Monthly Archives: March 2013


Eggs decorated with washi tape 3

This is one of those craft activities that you can do whilst mindlessly watching the TV. Sometimes on an evening when I spend time with MadDad I have the urge to craft, but it needs to be be something that I can do whilst chatting about our day and perhaps watching TV or listening to music. These masking (washi) tape eggs really fitted the bill.

To make it even easier you could use polystyrene eggs rather than blown eggs and then you wouldn’t worry about pressing too hard either. All I did was place strips of tape length way on the eggs from heat to point and kept going over lapping each time.

They would look lovely hunt onto a branch as an Easter tree too, however, mine make me happy in one of my many cake stands and dishes.


Pom Pom Bunnies and Chicks 1

Method – Chicks

Make a largeish pom pom in yellow wool for the chick’s body
In yellow felt cut out two shapes for the chicks wings and one for the chicks tail feathers. Also cut a small triangle for the chicks beak – in future ones I will make this orange to stand out more.
Stick the wings and tail to the pom pom using a glue gun.
Stick the eyes and beak on using fabric glue


Affordable gifts that are Heaven Sent

There is a real trend for shabby chic at the moment and although it is not my style, there are some aspect of it I love. However, sometimes shabby chic, is not shabby cheep and you can be charged through the eye for this style.

So when I saw these fab items from Heaven Sends at Gifts from Handpicked I thought they were great value.

I love these you and me hooks which are one of the more expensive items in the range at £29.99. These would be fantastic in our conservatory for the boys to hang their dressing up outfits on. But they would also make a great coat hook too.
I adore this Portraits de Famille Box (£22.99), which is brilliant take on a photo album, which holds holds 288 photographs across 12 labelled holders. I think this is a super way to look at your families photos rather than just keeping them digitally. It is beautiful enough to keep out, rather than put away in a cupboard and just think of all the memories you could keep in those albums. This is something that we seriously need in The Mad House!

Now this Heaven Sends Carte Postale Chalkboard would look perfectly at home in Cass from The Diary of a Frugal Family’s Kitchen or entrance hall. I really love that it comes with three mini pegs so you can hang the chalk up and other important things such as pretty postcards etc! Even better it is only £12.95, so I will have to remember that when it is her birthday.

I also like this wooden Heaven Sends Laundry Drop Your Pants Sign, which is less than £6 and would be perfect for our fulility room (the name for our unity room as it is never ever tidy).

I also adore this Heaven Sends I Love You To The Moon and Back Sign, which reads “I love you all the way to the moon and back again” and is £6.95. This is going on to my wish list for Mini’s room as it is something that we say to each other every night before bed. It would be the perfect new baby gift or even baby shower present if you do not know the sex of the baby and really reasonably priced too. I love that it is not to babyish and will last a long time and not date like some nursery decoration does.


Smartie Birthday Cake 5

It has become something of a tradition that Maxi always has a chocolate smartie cake for his birthday. This year I decided to try and do something a little more eye catching. I love baking, but find icing larger cakes something of a chore. So this cake is very forgiving.

Cake Ingredients

6 oz of butter or marg
6 oz caster sugar
5 oz of self raising flour
1 oz of coco powder
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 eggs
half teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of milk

Method.

Cream together the marg/butter and sugar. Then add the rest of the ingredients in and mix well!

Put in two 7 inch cake tins (I line the tins with parchment and grease) and place in to a preheated oven of 180 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. You can tell if the cakes are cooked if when you press the top it gives slightly but springs back.

Remove from oven and leave for 2 minutes before removing from tins and placing on to a wire rack to cool.

Icing Ingredients:

1 block of butter (250gm of 10 oz)
450 grams icing sugar
50 gms of coco powder
half teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 tablespoons of milk
Method

Soften the butter in a mixer before adding the other ingredients. Make sure you start mixing very slowly so you do not get icing sugar everywhere. If your mixer does not have a splatter guard then cover with a tea towel.

Assembling the cake

Sandwich together your two cakes with icing and then apply the remaining icing around and on top of the cake. You are going to use the using around the cake to stick the chocolate fingers to the cake, so make sure you have enough at the sides.

