Mama OWL Blog: March 2013

Easter Baking

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter is a great time to indulge in some home baking with the kids, there are so many lovely ideas that you can try out and that are easy & safe for the children to have a proper hand in making.

Yesterday we made some chocolate bark, our usual chocolate & mini egg Easter nests and our own Easter cake. We decided on a chocolate one this year, last year's was a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

I have shared the Easter nest recipe previously, along with some great crafty ideas to enjoy with the kids if you're at home this weekend.
Easter Baking
The chocolate bark is super easy to make (and there have been many different ideas shared by bloggers recently) and the kids really enjoyed making it. It can get messy so put a tablecloth down, but let them get really stuck in and design it however they want, it really is good fun.


A few solid bars of whatever chocolate you fancy (we ended up using about 600g milk chocolate and 300g of white chocolate for three slabs).
A bowl of your favourite sweets & treats for toppings (we used chocolate buttons, milkywar stars, mini eggs, smarties, M&Ms, maltesers & chocolate chip cookies).

You'll also need brownie pans, lined with greaseproof paper, and some cocktail sticks.

Simply melt your chocolate (we microwaved ours in short blasts, stirring often, but you can always melt it in a bowl over a pan of boiling water on the hob) and then pour into your lined tins however you like.
H had half white, half milk by pouring it in at either end, whereas E had milk on the bottom and then drizzled some white over the top, and swirled it using a cocktail stick.

Then just let the kids drop in whatever sweets they choose, and if you're like E it will definitely need more chocolate, so you can drizzle some more over the top of your sweets for a really messy but nice effect.

Pop it in the fridge and let it harden. When it has completely solidified, you can either wrap it up in cellophane and give to a friend as a lovely homemade Easter gift, or snap it and serve it up on a plate as yummy Easter bark.

As for our chocolate Easter bunny cake, the design was inspired by one I found on Pinterest, and was made using my own recipe.

Easter Bunny Cake


3 eggs
6oz caster sugar
7oz self raising flour
1oz cocoa powder
6oz marg
2 tbsp milk
1tsp vanilla extract

Cover loosely with foil, and bake in a deep 20cm cake tin on 180 for about 45-50 minutes or when skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

& for the GANACHE -

125ml double cream
300g milk chocolate, broken up

Bring the cream gently to the boil, then turn down and add the chocolate, stir with a wooden spoon until it has all melted. pour into a jug or bowl, cover and put in the fridge, stirring occasionally until it is a spreadable consistency (about 30 minutes to an hour).
Then spread over your cooled cake, and decorate as you wish, as you can see we made a little fondant bunny (or at least the bottom half of one!), a butterfly and some flowers, and added a couple of mini eggs.

White Chocolate Mud CakeWe also made a white chocolate mud cake covered in white chocolate ganache, I can take no credit for the recipe (which can be found here) but this was the finished product.
We made this for my brother-in-law who has been in hospital as a 'get well soon' treat.

What making and baking are you getting up to this weekend? Do you have any Easter traditions?

I have linked up this post with Make, Do & Push! for Cake Week.

Hitting the Dorset slopes

Saturday, 30 March 2013

While we were away, A & J wanted to have a go on the dry ski slope at Dorset Snowsport Centre. A is a semi-experienced skier having spent a week skiing with the school in the French Alps a couple of years ago, whereas J has never even seen a ski never mind worn one, and he was keen to give it a try in case he fancied going on the ski trip next year.

They pulled on their gloves and warm clothes (because it was FREEZING out last Saturday) and kitted up ready for a couple of hours on the slopes.

A of course did a bit of showing off having had more practice than the others taking part in the session, and J bless his heart did his best but spent quite a lot of time falling over (same as I would have!).

They both really enjoyed it (and I know that A would love to go on the ski trip again) but it appears that J has been put right off going skiing in the mountains now, maybe he might change his mind in time for 2015... Or maybe he's his Mother's son & would prefer to watch the action from in front of a roaring fire with a mug of hot chocolate!

This post has been linked up with Coombe Mill's #CountryKids linky.

Cooking with kids

Friday, 29 March 2013

I firmly believe that children should be taught to cook, and encouraged to help with meal preparation from a young age. All of mine love getting stuck in with cooking and baking, at Christmas we bake our own mince pies and gingerbread houses, at Easter we create our own Easter cake (carrot last year, chocolate this year) and make biscuits for decorating, and throughout the year we spend many happy hours and quality time just whipping up whatever we fancy - meringues, pies, crumbles, muffins, cakes, brownies... You name it, we've tried it.

