#CapriSunSchool Twitter Party – Friday 29th August 2014, 1-2pm

CB-Twitter-Party-Post-Disclosure-June2014-TM Do you love a good Twitter Party?  You know we do and we’re excited to host a party about your back to school lunchbox ideas.  On Friday 29th August at 1pm BST, please join us for the#CapriSunSchool Twitter Party where we'll be discussing juice drinks and how they can be incorporated into your back to school routine and healthy lunchboxes, and giving you a chance to win prizes! #CapriSunSchool-Twitter-Party08_29 Do your kids have packed lunch for school?  Mine don't regularly, but when they do I have to admit that we are fans of Capri Sun.  I love that I can freeze them and the pouches keep the rest of the food cold in the boys lunch box. We are big fans of Capri Sun fruit crush which is great for kids who like mine have adverse reactions to additives.  Oh and I also love that I can upcycle the pouches in to pencil cases.

Join me and RSVP for the #CapriSunSchool Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

   DATE: Friday 29th August 2014 TIME:  1:00 - 2:00 pm BST PRIZES: 5 - £60 Tesco Gift Cards EARLY BIRD PRIZE: 1 - £30 Tesco Gift Card HOSTS: @Jessies_kitchen, @keepupjonesfami@mum_themadhouse PARTY LEAD: @tsue1136 RULES: #CapriSunSchool Twitter Party Official Rules RSVP & PARTY GRID: #CapriSunSchool Twitter Party Page How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats! TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party - sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page! TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party? Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page! TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes? RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible! TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize? Watch for chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win! TIP: Special deals and brand coupons? Keep that option checked when you RSVP for the party! TIP: New to Twitter parties? Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns - they are slower paced and easier to follow! TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties? Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendarto find more fun parties to attend! Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!
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Loo Roll Balloon Rocket

Rocket Bingo are hosting a competition where you have to make a Loo Roll Rocket to be in with a chance to win an iPod 7th Generation. Now loo rolls are something that I have a lot of in our junk modeling box otherwise known as the recycling bin and as it isn't bin day till next week, we thought we would spend the afternoon making our own loo roll rocket.  But my boys do love to challenge me and they insisted that our rocket actually move! Don't worry your rockets don't have to work the competition, in fact you can find out all the details of the competition here

How to make a loo roll rocket that flies 

  making a loo roll rocket that works What you need
  • Loo Rolls
  • Washi tape
  • Wool
  • Straws
  • Balloon
What to do I asked the boys how they wanted to decorate their rockets and they decided that washi tape was the way forward, so I got out my stash and we had some fun decorating the loo rolls.  You could decorate your loo rolls in any way you wanted, paint, stickers, glitter or pens, the tape was a great as it encouraged the boys manual dexterity as they tried to keep the tape lined up on the rolls and an added bonus for me was that it wasn't messy. We then taped a straw inside each of the rockets and threaded some twine through it.  We tied the twine to two chairs and then blew up the baloon before taping it to the loo roll. We then let go of the balloon and wow the rocket moved on its own!  IT WORKS! Don't just take my word for it, take a look at our video below How to Enter

The competition closes at 23.59 on the 31st of August (see the site for full details).  But entry is easy, all you need to do is make a loo roll rocket, share it off on Facebook, and read the small print for the full terms and conditions.

So why not make the most of the rest of the summer holidays and get crafting with the kids and make your own loo roll rocket.  If you do enter I would love to see it so do come back and share a link to it in the comments. 

Good luck and have fun!

Full details here on Rocket Bingo’s site, competition is not hosted by The Mad House, the promoter is Rocket Bingo and this is a featured post on their behalf.

Looking for more summer fun inspiration then do come and join me over at Mum in the Mad House Facebook page 
 
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Encouraging learning at home

I have blogged previously that we are not big fans of homework here in the mad house, however, I am aware that it is going to become a necessary evil for my boys in the years to come and we have made the decision that from this year (year 5, aged 9/10) we are going to encourage Maxi to learn at home and do any allocated homework. 10 ways to encourage learning There have been a number of reasons for this decision, including the fact that a couple of their friends are starting senior school and they will have over an hour homework each evening and also that other friends although not local are receiving tutoring for their 11+  using tutors such as Fleet Tutors.  In fact MadDad tutored Math's GCSE and A'Level when we first met.  Tutoring isn't always about just improving grades, but about raising confidence and giving children the encouragement they need. We feel that the time has come to start the preparation for future learning.  We want to keep this encouragement as simple as possible and in fact make homework and learning fun and not a chore. We have been encouraging learning at home though play and reading throughout the boys lives at home, so the transition to doing homework, doesn't scare me or the boys at all.

Tips for encouraging learning at home

 
  1. Fill your home with books.  Both the boys love facts and fact books.  We have and still are fostering a love of reading in our children.
  2. Encourage discussion and opinion.  I want my children to be free thinkers, to understand that having an opinion is fine and that they have to back up that opinion with reason and facts.
  3. Make it fun.  Both formal and informal learning is much easier when fun.  If a book they need to read does not stimulate them, find an alternative one that does or another way for them to glean the information.  This too applies if using a tutor,  make sure that your child finds them inspiring (has a connection) and enjoys learning with them and that it isn't a chore
  4. Make learning a participation sport.  I freely admit to my children that I do not know everything and that I too will have to learn somethings with them.  Spellings are a communal event, they test me (I am pants at spelling and I test them) usually during dinner or on the walk to school.
  5. Encourage learning through play from a young age.  Play matters and is key to everything your child is and will be.
  6. Use real world examples.  Do science at home, encourage children to cook and engage your child in real world learning, ask questions and make connections.
  7. Give them a place to do homework whilst supported by you.  We use the kitchen table and have everything the boys will need in a bureaux in the kitchen.  I can be preparing dinner whilst they are working and I make myself available to them as they need me.
  8. Celebrate achievements.  Make time to celebrate your children's learning achievements and set clear expectations of them.  My boys know that 100% effort is non negotiable regardless of the outcome. Offer positive reinforcement to inspire them to keep learning and being challenged.
  9. Show interest in what they are learning.  Do not make results and scores the focus of your questions.  Show a true interest in what they are studying.  Having your child put what they are learning into their own words will reinforce that learning.
  10. Set a good example by showing them that learning is pleasurable and is a lifelong process.  Additionally, parents who exude an overall positive attitude about their own responsibilities show children that while all people have tasks to complete, doing them with care and enthusiasm is far better than simply giving the minimum effort.

 THe Mad House

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Back to school lunchbox jokes

My boys love jokes and now as they are getting older their jokes are actually laugh out loud funny most of the time.  We have pulled together some of our favorite back to school jokes.  Perfect for popping in school bags  and into lunch boxes. 25 Back to school Jokes What kind of school do you go to if you’re an ice cream man? Sundae school. A boy returns home from his first day of school, and his mother asks, “What did you learn today?” “Not enough,” he  replies. “They said I have to go back tomorrow. Teacher: How can you make so many mistakes in just one day ? Pupil: I get up early ! Teacher: Andrew, where is your homework? Pupil I ate it. Teacher: Why?! Pupil: You said it was piece of cake! Why was the teacher wearing sunglasses to school? She had bright students!

Who the king of all school stationery? The ruler.

What food do math teachers eat? Square meals! Why didn't the sun go to college? Because it already had a million degrees! Why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet?
Because they spend years at C! Why did the student throw his watch out of the school window? He wanted to see time fly. Why were the early days of history called the dark ages?
Because there were so many knights! "Class, we will have only half a day of school this morning"  We will have the other half this afternoon. Why was the teacher cross-eyed?
She couldn't control her pupils! What happened to the plant in math class? It grew square roots. Which hand is it better to write with? Neither, you should use a pen! What do you do if a teacher rolls her eyes at you?
Pick them up and roll them back to her! What kind of school do you go to if you’r a surfer? Boarding school Why would a music teacher might need a ladder? The reach the high notes. Why is a math book always unhappy? Because it always has lots of problems What makes a Cyclops such an effective teacher? He has only one pupil. Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9 What is a math teacher's favorite food? Pi! Pupil: Would you punish me for something I didn’t do?
Teacher: Of course not.
Pupil: Good, because I didn't do my homework. What is snake's favorite subject?
Hiss-tory! Why did the two 4's skip lunch? They already 8 What do librarians take with them when they go fishing? Bookworms! Teacher: Why did you eat your homework?
Pupil: Because I don’t have a dog. What's a teacher's favorite nation? Expla-nation. Why didn't the skeleton go to the school dance? He didn't have anyBODY to take. Who succeeded the first Emperor of Rome?
Pupil: The second one! Why aren't you doing very well in history?
Because the teacher keeps asking about things that happened before I was born!

Looking for more kids jokes

a joke a day  kids lunch box jokes I love these printable knock knock jokes from Happy Go Lucky. How about these fab free printable lunch bag jokes from Emily Beale Nurturestore has 24 Christmas jokes perfect for advent calenders. Kids Activities Blog has 35 Jokes to make kids laugh and Kids Animal Jokes Teach Mama has super silly lunchbox jokes Lunch jokes for kids from Blooming Homstead Play Activities has 20 funny jokes Kindergarten Basics has lunchbox notes and jokes Over 50 kid friendly lunch box jokes from Lasso the Moon More jokes for lunch boxes from The Taylor House Here are the MiniMads favorite joke books

 
THe Mad House
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First day of school photo ideas

How to you record your kids first day of school.  Since mine have been small I have taken a picture of them all decked out in their uniform with a list of their likes.  I love capturing all that first day excitement with my boys and it is a great way to see how much they have changed year on year.   So I have put together a great roundup of ways to record that first day at school. first day of school photo ideas We take a picture and then I picmonkey the boys likes on. Paging Fun Mum's does a great image with sidewalk chalk I love the idea of making my own chalkboard speech bubble to show their year in. Let's Lasso the Moon using a great small chalkboard. No chalk board then just use a notebook like Me and My Insanity Print off the date and their school year on a sheet of paper and do the same for the last day of the year too (I am never that organised withe the last day of the school year!) How about making a giant polaroid frame - this is so cool! I also love the idea of just taking a pic of those shoes all clean and unscuffed with their backpack and a sign. How cool would it be to buy a t-shirt for when they graduate and finally leave school and get a picture of them wearing it each year. Kids being camera shy, then take a photo of their first day outfit instead. I love how you can just share a little bit about them and what their want to be when they grow up too.  
THe Mad House
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#Mums4Tommys Twitter Party – Tuesday 26th August 2014, 1-2pm

