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
sunfessions win

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.

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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
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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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Pinterestingly – Pins I’ve found interesting this week #1

NewPinterestinglarge600 Hello guys, I love Pinterest and use it far too much and pin  lots and lots of things.  So I decided to start a new series sharing the pins that I have really loved over the past week. Mum in the Mad House Pinterest I am more than happy to make this a weekly pinning party if there is enough interest, just leave me a comment below and I will change the post. 486952396958442954869523969584844848695239695809272236319377212370534869523969584941248695239695833003 As you can probably see from this weeks pins I am looking to reorganise our tiny hall as after eight years in our home the hooks have fallen down! We are also obsessed with the World Cup and Fathers Day and I am busy planning for the summer holidays.  What have you pinned recently?
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FIFA World Cup Crafts and Activities for Kids

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser.

I have two football mad little boys and also a football mad husband, so with the spirit of a family night in, I decided that I better join in the fun and get involved with the FIFA World Cup family fun.  We have a family game night once a week and decided to use the #BigMatchPlanner as an opportunity do lots of FIFA World Cup Crafts and Activities with the boys. coca cola in tesco Firstly we went shopping for Coca-Cola  to make our obligatory Coke Floats (they are a family night staple).  We went to Tesco to purchase Coca-Cola’s 1.5L 4 pack promotional product as part of our #CollectiveBias shop.  They are great value at £4 for four 1.5 litre bottles.  Mini was very excited as we don;t regularly shop at Tesco!

FIFA World Cup Crafts and Activities for Kids

  Fifa world cup crafts and activities for kids The World Cup is a great way to introduce some learning in to children and my boys are geography obsessed, so we are taking this opportunity to discuss which continent the country is from, their flag and the language they speak. We have some excellent sticker books with Flags on and use them a lot. We also have been having great fun with our Flags Game too.   learning the teams flags We crafted and made medals, bookmarks and  coloured in our own football kits (craft stuff came mainly from Yellow Moon and Viking Direct) Making medals Looking for more inspiration for crafts, activities and learning involving the world cup, then take a look at my Pinterest board: Follow Jen Walshaw's board World Cup 2014 crafts, learning and activities for kids on Pinterest. Mini turns eight on the 24th June and we are going to be having a football party and I have been looking at the #BigMatchPlanner and now have so many ideas of what to cook and games to play.  It is a fab resource and perfect for anyone hosting a get together (no matter how small) over the World Cup.  Not only does it suggest food options for the relevant counties, but also music, flags and games too. 3.
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Dad Rocks Paperweight

It doesn't get much simpler than this Dad Rocks paperweight for fathers day.  As you know if you are a regular reader I feel that homemade gifts are the way to go for gifts that are meaningful. dad rocks paperweights Materials:
  • Rocks or stones - we found these on our local beach
  • White pen - ours is a Uni Marker White
How to make:
  1. We put our stones in the dishwasher to make sure they are super clean.
  2. Then add your text.
See I told you it was simple! dad rocks father day gift   For other fathers day crafts and ideas take a look at my Fathers Day Pinterest Board Follow Jen Walshaw's board Fathers Day on Pinterest.
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What does Daddy want for Fathers Day?

This was the question I put to the MiniMads this weekend.  I asked them what would MadDad's #FathersDayDreams be. #fathersDayDreams They sat down and had a think and they had a think:
"A visit to Thorpe Park" was Maxi's first reaction. "Is that not what you want, not what Daddy would want?" I asked. "Well, if we are happy, then he is happy" Oh yes he is a wise child!
After some more thinking and me reminding them that this was Daddy's dreams not theirs, this is what they came up with (do have a watch it is only 30 seconds long):

Braun are running an amazing #FathersDayDream Competition

  To be in with a chance of winning an amazing prize to celebrate with your dad this Father’s Day, why not create your own father's Day message and tweet it to @Braun #FathersDayDreams and #Braun, the more creative and fun the better! Here is ours:   Prizes will be awarded to the entrants who, in the opinion of the judges complete the competition as a whole, in the most apt, unique and original way. There will be 4 winners each receiving a prize tailored to the Father’s Day Dream submitted.  The prize will be for the father and entrant and total prize will be up to a maximum value of £3,000. Only one prize per household. Full terms and conditions for competition entry can be found here.   ph-series-3-feat-380s-4-wet-and-dry-x-cdn-en-2

