FIFA World Cup Crafts and Activities for Kids

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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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The Bloggers guide to encouraging and nurturing a love of reading

I am a book lover, I always have been and it is one of the things that I have always wanted to foster in my children.  We have books everywhere in The Mad House.  You can not go into a room without there being books. I wanted to share with you some information about the Scottish Book Trust, which is Scotland’s leading agency for the promotion of literature, reading and writing. The organisation works with writers, children, teachers, librarians and readers from all backgrounds to spread a love of books and reading. Don't worry if you are not in Scotland as  the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour (which has been running for 14 years) comes in to schools in England too and reaches on average 6000 children every year. Mini at nearly eight is just like I was as a child, he loves books, loves reading and often falls asleep with a book in his hand.  He learned to read before school from sitting watching Maxi read. Maxi, however, at nine is something of a reluctant reader.  This is not down to inability, oh no he has been reading at an advanced level since starting school. The Bloggers guide to encouraging and nurturing a love of reading So I put out the question to some amazing bloggers that I know and asked them what was their one top tip for encouraging and nurturing reading in children:
  1. Read everyday with your child. It's the single most important thing you can do! Growing Book by Book
  2. Provide lots of books, magazines, pamphlets, leaflets, letters etc. Anything and everything that can be read. And lots of variety! Swirly Arts
  3. Start reading to children from an early age, make it part of the daily routine and encourage children to choose books they enjoy as they get older The Life of Spicers
  4. Make it fun, We have homemade book marks that we've made together and we have reading charts that we use to record how much reading we’re doing by adding a sticker to it every time they read for half an hour.  When they get to the end we all have a family treat like an afternoon out or a treat tea! Dairy of a Frugal Family
  5. Be the example!! Have a stack of books you are reading, and talk about how you enjoy reading with your kids. If they see you do it, they will want to do it too. Chicken Babies
  6.  Start reading when they are babies, regular visits to the local library where they can choose their own reading material greatly helps Rambling through parenthood
  7. Not pressurising them to conform and most importantly find them books they like reading...nothing more off putting than being 'forced' to learn to read with a really dull book Cherished by me 
  8. Read books that have been made into movies. When you're done with the book you can watch the movie together, compare the movie version to the book version,etc.. Suzy Homeschooler 
  9. Change it up by listening to books on audio together while traveling. Ask comprehension questions! Still Playing School
  10.  I would suggest having a reading routine. For most parents, the easiest time to do this is bedtime. Make it a "special" time. Sit in a comfy chair. Snuggle up. Cover yourselves with a special blanket. Give your child your full attention and block out other distractions. Try and do it every night...even a quick book on nights where you're putting your child down late. All these things help show kids how reading is an important and precious activity!  One Time Through
  11. Take them to the library regularly and let them choose their own books. What do we do all day 
  12. Start reading from the absolute beginning but also let your children see You read! I read in front of my son all of the time and I think it helps - If Mummy loves it why won't he! Petit Moi
  13. Anything can be reading material, if they want you to read cereal packets then go with the flow. Recipe books also make good reading tools as they like the pictures Emmys mummy
  14. Start young. Look at picture books with your baby. Read board books to your toddler. Even if they are running around you in circles, read the words and then point out things you think will interest them. Eventually, they get to a point where sitting and reading appeals to them. Make reading a part of their life from the beginning and it will become a natural part of their life throughout their childhood (and beyond). Library Adventure 
  15. This week it would have to finding your ladybird books from childhood. Seren has been reading all of mine, intrigued that they were from when mummy was a little girl! Johnson Babies
  16. Set an example and read yourself. Both my children have loved 'reading' their own books alongside me from a very early age. I think children emulate what they see so if their parents read then it can spark their own interest in it. Catch a Single Thought
  17. Make reading the norm. We have a house full of books, read to my son after lunch and before bed every day. We've visited the library and borrowed books since he was a baby. He knows nothing different and he even had books as rewards when we were potty training Over 40 and mum to one
  18.  Let them pick their own books to read at home. If you have to read 'Room on the Broom' every night for two weeks so be it. It means they love it and enjoy it. Also just because you liked a certain series of books or an author when you were a child don't expect your child to like them as well. Reading at home should be all about pleasure.   Jibber Jabber
  19.  Read to your kids every day from the very beginning! When your children start enjoying longer, more complex picture books, start reading simple chapter books to them. It will increase vocabulary, comprehension, and conversation. There's nothing like bonding over a great book! The Measured Mom
  20. Read to them every night, even when they can read themselves. Never skimp on it. My 9 year old still gets so much from me reading to her at bedtime. We read books that she might find too challenging to read alone and it fires her imagination and vocabulary. Actually Mummy
  21. When you read together make it special. Make sure you turn off the television or the radio and put your mobile phone down. Snuggle under a favourite blanket or make some hot chocolate or in the Summer sit on a blanket in the shade with a cold drink or an ice lolly. Make the time when you are reading for enjoyment cosy, relaxed and inviting. Damson Lane
  22. Seek out different books, ask other parents, children and your librarian what books they'd recommend for your children. Mums do travel
  23. Let your children see you reading an actual book rather than glued to electronic devices (that's a lesson for myself to learn!). They copy so be their example and show a love of books. Three Children and It
  24.  Read, read, read!!! My kids all get to pick their own books at the library. This has become a really big deal! My daughter got her own library card when she was 5.  You would have thought she won the lottery! Big hair and books
  25. My big tip is audio books for children who are not keen on the actual book, it's an easier way in. Sometimes they will read along as they listen. David Walliams does great readings on all the audio versions of his books. Opposable Thumbs
  26. As children get a bit older libraries have great reading schemes running through the summer holiday, where children get rewards for reading books. Hellies Corner
  27. Encourage a love ofof reading by choosing books, based on your children's interests.  That should be true for very small ones, but also for older children. Offer your toddler books about dogs if he is excited to see them, and do not disapprove of an older child if he wants to read a novelization of some cartoon that looks like garbage to you. It is alright, they will outgrow it. It is the great feeling of pleasure associated with books that will stay and matter in the end. Adventure in a Box 
  28. Read to them every day. If they are too restless to sit and listen, read aloud while they play and show the pictures. Let them choose books at the library and treat is as a special event. Give books as a birthday party gifts to friends to teach their value to your own children. Let them see you reading. Have books always accessible to them. Bare feet on the dashboard
  29.  I pretty much let my son read anything he fancies, he's three but loves Batman so we have loads of comics as well as books and..umm... he does get Young Adult graphic novels out of the library sometimes! I have to change the wording a bit (thankfully we're still at the age where I can do that) but he's always desperate to pick those up and read them. Crafts on Sea 
  30. My Autistic son is 8 and has the reading age of 11yrs+ He needs no encouragement! He LOVES books and most nights falls asleep with a big hardback Encyclopaedia stuck to his face!! Our world and Autism
  31. We started reading to him at about 4 months old, he got/gets 3 books every night, and over 3 years later he still does! We always let him choose books as well as toys when it's treat time. He loves to be read to now during quiet time in the day and has started to read a few words himself. Mischievous Mum
  32. Hide a torch under their pillow (school age) with a good book at bedtime. Make sure they know it's there but say goodnight and turn out the light. All mine then reach for it and read for a god half hour before falling asleep! Makes for peaceful bedtimes, I factor the extra half an hour in so they don't go to bed too late, and the idea that it's almost not allowed seems to really grab them lol!!! Musings of a 21st Century Stay at Home Mum
3.
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Things to do in York and Leeds with Kids

