I have always loved the look of dried orange slices and there were plenty of them used in decorations at York Christmas Market when we visited, so I wanted to try making some myself They are very easy to make and really effective too.
Wire tray (I used one of my cooling trays)
The hardest part of this is having the patience to wait for them to be dry!
Slice your oranges in to 1 cm strips. Make sure that you cut the oranges cross ways so you get the pretty segmented look. Discard the ends.
Blot any excess juice on to a paper towel or tea towel.
Place the slices on to a wire rack.
Place in your oven at 90 degrees centigrade for 3 hours, turning once.
Allow to dry overnight.
I made a second batch and dipped them in lemon juice which is supposed to preserve the colour, but there was no difference at all! The house smelt delicious when I was drying them and you could also use a dehydrator if you have one, but it is days like today that have been dreaming about owning an Aga.
Both the boys have stockings that I made for them when they were first born and each year I fill them with an assortment of items.
So my top tips for stocking fillers this year are:
Playmobil Fi?ures (£1.97)
What can I say you can never have too much Playmobil!
Magic Spring £1.49 - Yellow Moon
Perfect for children of any age. My boys love watching it spring itsr way down the stairs! Size 75mm
We are huge fans of Jennie in the Mad House. Mini is a big fan of her London range and her notebooks are fab. Great quality and super designs, plus free postage in the UK.
Speed Racer Sets - !1.49 Yellow Moon
Fab mini construction sets from Yellow Moon, which are easy to assemble and really great value for money.
We particularly love the EASY Original pen (£6.99) which is designed to aid children learn to write with easy to grip areas and specifically for left handers or right handers. We have loved these pens so much that I went out and bought the boys an EASYergo pencil (£6.99) each. The boys have found them very easy to grip and use.
Lush Fun £5
Fun is a dough/soup that is moldable, you can play with it, wash with it, shower with it or use it to wash your hair. It smells divine and is super fun. My only issue is that it has SLS in, so is not ideal for any children with eczema Maxi has used it in moderation.
Hexbug Warriors £7.99
I have never really understood Hexbugs. The boys have some but only played with them occasionally, however, they adore these new Hexbug Warriors. I think it is something to do with the competitive nature of boys! Yes they are more expansive than the standard bugs, but you get a little mini arena and parts that can be added or removed from the bugs and these are interchangeable. We have one each (yes I have one too) and we play with them a lot.
Horrible Histories Vile Villains £7.99
Now the box says age 8+ however, Mini is six an d love this game. It is based on the bestselling Horrible Histories books study the facts on a card for ten seconds, then answer a question correctly to keep the card! Contains 54 picture/question cards, timer and dice. Even better you can play it on your own.
Other items that go in every year are:
Chocolate coins, a toothbrush, a mandarin, marbles, torches, top trumps, gloves, socks, temporary tattoos (Oh how I wish I could get Jennie Maizels to make some) and lip chap.
As a family we love York. It is only an hours drive for us and somewhere that we enjoy visiting and browsing. This past weekend was St Nicholas Fayre in York, which is billed as one of the most popular Christmas markets in the UK, with thousands of visitors coming to York over the four-day event.
We hadn't been to York for a while, so thought that we would try and do some Christmas shopping at the Fayre and gave both the boys their pocket money and we set off with a challenge to try and buy presents for my mother in law and farther in law.
We decided to park at Mary Gate, which is a long stay car park, but we could have chosen one of the many park and rides, but know from experience that the one on our side of York sometimes gets very busy and can mean queuing for a bus and with two impatient boys we would rather park. It cost £11 for a full days parking. The joy of parking at Mary Gate is that we get to stroll through the Museum Gardens and feed the squirrels and look a the abbey ruins and the observatory. It also is a wonderful green space nad gives the boys a chance to run around after an hours car journey.
We should have realised that York would be busy from the fact the car park was full, but my of my I do not think I have ever seen it this full before. The outdoor market stalls, which are housed in huts were heaving. Both the boys got basked badly by peoples rucksacks and it was very difficult to get in to any of the stalls to see what was being sold. In the end we had to put the boys on our shoulders and at six and seven that was hard work.
We managed to get to a couple of the stalls that we really wanted to and bought a fab selection of local cheese and also locally produced oils and vinaigrette, in addition to an oil pouring bottle made my a local potter. The boys wanted to get this years christmas ornament from the market, but we couldn't get a look in at any of the decoration stalls, so we sat them down and bought them a hot chocolate pot instead! I would say that the decoration stalls that we got to see where not that impressive. We ideally were looking for artisan items, but there were all pretty mass produced stuff.
