Monthly Archives: January 2013


Holidays are coming……

Did you realise that half term will be upon us in just over a week? Yes, it starts here next Friday and me and Maxi are hopefully going to be going on a trip together, but this means that Mini and MadDad are looking for last minute deals so they can make the most of their time together too.
We also have plans to take a couple of holidays over this coming year, as our holidays have been few and far between over the last couple of years.

We are going to be going on a short break over the Easter period and we have promised that Maxi can go and see a football Match at his beloved Reading. Which reminds me I need to arrange staying with Northern Mum and her brood for a couple of days so that we can arrange this.

The in November we are going on our main family holiday with my brother and his family to Florida – Eek!

Before we had children we often would go away for the weekend on the spur of the moment and that is where companies like Latedeals come in. They make it so easy to make a decision on where you want to go and when.


Eureka Children’s Museum 10

This weekend we went to visit Eureka. It’s the National Children’s Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire. We were given the tickets by Money Supermarket Vouchers in conjunction with the Tots100 before Christmas and had intended to visit over the festive period, but flu and colds put paid to that and then the snow cam and today was the first day we could venture further than our village school!


Patient.co.uk

I know that I am not the healthiest that I could be.  This is a mixture of ongoing medical issues, but also down to lack of exercise on my part too.  However, I hate being bombarded with new year new you fitness and diet plans, so was really skeptical when introduced to Patient.co.uk. I completed a short questionnaire about my health, including some questions on diet, lifestyle, exercise and so on. It took about 10 minutes and at the end I was given a Q Score of between 1 and 100, which ranked me in an imaginary queue of people where 100 is perfect health and 0 is very poor health. I was placed in a medium risk band more »


Most Expensive Celebrity Homes

Most Expensive Celebrity Homes

Celebrities have some of the most amazing (and most expensive) homes in the world. With stunning water features, landscape gardens and unique features from the best designers, celebrity homes are often considered showpieces rather than traditional homes.

While we all desire a celebrity style home packed with luxuries, our budgets rarely stretch that far – yet it is possible to achieve celebrity styling on a much tighter budget.

Inspiration everywhere

Whether you want the kitchen of a famous film star or the bedroom of a singing sensation, celebrity style is achievable in every home. Before you can create your own luxury home you must first find your celebrity inspiration – and there are plenty of viable options.

Ryan Seacrest: Beverly Hills

The pending sales price of $37 million is more than sufficient reason to include Seacrest’s Beverly Hills home on this list, with plenty of style inspiration found once inside the door. Floor to ceiling windows ensure there is plenty of natural light, creating an airy feel which large windows and clever use of mirrors could achieve in your home.

Katy Perry: Hollywood Boulevard

Purchased for a cool $6.5 million, Katy Perry’s Hollywood mansion is full of style inspiration. The interior design takes on a regal and traditional vibe which can be recreated in your own homes, providing you have adequate space to do so.

Justin Bieber: Los Angeles

With a list price of $6 million, Justin Bieber proves youngsters are just as interested in property as adults. Hoping to get his hands on this fantastic LA property, strong attractions include a good use of natural features, such as ceiling beams, which prove how enhancing the original characteristics of your home can give it a more luxurious feel.

Leonardo Di Caprio: Los Angeles

With a purchase price of around $4 million, Di Caprio’s LA home is a great example of superior style. Whilst you may not be able to include the tennis courts affixed to this property in your own home, you may be able to compromise with your own home gym.

Jennifer Aniston: Bel Air

With her Bel Air estate costing in the region of $20 million, it is hardly surprising that Jennifer Aniston made it onto our list. Lighting is used to fantastic effect on this property with internal and external spotlights showing just how big an impact such a small design feature can have when used correctly.

High quality at low prices

It is often possible to find similar items to those in celebrity homes at a fraction of the cost; replicating the environment enjoyed by the rich and famous without breaking the bank.

When it comes to stylish bespoke kitchens and bedrooms, Betta Living has a wide range of options and talented designers to help make your perfect room a reality. Bringing a breadth of experience and stylish flair to every project, their designers will have some great ideas to bring a touch of celeb style to your home – whatever your budget.


