Mama OWL Blog: 2012

Mama Owl's Big Fat Review of the Year

Monday, 31 December 2012

In January we welcomed 2012 with much hope & anticipation. Reading my post from the beginning of the year I see have spent the year doing things I said I wasn't going to, and when I raised my glass to 2013 in my previous post I have said I am not going to do it again. This time, I'm not. My health & well-being for the five people who rely on me is more important than anything else and things have to change.

February we celebrated J's 11th birthday with a big football cake, and unfortunately that was when I was also taken ill. My health scare didn't stop us enjoying Pancake day though, and all of the yumminess that came with it. I also shared what my children mean to me to raise awareness for CLIC Sargent's #dosomethingyummy campaign.

In March, the Mister and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary, and as a family we enjoyed a day at Lackham & saw all of the newborn lambs. I also made the shortlist for the BritMums Brilliance In Blogging Fresh Voice award which was a huge honour and one I am very proud of. The Mister and I took L for another hospital appointment, this time with a neurologist and were still no closer to finding out what was going on with his legs and spine.

At the beginning of April the Mister and I took the kids off on a weekend break to Torquay which was fantastic and we had such a brilliant time. We visited Woodlands Family Theme Park, Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts Torquay which are great family days out and we can't wait to go back again some time. I also found out I was nominated for a MAD Blog Award for best new MAD blog and best MAD craft blog which was another massive honour and I am honoured to have been nominated alongside so many other great blogs. To top off a fab month we also celebrated E's 2nd birthday with a Peppa Pig House cake and some family round for tea.

May rolled around and we anxiously awaited L's MRI appointment, which unfortunately clashed with the week away that the Mister had arranged for me following my hospital stay in Feb. I spent a week in Lanzarote with my best friend recharging my batteries and having a rest in the sunshine which was fabulous and much needed. Olympic fever swept the country that month and I took the kids to go and see the Olympic Torch as it passed through town which was a bit of a mission in the end after sensory overload for L but we couldn't pass up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it. The boys also started swimming lessons and have become quite accomplished little swimmers in the few months since.

In June I recounted my pregnancy experiences and remembered the best and worst bits of being a mum-to-be and also wondering why it was so hard to find some decent pants. I also had a revelation that actually, I'm not really that fat and need to stop being so hard on myself. I sat and reflected on what it was like being L's mum, what my hopes are for him and how it is for us living with Autism. The kids and I celebrated Father's Day and treated the Mister to a homemade, hand decorated cake, and remembered my Grampy a year to the day that he passed away. I shared the universal laws of sod that apply in my house, and enjoyed a family get-together for our annual Father's Day BBQ.

Welcome July, and I unfortunately got sucked into the hype that was 50 Shades of Grey. It was 50 shades of something all right, but Grey wouldn't be my first choice of word. I took a look back five years and realised how much my kids have grown up, and reflected on the day that I became a mother as we celebrated A's 14th birthday. I thought about J and how he was growing up and moving up to senior school. We also got some decorating done and revamped some of the upstairs rooms, and I considered what vomit can do to change your perspective.

August arrived and I told everyone how proud I was to be a selfish mum and invited you all to walk a mile in my shoes. As the Olympics & Paralympics were in full swing I asked what we were doing to inspire a generation. I also shared an experience of the joys of potty training. We celebrated L's 9th birthday with some moshi monster birthday cupcakes and a visit to Paulton's Park, and also took off to the beach for the day to enjoy the summer while it lasted. At the end of the month we celebrated the Mister's birthday, and I was selected to be a Toys R Us 2012 Toyologist which was just the most fun experience and such a great opportunity to review some wonderful toys and games.

On September 1st I turned 30 and to celebrate, the Mister and I headed off to Bristol for a spot of lunch & shopping, we watched the breathtaking The Lion King at the theatre, and spent the night in a hotel where we made the most of having the bed to ourselves and slept without getting kicked in the face or having a toddler lying across our necks. The kids went back to school and L surprised me & filled me with pride by eating something not on his preferred list. I also realised I needed to work with E on some of her toddler pronounciations and asked WHY? As well as sharing some of my wants.

