Mama OWL Blog: January 2013

#R2BC - Reasons to be Cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 31 January 2013

As if it's Thursday again already! Where did this week go? Mind you, I'll be glad to see the back of January so I shan't complain too much.

This week hasn't really brought much with it in all honesty. It's been pretty quiet and unremarkable which really is how I prefer things. I'm not one of those people who has to be busy all the time, going here and there and making plans & doing something every single day - I am far too laid-back for that sort of thing. I like to be organised, not crazy busy, and frankly five children and the household keeps me busy enough as it is without making more work for myself!

Reasons to be cheerful this week... Hmm. Well, the car is fixed. Sort of. It's running again, thanks to the small fortune that has needed to be spent on it to get it road worthy - bloody thing. Like my mother has said (bless her, she's got a way with words), if it has tyres or t€sticles it will give you bother and she's not wrong. BUT, anyway - it's all done and going again so that is definitely something to be celebrated.

Next Tuesday is J's 12th birthday. I can't believe I have kids this old? I'm still only like, 22? Ha! I've got to crack on with his cake this weekend so it's all ready for his big day, and hopefully - all things continuing to go well, ie; the car - at the end of next week we'll go off out for an evening for a meal to celebrate.

My #50Books2013 January round-up is complete and I am so pleased to have so many people taking part in it with me, it's really lovely to share my love of books with other like-minded people and to get ideas for new titles to read. It's been great and I am loving all of the reviews so far, I'm looking forward to continuing on throughout the year and seeing how far we all get.

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week? Be sure to link up with Michelle and to share the love with all taking part! I had a few link up issues with last week's #R2BC thanks to a disagreement between linkytools & my security software but hopefully I'll not have the same problem this week. Thanks for reading x

#50Books2013 - January Round-Up

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Welcome all, and thank you so much to everyone who has joined in with the challenge. It's great to have you on board and I've really enjoyed reading your reviews and getting some inspiration for new titles to read. As I mentioned before I only managed 24 books last year but I hope with the help of my new e-reader I will be able to spend more of my spare time (not that I get much of it) reading instead of just vegging out in front of the television.

Remember - it's not a race or a competition, simply a personal goal for ourselves to spur us on and encourage our love of reading! You don't have to join in all the time either, or write really detailed posts. Whatever you want & have time for is fine by me, there are no rules! I will try and get round to everyone's posts and tweets but if you want to make sure that I definitely get to them then just pop them in an email to me.

I've currently on my ninth book (The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne) and I have reviewed books 1-3 and books 4-7, featuring titles by Jodi Picoult, Alyson Noel and Eowyn Ivey amongst others. I've really pushed myself to spend more time reading instead of watching tv and I have found that it's really helped with my insomnia too which is a huge bonus.

Sarah from Ups & Downs, Smiles & Frowns has reviewed her recent reads, including Another Forgotten Child by Cathy Glass. I have read only one of CG's books before but I fully intend on reading more, they are very harrowing stories about children she has fostered but like Sarah says in her review, they are real eye openers. Quite an eclectic mix of titles in Sarah's reviews this month, definitely worth taking a look ;)

This Day I Love's Leyla has read Michael Cargill's Shades of Grey, a compilation of three short stories which Leyla describes as 'gripping' and highly recommends, check out her review and decide for yourself.

Soph's had an epic reading month and has read 11 books so far, excellent work! You can find her (very informative) reviews at Ignoring Life, most recently The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford.

Jo has shared her reviews with us at Ojo's World - her first ever reviews of anything! Excellent reviews they are too, including titles by Andrew Mayne & Katia Lief, that Jo says are real page-turners.

Emma has linked up and shared her views on three books this month, you can find her reviews at Emma's Little World and find out what she thought about titles from Carole Matthews, Cathy Kelly & Sheila O Flanagan.

Shay (and Family!) has shared her January reads with us, including Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Shay has given it five stars and highly recommends it so it is definitely going to be added to my reading list.

Sara at mumturnedmom has taken on a 900 page epic to kick off her #50Books2013 challenge, see what she has to say about it in her first review post.