We love living where we do in the NE of England and York is only an hour away from us and Leeds an hour and a half.  However, if you live further afield take a look at Hotel Direct Things to do in York and Leeds with Kids

York

  York is a beautiful city and is one of those places perfect for strolling around with wonderful green spaces such as Museum Gardens. The ten-acre botanical Gardens, stretch from the River Ouse up to the back of York Art Gallery.  The gardens were planted in the 1830s and you can download a guide if you are visiting to find your way round.  York Castle Museum has a world-famous Victorian street which reopened in June 2012.  It is the most iconic part of York Castle Museum and its schoolroom, police cell, Hansom cab and cobbled street surface all remain. The National Railway museum is always a huge hit in this house and is UK's largest railway museum.  This fantastic free museum has something for everyone including model railways, steam engines and over 10000 railways items. Find out more about what we think of it here. Build on the site of a preserved Viking Village Jorvik Viking Centre is one of the most visited attractions in the UK.

Leeds

  Leeds is a fantastic place with lots to see and do as a family including the Leeds City Museum which is free and has four floors of interactive galleries and exhibitions. My boys love the Armories, which is home to Britain's national collection of arms and armour and even better is it free. The  Thackray Medical Museum is truly unique and is the only museum of its kind in the North of England. You get to explore your medical past through innovative exhibitions.  It is a real hidden gem and perfect for inquisitive children. Leeds is proud of it's industrial heritage and Leeds Industrial museum is housed in what was once the world's largest woollen mill. Step back in time to learn about the industrial history of Leeds from manufacturing textiles and clothing to printing, engineering and locomotives, which the city was world famous for. Close by is Harewood House and gardens which is one of the Treasure Houses of England and is renowned for its stunning architecture and exquisite interiors and it also has a wonderful play park for children. The Tudor-Jacobean estate of Temple Newsam once owned by Henry VIII is home to Europe's largest rare breeds farm. and makes a great day out for visitors of all ages. 3.
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#My Happy Place

We all have one.  A happy place, somewhere that we feel safe and content.  Somewhere that leaves us feeling at peace.  I have a couple.  One is my "Crudy" (craft room/study) and the other is on the beach. So I want to share #myhappyplace my happy place
The Beach I grew up by the seaside and the sea has always been my compass.  We lived in landlocked Berkshire for over ten years and I felt all at sea, so discombobulated.  I never knew which way I was facing or directing I was going. When we boomeranged back to the NE of England I knew that I wanted to be close to the sea.  In fact I have a sea view from my study and from Mini's bedroom (although not for long as they are building more houses)!  We don't actually live in walking distance to the beach, but it is a two minute drive away. There is something about the way the waves crash on to the shore, the ever reliable ebb and flow of the tide and the way the sun and moon reflects on the sea and makes it looks different without actually changing it. I love the smell of the salty air and there is nothing better than having your breath taken away by malt vinegar on hot chips. I always feel this is where I should be.  It is where I go to clear my head, to clarify things and give me perspective on life.
my desk, my happy place
The craft room/study It may be the smallest room in the house, but it is filled with creativity, inspiration and joy.  It holds all of my play things and it is where I blog, work, craft and sew. I love being cocooned in this happy place.  There is just so much potential in this room, the smallest in our home.  It is my haven, where I can come when my mind won't stop chattering.  Making things sooths my soul, it makes me happy. I love that I can sit and write surrounded by things that inspire me to do more and be more.
I am sure that you must have happy places and I want to know them.  So write a blog post and let me know.  Tweet me using #MyHappyPlace or even post a picture of it on Instagram using the #MyHappyPlace hashtag. To start the ball rolling I am going to tag some bloggers who's happy place I NEED to see and challenge them to blog about it, then get them to tag who's happy place they would like to see. Now as this is an old fashioned meme, no linkies involved at all.  When a blogger does their post, it would be great if they could link to bloggers who they would like to see their happy place and share the link love.  The only rule is if you do a post please link to the person who tagged you.  Feel free to use the button below if you wish too.
The Mad House
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Encouraging picky eaters – kids in the kitchen

I am blessed to have kids that eat pretty much everything I put in front of them most of the time.  However, we still have times when they are under the whether or just being kids when they refuse food. I find that a great way of getting them and me out of a funk it to bring them in to the kitchen and make things together.  However, when that fails this is a failsafe way to encourage picky eaters! My top tip for picky eaters We were challenged by by Love Yogurt UK  to produce a recipe for Yogurt Week (19-25 May), which got me thinking about what to make and how to involve the boys. easy chopping for kids I love the fact that my boys are active in the kitchen and want to help.  Chopping is one of the things that concerns me, those little fingers, sharp knives and clumsiness are something that concerns me.   However with this chopper thing (yes that is the technical term in The Mad House) the boys have to keep both their hands on the two handles meaning that fingers are away from the blade. Recipes (I feel ashamed calling these recipes as they are so simple) Natural/plain yogurt or greek yogurt Sweet additions
  • Honey (not advised for under ones)
  • Maple syrup
  • Stewed fruit
  • Berries (frozen ones are great as you only need a few)
  • Mashed mango
  • Peanut butter and honey
Savory additions
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Chopped skinned cucumber with time
  • Mustard and honey - my boys love this for chicken
  • Chilli sauce - yogurt is a great way to take the heat out of it.
  • Avocado, garlic and lime juice
  • Tinned tuna
Now you can pretty much dip anything in these sauces, so they are a great way of introducing new foods.  My boys had pineapple, melon and mango to dip and carrots, cucumber and breadsticks.  But you could dip fish or chicken fingers, cheese sticks, toast,  sweet peppers, green beans, asparagus,  sliced apple, sliced pears and baby corn. Dips for kids For more information check out @loveyogurtUK on Twitter, the Yogurt Week website or Love Yogurt UK on Facebook. 3.
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My Small Stuff – April

April showers, make may flowers.  I hope this is the case.  April in The Mad House was filled full of the joys of an Easter holiday which meant a visit to the Chill Factore and also a brilliant day out with friends at FlamingoLand (review to follow). Aprils small stuff We have made the most of the good weather to replace the raised beds in the garden and add more.  We have also been testing out a Karcher Pressure washer, well I say we, but mostly MadDad has been using it to clean the car, patios and water butts! We have also spent rather a lot of time outside on scooters, playing football and cricket and Mini helped out at GrandPa's farm for a day too. It seems looking back that April was full of cake, at home where we made easter nests, easter eggs and various other cakes and also at Blog Camp. We have been practicing our magical abilities thanks to Innocent and their magic circle.  If you want to join in then #innocentmagic tricks are on the back of the packets of all of the innocent Kids juices. We received a package of shreddies with a special knitted coat by the knitting nanas! April was also filled with crafting.  I have been playing with the New Circut Explore, so have the boys.  We have also been busy making cards and the pompom maker made an appearance again! April wouldnt be complete without Easter parties, paste eggs, bonnets and fun with family, so we managed to squeeze all that in too. In fact April has been a brilliant month.  I hope yours has too. If you want to join in, then feel free to grab my badge and add yourself to the link below.
The Mad House
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Blogs are like children, you don’t have favorites, they are all unique!

