The Gallery – A Celebration

Sound the trumpets

Beat the drums

Advent is when

Jesus comes

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The Ladies of Steel

I may have told you in the past that my brother and sister in law run a sports and social club (which is kind of like a workingman's club) in the North East of England.  The club is in a very deprived area and recently the local steel works closed, who in the past has sponsored a lot of events at the club, but more importantly employed a lot of the locals too.Earlier in the year my sister in law, along with The Ladies of Steel (a group she is chairwoman of) decided that the area needed a youth group and they did something about it.  Every Tuesday night in the club they hold an evening for the local youths aged between 8 and 15, where they can play snooker, do arts and crafts, play organised games and also have a boogie as the club DJ is involved too.  The children only have to pay 20p per week.  Since then they have gone on to form Classified (a dance troupe) and also are planning on holding a pantomime this year too.  They have never received sponsorship or any income from The co-operative membership fund.

It is groups like this that the The Cooperative Membershipy Fund are looking to help.     The Co-operative Community Fund is a grant scheme, which helps local communities throughout the UK with grants from £200 to £2000.  The scheme is funded by generous members of The Co-operative donating some of their share of profits.  This year The Co-operative Members have donated £1.2 million to local community groups across the country. To be successful a group must caarry out positive work in the community (it does not have to have charitable status to apply) and the project must address a community issue, provide a long-term benefit to the community, support co-operative values and principles and ideally be innovative in its approach. Do you know a group or project that would be a worthy cause?  The application form can be found on The Cooperative Membership Fund Website. Sponsored Post
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Snow Days

I am likely to be AWOL a little this week, as the snow pretty much has us penned in.  No school, no way the cars on the drive are moving and no buses.  So me and the boys are making the most of if.  MadDad didn't even get in to work today, which is a first!

I am so glad that my mum has some fantasitc neighbours and friends as I can not get to her to help with shopping or anything.

Also my brother, sister in law and neice are flying back from Florida tomorrow, I hope that they can make it back from the airport safely.

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Today is the first Sunday of Advent and last year I took part in A pause in Advent with Floss from Troc, Broc and Recup and I have to say that it really did make me sit back and rethink what Advent and Christmas is all about.  It is very easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Advent and Christmas and taking time out to actively think and take a breath was and is really helpful for me.

So what does advent mean?  It is a time of hope, anticipation and preparation.  It gives me the opportunity of introducing a time of family devotion and discussion at meal times.  It is a time to talk about what is coming and why we have Christmas, it is a time to develop the boys understanding and focus on the non-commercial aspect of this wonderful time.  It is also a time for introducing new nad reinforcing old traditions.

You will not find chocolate advent calenders in The Mad House, instead you will find a handmade one with something to do each day over the advent hung above the fireplace.  This could be something as simple as have a hot chocolate with cream and sprinkles or something a little more involved such as make angles with mummy.

Sound the Trumpets

Beat the drums

Advent is

When Jesus Comes

So what does Advent mean to you and how to you take time out to celebrate and reflect on this time of year? Here are the other entries in this Advent carnival: Jax at Making It Up has posted about her Home ed Christmas camp Advent traditions. Maria at Fab Mums has posted about her homemade advent calendar and even find a way to use it to teach a bit of Maths. Cass at Frugal Family has posted about making a video from Santa to each of her children. Sally has posted her plans for her Advent calender where she has planned something seasonal to do with her children each day. Chris at Thinly Spread has posted about the many Advent Activities in her household including her activity Advent calendar. Ella at Notes From Home has posted about her Advent readings by candlelight.
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My Boys

It is not often that a picture perfectly captures a moment, but also the peoples personalities too, but we are lucky enough to have one. When we were at The Mad Awards 2010, the wonderful Nikki Hall took some photo's of my wonderful whirlwinds, which perfectly captures them. So when Photobox offered me the chance of a canvas prints, I knew which image I had to choose. I have used Photobox in the past, but only for prints and I have to say I was really impressed with the speed and the service and quality of the canvass. We chose to have the image wrapped around the frame and it looks wonderful on the wall.  The colours pop off the canvass and we love it. I was so impressed that I also ordered a poster for my mum (I can not show you it until after Christmas)  and it is amazing. Would I recommend Photobox, yes I would. Review based on a free sample - Photobox issued me with some credits, I added to them to increase the size of the canvas
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The Gallery – Not everything is black and white

The theme for the gallery this week is black and white.  When you look at this photograph what do you see? When I look at this photo, I see my wonderful, precious and very lucky eldest child, who had only days before been in intensive care fighting for his life. I think it is time that we all realised that this life is never black or white, but filled with all sorts of beautiful colours and until we walk a mile in someones shoes we have no right to judge them or their decisions. I have this image on my sitting room wall and it reminds me that life is precious and worth living to the full.
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MadDad’s Birthday

My wonderful husband turned another year older on Sunday and I have to say, what a great day it was too.

 

 

It started with me and the boys busy with the glue and glitter making some unique cards for him and then cooking his favorite meal and making his favorite carrot cake.