MadDad reviews the Braun Series 3

  Over the last year or so MadDad has been clean shaven, grown a beard and shaved his beard (as he said they were far too common). When he is clean shaven, he needs to shave everyday for work and shaves with either a wet blade or with a shaver (not a Braun). He has been using the Braun Series 3 for the last week and is really impressed with it.  You can use it in the shower (which he loves) and he finds it really intuitive to use.  He doesn't need to stand at a mirror to shave and he has been really pleased with the cut as have the boys.  They both hate it when Daddy has stubble, preferring a three day growth or a smooth shaven face! Previously he didn't like foil shavers as he felt they pulled rather than cut, but not so with the series 3 as it has a triple action free float system, where three independently moving cutting elements adapt to every facial contour and effectively cut both long and short hairs with every stroke. He has put his old shaver away and will be using this from now on, which I think is as good a review all in all. 3.  
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#BigMatchPlanner Twitter Party, 10th of June, 2014 at 1pm

Do you love a good Twitter Party?  You know we do and we’re excited to host a party about how to prepare for the big match with Coke from Tesco!  On Tuesday the 10th of June at 1pm BST, please join us for the #BigMatchPlanner Twitter Party where we’ll be discussing your fun FIFA World Cup plans and giving you a chance to win prizes! #BigMatchPlanner-Twitter-Party-6-10 With two football mad boys and a football mad husband, I know that they are going to be glued to the TV over the Fifa World Cup, so I am either going to have to join them or be a little sad Jen all on my own, although I am planning on getting some crafting done during some of the games! coke floats I have always had a thing for Coca Cola and the boys enjoy the occasional coke float (everything in moderation), we are going to be be celebrating the World Cup with a coke in The Mad House and I would love for you to join me in celebrating at the #BigMatchPlanner Twitter Party. Join me and RSVP for the #BigMatchPlanner Twitter Party on SoFabChats!   DATE: Tuesday, the 10th of June, 2014 TIME: 1-2pm BST PRIZES: 5 - £60 Tesco Gift Cards EARLY BIRD PRIZE: 1 - £30 Tesco Gift Cards HOSTS: @mum_themadhouse, @keepupjonesfamily and @cherry_o GUEST HOSTS: @kiddycharts and @Jessies_kitchen RULES: #BigMatchPlanner Official Rules RSVP & PARTY GRID: #BigMatchPlanner 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 options 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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Win a break at Center Parcs

We fell in love with Center Parcs when we visited Whinfell earlier in the year.  It was a perfect family holiday and had something for everyone in the family. Center Parcs are currently giving people the opportunity to win a break a the Center Parcs Village of their choice with the #wincpbreak competition which they are running on twitter and the Center Parcs facebook page. How to Enter For people that have been to Center Parc's previously share a photo on either twitter or facebook using the #wincpbreak hashtag of what you would be doing if you were at Center Parcs today. If you haven't visited Center Parcs don't worry you can enter too, just share a photo of you and your family spending time together using #wincpbreak hashtag on either twitter or facebook. Make sure you use the #wincpbreak hashtag on and tweet it to @centerparcsuk. Center Parcs will be taking over Waterloo train station from Monday 9th to Friday 13th June and any of the photos submitted with the hashtag #wincpbreak could be used on the largest indoor motion screen in the UK. At 40 metres long and 3 metres wide, it will showcase the photos while highlighting the variety of activities available at our Center Parcs Villages. The small print: To find out more visit the competition website.  The closing date for the competition is midday on Friday, 13th June and once the competition has closed, two winners will be selected at random from all the entries received. My Entry: It has been really hard to choose just one photo from our fantastic break.  We all loved it for different reasons.  The boys adore the activities and for them it would be the high ropes.  MadDad loved the setting and the  fact that we could do activities as a family.  Me, well I loved the spa and taking time out on my own. mini center parcs So we put our heads together as a family and decided this snap of Mini in the Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise.  We all had a blast in the pool.  There is something very something really special about riding the rapids and going outside on an evening in the water, plus I have water babies and we had to fight to get them to leave. CenterParcs Family Blog Club Disclosure: We are Center Parcs family bloggers
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My Kitchen Shelves #Shelfie

