Center Parcs, I think I love you!

Center Parcs It can be hard to find a weekend break that fit's all family needs, in fact it can be pretty impossible, especially when you have two overactive boys aged seven and eight, a husband that works very hard all week and thinks weekends are for relaxing and me, who just doesn't want to cook and wants a little me time. Well, I think that we might just have found the holy grail.  Enter Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest.  We had never been to Center Parcs before and we had a blast.  It was great fun and there was something for all of us. We drove to Center Parcs on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend there and just look at what we managed to cram in. My boys are pretty sporty and have no fear so we had an active weekend and they conquered the climbing wall. They even managed the aerial challenge, which I have to admit that I bottled.  Oh yes, I got one foot on the tyres and froze!  Thankfully I can say the staff are amazing and they had me back on solid ground before the boys could laugh at me! We really did have a super weekend.  We made a rule to be screen free and you know what we managed it with no issues what so ever.  We swam, cycled, zip wired, walked, looked for red squirrels, rock climbed, abseiled, rope climbed, played football, played pool, ate delicious food, played board games, sat in front of a log fire and much much more. I have so much more to say, but don't want this post to overwhelm you, so I will be posting more over the next couple of weeks. If you would like to be a Center Parcs family blogger like me, then why not enter the latest competition over at Tots100. CenterParcs Family Blog Club Disclosure: We are Center Parcs family bloggers
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Review – Ravensburger Science X Maxi Prehistoric Expedition

Ravensburger Science X Maxi Prehistoric Expedition Often you get a science kit and you have to add lots of additional products to make it work. This is certainly not the case with Ravensburger Science X Maxi Prehistoric Expedition.  The only extras you need are water and distilled water.  In fact you can do most things straight out of the box. Box Contains
Includes 1 ammonite, 1 Excavation Block, 1 Excavation Tool. 1 Thermometer, 1 Magnifying Glass, Plaster Powder, Triops Eggs, Triops Food, Triops sand, 1 Meganeura Model, 1 time line, 5 Plaster forms, 1 triops basin, 1 T-Rex model and instructions.
My boys are just like me and hate to conform, so there was no way they were going to go through the booklet in the order they should, but that wasnt an issue as the booklet has a great index and was easy to dip in and out of. plaster fossils Firstly, they decided that they needed to make the T-Rex skeleton and had a great time doing it.  then they decided to mix the plaster au paris and make the fossils, again not in the order in the book, but all of them at once! We also had a go at growing the triops, which will go down as the great triops got ate by the dog experiment! This is a great kits and the boys have already have had many hours of fun with this fabulous kit and  there is many, many hours of playability left. The quality of the kit is second to none and I am really impressed.
We Liked:
  • Pretty much everything you need is in the kit.
  • The booklet is full of facts and can be used sequentially or you can dip in and out thanks to the great index.
  • The quality is fantastic.
  • It gives you the opportunity to take the experiments a step further.
We weren't Keen:
  • Initially it seems expensive for a kit, but once you take in to account all that is in the box than it is good value for money.

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Why not see what some other bloggers though of the Ravensburger Science X Maxi Prehistoric Expedition.  Baby Budgeting, My three nad me, Live otherwise, Lakes Single Mum

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HELP – How do I get my seven year old to keep his room tidy?