Admitting we need some help 32

I have mentioned before that Mini’s emotions bubble very close to the surface. The bad ones and the good. This means that he is quick to express his happiness and cuddles are never far away, however, conversely it means that he could blow at anytime. It is horrible. I have been feeling as though I am walking on egg shell for the last month or so. Him not sleeping makes things a hundred times worse.

Yesterday things came to a real head and I just lost it. I can not keep on parenting like this. Wondering what is going to set him off. There is no rhyme or reason often to what sets him off, often it can be something as silly as he forgot what we were having for dinner or that he is losing a game.

The thing if when Mini is angry, it is a horrible thing to see. He lashes out, physically and verbally. It is never his fault, always someone else’s and trying to get him to calm down is beyond us at this time. He keeps himself together most of the time at school, but can be disruptive when he is bored. it is at home we seem to get the brunt of it and as I am the primary care giver, I see the most of it. From the minute he wakes up, we are often at loggerheads. He doesn’t want to go to school. He doesn’t want to have breakfast, the list goes on and on.

The scariest thing is I am becoming scared of my six year old. When he hits it hurts, he scratches, he bites and he destroys things. He has lifted and thrown the kitchen table before. We have talked about rules. That it is OK to be angry, but not OK to hurt people or things and that it is good to talk, but once he is on fire we really struggle.

Gosh this post is so hard to write. I do not want to label him and we take great care not to call him a naughty boys and just say that what he is doing is wrong.

We are at the end of our tether and do not know where to look for help or advice. I am so conflicted, I adore him and he is a joy to be with most of the time, but there is always that nagging worry at the back of my mind. MadDad is not excluded and Mini has shown his dark side at football practice too. Maxi gets it if he is winning in a game or he is playing with something that Mini wants.

I can not go on living as we have for the last month. Last year was much better, which is why I think it is linked to his need for sleep.

The thing is we do not know where to go for help.


Blogging etiquette – Is there such a thing? 33

Head in a book (I did ask if it was OK to use this here) posted on twitter that it felt a bit naff, so I asked her why, as I often leave a comment on a blog letting people know how much I enjoyed a lost or that they had a fab blog.

It got me thinking, is there such a thing as blogging etiquette?

For me the first rule of blogging is there are no rules to blogging. It is not often that I put on my blogging police uniform (I have been known to in the past), but I try not to let my favorite pastime have rules and regulations. So I tried to think back to all those years ago when I started blogging and realised that I wasn’t on twitter or had a network of people to ask if things were naff or not. There wasn’t such a defined community back then, it was pretty much in it’s infancy.

I commented on any blog that I enjoyed and I kept commenting. I still often do, even if it is just a loved that post or I have nothing to add, but love your blog. But…… there is so much less commenting going on than when I started blogging. People seem to engage in different ways.

So my top tip for anyone blogging today, would be not to worry about what others think. The brilliance of internet land is that no one is going to find you and laugh you in to a corner for doing the wrong thing because there is no wrong thing.

Other tips would be:

Always link to any post that has inspired you to write one – I often read something in the beginning and it spurred me on to a blog post.
Comment, comment and comment some more
Make it easy for people to contact you – have an email address on your blog
You tweet – have your twitter address in an easy to see location
Comment some more, find the persons twitter id, blog facebook page or even instagram account and comment on those. Having a blog for me is all about engagement.
Find your community – I adore reading the Fresh Five for new to me blogs to read on the Tots 100.
What would be your top tip or do you think there is such a thing as blogging etiquette in 2013.


Things to do with children in York whilst shopping

I love York. I want to live there. I take every and any opportunity to visit York and this find us choosing York as a shopping venue over lots of more local towns. The boys love York too, however, shoppping not so much! So we have developed ways to break up the day without spending all day shopping or all day playing! However if you want a city break in York, why not take a look at hotels in York . It is a great place to spend a long weekend. Our favorite places for a short visit whilst in York are:

The Jorvic Viking Centre

You get an annual pass for The Jorvic Viking Centre for just £27 for a family of four and the centre is really central so perfect to spend an hour inside. The boys adore it. It isn’t large, but it is packed full of viking life, including a ride and the smell!

