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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October is now Crocktober – share your favorite slow cooker recipes

I am a huge fan of my slow cooker or crockpot as they are known in the US and Autumn is the perfect time for getting it out and using it.  I love that I can  prepare everything, put it in and then forget about it until dinner time. I love that I can pop all the ingredients in for a soup and when we return from Junior football on a cold Sunday there is a meal ready and waiting. One of the things that I do every time we have a roast chicken is to make stock with the carcass, some veg and leave it in the slow cooker overnight.  It makes the best chicken stock and what's more the chicken falls off the bones and there is enough to make chicken soup with. chicken soupy stew In fact my chicken soupy stew is one of the most asked for meals from the boys and it was passed down from my mum.  It is a filling, delicious and wholesome meal which I top with dumplings for my bottomless boys. 10669990_677740268988239_4769776067501641404_n So throughout October I am going to be working with Crockpot to bring you some fantastic slow cooker meals, hints and tips.
So this is where you come in.  I would love to try and share your favorite slow cooker recipes. So leave me either a link to them or the recipe in the comments.
Each day throughout October I will be sharing with you one of Crockpot's recipes on The Mad House Facebook Page. 3.
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September Small Stuff

September if a month of bittersweet for me.  I love the going back to school feeling, but miss my boys after a long summer together.  It has also been filled with lots of small stuff that has filled my heart with joy. September collage We started the month with a family trip to Lightwater Valley just before school started.  The weather was glorious and the park was pretty quiet, which meant lots of rides were enjoyed. The boys both went back to school, year five and four and now scooter to school.  They are becoming really independant.  I love the peace when they are at school, but love it when they come home even more! The darker nights been lots more snuggling on the sofa and as it is too dark to play outside lots of reading is done as we are screen free after 6pm.  It is lovely to see Maxi really enjoying Tom Gates and Mini is rereading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Both boys went to Cubs this September and I decided to teach them how to sew their badges on.  Hand sewing is something I do not enjoy.  But I did discover that reading glasses make threading needles so much easier! I had a great weekend working with Cricut at the Handmade Fair.  It was so much fun demoing a product that I use and enjoy using and had a lovely time with some great people. I returned from my weekend working to discover that Maxi had a nasty bout of tonsillitis.  My boys are pretty robust, so I am not used to them being ill and this really knocked us all for six. Damn those back to school germs. I am a real lover of the changes of seasons.  I dont have a favorite season, but I adore Autumn for its colours and it inspires us so much as a family to craft.  We have made sun catchers, watercolour resist leaves and even an Autumn Bored jar already.  
The Mad House
So now it is your turn.  Come and share with me your small stuff.  The little things that make a big difference.
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Do you limit screen time at home?

Screen time and the boys is something I battle with.  It isn't such an issue in the summer and good weather when their first choice would be to be outside playing with their friends.  But as the nights draw in, then they do reach for the screen more often than not.  They are not TV fantastics and we do not have it on in the background, but they do love their Ipods and Xbox. It is all about finding a balance that suits us as a family. At the moment, we have strict limits on screen time at home which are no screens at all (except for TV as a family) after 6pm, no screens at the dinner table and one hour limit a day otherwise agreed.  We also have a #signoffsaturday or a #saignoffsunday where we have a day at the weekend which is technology free. limiting screen time

Why I chose to limit screen time

  Research has proven that the blueish light emitted from tablets and phones suppresses our natural melatonin levels and effects sleep especially in children and teens. This is why we have a no screens in bedrooms rule, which even us adults abide by. This is the reason why we have no screens after 6pm in the hope that we can encourage the boys to have quality sleep and also why we do not have TV's in their rooms. I want my boys to participate in family life, to help prepare dinner, to do their chores and to play.  I want to teach them not to choose to reach for a screen when they are unsure of what to do.  I do not want them addicted to screens.

Limiting screen time make me parent

I am going to be straight with you and I do believe that there is a place in our family for screens.  I have no issue with my boys using them in the car or even in moderation, but moderation is the key word and there are times when it is convenient to let them play for longer that I would prefer in order that I can get some job or another done, but that is me being a lazy parent. So I have to invest more time in being present as a parent and I find that if the boys know that there is no chance of screen time that they play more creatively. Tips onHow tolimitscreentime

How to limit screen time

I am not saying that it is easy to limit screen time and the transition can be hard, but I am flexible and believe that I am doing the right thing for my family.