Mama, You Talk? has crossed off three books for January, starting her year with The Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins. See what Ellen thought about them and share your own opinions on them with her - may the odds be ever in your favour!

Emma from Bubbablue and Me has racked up seven reads for her January update, mixing it up with chick lit, crime and psychological thrillers and has found some great freebie reads on Kindle, check out her reviews and recommendations.

Have you written a book review for #50Books2013 or have a title that you would like to recommend? Join in with the linky below and share it with us.

If you would like to be included in next month's round-up please be sure to email me your links by February 26th. Thank you, and thanks for joining in and taking part in the challenge with us.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 28 January 2013

Monday 28th January - Baked cannelloni

Tuesday 29th January - Baked bean lasagne

Wednesday 30th January - Sticky chicken with rice & vegetables

Thursday 31st January - Cottage pie

Friday 1st February - Chicken enchiladas

Saturday 2nd February - Cheesy broccoli & penne bake

Sunday 3rd February - Roast lamb with rosemary

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner

#R2BC - Reasons to be Cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Saturday, 26 January 2013

I'm a couple of days late, I realise. However, this week I've just been feeling really blah and not in the mood to celebrate anything. No particular reason, just a case of the Mondays that unfortunately lasted all week.

I think it must have been the snow because I can't bloody stand the stuff after the first day and it put me on a downer. It's all gone now and the sun is shining, it's a lot milder and frankly I am in a much better mood because of it. I am not a winter person at all.

My reason to be cheerful (it took me a while to come up with something, due to the grumps) is that I have at last found my motivation. The 'oompf' that all but vanished after my spell in hospital last year which led me to gain weight due to not being allowed to exercise and also in large part to laziness & self pity has returned and I have grabbed it and am running with it.

On Wednesday I weighed myself and nearly fell over, I knew I'd gained weight (chosen to ignore it, Winter padding and all that) but I didn't realise how much and I had avoided the scales at all costs. What you don't know can't hurt you after all. However, realising that that was rather stupid I dusted off the scales and stepped on... Wow! Admittedly it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it was really irresponsible of me to just eat whatever I wanted without exercising like I used to.

So since Wednesday I have been back on the wagon proper and I had a cheeky sneak peek at the scales this morning (which I promised myself I would not do but I couldn't resist, just this once) and am pleased that I am already 3.5lb down. My mojo is back and I am going to take full of advantage of it and get back to feeling like I did when I wrote this post. I know I'm not fat, but the Winter padding has to go - & go it shall!

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week? Link up with Michelle and join in the bloghop.

(I've been trying to link up but I think there's something wrong on the linkytools site because my security software goes crazy when I click the link. So I hope everyone finds me without the linky!)

Books 4-7 #50Books2013

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Welcome to my second review post for #50Books2013, don't forget that I will be posting a round-up of everyone's progress at the end of the month, & links to some of your reviews. If you would like to, email me links to your posts (details on contact page) for them to be included.

As I said before, 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 reviews 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 by the 26th/27th at the latest that would be great. You don't even have to review the books if you don't want to, just write a list of what you've read if you like! It's up to you, there are no rules. If you don't manage to get your post to me, I've decided to add a linky widget at the bottom of the round-up so you can add all of your reviews there.

I won't be going into great detail about the plots of the books as I'd hate to spoil them for anyone else who wants to read them, so I'll be keeping mostly to just sharing my opinion on them rather than describing what happens, for the benefit of others.

Book 4 - The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

As expected from JP, this is a heavy & deeply unsettling story about the rape of a 14 year old girl, told mostly from the perspective of her father. It is captivating & highly emotional and it really struck a chord with me, as the mother of a 14 year old girl myself. Moving and thought-provoking.

Book 5 - Between The Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

I bought this for A for her birthday last year, as she is also a fan of JP and I thought as this is a YA novel it would appeal to her. This first foray into YA for JP is a collaboration with her teenage daughter, and this is a really sweet fairytale that will definitely appeal to the teen readers. A pleasant story with a happy ending, but not something that will necessarily call to fans of JP's usual offering.

