Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Halloween - A Night of Hope

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 Vision is 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!

M xx

Monday, 28 October 2013

Tip of the Day

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!

M xx

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Trio of Monsterous Treats

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)
Milk chocolate
Red candy melts 
Blue candy melts (or you can use white chocolate and food colouring instead of red and blue melts)
Mint essence
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.

M xx

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Tip of the Day

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.

                      M xx

Thursday, 24 October 2013

What Black History Month Means to Us

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 

Mikhayla-Jae, 11
"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."

Jason-Derrecce, 9
"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."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

M xx

Monday, 21 October 2013

Children's Party or The Greatest Show on Earth?

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?

M xx

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Weekly Meal Planner

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...

Weekly Meal Planner

Sausages and mash with onion gravy

Beef Stew and dumplings

Ham, egg and chips

Tuna and sweetcorn pasta

Hot dogs and onion rings

Jacket potatoes with various fillings

One pot roast

What will be on your menu this week?

M xx

Thursday, 17 October 2013

And the redecorating continues

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?

M xx

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Forget Finding Nemo, this ones about Finding Emma

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?

M xx

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Top 10 Halloween Activities

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!
Here are some pumpkin patches around the UK

3. Decorate a Pumpkin
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.

M xx

Weekly Meal Planner

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

What are you serving up this week?

M xx

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Story of this WAHM

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?

M xx