Stay wonky

2011_FRAMED_1024x1024 Every now and then I see something that speaks to me.  Often it is shoes!  However, when I saw this fantastic Manifesto letterpress print a long time ago by Aardvark Printmongers, I just knew I had to have it.  But...............  I had know where to put it, until the amazing husbeast painted our bedroom and hung a shelf above the bed and it is the perfect place, for the perfect manifesto for us as a couple. bedroom shelvesIt is there to remind me I need to switch off the electronics and join in.  It also echo's things that we find important as a family, such as speaking out and being honorable.  But even better, it says it is OK to stay wonky and this is something I have and always will be! It looks perfect next to my family carving from South Africa and the brilliant drawing of Maxi and Mini baking,  which Suzie drew.
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Sponsored Video: New TOTAL Greek Yoghurt Advert 2013 and my ultimate rocky road recipe

We are huge fans of Total Greek Yogurt and I have a large tub in my fridge most of the time. I add it to berries and sweeten it with honey in place of cream as a desert for the boys regularly and it is perfect served with warm pancakes, bananas and maple syrup as a weekend treat. The video below gives you an insight into the fact that it has remained unchanged since 1926, but not as to how versatile it is. It has become a regular addition to our rocky road or tiffin as it stops the chocolate setting too hard and makes it a lovely texture. rocy
ultimate rocky road recipe
  • 200g TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
  • 500g milk chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 180g golden syrup
  • 400g digestive biscuits
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 100g chopped dried fruit (craisins, cranberries or apricots are a Mad House favorite)
  1. Line a 12 by 10 inch tin with cling film or lightly grease a silicone baking tin with butter.
  2. Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a bowl over just simmering water. Do not stir very often.
  3. Meanwhile crush the digestive biscuits and chop apricots if you are using them.
  4. Once the chocolate has melted allow to cool for approx 10 minutes, then add the yogurt and stir.
  5. Then add the biscuits, dried fruit and half the marshmallows.
  6. Put the mixture in the tin and the remaining marshmallows on top.
  7. Place in the fridge for at least two hours before slicing
This post has been sponsored by Total Greek Yoghurt 18.
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Every mother of boys needs to watch this

"John Beat Mary" "Mary was beaten by John" "Mary was beaten" "Mary was battered" Mary is a battered woman" Do NOT remove the men from the conversation.
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Half term week

half term  
      • Teaching the boys hangman
      • The log flume at Thorpe Park
      • Making the most of the sun - Maxi
      • Sunshine means water - Mini
      • The men in my life in the Crash Pad at Thorpe Park
      • Cakes by the minimads
      • Washing machine flooded our kitchen (insurance assessor coming on Thursday)
      • An adventure playground to ourselves on inset day
      • My monkey
What you don't see is that it was Maxi's first week at Cub camp, he learned to canoe, BBQ, make a wooden catapult gun, planted seeds, made a cresshead, walked a lot and went to a theme park.  He had the best time ever.  Mini and I missed him a lot, but we made the most of our time with reading, playing, football, baking and one to one time.  Oh and not being woken by Maxi the early riser at 5.30 am!
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Spring The Small Stuff – #S2S2D

Shoulder to Shoulder to Day
Today I am I supporting the fab and inspirational Emma from Crazy with Twins who is beating thyroid cancer.  I am proud to say that I have met Emma and she is a wonderful person, who is dealing with the challenges this battle brings her in as much of a positive way she can. I took a look at Emma's Blog yesterday and it had the BEST news ever, her body has shed the radiation so fast she can now cuddle her children again and they can continue being a regular family (well as regular as you can be with twins and an illness). However, I am aware that the results of the treatment will not be know for the next six months, but I also know that going through something like this can change your outlook on life and give things much more clarity. My experience has taught me to find joy in the everyday.  To make the most of the small things that help me get through each day and then to find three things at the end of each day that I am grateful for. favorites Spring The Small Stuff The smell of freshly cut grass. The sound of all the local lawn mowers on a Sunday afternoon. Listening to the shouts and giggles of children playing outside.  W watching the seeds we planted start to sprout.  Earthing up the potatoes.  Using up the last of the kale by making homemade kale chips.  Lighter evenings.  Waking to the sound of the birds singing.  The boys running in after school and then running straight out again to play with their friends. Wild Garlic and Bluebells.  The leaves on the trees all being green.  Blossom on the trees.  Cherry blossom on the floor like confetti.  The whole family washing the cars together.  Theme parks in the sun.  Sand in my toes and sun on my back.  Spring tides and large waves.  The promise of more to come. Washing blowing on the line.  less ironing.   lighter weight coats.  Putting away all the winter hats, scarfs and gloves and getting out the sun hats.  Rubbing sun cream on to the soft, soft skin on my children.  Sewing later and longer thanks to natural light!  Watching Dr Who together as a family.  The anticipation of camping trips.  Day trips to the seaside.  Icecreams.  The sound of the ice cream van.  The smell of BBQ's.    Spring Birthdays.  Mothers Day.  Fathers Day. Finally learning how to crochet (fourth time's a charm).  Buying fabric for new quilts.  Finishing existing quilts.  Plotting, planning and designing new quilts.  Going to my sewing lessons.  Plucking up the courage to go to the WI!  Watching my children take turns at cooking.  Eating child baked cakes. Waking up next to the ones I love.  Hands to hold. Comfortable silences.  Laughing at bad films and enjoying good films.  Family movie nights.  Board Games.  Bruised little legs in short trousers, especially school shorts!  Early nights in fresh bedding.  Good books.  Washi tape. White Walls.  Yellow.  Daffodils.  Tulips.   Good tea from china cups.  Good friends.  Great family. Reading books out loud to my children.  learning something new.  Challenges.  Even more yellow.  Craft swaps.  Writing letters.  Receiving letters.  The sun.  Scented candles.  Pims in the garden with my family.  Instagram.  Pinterest. Blog comments.  Being able to wear standard sunglasses. The fact that I impress my children that I am not scared on roller coasters.  My boys telling jokes that are funny and make sence (it has been a long time coming). Discovering new music.  Family excursions. little things   Whilst I was browsing blogs last night I saw this print from Hello Little Fox on Attic 24 and just had to purchase one.  As it encapsulates everything I was trying to say.
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Win a Bathtime Fun Hamper at #kidsbathtime Twitter Party on June 4th at 1pm