Book 6 - Soul Seekers - Fated by Alyson Noel

Another of A's YA novels that I have swiped, and to my surprise I really enjoyed it. Of the paranormal genre, Fated is the first book in AN's new series, Soul Seekers which introduces us to Daire Lyons-Santos & her life as a soul seeker. Vivid descriptions that really set the scene and an original plot, I thought it was a good book with an interesting premise and I am keen to continue and read the rest of the series to see where AN takes it.

Book 7 - Soul Seekers - Echo by Alyson Noel

After finishing Fated I had to download Echo and I'm pleased to say that I wasn't disappointed, though I was a little confused by the end and I am rather intrigued to find out what happens next. Echo is the second instalment of the Soul Seekers series & follows Daire as she discovers more about her powers as learns how to use & control them to overcome the evil from the darker characters in the story. It's not a literary masterpiece but it is enjoyable.

Wake Up to Farmhouse #BreakfastWeek

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

One of the favourite meals in this house is 'brinner', which means 'breakfast for dinner'. It almost always makes it in to the meal plan each week because the kids absolutely love egg & bacon, so when Denhay Farms offered us the opportunity to try the Denhay ‘Ultimate Breakfast Box’ packed with breakfast goodies to celebrate Farmhouse Breakfast Week (20th-26th January) we couldn't pass it up.

Our hamper contained Denhay dry cured unsmoked bacon, spoiltpig pork sausages with black pepper & mixed spices, Clarence Court Burford Brown eggs and baby button mushrooms accompanied by Tracklements Tomato Ketchup & Smoked Chipotle Salsa and a bottle of HP Sauce (perfect for a bacon sandwich!) - all we need to whip up a hearty full English breakfast!
Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, so why not experiment and try out new ideas and recipes to prevent falling into a breakfast rut. Maybe try a sausage & salsa roll, or some french toast with bacon & mushrooms - check out the Farmhouse Breakfast Week breakfast recipes for inspiration.

Bacon is at the heart of a great British breakfast, and Denhay's award winning bacon is made using only British outdoor bred pork, cured by hand with sea salt & matured slowly with no added water to ensure it remains full flavoured & succulent, and spoiltpig sausages are produced using pork approved by Freedom Food to strict RSPCA standards. The Clarence Court eggs are some of the best eggs we have ever tasted, but don't take my word for it, try it all for yourself and you will see just what I mean!

We're looking forward to trying out the Salsa with our fajitas this Friday, but it would also make a great addition to a breakfast wrap for a new twist on a traditional breakfast. See what new creations you can come up with!

** Disclaimer: Denhay Farms sent the Ultimate Breakfast Box free of charge for my family to review. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the products.

  • For more information on Denhay and spoiltpig products please visit
  • Denhay dry cured bacon is available in smoked or unsmoked, back or streaky at Waitrose and Sainsbury’s stores nationwide from £2.99 for a 200g pack.
  • spoiltpig sausages are available at Ocado in Pork & Herb with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and Pork sausages with black pepper and mixed spices (£2.89 for 6 sausages/400g).
  • spoiltpig bacon is available in Morrisons and Tesco stores at £2.89/184g pack.
  • For more information about Farmhouse Breakfast Week visit
  • Tracklements sauces and salsas are available from £2.85 from major retailers and at
  • Clarence Court eggs are available at high street retailers and independent stores. Please visit for a full list of stockists.

Teen trials & tribulations

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Give me toddlers over teenagers, any day. After having to give J the third degree when he has yet again waltzed through the door over an hour after when I was expecting him, and sitting up until almost 2am waiting for A to come back from a concert (that she refused to wear a coat or hat on the way to) after reading cryptic status updates like 'CRYING MY EYES OUT' (with joy, at being at the concert, which she did not say) I honestly find them quite exhausting at times. When my kids were smaller I used to complain about my lack of sleep & living room strewn with toys and think to myself  "when they are bigger it will get easier".

