Ok, so although we haven't even got the festive season over and done with, in our house our thoughts have already turned to our upcoming nuptials and the DIY projects that involves,diy projects for our home and Easter, Halloween and Christmas 2014 projects.
Look out for our wedding wand tutorial, reading corner make over, Easter egg hunt tips and more...
For those of you with presents still to wrap. Write the receipiente name somewhere discreet on their presents before attaching the gift tag. This way if the gift tag comes off you'll still know who the present belongs to!
In our house it is officially Christmas! The tree and decorations are up, the kids are enjoying their homemade advent calendars, the festive baking has begun, cards are all ready to post and present wrapping has started.
I look around the house at some of the decorations that I've had for many years and memories come flooding back of past Christmases, the fun, the laughs and the feelings they recreate and it gets me thinking what does Christmas really mean to each of us?
As a not particularly religious person Christmas doesn't hold all of the Christian beliefs for me, however, there are elements which I think can be universal; goodwill to all, love and general positivity. Then there are the other elements that really make Christmas for me. The simple things, like snuggling up with the family to watch Christmas films, making homemade gifts for friends and family, creating new memories whilst remembering old and creating traditions for our family unit are just the tip of the iceberg.
I have to admit that I am Christmas crazy but I feel it's one of the rare times of the year that kindness prevails and almost anything can happen if you just believe in the magic of Christmas!
So while I now go back to planning the rest of Decembers activities for the family please just take a couple of minutes to answer the question...What does Christmas mean to you?
Every year I pledge to make the children a homemade advent calendar and every year I end up dashing around the shops like a woman possesed to try and find 3 suitable calenders on 30th November. Not this year! This year I am being super organised and have begun making them already. To be honest, the hardest part was choosing from the hundreds of creative ideas to suit each child. Little monster was the easiest to choose for so his is the first to be made.
Suprise Box Tree Advent Calendar
You can make this using any colour card but we opted for Christmassy green and red
You will need
Double sided tape or glue
Treats to fill
How to Make
1. Draw or print 24 cube templates on the card and cut out
2. Score the card along all of the folds and flaps and fold into a cube shape.
3. With a pencil, mark a cross on all of the flaps that will need adhesive.
4. Unfold the cube and put double sided tape along all of the marked flaps.
5. One by one, remove the tape backing and stick the cube together.
6. Repeat this process for all 24 boxes.
7. Once you have made all 24 boxes it's time to assemble them. With the lids facing the front start to build a Christmas tree shape using double sided tape or another adhesive to stick the vibes together(use the picture as a guide)
8.OPTIONAL Once you have created your Christmas tree attach the entire shape to a piece of decorated cardboard. How you decorate it is entirely up to you. You can either punch two holes in the cardboard and hand up or leave it to stand.
9. Write or use stickers to number each box. This can be done in number order or randomly.
10. Finally, fill each cube with a treat. I've opted for a mix of sweets, chocolates, toys and craft items. As little monster has decided he wants to use Christmas stickers to finish decorating his calendar there isn't a finished picture yet of his advent calendar completed but follow me on Twitteror check out my Facebook page for the end result.
Are you planning on giving your child an advent calendar this year? Will it be chocolate filled or are you opting for something healthier?
On a recent shopping trip I popped into a sports shop to pick up a pair of plain black trainers for son number 1 for school as his kickers are well and truly worn out.
I looked along the shelf at all the different brands and picked up a couple of pairs "eurgh, Jason won't wear that, it's not Nike!" my 4 year exclaimed at the top of his voice. I felt totally embarrassed.
Jason, who turned 9 in September, really couldn't give a toss as to what brand something is or how he looks. For him it is about comfort and more often than not we will argue because he will try and wear jogging bottoms and manky old trainers everywhere.
None the less, little monsters comment got me thinking, at 4 what on earth does he know about brands?
After a very interesting discussion with said child, I discovered the he only likes Nike, doesn't like shopping anywhere but Sainsburys, isn't keen on clothes from Primark because they feel and look cheap and that H&M is by far better.