Has it always been successful? Of course not! But half the fun in cooking with kids is trying new things and seeing what you end up with.

It's all not all cakes and biscuits and pies, the children take an active role in our dinner preparation and meal planning too. Our Friday night Mexican meals are a real family affair with the Mister helping the kids to chop up the peppers & onions while I fry off the chicken. Or - one of our favourites - oven baked potatoes, when they can join in with washing the potatoes & giving them a stab before putting them in the oven to bake to a perfect crisp and helping prepare the salad to go with them.

J (12) really enjoys helping out, and I'm sure will make a wonderful husband some day (we're still working on learning to pick up pants & socks!). Particularly as my children are getting older now, I want to send my kids out in to the world being able to fend for themselves, which means being able to cook. We're starting off with the basics, which is just as (if not more) important than the fun bits that come later, like cakes! One day we might even get them to cook us our roast dinner on a Sunday (not holding my breath though!).

Oven baked potatoes with your choice of toppings makes for a quick, cheap and healthy family meal and are ideal to enjoy on a warm Summer evening (if it ever arrives...).

All you need is one or two medium/large baking potatoes per person (or three or four if you're the Mister), and your own choice of toppings.

Wash & prick the potatoes all over (an easy job for the kids to do), before giving them a quick 5 minute blast in the microwave and then place them in the middle of a preheated oven on 220 (fan oven) for 30-40 minutes or until the skin has started to brown and feels 'crispy' to the touch (they should be lovely and fluffy inside too!).
While your potatoes are baking, prepare your salad and toppings. Our favourites include cheese & baked beans and coronation chicken with a mixed salad of cucumber, lettuce, tomato & onions.

Then just dish out your potatoes, slice them open and add a dollop of real butter, add your garnish of choice and then enjoy. Simple, yet tasty.

My kids have a real sense of pride when they have helped with dinner, and it also gives fussy eaters a chance to have a hand in what they eat, they are more likely to eat it if they have helped make it in my experience.

As a family we cook together and eat together, which to us is some of the most important quality time you can share.

This is our entry to win a fantastic Select 90df Range Cooker from in their #cookingwithkids competition. Competition ends Wednesday April 3rd 2013.

Easter movies to enjoy with the family

Friday, 29 March 2013

I have lost count of the amount of times I have said how much we enjoy our family movie night, I hate to repeat myself but if you would like to see some of our recommendations then please check out our family movie reviews.

With Easter fast approaching I wanted to share two great movies that are perfect for enjoying with your family this weekend. Or indeed any weekend.

First up, we have Hop (2011). Featuring the voices of Hugh Laurie, Russell Brand and Hank Azaria and starring James Marsden & David Hasselhoff, Hop is a movie about E.B., the teenage son of the Easter Bunny who runs away to Hollywood to become a drummer in a rock and roll band. It centres around the unlikely friendship between him & 'slacker' Fred O'Hare (Marsden) after Fred nearly runs him over!

Combining live action with animation, this is a warm, funny story about how E.B. and Fred help each other grow up, that will appeal to both kids and grown ups alike. Two thumbs up from us.

It was no coincidence that Rise of the Guardians (2012) was released on DVD at Easter after first coming out in the cinemas at Christmas. Featuring fantastic characters like North (Father Christmas) and Bunny (the Easter bunny), it is the perfect movie to enjoy with the family during the holidays.

When evil spirit Pitch Black returns from being exiled to rob the children of the world of their youthful innocence & belief in magic, the immortal Guardians - North, Bunny, Tooth & Sandman - must join forces to cast him out again, and after the man in the moon selects a new Guardian, Jack Frost, they must convince him to join them to defeat Pitch.

Rise of the Guardians features the voice talents of Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law and Isla Fisher (with a couple of uses of the word "bloody" courtesy of the Aussie Easter Bunny).
It is a thoroughly enjoyable family movie filled with humour and friendship, described as "brilliant!" and "fantastic!" by L & H. A definite must-see and one we will no doubt enjoy again & again (and again... and again...).

** Disclaimer - these are honest and personal movie reviews that were paid for out of my own pocket and have not been endorsed by any agency for promotional purposes.

#50Books2013 - March Round-Up

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Well hello everyone, how are we all doing this month? Where are you at in your #50Books2013 reading list?

Appallingly I am only on book 11, which means I only managed to read one book this month. Quite disgraceful for the linky host, but I will endeavour to do better this month. Hopefully I will manage to sneak in some more reading time here and there.

