Monthly Archives: April 2013

Encouraging writing in Boys – Scrapbooking holiday memories 6

We are really focussing on trying to encourage our boys to move away from the electronic and take up more tactile pursuits! I gave you some ideas for encouraging writing earlier in the week, but I wanted to concentrate on recording holiday memories this time. When I was younger one of the most exciting aspects of any family holiday was receiving the developed film back from the chemist and putting together an album of the photographs and writing the name of the holiday in the inside page.

In todays digital world I find that my images stay on my PC, phone and on the digital photo frame we have and that made me sad, so I decided to encourage Maxi to make a scrapbook of our recent Orlando visit. This was made even easier as we were gifted a whole host of scrapbooking things in a travel theme from

Whilst we were in Orlando Maxi made sure that he took maps, leaflets and keep all his tickets in to the theme parks, so in addition to any pictures I printed out he could also keep all this memorabilia and have a wonderful physical memory of our holiday.

Firstly we sat at the PC and decided which images to print. In future I think that I would send them off to an online provider to print, that way we could have a better quality print.

Then we cut all the photographs out using the guillotine and then I let Maxi lose with the glue and a pen!

As much as I wanted everything to be neat and in a certain way, I knew that it was best that I just stayed on the sideline and let him fill the scrapbook in how he wanted it to be. Afterall this is his holiday memories we are recording.

A day in the life of my hands 2

o hands, one for each of my children. I still take joy in the fact that at eight and nearly seven the boys want to hold my hands when we go places.
Two hands, to hold on tight to the man of my dreams
Two hands that love to get dirty with bread, paint, glue and glitter (not all at the same time mind you)
Two hands, one to hold the book and one to turn the pages as I read the bedtime story
Two hands that love to gently stroke my children as they sleep.
Two hands that tippy tap away on the keyboard letting the words flow from brain to blog
Two hands that hold the camera capturing the moments to make the memories
But mostly my two hands help, they help my children learn to make their own way in the world

Why loyalty pays

more important to us both.

I am his loyal wife. I trust him with my life and the life of my children and he trusts me too. We work hard at making sure that we remain steadfast together and are not only husband and wife, but friends, companions and more.

So when I was asked to tell you about the fact that E.ON are giving you the chance to reward someone close to you, someone who has been with you through thick and thin, or who has just done something nice for you recently with a treat, I jumped at the chance. E.ON are giving away 4 fabulous experience days for two plus 70 pairs of cinema tickets. I know that MadDad and I would love a pair of cinema tickets at the moment as the last film we saw together was Star Trek and the new one is due out at any time. So why not visit the E.ON Facebook Page before 28 April and let them know who you’d reward and why. You can also find the full terms and conditions of this competition on the E.ON Facebook page.

You see E.ON believes you should get something back for your loyalty and if you’ve been with them for a year or more, they’d like to say thank you. So they are giving rewards to their customers. You can either get money off your bills or Tesco Clubcard points – it’s up to you. All you need to do is change to one of E.ON’s tariffs with rewards.

Make money from your old clothes

If you are anything like me this last week of spring like weather will have you packing away the winter wear and getting our the spring summer clothes. Being the organised Mum and Thrifty Mum I am. Each year I but the boys summer clothes in the previous years sales and have them all packed away for them to grow into. However, I am also left with a pile of clothes that no longer fit them and also clothes that Me or MadDad no longer want.

Turbo-Boosting Your Child’s UCAS Personal Statement

thinking of the Personal Statement a good deal in advance, and how you might help your child to connect their extra-curricular interests, achievements and hobbies with their academic pathway of choice, you can steal a march on all of the rest of the university applicants.

Karen Martin, from the Admissions & Student Recruitment Department at the University of Dundee, explains: “Remember that your Personal Statement is the only piece of written work we will see when selecting the best applicants.”

Pretty crucial, then.

None of this is of course a direct substitute for quality academic performance but, done well and properly, the Personal Statement is often the deciding factor between so many applications of equal weight.

Outlined at the outset on the Personal Statement, there need to be cast-iron reasons for why your child has chosen that particular subject, that university and why exactly they want to go to continue in Higher Education in general. This is the Personal Statement bread and butter.

But, the essentials aside, what other ingredients can you think about in advance that could help boost your child’s application and save you all a whole world of heartache at a later, more stressful date?