Twitter-Party-Banner I have raised two water babies, who have always loved bathtime.  So I am delighted to be co-hosting the #kidsbathtime Twitter party celebrating all the things that make bath-time such fun with Becky from Baby Budgeting and the Tots100. maxi bath h&a is the company behind some of the UK's most love character bathing products and they aim to make bathing more manageable and fun for you and your little ones with family favourites like Disney Princess and Thomas & Friends! I am going to be looking at ways to make bath time more manageable, fun  and relaxing for both you and your children.  I am really looking forward to hearing all your tips and ideas for making the most out of bathtime.
  • Make sure you are following @babybudgeting @Mum_TheMadhouse and @Tots100 on Twitter
  • Join in the conversation on Tuesday 4 June 2013 between 1 and 2pm (GMT) using the hashtag #kidsbathtime 
  • Five tweeters with the best suggestions and tips from the event will each win a fabulous H&A bathtime hamper worth £25! (terms and conditions apply)
Mini bath  
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10 ways to encourage children to save

I have recently blogged about 8 ways to encourage children to be frugal over at A Thrifty Mum, which has got me on the whole money management with children bandwagon.  I find that using practical examples really helps the boys understand money and finances, but one of the things that I find really hard is how to encourage the boys to save for savings sake.  After a chat on The Mad House facebook page I realised that I was possibly asking too much from them to save for savings sake.  However, I did get some great ideas of ways to encourage your children to save rather than splurge. saving
        • Give children a goal to save towards, something that really sparks their interest and motivates them. Create a chart to help them tick off the pounds/pennies until they reach their target - Ramblings of a suburban mummy
        • Teach children the different denominations of money and what they add up to. This helps her understand what spending each coin means - Verily, Victoria Vocalises....
        • Work out how much they need to save each week to buy a special something before a certain date, and then they can see that they have some money left, but they also get buy their big item. It's just small scale practice for when they're adults wanting a car, house or holiday - The Brick Castle
        • Pay "interest" on what he's saved that month. So if they save all month he can get something bigger - Snaffles Mummy
  1. Make it visually - Using a glass jar or even a money box that counts the money (like Cass from the Frugal Family) makes saving money much more tangible for younger children. Or even have a savings chart with stars and stickers.
  2. Set regular savings goals - Incentivise saving by offering added rewards at regular agree set points.  This is why the Pigs from Natwest really worked back in the 80's
  3. Pay interest - pay your child monthly interest on savings they have.  not only does this encourage them to keep it saved for longer, but it teaches them about money management
  4. Set a goal - Are they saving for a specific item?  if so make them a chart.  Encourage them to find inventive ways to earn money to help them achieve their purchase faster
  5. Insist that a percentage of their pocket money goes into a long term savings account.
  6. Discuss the reasons that people save.  By setting an example you are giving them the best lesson ever.  My boys are both very maths oriented and we discussed how a  Sippdeal SIPP pension works and why it is important to be able to look after yourself when you no longer have the ability to earn money.
  7. We also set aside so much money each month for fun family activities, showing that you do not need immediate gratification and that by planning, saving and managing our money we can all have fun.
  8. Open a bank account with them and actively use it.  Make sure it is a book account, so they have to go in to a branch to pay in and take out their money.  This way they have to plan spending within banks timescales and again learn that spending is not about instant gratification.
  9. Save smaller denominations to demonstrate how every penny counts.  The boys both have a large vodka bottle that they fill with pennies and once a year they exchange it for holiday spending money.  It really adds up and Mini is always on the lookout for peoples dropped coins when we are out and about.
  10. Teach your children that buying an experience (ie a trip to  a theme park) brings much more happiness than a products (such as an ice cream).  Saving for the experience may take longer or be harder, but it makes memories and makes the experiences so much better
visual savings Whilst chatting to people about saving and teaching children about money I came across some really great blog posts about it and they are too good not to share, Perle Noire wrote a super post on how she teaches her family about saving,  Cat from Yellow days, uses money as a maths tool and makes learning really fun, Becky from Baby Budgeting and Family Budgeting is really worth following for her fab money saving tips too. 3.
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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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