As an adult I obviously have preferences as to certain things but I'm pretty laid back when it comes to brands, in fact if I'm honest the only branded products I really own are my Nike gym shoes, Mulberry handbag and Espirit watch so I'm not exactly dripping in designer.
I tried to explain to the little one that whilst he is quite a fortunate child that life isn't about brands and labels, it's about being happy.
My fear is that due to the media that is all around us each and every day our children are being brainwashed into believing that they need all of these things, just like the Christmas adverts.
Television, in app adverts and computers are something I can control but how do you as a parent control how advertising in the media affect your children?
Perfect for when attending a dinner, function or even going on a car journey with the kids. Pick up a reusable bag and fill it with a pack of coloured pencils, colouring in book, activity book, pack of playing cards, a couple of quiet toys and some books. Keep it handy and whenever your off out just add a snack and juice and your ready to go!
When I originally set out to do these weekly meal planners I thought it would be an easy task, the last couple of months have actually shown me how repetitive some of our meals have begun and it's not actually as easy as you'd think planning a weeks worth of meals would be. All of these factors have really made us think about what meals we could do with a break from and what meals we could do with re-introducing into our lives.
Weekly Meal Planner
Turkey curry with noodles
Lasagne and salad
Meatballs and cous cous
Mushroom, bacon and onion potatoes
Homemade fish cakes and linguine
Grilled chicken, potatoes and salad
Are there any meals that make a regular appearance at dinner time? What new recipes have you tried lately? I'd love to hear about some of your favourite recipes.
"It's not fair", "but my friends have one", "your so boring" were just some of the statements made by my tween when discussing why she cannot have a Facebook account. I guess I knew that when you have kids they eventually get to 'that' stage where they want to be grown ups and in this day and age its happening at younger ages. My daughter is almost 12 and having started secondary school this September I've slowly but surely noticed changes in what she wants to do and how she behaves. Whilst many of her arguments with me are well thought out and very diplomatic, I usually still manage to get her to understand why I am the way I am with her and why I make the decisions I do with her. Compared to some parents I know and some of her friends parents I know I'm not necessarily as liberal as them but I think that our children are children and there will be plenty of time to be adults. I tried explaining to her that all Facebook users need to be at least 13 years of age and there's obviously a reason for this to which she replied "what?" Before I could answer the clearly rhetorical question she replied by reeling of a comprehensive list of internet safety and security measures and the benefits of the privacy options Facebook offers. It was also suggested that if I would be a wonderful parent and let her open a Facebook account then she would 'allow' me to have the password giving me full access to what she's up to. Her extremely mature and concise debate doubled with the fact that she had actually come and asked me if she could have a Facebook account instead of just opening one almost made me cave in. In asking me if she could have an account she is showing a level of responsibility that a lot kids her age wouldn't. I know many of her friends already have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram accounts but rightly or wrongly I just feel there's something sinister about letting our children have access to all of this so young. Even though I have a Facebook account myself I don't see what the fascination for her with having one is. I admittedly feel horrible and unreasonable for not allowing her to have one but I want to protect her from the world as much as possible! Am I being unreasonable? Have you allowed your child to open a Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram account? What are your thoughts on children using social media.
This weeks meal planner is a bit delayed as the children wanted to create it! With a new routine in place thanks to more extra curricular choices we needed to create a meal planner that was as streamlined as possible.
Here we're their choice...
Weekly Meal Planner
Cottage pie, baked beans and vegetables
Spaghetti bolognese with homemade garlic bread
Toad in the hole with roast potatoes and vegetables
Whilst many of our children will be donning their outfits and preparing to party or go trick or treating, there are some children out there who's frights aren't just for fun or for just 1 night of the year. Many children are living in fear of things that we can only ever imagine and as a beacon of hope World Visionis inviting everyone to turn 31st October into A Night of Hope. By simply carving a heart into your pumpkin and placing it in your window or on your doorstep you will be lighting a lantern of hope for children living in fear around the world.
Having just celebrated black history month, my children felt very privileged to be taking part as they have been reminded of just how fortunate they are and hearing about some of the fears that children face they couldn't wait to get started. We began by downloading the pumpkin carving kit from the world vision website. It includes all the information you need about how to carve your pumpkin safely and even includes extras such as recipes, ideas for left over pumpkin seeds, further information about A Night of Hope and a poster for you to print out and show your support.