It doesn't.

They are equally as untidy as they were when they were smaller, and frankly the strops and flip-outs over nothing get worse. Your two year old breakdancing & wailing like a banshee in the middle of the living room floor because they can't have a biscuit? Imagine a teenager doing the same thing over a concert/wearing a coat/going to youth club/getting a lift somewhere. Like a toddler, but a lot bigger and a lot more difficult to reason with BECAUSE YOU ARE THE WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD AND THEY HATE YOU AND THEY ALWAYS HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING.

This actually happens. This is not an exaggeration. The hormones arrive like a tsunami and soon enough Cbeebies & CITV will be replaced with emo screamo (buy ear plugs) & boy bands, and mascara so thick you'll actually be impressed by their ability to hold their eyelids open, and gangs of boys lounging around the living room or roaming the kitchen eating everything in sight. They won't wear a coat when it's cold outside because that's not the thing to do, they'd rather freeze, frankly.
They will try their luck whenever they can, they will stay in bed until they absolutely have to get up (and even then you'll probably contemplate setting fire to the bed just to see if it makes them move any quicker), you will have to ask them more than once to do pretty much anything and even though you will ruin their life on at least a weekly basis you will still be required to drive them and their friends around & fund whatever expedition they're off on, because you know they 'love you soooo much and will do everything they're told and tidy their room pleeeeeaassseeee daddy/mummy'.

I know that some of you will sit back and read this thinking "Ha! MY child will never do this, my child is too good/respectful/mature/well behaved to EVER do anything like that and besides which I would NEVER put up with it". You'll gaze lovingly at your rosy-cheeked angel playing quietly with their toys and think that this will never happen, not to your little cherub. You will laugh at the mere idea of your demure, obedient child not doing as they're told or answering back or pitching a full blown fit because they can't have their own way.

Well laugh now, and enjoy it. It won't be quite so funny when you're witnessing it first hand, because you will, even if your little angel only ever does it once, they will do it. Those of us who have been there won't laugh at you, or say I told you so. We'll just think it quietly to ourselves.

Because we told you so.

Say it with Cake

Monday, 21 January 2013

One of my favourite things in the world is cake. Chocolate, coffee (if you're taking notes, those are my favourite), carrot, vanilla... All cake, any cake, as long as it is made of cake.

Actually not fruit cake. Any cake except fruit cake.

Anyway - the clever people at Baker Days have come up with what could be the best idea since the wheel. Or close enough.


So simple it's genius. You want to send a gift by post, but something small enough to fit through the letterbox and that won't die on the way/on the doorstep/at the neighbours, or indeed require you to have to alert the recipient to its arrival to ensure safe delivery... Then send cake.

Cakes for all occasions with 300 designs to choose from, and you can even personalise it with a pic & some text, or - quite brilliantly - a whole photo upload where you could have the kids draw a picture, then snap a shot of it and voila, edible kid art for the grandparents or whoever else would appreciate such a thoughtful gift.
personalised cake by post
The fantastic (and very apt) Lovebirds cake featuring these two lovely Owls, one of their many Valentines designs, dropped on to my doorstep and remained intact, even when I dropped it again just to make sure.

Baker Days personalised my cake with 'kids' because I figured I would have to share (hmpf... however they really are the best critics to have around for a cake test, they tell it like it is) and also included a mini-gift of some love hearts sweets (which E swiped) and a little card, and the cake arrived in a lovely round tin with 'Just For You' embossed on the front, perfect for a Valentines gift.

I cut up the cake and shared it out between the seven of us, and I am pleased to be able to say that the sponge was light, moist and fluffy, not at all dry (which admittedly I had suspected it could be after 'travelling') and that the icing was delicious, we all enjoyed a couple of small pieces each.

A great idea for a gift by post, but I recommend hiding to eat it so you don't have to share it with the kids...

** Disclaimer: Baker Days sent the Valentines cake free of charge for me to review. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the products.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 21 January 2013

Monday 21st January - Cauliflower cheese

Tuesday 22nd January - Roast chicken with mixed vegetables & new potatoes

Wednesday 23rd January - Brinner* (for ease, as tween & mister will be at football training - weather permitting!)