I love my kitchen.  It is eight years old and starting to show it's age now.  I am sure that the quality of kitchens they put in new houses is not very good at all, but the one thing it lacks is storage and display space.  So last year MadDad bought me these fab shelves from Ikea. shelfie I have something of a passion for kitchenalia and love everything on my shelves.  I live in a house surrounded by males who would quite happily live in a white box with only essential items around and play football in the house.  My shelf is my rebellion against it all and against them taking over my domain! Top shelf (left to right)  
  • Camila Prada storage jar and salt and pepper pots.  These are too cute to put in a cupboard and I adore Camilla's work which is all handcrafted in England.
  • Yellow and black mugs from Asda
  • Print from Wink Designs
  • Orla Kiely storage tins
  • Cup from Bread and Jam
  • Bowls from Ikea
  • Paper straws (ebay)
  • Storage tins from Orla Kiely
Bottom Shelf (left to right)
  • Milk bottles from Dotcomgiftshop
  • Teapot from Amazon
  • Vintage mint sauce jug
  • Avoca Jug
  • Ikea Bowls
  • Another mug from Bread and Jam
  • Bisto Tin
  • Another Camilla Prada creature
  • Loom bands - got to keep it real!
  • Mason Cash Bowl
  • Rolling pin from Anthropology
Hooks
  • Enamel cups and teapot from Paperchase
As you can probably tell from my shelves I am a Mid Century girl, but according to the Victoria Plumb quiz I am more elegant!  There is still time for you to enter too, take a look at the Tots100 to find out more.
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Why process art is important for kids

Sometimes it is really easy for us to fix a finished idea in our head when crafting and creating with our kids, especially in this Pinterest age.  I can be be guilty of this too and it was one of the reasons that I stopped doing tutorials when the boys were younger as their idea of the finished product was often not the same as mine. Why process art is important for kids Even now and my boys are nine and eight this month I feel that it is important to just allow them to create sometimes and to let them go with the flow. So when we were sent our craft kit for the Tots100 Bostik Craft Club (You can buy similar kits to this from online suppliers such as Craft Merrily and Yellow Moon, I decided to just pop it all out on the table and let the boys create with no expectations of outcome at all. This project was all about the focus being on the process not the outcome.  I wanted to encourage the boys to create, develop and explore their own creative ideas.  I wanted their artwork to be a reflection of their interpretation and ideas. I think that at eight and nine it is just as important to not always have a preconceived notion about what the end result ‘should’ look like and to learn to just enjoy the making and creating.

What is process art?

  Art activities tend to be process oriented  rather than product oriented like crafts.  It engages feelings and imaginations and uses basic supplies and often open ended instructions. It is  all about the  journey, not the destination.  The end product is not the principal focus of the activity. There really is not right or wrong way to produce the artwork.  Perfect for children of all ages.

Why process art is important

  Children learn through play and open-ended activities. It allows them the chance to explore the world around them, ask questions, and see how things work. Process art fits in with how children learn because it allows them room to be themselves, make their own decisions engage their imagination and feelings and just create! Children enjoy both the product and the process of art, but process allows children to experience the joy of creativity without the focus on the end product. Children who experience process art are engaging in a learning process and it encourages the following skills:
  1. Thinking skills (cognitive behaviours)
  2. Cause and effect
  3. Observation skills
  4. Self expression
  5. Coordination
  6. Spatial thinking
  7. Expressing feelings
  8. Social interaction in a noncompetitive environment
  9. Decision making
  10. Problem solving
  11. The ability to experiment
  12. Communication
Why process art is important for kids collage I have lots of posts about process art and simple arts and crafts for families on this pinterest board including this fab post on the benefits of arts and crafts for kids, this post from Twodaloo on process art in early childhood  and fun a day's post on process art. Follow Jen Walshaw's board Simple drawing and art for Families and Kids on Pinterest. bostic
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Fathers Day Ideas

