Chewits Chewie Gum Guide to half-term and Win a Chewie Gum Hamper

win chewit Chewits recently sent the MiniMads some of their new Chewit Chewie Gum, which we have shared with the Frugals.  It was the first time the boys had chewing gum and they loved it.  Both of them felt really grown up!  I am making sure that they spit it out and not swallow it, but I am not telling them it will stick their insides together, which was the things that my parents told me! chewits

They have also been kind enough to offer my readers the chance to win a Chewits hamper worth £25 bursting with Chewit goodies.

The prize will include: Chewie Gum Box which consists of 12 packs of Gum Chew Tin  - Consists of eight stick packs in a silver encased tin Chewits Mug and Key Ring a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Connect with your children at mealtimes

As a mum of two boys I often find myself wondering if they are part of a different species!  They do things differently from me, their brains are wired differently, but one thing I really do want is to say connected to them.  I want to spend time with them and I want them to WANT to spend time with us.  I want them to enjoy family time and to keep me part of their life. connect at mealtimes This month I am sharing some of my top tips to connect families over on The Family Wellbeing Club with Actimel.  It is a really great website which asks you some basic questions about your family and then comes up with some tips which are very simple, but should have a great impact on the wellbeing of your family. Make mealtimes about connecting as a family One of the things that always amazes me is that other parenting never know what their children have been doing at school or had for dinner.  Often when they ask they get told "nothing" or "I cant remember"!  I get asked all the time how I know what is going on and what they are eating and for me it is down to spending time together, asking the right questions and also consistency. Dinner time is one of the major focal points of our day as a family.  MadDad makes sure that he goes to work early so he is back in time for dinner most nights and we try to eat at the table as a family as often as we can. This become much more enjoyable and achievable as the boys got to school age.  They get home from school and have a snack and then we all eat dinner together around 6pm.  The boys take turns to help me cook a meal or a desert and the other one will set the table.  We make an effort to eat at the dining table (except for Saturday night).  We also have a set of rules, which are not negotiable that include you must try food even if you think you do not like it, you chew with your mouth closed, always say please and thank you, you ask to be excused from the table and we all clear the table together. However, I really encourage chatting and communication.  When the boys were younger we had a news style roundup from each of us, where we "reported" our news and events from the day, which included what was had for dinner, what we have done, places we have been and also anything we needed to remember.  MadDad and I did this as well as the boys.  I would ask open ended questions about their day and encourage them to remember as much about it as they could.  Food can always be warmed up.

Ways to encourage conversation at the dinner table:

      • Use story cubes
      • Ask questions such as What was the best part of your day?
      • My boys love hearing about when they were younger or other family members, so have conversations about how you chose their name or how you and your partner met.
      • Try finding foods all of a certain colour or starting with a certain letter.
      • My boys study a different topic each half term and we find out what it is and use that.  For example recently the boys have been learning about Australia and Africa and we have been discussing our visit to South Africa and Captain James Cook who was from our area. The school provides us with the topic list each term and we make sure we research it, so we have something to discuss with them.
      • Why not let your children interview you and you them.
mealtime connection Do not worry if you can not eat together as a family every night, just do the best you can and it doesn't have to be evening meals, why not have breakfast together regularly as a family instead.  Just try to make it special.  We use candles, cloth napkins and glasses with a jug of water on the table.  We never have the TV on whilst we eat and we have a no electronics rule.  Any telephone calls go through to voicemail or answer phone.  We start each meal with the intention of spending it together as a family and we wait until the last member is at the table before we start eating.   We do not say grace, but we do say a thing that we are thankful for that day. I would love to know how you make mealtimes work for you.  
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Tips for visiting Thorpe Park from Cass at Frugal Family

We are booked to spend the weekend at Thorpe Park this weekend and Cass at Frugal Family visited with her family a couple of weeks ago, so I asked her to let me know what I needed and her tips.  She was also kind enough to pop them in a blog post to share with you too! frugals thorpe park  