I applied the fingers and then refrigerated the cake overnight, before covering the top with smarties the following day.


Spring is suffering an identity crisis 1

Spring is suffering an identity crisis

Those of us looking at an Easter break of more frigid and dismal days won’t be thrilled at the news that record numbers of British holidaymakers are booking last-minute travels to lands that promise sunshine, warmth and bodies bared to the elements instead of bracing against the cold. Meanwhile, we’ll be welcoming April more like Scandinavians than Spaniards.

Which got me thinking: how do our Nordic neighbours cope with copious snow and cold for months on end? If their exported crime dramas are to be believed, they’re all too busy chasing homicidal maniacs in their Volvos whilst wearing sensible knitwear to notice the temperatures, but I suspect that’s an unfair generalisation. The Scandinavians of my acquaintance all drive VWs, for a start.

Since Britain’s not going to look anything like Ibiza anytime soon, we might as well make like we, too, live in the land of the midnight sun. Starting with:

● Let there be light. Boxes, that is. Technically the sun does still make an occasional appearance over the British Isles, but that doesn’t mean we’re getting enough Vitamin D or any of the other vital benefits of sunshine. Have you spent the past few months feeling particularly sluggish, fatigued, sad or irritable? Do you avoid social or physical contact, crave sugary foods and generally feel a bit blue? You could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Don’t do anything without speaking to your GP, but light boxes, which mimic the effects of daylight on hormone levels, work well for some people who suffer from SAD.
● Fire. You may not have a fireplace or wood burner and it’s likely a springtime bonfire wouldn’t be welcomed by your neighbours or local council, but there’s nothing to stop you adding a few candles to brighten things up. Well, your lease might stop you. Or the threat of small children, pets or absentmindedness, but used responsibly candles can add a cheery glow when evenings draw in.
● A nourishing meal. Scandinavians love nothing more than a jolly big (candlelit) feast with friends and family and though Christmas Eve and Midsummer are the main times to celebrate with lots of food and good company, they don’t limit socialising to the holidays. My Little Norway touches on this in the brilliant post, How to survive the dark winters, which has plenty of useful advice that translates to their southern counterparts. So buy some fish (good for so many things, including vitamins A and D), fire up the electric range cooker and get your mates around – guaranteed to lift your spirits and boost your nutritional intake.
● Bundle up and get down with the cold. Yes, it looks miserable outside, but so what? Make the effort to exercise anyway and you’ll be glad you did – if only because you can enjoy all the extra calories you’re craving, smug in the knowledge you’ve earned them. Or try a new winter sport. It’s surprising how many sled dog clubs exist in Britain, with events that are open to all. Hopefully the snow is now behind us but you can still look for a local ski slope (indoor or outdoor) or ice rink or try Nordic walking.
● Prioritise. Try to get on top of those jobs you won’t want to do when the weather’s perfect for just soaking up the sunshine. Tackle the hedge trimming, turn over some soil, dig a new border, sharpen your mower blades, make a plan to landscape or do house repairs or clean the car or wash the windows.

Last of all, don’t lose hope. Before you know it, summer will be here with enough rain and cloud cover to satisfy all your whinging needs.

A one-time journalist for metropolitan daily newspapers in the USA, Laura Potts moved to England in 2005 where she is a writer and editor. She plans to spend the Easter break with her children and an array of hats, scarves and mittens.


Get the Basics Right in Your Kitchen

Get the Basics Right in Your Kitchen

We would all love to have a more impressive kitchen but what if you don’t even know where to start? Will you need to spend a fortune on completely overhauling the place?

Before you start splashing out big sums of money on expensive changes it is best to think of the basics which can make the difference.

The Right Kind of Lighting

The type of lighting you use in the kitchen is vital to making it a pleasant room to be in and to cook in. Your first step should be to check out some ideas using chandeliers, recessed lighting, under cabinet lights and all of the other kinds which are available now. Once you know what the options are you can work out which ones would fit in best to your room. In general terms, a mixture of different types of lighting is best, although this might not be the case in a particularly small kitchen.