We find something new every time we visit and it is a firm family favorite to break up the day.


How to ‘Downscale’ Your Groceries Bill 4

How to ‘Downscale’ Your Groceries Bill
British families have been hit hard by the rising cost of groceries, with food prices reported to have risen by 32 per cent since 2007 (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Households are understandably struggling to find the extra on their grocery bill, with the average coming to over £4000 per year.
However, there are ways to easily slash your groceries bill, bring down the total at the till and struggle no more. See if you can apply any of the following suggestions to your weekly shop, and ‘downscale’ your shopping bill.
Price Promise
Some supermarkets offer a price promise, which means that your shopping basket is guaranteed to cost less than at any other supermarket. When you buy your groceries online at http://groceries.asda.com you can take advantage of the ASDA Price Guarantee, which means that you’ll save at least ten per cent on your shopping bill, compared to Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. If this isn’t the case then ASDA will give you the difference, meaning that you just can’t lose.
It’s easy to use the ASDA Price Guarantee online – all you need is a receipt. And as the calculator is powered by independent website MySupermarket.com, you’ll have peace of mind.
‘Downscaling’
One way of instantly making savings in the supermarket is to ‘downscale’ your brand choices. For example, if you usually buy the most popular branded products ie Heinz Baked Beans, you would simple ‘drop down’ a level and try the Premium supermarket brand instead.
Likewise, if you usually buy premium supermarket brands, you can downscale to regular supermarket brands, and then to the basics range.
Downscaling your shopping basket has to include an element of trial and error, while you discover which items you are happy to downscale on and which you simply can’t compromise on. However, simply downscaling on some items can save a considerable amount on your groceries bill.
Meal Planning
Planning your meals is one way to ensure that you don’t overspend on food that will end up getting wasted. With the average family estimated to waste around £500 of food per year, simply ensuring that you buy only what you need could save you around £50 a month!
Buying your groceries online makes it easier to stick to a shopping list, as it eliminates the temptations presented when walking around the supermarket. It’s also easy to search for the specific items on your list, making your shopping experience quick and easy.
If you usually cook the same meals each week, the ‘Favourites’ function means that you could have your shopping checked out online in mere minutes – saving that other precious family commodity – time.

With a little thought there are ways to easily trim the grocery bill, making increases in food prices far less painful. Choose a supermarket such as ASDA that prides itself in offering great value across all of its ranges – and puts its money where its mouth is with the ASDA Price Guarantee!


Win an ‘I Love Chocolate Hamper’ from Thorntons! 42

We’ve teamed up with the friendly people at Thorntons to giveaway a delicious ‘I Love Chocolate Hamper’!

Thorntons sell yummy personalised chocolates, toffees, fudges and also some delicious looking hampers like this one we’re about to giveaway. Everyday there is a reason to make someone smile, whether it’s to say ‘I Love you’ or just to say ‘thinking of you’, why not lift and brighten up someone’s day by buying them a box of chocolates from Thorntons to create those smiles

To enter answer the question below via the rafflecopter mechanism:

Who opened Thorntons’ very first shop 100 years ago?

a) Harry Steven Thornton

b) Joseph William Thornton

c) Andrew Thomas Thornton


Joy, it is a conscious choice 2

Many people are posting about New Years resolutions and I keep seeing updates on facebook and G+ about dry January and diets. So I wanted to do a quick update on my Winter Manifesto and also my word of the year Joy. I posted last year about the fact that I was choosing Joy. I was making a conscious decision to focus on the good stuff and make the bad stuff less relevant in my life.

It is all about choice and it is my choice. Way back when a very wise person taught me that we always have a choice. Yes there are things in life that we can not change, these are the things that it is not worth expending energy on. It is like worrying about a plane crashing, not matter how much you flap your arms you will not be able to effect it. However, you can change the way you think about it. You can make the choice not to worry about it. It doesn’t take the worry away, but it does give you power over it. So this year I am actively choosing Joy.