The frugals at Thorpe Park

When I heard that Jen and the boys were off to Thorpe park this weekend, I was so pleased for them as we had a lovely weekend there a few weeks ago. We planned our trip carefully as we wanted to get the most out of the weekend and I had loads to tell Jen about what she needed to do when she got there. Being a typical blogger, Jen told me to write her a post about what she should be planning for so here you go.... Before you go, make sure you're getting the best deal possible as there's lots of offers out there at the minute – Friij, Coke and using your Tesco vouchers are the main ones that I know of at the minute. Getting there is really easy which is always a bonus when travelling with children! I know that Jen is driving down from the North East but we went by train which meant we arrived at Staines train station. There's a bus that runs about regularly between the train station and Thorpe Park which costs £3.50 per adult return or £2.50 per child return. If you'd prefer though, you can get a taxi which is £2.50 each way (minimum of four passengers). When you get to the park and you're through the gates there's a brilliant locker room downstairs in the dome where you can store your belongings in a large locker for £1.00. I had an empty carrier in my handbag so I literally took out everything that wasn't essential for the day, popped it in the carrier and left it in the locker. There's nothing worse than wandering around with a heavy bag! If you've bought the fast track passes (which are excellent) make sure you know the time slots that you need to be at each of the rides and plan your visit around that because some of them are quite far away from each other. One thing to be aware of are the height restrictions in place at Thorpe park as the minimum height restriction for the larger rides is 1.4m – very sensible decision to me looking at the scare factor of the rides but very unfair in the eyes of an eight year old who is just under the height and had to watch as his dad and sister went on some of the rides without him. I think the height restriction is higher here than in some parks we've been to but the rides are in a different class to the ones we've seen before. There's plenty for all ages to go on though so don't worry if your children are under that height – it really is just the larger rides they won't be able to go on. We saved a fortune buying two refillable drinks for £6 which we shared between us and carried round all day getting them filled from time to time. We also took a picnic to eat which would have been great as there were lots of places we could have sat except we ate it on the train on the way! Oh, another thing. You get very, very wet on the water rides so it's worth having a few pound coins so you can use the dryer things that they have near each ride. I would usually say that things like this are a waste of money but they were great and stopped any whinges about being wet. If you're staying at the Crash Pad, make sure you book a table for tea – we forgot to and the only bookings left when we arrived at 7pm to eat were for 9pm. Luckily the coffee shop sold some rather delicious carrot cake so we weren't that gutted that we had to wait ;-) Also, make sure you take advantage of the early entry into the park if you are staying at the Crash Pad – the staff are great and literally start the ride as soon as you get strapped in so you can take full advantage of the 20 minutes or so before the park officially opens. The App is great too – it tells you what the current queuing times for each ride are so don't forget to download that before you go. I can't think of anything else but I'm sure Jen will have lots more to tell you when she gets back. Have fun x x
I have to say we only told the MiniMads of our trip last night and they were jumping around with excitement   If you have been I would love to know your top tips and be prepared to see lots of pictures and tweets marked #ThorpeParkMums over this weekend!  Oh and if you are interested here is a current events page for Thorpe Park. I also thought it would be great to collect all the posts for #ThorpeParkMums in one place, so have opened a linky. Please feel free to add yours
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Banana Bread with Spelt Flour

spelt banana bread I have recently been tested for celiacs, but thankfully this came back negative, however, on doctors orders I have been reducing my intake of gluten.  One of the flours that my body can deal with is spelt.   As a family we love baking and the boys both adore banana bread, so here is my take on banana bread made with spelt flour. ingredients As this is a recipe that I bake regularly with the boys, we use cups to measure it out.  This makes it super quick and simple for the boys to actually make themselves.  
Banana Bread with Spelt Flour
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • ¼ cup of oil, however we use Flora Cuisine
  • ½ brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of caster sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup of wholemeal spelt flour
  • ½ plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • handful og choc chips or chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 170 (fan) or 190
  2. Mash the bananas and combine them with the oil and sugars
  3. Add the salt and baking powder to the flours and mix
  4. Do not over mix, just stir until all the ingredients are combined
  5. Add chocolate chips or nuts and gently stir
  6. Cook in a greased loaf tin or a silicone loaf tin
  7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes
  8. Remove from the oven and leave on wire tray to cool
  I am always on the lookout for ways to make my baking healthier and have really enjoyed cooking with Flora Cuisine which is a blend of sunflower, linseed and rapeseed oils, has 45% less saturated fat than olive oil and is high in omega 3. banana   You can see more images in my Google+ Album I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® #CBias #SocialFabric.
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Updating the Kitchen – Moodboard