Thursday 24th January - Spaghetti Bolognese

Friday 25th January - Chicken fajitas

Saturday 26th January - Cottage pie, topped with vegetable mash

Sunday 27th January - Roast with pork chops

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner

#CountryKids from @CoombeMill

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Given the recent weather I think my contribution to #CountryKids this week was rather predictable, here are my two youngest having fun out in the snow with their dad this weekend.

As nice as it was when it first fell - lovely to play in and take photos of - now it is icy or slushy, filthy and a pain in the backside. Time for the rain so everything can get back to normal please!

#R2BC - Reasons to be Cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 17 January 2013

To be honest this week has had its ups and downs. Once or twice it has reduced me to tears but not all of them sad tears. Some days are just crap, but then the great days can more than make up for it.

1. Our family holiday is now booked, and we'll be off to Parkdean Warmwell later on this year. I booked it for the bargain price of £68.40 for the seven of us for three nights thanks to collecting The Sun holiday vouchers. The exact same holiday booked direct without the vouchers is £642. Yep. I know. Definitely smiling about that one!

2. Our car decided to die the other day, while the Mister was driving the boys to school. I am NOT cheerful about that, or the amount it is going to cost to fix (and even that might not fix it, depending on how extensive the damage is, which won't be clear until the initial - expensive - repair is done) or the fact that I had to hand over the money I had been saving to go to the BritMums Live conference in June to the Mister, to put towards repairing it. BUT - What I am cheerful about is that I have a Fairy Blogmother (as I like to refer to them) who has sponsored me & enabled me to attend the conference. I can't thank them enough, I am so grateful. Their kindness & generosity towards me, a stranger, brought me to tears and proved that there are some truly wonderful people in the world. There are definitely Angels among us! I am so excited to attend BML for the first time with Jo from Ojo's World (my 'cousin-in-law') where we will also be celebrating her 40th birthday. I am so looking forward to meeting lots of lovely bloggers in person at last.

3. L restarted his swimming lessons this week after his serial leg casting at the end of last year and of course Christmas & New Year. His previous teacher left during the festive season which we unfortunately only found out about last week after some miscommunication, but the pool arranged for a new teacher for his lessons and he has met & accepted her. He had some initial reservations because she was someone new, but the pool managing to keep his lesson on the same day & time has meant it hasn't been too disruptive for him, and he seems to be all right with it. Fingers crossed it will continue!

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week? Pop over to #R2BC host & creator Michelle's blog and link up your post.

#TheGallery : New

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Tara's #TheGallery linky is back after a well deserved break for the festive period, so don't forget to hop on over & link up and maybe share some comment love too.

The theme this week is 'New', and of course I had to share a picture of Florence (Flo), the new addition to our family. She's settled in so well and seems happy with us, and the kids are loving her to bits. She charges around like she owns the place and sleeps wherever she likes, mostly choosing the sofa, as you can see.

Aunt Bessie's Roast Potatoes

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

This is a sponsored post.

Regular readers will know that we always have a roast dinner every week. The Mister is the Sunday chef in our house because it's my "day off" from the cooking, and he lovingly cooks our traditional roast to perfection while the rest of us put our feet up and enjoy the day of rest.

The Mister's favourite part of a Roast, aside from the joint of meat of course, is the roast potatoes. They have to be lovely & crisp on the outside, and light & fluffy on the inside and his absolute favourite type of 'roastie' is one that has been basted in duck fat. Normally something that we'd reserve for Christmas time, the duck fat roastie is a weekly visitor to our dinner table now & is a firm favourite.

Like the family in the new advert from Aunt Bessie's, we enjoy all of our meals around the table as a family and Sunday is definitely the kids favourite day, we talk about what is coming up that week and what we've done the week before and really bond over our meals, if there was one thing that I have kept from my own childhood it is the importance of sitting down & sharing meals together.