CB-Twitter-Party-Post-Disclosure-June2014-TM Do you love a good Twitter Party?  You know we do and we’re excited to co-host a party about taking care of your baby’s skin as well as their clothes.  On Tuesday 26th August at 1pm BST, please join us for the #Mums4Tommys Twitter Party where we’ll be discussing how laundry detergent and fabric softener is an important choice for your baby, and giving you a chance to win prizes! #Mums4Tommys-Twitter-Party-8-26 With two boys who have sensitive skins and me who well seems to have issues with most things I put near or on my skin, I try and make sure that I stick to non bio and a good fabric conditioner.  Maxi suffered really badly from eczema until he turned four and we managed to control it by finding out what his triggers were Fabric detergent such as Persil Non Bio, together with Comfort Pure fabric softener can ensure that your clothes are clean, soft and fresh, at the same time as preventing irritation to baby’s skin. So I am delighted to be co-hosting the #Mums4Tommys Twitter Party on SoFabChats supporting Tommy’s baby charity. Join me and RSVP for the #Mums4Tommys Twitter Party on SoFabChats! DATE: Tuesday 26th August 2014 TIME:  1:00 - 2:00 pm BST PRIZES: 5 - £60 Asda Gift Cards EARLY BIRD PRIZE: 1 - £30 Asda Gift Card HOSTS: @Jessies_kitchen, @keepupjonesfamily@mum_themadhouse and@mymummyspennies PARTY LEAD: @JManMillerBug RULES: #Mums4Tommys Twitter Party Official Rules RSVP & PARTY GRID: #Mums4Tommys Twitter Party Page   How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats!
  • TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party - sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page!
  • TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party? Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page!
  • TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes? RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible!
  • TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize? Watch for chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win!
  • TIP: Special deals and brand coupons? Keep that option checked when you RSVP for the party!
  • TIP: New to Twitter parties? Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns - they are slower paced and easier to follow!
  • TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties? Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendar to find more fun parties to attend!
Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!  
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Teaching kids independance – First time at the pool alone

Both my boys have been going to the swimming pool since they were 4 weeks old.  Teaching the boys water confidence and eventually to swim was really important to me and today witnessed a first for me letting the boys going swimming on their own. Teaching kids independance - First time at the pool alone Now when I say on their own, what I really mean is that I sat and watched from the sidelines, well the cafe with Cass from Diary of a Frugal Family.  But the boys packed their own swimming kits, paid their entry, got themselves dressed and put their things into a locker. I was not too concerned about them in the water as they are both pretty competent swimmers and have had lessons. No it is the other aspects of letting them do this alone that had me quaking in my boots, leaving my boys to go this alone with the hope that they wouldn't fight with each other and then once they had to get out, to be trusted to actually have a shower and not just stand under the water, but wash themselves and their hair.  Get in to clean clothes, remember the pound from the locker and put everything in their bag. These boys of mine are only eight and nine and I did wonder if this was far too much to expect of them.  Was I being unrealistic in thinking that they were capable of doing this.  However, this is what they wanted to do, so I sat on my hands, squashed down my concerns, had faith in them and waited. Thankfully Cass was with me and knew how I was feeling as Master Frugal is the same age as the boys and she encouraged me to believe that letting them have this independence was a good things to do and what more it was in a safe and supervised environment. You know what she was right.  They managed, they even brought home everything that they took with them! What more Maxi even brushed his hair and Mini told me that he put his specs inside his shoe like I had taught him. We all came away feeling really proud today.  We all achieved something.  I am giving these boys roots, so that they can grow wings.  We are one more step to rising the men I want them to be. 3.
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Back to school link up 2014

Along with Cass from Diary of a Frugal Family I am hosting a back to school link up for the next three weeks. We would love for you to join in with us and link up any back to school posts you may have over the coming weeks. At the end of the series we will be sharing with you are favorite posts and also pinning them to our back to school and all things school pinterest boards. We have a great selection of posts over the coming weeks to help you in the build up to the first day of school. If you do join in we would love for you to grab our badge and if you are sharing your post on twitter, Google + or Facebook then use the #backtoschool hashtag do we can share it too. So do come and join us by sharing any posts you have about returning to school, preparing to school or back to school crafts.  
THe Mad House
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Decorating shoes with fabric pens. A perfect tween craft

I love crafting and art.  I would do something everyday of I got the chance.  This week we managed to grab a full day with Frugal Family and after spending the morning at the Skate Park we had a crafty afternoon decorating plain white pumps with fabric pens.  This is the perfect craft for tweens and teens. customising shoes Materials
  1. Fabric Pens - I have a set from Yellow Moon and also a Dylon Fabric Pens Pack of 5 (Fluorescent)
  2. Fabric Crayons - We use these Fabric Pastel Dye Sticks
  3. White pumps - the ones we used were £6 from Asda
  4. Sharpie Fine Permanent Marker Assorted Colours - Pack of 24
  5. Bostic Fabric Glue
  6. Stick on gems
customising shoes There is so many different ways that you can decorate clothes and I love how it allows kids to express their individualism. I just provided the tools and lest the rest to the kids. You could use fabric pens, paints or fabric pastels like Maxi's below. rainbow pastel shoes You could also stick many more gems on or even lace and fabric.  Using fabric glue makes sure that the gems and fabric sticks on. Make sure you use sharpie or permanent markers on the rubber parts of the shoes. You can set the colours on the shoes by either ironing them for a minute or two using a hot iron or by tumble drying on hot for ten minutes. You can also finish off your shoes by adding ombre shoe laces.
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How to have THE BEST family days out

Family days out can be expensive, but they are also fun too and one thing I have learned is that experiences bring much more fun and many more memories than things.  So I try and make sure that our family days out are as well planned as possible and to make them as inexpensive as possible. How to have THE BEST family days out Planning Planning your day out can often bring the biggest savings.  Yes, sometimes you want to be spontaneous, but if you know where and when you want to go then taking 20 minutes to plan can save you a lot of money:
  1. Look for two for one vouchers online
  2. Convert your loyalty points.  At the moment you can double up or more your Nectar points for some great summer picks
  3. Check if there is a discount for booking tickets in advance online
  4. Is it worth buying an annual pass if you are going to be visiting more than one over the period of a year.
Food and Drink Food and drink can really add up on a day out.  By far the cheapest way of tackling this is to take your own. We  pack a picnic lunch and a flask and also take cold drinks with us too.   We also pop an extra flask in the car and a tin of sweet treats to prevent indulgent afternoon visits to cafes too! IMG_6253 If you are planning on eating on your day out look out for food offers and also many places off refillable drinks.  At around £6, I could certainly spend less taking drinks but someone would have to carry the drinks around all day. Do not be afraid to ask for tap water.  We do and also we often ask for two plates so we can share cake between the boys. Exit via the gift shop Many places now make you exit through the gift shop which can be a nightmare for families with small children. We have our own strategy to deal with this.  We let the boys buy one postcard each for their scrapbook on the way out. Other methods could be giving older children a set amount of money to spend or explaining that you have spent so much money on the day out that you do not have any spare. IMG_9612 Be Prepared Once you have gone to all that trouble and expense to pay and plan for a day out, you really want to make the most of it, so ensuring that you have waterproofs and sun cream is essential (as you never know what the british day might bring). Also make sure you have everything you could need.  Such as a change of clothes, swim costumes (for water play areas) and towels. Lots of places have lockers that you can leave things in or you can leave things in the car and go back for them when you need them. Do you have any tips for saving money on family days out?  I'd love to hear them. This post is in conjunction with Nectar Summer Picks 
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Recording our holiday memories – scrapbooking with kids

How do you record your holiday memories? My boys are very fortunate, blogging has brought us so many fabulous experiences as a family and I want to make sure that we are thankful for them and also record them so we can look back at our experiences and adventures. OUR HOLIDAY SCRAPBOOK One of the ways we do this is by scrapbooking.  Now this isn't the sort of fancy scrapbooking that some people do, it is more something that I do with the boys and let them take control of.  Last year Maxi scrapbooked our Florida adventure. The year before Mini recorded our adventures on memory stones. This year inspired by my friend Jennie Maizels, we had added some drawing and scketing to our scrapbook. recording our holiday memories There is something wonderful about see photo's in the flesh and we have been testing out HP's instant ink, which means that I don't have to worry about printing costs as I have an annual subscription for ink and knew how much it will cost. Scrapbooking is a great way to record your memories, but also to encourage the kids to keep up with their writing over the summer avoiding the dreading learning gap. Do you scrapbook with your kids?  If not then why not give it a go and enter the Center Parcs August challenge. ‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and visited Whinfell village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how 
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Ribby Hall Holiday Village

During 0ur recent weekend at Blackpool we stayed at Ribby Hall Holiday Village which is ten minutes outside of Blackpool and is amazing.  For us it was much better than staying on a B&B or a hotel as we had the freedom to come and go as we likes, plus coupled with fab onsite activities  and leisure pool it has something to suit every family. Accommodation Ribby Hall accommodation Ribby hall has a fantastic array of accommodation options to sleep up to 14 people.  We stayed in Ruby Cottage which come with a fab lounge and with TV and DVD player (not that we had time to watch it) a fully fitted kitchen and dining area with oven, hob, microwave, fridge freezer, toaster, crockery, cutlery and all utensils.  It really was an amazing base. Fantastic Activities at Ribby Hall RIbby Hall activities We really wish we had more time to spend using the amazing facilities that Ribby Hall had.  The boys had an ace time on the climbing wall and we had a great round of MIni Golf as a family.  The leisure pool is super and the boys loved it. IMG_4179 The boys took full advantage of the park when we had a spare minute. Eating at Ribby Hall On the Friday Night the boys and MadDad ate in the Restaurant, whilst I galavented to Sally's.  During breakfast in the morning they couldn't wait to tell me about the EPIC deserts they had the night before! We stayed in a Ruby Lodge and it had a fully fitted kitchen with a fridge freezer, cooker, microwave, toaster and dishwasher so we could have  very easily cooked ourselves, but we took advantage of the Tea Shop serving breakfast and it was lovely. Disclosure: We were guests of #Blackpools Back and Merlin Entertainment for our weekend in Blackpool
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Ombre Shoe Lace – How to

We have been busy having a crafty summer and as the boys are getting older I have moved on to different craft activities and we have been customising clothes and shoes with our friends from Frugal Family. how to make ombre shoe laces

Ombre shoe laces

Materials 
  1. Dye - Dylon Hand Dye Sachet
  2. Shoe laces
  3. Salt
How to Ombre shoe laces We used Dylon Hand Dye which comes in an array of colours,  Miss Frugal decided on Flamingo Pink for her laces. We made up the mixture according to the packet with warm water and added salt as per the instructions. We west the ends of the laces to about a third of the way down with cold water to dilute the dye as it moved up the laces. We then dipped the laces into the dye and let it work its way up the laces using capillary action (Coffee Cups and Crayons has an ace post on how capillary action works with this post on walking water). walking water We left the dye for 30 minutes, agitating it occasionally before rinsing the laces and allowing them to dry.
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The parents ultimate guide to scooters

Kids scooters come in all shapes and sizes and also all sorts of prices for £10 to a couple of hundred.  It can be hard to break through all the jargon and find the right scooter for your child and even harder to understand why one scooter is OK for going to and from school on, but no good for the local skate park. My boys have both pretty much worked their way through what seems like hundred of scooters and I have discovered that there isn't a one size fits all solution and even now we have six scooters in the garage and I often feel as though I could open up my own shop. parents ultimate guide to scooters

The parents ultimate guide to scooters

 