We have been in our home for nearly seven years and the time has come to update our kitchen.  We decided to change the wall colour from green to white and I want to have pops of mid century modern and yellow. The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in our house and in addition to being used for all the cooking we also use it to eat breakfast, craft and do homework too.  It is a happy room, but has it's issues including the futility area!
Kitchen Update
Every kitchen needs music and I love this  John Lewis Apollo II DAB/FM iPod Dock. it is a wonderful piece of kit that I was sent to review and is perfect for the kitchen.  I can charge my iphone on it and listen to digital radio or listen to my playlist.  I love the fact that it is compact enough to fit on my shelf, but the sound is clear and good quality and even better it is a great price at 39.99.
As I have said I have a love of mid century and Orla Kiely has a great interpretation of it.  I love her tins and fell hard for her melamine range.  The tray is a great size and the handles makes it perfect for the boys to carry.  The containers are going to get a lot of use from storing baking to summer picnics.
I adore Camila Prada's designs, they are clearly the love children of Tove Jansson and Orla Kiely.  We use a Koko storage jar as a sugar dish and it makes me smile everytime I use it.  I love functional peices that look good and work for us and rather than having the same things as everyone else I am happy to save up for the item I want or ask for it for Christmas!
Most of you will know by know that I am a tea monster too and when Not on the High Street offered me a gift I decided to get a Linda Bloomfield tea pot.  I choose the handmade 2 cup size and it is reassuringly heavy and pours beautifully.  It is a delight to use and makes drinking tea even more enjoyable.  MadDad things is looks rather breast like and it is delightfully tactile
After losing yet another lamp shade and cup to a ball in the house, we decided we needed some family rules and Find me a gift were happy to help and sent me a personalised family rules print.  My rules are: no balls in the house, try new things, use kind words, mind your manners, do your best, laugh out loud, be happy, share, enjoy the little things and keep your promises. What would yours be?
I am planning a video of my updated kitchen as soon as a few last things are finished and in place.
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Angelina, Me and BCRA

I have never ever compared myself with Angelina Jolie before, but I am now proud to actually say that both of us have undergone prophylactic double mastectomies due to a faulty gene. You can not have missed the announcement from Angelena about her choice and surgery, which I believe she did with such dignity and pose, but if you did it can be found in The New York Times. It is four years since I had my operation and it was what actually spurred me on to blog.  So let me tell you my story.

maxi me mastectomyMe with Maxi after the mastectomy, I came home with drains in

There is and was a lot of cancer on my maternal side of the family.  But we never actually contemplated any genetic link at all, even when my mum's younger sister was diagnosed with a rare form of primary peritoneal cancer we just thought that we were unlucky and concentrated on getting her through the treatment.  During this time she was offered a test as part of a trial to check for certain genetic "spelling mistakes".  A number of months passed and we just all got on with our lives and didn't give the test a second thought. After what seems like a long time, my Aunty was called in to see a genetic counsellor and was informed that she carried a spelling mistake in the BRCA2 gene.  At this point the testing was opened up to immediate family members and also to the children of her siblings who had already died of cancer.  My Mum decided to have the test and went to pretest counselling and joked with us that she would outlive anyone and that cancer would not get her.  So it was such a shock to her when the results came back and she too carried the faulty gene. At this point Mini, my second child was around one I was offered the test too.  MadDad and myself went along to meet the pretest councillor and discussed all the implications of having a positive test.  We left those meetings really feeling as though I needed to have the test and I need to be aware of what my risk would be.  Do I had the test and two weeks later we went back for the results, only to be told that I too carried the faulty gene too. We went home reeling, especially as I had been told that my lifetime risk of breast cancer was over 80% and my lifetime risk of ovarian cancer was in excess of 60%.  However, we decided to look up on this as a positive thing and do the only thing I felt able to do which was to gather as much information as possible about treatment and screening.  I had a mammogram and an MRI on my breasts, but both were really hard to interpret due to my age (the younger you are the more dense the breast tissue is) and also the fact I had large breasts. It was around this time that we made the hard decision that we were not going to have anymore children and that I needed to be well for the two I had and to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.  I did this first as there is some studies that shown the risk of ovarian cancer increases at 35 and also it is a silent killer and there was no screening I could have at the time.

me and meMe and Mini, you can see the strap from the bag which contained my drains