The Pots and Pans

Of course, the kitchen is a room we cook in and this means that you need think about the basics required for doing this right. A good example here comes with the saucepans from Lakeland. Buying a few of these will give you practical pieces of cookware and will also ensure that you have attractive pots in the room as well. You will find other ideas for useful basic items on the site at Lakeland.co.uk. By stocking up well on these things you will make it a nicer room at little cost.

The Colour of the Walls

There are some highly popular colours used in many kitchens and others which aren’t so highly recommended. The exact tone you would be best using will be determined by factors such as the style of the kitchen and the size of the room. If you aren’t sure which colour to use then a good idea is to buy a few of those little sample pots and paint small areas of the walls with different colours. After you have lived with the different tones for a few days it should a lot easier to work out which one to choose for the whole room.

The Space

One of the most common complaints which people make about their kitchens is around the lack of space. If your kitchen is too small or cramped then cooking is probably more of a problem than it should be. This might seem like an issue without a solution in some cases it could be but there are some tips to help you get a bigger working space in most types of kitchen. The first and simplest one is to clear out anything you don’t use on a daily basis. This can make a lot of space and help the room look better too.


How to make a Pinecone Owl and other pinecone crafts 13

Maggie at Red Ted Art (who has a new craft book out) hosts a weekly Google + Hangout and this weeks was all about Pine cone crafts. Mini has been studying nocturnal animals this week, so we decided to make a pine-cone owl.

This is one of those crafts that you can adjust dependent on the age of your child bu cutting out all the felt (or foam) and allowing them to glue it or they can cut it out and glue it too. I made templates for the boys to draw around on the felt with a soft pencil and they cut out the felt themselves.

Materials

Pine-cones
Felt (or craft foam) in yellow, brown and orange
googly eyes
Glue gun or glue (Maxi uses a glue gun, but mini uses craft PVA)
Method

Cut out in yellow a figure of eight shape for the base of the eyes larger than your googly eyes and stick the eyes to it.
Then using orange felt or foam cut out a small triangle for the beak and curves with points which are the owls feet.
You cut out a square in brown for the owls hat – approximately 2 inches in size, but this depends on your pine cone.
Cut two triangles for the owls wings


Free things to do in London over the Easter break

As you may know London is Mini’s favorite city in the whole wide world (his words, not mine). So we can often be found hopping on the train when we can grab an inexpensive fare and doing some sight seeing. Also one Maxi’s school friends still visits a Dentist in London to have their invisible braces looked at (they used to live there) and they are going back over Easter and we are possibly going to London Zoo for an event too, so will need some other things to do too.


If only I had know………….. 5

That time truly flies and people were not exaggerating when they said “they grow up so fast”

That life really does change when you look at that tiny bundle and suddenly realise you are responsible for another human being

That one so small can create so much poo

That irony is not lost on babies

That boys WILL wee on you as soon as you remove their nappy

That no matter what colour you dress your child in, people will always think they are of the opposite sex

That second hand is not second best

That it will take 30 minutes more than you allowed to get out of the house

That babies smelled so good after a bath

That sleep is for the weak

That colic does get better

That cold tea is all I will drink for months and to invest in a thermos cup

That LEGO is a weapon

That poo could be such a funny word to toddlers and boys of all ages

That it is OK to get angry

That I will never again be able to go to the toilet in peace

That I would know The Hungary Caterpillar off by heart

That I would cry on their first day at Preschool

That DVD’s do not wear out though repetitive play even if you wish they would

That nativities are so emotional

That is it perfectly acceptable to get sick of cooking and preparing meals

That it is natural to live in constant fear of something bad happening to your child

That it is not acceptable to fancy one of the presenters of CBebbies

Daytime naps for Mummy as well as baby are totally acceptable

That the odd jar of baby food and bit of salt will not harm your child

That saying no to homework is OK

That the cleaning can wait

That it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help

That weetabix dries like concrete, so wipe it up quickly

That when people are starring at your whilst your child is having a tantrum are actually thinking “oh no, poor woman” rather than “gosh what a crap mother”

That I would be a better parent for having some me time

That being a parent is the hardest, but most rewarding job in the world


Spring Clean your Children’s Wardrobe

taking place.