It is worth investing in a good stunt scooter

It is really important that your kids have a really good quality stunt scooter if they plan to try  jumps, tricks and stunts on it or use it at a skate park.  Stunt scooters are designed to withstand a LOT of punishment. Stunt or extreme scooters as they are know don’t feature a folding mechanism or adjustable handlebar height, instead, they have a one piece handlebar which is much stronger.  They also tend to be heavier that a folding scooter due to the parts being reinforced for strength. IMG_4650 Stunt scooters are more expensive than a recreational scooter and can cost from £80 to more than £250, but remember you are paying for a scooter that will take some pounding and is much more robust. Most extreme scooters are designed for any ability level and suitable for ages 7 years and above. Maxi has a Micro MX Trixx Scooter (which he has had for over 2 years and  Mini a Zinc Zycho and both love them and would not swap for each others! We have had the Zinc Zycho for three months now and are really impressed with it.  It retails at £120 and is a hit at the skate park and on the street too.  It has become Mini's go to scooter and he is not willing to share it will anyone! The Zycho scooter uses 7000 series Aluminium – With its zinc elements the material flexes under stress and returns to its original shape. The Zycho also features a Zinc integrated sealed threadless headset and is compatible with HIC and standard bars. Zero offset one piece wedge forks and a CNC square neck for extra durability.  The Zycho has an integrated 4.5" wide x 19.5" long deck. The deck a rounded bottom for ultra fast grinds won't catch like a square edge.  What the above means is that it is light, flexible, but very, very strong.  It is great for grinding much better than any previous scooter the boys have had. The Zinc Zycho certainly turns heads at the Skate park and Mini is really confident on it.  His tricks have really come on since he received it. Miss Frugal has a Zinc too and you can read her review on it here. Our local skate park will NOT allow folding scooters to be used.

Three wheels can be better than two

Mini Micro Scooters are the perfect start scooter for small children and my best friends two year old is happily scooting about on the boys old one.  They are incredibly stable and easy to use, even for young toddlers, giving them confidence and independence. They are also great value, portable, stylish and lightweight. Maxi Micro Scooters are the next step up, great for older children than still need the stability, but they are also superb for speed and great for everyday scooting.  Perfect for the school run (as long as you do not have to carry them home).

Not all folding scooters are made equal

Folding scooters, with adjustable handlebars are great recreational scooters.  They are often aimed at kids aged four and over, but I have seen three year old's on them.  Personally I prefer the click in to place adjustable height handle bars, rather than the ring hold ones as they feel much more secure, but they are less variable. It is essential to make sure that the folding mechanism is secure and hard wearing and that it is easy to fold.  Both my boys still have a folding scooter as they are perfect for packing in the car if we are going on holiday and for two and from school, especially if you have to bring it home.

Kids love to personalise their scooters

It is not just about scooting, but about scooting in style!  You can buy loads of stickers and add on's for scooters now from bar wraps to grips.  You can also pretty much replace any damaged part, especially on a stunt scooter.

If in doubt ask a parent or an older child

Most of my information has been gleaned from other parents at the skate park or the older kids.  The staff are also full of great information too and more than willing to offer advise.  A good scooter is really an investment and it is important to make an informed decision otherwise it could just end up gathering dust in the garage. Disclosure: we were sent a Zinc Zycho to review for this post and this post contains affiliate links. 
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Where to eat Amazing food in Blackpool

My boys march on their stomach.  They are at that age where they are bottomless and food is an important part of their day.  They get ratty when they are hungry (we call it hangry) and also have adverse reactions to certain foods. where to eat in blackpool So when we are on holidays and days out we often take picnic food to keep them fed and also make sure that we have an idea of where we are going to eat. We had some fab meals in Blackpool and the food was fantastic. Ribby Hall We stayed at the amazing Ribby Hall Holiday Village, which is ten minutes outside of blackpool in one of their self catering cottages, but chose to have breakfast in their tea rooms each morning.  The food was delicious, scrambled eggs that were perfectly cooked on granary toast for me and Farm Shop sausages for the boys with beans and mushrooms, which MadDad opted for the Full English.  All cooked to perfection. The boys and MadDad also had a fab meal in their restaurant on Friday Evening (whilst I gallivanted to celebrate a certain someones upcoming birthday) .  They both said the food was excellent and the deserts even better! Harry Ramsdens Lunch on Saturday was fish and chips at Harry Ramsdens on the seafront.  MadDad and Mini opted for a small Haddock with chips and mussy peas, whilst Mini and I had cod and chips with mushy peas. The fish was amazing and the batter was really light and crispy.  The sign that it was great was empty plates at the end of the meal. Notarianni's For MadDad this was his favorite part of the whole weekend away.  The ice creams at Notarianni's are pretty darn good, in fact they are pretty much a meal on their own. MadDad had a Nosi Mess with meringue, fresh raspberries, vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce and fresh cream.  Mini chose a Strawberry Sundae and Maxi a Knickerbocker glory.  I decided to share theirs and to just have a coke float.  If you are in Blackpool then it is a must visit and it is a real Blackpool Institution and has been in the same location for over 70 years. La Fontana We had an AMAZING meal at La Fontana, which is an award winning restaurant on Clifton Street before we went to see Mamma Mia.  It really was delicious and they went out of their way to  accommodate our request.  The boys  and I adore Calamari and we didn't think we could manage a starter after all the other food we have already eaten so they brought me it as a main course with salad and it was  mouthwateringly perfect.  The MiniMads couldn't get enough of it. Mini said the margarita pizza he had was the best ever after our homemade and Maxi's bolognese didn't last very long either! MadDad thought his carbonara was delicious. The deserts was unbelievably good (no pictures as the boys polished theirs off before I could even get the camera out).  Mini profiteroles for Maxi, Mini had a banana and chocolate crepe and I opted for tiramisu.  MadDad finished his meal with a coffee. We would certainly go back and it was really reasonably priced for such fab food. Disclosure: We were guests of #Blackpools Back and Merlin Entertainment for our weekend in Blackpool and we are already planning our next visit.   
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Our family gratitude journal, Ending the day in a positive way

how to encourage gratitude in kids I used to be a glass half empty girl, but when I had postnatal depression after Mini was born I was lucky enough to have some fantastic treatment and part of that was cognitive behavioral therapy and I learned how to find joy in the little things.  One of the most transformational parts for me was ending the day with three positive things. Maxi is very much like I used to be and see the negative a lot, so we decided as a family to start a gratitude journal as a family.  I want to encourage him to see the good in everyday and to stop looking at the negative and to start to appreciate more. I want my children to become sensitive to the feelings of others,  to develop empathy and other life skills and I feel that gratitude is essential.  This is even more important as Maxi is starting to feel entitled to certain things and becoming a spoilt child. I need to teach them to look outside of themselves and understand that we do things for them as do other people.  I want them to develop perspective. Our Family Gratitude Journal

Family Gratitude Journal

We decided one way to do this was to establish a tradition of a family gratitude journal and to set a good example for the boys. Together we made a journal that we use for recording three things we are each grateful for. Each evening before bed we sit down together and discuss those three things each that we are grateful for. We take turns in writing them down in a journal that we made. Mini is a natural and finds lots of things to be grateful for amd that have made him happy. Maxi finds it more challenging, but we are slowly learning together how to turn each of those frowns upside down. I think that it is a really positive way to end the day.  It means that the last things they are thinking of before bed are good thoughts.
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What to do in Blackpool when you are eight and nine

It is nearly 20 years since I have been to Blackpool and wow things have certainly changed for the better.  We recently spent a weekend in the wonderful seaside resort and it blew our minds and the boys had THE BEST time. blackpools back

What to do in Blackpool when you are nine

Madame tussauds Madame Tussauds Having visited Tussauds in London I wasn't sure we would enjoy the Blackpool one, but it was ace.  Much more manageable and less busy.  So the boys actually got to take a really good look at the waxworks and actually recognised a lot of the people. The boys particularly loved the football Changing Room and also the Sports Stars.  They had fun climbing with Bear Grills, who is Chief Scout (the boys are both CUb's). We spent a great time looking at the waxworks and finding out how they were made and we also had our hands dipped in wax.   We even had a drink in the Rovers Return.
Maxi - "I liked Madame Tussauds because it a lot of interactive activities that you could do all the way round.  I really enjoyed making a wax hand" Mini - "I thought that the picture we had taken with Spider man was very clever"
Blackpool sea life center Sealife Center Mini loves animals, all animals and he loved the sealife center.  The one at Blackpool is really great and well laid out.  It has 50 displays and more than 2,000 spectacular aquatic creatures. For younger children they can meet the Octonauts, the team of undersea adventure heroes from CBeebies until 1st September. The boys loved the kids quiz trail and enjoyed getting their passport stamped.  They got a medal at the end for completing it. Both the boys love the interactive aspect and touching a starfish was a highlight for Mini. There are sharks, octopus and a really big crab called Big Daddy!
Maxi - "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Big Daddy, which is a HUGE spider crab" Mini - "I got to feel a starfish, I didn't think it would be rough and slimy at the same time!
Blackpool Tower Eye The Tower No visit to Blackpool is complete without a visit to the top of the tower or the Blackpool Tower Eye as it is now called. Before ascending to The Blackpool Tower Eye, you will experience Blackpool's first ever 4D Cinema experience, we all thought it was amazing and gave a really great overview of Blackpool.  
Maxi - "The 4D movie was awesome and I loved going top the top of the tower. I even climbed up to the very top part of the tower.  I could see our car in the car park!" Mini - "I loved the Tower, the view was really good and I liked the 4D movie too"
Pleasure beach BlackPool Pleasure Beach The reason we were last in Blackpool was to go on The Big One at the Pleasure Beach and wow have things changed there for the better.  As both the boys are over 1.32 meters they can ride on everything and they loved that (yes they are mini thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies). We spent an afternoon at the Pleasure Beach, but if the lads had got their own way they would have spent all day there. We had so much fun as a family going on the rides.  But you don't have to have adrenaline junkies to enjoy it, there are plenty of rides for younger children especially in Nickelodeon Land. The four of us finished our weekend in Blackpool with a ride on The Big One.  Well I didnt remember it being that scary 20 years ago!
Maxi - "My favorite ride was Revolution because it did a loop de loop forwards and then backwards.  I also liked the pizza we had as the choice was great" Mini - "I loved going on The Big One, I wasn't scared, but I could hear Mummy screaming"
Blackpool zoo Blackpool Zoo We all thought Blackpool Zoo was great.  It is compact and flat (before being a zoo it was an airport) which makes it really great for visiting with kids, buggies or wheelchairs.  Mini loves Animals and adored the Zoo. Highlights included The Lemur Wood, Orangutan Outlook, Active Oceans and Wolf Ridge. We spent the morning at the zoo and really could have spent a lot longer.  Feeding times are clearly marked on a leaflet you are headed as going in and we managed to catch the Pelican feeding time.  We would have loved to see a couple of the shows too. Entry for a family of four was £49.50 and the car park is £2.50 (pay and display).  You can also use your Tesco Clubcard points for entry into the zoo.  If you live close by then annual member ship is less than £100.
 Mini - "I really love tigers and got to feel tiger fur.  I also enjoyed watching the Pelicans being fed" Maxi - "I loved watching the penguins, they kept swimming to look at us"
I would advise that you take a look at the Blackpools Back website for information on tickets and other attractions. You can get a multi venue ticket, which is really great value. Disclosure: We were guests of #Blackpools Back and Merlin Entertainment for our weekend in Blackpool, however, the boys already want to go back and see the illuminations before school starts! 
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How to make family movie night more fun