tidfy This was tidy 1 hour before I took this picture!  Help, MiniMad’s bedroom resembles a bomb site I am in need of some help and advice people of the interweb.  Mini Mad’s has an issue with keeping his bedroom tidy and I have to admit I am finding it exceedingly hard to deal with. Maxi is a rather neat child and his room is kept pretty much in order and all I ever need to do is give it a quick hoover and dust and maybe put a few things away every now and then.  He even makes his bed on a morning. Mini, on the other hand doesn’t seem to do anything other than make his room a mess. We have tried to make sure that he has sufficient storage and have even considered a single bed with storage too.  He has two book cases, but his books are always on the floor.  He has a desk, but his pens are always on the floor with his notebooks. He has two clothes rails in his wardrobe that he can reach, but his clothes are always on the floor. He has shelves and a storage basket for his teddies, but does he use them?  I even gave him a basket for his shoes, but no, they end up everywhere on the floor. We know that his room could do with an update, but I am loathed to decorate again, at least until he has some respect for his belongings and room. Today I went in to find he hadn’t even bothered to open his blind, make his bed or remove his water bottles for the last three days. I feel like I am sharing my home with a teenager not a seven year old. So, people of experience, please can you help me.  How do I deal with this, whilst I still can. 3.
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Post-it Note art, crafts and activities – Something for the weekend

I don't know about you, but I never realised there was so much you could do with post-it notes.  I was challenged by them to create three crafts or activities using their new  Full Adhesive Notes, otherwise known as FAN. These notes mean you can adhere the whole note to the surface of your notebook or wall, meaning it will stay put for longer! tulips We are currently on a real origami and spring crafting flow so me and the boys sat down and we put our heads together and came up with the following:

Origami Tulip

These are so simple to make, all you need are the post-it notes.  I decided to put together a quick video how to for the tulip head.

Tulip Card

tulip card We decided to take some of the tulip heads that we folded and turn them into spring flavoured cards.  We glued the tulip head to the card and painted in the stem with water colour paints.  These would make gorgeous Mother's Day cards or even easier cards.

Post-it note pinwheels

Materials Method These were made the same way my two colour daffodil pinwheels were, except I used the hole punch to make a whole on every other corner and also the center (as image), so that it was easier to get the split pin through. I made sure that the adhesive was at the rear of the pinwheel so that you can stick them to things.  In fact my boys went round putting them all over the house! Smart School house has a great tutorial here. post it pinwheels We had great fun using the post-it notes and have worked with them in the past and made a post-it note creeper and also some installation art using post it notes. If you fancy getting hold of some yourself then go on over to the Post-it UK facebook page and learn more. Other super post it crafts post it collage
  1. Amazing spring mural by Inner Child Fun.  How perfect are pink post-it notes for the cherry blossom.
  2. Simple Stuffed Animal Superhero Cape 
  3. Mondrian art for kids with post it notes 
  4. Post it note treasure hunt
  5. Post it note sudoku 
  6. Free printables for post it notes 
  7. Post - it note noun hunt
Make sure you are following our facebook pageGoogle + page or on Pinterest (where I have over 50 post it activities, crafts and art pinned) for lots more stone crafts and activities over the coming week. 3.
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Karcher SC2.500 Steam Cleaner Review

The sun has started to shine and it has made me feel as though I need to get on with the spring cleaning.  In fact I am steaming in to spring, thanks to Karcher. karcher steam cleaner review We have been reviewing the  Karcher Steam Cleaner SC 2.500 for the last month or so as part of their 2014 ambassador program and I have to say we are really impressed. I have never owned a multi purpose steam cleaner before, but now feel that every household should have one.  The boys have named ours Arthur and he has get to have been put away since we got him. We liked:
  • The Karcher Steam Cleaner SC 2.500 is a multipurpose steam cleaner and is powerful enough to clean the floor and the oven.  It cleaned grubby grout making it sparkling white.
  • It is easy to use and the tools are store back in the body of the machine
  • The cloths that attach to the tools are toweling so easy  and inexpensive to replace (as we use the machine a lot I needed more cloths as I do not wash that often!
  • No chemicals are used.  As someone who has had cancer and who's children might have the same genetic spelling mistake it is important to me not to use anything that could possibly carcinogenic.
  • The steam can melt fat (It did a great job on our cooker hood)
  • It is compact enough to fit in our cupboard, but the water tank is large enough that I can clean the whole of the hard floor downstairs.
  • It didn't scare the dog!
We weren't keen:
  • Oh how I wish the power cable had been longer and also retractable (it is 4 meters long).
  • It is an investment piece of equipment at around £232
  • It takes a while to heat up ready for use and I am an impatient soul!
Steam cleaner Collage Now I am going to admit that I don't have any pictures of massive transformations, but we live in a house that is only eight years old and in an area that doesn't have limescale, however, the steam cleaner has made cleaning much more of a pleasure and I feel that my home is clean without the chemicals which is such a relief and we had a bout of a sickness bug and I made sure that I cleaned everything with the steam cleaner and I managed to avoid getting it, which is something of a miracle. I really loved how fast it cleaned the boys trip traps and it also did a superb job on the bathroom too.
Karcher
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Cooking with Kids – Aunty Chris’ Yorkshire Parkin