1) Set a good example

We are big believers in do as I do rather than do as I say here in The Mad House and we do this by setting a good example.  We do not have our phones at the table, we do not take them in to our bedrooms either.  We leave our phones by the door when we come in from work and have a charging station for all technology.

2) Encourage other activities

I make it easy for the boys not to reach for their screens we have a seasonal bored jar and I also try to make sure that I have resources accessible for them such as board games and a well stocked craft cupboard.

3) Give your kids time

Kids want you to be present in their lives.  I make sure that I give them some attention and get involved and play with them.  We regularly have family games night and family movie night.  The days are long, but the years are short and they will be given up before I know it. I observe, listen, ask and parent. We have family screen free activities.

4) Be the parent

It is my job to do what I feel best for my children and if that means I am unpopular for a little while then so be it.  I have hard decisions to make and I stand by them.  I explain my decision to the boys and stand by it. Screen time is not a right it is a reward.

Interestingly it seems that Steve Jobs was a low tech parent. There is no right or wrong in this and as the first generation of parents really dealing with this, we are all just doing what we feel best for our families.  My dear friend Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family has a different take on this, so why not pop over and see how she handles screen time with her two children. It just goes to show you that there isnt a one size fits all solution. A Mom with a Lesson Plan also has a great post on limiting screen time and if you want to set time limits on your Ipad or Ipod then take a look at this fantastic post from iGame Mom.
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Win an Arctic Home gift pack with Coca-Cola and WWF

To help celebrate the launch of the Arctic Home campaign, Mum in the Mad House has teamed up with Coca-Cola and WWF to offer three lucky readers the chance to win an exclusive Arctic Home gift pack, which includes a beautiful fleece blanket, stylish white hooded jumper and much more! coke Arctic Home is a partnership between Coca-Cola and WWF working to protect the home of the polar bear by raising awareness and funds, so polar bear mums continue to have a safe place to give birth and raise their cubs. On Saturday 6th September, hundreds of WWF supporters from across the UK joined forces to create an incredible piece of live art to raise awareness of the desperate plight facing polar bears in the Arctic, you can see the great picture featured above! Image01 (Low-Res) Arctic Home is now calling for people to visit www.arctichome.co.uk to learn more about the struggle faced by polar bear families, share their support and make a donation. This year across Europe Coca-Cola will match all donations made to the campaign up to up to €1million.

To be in with a chance of winning an Arctic Home gift pack, simply answer this question:

Where do polar bears live? A: Africa B: Arctic Terms & Conditions
  • Closing date is until Friday 3rd October 2014
  • Three readers will win 1x Arctic Home gift pack which includes 1x polar bear fleece blanket, 1x polar bear soft toy and 1x white hooded jumper in small, medium or large (subject to availability)
  • Prizes will be distributed to the winners within a week of the close of the competition
  • Only one entry per person
  • No cash alternative will be offered
  • The decision is independently supervised and the winner will be drawn from all correctly answered entries and informed via email or phone
  • The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
8 11 5
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What do you look for in a school shoe?

