Words on a Wednesday – Choose Joy

choose joy   My mantra for 2013.  We all need reminding every now and then and looking at this beautiful piece makes me smile everyday. Choose Joy artwork from Pen and Paint.  I love mine and am never disappointed by anything Lindsay makes.
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After school fun – Lets be a spy and how to leave a secret message

The boys were tasked with putting Spy Gear's secret agent products to the test, so we decided to turn it into an afternoon of fun after school and to also learn how to make secret writing and invisible ink! secret messages I have had this fab infographic pinned for a while and wanted to give it a go with the boys.  We used the lemon method and it did work, but I wouldn't let the boys heat the paper over a naked flame, which meant that I had to be involved, so we were looking for a more child friendly method when I remembered our wax relief painting and decided to give it ago with a white crayon and a candle and some watercolour paints and it was a huge success. Not only could the boys write their own messages, but they could find out that they were on their own too.  It is so simple, the wax leaves a protective layer on the paper that the paint does not adhere too, therefore, revealing the message.  Like magic. If you have older children then you could perhaps try the methods involving heat. How-To-Invisible-Ink-Infographic-610x922 So on to the Spy Gear kit we were sent.  The biggest hits were the Stealth com walkie talkies as they didn't need to use their hands.  They loved these and have been played with a lot.  They go in to their bedroom and communicate.   Mini caught me out with the Micro Agent Motion Alarm as he put it in his bedroom, so when I went in it set the alarm off.  He is very protective of his room and all his books and hates people going in it, including Maxi's friends when they visit, so this was one of his favorite items. The  Night Goggles have come in to their own now the nights are getting darker and Mini can even use them over his prescription goggles.  The Spike Mic Launcher did not survive Alvin and was an early casualty of #MadPup!  Both boys like the Field Agent Spy Watch, but found it difficult to put on themselves. Overall the Spy Gear stuff is great and I can see us getting a lot of play out of it. Spygear  
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Apple printing and apple eating!

Today is apple day and we are celebrating it in the mad house, by apple printing and eating delicious apple pie and the last two apples from our tree.  When we moved in to our new build home 7 years ago one of the first things we did was plant an apple tree and a pear in the garden.  We have watched over the years as those trees have grown and developed just like our children and watched the joy on the boys faces when the apple bears fruit (the pear never has, yet.........). apple printing Collage We were contacted last week by Waitrose and sent a deep filled pie recipe, which we are having for dinner tonight.  Chris from Thinly Spread has blogged the deep filled apple pie recipe, so I am not going to repeat it, but I am going to share my Mum's dutch apple cake recipe. dutch apple cake
Dutch Apple Cake
This cake is delicious served warm with ice cream, but also cook the next day as a sliced cake with a nice cup of tea
  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 125 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 175 g caster sugar
  • 85 g butter
  • 75 ml milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Line the sides and base of a 20 x 20cm square cake tin with parchment paper. This is key otherwise your cake will stick.
  2. Whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until the mixture is thick, I use my stand mixer for this.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk, then pour onto the eggs, whisking all the time. Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin..
  4. Arrange the apple slices over the batter and bake in the oven for ten minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180C/gas 4 and bake for a further 20–25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
  We want to say thank you to Waitrose who are going to send us a new apple tree for the garden and for all the new recipe inspiration for using our British Apples. apple print thankyou cards Disclosure: I was sent a £10 Waitrose voucher, a children's gardening set and will be getting an apple tree in exchange for this post.  
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A space party for an out of this world parents evening

It was parents evening at the school this week.  Safe to say we walked out of the school with the biggest grins on our faces.  Mini's conference was exceptional and he is coming on in leaps and bounds and his English work is fab (probably down to all the reading he does).  Maxi is too steaming ahead, but we are going to have to have a conversation about effort as at the moment he is applying minimum effort to get the desired outcome (Hey I guess that is a typical eight year old boys thing). space So we invited the boys friends to celebrate with them thanks to Birds Eye's new Chicken Space Shapes.  This was a real treat for my home cooked boys, who could not remember the last time they had chicken nuggets let alone space shaped ones made from 100% chicken breast! So thanks to Birdseye for supplying the space things and vouchers to feed my gang and their friends.    You can find out more about them on the Birds Eye facebook page and yes we had empty plates! But thanks to the Minimads for doing well at school.  I hope that I always come out of parents evenings feeling such pride.  
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Perfect presents for the man in your life and a giveaway