I have a list of items that the boys need for next season or even in the next size in the back of my diary and I keep an eye out in Charity shops or any other shops that are having a sale. I work on making sure that each boy has at least 10 pairs of underpants and 14 pairs of socks (school socks, boot socks, trainer socks and regular socks!).

Now the boys are both at school they need much less clothes that what they did as preschoolers. They have at least five of each of their school uniform (trouser, shirts, jumpers and three pairs shorts for the summer.

The only time that they really need lots of extra clothes are during the holidays. I only wash twice a week and Mini is certainly a muck monster. So he needs more clothes that Maxi.

Now is also the perfect time to keep an eye out for thermals for next year. Both the boys wear thermals during the winter and they wear under layers when playing football in the winter.

Also why not keep an eye on the charity shop for winter coats for later in the year, as many people will be doing a spring clean and sending their children’s outgrown clothes to the charity shop, making it the ideal time for you to stock up.

Ella at Purple Mum has recently done a great post on how many clothes a child needs. I have top admit that I am guilty of over buying for both the boys and this is something that I am going to tackle this year.


Spring Manifesto – 2013 4

So onward and upwards, what do I want to do achieve over this spring:

Sew some seeds for the raised beds. MadDad is the green fingered one, but I do love plotting and planning with him
Get on my bike. I still haven’t felt able and I really want to join the boys on theirs this spring
Take more photographs with all of us in. I need to make a conscious effort to get in the picture. I have even bought a remote control for the camera
Take the boys to park after school now the weather is improving
Sort out the conservatory/playroom. The train table is about to collapse and we need to find some new storage for board games and a coffee table on a very tight budget.
Keep sewing and book some more day courses
What are your plans for this spring?


Top 5 tips to make your families clothes last longer

Buying clothes for all the family is a costly business so you want to make sure these clothes last as long as possible. However, many families are unaware that if living in a hard water area that the water and limescale could be destroying their clothing. Luckily, there are a few simple tips to follow that will make your clothes last much longer. 1. Storage Solutions If you don’t have a large clothes wardrobe, chances are that you need to store some of your clothing as the seasons change. There are two main goals to follow when storing clothing: keeping moths away and deterring moisture from forming. To prevent moths from […]


A birthday treasure hunt 2

These are the clues we used, which I took from the Real Treasure Hunt website.

Refrigerator
A clue to find where you keep things cold
Where to go next is what you’ll be told.

Computer
Letters, a screen, and even a mouse,
look around, you’ll find it somewhere in the house.

Bed
When it gets late and you turn out the light
This is the place you’ll be found each night.

Socks
You’ll need to think hard to solve the next clue
Find a covering for your foot, but it’s not a shoe.

Oven
Turn up the heat it will help you bake
Cookies, casseroles, even a cake.

Shower
A place where water falls down like rain
after it falls on you it goes down the drain.

Microwave
A metal box with numbers is usually the norm
For this thing that helps us get our food warm.


Spring clean the clutter 3

The sun perhaps popped it head out from behind the clouds today, enough to make me see just how dirty my windows were!

However, before I start on the epic spring cleaning, it is time to declutter. Firstly I see no point in cleaning around clutter, secondly that clutter might make me some cash on somewhere like Gumtree (where it is free to list and sell items) and lastly a tidy house always means a tidy mind for me.

So now is the perfect time to have a clutter clear out. Firstly you have to find a system that works for you. But I have some ideas for you below.