School shoes.  I have to admit that I find hunting for school shoes with the boys a chore and it isn't because they never like what there is to offer, but down to the fact that they wear them out in no time at all. Last year Mini's second pair of shoes lasted six weeks, yes six weeks before they had a hole in them.  I have tried expensive shoes, less expensive shoes and everything in between my, but we are lucky to get more than 12 weeks out of a pair of shoes.  My boys only wear them for school so 8pm to 3pm, 5 days a week. When you ask the boys what they want in a shoe, they are not that fussy.  Yes they are swayed by toys and freebies, but they have a Mummy who isn't! How to choose a great pair of school shoes At eight and nine they have size three feet, so are well on the way to adult size shoes, but they need something much more robust.  Something that can cope with scootering and biking to school, something that can cope with football on the MUGA (multi use games area) at lunchtime and recover from them not seeing a puddle and getting wet! So what do I look for in a decent pair of school shoes?
  1. When they have velcro fastening I want that to be secure and for the stitching to stay secure
  2. I want scuff proof bumpers
  3. I want flexible soles, but with good grip
  4. Nothing inside the shoe, I don't want my kids to be encouraged to take them on and off
We were contacted by Start-rite at the beginning of the summer to be part of their blogger team of six families putting their shoes to the test.Startrite shoes week two I was interviewed by Start-rite and discussed with them what we looked for in a show and what I knew about shoe fitting and then send a foot measurer and asked to measure by boys feet so they could send what they thoughts was a suitable pair for each of them. We measured the boys feet and found them to be 3F and 3H.  Mini has always had wide feet with a high instep. I also made sure that I had measured them correctly by getting MadDad to do it to and then the boys pinched the measurer and have been using it to play with! Last weeks the boys shoes arrived.  Rino Warrior  for Mini and Reflector for Maxi.  Using their video we checked the fit and the boys wore the shoes indoors for an hour or so a day to make sure that they were worn in before school. I think that we take pretty good care of our school shoes. I clean them once a week with proper old fashioned polish and you can find my top tips for looking after leather shoes here. Over the coming weeks and months we will be working with Start-rite, sharing with them how the shoes are wearing, sending them images of the soles and the rest of the shoes, so that they can see how they are holding up to life on the feet of two energetic boys. So, what do you look for in a school shoe?
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Win up to £500 in Amazon vouchers in our “Messy Kids” Bloggers’ Competition

We all know how mischievously messy kids can be, so why not share your experiences in your latest blog post and win some extra cash?     messy kids
We challenge Mummy/Parenting bloggers to post about times when their kids were being messy.
messy kids1
How to Enter All you need to do is create a blog post of your little one being very messy yet cute. This could be when they’re baking, playing or getting dressed- you can be as creative as you like. Feel free to add pictures and/or videos of your kids in action! To enter, all we ask is that the post is a previously unpublished and that you include a link to Two Little Fleas (http://www.twolittlefleas.co.uk/) or embed our competition badge in your post.
Two Little Fleas
  You need to publish your entry by October 30th 2014 and share a link to your entry in the widget at the bottom of the blog post before midnight on that date. If you’re entered, please feel free to tweet @TwoLittleFleas and we’ll share your lovely blog post with all our followers! The Prizes! • The winning post, as decided by the Two Little Fleas team will win a whopping £500 in Amazon vouchers to spend on whatever you fancy! • There is also a second prize of £100 in Amazon Vouchers to the first runner up • But that’s not all! There are even more chances to win, as our 3rd, 4th & 5th place entrants will each receive £50 in Amazon Vouchers.
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The ultimate Autumn/Fall family activity list and massive $2000 giveaway