Aunt Bessie's & the Mama Owl household share the same values about 'Roastiness' and believe in warm, comforting, homely family food that is enjoyed together, which is why Aunt Bessie's Roast Potatoes come with added roastiness.

A New Addition

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

I would like to introduce you to the newest member of our family, our new 'Chorkie' (Chihuahua/Yorkie cross) pup - Florence, aka Flo.

We have been discussing getting a dog for a while but didn't want to just rush out and buy one, never mind that we of course also had to save to pay for it. Christmas & life in general put it off for a while but then we found Flo and we're very happy with our new addition to the family.

She's settling in well and I have arranged her pet insurance so we are covered for all eventualities. I've registered & booked her in with the local vet to be checked over and start her care, vaccinations and the like. The vet offers what they call a puppy club which lasts a year and includes all vaccinations, micro-chipping, flea & worming treatments, as well as discounts on treatment so we will be taking advantage of that and signing her up at her first appointment this week.

We've done some research and read so many stories & articles about dogs being great companions for children with Autism. While Flo is not a trained service dog we hope that she will have a positive impact on L and really become a good friend to him, and will help to help teach him responsibility & to learn to care for someone else. He loves her so much already, all of the children are smitten with her and we are delighted to have her as part of our little family.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 14 January 2013

Monday 7th January - Rigatoni alla amatriciana

Tuesday 8th January - Brinner* (at teen's request)

Wednesday 9th January - Beef lasagne & garlic bread

Thursday 10th January - Toad in the hole with mashed potatoes & veg

Friday 11th January - Chicken fajitas

Saturday 12th January - Home-made pizzas

Sunday 13th January - Roast dinner with lamb chops & mint jelly

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner

#CountryKids from @Coombemill

Saturday, 12 January 2013

We did it! We made it out of the house!

E and I visited Nana & Bampy and she helped water the Bougainvilleas (though she didn't notice that we didn't actually turn the hosepipe on...) in their greenhouses. I'm looking forward to the summer when she will really be able to get stuck in and help with the plants, she will be in her element!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Way down deep in the middle of the Congo...

Friday, 11 January 2013

... a Hippo took an apricot, a guava and a mango.
He stuck it with the others and he danced a dainty tango,
The Rhino said "I know, we'll call it UM BONGO"
They drink it in the congo
The Python picked the passion fruit
The Marmoset the mandarin
The Parrot painted packets that the whole caboodle landed in
So when it comes to sun and fun and goodness in the jungle
They all prefer the sunny, funny one they call

How was that for a flashback! Don't even try and tell me that you're not singing along to that song right now. Children of the 80s such as myself will remember memorising that jingle and dancing around singing it, I know I do and now after showing my kids the video I don't think I will ever be allowed to forget it. Just to jog the memory of those who may not be following (where have you been?!), here is the original advert from 'back in the day'...

The people from Um Bongo are re-launching their original juice drink and very kindly sent us some of the new one litre carton samples of the Tropical Congocotion and the Orang-Utan Orange to help us to rediscover our love for the drink of our childhoods and allow us to share it with our own children.

The Mister was particularly thrilled about this review and was reluctant to share any with the rest of us, but after the kids wrestled it away from him we filled up some cups & shared it out. We're big fruit juice fans here & H has already asked if we can buy Um Bongo with our shopping every week, I think it is safe to say that we will definitely be enjoying this again now we have got the taste for it!

Why not like the Um Bongo Facebook page for details on stockists and if you register with their website you will have the chance to win some original Um Bongo.

So when it comes to sun and fun and goodness in the jungle, let's all enjoy the sunny funny one they call Um Bongo!

** Disclaimer: Um Bongo sent the cartons of fruit juice free of charge for my family to review. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the product.

#R2BC - Reasons to be Cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Another week has passed and here we are for #R2BC once again, I hope you have all had a good week!

1. I've made a good start to my #50Books2013 challenge and have just finished my fourth book. I need to get back into the habit of picking up a book instead of fiddling around on my phone or going on the computer and really rediscover my love of reading. I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy it and I am determined to put more effort in to it this year. I'm so pleased that so many people are joining in with me too!