how to make family movie night more fun We love going to the cinema as a family and are often visitors at our local Cineworld, however, we can not always spare the time (or the budget) for a night out at the movies, so we have started to recreate the feeling at home. theme your experience   First things first, choose a theme for your movie night.  This tends to be dictated by what we are watching and can be anything from super heros' for X Men or Nature themed for when we watched Epic. decide on your food Do you want food during before or after the movie?  Are you going to follow the theme for your food?  We always have popcorn during our movie.  We don't often snack, so love snacking on movie night! There are loads of ways to perk up your popcorn and Pinterest is full of ideas for movie themed snacks. use free printables Movie night doesn't have to be expensive.  I love using some of the fab, free printables available to make it super special.  How cool are these free Frozen movie night tickets.  The Crafty Chick's have some great movie printables. I round up some great free movie printables over at A Thrifty Mum. I also have made a free printable for my boys to review any movies we watch. my movie review cover Movie themed crafting You know me, I love, love, love crafts.  So any opportunity to craft I take it and I love getting creative with the boys and I look on pinterest for ideas, colouring pages and such which fit in with our movie.  We also print tickets and will often make a poster advertising our movie night. decorate For us this can be as simple as putting all the cushions on the floor or bringing our blankets.  But you could pop seats in the style of a cinema.  I often pick up themed paper plates and accessories when I am out shopping to help make movie night a real event. practice writing opinion pieces 3.
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Things to do at Sand Le Mere when you are 9

We are fans of spending family time together and have come to love holidays where we can take all the family including Alvin the dog. At Half term we went to Sand le Mere on the Yorkshire coast, 2 hours away from our home on the Yorkshire coast (Hey Yorkshire is big and we live in North Yorkshire and Sand le Mere is in East Yorkshire). Now I am going to preface this post with the fact that it was WET, very wet, it rained every day bar one when we were there and then Mini got tonsillitis, but inspite of all that we had a lovely time and I can safely say Sand le Mere got the thumbs up from us. We stayed in a two bedroom caravan and it was great.  Perfect for all of us with a double bedroom and loo for us and a twin room for the boys.  We took Alvin's crate and bed and he was a very happy pup. Things to do

What to do at Sands Le Mere when you are nine (by Maxi)

  • Go in the pool - the pool at Sand Le Mere is ace
  • Go to the Park and play football - There was always load of other kids at the park and it was fun to play with them
  • Take your scooter and explore
  • Play air hockey - it was a £1, but I love air hockey
  • I enjoyed walking Alvin round the park
  • The entertainment is really fun and it runs during the day and evening
  • There is a soft play area, but I was about the biggest in it!
  • Make sure you save yourt 2p's before you visit for the penny falls in the arcade
sand le mere

What we thought of Sand le Mere as a family:

What we loved:
  • The pool was excellent, never too busy and the boys adored it.  The lifeguard was strict, which as a mum I love.
  • The evening entertainment was ace according to the MiniMads.  it was perfectly pitched at kids and not inappropriate at all.  They even managed to get MadDad up on stage with Mini!
  • We could take ALL the family including Alvin
  • Free Wifi in the central complex
  • The onsite shop was reasonably priced
  • The beach is walkable
  • The soft play area inside is small but perfectly formed
  • The boys loved the arcades especially the tuppenny falls and air hockey.
We weren't keen:
  • We tried out the food and I wasn't really impressed.  It was just frozen stuff warmed up. But saying that I am pretty picky and the boys didn't mind it at all!
 Things to do nearby:
  • The Deep
  • Fort Paull
  • Spurn point
  • Hornsea FreePort (which is doggy friendly)
  • Honsea
  • Withensea
  • RAF Holmpton
  • Burton Constable
  • East Park, Hull
  • Arctic Corsair
  • Streetlife Museum of Transport
 Disclosure: We were invited by Sand Le Mere to visit
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Over 50 low cost Ideas to make the most of summer with your family

over 50 low cost summer family activities Along with the The Tots100 and Amazon Prime Video I co-hosted an amazing #AmazonSummer twitter party. There were so many fabulous ideas on how you can make the most of the summer with your family, that I wanted to share some of them with you.  But first I want to share with you just how we are finding Amazon Prime Video.

Amazon Prime Video - Great for Kids

We have been trialing Amazon Prime Video and I want to share with you just how fantastic it is.  We recently went away for a few days and we made sure the boys were occupied on the car journey by downloading a movie and TV series to our Kindle Fire HDX. I love that Amazon have Free Time, which enables me as a parent to be in control of how my boys use the Kindle.  I can set time limits for reading, apps and videos.  I can also set which apps, movies, books and videos they have access too. Better still I can restrict access to the apps and videos until they have completed a specific amount of reading! I have a Free Time setup for each of the boys and they both have their own limits and specific turn on and off times. As adults we are loving it too and are watching Stephen Spielberg's mystery thriller Extant Great reasons to try Prime Instant Video  Britain's largest subscription streaming service - more than 15,000 blockbuster Movies and TV shows Watch anywhere, anytime with unlimited access throughout the UK Watch exclusive hit TV shows before they air on British TV Available on a huge range of compatible devices including Smart TVs, games consoles, Kindle Fire, iPhone, iPad and laptop Over 50 Ideas to make the most of summer with your family You don't have to take my word for it, they have a free 30 day Amazon Prime Instant Video worth £5.99 so you can see for yourself.
Disclosure: I recently attended an event run by Amazon Prime Instant Video to learn more about it and received a Kindle Fire HDX.
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Top tips for a great day at Thorpe Park when you are nine and win £250

My boys know no fear, they are mini thrill seekers and love visiting theme parks, but being eight and nine, means that they are not tall enough to go on a lot of the rides, but they really enjoyed Thorpe Park and could happily spend a couple of days at a time there! Thorpe park facebook

Top tips for a great day out at Thorpe Park

 
  1. Get there before opening time.  The smallest queues are at the beginning and end of the day, so take advantage of this for the bigger rides
  2. Check your height before you go.  Make sure you avoid disappointment on the day by checking your child's height, as long as they are over 1.2 meters there will be lots for them to enjoy.
  3. You will get wet on the water rides including your feet.
  4. The artificial beach and paddling pool is a great place to relax mid afternoon, so take a towel and costume for the kids.
  5. If you only have a day it is worth investing in fast track passes.  Who wants to spend most of their day in a queue?
  6. You can hire a large locker for just £1, great for storing those spare clothes and towels!
  7. If you want photo's of you and the kids on the rise, buy a pass that gets you four for £12, a saving of over £15 on them individually.
  8. Buy a refillable soft drink cup to share on the day.
  9. There are plenty of food outlets, but they do tend to be quite expensive, so my advice would be to pack a picnic
  10. Check out our previous review's of Thorpe Park for 7 and 8 year olds, our post on things to check out before visiting Thorpe Park and the Thorpe Park Pinterest Board before visiting
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Win £250 with The Mad House and #SunFessions

The Sun + are offering you the chance to get your hands on two tickets for Thorpe Park Resort worth up to £99 by signing up to The Sun+ for a £1 month’s trial of their subscription and then a subsequent month at under £8.67 so a saving of over £80.

To support the #Sunfession campaign, I also have £250 to give away to you lovely blog readers to spend at Thorpe Park. All you need to do is log in to Twitter or Instagram account and retell a hilarious awful thing you have done to your kids.  Don’t forget to include #Sunfession and #muminthemadhouse . Hit tweet or post, and then visit the Sun site to see your #Sunfession appear.

Win £250 to spend at Thorpe Park with #SunFessions What do do in thorpe park when you are 8 and 9 3.
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July’s Small Stuff

I think I say this every month, but wow July flew past.  The days can be long, but the month is short! July small stuff The start of July was all about trudging through the last days of school.  We were all tired, but fun was had a musicals, assemblies, shuffle up weeks (meeting new teachers) and saying thank you to teachers who have helped to shape and mould my boys. The other underlying aspect of July has been thrills and spills.  We have visited three theme parks. Enjoying a fab new ride at Drayton Manor, Thorpe Park (come back tomorrow for a FAB competition featuring Thorpe Park)  and have our ill held preconceptions shattered about Blackpool where we took Mini to his first show to see Mama Mia. Family has been the keyword during July with a fab family Christening and catching up with some wonderful family from my Dad's side of the family and watching the MiniMads connect with another generation.  We have spent the warm summer evenings walking the dog and chatting. The Minimads have been loom band and football card crazy and also finding time for some Hama Beads in their crazy social whirl.   The weather has been really kind, so lots of scootering and biking has happened and they have made the most of the time off school playing football and cricket with friends. I made a trip to London to learn about Kindle Fire HDX and learn how to use it to limit the boys online time but also about Amazon Video Streaming (more on that to come).  I also took part in a North Eastern Blogger and Brand Event in Newcastle, which was really interesting. I have discovered that I love cold coffee and have been making frozen decaf ice cubes to add to cold milk (voila iced caffe late) thanks to our Dolche Gusto machine.   We have also been filling the freezer with home made lollies and popsicles. We have so much to be thankful and grateful for that we have started a family gratitude journal.
The Mad House
So now it is your turn.  Come and share with me your small stuff.  The little things that make a big difference.
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5 ways to teach kids to be smart with money

According to a recent survey by Scottish Friendly UK disposable incomes on the rise, which can only be a good things after such a period of recession. (You can find Scottish Friendly on twitter) We were listening to the news on the radio whilst in the car at the weekend, when Mini asked "what is a recession?" This got me thinking that money really has a terminology and language of all it own and it is my responsibility as a parent to teach this to the boys and to make sure that they are money smart, but how do you do that? 5 ways to teach kids to be smart with money

Start talking to your kids about money at an early age

  Explain to your Kids why you work, so that you can make money for the family.  Explain that the items they use each day all cost money and you must work to make and save enough to make sure all things are paid for.  From an early age if you asked the boys why their Daddy went out to work their response would be "to get pennies" . We also explained that a bank is a place that keeps money safe. 

Give them practical money lessons

The best way to teach kids to start managing money is to give them some. If they blow their pocket money on the ice cream van and don't have enough left for later in the week, that's actually a good thing: They learn firsthand the consequence of overspending. Another way to do this with older children is to get them involved with the family shopping budget.  Get them to make the list and give them a budget to spend to get the shopping.

Model good habits

Make sure you set a good example for your kids.   Let them see you making smart decisions about money.  Be a role model,Let them see you have a savings account and how you shop wisely.  Show how you set up a budget and stick to it. In addition to disciplining yourself to use smart money habits, make sure you point out to your kids how those habits work in your day-to-day life.  You have a budget and spending priorities. So should your child.