I am a huge fan of bored jar's, not just for the boys, but for me too.  I sometimes need a quick activity that isnt screen based.   Unsure of how to make a bored jarm then take a look at how to make a bored jar. Fall autumn bored jar and activity list
  1. Go apple picking
  2. Make leaf cards
  3. Jump in a pile of leaves
  4. Make some autumn art 
  5. G0 on an acorn hunt
  6. Make a leaf picture frame
  7. Play this free scarecrow game
  8. Collect colorful fall leaves
  9. Coffee filter leaves 
  10. Make autumn leaf fairies 
  11. Collect seeds from plants in the garden
  12. Make a pom pom apple tree 
  13. Plant bulbs in your garden for next spring
  14. Make an Autumn sensory bin
  15. Make a pine cone bird feeder
  16. Make leaf prints
  17. Make pumpkin playdough
  18. Saltdough leaf bowls
  19. Handprint owl newspaper art
  20. Family art project - make a seasonal banner 
  21. Borrow a book from the library
  22. Create an Autumn poem
  23. Go on a walk at dusk with a torch
  24. Make fruit leather
  25. Make leaf skeletons 
  26. Go looking for spider webs 
  27. Go on a leaf hunt
  28. Make a nature table with your Autumn finds
  29. Make a tree with an old jigsaw
  30. Autumn Preschool science
  31. Cut leaves from felt and make a garland 
  32. Bake an apple pie
  33. Nature Crowns
  34. Count leaves
  35. Carve your own pumpkin
  36. Make wooden waldorf inspire nature blocks 
  37. Make a puppet theatre
  38. Play acorn hopscotch
  39. Make a paper leaf garland
  40. Make a tissue paper leaf
  41. Make Autumn suncatchers
  42. Make dragonfly cards with sycamore seeds
  43. Go on a bat watch at dusk
  44. Make toffee apples 
  45. Set up a scavenger hunt
  46. Collect sycamore seeds and throw them in the air (they fly like helicopters)
  47. Fall saltdough ornaments 
  48. Make apple crumble
  49. Grab an umbrella and go singing in the rain
  50. Make clay and twig hedgehogs 
  51. Re-watch your favorite scary movie on Halloween
  52. Free leaf printables
  53. Make some leaf relief art 
  54. Prune the garden plants, learn about how this helps them to grow back stronger in the spring
  55. Build a hedgehog house
  56. Make jam jar lanterns covered in leaves
  57. Print off some free play dough mats 
  58. Make conker spiders 
  59. Throw a Halloween party
  60. Make a leaf mobile 
  61. Breath in the cool, crisp air
  62. Make leaf lanterns with empty cheese cartons 
  63. Make jam
  64. Learn to knit
  65. Make a winter tree lantern 
  66. Make an autumn wreath for your door
  67. Make a bug hotel
  68. Listen to the sound of leaves crunching under your feet
  69. Find the tree that matches the leaf
  70. Make an autumn tree
  71. Collect conkers and have a match
  72. Make a halloween indoor obstacle course 
  73. Watch geese flying south for the winter
  74. Make autumn playdough
  75. Collect pinecones and display them in a glass bowl
  76. Collect twigs and try twig weaving with spare wool 
  77. Make hot chocolate
  78. Draw or paint some autumn still life 
  79. Attend harvest  festival
  80. Make a tissue paper pumpkin 
  81. Make apple crisps (chips for US folk)
  82. Beachnut hedgehogs 
  83. Put you wellies on and splash in some muddy puddles
  84. Make Halloween shadow puppets 
  85. Remember what you’re thankful for
  86. Go on an Autumn Nature walk
  87. Take pictures of all the different colours you can find in a woodland
  88. Make leaf rubbings
  89. Build a scarecrow
  90. Make a pinecone owl
  91. Go stargazing
  92. Make a leaf collage 
  93. Have an autumn picnic
  94. Make a paper turkey 
  95. Turn orange balloons in to pumpkins 
  96. Look for a full moon
  97. Make Dutch apple cake
  98. Go trick or treating
  99. Make a autumn nature mobile
  100. Try apple bobbing
  101. Make a leaf window display
  102. Make apple prints
  103. Enjoy some Autumn science projects 
  104. Make a leaf man
  105. Make corn on the cob prints
  106. Make pompom pumpkins 
  107. Make a conker bat 
  108. Make leaf owls
  109. Make apple sauce
  110. Printing with Acorns
  111. Make and fly a kite
  112. Make a windsock
  113. Edible sparkers 
  114. Make pine cone firelighters
  115. Make some poppyseed bats 
  116. Make woodland animals
  117. Make a crayon lantern
  118. Make jam tarts
  119. Make pine cone skittles 
  120. Make some leaf identification cards 
  121. Dry orange slices
  122. Roast pumpkin seeds
  123. Make Halloween salt dough
  124. Leaf Drawing and Doodling
  125. Paint pumpkins
  126. Paper plate owls 
  127. Play Autumn/Fall Eye Spy
  128. Make an autumn leaf crown
  129. Make paper lanterns
  130. Make Halloween cakes and biscuits
  131. Make some pumpkin pie paint
  132. Make a ghost paper chain
  133. Preserve leaves with glycerine
  134. Make popcorn
  135. Print this fab autumn nature treasure hunt
  136. Decorate an umbrella
  137. Make a raincatcher
  138. Build an indoor fort
  139. Go on a number nature hunt
  140. Talk about what makes you thankful
  141. Go leaf counting
  142. Collect acorns
  143. Donate old woolens and coats to a charity
  144. Help clear leaves from the lawn
  145. Make a fall wreath
  146. Make hairy hot dogs
  147. Make a harvest cake
  148. Customise a Tshirt for halloween
  149. Make pancakes
  150. Make a leaf mandella
autumnfall bored jar MEGA-CASH-GIVEAWAY-revised Win one of FOUR $500 cash prizes directly in your paypal account! This giveaway is open internationally. You must be 18+ years old to enter. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please see detailed terms and conditions below the giveaway for more info. a Rafflecopter giveaway   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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Autumn/Fall leaves sticking activity for preschoolers

Preschoolers love gluing and sticking and this Autumn leaves and tree sticking craft is a great craft for preschoolers and is a simple and pretty much mess free activity.  By preparing all the items you need before you can leave it as a great invitation to play.