An ironing revolution and at what age is it OK to teach children to iron? 4

Normally on a Sunday I do my ironing whilst watching One Born Every Minute on catch up. But alas the series had ended, so I decided to watch Paul Hollywood instead and you know what I managed to get the ironing done in that time. Now those of you in the know, will understand this statement, but for the uninitiated OBEM is an hour long, whereas Paul Hollywood’s Bread is only 30 minutes long. So I managed to halve my ironing time. Which delighted me. OK this week wasn’t the week that I do our bedding, which is super kingsize and yes before you ask I ironing my own bedding because I love getting in to clean laundered and ironed sheets, but still it was a lot faster than usual.

The Tefal Pr Express has lots of positives, you can fill it up at the tap, large water tank, anti calc spoon for hard water areas, safety catch (so you can store the hot iron) and an auto off facility too. I do, however, need to get a new ironing board with somewhere to put the steam generator.

The thing that got me thinking about how old I was when I learned to iron was the fact the iron is a lot lighter than a traditional steam iron as it doesn’t have to have a tank to hold the water.

So when is the right time to teach my boys how to iron? When did you teach your children?

House of Secrets 10

We love books in The Mad House and one of my favorite times of the day is when we read to each other.  As the boys are growing up I still feel it is important to read to them and I am aware that sometimes the length of books is daunting to younger children if they want to read them themselves, however, chapter books are great for family reading.  We were recently sent The House of Secrets and we have been reading a chapter or two each night and it is a fab family book.  It is a real page turner. We were keen not to let too much away, but have decided to do a very quick video review for you. […]

Encouraging Writing in Boys 10

With the onslaught of electronics in todays lifestyle writing can sometimes take a backseat and I for one am keep to encouraging writing in my boys. I think the fact that Maxi is both a reluctant reader and writer makes me more determined to find ways to encourage this skill. Mini who is nearly seven loves to read and write and can often be found with a notebook and pencil in hand and is keen to improve his handwriting as he wants to get awarded a handwriting pen at school.

Over the summer holidays last year we focussed a lot on writing and pen skills including making our own books, creating a writing centre and making memory stones.

One of the things that I discovered was that good quality writing equipment was key in helping both the boys Triangular and wide pencils were easier for them to grip[ and paper with lines on made it easier too. Good quality paper that they can press on without ripping is essential. I also found that providing them with notebooks and letter writing stationery or their own choice helped to encourage them.


Now the boys are a little older (eight and nearly seven) we have moved on and they are currently filling in a Q&A a day for children journal each night before bed. These are brilliant journals, which asks a simple question each night and your child completes it. It is only a sentence, so fast and simple to do before bed. I want the boys to get in to the habit of writing and feel this is a fantastic way to do that,m plus a good way of recording how their answers change each year.

Maxi is also putting together a scrapbook style journal of our recent trip to Orlando (more about that in the near future).


Both the boys also have a penpal that they write too. This is a great way of encouraging writing, penmanship and also communication skills. They choose their own stationery and learn the joy of sending and receiving letters. We have even been collecting stamps to make a display with. I know that the boys are excited to use the special edition Dr Who Royal Mail stamps (released to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who this year) on their next letters.

Is it Safe for Your Kids to Take a Gap Year?

Is it Safe for Your Kids to Take a Gap Year?

By Andrew Tipp

It’s not difficult to find news stories of horrible things happening to young people on their gap years.

Whether it’s a bus crash, a robbery or even a murder, the mid-market tabloids splash multi-page spreads full of emotive and frightening reports when something bad happens to a young Brit abroad.

It’s usually an attractive white 19-year-old middle class girl that’s been attacked in India, or a group of friendly 18-year-old boys that have died in a road accident in Thailand.

The message is usually implicit from the reporting: this could happen to your child. Imagine this happening to your child.

Imagining the worst

It’s a horrible thing for a parent to think about, and instinctively it makes some parents think of ripping up their child’s plane tickets, cancelling their volunteering placement and refusing to let them head off on their gap year.

It’s an understandable reaction. Natural, even. Why let your child go off travelling somewhere dangerous when they could be safe and sound at home?

But let’s think about this for a bit. Just how dangerous is a gap year? How many of these reports are down to bad luck? Or even foolishness?

The truth is that gap years are relatively safe, worthwhile and fun. The chances of anything bad happening to your child on their dream backpacking trip or volunteering placement is incredibly small.

Putting it into perspective

Every year an estimated 200,000 British young people take a gap year of some kind. Of that number some will run into problems. It’s inevitable. But most of the problems are things that could happen anywhere.