I'm now reading the third instalment of the Caster Chronicles novels, called Beautiful ChaosOjo's World has fared significantly better than I have, and has reviewed her three March reads. Ups & Downs, Smiles & Frowns has shared her three latest books including Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire which I think sounds very intriguing and will be adding to my reading list.

Mumturnedmom has reviewed Breaking Night by Liz Murray and Gravity (The Taking) by Melissa West in her third round-up for #50Books2013, and Bubbablue and Me shares her thoughts on her most recent book choices & is currently reading books 21 & 22. To Ignore Life is also storming on with the challenge and here tells us what she thinks about her 19th read, Splendour and Squalor by Marcus Scriven.

Emma's Little World has reviewed her sixth book, The Day You Saved My Life by Louise Candlish and says it is "fantastic", while White Feathers tells us about book number four, the "superb" Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom. Little Super Sparks has been horribly poorly recently (I hope you're feeling better now Lucy!), but has shared her book reviews in 10 words or less.

Join in with us on Twitter using hashtag #50Books2013 and tell us about your recent reads and share reviews. If you would like to join in with us, you can find out all the information here. If you have a review to share please link up below. As always, thank you for taking part in this challenge with me and see you all next month.

A weekend by the lake

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Family holiday at Parkdean WarmwellWe have returned from our weekend away and I am pleased to say that we had a fantastic time. There were a couple of vomiting incidents, and more than one meltdown however 90% of the time it was brilliant, and we really enjoyed ourselves.

We stayed at Parkdean Warmwell just outside of Weymouth in a lovely cosy log cabin right on the lake. It was really comfortable and warm (just what we needed in this freezing weather) with lots of space for the seven of us. We managed to bag a bargain price for our long weekend stay using Sun Holiday tokens collected for us by my MIL which made it all the more enjoyable, meaning that we had more money to spend on days out and activities while we were away.

Splashdown at Tower Park
Our first stop was Splashdown at Tower Park in Poole. I think that this ended up being the highlight of our holiday because they have not stopped talking about it since, L in particular is a massive fan of anything to do with swimming or water slides (after initially being averse to water even getting on his face, it is amazing what swimming lessons can do!) so a couple of hours here was like heaven for him!

They had a whale of a time throwing themselves down the slides with wild abandon, as did the Mister. Unfortunately E is not currently a great enjoyer of the water so she & I only managed a short swim before we left the big four and the Mister and went to have a cookie in the cafe. Splashdown is brilliant, but definitely needs better signposting to the different areas and slides, E & I were wandering around trying to find the toddler pool for ages. The staff were very nice, and it was clean and well maintained.

Cabin on the lake at Parkdean WarmwellWe headed to TGI Friday's next, a small fortune later we were fed (and A had been chatted up by the young waiter - the joys of having teenagers) and then we made our way to Warmwell. We made good use of the play & sports areas, buying a ball in the well-stocked shop as we forgot to bring one of the millions we have at home so that the kids could have a kickabout with their Dad.

The next day we spent some time on site, the kids had fun in the arcade (the 2p machines were a favourite) and A & J had a go on the dry ski slope as Dorset Snowsport Centre is located here (it was directly behind our cabin, which was handy).
I thought that there seemed to be a lot of "dead air" time when the staff there seemed to not really be doing a lot, several people came in & out and were sent away, for example, because the two hours of ringos was over. I definitely think more sessions of ringos & swiss bobs would be beneficial to the centre, we certainly would have booked up had it been available.
Saturday night we got our dinner from the fish & chip shop, and then the Mister & the big four kids went to the venue to enjoy the evening entertainment while I stayed at the cabin with a very sleepy E.

Parkdean Warmwell

Sunday it was SO cold, but as we had already booked tickets, we made our way to Adventure Wonderland. Unfortunately I didn't think it was that much of a wonderland, and actually a bit on the expensive side for what is available there and definitely better suited for younger children. The leaflet makes it look a lot bigger than it is. With that said, it may have been different had it been warmer out, although this did mean that we made full use of the indoor soft play area. I doubt we will ever visit again, but it got us out & about and the children did enjoy seeing the animals & going on the few rides that were there.

Sunday night we visited the arcade again, and as a family stayed to watch some of the entertainment before grabbing a couple of pizzas from the on-site takeaway and going back to the cabin for our last night. A vomiting L meant that as soon as the sun was up on Monday morning, we had to head home. H then followed suit so we got them home and put them to bed.