 

The weather was pants, so we didn't do very much apart from eat, cuddle, watch movies and play boardgames.  What a perfect way to spend a birthday.  
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Hypersensitivity to touch, otherwise know as taking an hour to put his sock on in the morning

Maxi has always had issues from being a baby with tags in his clothes and I have always just unpicked the seam and taken them out, but recently this has been getting much much worse, to the point of it taking an hour each morning to get his socks on as he hates the feel of the seams.  
So out of desperation I have bought some seam free socks (although they still have a flat seam) and also started EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) with him.  Sue from Positive Parents was kind enough to talk me through the system, which I am also using with Mini to work on his tantrums (but that is another post). Other things that Maxi really has issues with include:
  • Maxi hates having his hair brushed
  • Tooth brushing can be a real challenge sometimes, even though he is aware of how important it is
  • He always complains his bed covers are too rough (so we now use flannel)
  • Labels in clothes are a big issue
  • He doesn't like the feel of hats
  • He will not have any zips up near his neck, therefore, coat zips can cause an issue
  • He liked to ensure his hands are always clean
If there are any other mums out there going through similar issues I would love to hear from you.  How do you tackle this without it becoming all consuming?
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Advent Crown

A large part of simplifying Christmas for me is making it all about homemade.  Homemade decorations and homemade gifts   I am a great believer in that the simpler things are, the more effective they are. One of the main ways we start the festive season is by making our advent crown or wreath.  This is one of the many things I remember doing as a child, however, I remember the Blue Peter version of wire coat hangers, tinsel and open flames!!  
What I have tried to do here is design one that all the family can join in making and can be burnt at the dinner table each Sunday with supervision. 
Materials
Circle of card/I have used a cake tray under it as it is solid
Salt dough
Cookie cutter in a star shape
Green Paint
Gold paint
Glitter
Greenery
4 tea light or votive holders and candles (my holders were 89p for four from Ikea) and the candles (£1.99 for 12 from Ikea)
Pine Cones
Gold spray (£1.00 at Poundworld)
Instructions
Make a batch of salt dough
Basic recipe
2 cups of plain flour
1 cup of salt
1 cup of warm water
I also add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to make the final decoration harder.
Mix the flour, salt and lemon juice adding water until you get a firm dough. Then knead the dough. The more you kneed the more pliable the dough will become.
We roll out the dough and cut out our decorations with a cookie cutter.  You can keep any the remaining dough in a bag in the fridge to make Christmas Decorations.
Using some cookie cutter in star shapes cut out a some and bake, we used two different sizes.  I bake our dough at the lowest oven temperature for 3 hours, then leave overnight before we paint and decorate them.
When completely dry paint them gold and cover one side in glitter.

 

Paint the base dark green and allow to dry - I used cardboard glued to a cake board 
I also covered the card in PVA glue once the pain had dried.
Stick your stars to the base allow room for your 4 tea light or votive holders.
I used three purple and one pink candle, but you could always paint your votive holders or alternatively use coloured ribbon round the outside.
Place your candle holders on the base and add some greenery around it.  I put mine on a cake stand on the table.
You can also add a white candle in the centre on Christmas Day.  I have just added a couple of pine cones sprayed lightly in gold spray from the poundshop and added any left over salt dough stars we had. 
Discussion
I use the time making the wreath to discuss with the minimads the significance of an advent crown.
A advent wreath is traditionally made of evergreen material to signify eternal life and of renewal.
The circle is to remind us of God, of his endless mercy and eternity with no beginning or no end.
The candles signify the light of God coming in to the world through his son Jesus Christ.
I want advent to be a time of reflection and preparation for the arrival of Jesus on Christmas Day.
When I was growing up my dad always told me we were allowed four gifts, one you want, one you need, one to eat and one to read, which is a really great strategy and one that we follow with the boys, even though they seem to want everything they see on the television.  So when Oxfam asked me to help publize their oxfam unwrapped gift, I was overjoyed to help.
Looking at things that would appeal to the boys I was drawn to the fertiliser, which only costs £5.00.
It is Amazing what you can do with a load of old manure. Add in some worms and a bit of food waste and you’ve got the perfect recipe for crop-boosting fertiliser – helping communities to grow loads more fruit and veg to eat and sell. Mighty-fine muck.

this post is part of the Oxfam Unwrapped Carnival hosted by Who’s the Mummy

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Duvet days with Disney

We had a duvet day on Thursday last week, the first day off school sick for both the boys ever.  Guess how we spent the day, yes you would be right, we spend it on the sofa in the sitting room snuggled under a blanket in our pj's watching Disney Blue Rays and cuddling.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the few Disney Movies that I didn't see first time round (in 1991) and now I have the boys it gives met he excuse to enjoy it now.  This movie kept me nad both the minimads engrossed.  We loved it, it was just scary enough to make the boys feel brave for watching it.  The beast was just ugly enough for you to believe that Belle could never fall in love with him and  the music was just captivating enough, that it left us all singing it too.
In contrast to Beauty and the Beasts we also watched Disney's latest movie The Princess and the Frog.  Although in many ways you would never guess there was 25 years between them and for me that is the magic of The Princess and the Frog.  It goes back to Disney's routes and traditions and is a magical musical tale, which had us all entranced.
So even though we were feeling pretty under the weather, we had a lovely day cuddling, singing (well croaking) along to the movies and spent some quality time recuperating together.
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