It’s definitely not worth you or your child being put off the adventure of a lifetime because of some sensational news reports that highlight the few occasions when something bad happens on a gap year.

The right approach for your son or daughter is to seize the chance at a travel experience, take precautions, use common sense and establish an understanding of how you will stay in touch so they can let you know they’re safe and sound.

Taking precautions

There are certain things your child can do before their trip to reduce and manage the risk of anything negative happening to them.

There should be plenty of research before the trip. Make sure your child knows where they’re going, who (if anyone) will be meeting them at airports and bus stations, how to get between places, what hostels they will be sleeping in and who will be their contact locally (if they’re doing a volunteering placement).

Make sure your son or daughter knows some of the local language for where they’re going – especially how to ask for help in different situations. They should know who to contact if they get into trouble, and how to get in touch with the regional UK embassy.

While planning and before travelling, your family should consult the travel advice from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Oh, and make sure your child buys adequate travel insurance – there are plenty of perfectly avoidable horror stories every year involving parents paying thousands so their child could be flown home after breaking a leg trekking in the wilderness without insurance.

Common sense

The easiest way for your child to avoid crime and danger abroad is simply by not making themselves an easy target.

Tourists wearing expensive clothes and dangling pricey cameras around their necks are calling out for someone to rob them; these things are like a sign that flashes in neon lights: “I have money, come and take it if you can.”

This isn’t too much of an issue for independent gap year travellers, as most of them genuinely have little money – either in the bank or on them. Even so, it would be a good idea for your child to segment their money – storing some of it in wallets/purses, some in bags, socks, hostel safes, etc.

Behaviour can make gappers as much of a target. What you do is as important as what you wear. Be sure your child knows not look too much like an innocent, naive and vulnerable fish out of water. Being able to ask for directions confidently and not looking lost with a huge map is helpful.

Locks for backpacks is an option to stay safe, but obviously it’s a good idea not to take anything that’s worth stealing in the first place. In terms of personal safety, rape alarms and ‘defence’ spray cans are good purchases – although be careful with the latter as in some places this is considered a weapon.

Control and intuition

Although drinking and having fun is part of the gap year experience, staying in control is important. Getting really drunk makes young people abroad vulnerable, so be sure to make them agree to staying with groups and friends if they’re heading out drinking.

Just as you wouldn’t wander into the wrong area of Manchester or Birmingham, it’s crucial your child avoids the dangerous areas of any city, but especially high-crime urban sprawls like Johannesburg or Bogata.

Likewise, it’s obviously no safer for your son or daughter to go home alone with any strangers on an evening of romance.

Staying in contact

Maintaining communication between parent and child is important during a gap year. It’s easy for parents to worry if their son or daughter drops out of contact.

It might be a good idea to agree on a rough contact schedule. Nothing too rigid, but maybe a clear but informal understanding that they will try and check in weekly or fortnightly by email, and let you know if they’re going on a trip to, say, a rainforest and will be out of contact for a while. You might also want them to let you know what hostels they’re staying in.

If your child plans to be very active online during their gap year, this could be an issue; if they blog and tweet and facebook every other day you might also worry if they suddenly stop. It might be a good idea to agree that they let you know if they’re going to cease updating their digital profiles for a while.

Ultimately, there’s no way of guaranteeing safety abroad. There’s no way of eliminating risk completely. Bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen to anyone, anywhere.

But if you have frank and thorough discussions about taking precautions, using common sense and staying in touch there should be nothing to worry about.

Read more about gap year foreign travel advice:

Learn more about volunteering abroad placements:

Visit a gap year advice and community site:

About the author

Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He’s spent more than a year backpacking and volunteering abroad, and used to work as a site editor for travel advice and community website

Great value and family friendly things to do in Cornwall

If the slight change in temperature has got you hopeful for the summer you’re not alone. We’re feeling pretty excited about it too and in fact have started to think about holidays as a result. We’ve been dreaming about the type of summer holidays that we remember from childhood, where the days seem to stretch on forever, the beach is always in sight and you get to taste every flavour of ice-cream over the course of a week, going home with salt in your hair and a big grin on your face.

If you yearn after these type of holidays as well, and particularly if you want to recreate this kind of unforgettable summer fun for your kids, we’ve prepared a post for you about summer holidays in Cornwall.