I adore my husband.  I have spent nearly  half of my life with him and I hope to grow old with him by my side.  As the years have past I have learned lots about him and also lots about my gift buying for him.  Never buy him clothes.  I buy what I would like him to wear rather than what he really likes to wear!  Times have changed and when we were younger and have duel incomes he really wanted for nothing.  If he saw something he liked then he would buy it for himself, but now we have little spare cash and he actually has a wish list again, which makes present buying much easier. He will turn 47 when we are in the US and my brother and sister in law are giving us the gift of time.  Yes we are going to have an evening out on our own without the boys and this will be the first time since Mum died that we have had the pleasure of each others company without our sidekicks.  Other things on his wishlist are: Fatface Lounge Pants 44057_default_medium Hubby loves the weight of Fat Face PJ bottoms.  They are his go to pants and they last and last.  He has some that are eight years old.  Yes at £35 they are rather expensive, but per wear they are great value. A Tie Slide Now don't tell him, but this is what I have bought him for his birthday.  He wears a suit everyday for work and he has a couple of slides (one gold and one silver) which he cherishes and I took my watch to the local jeweler to have the battery changed and saw this sterling silver slide and got it put aside for him earlier in the year.  I know that he will wear this and think of me.  The only other jewelry he wears is his watch and wedding ring. Slippers slippers These are not just any slippers, these are the royals royce of slippers provided by Canterbury Sheepskin.  They are hand made by a team of artisans in its Redwood factory in Christchurch, New Zealand.   Normally he would wear a pair from Clarks and they wouldn't last.  The Chris Slippers that he has are £74.06 and are superbly made.  What is remarkable is the removable and replaceable insole unit that means the life of the slipper can be extended over several winters.  He actually can not wait to slip his feet in to his slippers once he gets home from work.   All boot styles and slippers can be viewed on their website www.canterburysheepskin.co.uk or you can purchase products via their webshop. http://shop.canterburyleather.com/ Kelly Kettle medium_kelly_ket_4bb0f4ce6633a What man or boy doesn't like fire.  MadDad has been lusting over a Kelly Kettle for a couple of years now, especially when watching Maxi play football at the weekend.   This will certainly be on his christmas list and I hope he is delighted when he finds out this is what we have bought him for Christmas.  Giveaway. The lovely people at Canterbury Sheepskin are offering a reader of The Mad House the chance to win a pair of the following slippers. 1340-Casey CASEY SLIPPER £81.72 The Casey is a premium slipper that can either be a Women’s slipper (sheepskin collar turned down) or a unisex slipper (sheepskin collar turned up to keep your ankles warm). It is a supremely well made slipper that is very well designed, providing great comfort its wearer. The natural rubber sole is both hard wearing and non-slip. It has a removable and replaceable insole unit (see slipper insoles) that means the life of the slipper can be extended over several winters, giving a great value, high quality slipper!
  • Sheepskin slipper
  • Genuine sheepskin upper and inner sole with 15-17mm wool pile
  • Feature turned down wool collar (can be worn up or down)
  • Side-stitched rubber sole
  • Cushioned removable sheepskin insole
CHRIS SLIPPER  £74.06 CHRIS SLIPPER £74.06 The Chris slipper has been around for a long time and sells in volume all over the world. It’s a supremely well made unisex slipper that is very well designed, providing great comfort to its wearer. The natural rubber sole is both hard wearing and non-slip. It has a removable and replaceable insole unit (see slipper insoles) that means the life of the slipper can be extended over several winters, giving a great value, high quality slipper!
  • Sheepskin clog
  • Genuine sheepskin upper with 15-17mm wool pile
  • Side-stitched “rublite” sole
  • Cushioned removable sheepskin insole
MEL SLIPPER £63.84 MEL SLIPPER £63.84 The Mel is Canterbury Sheepskin’s most popular women’s sheepskin slipper that can be used indoors and also for a short trip outdoors. It has a soft PVC sole and a luxurious wool collar that can be worn either up or down.
  • Sheepskin slipper
  • Genuine sheepskin upper and inner sole with 15-17mm wool pile
  • Feature turned down wool collar (can be worn up or down)
  • Turned through soft P.V.C sole
a Rafflecopter giveaway Please note that taxes and any applicable import duties are the responsibility of the winner.  The charges I paid for my slippers were £18.40.
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A home made dream catcher made my Mini