We didn't waste our day in York. We made sure that we had a stroll round all of the local shops in the streets, had lunch at Pizza Express and a pot of tea in a cafe. We would have liked to visit Betty's but the normally long queue was massive, so we gave it a miss this time.
York is a wonderfully compact city with plenty to see and do and we also visited the Yorvic Viking Center (review to follow) and had a walk round York Minster. If you have more time you can always visit the National Railway Museum which is free or one of the other many museums
So my suggestion would be to make sure you turn up early for the fayre and make sure you are aware that it will be very busy. If York isn't your local Christmas Market, then why not take a look at Travel Supermarkets Christmas Market Wrap up and find one closer to home. Also keep an eye out for posts from other bloggers about their local Christmas markets.
I love Christmas. It is a family time for me, but it is also an excuse for me and the boys to get our craft on. So I was delighted when Snafflesmummy asked me to post about our Homemade Christmas and Advent.
So I thought I would have a go at decorating some candles. We love burning candles at this time of year and thought that they would be a perfect teacher gift.
Pillar candles - Mine are from Aldi, but ones with a flat top would look great
Tissue paper - I used predecorated, but plan to get the boys to draw on some white tissue paper for their teachers candles
Heatgun or haordryer
Wax paper (from the baking section) or baking parchment
I measured my candle both height and circumference (I used a piece of wool for the circumference!) and cut my tissue paper to size.
Then I cut a larger piece of waxed paper
Wrap the tissue around the candle and then cover with the wax paper, pulling it tight. The wax paper makes this easier to do and stops you burning your hands especially with thinner candles.
Then use the heat gun or hairdryer to melt the surface wax and the tissue paper will adhere to the candle.
I have been burning the candle and the tissue does remain and not burn, but this paper is rather thicker than standard tissue paper. I remember making these with my mum and we used the old fashioned sheets of wrapping paper (it was very thin) and rather than cover the whole candle we would cut an image out and just apply that. We would then cover with glitter that was iridescent and OK to burn. You can add glitter to your candles, but I would suggest using a water based glue and cosmetic grade glitters.
I was delighted to hear the news that Princess Catherine and Price William are expecting there first child this afternoon, but after reading that she had actually been admitting to hospital with Hyperemesis gravidarum brought back so many memories for me.
Hyperemesis gravidarum or HG is a horrible affliction, but thankfully not a common pregnancy condition. It affects up to three per cent of mums-to-be. But if you're unlucky enough to suffer from HG, it is miserable and can be just hell. HG usually begins at between four weeks and seven weeks, easing off at between 14 weeks and 16 weeks of your pregnancy. In most cases, HG will end by the time you're about 20 weeks pregnant. Unfortunately, for me and up to another 20 per cent of sufferers, HG goes on to last for the whole pregnancy.
The hardest part for me was people kept offering me advise on ways to stop the sickness, including ginger, acupuncture eating little and often and every other morning sickness remedy out there and I just wanted to scream at them. I wasn't suffering for morning sickness, i was suffering for every minute, every second sickness. I didn't even get respite from being asleep as I would vomit in my sleep. I was being sick as much as 100 times a day and dry heaving in between.
Before I fell pregnant with Maxi I had suffered from a Molar pregnancy and so when I started vomiting excessively we were really concerned that I was having another one. I was admitted to hospital and given an urgent scan, put on fluids via a drip and my fluid outtake was monitored. Various medications were discussed, but both MadDad and myself were very anti medication as we had never managed to get full term with a pregnancy. My first admittance lasted three days and I was discharged once I could tolerate oral fluids.
Things went downhill pretty fast and I was readmitted within the week. This time is was clear that I needed to accept that some medication was essential. So we started on what was to be a week of trial and error to find one that actually stopped the sickness. I was very lucky and my obstetrician had been with us through the Molar pregnancy and didn't skimp on trying all the meds. Some doctors are reluctant to try the more expensive medication such as ondansetron. Mine tried it, but it just didn't work for me. In the end I needed cyclizine, but couldn't keep it in orally, so here started the three times daily injection in my bottom that MadDad did for the remainder of my pregnancy and even then it didn't stop all the sickness, it just made it more manageable.