When it comes to taking time out Cornwall really does offer the goods, plus, a holiday in Cornwall really doesn’t have to cost the earth. And in fact once you’ve booked and paid for your place to stay (some luxury accommodation providers also offer baby friendly holiday packages!), once you’ve arrived there are many cheap and even free things to do there. So if all of this talk of summer has made you want to dig out the swimsuits, buckets and spades read on. Here’s our guide to the best summer holiday hangouts in Cornwall…

Eat Roskillys Ice-Cream at Padstow Harbour

Nothing says summer holidays like a big, crisp ice-cream cone full to the brim with several generous scoops of creamy Cornish ice-cream. For the very best we recommend heading to Roskilly’s ice-cream shop which overlooks the picturesque Padstow harbour. They have more flavours than you’ll be able to choose between and each one is just as delicious as the next.

Spend the day at Polzeath Beach

This is one of our very favourite beaches in Cornwall, as it’s a lovely sandy beach which stretches out to meet the stunning Atlantic ocean. Polzeath beach is really close to the town too and as such means that a whole range of lovely cafes and restaurants are available to you come mealtimes – this makes it ideal if you have something other than sandy sandwiches in mind for lunch! The beach often gets good surfing waves too is is a fabulous place to have a go at this, plus it has the best sandcastle-building sand we’ve found! Heaven.

Geocaching with Children 5

Geocaching is a great way to get out and about and treasure hunt with Children.  For the uninitiated Geocaching is an outdoor activity where you navigate to a cache (or treasure for children ) using GPS.    Now that most of us have built in GPS on our mobile phone this is a great family activity and it is becoming a much more mainstream and Geocaching activity. What is Geocaching? It is a modern day treasure hunt using GPS.  There are over 2 million caches worldwide and to show you just how popular and accessible it is there are 14 within 2 miles of where I live on the North Yorkshire Coast! How do I find the location of Geocaches? You can search by location, postcode, county on […]

Perfect games for Children 5

We were recently sent Spooky Steps, which is a fun game for 4 to 12 year olds and focusses on maths skills. It costs £14.99. The boys both loved this and built it and played independently without any input at all from me and MadDad. The instructions were clear and concise and they loved the 3D effect of the game board. The quality of the materials is really obvious and although it has been played with extensively it does not yet show any signs of wear.

The object of the game is to creep through the spooky house to reach the cauldron and break the witch’s spell. It encourages math skills, but also adds chance to the game, so evening out any age differences in players.
As a parent this game was a real hit as it meant that the boys were using mathematics in a meaningful context without even realising that maths were involved. This is the joy of Orchard Toys. If your child means a little encouragement in a specific area you can focus on it without them even noticing and it makes learning a fun experience through play.

My Thatcher Years 14

Mum was a SAHM. My Dad had gone to Grammar school and college and apprenticed at the “Dock” in the Engineering department. My Grandad was a blacksmith and had worked there from leaving school at 14, so you could say that shipbuilding ran in my blood. All the other males in the family either worked at the Docks, the steel yard or the chemical works. I grew up in Teesside an area of heavy industry born from iron and built of steel.

My parents were the first in their family to buy there own house and we lived a relatively good life. As a family there was two male incomes coming in to the house and we never really wanted for anything. We ate well, had great holidays and life was fab. I remember riding my bike after school to meet my Dad on the way home from work. We would get half way and he would stop the car and put the bikes in the back and go home together for a meal that my mum had cooked. We spent many a summer evening on my Granddad’s allotment where he grew vegetables cutting flowers and kept Hens. We would often build Dens in the nearby Nature reserve. Life was uncomplicated. My Dad was often to be found in the garage repairing car’s for friends or doing up one to sell for some extra cash.

I remember homemade clothes, family get togethers and riding my bike everywhere. I remember having to be home for 4.30 for dinner as Dad and Granddad got home at 4.15 and a meal was on the table at 4.30 every night. There was band practice twice a week and my Dad got his PSV so he could drive the Band Bus on a weekend to cpmpetitions. I remember sitting with my tape recording in the bedroom I shared with my brother taping songs off the radio trying to pause it before the presenter spoke, so that I could make mix tapes for the weekends journeys on the bus.

I went to a good primary school and an even better senior school and my Mum became a School Crossing Warden or LollyPop lady. We walked to school on our own from about seven years old and could often be found in the park after school fishing for guppies in the beck, carrying on at the golf links, crabbing at the boating lake or messing around on the beach.