I am something of a blogging OAP and I saw a post where bloggers where sharing their favorite bloggers and I thought I would join in.  But the thing is blogs are like children, it is wrong to have favorites.  So I am going to share with you some blogs that rock my world at this moment in time! blogs are like children
Nurturestore Cathy blogs about play ideas.  She started blogging not long after I did and she is an inspiration to me.  Her blog is full of inspirational, simple and effective prompts for play, crafting and fun.  Every sunday she sends out a newsletter that is filled with a weeks play activities. She also writes and publishes ebooks which are filled with amazing activities for babes, toddlers and older children.  Oh and she also has an app too with over 800 ideas and activities on. The Diary of a Frugal Family Cass blogs about maximising what you have, whether that be money, time or making memories.  Her kindness and generosity of spirit shines through in everything she does including her blog.   She has some great ideas and I love her series on teaching children the value of money. I am proud to say that though blogging Cass and her family have become friends as we live near each other and she and her family have become our friends and she is always there when I need her. Thinly Spread Chris is one of those people whose integrity is admirable.  She blogs about family life with four children aged from 18 through to 8 and also is an avid supporter of Save the Children.  She is one of those people that is generous of spirit and also a great listener and advice giver.  I have been lucky enough to be a receiver of her sound advice on numerous occasions.  I also hope that when the time comes for my children to spread their wings I can only be half as gracious about it as she is. The White Approach When you see Karen's home in pictures you would never guess it is filled with twin nine year old boys and an 18 year old too.  It is a wonderful haven of white.  It is stylish and seems oh so aspirational, but the beauty of Karen's home is that it really is very achievable and she shares that with you via her blog ands how she has achieved it on a very tight budget. I can atest to the fact that her house is a warm, inviting and very practical home because over the years she has become a family friend and her boys and my boys adore each other and what more we have been welcomed in to her home. Utterly Scrummy food for family Michelle provides fantastic family friendly food inspiration.  Her meal plans are amazing, budget friendly but more than that include food that is tasty, easy to prepare and cook.  They are perfect for busy families.  Each week Michelle provides a meal plan including a shopping list. Her recipes are perfect for my growing boys and I love that they are easy to make, but tasty and nutritious too. Head in Book Oh how much do I love this blog........... it is hard to put into words.  The fab Head in Book says what I am thinking, but with much more eloquence.  She talks about current events and politics in a way that everyone can relate to.  She makes me think, she makes me question the status quo. She doesn't accept that things have to stay the same.  Oh but better than that she understands irony! Mortgage Free in Three This blog is all about saving money and making money. It is about frugal stuff that works.  Elaine shows me how to make a little go a long way.  Not only does Elaine gives loads of advice, ideas and methods of saving money, but she provides you inspiration for making money too.  All this whilst she is growing men.   But the thing about Elaine isn't just that she blogs about all this, but she actually offers help and advice on how you can become more money savvy.  She is a wise woman who I have learned a lot from. Susannah Conway It is hard to explain exactly what Susannah Blogs about, but her blog always leaves me thinking.  It encompasses spirituality and mindfulness. it is a place of kind words and forgiving nature.  It is all about learning to accept the person you are and be at peace with your inner self without losing the urge to be a better self. It is where I go when I need to feel the wind in my hair and the sand between my toes.  The People Shop - Alison's Blog Alison Sadler is one of those people that you want to be best friends with.  She has an innate sense of style and her love of colour and design makes me smile.  She is so giving with her craft tutorials and I want her to be my new BFF. She inspires me to craft more for craftings sake.  To let my creativity flow.  But more than this, she brings together hundreds of crafters, makers and designers on Instragram every Monday for her #makeitsewcial chats and show and tells. The AR Blog The musings of Becky and the photo's of Becky and Tom grabbed me by my heart and then picked me up and shock me.  There was and still is something about their images that imprinted themselves on me.  The way they capture the everyday moments, the simplicity of the images countered with the complexity of the everyday is just amazing. Plus we have a shared love of yellow and who couldn't love a woman that tells you that giving blood burns in excess of 650 calories!
So these are some of my current favorite reads over a lot of genre's from crafting, play, politics, food, parenting, lifestyle and finance.  So come and share your favorite reads of the moment as there is nothing nicer than finding a new read.
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Why did the pup chew My Hotter shoes?

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 Alvin claimed my hotter shoes I love shoes and over the years of blogging have developed a real love of Hotter Shoes.  Once you find a brand that are comfortable, but also stylish then you tend to stick with them.  My previous Hotter shoes got me through a three week vacation to Florida without any blisters, so you can understand why I loved them do much. So you can imagine that I was devastated to find out that Alvin had claimed one of my shoes and not only had he claimed it, he had destroyed it before I realised. So I was delighted to see that #CollectiveBias were looking for someone to go and shop for a pair of Hotter shoes. hotter shoes Collage

What makes Hotter Shoes so great?

Hotter shoes are the most comfortable shoes I have worn ever and I don't say that lightly.  I have wide feet and a high instep so have searched high and low for shoes that are comfortable, but also stylish as I am not yet an OAP! Hotter shoes have special contoured footbeds, extra roomy toe boxes, soft padding at heels and tongues, lightweight, shock absorbing soles and smooth internal seams.. They also come in a wide fitting too. I have been wearing Hotter shoes for the last four years and I am really impressed at the newer styles coming out this spring.  I decided to buy a pair of  DIzzy shoes, which are flat to replace the Shake ones that Alvin chewed, but I have my eye on the Dawn Wedges in  bright pink for the summer. my hotter shoes  Collage I have been wearing the Blue Neon lace ups for the last two months and love them, they give me great support and look fab too. The shoes I chose are the light olive Dizzy and are light, comfy and look pretty great on too, better still they had £10 off and were £56 rather than £66. These shoes will be kept away from Alvin I can assure you!
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Lets talk about Free Range parenting.

My boys are nearly 8 and just turned 9 and  last summer I championed #Freerange parenting.  I tried to give them freedom to explore, play and investigate independently. Are you a free range parent We are very lucky that we live in a housing estate on the edge of a village and have an excellent environment for children to play in.  Cars drive slowly through the area, we have fields nearby and a woodland area and back all within 2 minutes of the house.  The estate is filled with children of all ages and a lot of them are allowed to play out and you can often find a group of them playing football or cricket after school or during the day. My boys are allowed to walk to and from school on their own and to visit one of the local parks.  They are allowed to visit friends and to play football on the green.  I trust them.  I know they they will push boundaries, but that is what being a child is all about.   I insist that they wear helmets when on their bikes and their scooters.

Am we free range enough?

  last week Forest Poppy linked to a great post about The Overprotected Kid.  It got me thinking that I maybe need to be a little more freerange with the boys. It left me wishing that we had an area such as The Land near us.  It also reminded me of an incident last summer that initially had me pretty scared. Mini came home to get a bottle of water and when I asked why he told me they were using a magnifying glass to try to start a fire! I was petrified, but then after talking it through my MadDad he told me I should be pleased that Mini felt he could tell me and also that he was sensible enough to make sure they had water.  Oh and that as a child he had set fires on the farm with his glasses and this is what boys do! Both the boys are members of the local Beavers and Cubs and they do a lot of life skills activities there and love it and they are spending next weekend at camp and I have to swallow my urge to wrap them in cotton wool and keep them at home.

