#ElfCam – Share your Elf Pictures

Do you have a christmas Elf or an Elf on the Shelf? We got our Elf last year and he keeps an eye on the comings and goings in the Mad House and we grew to love him.  Elfs are very popular at the moment and some Elf's are remarkable active and have such an important job over the Christmas period  and me being the nosey parker that I am would love to see what all these Santa's little helpers are up to. So if you have an Elf in your home over the festive period I would love to see that he or she is upto.  So why not post an image to twitter, Instagram or even Facebook or Google+ using the #ElfCam hashtag so we can see what your Elf is doing. #ElfCam So who is up for #ElfCam?
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Child friendly cup cake recipe – #afterschoolfun

This weeks afterschool fun activity I would like to share with you is our go to cup cake and fairy cake recipe.  It is the perfect cooking with kids activity as they have to weight the eggs to get the weight of the other ingredients as everything is equal to the weight of the eggs. cup cake
Simple child friendly cup cake recipe - #afterschoolfun
12 cakes
The perfect cooking with kids cake receipe
  • 2 Eggs (weigh them and your other ingredients should be this weight) eg 112g
  • 112g caster sugar
  • 112g margarine
  • 112g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (fan oven)
  2. pop 12 cake cases in to a muffin tray
  3. Firstly you weigh your two eggs. This will determine the weight of your other ingredients. Ours weighted 112g.
  4. Then weigh your caster sugar and marg and place in to a bowl and cream until light and fluffy (we use a stand mixer, but a lightweight hand mixer is perfect for children).
  5. Then add a tablespoon of flour and some of your egg mixture (this stops the eggs splitting the mix)
  6. Then add the remaining egg and flour and the teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  7. Spoon your mix in to the cake cases and bake for approx 15 minutes
We allowed 15 minutes for our cakes to cool before decorating them. cupcakes for kids  Collage   If you have any #afterschoolfun blog posts that you would like to share then please do pop them on the linky below, so I can share them with my readers and also on my facebook, Gplus and Pinterest pages.
The Mad House
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Getting organised for Christmas

How do you get organised for Christmas?  I have to admit that I revert back to my type A personality when planning Christmas.  We focus a lot on advent and the lead up to Christmas in The Mad House.  I feel that by doing an activity each day we are concentrating on the mean of Christmas rather than the commercial aspect of it.  However, in order to have the time to concentrate on this I have to be pretty organised. christmas organisation So I have a Christmas Organiser, It is split into sections and each year I update it.  This year it is even easier to use as 3M have provided me with some Post-it index flags, which are perfect to highlight the areas.  To see more ways to use Post-it index flag at Christmas take a look at the Post-it facebook page.
  1. It starts with a to do list - this is for general things that need doing and I tick them off or carry them over as required.
  2. I also list any important dates, such as last posting, local carol service and children's nativities
  3. It has a card list - I have a mail merge I use for labeling envelopes, so I do not have to hand write all the cards, but I do keep a list of who we send to and receive from.
  4. Next it is A list of presents that I need to buy and have bought. Or ones that I am going to make and the things I need to make them.
  5. Batteries - I always make sure I record what batteries I need to buy and make sure they are in the present before I wrap them
  6. Last up is the food section.  I write a two week menu plan for the festive season.  I have my shopping lists here, recipes and also conversion charts etc.
I believe that putting a little planning in early means that I can enjoy each day with my family.  We have our advent activity list and I do that with the boys when they get home from school. Tips to make Christmas Organising easier.
  • Keep your egg cartons, they are great for storing away christmas baubles
  • Wrap and store presents as you purchase them
  • Bulk buy stamps at the supermarket and make sure you have enough
  • Share card writing round the whole family
  • Use Scout post - it is cheaper than stamps
  • Do not get into the habit of giving christmas cards to the childrens school friends.  We bake cookies instead
  • Keep track of what present you gifted people the year before, you do not want to double up
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21 days of gratitude – Choose Happiness

I am joining many other very talented bloggers in a 21 Days of Gratitude series. Each day for from Nov. 1-21, each of us will be sharing an image with a quote related to gratitude. The purpose of this series is to inspire you to find joy in every moment of every day.  This is even more appropriate for me as will be soon experiencing the joys of Florida and my first taste of thanksgiving in the US.

