from the absolute beginning but also let your children see You read! I read in front of my son all of the time and I think it helps - If Mummy loves it why won't he! Petit Moi
  13. Anything can be reading material, if they want you to read cereal packets then go with the flow. Recipe books also make good reading tools as they like the pictures Emmys mummy
  14. Start young. Look at picture books with your baby. Read board books to your toddler. Even if they are running around you in circles, read the words and then point out things you think will interest them. Eventually, they get to a point where sitting and reading appeals to them. Make reading a part of their life from the beginning and it will become a natural part of their life throughout their childhood (and beyond). Library Adventure 
  15. This week it would have to finding your ladybird books from childhood. Seren has been reading all of mine, intrigued that they were from when mummy was a little girl! Johnson Babies
  16. Set an example and read yourself. Both my children have loved 'reading' their own books alongside me from a very early age. I think children emulate what they see so if their parents read then it can spark their own interest in it. Catch a Single Thought
  17. Make reading the norm. We have a house full of books, read to my son after lunch and before bed every day. We've visited the library and borrowed books since he was a baby. He knows nothing different and he even had books as rewards when we were potty training Over 40 and mum to one
  18.  Let them pick their own books to read at home. If you have to read 'Room on the Broom' every night for two weeks so be it. It means they love it and enjoy it. Also just because you liked a certain series of books or an author when you were a child don't expect your child to like them as well. Reading at home should be all about pleasure.   Jibber Jabber
  19.  Read to your kids every day from the very beginning! When your children start enjoying longer, more complex picture books, start reading simple chapter books to them. It will increase vocabulary, comprehension, and conversation. There's nothing like bonding over a great book! The Measured Mom
  20. Read to them every night, even when they can read themselves. Never skimp on it. My 9 year old still gets so much from me reading to her at bedtime. We read books that she might find too challenging to read alone and it fires her imagination and vocabulary. Actually Mummy
  21. When you read together make it special. Make sure you turn off the television or the radio and put your mobile phone down. Snuggle under a favourite blanket or make some hot chocolate or in the Summer sit on a blanket in the shade with a cold drink or an ice lolly. Make the time when you are reading for enjoyment cosy, relaxed and inviting. Damson Lane
  22. Seek out different books, ask other parents, children and your librarian what books they'd recommend for your children. Mums do travel
  23. Let your children see you reading an actual book rather than glued to electronic devices (that's a lesson for myself to learn!). They copy so be their example and show a love of books. Three Children and It
  24.  Read, read, read!!! My kids all get to pick their own books at the library. This has become a really big deal! My daughter got her own library card when she was 5.  You would have thought she won the lottery! Big hair and books
  25. My big tip is audio books for children who are not keen on the actual book, it's an easier way in. Sometimes they will read along as they listen. David Walliams does great readings on all the audio versions of his books. Opposable Thumbs
  26. As children get a bit older libraries have great reading schemes running through the summer holiday, where children get rewards for reading books. Hellies Corner
  27. Encourage a love ofof reading by choosing books, based on your children's interests.  That should be true for very small ones, but also for older children. Offer your toddler books about dogs if he is excited to see them, and do not disapprove of an older child if he wants to read a novelization of some cartoon that looks like garbage to you. It is alright, they will outgrow it. It is the great feeling of pleasure associated with books that will stay and matter in the end. Adventure in a Box 
  28. Read to them every day. If they are too restless to sit and listen, read aloud while they play and show the pictures. Let them choose books at the library and treat is as a special event. Give books as a birthday party gifts to friends to teach their value to your own children. Let them see you reading. Have books always accessible to them. Bare feet on the dashboard
  29.  I pretty much let my son read anything he fancies, he's three but loves Batman so we have loads of comics as well as books and..umm... he does get Young Adult graphic novels out of the library sometimes! I have to change the wording a bit (thankfully we're still at the age where I can do that) but he's always desperate to pick those up and read them. Crafts on Sea 
  30. My Autistic son is 8 and has the reading age of 11yrs+ He needs no encouragement! He LOVES books and most nights falls asleep with a big hardback Encyclopaedia stuck to his face!! Our world and Autism
  31. We started reading to him at about 4 months old, he got/gets 3 books every night, and over 3 years later he still does! We always let him choose books as well as toys when it's treat time. He loves to be read to now during quiet time in the day and has started to read a few words himself. Mischievous Mum
  32. Hide a torch under their pillow (school age) with a good book at bedtime. Make sure they know it's there but say goodnight and turn out the light. All mine then reach for it and read for a god half hour before falling asleep! Makes for peaceful bedtimes, I factor the extra half an hour in so they don't go to bed too late, and the idea that it's almost not allowed seems to really grab them lol!!! Musings of a 21st Century Stay at Home Mum
3.
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Things to do in York and Leeds with Kids