So, a bit of a dampener on our plans for the last day, but overall we had a really good time and will definitely visit Warmwell again. It is a lovely & well equipped site with plenty to do, with pleasant staff. The duty manager happened to find us huddling in the launderette while the Mister was getting our fish & chips next door and he chatted to my boys & asked what we thought of the cabin & if everything was okay, which I thought was really nice.

Family Holiday UK

Now we are looking forward to Easter this weekend, and hoping that Spring will grace us with its presence sooner rather than later because we have all had quite enough of this cold weather!

Our wonderful family holiday, and Easter are my reasons to be cheerful this week, what are yours? Link up to Mummy From The Heart's #R2BC bloghop, hosted this week at Seasider In The City, and share.

We're going on a dragon hunt

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

As a family we really enjoy our walks. Although as the kids have grown up we have done it less, it seems. There is always something to do or somewhere to go and we haven't just made the time to pull on our boots and go for a trudge through the woods or along the river. Which is a shame, because as I said, we have always enjoyed just going for a walk.

A walk is simple. It takes you wherever you want to go, with whoever you want to be with. You can talk, you can enjoy the scenery, you can explore and find and climb and see and do. Bear hunts, dragon chasing, puddle jumping, tree climbing, nature watching. It is whatever you make it, there is no expectation. It's just a walk.

A favourite family walk of mine was a couple of years ago, to Shearwater. On a whim we hopped in the car, slung E in her carrier and off we went! It was a beautiful day and there was so much to see.
The children had hours of fun running through the long grass, balancing on logs, exploring in the trees. L was certain that there were dragons hiding in the woods!

We found lots of places that were perfect for a dragon hideaway, and broken branches that meant that one must have been there just before us! He raced along the path at top speed with H in hot pursuit, desperate to see one for himself. A & J skipped through the trees ahead of them, pointing out flattened patches of grass and cosy corners where dragons might live, joining in with their game.

The magic in nature was there for us to enjoy, all we had to do was go and look for it. We didn't need computers or games or toys. Just us, and the trees.

And the dragons.

I have linked this post with #TheGallery at Sticky Fingers

How much should kids help out around the house?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

After our weekend away I am currently climbing out from under a mountain of washing and all the other
delightful odd jobs that you end up needing to do when you get home.

Yesterday a minor row ensued when I was trying to unload the car with the Mister and after all carrying in one measly bag each, the kids scattered. A and J then were far too preoccupied with stuffing their faces to help unload or unpack (their stuff), and in fact A rather irritatingly still has a suitcase full of laundry. Apparently it was too much to ask to expect them to give me a hand, even just throwing clothes in front of the machine for me to wash, though J did eventually unpack and bring me his dirty laundry.

This made me think about what the kids do around the house, and what I expect of them. The other day my friend remarked that her teenage daughter didn't like doing the washing up or cleaning the bathroom (the only two jobs she has to do around the house, the bathroom being a weekly thing). I think that's perfectly reasonable, they are a small household of three, so I do think that that's fair. For us, we are a much busier household of seven so there are more jobs, more mess and more chaos.

So what are reasonable expectations from the kids in terms of housework without expecting them to "do my job", as it were?

A (14) & J (12) are responsible for loading and unloading the dishwasher, but not all of the time. I also expect (all of) them to keep their bedrooms in a reasonable state, and to put their dirty laundry in the basket. Also, to put their clean laundry away after I bring it to their rooms.
Occasionally I ask either A or J to run up the shop to get bread/milk/whatever (the shop is almost directly opposite our house).

A also does the weekly walk to swimming lessons for L (9) & H (7), but she is paid for that, and it is so that I can have dinner ready because the lessons are currently at 6pm which is a bit awkward for us in terms of mealtimes. I don't expect them to cook or prepare meals though they do help me sometimes, chopping veg or fetching from the fridge or freezer. Teaching them to cook & bake is the point of that exercise, learning new skills, not for them to do it for me.
J does the recycling, although more often than not H jumps in & does it first because he likes to earn money and they get 20p a job. Jobs can be making their bed, or putting their toys away, or like I said, taking the recycling out to the bins. H has learned that the more he does, the more he earns, which is exactly the point I wanted to make.

A (who is sitting with me writing this post, reminding me that SHE ALWAYS HAS TO DO EVERYTHING) would also like me to point out that she makes me coffees, however I said that that is a fair trade for you know, feeding her & buying her clothes and shoes and bags. I also don't EXPECT her to make them, I ask and she does. I feel I should remind her that we pay her monthly phone contract, which is definitely worth a few coffees.

I do the majority of dog care at the moment because she's so little there isn't much TO do yet besides feeding & bathing her. A is in charge of the hamsters although they are technically L's, because everyone else is scared of them. Including me. They bite.