Yorkshire Parkin I love cooking with my boys and this is a recipe from my childhood and one that Mini loves to make and loves to eat!  Yorkshire Parkin was my Aunty Chris signature bake.  Hers was always perfectly sticky and delicious and tasting it takes me right back to her home filled with cousins fitting in front of the coal fire under one of her crochet blankets. I found this version of Parkin handwritten in one of mum's cookbooks when she died and it is a regular make.  It gets better with age and you have to leave it 24 hours after baking before eating any so it is the perfect cake tin cake.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Aunty Chris' Yorkshire Parkin
Cake
16
 
Parkin just gets better with age and is as good on day 5 as day 2!
Ingredients
  • 120g golden syrup
  • 120g treacle
  • 120g butter
  • 120g of brown sugar
  • 220g of fine oatmeal
  • 120g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of of mixed spice
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Preheat your fan oven to 160 degrees c
  2. Prepare a 20cm square tin (I use a silicone one, but a lightly greased and lined tin is perfect).
  3. in a large saucepan, place the butter, syrup, treacle and brown sugar and heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Put the dry ingredients in to the pan and mix well before adding the milk and egg.
  5. Place in prepared tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a metal sewer comes out of the centre clean.
  6. Transfer to a wire rack in the tin to cool
  7. Once cold turn out and coot before wrapping in greaseproof paper and storing in an airtight tin.
Yorkshire parkin collage In 2014, global flavour leader McCormick, parent company of UK leading herbs and spices brand Schwartz, is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The yearlong celebration kicks off with the launch of the 125th Anniversary Edition of the Flavour Forecast and the Flavour of Together programme, with the goal of connecting people around the world as they share 1.25 million stories about the special role food and flavour plays in our lives. Their key flavour forecasts for 2014 are: 
  • Chillies Obsession
  • Modern Masala
  • Clever Compact Cooking
  • Mexican World Tour
  • Charmed by Brazil
I was inspired by the clever compact cooking to share with you our Yorkshire parkin, as it only needs one pan for all the ingredients, therefore, requires little washing up. Get involved and share your flavour story at Schwartz Facebook or www.Schwartz.co.uk 3.
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Stone crafts and activities – Something for the weekend

stone art, crafts and activities Stones and sticks, there us something about my boys and these materials. We seem to collect these "treasures" wherever we go and I have to make sure I empty trouser pockets before washing them or I would be busy washing stones too!

{How to} Make a stone Tic Tac Toe or noughts and crosses Game

tic tac toe We are big fans of simple games and often play noughts and crosses or tic tac tow on paper, but we recently had a go at making a game from some stones we had collected and a wooden cheese board. Materials
  1. Stones
  2. Black Sharpie and White marker
  3. Tape
  4. Wooden board
How to make it. As the boys wanted to make our with me, I oped for as simple as possible and marked out the board using tape.  I will change this for paint when I have more time. We simply drew either an X or an O on the stones. This has been in our living room for over a month now and it played with a lot.  So many visitors have commented on it and asked where they can get their own version!

Go on a Stone Hunt

stone crafts, art and activities We often go on little mini adventures (walks) and my boys always collect treasure.  I adore this idea of a nature walk with alphabet rocks.  Or you could use the walk to talk about the different type of rocks.