We love living where we do in the NE of England and York is only an hour away from us and Leeds an hour and a half.  However, if you live further afield take a look at Hotel Direct Things to do in York and Leeds with Kids

York

  York is a beautiful city and is one of those places perfect for strolling around with wonderful green spaces such as Museum Gardens. The ten-acre botanical Gardens, stretch from the River Ouse up to the back of York Art Gallery.  The gardens were planted in the 1830s and you can download a guide if you are visiting to find your way round.  York Castle Museum has a world-famous Victorian street which reopened in June 2012.  It is the most iconic part of York Castle Museum and its schoolroom, police cell, Hansom cab and cobbled street surface all remain. The National Railway museum is always a huge hit in this house and is UK's largest railway museum.  This fantastic free museum has something for everyone including model railways, steam engines and over 10000 railways items. Find out more about what we think of it here. Build on the site of a preserved Viking Village Jorvik Viking Centre is one of the most visited attractions in the UK.

Leeds

  Leeds is a fantastic place with lots to see and do as a family including the Leeds City Museum which is free and has four floors of interactive galleries and exhibitions. My boys love the Armories, which is home to Britain's national collection of arms and armour and even better is it free. The  Thackray Medical Museum is truly unique and is the only museum of its kind in the North of England. You get to explore your medical past through innovative exhibitions.  It is a real hidden gem and perfect for inquisitive children. Leeds is proud of it's industrial heritage and Leeds Industrial museum is housed in what was once the world's largest woollen mill. Step back in time to learn about the industrial history of Leeds from manufacturing textiles and clothing to printing, engineering and locomotives, which the city was world famous for. Close by is Harewood House and gardens which is one of the Treasure Houses of England and is renowned for its stunning architecture and exquisite interiors and it also has a wonderful play park for children. The Tudor-Jacobean estate of Temple Newsam once owned by Henry VIII is home to Europe's largest rare breeds farm. and makes a great day out for visitors of all ages. 3.
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#My Happy Place

We all have one.  A happy place, somewhere that we feel safe and content.  Somewhere that leaves us feeling at peace.  I have a couple.  One is my "Crudy" (craft room/study) and the other is on the beach. So I want to share #myhappyplace my happy place
The Beach I grew up by the seaside and the sea has always been my compass.  We lived in landlocked Berkshire for over ten years and I felt all at sea, so discombobulated.  I never knew which way I was facing or directing I was going. When we boomeranged back to the NE of England I knew that I wanted to be close to the sea.  In fact I have a sea view from my study and from Mini's bedroom (although not for long as they are building more houses)!  We don't actually live in walking distance to the beach, but it is a two minute drive away. There is something about the way the waves crash on to the shore, the ever reliable ebb and flow of the tide and the way the sun and moon reflects on the sea and makes it looks different without actually changing it. I love the smell of the salty air and there is nothing better than having your breath taken away by malt vinegar on hot chips. I always feel this is where I should be.  It is where I go to clear my head, to clarify things and give me perspective on life.
my desk, my happy place
The craft room/study It may be the smallest room in the house, but it is filled with creativity, inspiration and joy.  It holds all of my play things and it is where I blog, work, craft and sew. I love being cocooned in this happy place.  There is just so much potential in this room, the smallest in our home.  It is my haven, where I can come when my mind won't stop chattering.  Making things sooths my soul, it makes me happy. I love that I can sit and write surrounded by things that inspire me to do more and be more.
I am sure that you must have happy places and I want to know them.  So write a blog post and let me know.  Tweet me using #MyHappyPlace or even post a picture of it on Instagram using the #MyHappyPlace hashtag. To start the ball rolling I am going to tag some bloggers who's happy place I NEED to see and challenge them to blog about it, then get them to tag who's happy place they would like to see. Now as this is an old fashioned meme, no linkies involved at all.  When a blogger does their post, it would be great if they could link to bloggers who they would like to see their happy place and share the link love.  The only rule is if you do a post please link to the person who tagged you.  Feel free to use the button below if you wish too.
The Mad House
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Encouraging picky eaters – kids in the kitchen