I suffered terribly and find it really hard to put in to words the utter awfulness that both my pregnancies were. The only way I got through them was with the support of my wonderful husband and supportive GP and consultant. I thought I was dying, I felt dizzy all the time. It was as though I was suffering from permanent sea sickness. I was emotionally unstable and depressed. Being sick all the time does nothing for your hormonal balance. I was lacking in B vitamins.
It got to a point where I couldn't even sleep in the same bed as MadDad as I couldn't bear the bed moving or the smell of him. I couldn't cook food and lived off rice and reheated mash and peas for months. The only relief I got was the hour of acupuncture I had twice a week and as soon as they took the needles out I felt terrible. I lived for these hours.
For one I am glad that I didn't blog when I was expecting the boys as I was in a very dark place and the only thing that got me though was knowing that at the end I would have a baby. I can not, no will not write some of the things that went though my mind, as I would never want the boys to know just how utterly exhausting and terrifying being pregnancy was. I didn't glow, people asked me if I was seriously ill.
My HG actually got a lot worse again at the end of the pregnancy and I needed to go back in to hospital to have combination therapy which included steroids and some other medications, but they didn't work for me and Maxi was born by a crash section at 38 weeks exactly weighing a respectable 7lb 2oz.
So my hope is that Kate doesn't suffer to badly and that her treatment is good, but I am thankful that she will have raised awareness of this terrible condition.
You are one of 7 billion humans on earth – the densest planet in a 4.6 billion year old solar system. You are in a galaxy spanning around 110,000 light years, in a universe containing an estimated 9 sextillion stars. With the right technology you could see over 142,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilometres into space. Humans have been practicing forms of astronomy for centuries, but the developments we have made from the 19th Century onwards have been particularly illuminating, and we now know more than ever before about the universe.
It's no wonder that people are so fascinated with what lies beyond our humble planet. The most exciting part is that star gazing is now a pastime that is available to everybody with a desire to learn more about our solar system.
Not only is amateur astronomy a fascinating hobby, it’s also a great way to spend time with your kids and bring what they learn in school to life. To make stargazing a truly rewarding experience, you'll need a telescope and a good place to spot the stars. While there are plenty of stargazing spots in the great outdoors, having your very own indoor observatory is even more convenient.
If you have a loft , this can be the perfect place to set up. Not only is it convenient to star gaze in the comfort of your own home, but it is also a good way to make the most of your loft and save it from becoming a dumping ground and a wasted space. It's common for lofts to go unused, and this is one way to ensure you're getting value out of every room in your house.
However, you might need to do some renovating to ensure it's the perfect stargazing space you're after. If you have a sky light, or are thinking about adding one for star gazing, it may help you to get more use out of your loft as an additional room during the day too. You might want to consider making it a bit more comfortable with some seats, a carpet and maybe even a lick of paint.
Budgeting for this project may take a bit of planning. Whether you save up to pay for your loft-turned-observatory, or look into whether a loan may help you cover the costs, it's best to sort out the budget ahead of time.
In addition to stargazing among the comforts of your own home, you’ll probably have an Internet connection handy and can easily find out what you’re looking at. This will also allow you to check if there is anything particular to look out for that night. Sites like astronomy.co.uk are great for finding out what’s happening each night in theUK, and you get the satisfaction of understanding what you’re looking at and learning how to find different planets, stars and other phenomenon.
Some exciting sights to see from your loft over the rest of 2012 include a lunar eclipse in late November, Jupiter reaching its closest point to the Earth in early December and the Geminids Meteor Shower in mid-December. So, get your telescope at the ready and head up to the loft for some magical views of the night sky.
This guest post was written by Andy Moore on behalf of Money Matters, the Sainsbury's Bank blog.
I have two boys aged six and seven who are hard task masters when in comes to toys. So we have put our heads together and products our list together. Some of these items I have received to review, some we have bought for the boys and others they have played with and lusted after at friends houses (yes you know who you are)!
Wappy Dog (£25)
Wappy Dog is a game for the Nintendo DS and it has been a huge hit with Mini. Our Wappy Dog is called Ninja, which is a much better name, as I keep calling it yappy dog! So what is it. Well it is an interactive game with its own character dog. You feed it, pet, it, look after it, but you also play games with it. For a family without a dog it is great as it doesn't cost anything once bought and it doesn't need feeding with real food or taking for walks in the dark weather! Mini specifically loves playing rock, paper, scissors and fruit catch with his Wappy Dog.