I might ask them to "pick up" in the living room if hurricane E has been having a particularly enthusiastic play time in there and I am otherwise engaged. Or to wipe the counters or table in the kitchen after they've loaded the dishwasher. I expect E to tidy her toys away when she is finished playing, sometimes it takes some persuasion but mostly she is keen to help. This stage doesn't last forever, I am enjoying it for now.

When E was small (and indeed H) I would ask the older ones to run & grab me this or that - nappy, wipes whatever - if I was elbow-deep in baby shit (I so don't miss those days!) and couldn't get up from where I was.
Sometimes they are met with screams of OMFG GET TOWELS/TISSUE/A BOWL from either the Mister or myself in an emergency. But I would never expect them to clean up after each other, change nappies or that sort of thing. That's not for them to do.

It can be hard to find the right balance of teaching them responsibility and learning to take care of themselves and their things, without putting too much on them. I won't wait on them hand & foot because I'm their mother not their maid, but at the same time, they are kids and shouldn't be expected to run my household. I do very much feel that this is my job not theirs.

What do your kids do around the house? What do you think is reasonable to expect from them? 
How much is "too much"? Are there any jobs that you wouldn't ask them to do?

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 25 March 2013

Monday 25th March - Takeaway on the way home from our holiday

Tuesday 26th March - Lasagne

Wednesday 27th March - Brinner*

Thursday 28th March - Baked potatoes with salad & various fillings

Friday 29th March - Chicken enchiladas

Saturday 30th March - Spaghetti & home-made meatballs

Sunday 31st March - Our Easter Sunday meal will be a roast leg of lamb served with mixed vegetables, yorkshire puddings, roast & mashed potatoes and gravy with home-made chocolate cake and a cheesecake for dessert

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

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring is here (apparently... the weather doesn't seem to have received the memo) which means that once again the animals are back in the field outside my parents house.

L, H & E were delighted to see the sheep grazing out there this week (I swear H was, I have no idea why he keeps pulling that face for photos!), E loves "sheeps" and spent lots of time standing at the wall gazing across at them. She was particularly pleased to spot the black one and exhibited this by belting out Baa Baa Black Sheep very enthusiastically.

Unfortunately we missed out on the Lackham Lambing weekends because of our continuing car troubles so while this doesn't make up for it exactly, at least they have managed to see some sheep! Maybe we will manage a trip to a farm while we're on our holiday this weekend, we shall see where we end up!

I've linked up this post with Coombe Mill's #CountryKids linky.

Give me some Bloglovin'

Friday, 22 March 2013

BRILLIANCE IN BLOGGING 2013 As far as jumping on bandwagons goes, I am the person running along behind waving my hands and trying to catch up. Not because I hadn't already joined Bloglovin', but because I hadn't advertised the fact.

Ladies and gents - I am on Bloglovin'. If you are concerned about the demise of Google Reader, FEAR NOT! There are many, many ways that you can stalk follow me, all of which are listed under the contact me tab of my blog. If you are do not want or simply cannot be bothered to click that link and look for yourself, I have added handy wee buttons to the right hand side of my blog with icons to tell you what they are. You may click these, they will help you monitor my every move.

If you really really love me, then you might like to take a swizz at the Britmums BiB Awards nominations buttons to the left. Over there. Look. Yep, them be the ones. And then you maybe might like to chuck a cheeky nomination my way. Or not. If not me, then scroll down a bit and check out my Blogroll, they too are all worthy of nominations.

I actively encourage you all to follow me in some way, shape or form because really, I am quite nice. Sometimes. Please. I will give you *cake.

*Cyber cake, does not contain actual cake.

Easter Holidays

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The time has come!

This weekend we will be heading off to enjoy some time away as a family. Come rain or shine the seven of us are looking forward to quality time - and probably a few spats, wobbles and tantrums - down by the seaside. We've got our wellies, we've got our raincoats, we've got our optimism that the sun will have his hat on... We're all set!

Gap Kids zip front windbreaker Spring jacket
I managed to find these fantastic Spring jackets for the boys from Gap, and I managed to get them for a bargain price after doubling up on promotional codes (one a promo on the site, the other a 15% off reward for signing up to their newsletter). They're lovely quality, thick without being heavy with a super-soft jersey lining.
H chose green and L went for blue, and I saved a massive £22.64 using the codes - I do love a bargain! These will be perfect for our holiday, and ideal for the boys to wear to school as a Spring/Summer coat. I promise that H likes it a great deal more than he appears to in the photo...