However, I am also making this year more joyous by choosing to learn more. I have started a craft course and am making Mini a quilt. I have had the fabric for over six months, but had a mental block on cutting it. I booked the lessons (2 hours every Tuesday) and asked for some help and in two weeks I have cut the fabric, stitched the top and sandwiched it all together ready to quilt. I made this happen.

I have also enrolled on a Collect the Moments e-course from Capturing Childhood, which was recommended to me by my friend Kelly.

Whilst talking about resolutions, goals and aims for 2013, I have been asked to tell you about Hillarys Facebook competition, yes that is the people who have a vast vertical blinds range available. They are currently running a New Year, New You competition on Facebook. The competition offers a chance to win a different prize every week for the next four weeks, and began with a Wii with Wii Fit Plus to get fit this new year. This week is a chance to win a £100 spa voucher, Week 3 is a chance to try something new with Zorbing, and in Week 4 the prize is a Merlin annual pass for a family of four.


The Crap Crafter Challenge #crapcrafter 7

There are lots of people out there that think they can not craft. That want to make and create, both on their own and with their children and Ella at PurpleMum has asked for help, as she feels that she can not craft with her children. So I was more than happy and between us we have decided to start the Crap Crafter Challenge #crapcrafter.

Each month I am going to send a little package of things to Ella and do a post of activities that she can do on her own and with her children. Ella will then do a post letting us see how she got on. We will have a linky on each of the posts for anyone that wants to join in and will be using the hast tag crapcrafter

This month we are focusing on Valentines and heart crafts. Nice and easy things that can be done when you are short of time.

Top Tips

Buy a cheap plastic table cloth to make clean up easier.
If you have a fear of glitter then get to Poundland and get some glitter glue, they do them in pots so you can plain them on rather than just shake the glitter over glue.
Remember when you are crafting with children do not have a need for perfection, let them do there own thing and have their own outcome.
Paper plates are great for using as paint palate
Have a bowl of soapy water near or the sink full and doors open to it to make clean up easier.
Heart lolly flowers

Heart Book Marks

Button Hearts

Jam Jar Valentine candle holders

I have lots of other simple and easy valentine crafts pinned on my Valentine Pinterest Board


Bikes and BBQ’s – our family Manifesto for 2013 3

I have mentioned before that I am not a New Year resolutions person, however that doesn’t mean that I do not love to plan, set goals and have aims, as I do. I am just not sure that the dark, dank and dismal January is always the best time for them.

But I do want to encourage my children to set goals and learn how to plan to achieve them. The safest way for us to do this is to set a family manifesto for the year. We have sat down and discussed what we would like to do and get out of 2013 as a family. A family holiday was on our list and we have that booked for November with my wonderful brother nad his family. However, I wanted to do something that brought me closer together with the boys and they both love exercise and sports.

Now I am not the fittest person (that is something of an understatement and although I do watch them play Junior Football. It is not something that I really enjoy. But one thing we all do have is cycles. So we decided the time has come to dust off my Bike. My bike that has been hanging in the garage since Maxi was born. It is over eight years since I got on my bike! That cycling is something that we can all do and have fun doing. Something that brings us together as a family.

So the boys got new bikes for Christmas. Mountain bikes with gears and mud guard and MadDad got a bike carrier for the car.

We live in a beautiful part of the world, but with hills each side of the house, there is no way that I am capable (yet) of riding very far from the house, so the bike carrier was essential.

Our plan is to use our family discovery pass for Dalby Forrest and get cycling followed by a BBQ. Our discovery pass was gifted to us by the Forestry Commission and would be an annual cost of £42, which is super value as Dalby is peppered with bike paths suitable for all levels.

Plus Dalby is a fantastic place to explore, play and just relax. It is somewhere that we love to visit as a family, as you can BBQ in designated areas and is just a wonderful relaxing place.

By taking the boys to Dalby I can ride as far as I can and then return and cook us all a treat. I am hoping that by doing something together, it keeps is all together and helps me get fitter.