Talk about money

Money should not be spoken to in hushed tones or b e a dirty word.  Make sure you talk to your kids about money and finance.  Talk about your work and how your salary is based on the work you do. Show how your earnings reflect the health of your business and the economy. If your family is enduring a difficult time, find a way to talk about it an age-appropriate manner.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Delayed gratification is one of the hardest money lessons I think.  I want to avoid that  "buy now, pay later" mentality that could mire the boys in credit card debt later on. So, as much as I can, I reinforce the idea that waiting pays off. But remember that postponement of pleasure is a grown-up characteristic, learned from grown-ups.

3.
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Stepping outside my comfort zone and Dr Beckmann competition

A while ago I was asked to be in a video by Dr Beckmann about their stain removers and their colour  and dirt collector sheets. Me in a video!  Initially I was going to decline, but I use the products and actually for once decided to step outside my comfort zone and say yes. jen filming As the date got nearer, I got more and more apprehensive.  We were going to be making a proper video and I was going to be using an autocue as I had a script and everything! Any way, I swallowed my scaries and we made two videos.  The experience was fantastic and the girls and guys made it fun and even better the video turned out amazing. Well I think it did. Why not take a look for yourself......................... I would never make a video for products that I didn't believe it and there was no camera trickery involved in this second video.  What I add to the water is actual Dylon Dye and the Colour & Direct Collector sheets absorb it all from the water. The lovely people at Dr Beckmann's have offered a reader of The Mad House the opportunity to get their hands on some great products including Stain Devils for ridding those stubborn stains, the whole Service-It family, for maintaining and cleaning your appliances and the handy Dry Clean Only cloths to keep those delicate garments looking and smelling fresh, Carpet Stain Remover, Glowhite, Oven Cleaner and brand new Colour & Dirt Collector Sheets. win Dr Beckmann Products So to be in with a chance to win this great prize all you have to do is leave me a comment telling me what colour dye I add to the vases. Entry is via Gleam. Dr Beckmann's Prize Bundle
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What They Don’t Tell You About Being A Working Parent

What They Don't Tell You About Being A Working Parent Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net You eagerly counted down your last days at work before starting maternity leave and spent the last few months enjoying every second of both parenthood and not being in the office. But the day is fast approaching when you have to leave your precious bundle in the arms of another and begin the new life of a working parent. 'Parents all over the world do this every day' you say ' it can't be that tough' you say, while flicking through those glossy lifestyle magazines, reading about the high flying exec that successfully juggles her career and three children making it sound oh so simple! But in truth, unless you have extremely supportive family to help with childcare at the drop of a hat or a healthy bank account to pay for round the clock nannies and school holiday clubs, the reality of being a working parent can hit hard for some. From sick stained work suits, rusks on your reports, tears at nursery to continuous guilt, here's what they don't tell you about being a working parent... (but don't worry, it's totally normal!) Nothing prepares you for that first day Whether you're leaving your little prince or princess with relatives, a childminder or nursery, nothing can prepare you for that first day back at work; it's one of the hardest you'll experience. Expect tears. From you, not your child. If they cry when you leave, you'll cry and feel like a terrible parent. When they don't cry, you cry anyway, sit in the car outside for 10 minutes sobbing that your baby won't even miss you and conclude you therefore must be a terrible parent. Cut your getting ready time by 90% Forget snoozing your alarm, jumping in the shower, blow-drying your hair, putting on make-up and enjoying your morning coffee. With a little one either up at the crack of dawn demanding breakfast and refusing to wear anything you try and put them in (they do it on purpose, they know you're leaving them I'm sure!) you'll need to plan your mornings with military precision. And didn't you know, kids just lurrrve emptying out the contents of your bathroom cabinet while you're taking a shower. Expect all your tampons to be opened and your expensive moisturiser smeared in their hair. Instead, opt for an evening shower, learn to love any clothes that are just clean (or if you're feeling brave, try and pull off that sick splodge on your jacket as a 'designer flourish') and learn about the joys of dry shampoo! Fancy another mortgage? Most working parents are so, mainly out of necessity. Although we like the idea of contributing to the money pot, interacting with other adults and having an identity other than 'little Freddie's mum', very few manage to actually get that balance. If you're returning to work full time and therefore needing full time childcare, expect to pay. A lot. In reality, you could probably have had a second mortgage, (holiday home in Spain yes please!) or you may even pay more in childcare than your actual mortgage - which is pretty gutting. So add that to your ever increasing energy bills, stagnant wages and rising petrol costs and it's a pretty scary chunk of money to find every month, but this is your child's safety and wellbeing we're talking about so you grin and bear it. Expect a 14 hour day, with the pay of 7 hours, actually 3.5 if you're paying childcare Remember when you had a tough day at work and you'd come home, drop your bag and head straight for the fridge for a cold glass of wine and put your feet up? Yeah, well forget that. Replace it with a frantic drive to nursery / childminders, collection of a tired and grouchy child who 9 times out of 10 doesn't seem pleased to see you and then get ready for your night shift. You'll try your best to think of something healthy and imaginative to eat that everyone will like (a move rarely successfully pulled off) as the little one has a tantrum because their favourite Peppa Pig or Thomas Tank plate is dirty in the dishwasher. All as you get the bath run, the morning dishes cleared away and then your little one bathed and ready for bed. If you're lucky and they're a good sleeper, you'll probably put them down and start cleaning away the dinner dishes, finally sitting down around 9pm. By that point, your too tired to watch the shows you've saved on your sky planner and head to bed yourself. Jealous colleagues and guilt Now we've established you work 14+ hours a day and take home around 3.5 hours of pay, you'll probably be surprised that some of your work colleagues will actually think you have it easy!After all, you'll leave work on time every day, have days off when your child is sick, have the option to ask for flexible hours, skip off mid afternoon when nursery call to say little Martha has a temperature - what a blast! They won't see the before or after, the tears, the panic over what to do in the summer holidays, the raised eyebrows when you can't offer to work over time. As a working parent, you feel guilt. Guilt at not being there 24/7 for your child and guilt that you're not good enough at your job because it's no longer your sole priority. It's normal, it really is, and you have to put it aside and remember that you're doing what you're doing because you feel it's right for your family.  And the next time you get a disapproving look, remember that person too may one day become a parent and know just how tough it is. You're doing a good job OK, I know I might have gone a little OTT here and there or perhaps you wish it was this easy, but there's no denying, being a working parent is no easy task and anyone that tells you otherwise, probably has superpowers you don't know about. Times have changed and working parents are making up more and more of the work force. Employers are recognising the importance of flexible working and kids know you have to work to pay the bills. They won't hate you for it, you're setting a good example and they'll know you're doing what's best for everyone - so don't be so hard on yourself! Keep everything in perspective, do your best, cherish the precious moments because before you know it, they'll have flown the nest and you'll be cashing your pension! 3.
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The *BEST* School Trousers we have tried…. ever

I do not say this lightly, but I think I have found the holy grail of school uniform.  The BEST school trousers ever. The best school tousers We were asked to review some school uniform from BHS and I have to say that we have been delighted with what we received in general, but more than that we were blown away by the school trousers. What is so special about BHS School Trousers?  You might ask.  Well let me spell it out for you.........
  1. They have reinforced knees - yes how amazing is that, no more patching holey knees for me.
  2. They do a slim fit - I have a super slim child and these look ace on him.  No more flappy trousers!
  3. They do different leg lengths - At last someone has realised that kids come in different heights.
  4. They are different fits on offer including slim, skinny and generous fits.
  5. They have adjustable waists.  Does anyone elses childs slim out when they shoot upwards?
These trouser have stood up to both my boys and they decimate school uniform and I am delighted to say not only are they practical, but the skinny fit looks amazing on Maxi.  He loves the fact that he can be an individual with a different style of trouser to all the other kids in his class. The BEST School Trouser we have tried.... ever
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Encouraging independence in kids over the summer

My boys are eight and nine and this is our third summer of the Bored Jar and also the third summer that I have given them more freedom over the summer to. Now I am going to admit that it isn't always plain sailing and that the boys have pushed boundaries in the past, but we all thrive from trusting each other. Encouraging independence in kids over the summer

Our rules for a #Freerange summer

Set clear boundaries - The boys have areas that they are not allowed to go to on their own, they also have areas that they can only visit together or in groups. Set clear expectations and time limits - Both the boys have watches and can tell the time.  If they are not back on time, then they are sanctioned.  The Watch Hut has some fantastic kids watches. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you - and no I don't mean give them a mobile phone!  Kids do not need mobile phones. We used walkie talkies when the boys were younger and I make sure I have mobile phone numbers for their friends parents.  I also ensure that the boys know our numbers.
free range summer As they boys have got older, more and more of their friends and peers have freedom too and it is not unusual to find 12 boys playing in our garden or making loom bands in the conservatory.

Set home rules and make sure they are kept

I have a pretty open door policy and also keep the kids and their friends hydrated with water, squash and icepops.
  • You must close the door behind you (we have a dog)
  • You respect my rules in my house
  • No electronics after six pm
  • You get toys out, you put them away
  • No playing upstairs
3.
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Pinterestingly – Pins I’ve found interesting this week #4 – The start of the summer holidays

NewPinterestinglarge392 Friday marked the last day of term for the minimas and I have been busy preparing for our summer.  We are pretty freerange over the summer and I am a big believer in not over scheduling the boys or myself. But I find that the cleaning definitely takes a back seat, so I have been looking for cleaning hacks that can make our lives easier and get the boys involved more. kids choresclean your room   Cooking is another thing that I want to ensure we do more of as a family over the summer break and after speaking to the boys teachers the one activity that they recommended that we keep up over the summer is writing.   The boys read a lot in their everyday lives, but I want to incorporate writing more. cooking campsummer writingmake writing funMusic with math So these are my favorite pins this week, what are yours.  Do leave me a link to your pinterest account below in the comments. Visit Jen Walshaw's profile on Pinterest.
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Ultimate summer activities lists and bored Jar lists

We have been using an I'm Bored Jar for the last two years now and I wouldn't be without one.  With the summer holidays coming now is the perfect time to put together yours.