October was a quieter time, another hospital appointment with L to review his treatment, I summed up what being a mum means to me to help raise awareness for ONEMums and shared a spooky spider web cheesecake recipe, perfect for Halloween, to go with our tips for a fun & freaky family Halloween! Then I had a think and listed all of the things that really grind my gears but also shared our happiness as we welcomed a brand new niece in to the family.

Along came November, and yet another hospital appointment for L where we were told that he would be having serial casting on both legs to try and stretch his hamstrings out, to help him walk better and to lessen the pressure on his hips. I went with A & a friend to go and watch the new Twilight Saga movie, Breaking Dawn Pt 2 at the midnight showing, and we all enjoyed a Bowling party to celebrate H's 7th birthday with all of his school friends, and had some Deadly 60 cupcakes. We started preparing for Christmas with our most wanted gift list and our Christmas meal plan, and the month was rounded off by the beginning of L's serial leg casting.

Finally it was December, Christmas was coming and we had so much planned, in addition to our weekly hospital visits for L's casting. Firstly, L & H got to meet Steve Backshall personally along with the Mister at the book signing in Bristol, I am still sulking that I had to miss out but it was amazing for them and they still go on about it now (the Mister mostly to rub my nose in it).  We decorated the house ready for the festive season and A made some Christmas gifts for friends while I made some edible gifts for teachers. We all caught the dreaded Norovirus and spent weeks suffering from it in relay but that didn't stop us enjoying our Christmas traditions when we were all better. I also reflected on how grateful I am to have my children safe with me after the devastating tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I wished you all a merry Christmas, and enjoyed a wonderful time with my family & loved ones, and invited you to join my #50Books2013 challenge.

And then, finally, I have raised my glass to you all, shared some thoughts about what I want for myself and family in 2013, and wished you a happy new year. Have a fun and safe evening, whatever you're doing and whoever you're spending it with. Lots of love and my best wishes to you and yours x

Raise Your Glass

Monday, 31 December 2012

Today is New Year's Eve, and as we all anticipate the arrival of a new year and all of the potential it holds, it is also a time to sit back and reflect on the year that was.

2012 was the year that I turned 30, and it brought a lot of things to my life, but the biggest thing it brought was perspective. As some of you may already know or have read before, in February I was blue-lighted to hospital with a suspected heart attack early one morning. Alone in the house with the children and having no idea what was happening was the single most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me. I spent the next eight days being ferried between two hospitals, hooked up to heart monitors and being put through a plethora of tests to find out what had happened to me.

Having been ill in the weeks leading up to and over Christmas and New Year with a minor but lingering flu bug, the new year came in and I continued with my usual routine that I adopt when I am ill of 'pop some pills and get on with it'. By the time early February rolled around I was starting to feel a bit better, but that was when it happened. From what I understand, my immune system had been so compromised by the seemingly innocent flu bug, that it had allowed another much more sinister virus to attack when my defences were down, which led to the Acute Myocarditis with left ventricular dysfunction.

I was treated by some fantastic doctors and specialists and am still taking medication twice a day, and have had follow up ECGs and appointments to keep an eye on my condition. I am hopeful that eventually I am going to be weaned off of the meds & can get back to a completely normal life. Unfortunately I still feel the after effects and have palpitations and chest pain, it makes me anxious because I worry about it happening again, but I was lucky and I am still alive & kicking. I don't go on about it because nobody wants to listen to me witter on about being tired or in pain, hell I don't want to listen to myself bang on about it, but it is there nonetheless. Some days I wake up feeling like I have an elbow wedged into my chest, but I get up and get on because that's what you have to do, and there is nobody to do it all for me.

So anyway, the perspective I mentioned, is that I will not take anything for granted any more. I went to bed that night a seemingly fit & healthy 29 year old and woke up to a shit storm the next morning. I spent over a week in hospital, separated from my children and husband, worrying that I had had a heart attack, and about what impact the potential damage to my heart was going to have on my life. Doctors can fix lots of things, hearts included, but if something was going to go wrong with one of my organs I have to say that my heart is not the one I would pick. If that one packs up, you're kind of fucked.