Mini has had a lot of upheaval in the last month at school.  His classroom flooded and he has spent the last four weeks in other classrooms before getting a semi-permanent base in a year six classroom whilst they were bused to a nearby senior school. dream catcher Not only did two years classrooms flood, but the library and ICT area also flooded.  The dining hall has been turned in to a storage area and the school has been unable to serve warm meals.  All this uncertainty has resulted in a very anxious Mini.  This partly shows by him being filled with bravado and the other side with issues sleeping. So in addition to working on stopping him being a reluctant sleeper and doing things to prevent nightmares, we also made a dream catcher together.  When I say we, what I mean is I held the tape and chatted to him whist he made his own dream catcher. We used, some wood from a plant in the garden with tape to make into a circle (ish) and then mini used rope to tie round it.  He then strung some pretty beads on to string and attached them. Whilst he concentrated on making the dreamcatcher we talked about their history and all the things that have been worrying him.
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How to make a sourdough starter

sourdough Inspired by the Hairy Bikers, Mini has decided that he wants to make sourdough bread, which means that we need to make a starter.  So We have started the process and at the moment we are on day two and MAria (as Mini named her) is currently sat in the airing cupboard. Mini never does things by half so we received sourdough starters on line and he decided to use one from the BBC (as they often use this site for recipes at school). He also decided he need to keep on top of what day it was so used our new  A4 flexible magnetic chalkboard from First 4 Magnets, which was only £3.49 (they send it to us free) and stuck it on the fridge so he could see it and tick off after he had done what needed to be done each day. We would love for you to join us in learning how to make sourdough bread, like Helen at The Crazy Kitchen has.  If you do, please let us know by leaving a comment and you can follow our progress over on The Mad House facebook page or Instagram.  
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Cooking with Kids – Cadbury Pebble Cookies

Cooking and baking is something I do a lot with the boys.  I cooked with my mum growing up and a lot of the skills I have are all down to her.  Cooking and baking is great for children as it teaches them lots and lots of new skills including measuring and weighing (you can even add conversion in), time measurement and management.  Plus I am a great believer in home made and home cooked. cadburys pebbles One of the things we like baking is simple cookies and this is a variation on that theme using Cadbury pebbles as the added yum factor.  If you love smarties and mini eggs then you will love cadburys pebbles, they are yummy cadbury chocolate covered in a christy hard shell and come in yellow, grey and purple.  The boys love them as does MadDad.
Cooking with Kids - Cadbury Pebble Cookies
20 cookies
These are really simple cookies with not too many ingredients that are perfect for children to make. You can substitute the Cadbury Pebbles with other chocolate products or even dried fruit
  • 150g softened butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 225g Self Raising flour
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 100g Cadbury Pebbles
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Add sifted flour milk and vanilla extract. mix until all combined
  3. Add in the Cadburys Peddles and combine by hand.
  4. Roll into 20 balls, and place on 2 greased baking sheets
  5. Bake in oven 190 C for 15 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool before eating
  cookiesuncooked Do you bake with your children?
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Hands on Maths for Maxi (year 4 or 8 year old) – Shapes