Why we free range parent

  I have to admit that I do not find free range parenting easy.  I have to make sure that I fight my fears for the good of my boys.  I want them to have street smarts, I want them to enjoy the childhood that MadDad and I did.  I remind myself constantly that the danger is no worse than when I was a child and that the fact is we are just more aware of it. In fact parenting isn't easy full stop.  I want to raise well rounded, caring and independent individuals who can cook, clean and be good company! I find it hard balancing their needs in this modern world.  Finding an acceptable balance between screen time and other activities.  I do worry that they are over reliant on  technology, especially during the winter months.  Are you a free range parent?  Do you worry that your children live in to much of a protective bubble?
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My two weeks with the Cricut Explore – An interim review and thoughts

The Cricut Explore was released in the UK today and I have been lucky enough to have had one to play with for the last two weeks, so I wanted to share with you my thoughts from this first two weeks with this revolutionary machine. First off I am going to admit that it has been Easter Holidays here and my number one priority is my boys, so it remained unboxed for three days and has only been played with in small chunks oe with them with me. Secondly, I am going to admit that cutting is my kryptonite.  I hate cutting things, I do not have mad cutting skills and I love my Cricut Mini. Lastly, this was a gift from Cricut, however, my views are always my own, honest (to a fault) and that I have an ongoing relationship with Cricut and am going to be providing them and you with some projects.

The Unboxing Experience

  I have admitted that the Cricut Explore remained in its box for three days before I had a 20 minute chunk of time to devote to it.  I thought it would take me this long to set it up.  I was wrong.  It took 7 minutes to get the machine out of the box to pluged in and working and that was with a 7 year old helping. unboxing the cricut explore Normally with machines and boxes, you have to have one person open the box and the other tug at the internal packaging to get it out.  Not so the Cricut Explore, there are little tags to remove the packaging and then the machine is in a tote bag and comes out so easily. Mini and I had the machine plugged in and in place in seven minutes and ready to cut.  We didn't even look at the instructions! In the box you get everything you need to get started, including a 12 by 12 cutting mat, a pen (yes the Cricut Explore can cut and draw at the same time)!, samples to cutting materials. a tote bag and all the cables you need.

Using the Cricut Explore

  Using the Cricut Explore really is childsplay.  Both Mini and Maxi have created projects over the Easter holidays on the our machine.  They found the new project center and Cricut design space simple to use and very intuitive. and not once did we get the instruction booklet out.  There will be more on their projects over the coming weeks. The Cricut Explore really does make cutting, designing and making projects simple, easy and what's more they look amazing. Our intial review on Cricut eXPLORE

What we love about the Cricut Explore

  Both me and the boys love the new Cricut Explore.  I want to say it really is a revolutionary machine and will change the way I craft and create.
  1. It cuts over 40 different materials including fabric, felt, wood veneer, vinyl, freezer paper, cardstock and much more with just the turn of a dial.
  2. It is quiet, so I can craft and cut when the boys are in bed (yes I am a midnight crafter)!
  3. It is so easy to use.  Both the machine and software is usable without even reading the instructions.
  4. You can design on the machine - YES, this means you can use your own images or design them.
  5. Is makes crafting inspirational, not aspirational.  It gives you the ability to produce fantastic items.
  6. They have a try before you buy on their image library and you can have access to this online for £7.99 a month or for a single image at 79p or for all year at £79.99.
I don't say this lightly but they really have thought of everything.  There were a few things that I felt the machine needed like a wireless access and I have since found out that a bluetooth adapter is due out in the next six months as is an interface with tablets. I have only had the machine two weeks, but yesterday met with Kim from The TomKat Studio and Mandi from Vintage Revivals and these two amazing American bloggers have had their machines from September last year.  So take a look at what they thought of the Cricut Explore. Cricut Explore the easons Also just look at these amazing items, which were all made on the Cricut Explore by the very talented Suzie from Cricut. Disclosure: Review based on a free sample
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Tell me your favorite 888 Ladies Game and Win

  888ladies comp 888 Ladies are a online bingo site that have been nominated in the Which bingo awards in the following categories and would love your vote.
  • Best Online Bingo Site
  • Most Socially Responsible Bingo Site
  • Best Online Bingo TV Ad
  • Best Online Bingo Promotion - £888 Free Bingo
They would also love to know your favorite 888 Ladies game and I have a fab competition to win the following:

How to enter:

  Write a blog post telling me what your favourite  888 Ladies game to play and also what you would spend your winnings on. Make sure your entry states "This is my entry for the 888Ladies Bingo Competition" linking (NOFOLLOW) to http://bit.ly/1mH8eaR Come back and link it to this post.
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Twitter Party

I am also hosting a twitter party on Tuesday 29th April at 8pm
The Twitter Party is scheduled for Tuesday 29th 8pm where I will be talking about your online leisure habits with the hashtag #888Ladies.
Come and chat with me about all things bingo where the best three tweets will win a £50 Amazon voucher.
888ladies-logo
To see full terms and conditions, please click here.
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The MiniMads review Crisp Ultima 125 Scooter – Gold/Satin Black

Crisp Ultima 125 Scooter - Gold Satin Black One of the things that I encourage my boys to be is active and as you may know I am working at reducing their reliance on electronics.  This is much easier now the weather is better as they choose to be outside with their friends. SkateHut.co.uk sent us a Crisp Ultima 125 Scooter - Gold/Satin Black for the boys to try out and it has been a huge hit. They liked:
  • It has larger wheels than other stunt scooters so goes faster making it suitable for skate parks and speed stunts.
  • It is really sturdy, so perfect for learning on
  • It is smoother due to the larger wheels, making it ride over cracks better
  • large deck makes it easier to catch in the air
Overall:  Stunt scooters are an investment, so it makes sense to to really check out and research your purchase.  This scooter is £189, so it is a real investment piece.  You can not go to our local skate park if you do not have a suitable board and they have to have fixed handles. This scooter has caused oohs and ahhs with all the children in the street and seems to be a really big hit. Skate Hut is a really good site as they do video's for all their kit, which gives parents a real insight into what they are purchasing. 3.  
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Cooking with Kids – Easter Nests

popcorn and marshmallow easter nests It doesn't get much simpler than this, but my boys love cooking and baking and we were challenged by the team at Center Parcs to make some Easter Nests.  We made the standard ones with chocolate and rice crispies, but we also decided to make some with popcorn and marshmallows. Ingredients:
  1. Chocolate buttons
  2. Rice Krispies
  3. Mini Eggs
  4. Marshmallows
  5. Popcorn
Method: Chocolate Nests These are the most simple to make and we use buttons as they melt faster.  We melt the buttons in a heatproof dish in the microwave and simply stir in the rice krispies until they are all covered. The boys then scoop them in to the cases and add the mini eggs on top. Popcorn and marshmallow nests These are much messier to make, but just as much fun.  My tip is to make sure you have a bowl of clean warm water at hand so you can shape the  nests with wet hands to prevent the marshmallows sticking on to your hands. We used massive marshmallows as that is what we had in from when we roasted them last, but any will do.  We popped them in to a heatproof bowl and in the microwave for 30 seconds.  They started to expand! We then mixed them with some popcorn which we had previously popped using a spatula.  With wet hands to placed the popcorn in to large muffin cases.  We dried out hands before adding mini eggs. If we had any white chocolate we could have melted that and drizzled it on to the nests. East to make easter nests Why don't you make some edible Easter nests for the competition over at Tots100. By getting involved in this month’s challenge you could be in with a chance of becoming a wildcard blogger and winning a break at a Center Parcs Village of your choice! The challenge closes on April 27th so good luck! Disclosure: We are Center Parcs family bloggers
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Weekends With The Kids: Ideas Of What You Can Do To Fill The Time