The Sleep Issue – Does it ever stop? 12

I feel like crying, not that is not quite right, crying would be an improvement right now, as I am so tightly wound up I could burst.  I am filled with frustration, anger, disappointment and sheer exhaustion. Mini used to be terrible at going to bed and then this time last year we put our foot down and cracked the sleep issue and our evenings were transformed.  We have had a whole year of blissful bedtimes. This week we have taken a massive step backward.  Again we have had tantrums and tears and Mini has refused to go to bed.  He has taken to throwing his books and also banging on his door.  I have no idea why we have taken this large step more »


Seasonal Wreaths – A craft challenge 15

My front door was looking very sorry for itself after I took down and packed away the Christmas Wreath. SO I decided that I would challenge myself to make a wreath for each of the seasons this year.

My inspiration for January was a wreath I saw on Instagram by Snugglefeet. I decided on this one as it used up things that I already had on my stash and all I needed to buy was the polystyrene ring.

It only took me an hour to make and was really fun to do too.


Fingerprint thank you cards 6

In fact it took less time and effort to make the cards than it did to hassle them to filling them in. I really do want the boys to have good manners and thank you cards are part and parcel of receiving gifts in The Mad House, but at six and seven I feel that the responsibility for writing them should come down to the boys and that I no longer should have to send them in their behalf, but what a palaver. I ended up nagging and nagging them to get them done.

Do you make your children write thank you cards? If so how do you encourage them to complete them?


Parental control with Video Games 7

1) How many PEGI ratings are there?
A) There are five age ratings; 3, 7, 12, 16, 18

2) Which 3 PEGI age ratings are legally enforceable?
A) The 12, 16 and 18 ratings are legally enforceable for retailers – 3 and 7 are advisory only.

3) How many PEGI Content Descriptor icons are there?
A) Content Descriptors explain a little bit more about why something has been given a particular rating. There are 8 in total

4) What does the Spider icon mean?

A) It means “Fear” – i.e. it might be frighening for younger children (handy to know, as my younger daughter is quite sensitive!)

5) What does the Fist icon mean?

A) It means that the game in question will include depictions of violence.

6) Parental Controls are available on Smart Phones; True or False?
A) True.

7) Parental Control features on a video games console can be used to control the amount of time that your child plays on the device per day? True/False?
A) True. This is an absolute GODSEND for me to have found out, especially when it comes to no.1 daughter, who is notoriously difficult to wrench away from games!

The second part of the challenge was for us to set up Parental Controls on our Xbox. You can see how I got on below:


Winter Manifesto 10

We have had a fantastic, but flu ridden Christmas in The Mad House. Many of you that follow me on Instragram will already know this. It started with Maxi on 23rd and then went through the house. I was taking lots of precautions, but eventually it caught up with me big style and I am the one suffering now and typically MadDad has just returned to work.

I am not a fan of New Years resolutions, but I do a seasonal manifesto and have done for over a year now and I realised that I had missed my winter one out. I guess I was far too busy enjoying the build up to Christmas. I have really enjoyed all the crafting, making and baking that took place and I feel that it might have kick started my creative side again.

Make a seasonal Wreath. I have ideas already for the January and February (valentines) ones.
Get back to using my SAD lamp. I had to take a break due to the eye surgery.
Speaking of eye surgery, it went really well. I have a slight issue with a lose fiber in my right eye, but I am kicking myself as to why I didn’t have it done sooner. so I am going to endeavor to make more of my eyes and try to wear a little bit of eye make up.
I WILL make a start on Mini’s quilt.
I am also going to join a weekly craft group locally and have looked in to joining a local WI, so am going to pluck up the courage to attend.
I am also going to turn the camera off auto more and will be attending a lesson with Cass from Frugal Family.
My main focus this year will be to continue choosing joy and focusing on doing one thing everyday and doing it right.

I am delighted to say that my Choose Joy post has been featured at the Tots100 as one of their posts of 2012 and having read through the others, there are some great posts, so if you want to be inspired by some of the fantastic blog posts and bloggers out there, then grab a coffee and what is left of the quality street and take a read though the others.