Angry birds are taking over the world or so it seems. This is the perfect game for maxi, who has loved it. It is such a simple concept but captures his imagination and he just loves it as will many children of his age. Oh and Maddad has been know to play on it when he is in bed! It has Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio, it didn't take long for Maxi and MadDad to be hooked on the straightforward yet satisfying game lay that defines Angry Birds. There are 19 episodes, each with an exclusive new level that will keep you interested and ready for more.
What is it about boys and torches? These have been a MASSIVE hit in The Mad House. They are ingenious and for two Star Wars and LEGO mad boys these are great presents. They have been left on a lot and we are still on our original set of batteries after 4 weeks, but you do have to buy your own as they do not come with them. Darth Vader's light saber is removable and also lights up perfect for role play with evil Jedi teddies!
Microscooter MX Trixx Stunt Scooter (£119.99)
This has been a HUGE hit in The Mad House. Both the boys have started to want to go to the skate park with Master Frugal and any mum will know that you have to have a skate scooter for that (I didn't)! This scooter is awesome (Some of the other children where overheard chatting about it my Cass from A Frugal Family). We are lovers of all things Microscooter in the Mad House. As far as prices go for stunt scooters this is a real bargain and is "mint" according to the boys and all of their friends.
LeapPad 2 (around £70)
We reviewed the LeapPad 1 back in 2011 and were really impressed with it and Leapfrog have really listened to customers with the new version. At seven Maxi is a little advanced for it, but Mini loved it. He adored the camera function and was pleased that it had both a front and rear camera. As a parent I have to say that we love Leapfrog for the educational aspect and the fact that you can track your children's progress online. You can also get education apps online for the LeapPad2. It also has video recorders, 4GB of memory, a faster processor and a library of 150+ game cartridges and downloadable apps.
Sports Stars Pitch and Play set (£20)
Maxi and Mini have both loved this play set and we have had hours of fun challenging each other with our own cup competitions. It is great as it packs up relatively small and is easy to play. Mini has had hours of fun just role playing with the characters and I have proven that I can beat both the boys at football! This is a great gift for any football made boy or girl and a really great value gift.
On the Wish List
This year the boys have also asked for the following for Christmas:
If your children are anything like my boys, then I am always grateful for any help I can get with the cost of shoes. I love shoes and have to say that the boys do not share my enthusiasm for shoes other than for football boots and trainers, which are something that I can not get excited about.
I find girls boots and shoes much more interesting and before I had my boys and my feet grew in pregnancy (no one tells you that your old shoes will no longer fit) I could fit in to girls shoes and save a fortune!
www.barratts.co.uk and The Mad House have teamed up to offer you the chance to win £50 voucher for Barratts.
All you have to do is take a look at their site and tell me which shoes or boots your would buy for your child if you had the chance and leave me a comment and enter via the refflecopter mechanism. I love these leather riding boots and think they are a great price at £45. If only I had smaller feet!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The time has come to bring the advent box out of the loft and with it all of our Christmas and Advent books.
What a selection we have, books from when the boys were small, to one that I read to them and I thought I would share them with you.
I love each and everyone of them for different reasons and would love for you to share your Christmas books with me, so that we can expand our library.
I am all for passive income! So the thought of getting paid for doing what I do online anyway was a no brainer for me. So when the Tots100 were looking for people to take part in their Christmas Swagbucks challenge I jumped at the chance to be part of it.
What is Swagbucks?
Swagbucks is a site that basically rewards users for spending time online. With this site you accrue a virtual currency for doing the things that you might normally do online – using search, watching videos, chatting, playing games, doing polls and surveys etc etc – and you earn from doing it.
Swagbucks has been running in the US since 2007 and is one of the country’s top 100 trafficked websites. Since 2007, the company has paid out more than $26m in rewards to its members – and now Swagbucks is available in the UK!
What is the challenge?
The competition is simple, whichever blogger earns the most Swagbucks by 5pm on December 14, 2012 will win a fabulous £250 gift card.
So I can earn these virtual pennies in a couple of ways, by searching the internet, spending time online, doing little quizzes and playing games and I can appeal to my friends, family, loved ones, blog readers etc to sign up and have a go themselves.
getbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)
All you need to do is click this code: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/MuminTheMadHouse and follow the easy instructions - Please
Come on something for nothing, must be a great idea!