In the months that have followed I have allowed myself to slip back in to old habits. Making myself sick and tired trying to do too much, not giving myself time to get over illness or to try and make sure that anything I do pick up isn't recurring - the children, Mister and I all caught the norovirus in the weeks leading up to Christmas and all I have been able to think is that it is going to happen again. It probably won't, but it could, and having been through something that was not only traumatising for me, but for J who was aware of everything that went on that morning, it is not something that I ever want to experience again.

2013 is going to be a better year. I am going to be healthier, I am going to spend as much quality time with my children as I can, I am going to enjoy my life as best I can. When I am ill, I am going to allow myself time to get better. I am going to make my kids, my husband and myself happy. I am not going to compromise them or myself for anyone or anything, because you never know when something is going to come along and snatch it away from you. I consider what happened in February to be a warning shot and I will do everything that I have to, to prevent it happening again. I can't do everything for everyone and be everything to everybody, I'm only one person after all.

Here's to the new year, and everything that it will bring. The hope, the happiness, the joy, new life, new beginnings and a whole host of new experiences, and I hope that you will all join me in enjoying every single one of them.

So raise your glasses to 2013. May it be everything you wish for and more.

Mama Owl's #50Books2013 Challenge

Saturday, 29 December 2012

This year I decided to take part in a challenge to read 50 books in 2012. Unfortunately I fell short of my goal, quite considerably as I only made it to 24. However, the only person I am challenging is myself and while I didn't manage to reach 50, I did make more time to sit and read than I have done in recent years.

Not one to give up, I am setting myself the same challenge for 2013. I received a new Kobo eReader from the Mister for Christmas so I hope that this will help me find more time to sneak in a few pages here and there and perhaps squeeze more in.

Would you like to join me?

I would love anyone who would like to join in to link up with me, perhaps blog your book reviews if you like and share your favourites to give me (and others) inspiration for which titles to read next, I know that I am always looking for new material to sink my teeth into.

I have updated my 50 Books for 2013 Challenge tab so that you have a point of reference to come back to if you need, or to share with others if you wish. I would love to have fellow lovers of books to share the challenge with me so if you are going to join in please leave a comment and let me know!

I have made a button and you can also join in with hashtag #50Books2013 so I can find you on twitter too. It's not a race or a competition, just a gentle personal reminder to make time for ourselves to enjoy reading. There will be no set day to link up, just post & link as and when and then I will do a little monthly round-up and share your posts and anything else you would like to add. I aim to post the round-up around 28th-30th of the month so if you can get your posts to me (email or @ me on Twitter) by the 26th/27th at the latest that would be grand. I hope that some of you will join in with me.

If you would like, you can leave your blog URL here so that all participants can check back and find each other too. Thanks!

#CountryKids from @CoombeMill

Saturday, 29 December 2012

As you're all aware, it was Christmas week. Therefore, we really haven't been out as we have been busy preparing for the arrival of Father Christmas! We baked, ate, watched movies, played games, napped, snuggled and generally just enjoyed each others company in the comfort of our own home.

Next week we'll be getting out and about as there are bikes and scooters to be ridden, hopefully by then it will have stopped raining and we can enjoy some time out in the great outdoors before the children go back to school on the 8th.

So this week for #CountryKids I share with you our annual Christmas Eve activity of decorating our gingerbread house. Following an idea nabbed from many fellow bloggers on Instagram who were using the same method to make tree decorations, this year I made our house with the addition of heart shaped stained glass windows made from boiled sweets.

The kids got stuck in decorating with chocolate buttons, smarties, marshmallows and fruit gums amongst other bits & pieces and we ended up with a very beautiful and very tasty house indeed.

#R2BC - Christmas 2012

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Well that's it ladies and gents, all done and dusted for another year.