Make a Bored Jar

  You can really use any jar or container that you have in the house.  I used a kilner jar that we had in the kitchen and cut out a some paper to make a label and also a tag to make it all pretty! Ultimate summer activities lists and bored Jar lists

Print this years summer activity list (with over 150 activities)

Click to download this years Ultimate bored jar in PDF format bored jar list 1bored jar list page 2bored jar list page 3bored jar list page 4 bored jar list page 5bored jar list page 5

Previous years Activity lists

So rather than hunt down all my previous posts, I wanted to share with you our previous lists, just click on the image and you will be taken to the post. ultimate bored jar activity list   Ultimate Spring Bored Jar Activity list 100 summer activities

 Great Summer Activities from around the Web

  Over 1000 activities for over the summer
We printed our activities this year on vivid card 220 gsm from Viking Direct using our new HP Envy 5510.  I was really impressed how easily it printed on card.
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T20 Blast – A real fun day out

Both the minimads are sporty boys and love playing and watching sport. I am one of those odd women that loves Cricket. I remember going to watch the local team play with my Grandad (the cricket club was at the end of our road) and I loved sitting next to him and watching and learning. Top tips for getting the best out of T20 Blast with kids When we were invited by The England Cricket Board to attend a local T20 Blast match we thought it would be a great introduction to the boys of cricket, albeit a much short, more fast paced match and we were right. For those not in the know T20 is a shorter version of a day match.  With only 20 overs per side.  1 over is 6 balls.  On average it takes about three hours. The beauty of T20 is that there are lots more fours and sixes and also more people caught out in a shorter time.  It is like a match on fast forward.
The Natwest T20 Blast is a fast paced, big hitting, all-round entertainment package both on and off the pitch, involving some of the world’s top cricketers. With a quicker format and more lively game night experience, the Natwest T20 Blast experience takes on a modern twist and signifies the start of summer
We went to see Durham Jets hamer Derbyshire Falcons and it was a great afternoon.  Yes we got a little wet, but that didn't dampen our spirits.

Top tips for getting the best out of T20 Blast with kids

 
  1. Take a picnic.  Fod at the stadium is expensive. We packed a picnic and grazed throughout the match
  2. Get their early - parking at Durham is inexpensive at £2.30 and close and by getting their early we got a great car parking space and got to look round before the game started (which is called stumps) and got good seats
  3. Take clothing for all eventualities, we had hot sun and rain within minutes, so make sure you take waterproofs, hats, suncream and a blanket.  Don't take an umbrella they drip on other people and you cannot see over them if sat behind someone with one.
  4. Take binoculars, the boys loved being able to see a little better and binoculars are great for this.
  5. Stay at the end and get the players autographs
  6. Grab the noisemakers and cards for waving when 4 and 6's are hit
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Fab home made ice lollies and popsicles for kids – Kids in the Kitchen

Fab home made ice lollies and popsicles for kids We have a rule in The Mad House, which is that we do not partake in the ice cream van, this means that I have a freezer drawer full of ice lollies and we love making homemade ice lollies or popsicles.  I never throw away nearly out of date juice or smoothies as they make fab lollies, Just like Kate at Crafts on Sea. mixed berry lolly They are also a great way to get your kids to eat more fruit and veg (yes veg) if you have fussy eaters and you can tailor them for your childrens tastes.  My two also love them when they have sore throats. Ingredients
  • Spinach (or other green)
  • Berries (if you have fresh great, if not frozen ones are perfectly fine)
  • Liquid - coconut water, yogurt, juice or water
  • Sweetener (if required) - we use date syrup, but honey is great too
Equipment:
  • Blender or food processor,
  • Ice lolly moulds or paper cups and lolly sticks
Method:
  • Blend the spinach with some coconut water first, I use about a bowl of spinach to a bowl of mixed berries.
  • Add the berries and blend.  I use frozen a lot of the time, they are cheaper and just as good.  I let them thaw for 5 minutes before blending them.
  • Add coconut water to get the right consistency for you.
  • Taste and add sweetener as required.
I get about 20 lollies from a £1.50 box of berries.
Tip: We sieve the berries once we have blended them as my boys are not fans of seeds.
Mixed berry and spinach ice lollies
Variations:  soft fruit is great for ice lollies such as banana or mango.  You can use any sort of liquid, such as soy or nut milks and coconut milk is delicious with strawberries or pineapple, peach, vanilla and greek yogurt.
If you are looking for some more inspiration take a look at these: easy DIY popsicles, home made smoothies and freeze the leftovers,  fruit and yogurt popsicles, three ingredient strawberry pops, simple juice lollies  I am definitely making these avocado and kiwi pops. and Center Parcs have some great tips too.
Tip:  If you make your lollies in a multiple mould, take them out and pop them all in a bag in the freezer one they have frozen, this way kids can help themselves easily and you are not trying to get them out whilst they wait impatiently!
lolly cup
Tip: when giving kids lollys give then a cup to put them in when they want to put them down, it saves finding puddles of melted juice everywhere!
‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and visited Whinfell village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how 
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Win a Febreze #DriveHappy Road Trip Kit

According to a recent survey commissioned by Febreze, a bad smell tops Brits’ list of turn offs when getting into someone’s car. I know that I hate a smelly car, but with two boys and a dog it can be hard to make sure my car smells clean when there is football kit in the boots and a dog on the backseat! Febreze wants to make sure summer family road trips run as smoothly (and as freshly) as possible. To do this, Febreze has created a #drivehappy Kit.

#DriveHappy Road Trip Kit

I have a #drivehappy Kit to giveaway, which includes (Please note that some prizes may vary, for example the travel pillow and travel games may be subject to change)
  • Febreze CAR Vent Clip to ensure your car smells fresh.
  • A backseat organiser to keep your car neat and tidy.
  • A £50 supermarket voucher to stock up on travel essentials (snacks, tissues, etc.)
  • A CD of top driving songs you can car-aoke to on your road trip.
  • A travel pillow so you can catch some much needed Zzz’s.
  • A universal car charger to keep you connected on the go.
  • Travel sized games to entertain you and the kids on the journey.
The Febreze #drivehappy Kit was inspired the official Febreze Road Trip!  This summer, three members of the British public have been handpicked to embark on a European road trip. Throughout the trip the drivers will have to perform a series of unexpected challenges which will cause a bit of a stink! After they perform a smelly challenge their car will be ‘Febreezed’. They'll then pick up surprise passengers who will have an opinion on the air freshness in the car. These passenger approvals will dictate the next part of the journey for the driver. If they approve, the drivers will get a totally fresh experience, if not they will pay a stinky price!  The road trip started last weekend at the Goodwood festival of speed.  You can follow the road trip and all of its episodes on the Febreze Youtube channel. To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is watch the video above and leave me a comment below to let me know which of the Febreze celebrities hands the drivers their challenge envelope at the end?  You can also get additional entries using the rafflecopter entry:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Pinterestingly – Pins I’ve found interesting this week #3

I have had a couple of weeks off Pinterestinly as real life has been getting rather busy! So what have I been pinning this week.  Well it is the boys last week at school, so I have been pulling together some activities for the summer break   floating ball catapuly  filn nightsummer spinesummer ideas I would love to know what you have been pinning, leave me your pinterest details below.  Oh and if you want to follow me, then I am http://www.pinterest.com/mum_themadhouse
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Leather lace-on shoe mustaches

lace on leather mustache for soes I am a converse girl, have been since school and just because I am the wrong side of forty doesn't mean that I am going to stop wearing them! I have been doing projects with my Cricut Explore and have been thinking about what I could do with leather when I had a POW moment and decided to make some leather lace-on shoe mustaches for me and the minimads.

 Cutting leather on the Cricut Explore

I uploaded an image of a moustache and inserted two circles, which I resized to 0.2 inches and then placed them when I wanted the holes for the laces to be and welded them to that place, but clicking on all the images. tash3 The Cricut Explore is proving to be a ninja cutting machine and has managed with everything I have thrown at it so far and this was no exception.  I set selected the cutting material in the menu and changed the dial to custom. I used a deep cutting blade and the leather cut really easily as you can see from the video.

Leather lace-on shoe mustaches

Shoe mustaches mini I am really pleased as to how these turned out and would be as simple to make with just a stencil and scissors. Materials:
      1. Leather (I got a scrap pack from Ebay)
      2. Crop a dile (I have this kit - Crop-A-Dile Punch Kit)
      3. Eyelets
shoe moustache collage I used the Cricut Explore to cut the leather and the holes and then added an eyelet to them with the crop a dile to finish them off. I am really pleased with them and even more so is Mini. Minis show tashes 3.
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How to make a Capri-sun pencil case

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. Capri sun pencil case We are busy "dumping the junk" in The Mad House.  We have noticed that when the boys grab junk food that we suffer the consequences in their behaviour.  We needed to find a drink that I could freeze and pop in lunch boxes over the summer for football camp, so wanted to give Capri-sun a go. We visited our local ASDA and decided to try the Capri-Sun Fruit Crush as part of our #CollectiveBias shop, it is fruit juice and spring water and no nasties.   I can safely say it went down well and neither of the boys had a reaction to it - yippee! caprisun But I was left with the cartons and wanted to use  them, so I decided to make a pencil case with them (we are all about reuse, reduce, recycle here thanks to Bob the builder! How to make a Capri-Sun pencil case

How to make a Capri-Sun pencil case

  Surprisingly Capri-sun pouches are really goof doe sewing  and this pencil case took me around 30 minutes last night. caprisun pencil case how to It is also great for a beginner to make as the zipper goes in before you close the case.  I used washi tape to hold the pouches together before sewing them and it made it so easy to do. Now we have to buy more Capri-sun as both the boys want a pencil case and this time they are going to sew their own. 3.
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Paddington Bear takes over Warburtons

warbeartons If you are anything like me you will try to get the good stuff in your kids any way you can.  One way I do this is by buying half & half bread.  The boys do not even realise that I am giving them anything different! From this week over 6 million Half & Half products will bear the name Warbeartons in they team up with the ever youthful Paddington Bear. warebeartons In addition to just changing their name they are encouraging families to get out and about this summer and enjoy their own adventure by joining them and paddington aboard the ‘Warbeartons Adventure Bus’, which is infact a travelling loaf!
Warburtons will also be challenging families to spot the Warbeartons Adventure Bus and upload a picture to the Warburton Facebook page, for a chance to win a once in a lifetime adventure family holiday. Fans will also have the chance to influence the bus’ journey and track its progress on Warburtons’ Facebook page.
Paddington will be  touring Britain in a double decker sized bus in the shape of a Half & Half loaf - sharing his summer adventure tips with families across the country ahead of the summer holidays. Families will get the chance to meet Paddington Bear, sample Paddington’s favourite marmalade sandwiches and take home a special summer adventure guide - featuring Warbeartons ‘Top 10 Family Adventures’ and ‘Top 10 Adventurous Sandwich Recipes’, created by sandwich guru Helen Graves. 3.
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Looking after your eyes and your family’s eyes