Before I was a mother I never understood the meaning of mother's day, well that isnt quite true it was before my boys started making me things.  Yes Mothers Day and Fathers Day might be cheesy, but it is wonderful too.  The joy of getting something homemade from your children is irreplaceable oh and the lie in is brilliant too. homemade Dad Mug perfect for fathers day A Personlised Mug MadDad works in and out of an office and we decided to make him a mug this year.  I love making things with the boys that mean something to him and also that the boys can remember making in the years to come. to read the full how to then click here. kid made fathers day bookmarks recycling art Book Marks These book marks are made from using children's artwork.  They are simple to make and are a great way of recycling the ever present supply of children's artwork.  You can use either a laminator or even contact paper if you do not have a laminator. kid made fathers day cards Cards Kid made cards really send my heart a flutter and these were made back in 2010 and I still love them.  Want to make them with your kids, then check out how my kid made Father's Day card post. Men can be difficult to make and buy for, but I know that MadDad will love the following items. Aluminum Print great gifts for fathers day This photo of all of us that Mini picked was taken on our trip to Florida last year and although I wanted one with just the boys in Mini insisted that I was in the picture too.  Quite right.  This is an aluminium print from Albelli and it has has a smooth, matte finish that does not reflect light, so when you look at your print you see your photo and not your reflection.  The profile is also much smaller so they hang closer to the wall.  Even better you can hang them outdoors too.  How cool is that!
  • UV and weather resistant, suitable for indoor and outdoor
  • Invisible suspension
  • Matte finish, so no mirroring
  • Contemporary, industrial look
  • Your photo extends to the edges
We were massively impressed with the finish and quality of the Aluminium print and certainly will look in to getting one again. You still have time to get one of these in time for Father's Day if you order before 5th June. A Hamper For really difficult to buy men then a Hamper is a great solution.  Hampergifts have a fab selection with something for everyone from a continental bear hamper to a flapjack one. In fact when MadDad and I were looking through the selection and came across the Glenlivet 12 yr & Cuban Cigars hamper we looked at each other and said together that my Dad would have loved that hamper.  My dad was a real lover of both Whiskey and Cigars.  He used to really cherish the best things in his life.  He would rather go without the mediocre to have the quality things less often. When Maxi was born I bought MadDad a cuban cigar and he smoked it in memory of my Dad.  He pasted his love of good whiskey to me and my brother and his love of a good cigar on to my husband. Looking for more ideas then take a look ay my Father's Day Pinterest board Follow Jen Walshaw's board Fathers Day on Pinterest.
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The Small Stuff – May

May has been a long month, or so it seems to me. It has been filled with two Bank Holidays the first which was full of sunshine, gardening and laughter, the other rain, but also so much joy and laughter too.  It has also been a month filled with #SmallStuff

This month we took the puppy on holiday to Sand le Mere with us.  It is wonderful to be able to take your dog on a holiday as we found out.  it makes for lots of family walks and talks along the way.  It means that you look out for family and gof friendly places and trust me there are out there.

We have had lots of board games and book reading.  I started and finished a couple of books including The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, which I loved, The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly, Oh Charlie Parker how I have missed you and also Eleanor & Park.  There is something about YA Fiction that I love.  The boys have been engrossed in Stew, a magazine for curious kids and it even got Maxi reading, which is a great thing (review and competition to win a subscription to come). May small stuff We have also had a lot of movie nights over the holiday as the caravan had a DVD player and have watched The Hunger Games part one and two, Frankenstein and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Maxi loved the Hunger Games and really got the story and we all loved The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. May has also brought a wonderful family christening, a celebration of family in all its imperfect glory. Colour throughout may has been from a loom band obsession (the boys not me), a new rug to review, some fab tea towels from a blogging buddy, diy letter bands in gold and craft projects on the Cricut Explore including a spring themed party and Father's Day Mugs. Mini got his first serious haircut that MadDad didn't approve of (it was always going to happen at some point) and the two tramlines did it! There were tears from me due to a wonderful handmade shawl from a dear friend to wear when going for my infusions at the hospital. and even better I get to come home to great quality tea. Maxi was allowed to use the BIG camera and documented a weekend in the garden. Oh and to top off a fantastic month I took a step in to the unknown and got in front of the camera rather than behind it, more on this to follow.
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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Mini’s favorite way to spend a sunny day outside is …….

We have been talking a lot this week about our favorite way to spend the day together as a family.  This is Mini's (aged 7) and is also an entry  to the MAD Blog Awards Kid Blog of the Year, in collaboration with Vita Coco Kids naturally fruit-flavoured coconut water.
My favorite way to spend a sunny day outside is with my friends.  I am lucky to be best friends with three brothers who live on the same road as us and we play together a lot. We all like to go to Theme Park's together.  They are much more fun of you have a group of friends with you to laugh and stop you being scared.   We all went to FlamingoLand at Easter and it was lots of fun.  It is a theme park and a zoo and has the world's steepest roller coaster made from steel in a zoo there called the Mumbo Jumbo and I went on it (the zoo bit is very important apparently)! I like that there are lots of animals too, including my favorite animals Tigers. In March three Sumatran tiger babies (called cubs) were born and they will be soon allowed in to the main enclosure. I want to go back and see them. I hope I can adopt one and give it a name too. I put together this comic on Mummy's Ipad to show you how much fun we had. I also like playing football, cricket and walking the day too. I like to do things I haven't done before like archery.  We are going to see the T20 cricket tomorrow and I am excited.  I wish my friends could come too, but they are on holiday in Malta where it is always sunny, but they don't grow coconut's there.  I also like having ice cream on a sunny day, my favorite flavour is mint choc chip.
My FAVOURITE way to spend a sunny day outside is My FAVOURITE way to spend a sunny day outside is 2 All of this is Mini's own work (I just changed any spelling mistakes).  If you fancy making the comic's I have a blog post about using them as a way to encourage boys to write.  We use the POW Comic Strip App, which both of the boys have used at school and is £1.99 to download.  
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Let’s talk tea