We have had a really lovely Christmas, spending time just the seven of us in our own little bubble. We welcomed visitors, we thought of those who are no longer with us and we enjoyed each others company, we ate, we baked, we laughed, the kids bickered, we were exhausted, we watched movies and ate chocolate for breakfast and lounged around in our pyjamas. It was wonderful.

I don't expect anything for Christmas these days. With so many children to buy for and being a grown up it doesn't really figure in to my expectations of Christmas, I'm happiest seeing others open and enjoy their gifts and knowing that I have made them happy, but I was surprised with some really lovely presents and I am very grateful indeed. The Mister bought me a Kobo eReader which I adore and I have been browsing titles to download and enjoy (if you have any recommendations let me know) particularly as the children are hogging all the available television sets in the house with their various DVDs and games. I also received a Bosch stand mixer for my cooking & baking from my parents, in red to match my kitchen! I got some nice smellies and make up too, vouchers and other wee bits & bobs. I honestly expected nothing, so that makes it all doubly lovely and I am thrilled to bits.

The children were spoiled rotten and received some fantastic & thoughtful presents from all of our loved ones, they are very happy little campers indeed.
My favourite gift reaction this year has to be A. Last year it was L when he received his first Skylanders game and figures. This year, it's A when she opened her tickets to see One Direction in concert in 2013. We made her a card with 1D on the front that said "We couldn't fit them in your Christmas stocking..." and inside read "So how about two tickets to see them in concert instead?" with the date, venue and her seat numbers. She is over the moon, she started laughing and then crying which made the months of keeping it secret worth it, just for that face.

Tonight we've got my parents coming round for dinner and we're having Boxing Day take two as the Mister went to watch Man Utd at Old Trafford & A was out with her boyfriend's family, so we're continuing with the festive spirit for as long as possible.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas with those who mean the most to you, and that it was happy and memorable (for all the right reasons!).

Roll up for Christmas leftovers

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas is over... The mince pies are gone, the sweetie tubs are half full of empty wrappers and the ones nobody really likes, and the fridge is full of leftovers. Instead of planning to make things with the leftovers, before forgetting and then finally binning it all which is a terrible waste, why not try out these delicious recipes from Kingsmill using their soft white, 50/50 or tasty wholemeal rolls which are currently available in limited edition Christmas packs.

My plan had been to try out the fantastic Pigs in Blankets under a Duvet recipe, however the pigs in blankets failed to make it to the fridge before my pigs in onesies scoffed them all, so I settled for a tasty wholemeal roll stuffed with slices of cold turkey & stuffing and smothered in cranberry sauce which really hit the spot.

Former England rugby captain and Celebrity MasterChef winner Phil Vickery has come up with some tasty recipes to make the most of your Christmas leftovers using Kingsmill's tasty selection of rolls, why not give them a go...

Pigs in Blankets Under a Duvet
- 1 Kingsmill 50/50 Roll, cut in half
- 1 tbsp Mayonnaise
- 3 (or 4, depending on size) cooked cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon (leftover from Christmas dinner)
- A few finely cut slices of cooked red onion
- 2 tsp of Cranberry sauce
- Juice of 1/4 lemon

METHOD makes one roll
- Lightly toast the roll under a moderate grill and cool slightly
- Spread the mayonnaise on to both halves of the roll
- Place the pigs in blankets on top of one half of the roll
- Place the onion slices on top of the pigs in blankets
- Loosen the cranberry sauce with the lemon juice and spoon this over the pigs in blankets
- Put the other half slice of roll on top, press down and eat!

You can always add a few slices of turkey to that recipe for a really yummy sandwich. Or if you've got a little leftover beef, why not give this one a try...

Beef & Stilton roll with Watercress
- 1 Kingsmill Soft White roll, cut in half
- 1 small slice of Stilton or similar blue cheese, crumbled
- 2 tsp creme fraiche
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- 1 generous slice of cold roast beef
- Small handful of washed watercress
- Freshly cracked black pepper

METHOD makes one roll
- Lightly toast the roll under a moderate grill and cool slightly
- Mash the Stilton with a fork, and mix in with the creme fraiche and lemon juice
- Use this to spread on the cut sides of both roll halves
- Place the slice of beef on one roll half and season with black pepper
- Top with the watercress and place the second half of toasted roll on top, press down and eat!