  Looking after your eyes and your familiy's eyes MadDad wore glasses from being a toddler, I started wearing glasses at 20, so there was a high chance that our children would need to wear glasses too.  We took them both for their first eye test at a year old and Maxi was fine, but Mini needed specs as he is really long sighted. reading glasses Having a child that needs glasses makes you really aware of how vulnerable eyes are.  More so when that child is sensitive to the sun, so wears reactorlite (glasses that tint in the sunlight) to help prevent his headaches.
Boots Opticians lenses now come with  Boots Protect UV protection as standard which are worth £40.  This protects both the front and the back of the lens.
Recently Boots Opticians got in touch and asked if I would like to review their service and spectacles, as someone who has had laser eye surgery and also only really used a local opticians I thought it would be great to see how a national chain work and also I really wanted a pair of their exclusive Orla Kiely sunglasses (yes I am THAT shallow)! Orla sunglasses I was really impressed with the service I received both before the test, during the test and after.  Both the Optician and the assistant were knowledgeable, approachable and friendly.  The test results were exactly the same as at my local independent optician, which was really reassuring. For me it isnt the test that is the hard part, but choosing spectacles and working out the cost.  The cost of the frames is only the beginning and once you start adding in all the lens options (which I do not understand) the price suddenly escalates and I start to feel out of control.  However, Boots put the customer in control by making the prices clear and understandable and at no point did I feel pressured to pay for lenses that were more expensive. In the end I walked away with a pair of reading glasses and a pair of Sunglasses all for £145. MadDad also went to Boots Opticians for a test and he has been going to Opticians since he was a year old, has had operations on his eyes as a child and his Mum is borderline for glaucoma.  He was really impressed with the tes and when his pressures came back slightly high, he was given drops in his eyes and then had them retested on a more accurate machine.  Thankfully they were well within normal, but it is really reassuring that the Optician wasn't concerned about running over, just about making sure MadDad got the best service possible. Boots Opticians stats His test was the same as the local optician again and as he was really happy with his glasses he decided to go for a classic pair of sunglasses, but with varifocal lenses.  Geeta the optical assistant helped him and the boys chose the frames and then talked through the lens options with him.
Do you get your kid's eyes tested?  You can get them done free annually on the NHS from Boots Opticians.
Disclosure: Boot's paid for my trip to Britmums Live, for eye tests for me and MadDad and £300 towards glasses. 
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“The Day That” giveaway worth £130

Win a unique baby gift – a framed photograph of the dawn your child was born Roomshot14 The Day That have been taking beautiful photographs of sunrise ever day since mid summer’s day 2005. Their photographers have captured dawn rising over the sea which is deeply symbolic – the start of a new day, the start of a new life. It means you can own a beautiful photograph taken on the very day your child was born, one of the most unique new baby gifts on the market.  Available as framed, mounted, canvas, acrylic or digital download, these are truly dramatic images.
“It captures the spirit of a new life beginning, it’s so beautiful” - Elton John
We are giving you the chance to win a stunning “Classic” framed photograph of the dawn of your special date worth £130. Use the calendar below to see what the dawn looked like on the special day your baby arrived in this World: To enter, simply use this calendar above and find your own special day and tell us how many photographs were taken on the day your child was born. Please include the date and number of pictures in your answer and use the rafflecopter entry for more ways to win: framed photograph of the dawn your child was born a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Dalby Forest and Go Ape Junior with Vimto Squeezy

I have mini thrill seekers for children as you may know if you are a regular reader.  They are pretty active and love a challenge, so when Vimto Squeezy suggested they give Go Ape Junior a try at Dalby Forest they were up for the challenge. The minimads visit Dalby We have a discovery pass for Dalby Forest and love visiting.  It is great for a day out, with a Gruffalo trail, fab adventure playground, beck. plenty of bike trials, walks, a cafe. shops and a toilet.  We love visiting with Alvin and having a BBQ (yes you can have a BBQ).  It is a beautiful place and now it has a Go Ape Junior. We packed our standard picnic which usually includes bottles of water, but we also packed some Vinto Squeezy too, which was drunk a lot faster than just water! vimto squeezy The boys loved Go Ape Junior, you get an hour to go on the two rope courses as many times as you like and they certainly made the most of their time. Go Ape Junior   I would recommend Go Ape Junior to anyone with kids.  They do not have to be part monkey like mine, in fact the course is designed to enable all levels of skills and to instill confidence in children.  They recommend that you go round with the children first. Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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Kids in the kitchen – Eating what you grow

eating what they grow kids in the kitchen Ever since MadDad put raised beds in our garden after my Mastectomy six years ago we have always grown a small amount of vegetables, salads and fruits at home.   I know from experience that kids are more likely to try to eat things that they have grown and nurtured.  It worked for me in my Granddads allotment and for MadDad as a farmers son.
Tip: Involved the kids in growing as much as possible from planting, labeling, watering and picking. Let them give the plants names such as Robbie runner beans or Colin carrots. 
Higgidy  sent us a selection of Sarah Raven Salad leaves earlier in the year and we planted them along with radish and lots of other vegetables and waited for them to grow. Last week Higgidy sent us a selection of pies and quiches to eat with our salad and challenged us to design a salad to go with them.  So Mini and I put on our thinking caps and came up with our salad: Salad Ingredients
  • A selection of leaves
  • Radish slices
  • Blanched sugar snap peas
  • Crumbled feta cheese
Tip: blanched sugar snap peas, beans, asparagus or long stemmed broccoli are great added to a salad or served cold as finger food for younger children. Cook in boiling water for three minutes before plunging in to cold water with ice.
Salad dressing
  • White wine vinegar
  • Lemon juice from half a lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Chilli flakes
  • Salt
  • Honey
kids in the kitching eating what they grow Mini put all the salad dressing ingredients in to a kilner jar and gave it a good shake, before checking the taste and adding a little more honey.  It was important that the dressing was to his palate to encourage him to eat it.  Both the boys loved it and covered their new potatoes with it too!
Tip: always put a small salad out with dinner. When the boys were small I served chopped cucumber, red pepper and tomatoes in a small bowl with each meal.  Eventually they will eat it.
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June’s #SmallStuff

June has truly flown by and I can not believe that in less than three weeks the boys break up from school for the summer holidays. So what has rocked my world this June? junes small stuff This month has been filled with later nights spent in the garden and the joy of eating food that we have grown and watching the boys cook. There was aa Father's Day where we celebrated a grumpy, but much loved MadDad.  We showered him with homemade gifts and lots of love and cuddles. June was the month where loom bands finally took over the house and we crafted for craftings sake. We watched flowers bloom and then the petals fall to the ground due to epic rain showers. The boys attended their first cricket Match, a T20 Blast game at Durham. A certain someone turned eight and had a "nerfday" and a world cup football party with his closest friends (more on this to come). I spend three nights in a hotel bed on my own and got some fantastic sunglasses and reading glass thanks to Boots Opticians, but the best bit about my weekend away was the train station reunion on the Sunday! We also had a fab day out at Dalby Forest and Go Ape Junior thanks to Vimto Squeezy and trees were climbed, water jumped in (not just by the dog) and ropes swung on. I also attended a fab assembly by Mini's year at school and captured a wonderful image of him and his inspirational teacher. All in all June has been a fab month, although very tiring for me.  I am looking forward to an action packed July and a more sedate August.
The Mad House
  How was your june?  If you feel like joining in, leave a link to your post below in the comments or on the linkie.  
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Teacher Appreciation Gifts, Wine and Chocolate

Do you gift to your kids teachers?  I do and have done since the boys went to preschool.  I want to thank the teachers for a fab job they do looking after my children.  I trust them to look after my most precious things (my children) and this is a BIG thing for me. wine and chocolate teacher gifts Up until this year the boys have crafted teachers gifts.  I think that it is important that they are a part of giving and thanking their teachers.  However, this year they have been a little reticent, so I decided to give what I would like to receive, wine and chocolate. However, me being me, I felt the need to jazz them up a bit. Teacher appreciation gifts So here are my chocolate and wine labels, cause it must be hard coping with my boys! chocolate gifts   So a lot of chocolate is needed!  I printed the chocolate labels on a full sheet of paper and using a template I hade made from a clear pocket positioned them.  I used double sided tape to secure them, but a glue stick or standard take would be fine too.Chocolate wrapper I also used standard paper rather than printer paper and was really impressed at the quality of my new Canon PIXMA MG7150. I made a selection of labels in different colours, so just click on the image below to make it larger and then right click and the image to your computer before printing.  I put four labels on one sheet or A4 for the wine and one label per sheet or A4 for the chocolate.

Chocolate bar wrappers for  Teacher

  choc bar choc bar blue chocolate purple

Wine labels for Teacher

  yellow wine small wine purple small wine blue small reasons teachers drink Feel free to print them and use them if you wish.  Disclosure, the Canon Pixma MG7140 is a sample for review purposes
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Why I want to be an organ donor

A serious post from me today.  National Transplant Week runs from 7 to 13 July 2014 and this is what I want to talk to you about.   Please don't skim over this as it is so important to talk about being an organ donor and I am going to explain to you why it is important and how talking about it can make a unbelievable difference to someones life. I want to be an organ donor A - Amazing I along with a group of bloggers are all going to tell you why we think it is important to be a donor, we are going to spell it out for you and my letter is A. Firstly donating an organ is an amazing thing for anyone to do.  It isn't an easy decision and has an impact on the people you leave behind, but you are giving an amazing gift to another person. Do not be Ambiguous • Only 45% of families will agree to donation if decisions aren’t known • This rises to 95% when the decision to be an organ donor is known So you have to talk about organ donation with your family and friends.  Let them know what your decision is and why.  Make is clear and do not be ambiguous.

Why organ donation is important to me:

  organ donation  Advancement  I have touched upon my condition and dance with cancer in the past.  The fact that I have a genetic spelling  mistake and may have passed this on to my boys is hard to deal with, but it is not something that dominates our lives.  We choose not to let it, but it does mean that as a family we have all discussed death and that I have seen more than my fair share of family die. I know that if in my death I could help another person I would in a heartbeat.  I know that it is though peoples generosity and also scientists and doctors thirst for knowledge and desire to find cures that my childrens lives and outcome may be different to mine. So for me it is about Advancement.

What I want you to take away from this blog post

Please don't just read this post and nod to yourself.  I am asking you to make an action, to go away and tell your family and friends that you want to be an organ donor.  Talk to your partner, your parents and your children, ask what their wishes are and make it clear. If you haven't signed the Organ Donation Register, then please go to the National Transplant Week website  and sign up. Now you know what I want to be an organ donor I would love for you to pop over to Aim Above Limits and see why Katie is an organ donor.
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Healthy (ish) chocolate pots – cooking with kids

Healthyish chocolate pots We were challenged by Philadelphia to create something that could be had at lunchtime, took little preparation and less than five minutes to make.  So Mini and I put our heads together and decided to have a go at making a healthy ish chocolate pot. Sometimes there are days when nothing but chocolate will do, so this is our way of getting a hit of chocolate, that is satisfying and filling at the same time. My biggest tip would be to make sure your avocado is ripe.
5.0 from 2 reviews
Healthy (ish) chocolate pots - cooking with kids
4
 
Ingredients
  • Pot of Philadelphia
  • An Avocado
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • Teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Date syrup to taste
  • Crushed or chopped hazelnuts
Instructions
  1. Blend the cream cheese, avocado, cocoa powder and vanilla extract to a smooth consistency.
  2. Add date syrup to taste - Mini likes it sweet!
  3. Top with crushed hazelnuts
healthy chocolate pots This is a really simple recipe and really easy for children to make.  Mini loves using the blender and it doesn't work if the lid isn't on correctly, so I know that he is using it safely. Mini took his role in this make very seriously nad decided that he had to style the shoot in the garden and then take the pictures and then eat the chocolate pots!  He did share one with Maxi though. Mini styling 3.
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Mothers of boys I need your help