Those two days after Friday can feel like a huge chasm, when you have kids to entertain. It’s easy to get stuck into the same routine and lose all inspirational ideas. Here are a few new ideas to help with bonding between yourself and your children. Make the most of the time that you have! pet rocks Rock City What better way to weigh down your picnic blanket than by using the tools nature has given us: massive rocks? Instead of using plain boulders, get out your paintbrushes and be creative.  Why not make your own pet rocks. garden 2013 Grow Plants The garden isn't going to sort itself out. An extra pair of hands can be useful, and you’re teaching your kids some great horticultural skills for the future. They might be more likely to eat their vegetables, if they’ve grown them at home. Mini running round Play A Sport Whether it’s badminton in the back yard or football at your local park, get out and have fun! Watch The Stars Kids love an excuse to stay up late. Grab a hot chocolate and go star-gazing – it’s certainly worth getting a telescope, so your kids can learn more about the universe. Treasure Hunt Who doesn't love a good treasure hunt? Think up age-appropriate clues and set up a long foray into the wilderness that will keep them occupied all day (just make sure the prizes are worth it). maxi cooking Cook Together If you can have fun, eat something tasty, and teach your kids a new skill, why wouldn't you? Choose a simple and creative recipe that everyone can join in with, like fairy cakes! If you are unsure of cooking with kids I have some great tips. Go On A Day Out Do you feel like it’s time to get out of the house? There are lots of great venues throughout the UK, whether you choose to visit an art gallery or a wildlife park, such as Knowsley Safari Park. Make A Dress-up Box We’re sure you have old costumes kicking around the house, as well as a few bits and bobs out of your own wardrobe. Dressing up can spark imaginations and even facilitate activities like play writing and acting. 3.
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The Mad House visits Chill Factore

The Mad House visits the Chill Factore Last week were invited to experience Chill Factore in Manchester.  As it was half term I took the boys and also two of their friends, so I had four boys aged 7, 7,9 and 10. The boys had a blast in the Snow Park area, just take a look at the video of them on the Luge, Tubes and Sledges. I loved it too, it was great fun watching the boys, but even more fun joining in. My boys had their own snow gear, but you can hire what you need there and also buy gloves (they do not hire them) . Both the boys now want to go back and learn to snowboard and ski.  I wish we lived closer as they offer some great holiday clubs where you can do just that, Disclosure: We were invited to experience the Chill Factore free of charge and the images above are courtesy of Stephen Devlin Photography 
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Washi Tape Easter Cards

Whilst we were busy with the washi tape we decided to have a go at making some easter cards.  Again we used our Cricut Mini, but it was super simple and the MiniMads' were certainly in charge.  Not only did they chose the tape combination, but they picked the images and words too! Washi Tape Easter Cards Materials:
  1. A6 White Cards
  2. Washi Tape
  3. Cricut Mini
  4. Blank cards
What we did: The boys stuck washi tape over card, but you could also use any artwork that your child has done, which would love ace. We used A6 cards as we can get two on to the Cricut mat and cut them both at the same time.  This activity shows you just how easy it is for the boys to use the Cricut Mini.  They designed the cards and I love them.  They are a take on the aperture cards I used to make with my mum when I was younger. washi tape appature easter cards   My initial thoughts were to cut an additional front for the cards and to stick the washi tape on to the card and cut the additional card, but by cutting the card and placing the washi tape covered insert behind it the cards had a much more finished look. You really don't need a cricut mini to make cards like this, you could use a craft punch. Easter cards If you have younger children then why not have a go at some of our other Easter Cards that we have made in previous years.
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Washi Tape Easter Garland

We are big fans of washi tape in The Mad House.  We use it all the time for homemade cards and even for covering eggs.  So it was the natural choice to make a washi tape easter garland out of it. Washi tape easter garland (more…)
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How to display kids artwork

I am a huge fan of art, craft and drawing (as you possibly know if you read my blog regularly) and when John Lewis Insurance asked me to share my favourite drawing of what matters most to my children  it was a hard, hard job as I love pretty much everything they produce for different reasons. I love the act of making art and nurturing children's drawings and one of the wisest things that I was told is to never ask what a drawing is, but to ask
"Tell me more about your drawing"
So I took this opportunity to go through my boys artwork and let me tell you there are loads of pictures of the things they draw, but not that much in the house as we gift a lot and also recycle it.  I only keep certain piece, but photograph the rest.

Displaying Kids artwork in your home

displaying kids artwork So I have decided to share with you how we display the boys artwork round the house.
  1. We have a gallery in the kitchen where we display loads of their makes on curtain wire from Ikea.
  2. I use 3D models in place of artwork around the home.
  3. We use washi tape to display artwork on walls and doors (rotating them often).
  4. I take pictures of their artwork and then get collages printed.
  5. We add to notice boards around the house.
  6. We use magnets to pop in on the fridge.
  7. We make bookmarks from it to recycle it.
ways to display artwork So I asked the boys to pick a one of their current pieces and explain why it matters most to them and between them they chose this lion that Maxi drew.  Both the boys adore animals and wanted to raise money for the WWF, so Maxi drew this lion for a poster at school to help raise funds. lion

Would you like your childs picture turned into a piece of artwork?

Take a picture of  your favourite piece of artwork by your child on the theme of what matters most to your child and  upload it to the John Lewis microsite (John Lewis Insurance competition page) with just your name, child’s name/age and your email. The winners artworks will then be worked up by a professional illustrator (Emily Woodard) into a really cool piece of art. The original and illustrators impression will then be framed alongside each other as the prize.  Please see the John Lewis site for full terms and conditions. 3.
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Low Spend or No Spend Bored Jar Activities – The Spring Edition

We have a "Bored Jar" and every so often I update it and as the Easter holidays and Spring are upon us I thought I would update it with a Spring theme.  So here are my Low Spend or No Spend Easter Holiday  and spring Activities Ultimate Spring Bored Jar Activity list
  1. Plant some seeds
  2. Make button biscuits 
  3. Pick some flowers
  4. Make some pet rocks
  5. Make a volcano 
  6. Make a rain catcher
  7. Paint a rainbow
  8. Find pictures in the clouds
  9. Skip stones across a pond
  10. Use stones to record memories
  11. Go on a nature walk
  12. Make an unbirthday cake
  13. Make dream catchers
  14. Bird watch
  15. Make a spring wreath
  16. Visit the library
  17. Do some origami
  18. Spot a rainbow
  19. Make some paper flowers
  20. Make pompoms
  21. Cook asparagus
  22. Do some easter crafts
  23. Look for four-leaf clovers
  24. Make some scratch paper
  25. Make bunny bunting
  26. Make some thank you cards
  27. Make potato print wrapping paper
  28. Make button biscuits
  29. Wash the car
  30. Paint a picture of flowers
  31. Play hotscotch
  32. Make felted chicks
  33. Make a windsock
  34. Tell some joke
  35. Feed the ducks at a pond
  36. Play outdoor games with friends 
  37. Make some chic cards
  38. Make a pinwheels
  39. Blow bubbles
  40. Paint some plant pots 
  41. Make a loom bracelet
  42. Decorate some easter eggs
  43. Make some scratch paper
  44. put together a jigsaw
  45. Make fingerprint cards
  46. Make a bird feeder
  47. Go looking at tree blossom
  48. Make coke floats
  49. Fly a kite
  50. Make cupcakes
The ultimate Bored jar spring Why not take a look at our ultimate summer bored jar activity list   
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Half Price tickets to Chessington and Sealife with Walkers