I am a simple soul I think.  I do not crave expensive diamonds or flash cars.  Instead I have things in my life that make me happy there and then.  I have learned over the years that the small stuff is what keeps me ticking over. I was recently invited to Twinings and this really made my heart sing.  Anyone who knows me will understand why.  I love tea.  I am a tea monster, but I am something of an old fashioned tea drinker as I still use loose leaf tea (my granddad did and so did my parents). Then something rather serendipitous happened and Sage asked to review their Tea Maker by Heston. Oh be still my beating heart, great quality loose leaf tea from twinings and The Sage Tea Maker.

So let's talk tea................

Tea There is something about a pot of tea which cries out to be a social event.  A pot means drinks all round and my boys love tea too.   Tea is my go to drink.  I am quite happy to take it white, black, with lemon, but no sugar for me please.  I have even been converted to green tea and love the new Twinings new Green Tea with Salted Caramel Apple.  I love iced tea in the summer and green tea makes fab ice tea, especially served with mint. I start my day with a cup of English breakfast tea in a thermos mug, which MadDad brings to me in bed as he leaves for work at 6.30am and I end my day with a cup of calamine tea before bed.  My whole day can be timed by which type of tea I am drinking.  If I am feeling in need of a hug in a mug then a homemade chai latte is my drink of choice. Tea for me is an affordable luxury and I like to buy the best I can afford.  I have also put the tea tasters subscription on my wish list for my birthday later in the year.

The Tea Maker

Sage tea maker review I am in love with my Tea Maker for someone who likes tea it is a must.  It takes all the guess work out of making sure the water is the right temperature for the specific blend of tea and also makes sure that you do not over brew your tea. Even better you can set a time for it to come on and it keeps your brew warm for up to an hour after you make it. Don't want to make loose leaf tea in it, don't worry you can use it as a kettle and specify the temperature of the water or even add a tea bag into the strainer.  No more bitter green tea for me! It is really hard to put in to words just how much I love my tea maker.  It makes good tea great and everyone who sees it wow's over it.  I have to admit that I am something of a tea nerd or would that be geek and used to use a removable strainer and timer when making tea previous to receiving the tea maker.  I hated returning to a teapot to find the tea all strewed and bitter. Taking tea is a family experience for us and even though I adore my tea maker I have been decanting the tea in to teapot to take to the table, but I know that we will drink a whole teapot full in one setting.  During the day when I am making tea for me I make enough for two mugfulls and it is a joy to return for my second cup and to find it as good as the first. What to know more about making the perfect cup of tea, then take a look at Heston's video below and #TalkTeawithHeston.  You can also find out more about Sage on their facebook page and chat to them about all things tea on twitter. #TalkTeaWithHeston
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Our Perfect Family Day Out

This week is half term in the UK and typically this has meant rain, rain and more rain.  Which to start with wasn't too bad.  We have been spending our week at Sand Le Mere Holiday Village, but eventually even the rain got to us, well more specifically me and Mini and I developed a chest infection and Mini tonsillitis.  You could tell that Mini wasnt well as he didnt even want to go swimming in the fantastic swimming pool. The mads meet woody and jessie In addition to being half term, it is also National Family Week this week.  In celebration of this Kidsunlimited asked me to tell you about our perfect family day out. As we have had some great days out recently I thought that this would be fun to do.
Our Perfect Family Day Out
5
 