We decided we wanted to be a little different with our Night of Hope project so we headed for the craft cupboard. Armed with glue, brushes, tissue paper and more we settled down to carve our 'pumpkins'
The boys decided that they wanted to take it one step further and make something that would last longer than just a couple of days.
We gathered some old glass jars and cut up some tissue paper.
We glued the tissue paper to the glass jars.
Once the glue was dry we cut away a heart shape and placed a tealight inside. As the boys told me last night "Now there can always be a beacon of hope in our house".
We felt it would be right not to carve a real pumpkin though, so we cut, scooped and carved a beautiful heart in a cute pumpkin.
Please, please join in and make tomorrow a Night of Hope too!
If your buying Christmas presents already ask in stores for a gift receipt and let them know that it is a Christmas present. Once home mark an envelope with 'Christmas Present Receipts' and put in a safe place. Should you have any problems you'll be able to find your receipts quickly and with ease!
With tween occupying herself with friends, first son at his grandparents for the weekend and my other half at work, I was tasked with keeping little monster busy and happy. When asked what he wanted to do 'bake!' was his rather excited response.
After looking through the kitchen cupboards for what baking goodies we had we opted for some straight forward marshmallow treats.
Here are little monsters bloody eyeballs, Monsters Inc Sully and a witches broomstick.
What you will need
Marshmallows(not the mini ones)
Red candy melts
Blue candy melts (or you can use white chocolate and food colouring instead of red and blue melts)
Purple rainbow drops
1) On a sheet of greaseproof paper lay out the marshmallows and put the straws into the middle making sure the go right through to the bottom.
2) Melt the red candy melts (if using chocolate, melt the chocolate and add the red colouring) then coat some of the marshmallows in the red. Add a raisin for the eyeball.
3) Melt the blue candy melts (if ising white chocolate, melt the chocolate and add blue colouring) and mix in 2 drops of mint essence.
4) Coat some of the marshmallows in the blue mix then randomly put some of the purple rainbow drops all over.
5) Melt the chocolate and coat the remaining marshmallows in the melted chocolate.
As you can see, not all of the chocolate made it on to the marshmallows!
6) Leave all of the marshmallows on the greaseproof paper to dry.
Once dry, treat your friends to these ghoulish treats!
For this and other recipe ideas don't forget to follow me on Pinterest.
If like in my house, pillowcases for your duvet sets often go walkies (a bit like socks) then here's a tip to save you spending ages searching.
Once you have washed, dried and ironed(yes, I iron my duvet sets!) your duvet sets, fold the pillowcases and place them inside the duvet cover and then fold. When you come to change your sheets your pillowcases will be super easy to find.
As Black History Months draws to a close I have been reflecting on what exactly it does mean to me and my family and as a family that is fortunate enough to be rich in a number of different cultures I feel it is an important job for me as a mum to educate my children on all of the different histories and cultures that make up 'us' as a family. Whilst this is performed as part of our daily lives in the food we eat, languages and terminology used, family practises and tales of old, Black History Month is a great way of highlighting some wonderful and courageous people who have helped shape the world we live in today and bring to light the many different traditions from around the world.
One of the reasons I felt compelled to write this post is as a mummy blogger I frequent many parenting forums and networks and there has been very little mention of black history month and in some cases no mention at all.
I could spend hours going on about what black history month means to me and reel of names of many black people who have contributed to the world we live in but this post isn't about that, it's about seeing and hearing what black history month means to my children.
I asked each of them what black history month means to them and here are their responses
"I believe Black History Month is a celebration of achievements and movements made by not just famous individuals but by lesser known people too. It is a time to reflect on what is great about our cultures and traditions and acknowledge some of the wonderful things people have done for us. We can also use this month to let our mentors and role models now how proud we are of them and grateful for their contribution to our lives."
"To me Black History Month means achieving goals and proving that skin colour shouldn't limit our ability to be who we want to be."
"It means I am proud of who I am and love my mummy and daddy, 2 grandmas,2 grandads and nanny. It means that I get to eat lots of different foods and hear different songs. I love my family."
