Spring The Small Stuff – #S2S2D 8

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 Emmas 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.

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).

little things

Mini bath

Win a Bathtime Fun Hamper at #kidsbathtime Twitter Party on June 4th at 1pm 3

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)

10 ways to encourage children to save 11

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.

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
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.
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
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
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
Insist that a percentage of their pocket money goes into a long term savings account.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.


win chewit

Chewits Chewie Gum Guide to half-term and Win a Chewie Gum Hamper 128

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

Connect with your children at mealtimes 4

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.

Other ways to encourage conversation at the dinner table include:

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.

Happy mature woman serving food to daughter with family sitting at dining table

frugals thorpe park

Tips for visiting Thorpe Park from Cass at Frugal Family 3

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!

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!

Banana Bread with Spelt Flour 5

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.



Updating the Kitchen – Moodboard 4

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.

Angelina, Me and BCRA 35

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.

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.

maxi me mastectomy


Crafting with Post-it notes 6

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.

Win a Forestry Commission Discovery Pass 33

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


My smile is the mask I wear every day 22

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?

Bank holiday weekending 2

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 trip to Durham, baking and just being together as a family.

PicMonkey Collage


Meal Plan – The Fresh Week Pledge Edition 12

As part of the Tefal innovation panel I was asked if I would take the fresh week pledge to commit to giving up processed food from Monday 13 May – Sunday 19 May 2013 in favour of fresh, unprocessed food. For me this is a bit of a no brainer as I cook from scratch most days.

Since getting cancer I have been wary of processed foods. I know that not everything processed is bad, but I make the effort to give myself and my family the best food I can and for me this means cooking from scratch.

As a perk of being a Tefal Innovator they sent me a Fresh Express and a riverford food box this week, so kick starting my menu planning for next week. So I am going to share with you my menu for this week and see if you would be willing to take the pledge. If you do there is a chance that you too could win a Fresh Express and a Vegetable Box.

Bank holiday Monday

Homemade pancakes and fruit

Salad Sandwiches with homemade bread

BBQ with Fish, fennel, salad and homemade flatbreads


Scrambled egg with chopped tomato

The boys are back at school so school lunch for them.

Lentil bolognese (diced peppers, onions, passata, herbs)


Dippy eggs

Spelt pizza bases with lentil sauce topping and vegetables, served with salad


Banana Muffins

Chickpea daah and homemade naan bread


Fruit and yogurt

Boys are at a party, but me and MadDad will be having homemade fish and chips


Pancakes with fruit and yogurt

Poached eggs with smoked haddock


Breakfast Muffins

Roast Chicken with yorkshire puddings and vegetables

Homemade roast vegetables soup and homemade bread

Words of love 6

Then I move on to Mini’s room…………………..

“I love you” I say

“I love you more” he responds

“I love you MORE” I reply

“I love you the MOST” he says with such conviction it makes my heart ache

Not possible I think to myself, not possible.

maxi asleep

mini fountains

Fountains Abbey 10

I love spring days out as a family. Exploring places and enjoying each others company. Over the Spring and summer we try to ensure that we spend one day at the weekend out as a family. The thing is that the boys love being out and about as much as me and MadDad do and we spent Sunday pottering in the garden and the weekend was pretty screen free for all of us.

Encouraging writing in Boys – Scrapbooking holiday memories 6

We are really focussing on trying to encourage our boys to move away from the electronic and take up more tactile pursuits! I gave you some ideas for encouraging writing earlier in the week, but I wanted to concentrate on recording holiday memories this time. When I was younger one of the most exciting aspects of any family holiday was receiving the developed film back from the chemist and putting together an album of the photographs and writing the name of the holiday in the inside page.

In todays digital world I find that my images stay on my PC, phone and on the digital photo frame we have and that made me sad, so I decided to encourage Maxi to make a scrapbook of our recent Orlando visit. This was made even easier as we were gifted a whole host of scrapbooking things in a travel theme from

Whilst we were in Orlando Maxi made sure that he took maps, leaflets and keep all his tickets in to the theme parks, so in addition to any pictures I printed out he could also keep all this memorabilia and have a wonderful physical memory of our holiday.

Firstly we sat at the PC and decided which images to print. In future I think that I would send them off to an online provider to print, that way we could have a better quality print.

Then we cut all the photographs out using the guillotine and then I let Maxi lose with the glue and a pen!

As much as I wanted everything to be neat and in a certain way, I knew that it was best that I just stayed on the sideline and let him fill the scrapbook in how he wanted it to be. Afterall this is his holiday memories we are recording.

scrapbook 1

Maxi's hands

A day in the life of my hands 2

o hands, one for each of my children. I still take joy in the fact that at eight and nearly seven the boys want to hold my hands when we go places.
Two hands, to hold on tight to the man of my dreams
Two hands that love to get dirty with bread, paint, glue and glitter (not all at the same time mind you)
Two hands, one to hold the book and one to turn the pages as I read the bedtime story
Two hands that love to gently stroke my children as they sleep.
Two hands that tippy tap away on the keyboard letting the words flow from brain to blog
Two hands that hold the camera capturing the moments to make the memories
But mostly my two hands help, they help my children learn to make their own way in the world

House of Secrets 10

We love books in The Mad House and one of my favorite times of the day is when we read to each other.  As the boys are growing up I still feel it is important to read to them and I am aware that sometimes the length of books is daunting to younger children if they want to read them themselves, however, chapter books are great for family reading.  We were recently sent The House of Secrets and we have been reading a chapter or two each night and it is a fab family book.  It is a real page turner. We were keen not to let too much away, but have decided to do a very quick video review for you. more »

house of secrets


Encouraging Writing in Boys 10

With the onslaught of electronics in todays lifestyle writing can sometimes take a backseat and I for one am keep to encouraging writing in my boys. I think the fact that Maxi is both a reluctant reader and writer makes me more determined to find ways to encourage this skill. Mini who is nearly seven loves to read and write and can often be found with a notebook and pencil in hand and is keen to improve his handwriting as he wants to get awarded a handwriting pen at school.

Over the summer holidays last year we focussed a lot on writing and pen skills including making our own books, creating a writing centre and making memory stones.

One of the things that I discovered was that good quality writing equipment was key in helping both the boys Triangular and wide pencils were easier for them to grip[ and paper with lines on made it easier too. Good quality paper that they can press on without ripping is essential. I also found that providing them with notebooks and letter writing stationery or their own choice helped to encourage them.


Now the boys are a little older (eight and nearly seven) we have moved on and they are currently filling in a Q&A a day for children journal each night before bed. These are brilliant journals, which asks a simple question each night and your child completes it. It is only a sentence, so fast and simple to do before bed. I want the boys to get in to the habit of writing and feel this is a fantastic way to do that,m plus a good way of recording how their answers change each year.

Maxi is also putting together a scrapbook style journal of our recent trip to Orlando (more about that in the near future).


Both the boys also have a penpal that they write too. This is a great way of encouraging writing, penmanship and also communication skills. They choose their own stationery and learn the joy of sending and receiving letters. We have even been collecting stamps to make a display with. I know that the boys are excited to use the special edition Dr Who Royal Mail stamps (released to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who this year) on their next letters.