"The happiest people do not have the best of everything they make the best of everything"

The happiest I believe that when you fill your life, heart and time with gratitude, it leaves very little space for the bad things in life.  Also it becomes contagious and people start to notice the small things in life.   Part of this for me is learning to live in the present and to also make the best of what we have as a family. Life has taught me that experiences bring us more happiness than material things as a family, so we would rather make memories than buy goods. My boys end their days writing three things they are grateful for that day.  It helps them to go to sleep on a positive note and I hope teaches them to be cup half full people.

Don't forget to stop by each day a blogger will share a quote with you and perhaps an activity, their thoughts that will help us cultivate a heart of gratitude with our families.

The schedule is here and all of the info for you to join in.

21 days of gratitude challenge

These are the wonderful bloggers joining in the 21 Days of Gratitude: Inspired by FamiliaUpside Down HomeschoolingStill Playing School,  Makeovers and Motherhood, P is for PreschoolerThe Educators’ Spin On It,  Toddler Approved!,  The Connection We ShareMama Pea Pod,  Mum in the MadhouseMama Miss,  Plain Vanilla Mom,  Tips from a Typical Mom,  Learning with Mouse,  Preschool Powol Packets,  Kids Yoga Stories,  Dirt and Boogers,  Local Fun for Kids,  Positive Parenting Connection,  Kitchen Counter ChroniclesThe Good Long Road,Bits of PositivityJDaniel 4′s MomThe Eyes of A Boy

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It is not babysitting, it is parenting

dog walk I just want to share with the world my husband, the father of our two children does not babysit his children.
babysitting - the work of a baby sitter; caring for children when their parents are not home
Note the fact that it is only babysitting when parents are not at home, not when their mother is not at home.
parenting - the care and upbringing of a child
So stop asking when I am not with the children is my husband is babysitting them or else I will growl at you and say no he is parenting.
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Make an Advent Box

For the last three years we have made sure that when we pack up the Christmas decorations that we pack an Advent Box.  This box contains things we might need before we actually get all the decorations down and decorate the house. advent box It includes:
  • A selection of Christmas and Advent books.  I add to our books each year and we have a selection ranging from the story of advent to sticker books and activity books.  There is something special about being all snuggled up whilst MadDad reads Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas.
  • Our favorite Christmas movies - The Polar Express, Santa Buddies, Elf, Christmas on 34th Street, The Grinch and many more.
  • Some Christmas craft items - Including confetti, ribbon, buttons, stamps and papers.
  • Our Elf on the Shelf.
  • Our Advent calendars - We have rather a large number of advent calenders now and I love each and every one of them.
  • Our Advent candle - We love burning an advent candle each year.  It is a tradition that helps us think about the light that we need to focus on at this time of year.
This year our advent box is even more important as we will not be back from the US until the second week of Advent.  Do you have a special box set aside for Advent?
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Best London cafes for working remotely

Living in the Frozen North of England, trips to London for meetings or events mean that I need to find places that are great for working from, where I can connect.  It is one of the reasons that MadDad has been busy researching laptops and that we are going to shop for laptops as an easy way to work on the move. Once you've got your equipment you need to find a comfortable and convenient place to work.  I try and make all my appointments and meetings on the same day, so often have time in between them as commuting to London for me takes such a long time. london eye The Big Chill House, King’s Cross Based in a modernised Victorian pub right around the corner from King’s Cross station, the Big Chill House is a great place to work during the day before live music kicks off in the evening. A spacious downstairs bar area means that you’ll always be able to find a table to settle down at, and there is a tempting lunch menu for when you need to refuel. Upstairs, you'll find a colourful roof terrace where you can relocate for a quick drink to reward yourself at the end of a hard day’s work. Coffee Plant, Notting Hill Situated in one of London’s most stylish neighbourhoods, the Coffee Plant on Portobello Road is a laidback and relaxed spot to squeeze in some solid work. As the name suggests, it’s a particularly good hangout if you love your coffee, although they also do a selection of pastries for when you get peckish. Be sure to arrive before lunchtime to secure a table before the midday rush. Foyles Café, Soho What better place to get in a studious mood than a bookshop? The café on the top floor of Foyles serves great coffee and sandwiches, while a gentle jazz soundtrack creates a friendly atmosphere. There is plenty of room, meaning you can find somewhere to sit all day without feeling like you've outstayed your welcome. Putting in the hours at work has never been so rewarding. What are your favorite places for a coffee and connection in London? I would love to know for next time I am in the Big Smoke. 18.  
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Remembering ………………