Ingredients
  • Good weather
  • Alvin the dog
  • Exercise
  • A delicious picnic lunch
  • Fun
  • Adventure
  • Excitement
  • The great outdoors
  • Water
  • A super dinner
Instructions
  1. To make the Mad House perfect Family Day out take our fun loving family of five, including Alvin the dog.
  2. Mix in some good weather, great food and adventure and stir.
  3. Add in some excitement, learning and fun.
  4. Place into a family car and drive for no more than 50 miles
  5. Stopping somewhere picturesque along the way for a delicious picnic and for the children and dog to let off some steam
  6. Then drive to destination and continue the fun!
As a family we love adventure and excitement, but also love doing things together as a family.  We understand that experiences bring more enjoyment that things and we want to make the most of our time together as a family. It has been really difficult to put together a perfect family day out that suits us all and over the weekend you will find out what the boys would choose. For me it would involve dropping off Alvin at the groomers so he could be pampered whilst we were out. Someone preparing a luxury picnic for us to take out with us (I think that even Mum's deserve a rest), a day out visiting Leeds or York (both are doable for us on a day trip) with a fab family meal in a restaurant on our return. What would be your perfect family day out? 3.  
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Father Day Mugs

homemade Dad Mug perfect for fathers day We love giving homemade personalised gifts here in The Mad House and we have been busy pinning personalised and monogrammed mugs for ages.  Mini decided that these would make a great Fathers Day mug for MadDad (don't panic Father's day isn't till the 15th June this year).  These are so simple to make and if you do not have a Cricut Explore then do not despair as you could either use letter stickers or even print some out on your printer and cut them out. Materials:
Top tip - Do not use sharpies.  I know there are a lot of pins on pinterest using sharpies, but I tried it and they do come off in the dishwasher.  Using porcelain paint pens makes all the difference as we are still using and dishwashing things that we used these pens on three years later.
How to make vinyl template using the Cricut Explore   how to personalised mug with cricut explore

How to make Dad mugs

 
  1. As I said above, do not worry if you do not have one of these fab cutting machines, you can use paper or scrapbooking stickers.
  2. Position them on to the mugs.
  3. As this was something the boys were doing we kept things really simple and use gold dots to create the negative space for the letters and then they coloured in the stencil one with silver porcelain pen.
  4. I think that monograms would look fab with black chevrons or stripes and we are planning those for teacher gifts.
  5. Once the paint has dried then carefully peel away the stencils and fix the mugs in a non preheated oven as per instructions, this will make them dishwasher safe.
  6. Dont forget to get your child to pop their name and the date on the underside of the mug.
Dad mug collage 3.
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Traveling with kids – Must have gadgets and technology

We do a fair amount of travelling, last year alone I made three transatlantic trips, 2 with kids, 1 european trip and numerous UK trips, some of which took ALL day!  So I know a little about what technology and gadgets ease the load and make travelling  and being on holiday with kids a lot easier. Our top gadgets and tech for traveling with kids Before we even talk about gadgets and tech, we need to discuss charging them.  There is nothing worse then getting somewhere or being mid travel and pow you are out of charge.

Charging Technology

  Nomad Charge Card and Charge Key These two small but perfectly formed devices are pretty much permanently on my person.  The Charge Card (with a micro USB attachment) lives in my purse and the Charge Key (lightening connection) on my keyring.  They have become indispensable and have been used a lot, not just by us, but by friends and colleagues too.  You always need a charger when you are out and never seem to have one.  This is the perfect solution to that.  Even better they are under £20 each. PortaPow Crystal 4.2A USB Universal Charger I seriously heart the PortaPow Crystal 4.2A USB Universal Charger (under £15), it can  charge up to 4 tablets, smartphones, satnavs, ebook readers etc at high speed anywhere in the world using universal USB charging sockets.    It has four  individually coloured and shaped status LEDs let you know when a device has finished charging and returned to trickle charge mode.  Even better it comes with interchangeable UK, US, European and Australian shaped plugs clip securely into place for use in almost any country worldwide.  We have two of these and they are totally amazing. Belkin 4 Port Travel Hub (£6.00) We use this a lot in the car, it is perfect for connecting to a USB Car Charger (£3.00), which means we can use four things at the same time one of which is my trusty satnav.  Plus is you are travelling with a laptop or device with a usb connection you can use it to charge quadruple your charing ability from that device. Always take with you camera battery charger or a space battery (sods law means that it will lose charge just when you least want it too!)