My brother and his fiancée are house & dog sitting for us, and the Mister and I have been saving for day trips & dinners, and planning activities for us all to do while we are there. I am hopeful that it will be a really lovely Easter break for us all.

I've booked the groceries to arrive within a couple of hours of when we are due back and meal planned for next week including our Easter roast, so we're all prepared for the first week of the Easter holidays when we return. It'll be nice to have some 'down time' before we throw ourselves into next term.

We don't have a great deal planned for the holidays after our weekend away, but we will be enjoying some Easter baking and crafts as well as anticipating a visit from a certain bunny... Which now is really only for E's benefit but I am sure that the big four don't mind playing along if it means a basket of chocolate eggs for them!

Kids clothing bargains and family holidays are my reasons to be cheerful this week, what are yours? Link up with Michelle's #R2BC linky, hosted at Seasider In The City and share.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 18 March 2013

Monday 18th March - Spaghetti bolognese

Tuesday 19th March - Baked potatoes with coronation chicken & salad

Wednesday 20th March - Brinner*

Thursday 21st March - Ham & cheese tagliatelle

Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd, Sunday 24th March - We're off on holiday, so whatever takes our fancy! My brother is house & dog-sitting for us & we're off to the seaside for the first weekend of the Easter holidays. Fingers crossed for good weather!

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

The Perfect Accessories for your Child's Bedroom

Friday, 15 March 2013

We have been busy redecorating and refreshing the children's bedrooms for a few months now. It has taken time not only to choose the perfect wallpaper and matching paint, and then of course to apply it all but also to carefully select the perfect accessories to complement your decoration.

I have shared photographs of my boys' red, white and blue themed bedroom and details of where we got this accessory or that shelf, and explained how we made our own matching storage. I have also pinned all of the items to my boys' bedroom Pinterest board to allow others to keep the ideas somewhere handy for future reference. Finding the right accessories is key to creating something uniquely yours and really making your house a home.

The boys have their own television with DVD player & games console upstairs in their bedroom so that they can go and have their own space to play and relax after school or on weekends and to hang out with their friends.
Their room is their own little sanctuary & I want to make it just right for them, so I was delighted to find this Union Jack Bean Bag which I thought would make a fantastic addition to the room and complement the theme perfectly.

It is a very large bean bag with plenty of room for them to sit on to play their games or watch a movie, with enough space for two to sit side by side or just for one to lounge on (this is more often the case!) and the versatility to be positioned in several ways.
In red, white and blue with a distressed Union Jack design on one side and plain blue on the other, it matches the room perfectly. The cover is thick & robust with a sturdy zip, and while it must be stored indoors I think that it would be ideal to take out in the garden in the summer to sit on and read a book in comfort.
The vintage Union Jack design is also available in lime green/pink and grey/red and can be purchased online from where you will also find many other colours and designs to suit your home.

** Disclaimer: Bean Bag Bazaar sent the ICON™ Distressed Union Jack Bean Bag free of charge to me for review. I have received no payment for this post and it has not been sponsored. The views shared are entirely my own honest & personal opinions of the products and written in my own words.

My Other Half

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Last weekend the Mister and I celebrated our eleven year wedding anniversary. There have been some bumps along the way - some little... some rather big - but then, nothing worth having ever comes easy.
We have spent half of our lives together, we were just 19 & 20 when we walked down the aisle, we've grown up along the way and been blessed with five beautiful (loud, messy, demanding... but beautiful) children. We have separated, we have gotten back together, and we are doing our best. Marriage is not easy, some days I hate & love him in equal measure and others I could just cheerfully throttle him (and likewise, I am sure), but I wouldn't be without him, he really is my other half.

He surprised me with a weekend away, sans kids. He planned it all himself, and I had no idea. We headed off down to Poole for the weekend and spent our time at the cinema without needing to take anyone to the loo halfway through the movie, and enjoying leisurely meals in restaurants without anyone stealing food off of our plates.
We walked and held each other's hands instead of one of the kids, we made fun of each other and laughed. We spent Sunday afternoon snuggled on the sofas under duvets watching TV and snoozing. We really enjoyed each others company, and I think that for eleven years married we aren't doing so bad.

Next week we are off away on holiday as a family. My brother & his fiancée are house & dog-sitting for us and we will be spending the first weekend of the Easter holidays having fun at the seaside come rain or shine (or possibly snow).
While the Mister & I were away we planned our days out and activities and have some fun things in mind for all of us to do and see together, I honestly cannot wait. There will be tantrums, there will be tears, there will be strops (and that's just the Mister...), but we will have fun and make some memories and take the good times with the bad.