Four months later we made the informed decision to have a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction with implants.  We made the decision to have implants due to MIni being under a year old and the recovery would be quicker. So I went in for my operation on 28 February.  Unfortunately for me things were not straightforward and I had issues with the implants and subsequently spent a lot of time in hospital with sepsis and had to have the implants removed and another operation to remove some more tissue sue to the pathology of the previously removed breasts. It was a hard and very emotional time for me and my family.  I was in hospital for over six weeks over a two month period.  But I reduced my risk of breast cancer to less than 5%.  I still have not had a reconstruction, but when the boys are more self sufficient I will. When  my boys are eighteen, they will both be eligible for a genetic rest to see if they carry the same faulty gene that I do.  When I was eighteen we didn't even know what DNA was let alone be able to isolate and locate faulty genes, so it is my hope that by the time they are older not only will they be able to be tested, but if they test positive that they will be able to be cured.
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Crafting with Post-it notes

creeper We were recently sent a selection of post-it notes and a canvass to get our craft on with.  Being the total non-conformist I am we decided to have a go at installation art in addition to  making a picture on the canvass (this also had something to do with the fact that we couldn't get the post-it notes top stick on the canvass so the creeper we made fell apart!  I should have added glue to the canvass like The Boy and Me did!

post it 3

post it 2

post it 1

post it

The boys really enjoyed being allowed to stick the post-it notes to the wall and I felt safe in the knowledge knowing that they would not mark the paintwork or stick permanently.

We used Super Sticky fully adhesive Post-it notes which are in fab vibrant colours.  3M have just launched Post-It Notes Colour Cubes which have many more bright and lovely colours.  Why not check out Post-It UK Facebook Page for more information on the new range of Post-It Notes and see other peoples pictures too.


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Win a Forestry Commission Discovery Pass

I am a huge advocate of free range parenting and natural play.  One of the ways I encourage this is by taking the boys to our local woods and also to Dalby Forest, which we are ambassadors for. I want them to learn that they can climb trees, roll in leaves and use natures playgroup.  I want them to learn all about unstructured play. I want to encourage them to build dens and look out for nature.  In short I want them to have balance in their lives, I want them to have a natural childhood along with the technology that pervades their lives. I am sure that I am not the only parent that feels this way.  If so then this giveaway is perfect for you. nature forests a Rafflecopter giveaway A Discovery Pass is valid for a specific location, and the winner will need to stipulate which venue they want.  Details here: The prize will be fulfilled by The Forestry Commission and the winner must be willing to provide full contact details The Pass is valid for 12 months and gives free parking for one car at the designated location. There are additional benefits to the pass including
  • A seasonal e-newsletter, with forest news and events.
  • Generous discount vouchers for shops and activities on and off site.  Benefits differ from site to site.
Forestry Commission Badge
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My smile is the mask I wear every day

Everyday I get up and I wash my face and I turn that frown upside down, for my smile is the mask I wear every day. MuminMadhouse I am a pretty quiet and private person in real life (I know you would never have guessed from this blog), I do not share my feelings or troubles freely.  I find it hard to connect with real people, hard to give myself freely to friendships   Partly this is down to having MadDad in my life, he was my best friend before he was my husband and I love him dearly, but also part of it is down to being let down and disappointed by someone in the past. When we moved back to the North East six years ago, I hoped that by immersing myself in to toddler groups etc that I would meet people and make friends.  But we moved to a small village and people here grew up with each other and a lot of those childhood friendships continue to this day.  I chat to people in the playground, I try to make an effort, but feel pretty excluded.   I know I have to put myself out there to be accepted, but gosh it is really hard. In the past I have struggled with depression and I still have numerous health issues, but I do not want these to define me.  I worked hard to overcome my depression and it is not something that I often dwell on.  Most of the time I am a pretty positive person. Recently I made an error and I fear that I have lost one of the people that I used to call a good friend.  This fills me with deep sadness and I do not know how to make things better, in fact I do not think there is anything I can do to make it better.  Hopefully time will heal things , either that or I will just have to let go and mourn the loss of a good friend from my own stupidity. I am at my happiest when I am with my family.  When I am surrounded with MadDad and the boys on a weekend.  I love having them around and I love doing things together with them.  I am putting myself out a little bit more and have been enjoying my weekly sewing class, even if I am the youngest by two generations! I am currently trying to pluck up the courage to go to the local WI group tonight, but worry that I will be the only one under 50!  I have left four messages for them, but they have not got back to me, so wondering if I should just go. Sometimes I just wonder if it is me that feels this way or if I am just feeling a little down in the dumps?  
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Bank holiday weekending

PicMonkey Collage   A super bank holiday was had by all the Mad family this week. There has been Dangerous Den building, mending and making too, plotting and planting, the first BBQ of the season,a new to us bureaux (ripe to a makeover)  a trip to Durham, baking and just being together as a family. I hope you have had a great weekend too.
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