Great Gadgets

  QDOS Q-Bopz Bluetooth Speaker Both my boys love to relax and go to sleep to an audiobook or to listen to music the QDos allowed us to do this with great quality sound for as little as £20. It was really simple to use and set up and didn't require constant charging.   It has a really clever suction cup too, so you can stick it pretty much anywhere, even to the back of you decise and use it as a stand. Kensington KeyFolio Pro 2 Case, Keyboard and Stand for iPad Family I love my Ipad, it has revolutionised technology for me and I have to say that travelling with the Kensington KeyFolio Pro 2 Case, Keyboard and Stand for iPad Family just takes it to the next level.  I find that I don't need to take  a laptop with me when I travel.  Yes it is a little heavier that our Pong Ipad case (which we are still using a year after first getting it), but for travel it works really well.  MadDad has the Kensington hardshell case for his Ipad Mini and he uses that when we are travelling too. Headphones For both you and the kids.  I think that good quality children headphones with a decibel limiter in are a must when travelling with kids.  However, I have jet to find a pair I feel confident recommending.  We have had different ones and unfortunately the boys have killed them within less than six months.  So perhaps you can suggest a great pair for me! Safesports ID Bracelets Both the boys have Safesports Kids ID Bracelets and I think they are ace. We got them before travelling to Florida and neither of them took them off the whole time we were there.  They are like those on trend plastic bands that people were and for the kids version the  information is discreetly imprinted.  They are made from 100% silicone and the data is engraved directly into the wristband.  These survived water parks, roller coasters, fights, sports and children who have eczema! I still use them when we go anywhere as a family where we might be split up. 

But what about the Tech?

  As for actually tech to take with you, my boys have an Ipod each, which is great and we also travel with the family Ipad (great for movies and TV whilst travelling).  They also tend to take their Nintendo 3DS' with them too.  For younger children I recommend Leapfrog products and my Best Friend will be taking a Leap Pad with her to Malta in a couple of weeks for her younger children along with the Leap Reader. Once we get to our destination technology takes a back seat and will often remain unused, but it is great for travelling with and I love that the boys can store audiobooks and music on their Ipods. Digital cameras are one of our most used pieces of technology when travelling and the boys both have point and shoots and we are currently lusting after a Go Pro after Who's the Mummy showed us hers.

 What is your must take?

  My boys are nine and nearly eight at the moment and I am aware that this will be a different list for children of other ages and I would love to know what would be on your list?
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A weekend in the garden

I married a farmer's son, so it was inevitable that we were going to grow stuff in the garden and not just flowers.  This became even more important to us when we had children.  We wanted to show them where their food came from and to encourage them to grow their own.  This year we are growing shallots, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas, runner beans, broad beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, salad leaves, radish, spring onions, tomatoes, strawberries (in hanging baskets) and an array of herbs (dill, basil, cress, flat parsley, chives, mint, sage and fennel). Center Parcs challenged us to share with you a day in our garden for this months Tots100 Center Parcs Outdoor Challenge. So this weekend I gave my phone and camera to the boys and here is a weekend in our garden.  It helped that this weekend was a perfect one weather wise with lots of sun. Garden Collage MadDad wields a pen all week in his job, so loves getting his hands dirty at the weekend and this weekend has been no exception, he has build a planter out of scraps of wood.  He has relaid a patio and cleaned it too.  Hard to believe that eight years ago this was all just mud as we live in a new build. The boys and their friends pretty much come and go in the garden and the grass sees games of football, cricket, rugby and tennis on a regular basis (we are lucky that our neighbours just throw the balls back)! This weekend also saw the first of what we hope to be many BBQ's on our trusty charcoal outback BBQ which is now over ten years old. This weekend also saw me taking a rather nasty tumble which I ended up on the garden fork, thank goodness I am OK though and it was a blunt fork.  My Trousers bear the holes and not my legs which are rather cut and scraped to say nothing of my ego as all the neighbours saw and heard.  I was well looked after though as one is a GP and two are nurses! CenterParcs Family Blog Club ‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and I visited Whinfell village with my family (See our review here). If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how http://bit.ly/1okzxJv’ 
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My go to spring sandwich