This parenting lark is hard work.  Just when I think I am doing well, something comes along that gets me questioning what we are doing or how we are doing it. femanist boys As a woman I find the fact that I am the mother to two boys something of a challenge and a huge responsibility.  Now before I continue I just want to say this is not about whether or not it is harder to parent boys or girls. I want my boys to treat women as equals and that will be completely down to the way that we as parents bring them up.  I know that I need to stop just focusing on getting through the day and week with them and start to think about the future and how to mould them in to the men I hope that they will be. Feminism starts with Men. I am a firm believer that feminism is as much down to men as it is women,  That men have a responsibility to feminism as much as women do. So feminism starts with me raising feminists, but how do I do that? This is what I don't have answers too. I know that when one of the boys is crying that terms such as "crying like a girl" should not be used.  That words have so much power.  That we should not use the phrase battered women (the woman didn't have any power over the abuse), no, it was the man was the abuser, so let's get rid of that term and put the onus and the man. I hope that me and MadDad are good role models and examples for the boys.  We both believe that women and men are equal and we have an equal relationship.  I demonstrate that women can do most things as well as men and some things much better. I show them how to cook and clean, I get them involved. When they were smaller we didn't have boys boys and girls toys.  We had a toy kitchen in our kitchen and encouraged the boys to play with dolls and buggies.  In fact they were just copying their daddy's actions.  They loved pink.  We didn't reinforce sexual stereotypes. Then they started school.  Wow, that was a change, soon pink was for girls, blue for boys.  Crying was for sissies and more. My boys do not need to "Man up". I need to work not just raising boys, but gowing men.  I know that they are like dogs, they need exercise, good food and lots of praise, but what else do they need? So mothers of boys I need your help.  How do I do this, what advice can you give me?
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A Mum’s Guide to Minecraft

My house is filled with Minecraft and Loom bands!  I thought that Minecraft might be a flash in the pan, however, it hasn't proven to be.  Both the boys and their friends love it.  So I extracted my boys and their friends away from the screen for a while and together we have made this Mum's Guide to Minecraft. minecraft a mums guide

What is minecraft?

  It is an online sensation game designed by Notch (a.k.a. Markus Persson) founder of Mojang, the company that developed Minecraft. The game is available on a variety of platforms (iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC although my boys play it on Xbox 360). To put it very simply minecraft is like LEGO online, but without any blocks to get under your feet! In Minecraft you play Steve and you build your world out of blocks.  Steve's world can be a dangerous place, especially at night. That's when the baddies come out. But, he also can encounter them at anytime underground. Animals roam the land, some friendly. Some can be tamed or even ridden. Neighboring villagers keep to themselves but are willing to make trades. To survive, you must build yourself a shelter and begin to gather food. Everything around you can become a resource. Hacking at trees gets you wood, digging up the ground gets you stone, etc. Gathering plants or killing animals will give you food and other resources. You can then use those resources to make building materials. With time and some effort, you can also craft objects by combining resources in a furnace or at a craft table. There are lot of recipes for making weapons, armor, food, etc. My boys use this Crafting Guide.

The Different Modes of Play in Minecraft

 
  • Creative Mode - In this mode, you can create your world, explore and enjoy building without the threat of zombies arriving. A player doesn't need to be concerned about survival, finding food or building shelter.
  • Survival Mode - this is the game mode in Minecraft (where most players play, including the boys and their friends). The focus is survival and the player needs to build shelter, find food, fight enemies and collect resources that will help them survive long term. This mode can be played as a single or multi-player.
  • Hardcore Mode -  Similar to Survival mode, but more difficult.  The main difference is that you have only one life, and your entire world will be deleted when you die.
  • Adventure Mode - This also adds a layer of difficulty to Survival mode. The main difference is that you cannot break blocks unless you have the right tool.

Glossary of Minecraft terms for the Savvy Mum

  Mods - They are things that change the game, add ons that change elements or add new elements to a minecraft world. Skins - it changes the way things look Mob - Can be hostile, docile, neutral or allied.  Hostile mobs are in very simple terms a baddie such as a creeper, zombie, skeleton, spider, Enderman and wither skelton. The Ender Dragon - The hardest Mob and you have to destroy it at the End past the Nether The Nether - is a world that has blazes, zombie pigmen, glowstone fire and the ender temple. The End - a planet that you can dig through and it is the other way you can die on creative mode. Butter - is gold and you make things with it Emerald - is the hardest thing to mine, you make things with it.

Minecraft goes offline

minecraft action figures

The Minecraft action figures as they were left on my fireplace!

The boys were sent Diamond Steve Action Figure (£7.99) and Minecraft Core Animal Mob (£19.99) to test and THEY LOVE THEM and you know what, so do I.  It encourages small world play, they can build minecraft worlds with their lego bricks and play with the action figures, which is great. At £7.99 and £19.99 it bring them in to pocket money saving range and also the perfect price for birthday gifts. Diamond Steve is 7cm tall and fully articulated.  He comes with diamond armour and a sword. Now for the minecraft speak Diamond armour is the most durable with an 8.33 defence point per diamond and can be repaired. Now for the animals, I love the animals.  Again they are fully articulated and you get a  Cow, Chicken, Pig, Sheep, Tamed Wolf, Ocelot. For ages 6 years and over.
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Seven Great Kids Outdoor Painting Activities

Now I know that now everyone is as relaxed as I am when it comes to kids painting and the mess it can create.  But the summer is a great time to try and lower your worry factor and get painting outdoors. The key to being more relaxed is preparation, so get a big bowl of soapy water and a towel ready for cleanups.  I have even been known to take the hosepipe to the boys to clean them up or bath them in the paddling pool. We are big fans of the large rolls of paper that you can get from Ikea. Great Kids Outdoor Painting Activities
  1. Painting doesn't always have to do done with a paintbrush and by using carpet squares you are introducing  new textures to your child.
  2. I love the idea of painting with water pistols.  it would be fab to cover the fence with paper and it would be great fun too.
  3. If you want to contain the mess to a specific area, they way not try ball painting in the paddling pool.  This is on our to do list for the summer holidays.
  4. We love sidewalk or pavement paint.  it is so easy to make your own and is just so much fun and a different take on just using chalk
  5. How about using bouncing balls to paint with.  This is another activity on our summer to do list.  It is a great skill to pick up wet and slippy bouncing balls.
  6. My boys love to feel paint between their toes and we often make footprint wrapping paper.
  7. When you are feeling a little more adventurous, then give this fantastic Ice cube painting with insects ago.  It is is wonderful activity that would be perfect for a warm summer day.
  hop for hope

I am happy to be participating in HOP FOR HOPE,  which is a blog hop dedicated to Savannah Hope who is the new daughter of  Heather from Crayon Box Chronicles.  Savannah Hope was diagnosed in utero with life-threatening birth defect of the diaphragm, congenital diaphragmatic hernia.  You can read more of Savannah Hope’s journey here.

You can also connect with Heather & Savannah Hope here:

Facebook - Donation Page - Blog

 image001
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Pinterestingly – Pins I’ve found interesting this week #2

Mini turns eight on Tuesday and is having a football/soccer party for his birthday, so I have been busy pinning lots of ideas for the party this week. world cup activitiesfootball soccer ball pinatasoccer football cakesatchelsbored printableloom band projects   Not following me, then feel free to: Visit Jen Walshaw's profile on Pinterest. Also why not join in.  What have you been pinning this week:
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Child Safety Week

Next week is child safety week.  What is that you ask, well it is an annual campaign run by The Child Accident Prevention Trust who are the UK leading charity in this field.  This year is focussing battling morning mayhem. saftey heros I am working with Betta Living to help publicise this as it is a subject close to my heart, especially after an incident we had last week.  Let me tell you about it.

Mornings in The Mad House

  I am not a morning person, seriously I walk round in a haze until I have had two cups of tea and a shower. Mini takes after me and we are often prodding him 5 minutes before we have to leave the house as he will get dressed and go back to bed!  Maxi, however, is an early riser, often up before even MadDad gets up at 6am for work. The boys are becoming pretty self sufficient when it comes to mornings now, they mostly get their breakfasts and have even started to use the toaster.  Well I am growing men! Last week, we had some waffles left over from the weekend and Mini popped them in the toaster whilst I was upstairs in the shower.  The first I knew that anything was wrong was the smoke alarm going off and Mini running to tell me that there had been a fire in the toaster, but Maxi had dealt with it. The waffles had not gone in the toaster straight and had been unable to pop up automatically as they got stuck and being full of sugar they set fire. Thankfully we have a fire blanket in the kitchen and Maxi had use that and turned off the toaster.  I rushed out of the shower to find that he had even opened all the windows and the back door. Amazingly Maxi had covered how to deal with kitchen hazards at Cubs a couple of weeks previous, but it could have been much worse.

What Can you Do?

  Take a look at your morning routine and figure out the hazards that you can reduce. The Child Safety Week website has some great resources.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust have two competitions running for Child Safety Week:

Post brought to you in conjunction with betta living

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Silhouettes made easy using the Cricut Explore

I have always loved the silhouettes you see of people and they have always intimidated me.  But I decided that I needed to get over my fear and figure out how to make a silhouette much easier to make and bam I decided to have a go at making them on my Cricut Explore The fact that is was coming up to my MIL's birthday really spurred me on to give silhouette making a go. Silhouettes made easy using the Cricut Explore 1

How to turn a photo into a silhouette using picmonkey

  Firstly I took pictures of the boys in profile against a light coloured wall. Then in picmonkey using the posterise setting I transformed it, using two colours and 100% detail. Mini had a shadow due to his hair, so using the clone tool I erased it out and  pow I had a pretty decent silhouette. mini silhouette how to

Uploading an image to the Cricut Design Space

  siloutte 1 Go to design room and start a new projects.  Then click on the upload on the left hand side and then we want basic upload for the silhouette. siloutte 2 Before you upload the image you get a page showing you the steps for uploading, just click on to "continue to step one". siloutte 3 You need to then click on browse at the lest and pick the image you want to upload, which will appear in the box. siloutte 4 Click on simple image and then continue to step two siloutte 5 You image will them appear larger on the screen in a square with the sides hatched out.  This is the area that is going to be empty. As our image is high contrast, we are able to just use the  select & delete wad on the areas we want to disappear siloutte 6 Once we only have the part of the image on screen we want, then it is time to continue to step 3 which is saving the image siloutte 7 This is where you give your image a name and tags (especially if you are going to upload lots of images). insert image Then you get to tick the image you want on your design space to work on and insert image siloutte 8 Then the silhouette is in your design space to edit the size if you want to.  I bought my frames from Dotcomgiftshop and they were under £6 each as I wanted a traditional style to go with my MIL's home. The card was matt black from Viking Direct and is 240 gsm heavy cardstock. Silhouettes made easy using the Cricut Explore The beauty of the new Cricut Explore is it does a fantastic job of cutting all the minutiae making the silhouettes look so fantastic. We love these so much, that I made another set for our home and as I had already imported the images to Design Space it took all of five minutes to load the paper and print them off. 3.
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