Fall leaves activity

  Autumn Fall leaves sticking activity Preparation
  • Cut out a selection of leaves and acorns in different sizes and colours
  • Draw or cut out a bare tree
coloured leaf activity 2 Activities - three and under
  • Let your child feel and explore the leaves
  • Discuss the way they feel
  • Discuss the colour of the leaves and ask your child to point out the colours to you
  • Ask which leaves are smaller or larger
  • Point out acorns
  • Count the leaves with your child
  • Provide your child with a glue stick or glue and let them sick on the leaves as they choose
This is a great activity for over three's too.  It is a brilliant activity for after school or quiet times.  It can also be a super activity for scissor skills as your child can cut out the leaves if they want to. coloured leaf activity 4 Activities - over three
  • In addition to the above discuss why leaves change colour, you can find some great posts about it here at Teach Beside Me or Ingles 360
  • Encourage your child to colour in the bark
  • Why leaves fall off trees
  • What acorns are
  • Discuss patterns that they might make with the leaves
  • Talk about how many leaves they are sticking on each branch
  • Discuss the size of the leaves
coloured leaf activity trees Like this, then why not take a look at my Autumn/Fall activities Pinterest board. Follow Jen Walshaw's board Autumn and Fall crafts and activities on Pinterest.
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It’s Back To School Time

It’s time to get organised and make sure you get the new school year off to as good a start as possible. The return back to school after the fun-filled weeks of the summer holiday can be a struggle for the whole family, but with careful planning and emotional awareness the transition can be smooth for everyone. Think about buying everything you need now and start preparing for the year ahead. 2014 Buying New Kit It’s time to buy new school uniforms, sports kit and shoes. How did they grow so much since last term? Take time to visit the school outfitters with your child and get them measured up properly. You may not have as much time for this during the term so it’s better to buy what you need now, if possible. Don’t forget to sew on name tags. Everyone else will have the same items of clothing so you don’t want all those new clothes to get lost straight away. Children will not necessarily need new notepads, pens and pencils but who can resist new stationery? Bright, shiny pencils, protractors, rulers and rubbers are tempting and may even help reluctant children get more excited about a return to school. Often a new bag will be required to carry sports kit or a lunch box. Some items may be specified by the school, such as a calculator, so check any lists the school has provided you with and make sure you purchase the required equipment. Mental Preparation It’s a good idea to start preparing your child mentally for going back to school especially if they are moving up to ‘big school’ or have changed schools. Talk to them about the routine they can expect, who their new teacher is and which friends they’ll see again or the new friends they will make. Discuss all the fun things they will do at school and be enthusiastic about lessons. If your child has a positive attitude going into the new school year it will be good for their levels of confidence and may even influence their performance. Start getting the family back into a good routine with a sensible bedtime and wake up time. These often slip during the holidays when a routine may not be so important but it’s now time to make sure everyone is well rested before the start of each busy day. Extracurricular Activities and Private Tuition Start planning which after-school clubs your child will be attending and whether you’ll need to organise childcare. It is also a good time to think about private tuition. Work out what your tutoring requirements will be for the year ahead and start looking for an appropriate tutor. Fleet Tutors will match your child with a tutor who will suit their needs and bring out the best in their abilities. Will your child be tackling the 11+ or GCSEs this year? Or is it A-levels they need extra help with? It may be the case that your child just needs a bit of confidence-boosting in a particular subject. There is a lot for the whole family to think about in the run up to going back to school. But if everyone plays their part in getting prepared beforehand the transition should be smooth. Back to school can be an exciting time not a stressful one. 3.
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