As a mum to three children I know only too well the pressures that go with parenthood and one that seems to be increasing of late are children's parties. When my eldest who is now eleven (and a half!) was younger a simple tea party or picnic in the park (her birthday is in June) was more than enough and she was happy with it.
When my now 9 year old was younger things like taking a few friends to the cinema or bowling were acceptable birthday treats but I've noticed that parties that our youngest son who is nearly five is invited to are becoming more and more extravagant. Gone are the days of soft play parties or a few friends invited for tea, no no no, I'm talking a petting zoo in the garden, a coach to the seaside or hiring out a soft play centre exclusively for the hire of a 4 year olds party. I have to admit, we're not completely innocent. Back in January we spent a VERY pretty penny on hiring a double decker bus that had been converted into a soft play and play centre for our son's 4th birthday but what we forget is that the cost doesn't end there.
By time we added up what we had spent on the Party Bus, food, party bags, decorations, drinks and prizes for the games, we could have actually taken the 3 kids away for a week! The problem with this was that it set a precedent. If we could do that for the little one then what was we going to do for our daughter for her 11th and then what would we do for our sons 9th birthday in September? It seems that parents feel compelled to put on 'The Greatest Show on Earth' instead of a simple treat that our children would probably be equally pleased with. Let's face it, it's clearly not our children that we are trying to please with such lavish events and do they really remember them a month or two down the line? After our temporary loss of sanity over this years birthday parties we have made a pact that we will not be putting on such elaborate 'displays' next year and should the children ask why we shall simply ask them to recall what they can actually remember from their last party!
Do you go overboard for your children's birthdays or do you feel is all just about keeping up with the Joneses?
After our adventurous menu last week we decided that we'll keep things simple this week with some firm family favourites. As we all have a busy week, these meals are either quick to make or the type of meal that you can leave on the hob or in the oven...
Every year it has become almost a tradition that in the lead up to Christmas I always managed to find a decorating project in our home to embark upon. This year is no different. Our hallways floor has been down since we moved in in 2008 and as I was pregnant with little monster we just focussed on the rest of the property and a quick coat of paint for the hall. Since then the hallways has survived, 3 children, 4 cats, 3 bikes, 2 scooters, 3 pairs of roller skates, 2 skateboards and lots of guests so we decided that it was about time we treated it to a sprucing up!
I am a firm believer in that you get what you pay for and as
I really want the redecoration of the hallway to last we decided that we would
spend that bit extra to get some good quality pieces. I love the look of oak
and the fact that it’s versatile enough to go with pretty much any colour
scheme we opt for. With that in mind I have begun my search for some flooring,
a coat rack, sideboard and a shoe rack. I found a site that specialises in oak
and pine wood furniture that comes ready assembled, offers finance and even has
a price match offer.
I absolutely love this coat rack and think it will look fabulous in the hallway with some gorgeous smelling
candles from the One Stop Pamper Shop placed on top and will hopefully put an end to coats being dumped anywhere.
Whilst the idea of sideboards fill me with horrible visions
of everyone dumping their rubbish on them we really do need one for the post,
bicycle lock keys and hallway lamp to be put on. I didn’t want anything that
would be too wide and chunky and take up a lot of space yet I wanted something
sturdy and long lasting. This Opus oak hall table is perfect. With 2 storage drawers, a shelf below and space on the top for our
lamp and telephone this would be a welcome addition in any home.
As a family of 5 one of my pet hates is the pile of shoes
that can collect in the hallway. A pair for school, football boots, trainers,
dance shoes, wellies… so a shoe rack is a must and anything that can hide them
is even better in my book. This 100% oak shoe cupboard will turn those unsightly piles of shoes into a welcoming sight.
Whilst we argue over colour schemes, artwork and accessories
for the hallway, one thing is for sure. we’ll be spoilt for choice with the
options of fabulous quality furniture available.
Have you got any decorating plans coming up? Do you and your
partner always agree on your re decorating plans?
For a while now I've been feeling a little incomplete and lost. I noticed this feeling slowly creeping up on me when my youngest child started part time nursery last September. To begin with I enjoyed the 3 hours me time and the simple pleasures like completing work on time and enjoying a quiet cup of earl grey without distractions. But after a while I became bored of this, unhappy even.