I adore advocardo's.  They seem to be one of those things that people either love or hate.  Me I love them, but I find it really hard to predict when they are just right to eat.   So when we were challenged to make our perfect sandwich with Primula by the Tots100 to To celebrate National Sandwich Week I decided to crack open the avocado.  Kids primula Avocado, primula (instead of butter) and chilli flakes on brown bread or brown toast of you are feeling the need for a little crunch to your break. I hadn't had Primula for what must be over 30 years till very recently.  Primula have brought out a children's version, Primula Kids and it actually contains the lowest salt, fat, calories and highest cheese and calcium content of any branded spreadable cheese on the market. primula I was going to tell you all about my Primula memories, but Laura from Littlestuff has done that and much more eloquently than I could have done.  But it is good to see that the Primula still comes out with the crimped edge just like from a fancy piping bag! Since getting our Primula kids it has become a firm favorite, especially for Maxi who doesn't like butter or spread on sandwiches.  We have been using the Primula instead and it has stopped his bread getting soggy and he loves the taste (winner). When I was unwell as a child my favorite food was tomato soup and primula on bread to dip in to it and eating it has brought memories flooding right back.  My mum loved the prawn version on crackers. Fancy winning a fab two night break in a double room in any of the 25 Urban Village locations on a bed and breakfast basis?   All you need to do is create your Primula sandwich, share your photo on Twitter or Instagram (or both!) and tag @tots100 using the hashtag #PrimulaSandwich giving the details of your sandwich too! You need to share before 11.59am on 23rd May 2014 to be in with a chance of winning. The Tots100 website has more information about the competition and the full terms and conditions. Oh and any tips on how to tell if an avocado is ripe, please do leave me a comment.  3.  
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A spring collection with the Cricut Explore

I thought I would start off with a really simple craft on the Cricut Explore .  Some table decorations for a spring themed tea party. I wanted to get the hang of using the new design space software and use the free images and do something simple with the boys. Spring cake cases and straws Materials:
  • Cake cases in three sizes
  • Cardstock
  • Glue or double sided tape
  • paper straws
  • Craft knife
spring themed party crafts

How to make

We chose the shapes for the flowers on the Cricut Design Space and resized them, which is really simple using the onscreen scale.  I then cut them on cardstock, which is super simple with the new Cricut Explore as you just follow the instructions on screen after you press the go button. design At this stage you can also choose the amount of cuts you want to make, rather than copy them all in the design space.
Hint - If you want to manually arrange the cutting layout change the size of the cardstock from 12 x 12 to 12 x 24 and then you can rearrange them to optimise them for your size of paper.
spring themed party I purchased my paper straws and cake cases from ebay, in fact I have put together a collection on ebay for Cricut accessories. This craft was as simply as cutting out the shapes on the Cricut Explore and then gluing on the cake cases.  I used a craft knife to cut an x in the smallest cake case to slip a straw though. We made pink which was the boys choice, but they would look fantastic in any colour or event with patterned card. 3.  
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Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer Review

Firstly I am going to admit that we already had a Karcher pressure washer, which was passed down to us via the in laws when they upgraded.  This machine is around 9 years old, so I know that Karcher Pressure washers are designed to last. The Mad House Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer Review As part of out Karcher Clean Ambassador program we have been sent a Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer to review, which is perfect for this time of year and cleaning the car and garden. We liked:
  • The patio kit and cleaner - this is brilliant. One of the things we hated about cleaning our patio previously was the spray and splash of muck when you used the lance on its own.  The patio cit stops the water and muck going everywhere.  it takes a little getting used to, but it dislodges all the much, but leaves it loose on the patio.
  • You can attach the machine to a water butt, perfect it you live in a hosepipe ban area
  • The dirtblaster lance which provides up to 50% greater cleaning power than a standard high pressure lance, it does this my sort of spinning the water. 
  • It comes with a three year guarantee
  • It is compact, so doesnt take up too much space in the garage and is lightweight so I can carry it easily
  • It has storage areas for the tools.
Karcher K 4 Compact Home Pressure Washer Review We weren't keen:
  • It is an investment piece at £232.09, but will save you loads on car wash costs and cleaning products.
 
Karcher
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Making Magic with Innocent Kids

We were challenged by Innocent kids to reproduce a magic trick from the back of their Kids Juices packets as part of their magic circle.  There are seven #innocentmagic tricks and seven of the Innocent gangs favourite bloggers have been chosen to perform. We were sent a sample of Innocent's new juice flavour tropical, which both the boys loved.  Mini isnt a fan of orange juices, but really likes the tropical flavour, which is a blend apples, oranges, pineapple, mango and passionfruit and even better it has no bits, so no funny faces!  I love that these are the perfect size for lunch boxes and I will be putting them in when the boys go to football training during the holidays (they have school dinners normally). They also count as one of the boys five a day (which is great if you struggle to get fruit and veg in to your kids). mini magic We were set the "hovering water" trick below: We have practiced, practiced and better practiced and this is our video! As you can see we ended up very wet! However, take a look at Nia from the Ana Mum Diaries performing her trick really well! We might not have succeeded...................... yet, but we are having lots of fun trying.
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