** Disclaimer: Kingsmill sent the soft white and tasty wholemeal rolls free of charge for my family to review. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

I hope that all of my readers, subscribers, followers, likers, fellow bloggers and PRs have all had a wonderful Christmas and have spent it surrounded by friends, family and loved ones, maybe with a few fab pressies as an added bonus!

We have had a lovely, peaceful few days and would like to thank everyone who made it that way.

Merry Christmas, and a happy new year to all
x x x

Christmas Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 24 December 2012

Monday 24th December, Tuesday 25th December, Wednesday 26th December - Refer to the Christmas 2012 Meal Plan for all of our festive fare!

Thursday 27th December, Friday 28th December, Saturday 29th December, Sunday 30th December - And as for the rest of the week, no idea! I imagine we'll be living off leftovers and doing a bit of freezer diving which suits me.

Merry Christmas everyone,
from our house to yours xx

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post

#CountryKids from @CoombeMill

Saturday, 22 December 2012

At this time of year I am sure my kids would rather it was snowing than absolutely chucking it down with rain (not me I have to say, I am most definitely not a fan of snow) but sometimes you just have to work with what you've got and what better way to make the most of the rain than by pulling on your rain suit & rainbow wellies and jumping up and down in puddles!

myStyle Gorgeous Girly Cushions, Waggle Tagz, Shrinking Animals, myStyle Shrink Craft Jewellery [Toyologist Reviews #24, #25, #26 & #27]

Friday, 21 December 2012

myStyle Gorgeous Girly Cushions

A loves to sew and make things (I don't know where she gets it from, I can't sew to save my life) and was thrilled when I handed her the myStyle Gorgeous Girly Cushions kit to try out.

Initially she was rather fascinated by the vacuum packed cushions and insisted on being the one to free them from their plastic. She then set about sewing the largest cushion cover design template as a Christmas gift for a friend of hers.

The myStyle Gorgeous Girly Cushions kit is recommended for ages 8+ and is priced at £14.99. As with the other myStyle design products we have reviewed, we have found their colour instruction manuals to be very thorough but still easy to understand, and very well illustrated.

The kit provides enough materials to create three cushions, and also teaches basic sewing methods (I will be having a look at these myself I think...) with pre-cut felt pieces to make the covers. A good value for money kit, that will keep your budding seamstresses busy for hours while they work on their creations.

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the myStyle Gorgeous Girly Cushions kit free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

Waggle Tagz

Waggle Tagz is a mock laminating craft kit that enables your child to decorate and personalise their own little identity tags to attach to bags, pencil cases or perhaps to give to their friends as a little token gift. H & E tried this out with me, E wanted to make her own tag with the guinea pig design as she found the fact that it was wearing glasses & lipstick hilarious, and H liked the crazy cat design.

You need to un-peel the sticky plastic on one side and load it in to the machine, along with your chosen printed image above it. Then you have to turn the handle clockwise to 'laminate' your tag, before popping it on to a strap so you can attach it to your bag. We found that it jammed several times, and after a few unsuccessful attempts with one tag we decided to just stick it together ourselves without using the machine.

This kit contains several large & small image cards along with a sheet of stickers for personalisation & decoration, as well as the instructions to accompany the machine and the straps to attach to the tags. I do think it is a good concept and that it will appeal to little crafty types, but the 'machine' is rather temperamental and after a while we just stopped using it and made them by hand because it was easier. Waggle Tagz is priced at £19.99, recommended for ages 6+ and available now from Toys R Us.

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the Waggle Tagz free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

Shrinking Animals

What a great rainy day activity this is! Galt Shrinking Animals is a fab little craft kit that allows you to create your own key rings, magnets and badges using the magic of shrinking plastic.