Just in time for the Easter Holidays Walkers are offering half price tickets to Chessington World of Adventures Resort and the 12 SEA LIFE aquariums and sanctuaries across the UK.

hoops

For 12 weeks between the 31st March and the 20th June, Walkers Baked Stars, Walkers Mighty Lights, and Walkers Baked Hoops and Crosses, will have two vouchers offering half price tickets to Chessington World of Adventures Resort and SEA LIFE on all of their multipacks of six which cost around £1.79

I really wish we lived closer to Chessington World of Adventures Resort  as the boys would love it.  There is the ZUFARI where you can Ride into Africa  and see many amazing animals and the brand new ride for 2014 , Scorpion Express, where adventures must board an old train and cross the sands, ruins of the mines and abandoned town facing surprises at every turn.   Maybe we can find some affordable accommodation  near and make a trip of it.

 We have a Sea Life center in Scarborough and the boys love visiting when we are nearby.  There are more than 12 sites over the UK and I know from experience that aquariums are a feast for the eyes for children at all ages.  We used to take the boys when they were small and the fish mesmerised them. Oh and when you have finished eating them you can turn the crisp packets into keyrings like we did... how to shrink crisp packers 3.
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500 Words

Maxi was asked to  write an entry in to Chris Evan's and BBC Radio Two's 500 words competition for children as homework and typically for my lad decided he wanted to do it last minute (I don't encourage homework). 500 words Below is his story, which we filled 30 minutes before the closing date and I printed off the certificate for him and thought nothing more of it. Was it all a dream? “Take Alvin for a walk” shouted Mum, “Do I really have too?” I responded as I was sat watching my favourite TV show and didn’t really want to go out in the cold, wet weather.  “He is your dog and your responsibility” mum said.  “I am the only one that takes that dog out and feeds him” Mum complained, so reluctantly I had to say yes. “OK Mum I will take him out” I replied and put on my coat, scarf and gloves before putting on Alvin’s lead and harness and the dreaded poo bags. Next I opened the door and set out on our walk around the block.  It has been such a wet winter there was puddles everywhere and just as I went over the road I tripped in to a puddle and suddenly I felt as though I was falling. Finally I came to a stop and hit the ground and I could see a harness and lead strapped on to me and “where the dog I thought”.  Immediately I was dragged forward by a big dark figure.  I could not resist, I tried really hard to get to my feet and find Alvin.  I was frantic as I didn’t want him to run off and get hurt.  The pulling was so hard that I had no option but to follow it. Eventually we came to a stop. A massive door opened and I walked in.  Everything looked like it was bigger than normal; in fact it looked as though I had shrunk! I found it really hard to get up the stairs and no one would listen to me.  They just kept patting me on the head and saying “good boy” It was really infuriating. So I decided to go and have a lie down on my bed, but it was huge and took all of my energy to get on to it.  When it was dinner time, I tried to get on to my seat at the table, but instead I was taken to the kitchen and I saw dog food.  It was then I realised I had four paws, white fluffy body, a big white fluffy tail, a wet nose and flappy ears. I HAD TURNED INTO A DOG! That explained my urge to chew on my mum’s shoes and run around the back garden with my younger brother chasing me. Later when it was bedtime I could hear my mum shouting to mu younger brother to get in to his pyjamas and to brush his teeth.  I stayed curled up on the bottom of my bed, as it took so much energy to get here. I dreamed of sticks, balls and chicken treats and was running though the field after my brother in my dream. I was awoken by something licking my face.  It was all wet and there was a white fluffy puppy on top of my chest. Was it all just a dream?  Well you can imagine my delight when we received the following email:
Congratulations! Was it all a dream? by Maxi is through to the next stage of 500 WORDS! We received over 118,000 entries and this story has been picked - with just 3,500 others - to go to the Scottish Book Trust for the second round of judging. Well done and good luck! We will be back in touch, in early May, to let you know if Was it all a dream? has been shortlisted for our Final 50. Best wishes The 500 WORDS Team The Chris Evans Breakfast Show BBC Radio 2
Not only is that fantastic, but Maxi returned home from school with the news that he won his school competition with his entry. maxi 500 words   Here he is showing me and Alvin (his inspiration) his prizes.  Yes I was a proud Mum.
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Easter Egg Craft ideas – Something for the weekend

Whoop, my boys finnish school on Friday and are off until 22nd April, so we have plenty of time to do lots of Easter crafts and have lots of family fun time together. This week I am going to concentrate on Easter Egg Craft Ideas.  We love decorating our Easter Tree  with eggs and the boys also decorate eggs for school and for an Easter Party we attend each year. eggcellent ideas for egg decorating this easter
  1. Melted crayon eggs from Blog me Mom
  2. Tissue paper eggs by Mum Pies and Fireflies
  3. Button Egg by The Boy and Me
  4. Texture eggs by Tw0-daloo
  5. Stained wood easter eggs by Club Chica Circle
  6. Art Easter eggs from Buggy and Buddy
  7. Washi tape eggs by Me!
  8. Felted wool Easter Chick eggs by me too
  9. Thumb Print Eggs by A Sprouting Acorn
  10. Paper Mache decorated eggs by A Thrifty Mum
Make sure you are following our facebook pageGoogle + page or on Pinterest for lots more Easter crafts, cards and activities over the coming week. sftw
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Felted wool easter egg chicks

We were sent a fantastic selection of craft items for the Tots100 Bostik Craft Club.  You can buy similar kits to this from online suppliers such as Craft Merrily and Yellow Moon. Felted roving wool easter egg chicks We decided to make some felted wool easter egg chicks. Materials
  1. Polystyrene eggs
  2. Roving wool
  3. Feathers
  4. googly eyes
  5. craft foam or felt (we used orange felt)
  6. Blu Tack Glu Dots
felted wool easter chicks how to Method felting the eggs is a really therapeutic thing to do, but do be careful of the felting tools and little fingers as they are very sharp.  We had great fun making sure the polystyrene was covered with the yellow wool we chose, we did this by wrapping the wool round the egg and punching in into the egg. Cut the felt or foam into shapes for the beaks and feet. We then used the glu dots to adhere the beak, feet and feathers.  They are perfect for this as they are already tacky and stick immediately. The googly eyes stuck directly on to the wool. bostic
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Weekends With The Kids: Ideas Of What You Can Do To Fill The Time