2. My blog whizzed past the 100,000 views mark on new year's day (as of today I am closing in on 104,600!) and my average monthly readership has increased massively since the beginning of December. I love blogging and do it for the pleasure I get out of it, but I am delighted that people come here to read what I have to say and enjoy my posts, it makes me happy. I'm looking forward to going to the BritMums Live conference this year & meeting up with everyone and really getting involved.

3. I've won two prizes since Christmas through Tots100 & BritMums. One was a £25 Lakeland voucher from Tots100 that I won during the #StorkBaking twitter party in December, and the other is a prize of two Skylanders Giants figures during the BritMums #skylanderspics new year giveaway. I also won £10 on the lottery which is not to be sniffed at!

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week? Hop over to Michelle's blog and join in.

Decorating The Boys' Bedroom

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The boys' bedroom has been red, white & blue for some time now. We agreed it would be better to pick a colour scheme & stick to it, and to choose something that is going to suit all three without being too babyish for J or too grown up for H, but that will also be right for L. So, red, white & blue was the way to go.

Initially it was just painted in two shades of blue and a red, with white curtain poles, red curtains and a few R/W/B accessories. As time wore on it desperately needed freshening up, it had flaked (been picked...) in a couple of places, it just looked a bit dingy. So the Mister took the opportunity to get it decorated last weekend when all three of the boys were away. L & H had gone off to watch Walking with Dinosaurs with the Mister's brother & his wife in London and J was staying at a friend's so it was the ideal time to get in and get it done.

red, white and blue striped wallpaper
Luckily the paint that we used before was still fit to use so we didn't have to spend out to buy more, and we found some bargain R/W/B wallpaper for only £7 a roll. We bought three rolls and had one left over, but more on that later...

The Mister wallpapered one wall as a 'feature' (I like my feature walls as you may have noticed from my previous posts when we decorated our room and the girls room) and repainted the ceiling (white) and the walls (two shades of blue, no red this time) and repainted the wood work with gloss. We moved J's bed to the far corner, shifted the shelves into their toy cupboard & have moved the chests of drawers to the wall where J's bed was.
red, white and blue themed bedroom
On the wall above the drawers are three shelves (one for each of the boys for their favourite books & little knick knacks) and eventually we will replace their TV for a wall mounted one to go just under the shelves, because frankly the one they have now is ancient & we need have it off the drawers & out of the way.
red, white and blue themed bedroom
We've replaced one set of drawers with two smaller IKEA RAST unfinished pine chests, and will be doing the same with the other two ASAP, so their drawers are a little higgledy piggledy at the moment (which I haaaaate) but eventually they will be swapped. The other chests have just had it and desperately need replacing but the ones we picked up are only £20 each so it won't cost the Earth, they're very sturdy & well made considering the low price, I really do love IKEA for that sort of thing!

We'll also be adding a LAIVA desk & ALRIK chair to the room, primarily for J as a space to sit and do his homework. Above his bed we're adding a lamp so he can read if he fancies it, and a small shelf next to his bed for his alarm clock & such like. Next to L & H's bunk bed we're going to put up their framed certificates and favourite pictures (like the one of them with Steve Backshall). They also have a six hanger wall hook for their dressing gowns etc which is decorated in a R/W/B 'mod' style and two canvas prints that I found in the sale a while ago. Their bedding sets are also all in various R/W/B designs.
red, white and blue themed bedroom
With the leftover roll of wallpaper, we were going to just take it back to the shop but in the end decided to use it to cover some little storage boxes for their toys. They've got one for H's Deadly 60 collectibles, one for Moshi Monsters and one for Hex Bugs at the moment. I'm also thinking of covering a canvas with it to hang on one of the painted walls to tie the room all together. Simple but effective, and a handy way to use up leftover wallpaper if you have some spare that you don't want to just throw out or have sitting in the cupboard under the stairs!

making your own storage

I would also really love to have their names in wooden letters somewhere in the room too, not sure where yet but I think that it would look really nice (I want to do the same in the girls bedroom) so I will be having a scout for some nice plain wooden letters to paint/decorate. So there you have it, our recent decorating adventure. It's not quite finished yet but as good as and we are pleased with it, and the boys love it which is what is important.