I am blessed to have kids that eat pretty much everything I put in front of them most of the time.  However, we still have times when they are under the whether or just being kids when they refuse food. I find that a great way of getting them and me out of a funk it to bring them in to the kitchen and make things together.  However, when that fails this is a failsafe way to encourage picky eaters! My top tip for picky eaters We were challenged by by Love Yogurt UK  to produce a recipe for Yogurt Week (19-25 May), which got me thinking about what to make and how to involve the boys. easy chopping for kids I love the fact that my boys are active in the kitchen and want to help.  Chopping is one of the things that concerns me, those little fingers, sharp knives and clumsiness are something that concerns me.   However with this chopper thing (yes that is the technical term in The Mad House) the boys have to keep both their hands on the two handles meaning that fingers are away from the blade. Recipes (I feel ashamed calling these recipes as they are so simple) Natural/plain yogurt or greek yogurt Sweet additions
  • Honey (not advised for under ones)
  • Maple syrup
  • Stewed fruit
  • Berries (frozen ones are great as you only need a few)
  • Mashed mango
  • Peanut butter and honey
Savory additions
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Chopped skinned cucumber with time
  • Mustard and honey - my boys love this for chicken
  • Chilli sauce - yogurt is a great way to take the heat out of it.
  • Avocado, garlic and lime juice
  • Tinned tuna
Now you can pretty much dip anything in these sauces, so they are a great way of introducing new foods.  My boys had pineapple, melon and mango to dip and carrots, cucumber and breadsticks.  But you could dip fish or chicken fingers, cheese sticks, toast,  sweet peppers, green beans, asparagus,  sliced apple, sliced pears and baby corn. Dips for kids For more information check out @loveyogurtUK on Twitter, the Yogurt Week website or Love Yogurt UK on Facebook. 3.
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My Small Stuff – April

April showers, make may flowers.  I hope this is the case.  April in The Mad House was filled full of the joys of an Easter holiday which meant a visit to the Chill Factore and also a brilliant day out with friends at FlamingoLand (review to follow). Aprils small stuff We have made the most of the good weather to replace the raised beds in the garden and add more.  We have also been testing out a Karcher Pressure washer, well I say we, but mostly MadDad has been using it to clean the car, patios and water butts! We have also spent rather a lot of time outside on scooters, playing football and cricket and Mini helped out at GrandPa's farm for a day too. It seems looking back that April was full of cake, at home where we made easter nests, easter eggs and various other cakes and also at Blog Camp. We have been practicing our magical abilities thanks to Innocent and their magic circle.  If you want to join in then #innocentmagic tricks are on the back of the packets of all of the innocent Kids juices. We received a package of shreddies with a special knitted coat by the knitting nanas! April was also filled with crafting.  I have been playing with the New Circut Explore, so have the boys.  We have also been busy making cards and the pompom maker made an appearance again! April wouldnt be complete without Easter parties, paste eggs, bonnets and fun with family, so we managed to squeeze all that in too. In fact April has been a brilliant month.  I hope yours has too. If you want to join in, then feel free to grab my badge and add yourself to the link below.
The Mad House
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