Back to school link up 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ombre shoe laces

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

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

The parents ultimate guide to scooters

 

It is worth investing in a good stunt scooter

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

Three wheels can be better than two

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

Not all folding scooters are made equal

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

Kids love to personalise their scooters

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

If in doubt ask a parent or an older child

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

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

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

Family Gratitude Journal

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

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

What to do in Blackpool when you are nine

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