Crafts with Stones

pet rocks There are so many fantastic crafts that you can do with stones such as pet rocks which is something the boys love to make.  I love the idea of making a set of alphabet rocks or using them as plant markers.  If you dont want to get the paint out, why not try these wax rocks, which are stunning.   You could also use your stones to make art too like these at Zing Zing Tree.  If you find a precious stone then why not turn it into a stone necklace.

Activities with Stones

memory stones If you already have lots of stones in your house then it is time to get active with them.  I love Nurturestore's stone cairns or you could have a go at scooping and selling with your rocks.  You could use them for spelling or story telling.  We use our stones to record memories.  Rocks and stones are also perfect for sensory play. Make sure you are following our facebook pageGoogle + page or on Pinterest for lots more stone crafts and activities over the coming week.
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Squeezing it in to a weekend

Like many families we are squeezed.  With work, family commitments, school, diy, sports, beavers, cubs, hobbies and cooking, cleaning and all that comes with a home and much more and since the new rules about holidays during school time we are even more squeezed.  We have just Squeezed an awful lot on to a weekend at Center Parcs (come back over the coming week to find out just how much), but Actimel also know a lot about squeezing a lot of good things in to small things.  Their 100gram bottles are packed full of yogurt, live cultures, fruit puree, calcium and essentials vitamins B6 and D. squeeze more in At the moment they are running a super competition to give you the opportunity to squeeze in a once in a lifetime event such as an amazing music concert at the O2 in London. Do you want to win? Well you have to tweet Actimel at @ActimelUK and tell them what you have squeezed in using the #squeezemorein hashtag actimel   This weekend we squeezed in bike riding, rock climbing, abseiling, zip wiring, crazy golf, football, swimming, climbing rope ladders, playing pool, hangman, aerial adventures, gladiatorial challenges, board games, a pedicure, threading, meals out and lots of quality family time together. What have you squeezed in to a week? Want to find out more, then look at the fab Actimel Facebook Page.  Want to see some more images of us squeezing more in to our weekend, then take a look at The Mad House Facebook Page. 3.
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{How to} make a two colour daffodil pinwheel

Spring is one of my favorite seasons and I have been seeing pictures of daffodils flowering, but where we are in the NE of the UK are a couple of weeks behind, so we decided to take matters in to our own hands and make some two colour daffodil pinwheels.  These would also be the perfect St Davis's Day craft (which is on the 1st March). two colour daffodil pinwheel Materials
  1. 2 squares of yellow and orange paper
  2. Split pin
  3. Egg carton
  4. Green Pipe Cleaner
  5. Green plant stick
How to make your two colour daffodil pinwheel
  1. Your paper needs to be coloured on both sides, if you do not have the colours you want you could always paint them.
  2. Draw a line from corner to corner though the centre of the paper and cut from the edge three quarters of the way to the centre.
  3. Fold consecutive corners of the paper in to the centre and secure together (I used a stapler, but tape would be fine)
  4. Cut out the pointy part of the egg carton and either paint or colour in (this will become the trumpet of the daffodil)
  5. Make a small hole in the centre of the pinwheel and the centre of the egg carton and push through the split pin, opening at the other side.
  6. If you had any green straws you could just push the split pin in to it, but as we didn't, I decided to use a pipe cleaner to wrap round the split pin and then wrap it round a plant stake that we already had.
  7. We curled the yellow edges of the paper over a pen, so that you could see more of the contrasting orange colour.
foam pinwheel daffodils Adaptations We also made a couple using foam sheets instead of paper and the egg carton,these are going to go in our garden to until our daffodils flower! ”#DaffodilBoy”
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Getting outside in all weathers – something for the weekend

I am as guilty as others at looking out of the window and thinking of things that we can do inside to escape the weather rather than embracing the weather and getting some fresh air.  So I am dedicating this week's something for the weekend to getting us outside and encouraging our children outside too.  In many parts of the UK it has been the wettest winter on record and often March and April can be pretty wet too, but I am determined to get us out and about.