Those two days after Friday can feel like a huge chasm, when you have kids to entertain. It’s easy to get stuck into the same routine and lose all inspirational ideas. Here are a few new ideas to help with bonding between yourself and your children. Make the most of the time that you have! pet rocks Rock City What better way to weigh down your picnic blanket than by using the tools nature has given us: massive rocks? Instead of using plain boulders, get out your paintbrushes and be creative, why not make some pet rocks. Garden 2009 Grow Plants The garden isn’t going to sort itself out. An extra pair of hands can be useful, and you’re teaching your kids some great horticultural skills for the future. They might be more likely to eat their vegetables, if they’ve grown them at home. Mini running round Play A Sport Whether it’s badminton in the back yard or football at your local park, get out and have fun! Watch The Stars Kids love an excuse to stay up late. Grab a hot chocolate and go star-gazing – it’s certainly worth getting a telescope, so your kids can learn more about the universe. Treasure Hunt Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? Think up age-appropriate clues and set up a long foray into the wilderness that will keep them occupied all day (just make sure the prizes are worth it). maxi cooking Cook Together If you can have fun, eat something tasty, and teach your kids a new skill, why wouldn’t you? Choose a simple and creative recipe that everyone can join in with, take a look at my top tips for getting kids in the kitchen. Go On A Day Out Do you feel like it’s time to get out of the house? There are lots of great venues throughout the UK, whether you choose to visit an art gallery or a wildlife park, such as Knowsley Safari Park. 3.
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March’s Small Stuff

#Small Stuff I loved the small stuff meme that went round last year and I have decided that I am going to do a monthly round up of my small stuff.  The things that have made me happy, made me smile and made my day over this month. March is a mega month of small stuff for me. march Collage Maxi turned nine.  I find it hard to believe that I am the mother of a nine year old and I adore celebrating birthdays to here's to my marvelous, maddening but much loved Maxi. Me and MadDad celebrated out nineteenth wedding anniversary.  I love him more now than the day that we said I do, which I never thought was possible. Both the boys were presented with headteachers awards for Mathematics and problem solving. Pictionary and Boggle both rocked my month too, especially when played with four fab friends that filled my online world and also my offline world with laughter, smiles and support when needed. Family.  There is nothing that means more to me in this world than my family.  I was lucky enough to spend an exciting long weekend at Center Parcs with the boys and also spend some time celebrating the life of a dear uncle with my cousins and aunts and uncles. Mothers Day.  I love being a mother and I love that my world was shaped and defined by strong women.  Here to my amazing SIL and all the other mothers out there. Thanks to my boys for homemade gifts and cards and for breakfast in bed. Tea always features heavily in my day, it is an affordable luxury that I would not be without and Twinings really made my day when they invited me to take tea with them and meet their Master Taster and the current Mr Twining (but more on this to come). Daffodils and tulips.  I adore spring flowers and it has been wonderful to see the daffodils blooming in the garden and to have the occasional bunch of spring in my home. Lighter nights and dryer days - The fact that the boys can get outside and play makes my heart sing.  We are back to scootering, street cricket and tennis and I love that they can play outside with their friends after school. Spring Sundays - there is something so joyous about sundays in spring, the sound of children playing, the smell of freshly cut grass , cars being washed on the drives, junior football games, muddy football boots, family dog walks, washing drying on the line, countryfile and roast beef with yorkshire puddings. What used to be my most hated day growing up has turned in to my favorite.  
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Mothering Sunday

This year is the first year that I feel comfortable celebrating Mothers Day without a mother.  It is over three years since Mum died and yes I still miss her, but I no longer pine for her company like I used to. My new normal is actually becoming normal.  Now that is a sentence I never thought I would write! Maxi's christening  

This was one of my Mum's happiest days (Maxi and my Niece's christening) - She beamed all day 

The thing is I love Mothers Day, for a long time I never thought I would be a mother and now I am it is something that I adore and hate in equal measure.  I find it the hardest job in the world, it is either really hard or really great.  There is no happy medium in my parenting, no matter how much I wish there was. Mothers Day is a reminder that many, many women have managed to do this job successfully before me and to also express thanks and gratitude for the women that have shaped me and my family. We made a Mothers Day card for my mother in law and we might not always see eye to eye but she did a pretty good job raising MadDad! I never appreciated my mum until I was a mother and I see her in me more and more each passing day and whereas in the past this would have made me shudder and panic, I realised a couple of weeks ago at a family funeral that there were worse people to turn in to. mothers day cards  

Mothers day cards 2014

I had this epiphany whilst sat round the table with most of my cousins as we reminisced about our fantastic childhood which we spent together.  We are all parents and grandparents now and pretty much are all turning or have turned in to our parents. So Happy Mothers Day to everyone.
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Family board games we are currently playing

We love board games and have a regular family games night every week in The Mad House.  We are rather over-competitive when it comes to games and have a cupboard full of games to choose from.  The MiniMads are currently 9 and nearly 8 and so when Two Little Fleas asked me to post about family games night I jumped at the chance. board games for Multi aged families Sleeping Queens We read about this on Iota's blog and we love it.  It is a simple card game, but is so much fun.   It is one of those games that doesn't drive the adult insane when playing with the children.  It is also compact so takes no storage and is great for travelling.  We played this a lot on our recent trip to Center Parcs. our favorite board games SET The object of SET is to identify "sets" of three cards. Each card is unique in its four features; color - red, green or purple, symbol - diamond, squiggle or oval, shading - solid, striped or open, and number.  I can confirm that age is no advantage with this game and the boys manage to beat me pretty much every time we play it! Boggle Now we have a really old school Boggle set (which me and MadDad used to play over 20 years ago).  Now the boys are at an age where it has really come in to its own.  In fact Mini can often win with his amazing number of three letter words that he gets. Monopoly We have recently graduated from Junior Monopoly to the regular game and yes it can be a LONG game (which we tend to play over a number of evenings), but the boys are getting much better at the whole strategy of buying and paying rents etc. Bananagrams We actually prefer Bananagrams to Scrabble at the moment as a family, perhaps due to the fact that it is faster, more compact and we play in teams with one adult and a child.  It is also great to play as a solo player and again is super compact so doesnt take up much space and is great for taking away with you. What are your favorite family board games? board games square
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Homemade Mothers Day Cards for kids to make

There is nothing nicer than a homemade card, especially one made by your kids.  I am a huge fan of homemade mother's day cards made by my boys and I have pictures of all the ones they have made during the years. So with Mothering Sunday this Sunday, I thought I would share with you some quick and easy Mothers Day cards that can be made by children which are perfect for Mum's or Grandma's this weekend. i-love-you-becausee280a6-flower-mama-papa_-bubba_   I adore this I love you because flower....... by Mama papa bubba.  Hands on as we grow also has some fantastic flower Mothers Day cards. watercolorcards1 Or for younger children this watercolour card is so simple but effective tulip card We had great fun making origami tulips which the boys added to cards and painted with watercolours. fingerprint mothers day card I am also a huge fan of fingerprint cards, they are so easy to make and are super effective.  Why not use handprints to make mothers day cards like The Chirping Moms. sign language mothers day card How cool is this I Love You sign language card by Busy Kids Happy Moms. Make sure you are following our facebook pageGoogle + page or on Pinterest for lots more Mother’s Day cards and activities. Oh and whilst I am discussing mother's day I owe a great big thank you to Pebble Grey and Virtual Bathrooms for the wonderful pampering gifts they sent me to celebrate mother's day. sftw
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Over 50 Family Fun activities for under a Fiver