Maxi is currently working on shapes at school in maths and this week brought home an Islamic pattern sheet and he had to identify a number of polygons on it and colour them all in different colours.  Maxi is 8 years old and in Year 4 at school (key stage 2). tangram For someone like me that finds this type of mathematics really hard it is nigh on impossible to look at that page and see anything other than triangles. Thankfully First 4 Magnets had sent us a magnetic tangram this week.   We were sent the yellow one and it retails at £1.99.
  • Complete square measures 125mm x 125mm
  • Seven separate magnetic shapes
  • Made from high-quality die cut foam on a flexible magnetic backing
These challenging and addictive puzzles are based on the ancient Chinese tangram puzzle. Each puzzle is made from premium foam with a flexible magnetic backing providing a secure grip to a steel surface like your fridge. Each puzzle is die cut and supplied as a square so you can easily break the individual shapes apart to create new shapes.  A tangram contains a small square, two small isosceles triangles, a medium-sized isosceles triangle, two large isosceles triangles, and a parallelogram. An isosceles triangle has two equal angles and two equal sides. A parallelogram is a four-sided figure with each side parallel to the opposite side. When I received it I put it on the fridge and everyone in the house has played with it, including Maxi's friends who have come to visit. I decided to set some challenges for the boys to follow some patterns using the tangram and it was great fun for everyone. On the suggestion of Cathy from Nurturestore this weekend will be spent turning a sleeper offcut in to a geoboard. 3.  
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My #Epic trip To LA

Last month I took a trip to LA to to celebrate the release of Epic which is out now on Blu-ray 2D & 3D and DVD and meet with the Epic Director, Chris Wedge  and Art Director, Mike Knapp.  What stood out to me when I watched Epic was the animation.  It is magical and harks back to an early age of animation.  There is so much attention to detail and it really shines and makes Epic something exceptional. Epic Art Director, Mike Knapp Talking to Mike Knapp, who is the Art Director was really eye opening and inspirational.  He talked about how they chose their colour palette and how the fact that the Boggans where totally desaturated in colour, where as the Queen Tara, who is voiced by Beyoncé was given the most vivid of green colours, which is why she really stands out in the film as being so magical and alive. The Leafmen  are what really appealed to the Minimads'.  They loved the fact that they ride on birds, specifically Hummingbirds.  Leafmen are the warriors that protect the Moonhaven, which is where Queen Tara lives and were are inspired by William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs.  There uniforms have so much attention to detail in them and were inspired by leafs and the patterns that occur in nature. Epic I also met with Epic Director, Chris Wedge (who also directed Ice Age) and went on a nature tour of  the Los Angeles Arboretum with him and Botanical Specialist Frank McDonough,  it was clear from talking to Chris that Epic was a film that he had wanted to make for a long time and he was really invested in making it the best he could and truly epic.  He talked about how this world could believeable be anywhere just out of sight. I then met Ken the Bug Guy, who features on the DVD and Blu-ray special features.  He had brought along a number of bugs that inspired Epic.  I wasn't brave enough to touch any, but know that this is one of the special features that will captivate my two boys. epic me Blu-ray & DVD Special Features
  • Mub & Grub Intro - join Mub and Grub for an EPIC tour through the exciting all-new special features
  • Birds, Bugs and Slugs: Forest Explorer - journey into the forest to meet the real-life counterparts of the EPIC world
  • Rot Rocks - Mandrake might be the bad guy, but his world of rot benefits ours in a number of ways, here you can discover how
Blu-ray Only Special Features
  • Bugs of Camouflage - find out how bugs use their environment to hide right under our noses, just like the Leafmen
  • The Epic Life At Two Inches Tall - how would your life be different if you were only two inches tall? Aside from being small, there are some surprising and amazing benefits.
  • Mysteries of Moonhaven Revealed - meet the incredibly talented filmmakers, artists, and animators at Blue Sky, and learn all about the making of EPIC, including The World, The Leafmen, Queen Tara, Mub & Grub, Nim Galuu, The Stompers and Finding Moonhaven
epic blu ray pack shot Epic is out now on Blu-ray 2D & 3D and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
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