I have had this overwhelming feeling of not knowing where life is heading and not being happy about it. When I look back at when I felt happiest and complete it was when life was much simpler;when the kids were younger, technology wasn't quite as developed and we weren't trying to keep up with the Jones'.
In order to get back to that place I guess I need to start at the beginning and work from the inside out. I'm not one for self-help books but there was one that caught my eye in a quirky little bookshop in Greenwich. Even though I wasn't looking for one this book just seemed to jump out at me and after closer investigation it seemed almost a perfect fit with how I've been feeling recently.
Ever the sceptic, I reached for the book and began reading the blurb, it claims to be able to 'fix' me. Worth a shot right? I bought the book and am going to give it a go.
I'm not expecting miracles or even major changes but if this book can help me with even the baby steps I'll be on the right track.
Look out for updates on my progress.
Do you believe self-help books can really help us make changes? Or do you think they are just contrived drivel?
Halloween will soon be upon us and with it it brings a school holiday. If like me, the only way you can survive these are by planning activities and days out for the kids then look no further. I've put together a list of 10 activities and days out that you and your family can enjoy this Halloween.
1.Paint a Scary Canvas
Using a small canvas(these can be found in most pound shops), get your child to use their hand or footprints to make a spooky picture. They can embellish these with glitter, foam shapes, pipe cleaners and more.
2. Go Pumpkin Picking
There are many farms in the UK that have pumpkin patches open to the public. So why not take your children to pick their own pumpkins ready for decorating? Just don't forget your wellies!
Once you've picked your pumpkin your children will be desperate to start decorating them. For the older kids, challenge them to be as creative as possible with a pumpkin carving kit and for smaller fingers why not give them a box of craft goodies and even paint and let them get arty with their pumpkin
4. Make Frankenstein's Hands
A fun activity for children of all ages is making these scary Frankenstein hands. They are inexpensive enough to make that you could even hand them out to any trick or treaters. Using food safe gloves get your child/ren to put a single sweet into the tip of each finger of the glove. Then simply fill the rest of the glove with popcorn and bingo...Frankenstein's hands! Don't forget to tie the top of the glove with a ribbon or band.
5. Visit a Spooky Place
There are lots of attractions and farms that really go to town decorating and installing some fab Halloween attractions so why not take the kids to visit one. If your lucky enough to have a child free evening around Halloween then there are also adult events taking place.
Tulley's Farm have some great events taking place in October, from family fun daytime spooks to adult fright night specials, not to mention the farm shop, animal enclosure and playground and tea rooms. Everything you need for a family day out.
6. Bake up a Halloween Treat
Using Halloween coloured chocolate(green, orange, purple etc) cover plain pretzels in the melted chocolate and leave to dry on baking paper. Once you have some in each colour, put in a cellophane bag and tie with ribbon.
Make some cake pops and decorate them like eyeballs.
Make some toffee apples and get the kids to cover them in decorations of the choice.
Either bake or buy some fairy cakes and get the kids to be as creative as possible decorating them.
7. Host a Movie Night
Why not invite some friends over, close the curtains, serve up some of those Halloween treats that you made and put on some spooky films. Some favourites in our house are Hocus Pocus, The Haunted House, Scooby Doo and Harry Potter.
8. Make a Spooky Game
Get the kids to paint six 2ltr bottles white then paint on eyes in black. Paint a face on a small pumpkin and remove the green stalk. Set up the bottles like bowling pins and they'll have their very own ghostly bowling game.
9. Play Dress Up
The kids will love nothing more than getting together and dressing up in some of their favourite costumes and they don't have to be Halloween costumes. Let them paint each others faces and enjoy the fun.
10. Throw a Party
If like me you just can't resist, then just throw a Halloween bash. Get friends and family to each bring some nibbles, make some ghoulishly fun drinks and play some games. Any excuse to get everyone together and have a giggle.
Whatever you decide to do, Have Fun and Happy Halloween!
Do you have any plans for Halloween? I'd love to hear what activities and other things you get up to.