Ways to encourage kid's outdoors

 

15 rainy day outdoor activities

Photo credit: AR Blog 
  1. Go on a rainbow hunt.  Not just in the sky, but also look for colours of the rainbow all abound you.  You could take a treasure bag and look for natural materials in the colours of the rainbow and bring them home to stick on contact paper.
  2. Go dancing in the rain.  You can make up a dance with an umbrella!
  3. Look for reflections in puddles.
  4. Take photos of rain droplets on things such as spiders webs.
  5. Do some mud painting.  You can use a twig or leaves to paint with the mud on paving stones or fences or on paper.
  6. Look for rain shadows.  Patches of dry that can be found where something has been covering the ground making a rain shadow.  You could even place things outsode before it rains so that you can make a design (like stencils).
  7. Make a shelter or den, wither with sticks or leaves or with tarpaulin.
  8. Make a rain catcher
  9. Make a rain water run, you could adapt Science Sparks colour mixing wall.
  10. Try tasting raindrops by catching them on your tongue
  11. Go looking for snails
  12. Take your bath toys on an outdoor adventure, let those rubber ducks out on puddles!
  13. Make a natural umbrella with the biggest leaf you can find.
  14. Make mud pies, mud castles and mud sculptures.
  15. Measure how deep puddles are (you will need a large ruler for this)
windy outdoor activities

Windy Day Outdoor activities

  1. Make pinwheels to spin
  2. Blow bubbles and see where the wind takes them
  3. Make and fly paper planes
  4. Make streamers for wind dancing
  5. Let off balloons in the wind
  6. Make and fly a kite
  7. Be a superhero using your coat as a cape
  8. Make a windsock
  9. Make music with wind chimes (you can use kitchen utensils! )
  10. Make a sailing boat

How to Make a Windsock.

windsock These are super easy to make and you can use them to see which direction the wind is coming from or you can just use them to run around with in the wind. Materials
  • Large plastic bottle or circular container
  • Plastic bag
  • decorations inc tape and ribbon
  • string or wool
How to make
  1. Cut the bottom and top off your circular container or bottle to make a cylinder wound 6 inch or 15 cm in depth (this is the opening of the windsock)
  2. Pierce a hole in each side of your cylinder to thread your sting through to make a handle or hook for hanging your windsock.
  3. Using a plastic bag (we used a black sack cut out a tube shape (the boys wanted ours to be fishlike!).  Make sure that the long edges are all taped togethger, but the ends need to fe loose so the wind can blow through.
  4. Attach your bag to the cylinder at one end either with tape or staples.
  5. Decorate your windsock.  You could glue shapes on, paint it or even use ribbon to add streamers.
windsock collage

Having the appropriate clothes for the weather

  This is a biggy for me, as there is nothing worse than being too cold, wet or hot.  So it is important to have the appropriate clothes available.  With this in mind we have a wicker basket at the front door which is filled with hats, gloves and scarfs and the boys also have waterproof coats and trousers (ours are from Muddy Puddles) for this time of year.  We also have waterproof poncho's too and the boys have waterproof boots that are easy to clean too.  I make sure that I keep a can of waterproof spray in the house, so I can reapply it. Layers are the key to our wet and damp winters.  We all have thermals and fleeces and I make sure we wear them.  I also have a waterproof backpack where I put spare gloves and hats for really wet days and plastic bags for the replaced wet stuff. We don't very often have really cold weather, but remember this video that Heath at Not from Lapland did about dressing children in cold weather and made sure that we had padded waterproof trousers for when it does snow and waterproof gloves too Make sure you are following our facebook pageGoogle + page or on Pinterest for lots more ideas on getting outside with your family over the coming week.
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