All you do is colour in your chosen animal, then cut it out and pop in the oven for one minute to shrink! It is super simple with no mess, H and I sat down one afternoon after school when it was bucketing down outside and we made some key rings together which he is going to give to his friends at school as little Christmas gifts, he's so proud of having made them himself too.

The kit contains all you need to make 4 badges, 4 key rings and 4 magnets, and includes 4 sheets of shrinking paper, 8 pencil crayons, 24 wiggly eyes, 4 key chains, 4 badge pins, a magnetic strip, sticky pads and the instructions. Priced at £6.99 this kit is cheap & cheerful but lots of fun and a really nice easy activity with no mess to clean up afterwards. A great idea for a stocking filler!

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the Shrinking Animals kit free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

myStyle Shrink Craft Jewellery

A was in charge of testing the myStyle Shrink Craft Jewellery kit, and as with the myStyle Deluxe Charm Bracelets kit we reviewed, she decided to put it to good use by making gifts for her friends.

She decided to start off by making a pendant. This kit contains several plain sheets of shrinking plastic with templates for you to draw around available in the back of the instruction book. All of the instructions are clear and simple to understand, well illustrated and easy to follow. Having already reviewed another shrinking plastic kit, we were well practised on the baking/shrinking method and A produced a beautiful pendant which is a Christmas gift for a friend.

The myStyle Shrink Craft Jewellery kit contains enough to create nine pieces of jewellery including pendants, earrings, rings and cuff bracelets although unfortunately it does not come with any pens or pencils, which I do think would have been beneficial to the kit.

It is recommended for ages 8 years plus, and is priced at £12.99.

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the myStyle Shrink Craft Jewellery kit free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

Mama Owl's #FestivePlaylist

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas time is upon us once again and many of us will be attending parties or heading out for drinks with friends, or enjoying a glass or two at home with family. Coca-cola have teamed up with BritMums to let people know about their special designated driver program, to promote the positive role that soft drinks can play as an alternative to alcohol. If you are the designed driver this Christmas, you can use Coca-Cola's interactive pub finder and find places that offer 2-for-1 Coke and Diet Coke to enjoy while you are out with friends.

To help promote Coca-Cola's campaign, I'm taking part in this #FestivePlaylist linky and sharing with you my top five favourite festive tunes.

Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas

I'm sorry, I know it's cheesy... But it isn't Christmas unless you've tunelessly belted out a bit of Mariah Carey under the mistaken impression that you sound anything like her. Unless you're me, because I of course do. (BTW... All the Mister wants for Christmas is earplugs).

The Pogues - Fairytale of New York

This song never fails to make me laugh, who doesn't love a Christmas song that involves the word 'scumbag'? An absolute Christmas classic and right up there as a favourite of mine.

Wham! - Last Christmas

Last Christmas (okay, a few Christmases ago) I gave this song my heart and it's never given it away. The video alone is reason enough to love this song. The hair... the jumpers... Utter brilliance.

Bing Crosby - White Christmas

As inaccurate as it is (I would never dream of a white Christmas, that would be more like a nightmare for a snow hater like me), there is just something beautiful and magical about this song. The classics are always the best and there is nobody quite like Bing, except for...

Frank Sinatra - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This song reminds me of my Grampy, and on our second Christmas without him I will be listening to this and remembering him & my Nan when I light their candle on Christmas Eve.

Make sure you have a happy and safe Christmas and New Year, don't drink and drive. Designate your driver, and check out the Coca-Cola campaign to find your nearest participating pub. Holidays are coming!

This post is my entry for the BritMums #FestivePlaylist linky.

#R2BC - A reason to be grateful.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

This week, I am grateful that the only thing that I am planning is the final details for our family Christmas, and not a child's funeral.

Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, USA almost a week ago, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and friends of all of the victims across the Atlantic. I cannot even begin to fathom your grief or find the words to express my sorrow for what has happened. I have been thinking of you all, and my children and I have been lighting candles in the memory of your loved ones. We have never met you, but we have been touched by your devastating loss. Please know that you are in our thoughts.

May they rest in peace. Sleep tight.