Fortunately for me, I don't have the pickiest of eaters in my children and as they are getting older they are willing to try new and different things which is fab because I love spending time in the kitchen trying out new recipes. As I have a week off this week I thought I would take advantage of all of these factors by trying out some recipes from all around the world.
Weekly Meal Planner
Piri piri chicken with spicy wedges
Thai fish curry and rice
Smoked paprika lamb chops with roasted vegetables and cous cous
Meatballs and spaghetti in pasta sauce
Beer battered cod and chips
Lasagne and salad
Jerk chicken, rice and peas, plantain and macaroni pie
Back in 2006 I made the big decision to give up a well paid job to attempt to carve out a freelance career for myself, enabling me to work from home and look after my two children. I, like a lot of people had the misconception that working from home would mean lazy days spent in my pj's, mornings at playgroups with my then 2 year old, meet ups with other mummies and their children...WRONG!!
Working from home is actually bloody hard work and I salute any parent who has managed to do this with success. The cold reality is that you have to be extremely disciplined. I found it very hard to sit down to get any work done when there were breakfast dishes to wash up, laundry to get done, a house to try and clean and general distractions.
When my daughter was born in 2002, I chose to go back to work when she was just 4 months old which meant I missed her first steps, first words and other major milestones. It was heart breaking to pick her up only to be told she had crawled, taken her first steps or done something equally memorable.
It was that horrible feeling of missing all of those things that helped me decide to take a full year of maternity leave when my son was born in 2004. It was the simple things like picnics on summer afternoons, swimming sessions, walks in the wood and baking with him that made me realise just how much I had missed with my first child and I thoroughly enjoyed being at home with him.
When the time came for me to return to work I knew it would be hard and I remember tearing up when I left them with the childminder and walked through the door.
I lasted just 5 months, I realised I couldn't do this any more. As much as I loved the money and the social aspect of my career, being away from the children for so many hours in a day was killing me.
I made the decision there and then that I would begin working from home.
To begin with I enjoyed the freedom of it all. My daughter by then was at the local school nursery fulltime and I would take my son to the park, toddler groups and all the things we had done whilst I was on maternity leave, the problem was, I wasn't on maternity leave and I had to find the time to work and try to do the housework too. Suddenly it wasn't like they make it look on film or in magazines, it was hard work. There were days when it would get to to 4pm before I had even managed to get any work done.
It did get easier when my son started nursery in January of '08 because the three hours he was at nursery I would dedicate solely to working and it seemed to work. It had taken a while but I finally found a balance and one that worked really well for the entire family.
No sooner had I got going with this working from home malarkey I found out I was expecting. That's when things took a turn for the worse, I suffered from severe morning sickness, pelvic girdle pain and towards the end my pregnancy midwife discovered that I had pre eclampsia which resulted in my son being born prematurely.
Again I took a year out to raise our latest addition and enjoyed every moment of it but I noticed that I was changing. I no longer was so career driven and my attitude and outlook on life was changing.
I wanted to stay home and bake, take on more DIY projects, make cushions and the like but bills still needed paying.
I continued to work from home after my youngest son turned 1 and found a happy medium between being a mum and working but it's not all sunshine and rainbows. It takes a lot of effort and is hard work.
Now my son is nearly 5 and has just started reception and whilst it is so much easier to get my work done during the days I feel like something is missing. My children and my family are my world, however, I feel I've lost myself a little along the way and what makes me well, me! Part of my 'journey of self discovery' has seen me enrol on a soft furnishings course which is just one day a week but its great being able to discover another side of myself and I am looking into a woodworking course.
I guess now is the time for me to decide whether to continue life as a work at home mum or go back out to work, a decision that I'm finding very difficult owing to the fact that I no longer want to work in the field I am trained in.
I've spoken to quite a few stay at home and work at home parents over the years and it seems I'm not alone. Many seem to lose themselves to some extent, attracting a label;stay at home mum/dad, husband, wife, parent and have to take time out to find themselves again.
I'm hoping that now the children are getting older and are slightly less dependent on me, I can find what makes me tick again.
Are you a stay at home or work at home parent? What are you thoughts on it?