We don't have much money, and sometimes things can seem really hard. But we have each other, and as long as we stick together we can muddle our way through. Some people go through their entire life without half of the happiness I have had in my 30 years, and while I know at times I have taken it for granted, I realise that I have a lot to be thankful for.

I have linked this post with Mummy From The Heart's #R2BC weekly blog hop,

10 Simple Fundraising Ideas for Comic Relief

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

There are lots of ways to FUNraise while you fundraise for Comic Relief. Red Nose Day 2013 is on Friday, March 15th, and there is still plenty of time to organise something to do your bit and raise money for the good causes that Comic Relief support.

Team Honk visited Ghana last month with Comic Relief to see for themselves all of the #goodwork that has been done using the money raised over the past 25 years. Annie, Penny & T sent me a digital postcard from Ghana for me to share here on my blog to help raise awareness and to show the wonderful work that has been made possible by your donations through fundraising as well as buying official RND merchandise. The official Red Nose Day merchandise is also available to buy in store at Sainsbury's as well as online.

I've put together a list of 10 simple fundraising ideas in case you are looking for inspiration. Maybe see what is going on at your child's school, or offer to help organise something with the help of staff and other parents.

1. CAKE SALE - Who doesn't love a cake sale? Cakes, biscuits, fudge, flapjack... Any & all of the sweet treats you can think of. Perhaps ask other parents to 'donate a plate' of homemade goodies to sell in the school hall after school with all of the proceeds going to Comic Relief, or perhaps take some baked goods in to work and sell them to your colleagues (check your own work rules & regs of course).

2. NON-UNIFORM DAY/FANCY DRESS - Something that again can be done at work or school pending approval from the relevant bodies, it can be as fun & silly as you want. Maybe PJs, or funny hair styles, or everyone dresses in red - any theme you like, with a small donation for everyone for taking part. I blogged some easy fancy dress costume ideas a few weeks ago if you need some inspiration.

3. SPONSORED SILENCE - I for one would sponsor my kids any amount to have them be quiet for a whole day! A sponsored 24 hour silence is simple and takes hardly any organisation - just a bit of willpower and some support!

4. TAKE A BATH - Not just any old bath. Nope. I'm thinking a bath you'd really rather not take... Tomato soup, spaghetti hoops, baked beans... The most disgusting thing you can think of, and sit in it for at least an hour. Gather sponsors, maybe charge people to pour a tin of whatever your gloop of choice is over your head for some extra pennies. I will put my money where my mouth is and let you know that I have already done this myself for RND way back in the 90s... It was rather vile and I was dyed tomato-red for days afterwards but it was good fun and for a worthy cause.

5. COFFEE MORNING - Put the kettle on, and invite your friends and family round for a coffee morning with a donation on the door! Lay on some cakes & biscuits and have a get-together and a catch up with your nearest and dearest while you raise cash for Comic Relief.

6. SELL YOUR STUFF - There are lots of ways to get rid of your unwanted items and make a bit of money to boot. Check out local businesses (such as Puddy Muddles in Wiltshire) or websites like eBay and Gumtree, clear your clutter and donate your earnings to Comic Relief. You could even have a garage or 'yard' sale.

7. DINNER PARTY - Why not have a charity dinner party at home, your guests can buy a 'plate' and you can have a lovely evening in with a bottle of your favourite and some grown up (or not) conversation.

8. SPONSORED SWIM - See if your local pool have anything organised that you can take part in, or if not then have friends & family sponsor you or your kids per length of the pool. Good exercise, and good fun.

9. TAKE A HIKE - Team Honk climbed Mount Snowdon for Comic Relief, perhaps you could organise a sponsored walk around your local park or the town, sponsor by the mile or for total distance walked. Don't forget to carry a bucket and wear an official t-shirt to collect donations from any generous passers-by.

10. SPONSORED WAX - Come on gents... It doesn't hurt that much! Ladies, see if your other half/brother/father/neighbour are willing to get their pins (or... back? chest?!) waxed for a good cause, it's only hair it will grow back, and just think - you'll be more aerodynamic for a while as well as raising money for a fantastic cause.

Will you be doing something funny for money? Have you done any of the above? Feel free to share your fundraising ideas in a comment!

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 11 March 2013

Monday 11th March - Ham & cheese tagliatelle

Tuesday 12th March - Cottage pie

Wednesday 13th March - Brinner*

Thursday 14th March - Fish, chips & peas

Friday 15th March - Chicken fajitas

Saturday 16th March - Lasagne & garlic bread

Sunday 17th March - Lamb chops

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

This Man Is My Hero

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Today is the birthday of my hero.