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, 47
Rachel D'Avino, 29
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27

Traditionally Ours

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

We have lots of Christmas traditions, many of which I have carried on from my own childhood but some that we have started together and that I hope my children will one day continue with their own kids (many many many years from now!). There is no such thing as 'the perfect Christmas' but this is what makes ours special to us.

On December 1st, we put up our Christmas decorations. To some that may seem early, but we mark the first day of Advent by doing so as well as opening the first window on our calendars, and we sit and watch a festive film together when we're done. This year the boys chose Elf which is a firm favourite in our house (and one they will still be quoting well into the new year). Putting it up on December 1st also sets the mood for the month, I don't want them to think Christmas is a chore for the Mister & I, not putting the tree up until the last minute and then taking it down as soon as we can. I want to make it as enjoyable as I can for them and if that means having a six foot tree and a few miles worth of garlands, paper chains and strings of plastic beads festooning the living room for a month then so be it. When they're all grown up and gone it will be a quieter affair, so for now we are going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Throughout December we try and fit in crafty things, whether it is making paper chains or tree decorations, baking Christmassy treats or making and gift wrapping presents and writing our cards, we make the effort to do something one or two times a week in the run up to Christmas day. I saw a graphic doing the rounds this week that says "Sometimes we're all too quick to count down the days that we forget to make the days count" which are my thoughts exactly.
On Christmas Eve, we get up and have a decadent family breakfast of pancakes and waffles with various toppings, and spend the day watching movies (Home Alone 1 & 2 are good ones, and my kids are huge Jim Carrey fans & absolutely love The Grinch) and getting the last few bits & pieces ready for the next day. In the afternoon we bake our chocolate candy cane cookies together and then decorate our home-made Gingerbread house with treats and goodies, so that we can break bits off to munch over the following few days! I set up the table with bowls full of sweets and icing and let them get on with it. It's not always the prettiest or neatest house but they have a great time making it and an even better time eating it and that's what is important.

Later that evening we enjoy a Mexican buffet dinner of chicken fajitas, quesadillas and tortillas with some delicious desserts, before heading upstairs to have baths & showers ready for bed time. During bathtime, we are visited by the Elves (and it cannot possibly be the Mister or myself, because we are both upstairs bathing the kids...) who leave a present for each of the children under the tree, as well as one that looks suspiciously like it could be a DVD... Previous years titles have included Inkheart, the Harry Potter boxset and Mr Popper's Penguins. This year it *might* be Arthur Christmas, I think I heard an Elf mention something about it...

The present that the Elves leave under the tree is a brand new pair of PJs each for the kids to wear to bed on Christmas Eve, this is a tradition carried on from my own childhood, mum & dad always got us new jammies to wear to bed so it's one that I have been keen to keep going and is very important to me. This year the Elves are bringing onesies for all of them, because we thought it would be rather amusing. The Elves also leave a present on the kitchen table, of hot chocolate stirrers and brand new Disney mugs featuring their favourite characters to have their bedtime drink in while they eat the cookies they baked that afternoon.
After the movie, we set out mince pies and carrots for Father Christmas & his reindeer before everyone hangs up their stocking and settles down to sleep for the night, ready for the next morning when they will wake up (bright & early no doubt) to see what Father Christmas has left under the tree!

With less than a week to go, are you all ready for Christmas? What are your Christmas traditions?

Why not head over to the BritMums blog and link up your Christmas posts, too!

Redakai Championship Pack, TRA Weaponizer, KRE-O Battleship Alien Strike & Moshi Monsters Bobble Bot House & Figure [Toyologist Reviews #20, #21, #22 & #23]

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Redakai Championship Pack

L & H were keen to get the Redakai Championship Pack out and have a game, they love to play together but are quite competitive so this definitely appealed to them.