I love this storage for transient items from The Red Chair Blog. It is the perfect way to store items until you have enough to make it worthwhile doing something with. Mine would read Donate, Sell, Recycle and Toys. I am on the look out for a similar wire rack or bookcase for our garage space. By keeping toys out of sight you will truly see if children play with them.
Get your children involved in clearing their toys. Have an agreement where they get 50% of any money you make from selling them or let them donate ones to people less well off. It is a great way to learn about charity.
Let go of children’s artwork. If you realty attached to it, then take a digital photo of it to display in a pocket system or recycle it to make cards or recycled art bookmarks.
Work clockwise round a room from the door. This way you are going an an organised manner and if you have to stop then you know where you are up to.
If you are unsure of getting rid of something, then ask yourself if you have used it in the last year? If you haven’t then why not part with it.
When it comes to children’s clothes, why not have a swapping party with friends who have older and younger children. That way you will all get something new out of it. You could always do this with toys and books too.


Spring cleaning in the bedroom 1

The weather this time of the year is pretty changeable, but we tend to change over our winter duvets and clean and store them and replace them with our spring/summer weight ones. I also pop an extra blanket or throw on the beds for when the nights are really cold and to help the transition from winter bedding to lighter weight bedding. Now is also the time to review the state of your bedding. Perhaps your duvet or pillows are starting to show their age and it would be more economical to replace them rather than clean them. So search online for Duvet and pillow warehouse promotional code and see if you can find vouchers that make the cost less expensive.

My local laundrette offers duvet and pillow cleaning and it is much less expensive than the local dry cleaners. It only takes a couple of days and the duvet comes back all ready for me to store in the airing cupboard. By having getting it done as soon as I swap it means that it is ready to go back on and I do not have to worry. I do this for our super king sized duvet cover.

The boys single duvets are OK to go in our washer, however, I need to wait for a blowy day, so they can be line dried.

Spring cleaning shores:

Hoover the ceiling to remove any cobwebs
Swap bed linen
Clean the curtains (mine go in the wash and on the line)
Clean the inside of the windows, first wiping down the frames (I use a solution of vinegar and water for this)
Wipe down the doors, light switches and skirting boards
Clean any pictures, both the glass and the tops of the frames
Clean on top of doors and the door frame
Vacuum under the bed, chest of drawers, bedside cabinet and dressing table
Regular cleaning

Due to the fact that I am removing cobwebs etc, I may make more dust, so I also do my regular cleaning in the bedroom too.

Polish furniture
Clean all mirrors (we have mirrored wardrobe doors)
Vacuum
Dust light fittings and clocks
Empty the bin


What to look for in a family car 1

My boys are growing up and are now eight and nearly seven and what we need in a family car has changed dramatically since they were newborns. However, it is not always financially possibly to buy a new car at every stage of childhood, so I thought I would put together a guide to what to look for in a family car detailing what we needed and why at what age. At the moment I am lusting after a new Honda CRV, especially after being in a friends on Mothers day at Maxi’s football match!


Easter Baskets and Egg Free Peppermint Creams 4

Ingredients

225g icing sugar, sifted
115g Condensed Milk
peppermint extract
Food colouring
Dark Chocolate
Method

Gradually mix the icing sugar together with the condensed milk. We used the mixer for this on slow.
Add peppermint extract to taste and knead until smooth.
Dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out the mixture to 5mm thickness. Cut into shapes with small cutter (the boys chose hearts and bells).
Leave in a cool place to dry for two to three hours.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.
3. Drizzle the peppermint creams with the melted chocolate
Allow to set.
This keeps refrigerated for up to three weeks.


Eighteen 7

Eighteen years ago at noon, MadDad and I were wed. We have had a wild ride of marriage with some downs and some great ups. He is always by my side no matter what I do or where I go. He is my lifeboat in stormy seas and my biggest cheer leader. We have grown up together and we are lucky enough to really enjoy each others company. He is one of the most unassuming people I have ever met and is a real joy to live with.

He has been by my side in sickness (more often than not mine) and heath (his) and is a wonderful partner and even better Dad. I miss him when we are apart and love spending time with my family. He really brings out the best in me and reminds me to always be the best person I can be.

He has a weakness for great coffee and curly wurly’s. He Likes the odd pint of Guinness and loves Beef and Yorkshire Puddings.

Back when we got married I had AJ to JL 18 March 1995 engraved inside our wedding rings, just in case he ever forgot the date (ever the realist I am) and so far he hasn’t.

He really is my cup of tea………………….