Grief, it is a funny old thing.    My Dad has been dead 13 years today.  Although really he died on October 17th, today was just the day that we made the decision to switch off his ventilator.  I am not one to normally dwell on dates.  I think of my Dad a lot and not just on dates that are significant. pops But today was Mini's school play and as I sat watching him, I longed with all my heart to be able to introduce my children to their GrandDad.  My Dad's death was sudden, very unexpected and a terrible accident that was unavoidable. My Dad is the man that had the biggest influence on my life, taught me about integrity and respect. He was the one that told me I was marrying a "good man" when MadDad asked him about us getting wed.  He also taught me how to have fun and was the life and soul of any party.  In fact him and mum could light up any dance floor and often did. He was the man that taught me that family was everything. He never had the chance to meet my children, one of whom is named after him, but I know he would have doted on them.  He would have been delighted to see my brother grow in to the man he is today, most of which is down to him and raise a glass with his wonderful daughter in law.  Although I know he would have marvelled that his tea total (at the time) son would end up running a social club. So tonight over dinner I am going to (yet again) regain my sons with tails of their GrandPa and then I am going to light a candle in his memory. We are his legacy, we are his echo.
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Holiday Inn Memories Competition – Win a hotel break with a tweet

Do you have a memory of your best family or childhood holiday?  If so do you have a photo of it?  Then why not join in with this fab competition from Holiday Inn to share your holiday memories.

What do I need to do?

  Share an image of your best family or childhood holiday to Twitter @mentioning the hotel and using #himemories.   The winner will receive a free weekend stay in the hotel. The 10 hotels that will be undertaking the photo competition are:
  • Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury - @HIBloomsbury
  • Holiday Inn London Regent’s Park - @HIRegentsPark
  • Holiday Inn London Mayfair - @HILondonMayfair
  • Holiday Inn London Heathrow M4, Jct. 4 - @HIHeathrowM4J4
  • Holiday Inn London Gatwick Airport - @HIGatwickHotel
  • Holiday Inn Edinburgh - @HI_Edinburgh
  • Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport - @HIGlasgowAirprt
  • Holiday Inn York - @HolidayInnYork1
  • Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum - @HIKensington
  • Holiday Inn Bristol Filtonb> - @HIBristolFilton
  •  minion
For example (this is my entry to the York Hotel)
@holidayinnyork1 We had a despicable family holiday and would love to win #himemories and stay with you
Or this from Bamburgh Castle with the boys a few year ago! babysitting  
@HIKensington Bamburgh really captured our hearts and my boys legs!  #himemories

Part two of the competition

Perhaps you fancy a night in one of the other 49 other Holiday Inn hotels in the UK.  Then send them a tweet @mentioning the hotel you would like to sy in and describe their family or childhood memory in a Tweet 3.using the #himemories hashtag for the chance of winning a night in the hotel you tweeted.  
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11 poppy crafts, art or food for remembrance day

Remembrance Sunday seems to have jumped up on me this year.  I think due to having half term a week late.  I love to use the time that we craft as a family to talk about things and making poppy crafts with the boys always gives me the opportunity to discuss the need for remembrance day and this year has even more significance after our visit to the site of the Armistice over the summer. poppy crafts
  1. Paper poppy - No time for flashcards
  2. Poppy pinwheel -  Craft caravan
  3. Cake case poppies - Making boys men
  4. Cork printed poppy - J Daniels 4 Mom
  5. Art and craft poppy project - My buddies and I
  6. Flanders Poppy Field - Momstown
  7. Poppy garland - Domestique Goddesque
  8. Tissue paper poppy - A Thrifty Mum
  9. Remembrance day cookies - Life at the Zoo
  10. Remembrance Wreath- Rainy day mum
  11. Salt painting a poppy - Playful learners
We have also made Pinwheel Poppies How to make pinwheel Poppies   Melted wax poppies We have also made a Poppy wreath this year and a bunch of poppies. melted wax poppy wreath
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