The man by which all other men are measured, the man who has been there for me throughout my life - the good times and the bad. This man showed me what a man should be, how he should act, how he should shoulder his responsibilities.

This man helped teach me right from wrong, even when I ignored him and did wrong anyway. This man has got out of bed and worked every day of his life for what he has - even when he was ill, even after bereavement, he got up and he went to work & he did what he had to do to provide for his wife and family.

This man held me as I sobbed onto his shoulder after the death of a friend. This man walked me down the aisle the day I married my wonderful Mister. This man eagerly visited the hospital to meet each of his grandchildren after their births.

This man turns 61 today. This man is my hero. This man is my Dad.

You are the best Dad that I ever could have wished for, and if being raised by a wonderful man isn't a reason to be cheerful, I don't know what is.
I might not have always been the best daughter, but you have always been the best Father, and I owe everything to you and Mum.

Happy Birthday Daddy. You are truly one in a million and I love you with all of my heart.

I am linking this post up with Michelle's #R2BC linky.
I have linked this post for the "Dads" theme with #theGallery 19.06.13

Fun Family Easter Crafts & Baking Ideas

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

With Easter fast approaching you may be considering your options for activities to keep your wee bunnies occupied during the school holidays, or just looking for fun things to do with them to mark the occasion.
I've been hopping round the blogosphere to find some fun and fabulous Easter inspired crafts, bakes, recipes and activities to share with you, and so with the help of my wonderful fellow bloggers, I present to you - MAMA OWL'S EASTER BASKET OF AWESOME.

Making & baking doesn't have to cost the Earth. Last year I visited a local pound shop and found some great and cheap Easter crafts and activities. I bought little plastic eggs of all different colours and we have our own egg hunt in the garden (different colours for each kid = no arguments as to who has the most!), and some great wicker baskets that I bought from eBay for next to nothing which are filled up with their Easter goodies, and then used to collect the eggs in the hunt.
Fun Family Easter Crafts & Baking Ideas
We made our little Easter nests with mashed up shredded wheat, some melted chocolate and bit of golden syrup, topped off with some mini eggs & chilled in the fridge until set.

Some fun & easy ideas for Easter crafts are oval card cut-outs that you can stick brightly coloured sweetie wrappers and tissue paper on to to decorate it.
easter hand print lambs crafts
Another idea which also makes a lovely keepsake is hand print lambs - draw around your little one's hand on black sugar paper or card, turn it upside down and glue on some cotton wool balls, and finally draw on a little face on the thumb to finish it off.

You might also consider making a cake to enjoy on Easter Sunday after your meal. Last year we made a delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, decorated with vanilla butter biscuits cut in to Easter themed shapes (the children made these) with a handful of mini eggs & chocolate beans on top.

easter carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

The children decorated the rest of the biscuits with chocolate beans, coloured sprinkles, edible glitter and smarties using glacé icing to stick them on with.

Also at the pound shop, we found these great plastic eggs for us to paint. Luckily the weather was just right for sitting out in the garden to decorate them, but you can also cover your dining table or the floor with some newspaper to keep mess to a minimum. An alternative to plastic eggs is the art of Austrian Egg Blowing as explained over at Red Ted Art which we did a couple of years ago with great results.

easter egg decorating

Domestic Goddesque has shared some brilliant posts for easy Easter craft, including this super cute tutorial on how to make a rabbit wreath for Easter, as well as some fab ideas for making Easter bonnets and a how-to for making Easter chicks out of plastic eggs.

Jennifer from Jennifer's Little World guest posted at MumofThree World and shared this brilliant craft post, some simple but effective spring flowers that your little ones will love to make.

Enjoy, and please share pictures and links to your creations (just pop a comment in the box below and I will hop by and see! I promise I won't make any more bunny or hopping references).

What are your plans for Easter this year? Do you have any special family traditions or meals?

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 4 March 2013

Monday 4th March - Toad in the hole with chips, peas & gravy

Tuesday 5th March - Home-made Fisherman's Pie with vegetables

Wednesday 6th March - Eggs, chips & baked beans

Thursday 7th March - Oven baked potatoes with various fillings & salad

Friday 8th March - Fajitas

Saturday 9th March - Tonight the Mister & I celebrate our 11 year wedding anniversary and are off out for dinner & a movie, so it's deli pizzas for the kids tonight

Sunday 10th March - Roast chicken

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

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