Hola Spain! Top four holiday spots

Hola Spain! Top four holiday spots
Get your passport and factor thirty at the ready and cast your eyes over this quick and dirty guide to the four top Spanish spots to visit this year.
Barcelona is brilliant for a city break, and has loads of culture and history to take in, so it’s an ideal choice if you get bored lounging on the beach all day. Top sightseeing spots in Barcelona include the Gothic Quarter, with buildings dating back to Medieval and Roman times, and Antoni Gaudi’s Church of the Sacred Family, described as “a masterpiece of modernist architecture”.
Nightlife is big in Barcelona! If you’re into your clubbing then visit Razzmatazz or City Hall Nightclub. To sample a shot of absinthe (if you can handle it) then pay a visit to Bar Marsella in Carrer Sant Pau.
There’s a reason Benidorm’s been a popular holiday spot for so many years, and its four miles of gorgeous sandy beaches is one of them. If you’re after a relaxing holiday in the sun with enough to do at night then you can’t go wrong with a holiday in Benidorm .
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to sunbathing and swimming spots here, and there are also great spots for scuba diving and snorkelling. The local seafood is delicious so make an effort to visit one of the many restaurants, such as the Agir or Casa Toni, both offering traditional Spanish fare and picturesque views while you eat.
Costa del Sol
When package deals first came to prominence, the Costa del Sol was the place to go. These days, travellers visit all areas of Spain, but the Costa del Sol still has plenty to offer holiday makers and remains popular as a result. As well as the beaches and of course the Spanish weather, the Costa del Sol has a great public transport system that makes it easy for you to visit other areas from whichever resort you’re staying in.
You can easily spend a day strolling around the ancient capital city of Malaga, taking in the historic streets and beautiful architecture of the churches and museums. Make sure you pay Malaga Castle a visit too, to soak up the history and enjoy some fabulous views.
Holidays in Majorca are ideal for families and couples, with plenty to do if you need to be kept busy, but enough opportunity for relaxation if you choose to do nothing at all.
If it’s a family holiday you’re looking at, the dolphin and sea lion shows at Marine Land are a safe bet to keep the kids entertained. Couples can take advantage of the area’s many chilled out bars and fabulous restaurants serving delicious local food, such as the top rated Village Café in Deia.
Wherever you choose to go in Spain, you’ll be unlikely to have many problems with language, as all resorts are set up to cater for tourists and making yourself understood in English is rarely a problem. Having said that, taking a phrase book and learning a few key phrases, such as ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘beer’, will be much appreciated by locals and might get you better service!

Make Spring Cleaning a Family Affair 4

While we all tell our children little white lies every now and then, it’s best to avoid deceiving your little ones or conning them when it comes to getting them to help around the house or do chores. While it’s best to be truthful with your children about spring cleaning, you should also use a little charm and finesse. Ask or invite your wee ones to help you as most tots love being helpful and beam with pride when they’ve done a good job. Keep this in mind when you and your kids are going through their toys, games, and clothing. First, explain to them why you need to purge your home of some things that are old or no longer used. If you are donating some of their possessions, discuss with them the importance of giving their old things to other children who aren’t as fortunate as they are. Next, let them make a pile of items they want to keep and those they can part with or no longer use for items that are in dispute, make your children justify why it’s necessary to keep them. In keeping with these tips, you’re sure to have enough drawer and closet space ready for those spring and summer clothing pieces from Marks and Spencer.

Have Some Fun

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a bore. Make a game out of cleaning with your children. Split your family into teams and assign them each a task or area to clean. Whichever team finishes first (and does the best job) wins a special treat. Turn spring cleaning into a scavenger hunt of sorts by hiding clues in places that need to be cleaned or organized, such as toy chests and closets. Again, be sure to reward your kids for participating and a job well done.

Redefining Me time! 5

So tonight, I took myself off for my bath with my Eye & Brow perfector and the Vanilla Coke that I bought in Boots earlier today on my first Social Shopper insights study for Cbias. Yes I did say Vanilla Coke, I did a happy dance when I saw it as It was and still is my favorite soft drink.

There is something really decadent in doing something for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do. I would usually have a bath after the boys were safely tucked up in bed, but having one when it was still daylight was lovely as was laying there with the perfector on my eyes. I have not had a reaction and they feel soft, but only regular use will tell if it works for me instead of mascara.

I think I really deserved a bath on my own after taking the two boys to Boots during the holidays, why not take a look at my Google+ Album to see how we got on.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® #CBias #SocialFabric.