UPDATED 04.03.2013

The bedroom is complete now with the exception of their new TV but that can wait. We've replaced their bedding with these fantastic bargain sets from Dunelm Mill - Union Jack for J, cars for H and robots for L.
red, white and blue bedding sets
Their chests of drawers have now all been replaced, and their desk with lamp is now in situ for them to have somewhere for their homework. We have given them the master bedroom as the three of them share so it makes sense for them to have the most space. The Mister has done an amazing job and I am so happy with it, the perfect "boy cave" (their words...) for my young men.

red, white and blue bedroom theme

red, white and blue bedroom ideas

red, white and blue mod theme bedroom

For a comprehensive list of items from the room please check out my Pinterest board :

What sort of themes/colour schemes do you have for your kids bedrooms? Will you be doing some decorating to freshen things up for the new year?

Books 1-3 #50Books2013

Monday, 7 January 2013

I'm excited to be doing this again and really hope I can improve my number even if I don't make it to 50. I really do love getting lost in a good book and am looking forward to reading everyone's reviews.

This is my first review post for #50Books2013 and I will post a round-up of everyone's progress at the end of the month, and link to some of your reviews if you would like to email me links to them also (details on contact page). As I said before, 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 by the 26th/27th at the latest that would be great. You don't even have to review the books if you don't want to, just write a list of what you've read if you like! It's up to you, there are no rules.

I won't be going into massive amounts of detail about the plot of the books because I would hate to spoil them for others who want to read them, so I will be keeping mostly to just sharing my opinion on them rather than describing what happens, for the benefit of others.

Book 1 - Perfect For You by Kate Perry

I downloaded this for my Kobo, in all honesty, because it was free. I figured, why not? However I am very glad I did because it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The first book in Kate Perry's Laurel Heights series, it's not a literary classic but if I wanted that I would be reading Dickens. Perfect For You is a romance, and I really liked how her lead female character Freya Godwin is strong and independent, something you don't always find in a romance novel. Light, airy and fun to read, and it has encouraged me to want to continue on and read the rest of the books in the series too.

Book 2 - Close To You by Kate Perry

As with Perfect For You, Kate Perry has created another strong female character who is taking charge of her own destiny. Eve Alexander owns her own business and knows her own mind and to be honest it is very refreshing not to have a meek damsel in distress fawning all over the 'big strong man' throughout.
This is not my usual style of book I have to admit. I would normally go for the heavy, thought provoking Jodi Picoult style of novel, but I am finding the Laurel Heights series to be rather engrossing (having finished both books in just a couple of days) and a nice change from my usual pick.

Book 3 - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Another book that wouldn't normally be my first choice, but I was intrigued by it and I am so glad I gave it a chance. Such a sad but beautiful story, intricately described making you feel like you are stood watching the tale unfold. I found myself choked with emotion on more than one occasion during the book and I developed real affection for the characters, especially Jack & Mabel. The author has brought this book to life with her wonderful storytelling and The Snow Child just gripped me from the very first page.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 7 January 2013

Christmas is over and I am back on the wagon... I need to shift my Christmas pudge (er, and the rest...) so back to SW friendly meals and calorie counting with more exercise and plenty of water from here on in. Not a resolution or a diet, just some healthy eating and getting back to my best.

Monday 7th January - Mustard chicken with swede mash and broccoli

Tuesday 8th January - Brinner*

Wednesday 9th January - Cottage Pie (topped with sweet potato mash)

Thursday 10th January - Cheesy broccoli and wholewheat penne bake

Friday 11th January - Fajitas (for the Mister & kids, chicken salad for me)

Saturday 12th January - Spaghetti Bolognese

Sunday 13th January - Roast chicken

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for Dinner

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