I was challenged by Wilson Field to come up with a post all about as much family fun on a fiver as I could.  I was really shocked that my toothpaste nearly cost £5 this week when I went shopping, which really got me thinking about how much family fun can you have for a fiver. Over 50 Family Fun activities for under a Fiver Outdoor Ideas rain catcher
  1. Go on a family bike ride
  2. Visit a local landmark that you have always said you would like the Angel of the North
  3. Geocaching
  4. Go on a nature hunt
  5. Go on a beach walk and collect stones - use your £5 for ice cream at the end
  6. Go feed the ducks
  7. Take a free FA skills course with Tesco 
  8. Go to the local park
  9. Visit the library and get treats on the way home
  10. Learn how to skim stones
  11. Make a rain catcher
  12. Visit local free attractions such as museums, art galleries and airshows
At home coke floats
  1. Have a movie night, with popcorn.
  2. Have a family colouring in night
  3. Set up a family science experiments
  4. Play drinks bottle skittles
  5. Make dream catchers
  6. Make button biscuits 
  7. Do some apple printing
  8. Bake a cake and have a tea party
  9. Have a family jigsaw night
  10. Make comic strips
  11. Make potato print wrapping paper
  12. Make a homemade book 
  13. Make paper plate clocks
  14. Plant some seeds and tend the garden
  15. Make a volcano 
  16. Make some shape sticks 
  17. Make some jam jar candle holders
  18. Have a family LEGO Evening
  19. Make some scratch paper
  20. Make tissue paper flowers
  21. Spend some time making a scrap book
  22. Eat some crisps and then shrink the crisp packets
  23. Embroider
  24. Get the paints out
  25. Make cupcakes
  26. Play pictionery
  27. Have a family games night
  28. Make an unbirthday cake
  29. Make some chic cards
  30. Make washi tape cards
  31. Have a spy day and leave some secret messages
  32. Decoupage something
  33. Make fingerprint cards
  34. Do some spring crafts
  35. Make coke floats
  36. Paint some plant pots 
  37. Make daffodil pinwheels
  38. Have a spa evening with homemade spa products
  39. Make banana bread 
Something for the weekend activities stone art, crafts and activities
  1. Post it note crafts and activities
  2. Stone crafts and activities
  3. Family drawing activities 
  4. Bird Activities
  5. Outdoor activities
  6. Pom Pom activities and crafts
  7. Heart crafts and activities
3.
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Alton Towers Review and #Sunfession competition to win £250

The minimads took their first trip to Alton towers this Saturday.  My boys are mini thrill seekers and adore rides of any sort and were a little disappointed  that most of the big name rides were for children over 1.4 meters.  Of the ten thrill rides the boys were not big enough for eight of them, however they still managed to go on at least 15 rides and had a great day.  If you have younger children you need to bear in mind that creepiest land doesn't open till May. Alton Towers Collage

Alton Towers Review by Mini Mad and Maxi Mad

Parking is £6 and is quite a hike from the park entrance.  Food was nice and wide ranging with something for everyone including hot dogs, burgers, kebabs, wraps, noodles, chicken, BBQ and lots for vegetarians.  Prices weren't over the top with a burger meal costing under £7.  The donuts were especially nice. Skyride is a cable car with two stops and it goes much quicker Than you think it is from watching and the boys enjoyed the views of the gardens from above. The queues were not to bad, but the queue time were underestimated.  On thirteen the estimated time for 70 minutes but it actually took over 2 hours.  Mini said it wasn't worth waiting all that time for, but half the time would have been ok. We loved Sonic Spinball best, it is a twisting roller coaster with cars if four people 2 facing each way and as it goes round the corners it spins. The haunted house was scary according because on the TV there was zombies. Shark bite Reef by sealife is an on site aquarium which is a mini sealift centre which has a range from sharks, rays and shrimps.  Everyone really enjoyed it and it was a great break from the cold weather and from the rides. We had prepaid tickets so avoided the queue at the ticket kiosks, but the prepaid ticket entrance didn't have any park maps available.
To see what Frugal Family thought of Alton towers take a look at their review. The Sun + are offering you the chance to get your hands on two tickets for Alton Towers 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 £80.   To support the #Sunfession campaign, I also have £250 to give away to you lovely blog readers to spend at Alton Towers. 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 #mumthemadhouse. Hit tweet or post, and then visit the Sun site to see your #Sunfession appear. My #Sunfession is that the boys think the ice cream van only plays a tune when it has run out of ice cream, just like my dad told me DO NOT JUST TWEET THE RAFFLECOPTER ENTRY, WE NEED YOUR SUNFESSION a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Nine

When Maxi was born my mother in law told me that he would bring me more joy then she could put into words.  I laughed at her, thinking what did she know.  Well it turns out for once she was actually right! nine That smile, those eyes and oh hair that it oh so soft and falls in curls on the pillows.  How can I have made something so delectable, funny, clever, petulant, handsome, sporty and equally infuriating. football Eight was a year filled with football, minecraft, fifa, street cricket, florida, a new puppy, walking to and from school, cubs, friends, scooting, jumpers for goalposts, cross country trials and new found freedoms. bithday boy I hope that nine is filled with excitement, new experiences, love and happiness.
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Homemade Kid friendly mothers day gifts and cards – Something for the weekend

Mothers day gift ideas

Painting Plant Pots

I am always on the look out for homemade gifts that we can make as a family and this is one of those.  Really easy to make, inexpensive, but oh so effective.  In fact this is the perfect Spring project and makes a great Mothers Day or Easter Gift. homemade plant posts Materials: Terracotta Plants Pots Emulsion paint (we got some tester pots, as we only have cream in the house) White acrylic paint Pencil with eraser in the end. Varnish Plants painting plant posts collage
Method
  1. Paint each of the plant pots and allow to dry, some may need a second coat, but this is pretty fast work.
  2. We chose to just pop white acrylic as spots all over the pots, this way the boys could do it themselves and they really enjoyed it. By using the end of a pencil with an eraser on it was pretty simple.
  3. Again leave to dry, then cover with a layer of varnish.
  4. We made sure that we painted the top of the inside of the pots too.
  5. Then we added a primula in to each, et voila. A simple, easy and very effective Mothers day gift. Oh and it cost all of 30p for the pots, 59p each for the plants and a little paint and time.
If painting pots isn't up your street, but you are still looking for an idea for mothers day then how about having a look round the local Charity shops for bowls or cups and saucers and placing some bulbs in them. 

Kid Made Flowers for Mother's Day

Kid made flowers
I am a big lover of flowers and kid made ones are even better.  We made Pinwheel Daffodils here and I adore these pipe cleaner Daffodils from the Zing Zing Tree.  How about making post-it note tulips or tissue paper flowers.  You could even make fabric covered plant pots for your flowers.   I adore these handprint flowers from Handprint and Footprint Art.
Powerful Mothering shows us how to make flowers from paper cake cases or how about edible daffodils from Kids Chaos,  and come back over the weekend for a how to on pipecleaner tulips.

Great Kid Made Gifts

Mum's deserve all the pampering they can get so spa products are fantastic.  Red Ted Art shows us how to make bath bombs or you could make a lovely body scrub or bath soak.
Coasters would be a great idea and you could use kids art to personalise them.
Salt dough plant picks from Vanilla Mom would go down really well with me!
Make sure you are following our facebook pageGoogle + page or on Pinterest for lots more Mother's Day cards and activities over the coming week.
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