To be frank, I found the rules & how-to a little confusing initially as the instruction leaflet is quite 'involved' and I know zero about how these games work, the children are far more well versed in these matters! In basic terms, it is a game of skill & tactics in which your game cards (character, monster and attack) are stacked to complete 'attacks' on your opponent. You need to defeat three of your opponent's cards to win.
The cards are very aesthetically pleasing, the 3D effects are outstanding and excellent quality, made of sturdy plastic to withstand lots of play time. The Redakai series will appeal to girls & boys who are fans of collectibles as there is plenty available to buy.

The Redakai Championship Pack is available from Toys R Us priced at £24.99 and is recommended for ages 6+, and will probably require an adult to sit with younger children initially to explain how everything works and help set it up. The pack includes 43 X-Drives (cards), Draw Deck, Card Screen with 2 Kairu counters and Battlefield.

My boys have enjoyed playing this game together, and this is a great starter pack for this series.

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the Redakai Championship Set free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

TRA Weaponizers

Big fans of Transformers, L & H were beyond delighted to find this Optimus Prime Transformers Prime Weaponizer in our third box from Toys R Us, which is recommended for ages 5+ and is priced at £34.99.

H took it upon himself to test this one out and he has thoroughly enjoyed playing with it, he did find it a little tricky to 'transform' initially when it first came out of its box, but after going through the (somewhat complicated) instructions with the Mister he is now a dab hand at it and can easily manage it himself.

The Weaponizer is 4-in-1 and can be played with in robot or vehicle mode, it has built in weapons with light up cannons to allow you to switch between weaponized & standard mode for both robot and vehicle, and there are also other Transformers Weaponizers to collect.

A big hit with my little man, and it has been well played with since it came out of the box by both L & H (and E when she can sneak it away!). It receives a big thumbs up from the Mama Owl household, we think that this will be a sure fire favourite for any Transformers fan this Christmas.

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the TRA Weaponizer free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

KRE-O Battleship Alien Strike

Uncle M joined us once again to build the KRE-O Battleship Alien Strike after he enjoyed making the first one so much, and it was L's turn this time to oversee the construction of this model.

It is a large kit with 277 KRE-O pieces, and the end product is an alien ship and firing weapons to use with the 4 KREON figures also included. Uncle M & L spent an evening at the kitchen table building this together using the instructions. There are lots of small pieces and it was quite time consuming but the result was a good little model that can be built & rebuilt and will provide plenty of entertainment and play time.

It is priced at £24.99, and I think it is good value for money, it is recommended for ages 7+ and is available now from Toys R Us. We think that this kit makes an ideal gift for construction fans (and their Uncles!), perhaps as a companion to the KRE-O Battleship Combat Chopper. Very much enjoyed by L (and H who has of course had a play with it too) though we did find it a little fiddly, so we give this four stars.

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the KRE-O Battleship Alien Strike free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

Bobble Bot Moshi Monsters House & Figure

The Moshi Monsters Bobble Bot House & figurine have been a huge hit with my youngest three, and indeed the older two have had their turn playing with them as well!

The house set includes one very rare moshling, Oddie (#88), as well as 4 cobblestone building tiles, 10 brick borders, garden patch, grass patches, a Scarecrow, flowers, a small bush, mushrooms, and weeds & rocks. The house also includes one foundation building tile, a door, roof, one shelf accessory as well as 3 house walls with different patterns in order for you to design your own layout. The battery operated moshlings can then 'bobble' around the garden of their own accord. There are several sets currently available and enable you to add on to and create your own little Monstro city for your moshlings to live in and explore.

The Bobble Bot figurine pack includes one 5cm tall moshling (Kissy pictured above), and also a Rox code to use online. Moshi Monsters Bobble Bots are not recommended for children under the age of 3 due to small parts, however I did play with this with E and she thoroughly enjoyed watching Oddie & Kissy jiggle around the garden. The Bobble Bot figurines are priced at £5.99 each.

Moshi Monsters Bobble Bots are highly collectible and a must-have this Christmas for any Moshi Monsters fans, a definite thumbs up from my little Owlets.

** Disclaimer: Toys R Us sent the Bobble Bot Moshi Monster House & Figure free of charge for my family to review as part of the 2012 TRU Toyologist program. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.
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