Mama OWL Blog: April 2013

#50Books2013 - April Round-Up

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Spring has finally sprung, I hope that everyone is still enjoying the #50Books2013 challenge regardless of where you are in it and how many you have read.

I'm three quarters of the way through book 12, not the progress I would have liked I must admit but it has been a busy month with a little family weekend getaway, school holidays and of course E's 3rd birthday.
I have found my reading mojo again and I am back to spending my evenings with my face buried in my kobo rather than lazing in front of the television. Long may it continue! I have a cracking to-read list thanks to you 50Books2013-ers and the lovely people of Twitter so I better get on with it!

I'm currently reading the fourth book of the Caster Chronicles novels, Beautiful Redemption. I am really enjoying this series and the last book ended on such a cliffhanger I had to immediately begin the fourth to find out what happened next, it certainly has me gripped.

Ups & Downs, Smiles & Frowns has enjoyed three five star reads (as well as a four star) this month, which includes The secret Holocaust diaries: The untold story of Nonna Bannister, check out her reviews to see what she thought. Ignoring Life, One Book At A Time has indulged in classic literature, vampire mythology and Clarissa Dickson Wright's A History of English Food this month, take a look and see what she thought.

Mumturnedmom has just started her 13th book of the challenge, and reviews books 9-12 for us this month. The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock'n'Roll Mum is up to 14 reads so far and has been bargain hunting for her books this month, nothing over a pound and in her words "all worth more in terms of pleasurable reading!". She's unearthed some real treasures including the "perfectly lovely" Sealed With A Kiss by Rachael Lucas.

Find out what has been happening on Pepys Road with Little Super Sparks' review of Capital by John Lancaster, and if she recommends letting your husband choose your reading material... Ojo's World is another that has made it up to book 14 and has shared links to her reading list over on her blog.

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.

Dora & Diego Birthday Cake

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

E celebrated her third birthday on April 27th. For weeks she has been reminding me that she wants a 'Dora and Diego cake' and so a Dora & Diego birthday cake is what she would get!

Dora and Diego Birthday Cake

She is a BIG fan of Dora the Explorer & Go Diego Go (this year anyway, last year it was a Peppa Pig birthday cake she wanted!), and I wanted to try and incorporate both of them in to the cake in some way. I was really busy all week leading up to E's big day and so after hiring a number three cake tin from a local shop, I gave it to my sister for her to bake for me because I simply didn't have the time to bake it AND decorate it. My sister L baked a regular vanilla sponge cake, as well as a gluten & wheat free version for me so that I could partake in the celebrations!

I brought the cakes home and set about decorating the regular one ready for E. I was up until 2am Saturday morning, but her little face was more than worth it! It did get to a point where I was too tired to carry on, and so I didn't manage to make a Dora figure to go with Diego for the cake, but instead made backpack and map with some stars to represent Dora.

Dora and Diego Birthday Cake

She DID ask where Dora was (of course!) but E was thrilled with the end result and I am pleased that I was able to make her happy and give her what she wanted for her special day. I really enjoy making birthday cakes for the kids, that is the ONE thing I always make sure that I do for them and will do for as long as I am able to. It's only something little, but it means a lot to me to do that for them. I wonder what E will challenge me to next year!

Dora and Diego Birthday Cake

Nom Nom Paleo

Monday, 29 April 2013

I have enjoyed some fantastic meals in the past week or so (if I do say so myself!) and I wanted to share pictures of my creations with you, as well as links to the recipes that I have used. You can check out my meal plans if you want to take some inspiration from our family meals too.

Since I changed how I eat, I am eating better than I think I ever have with an abundance of vegetables and new methods of cooking and preparing food. Is it for everyone? No, probably not, but I would urge anyone to thoroughly investigate any change of diet and make sure that it was something that suited you and your lifestyle. This works for me. I haven't found it restrictive or difficult and I am still feeling great, although I will admit that I did allow myself some (gluten & wheat free) birthday cake for E's 3rd birthday over the weekend which I thoroughly enjoyed!

Really though, if you were not looking to change to a Paleo lifestyle but are perhaps looking for lower carb meals or simply an alternative to having some form of potato with every meal, then these would probably work for you. Take a look and see for yourself.

Last week we had the amazing Chili Lime Chicken from Nom Nom Paleo. Oh my word - delicious! And absolutely perfect for a Summer BBQ.

We also tried out Farmer's Pie with mashed cauliflower from Paleo Comfort Foods which was a HUGE hit and I am sure will be featuring again and again in our weekly meal plans, it's a really nice but subtle twist on a traditional favourite of ours.

Last but not least we gave these Smoky Country Style Ribs from Primal Palate a go and thoroughly enjoyed them, again something else that is ideal for a BBQ and will most certainly be enjoyed by us another time.

Meal Plan Monday 290413

Monday, 29 April 2013

Monday 29th April - Roast pork

Tuesday 30th April - Farmer's Pie, topped with carrot & swede mash

Wednesday 1st May - Brinner*

Thursday 2nd May - Home-made lamb burgers with sweet potato fries & salad

Friday 3rd May - Chicken Enchiladas/Honey & mustard chicken salad

Saturday 4th May - Tomato & goat's cheese tartGF/WF, mashed cauliflower, salad, boiled eggs, cold cuts of meat

Sunday 5th May - Roast lamb

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for dinner  GF/WF = Gluten-free, Wheat-free

The Teen Parenting Project

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

This weekend A brought home my first Grandchild.

Okay, so it was made of plastic and pretty creepy looking but still. As part of Child Development, A was responsible for taking care of a 'virtual baby' from Friday-Monday. The baby simulator looks like a regular baby doll but is computer programmed and has sensors to enable its carer to cater to its needs.

It is pre-programmed and A's performance with caring for the virtual baby - we'll call it VB - will be checked by her teacher when it is returned to school. On Friday after school she brought VB home on the bus in a baby carrier, complete with bag full of clothes and items it needs for its care. She took great delight in pretending that it was real, being the wind-up merchant that she is.

Friday evening, A discovered that making snacks one-handed is not particularly easy and so balanced VB on the kitchen table with a wet wipe pillow... FAIL. Then when she was eating the snack, A learned that babies wake up at inopportune moments (like when you're trying to eat), and so A enlisted the help of E to hold VB's bottle so that she could eat her snack... FAIL.
Unfortunately VB decided to be hard work and cried on & off all of Friday evening, and then went on to wake A three times during the night for over an hour at a time. VB's needs vary like those of a real baby, so VB needed changing four times, feeding, burping, and rocking. I went in to see A in the morning before I went out, she lifted her dishevelled head and stared at me, bleary eyed, before it registered that I was talking to her. I won't lie, it was very funny.

When I returned on Saturday afternoon, A was still in her PJs and hadn't done the couple of jobs I asked if she would do for me while I was out. She explained that every time she went to start, VB had cried & she had to rock/wind/feed/change it. I had to laugh, because she told me this like I didn't have any idea that this happens.

VB went on to be rather fussy all evening, much to A's disgust and her mood & attitude deteriorated as time went on. She became more and more snappy & impatient and twice I had to chastise her for snapping at E. VB only woke twice during the night, which meant that A had a better night's sleep and therefore Sunday morning she was in a slightly better mood. Not much, but a little.

As part of the project she had to take VB out of the home environment, so she strapped VB in the carrier and then complained about having to take a bag with the baby's things in it. It was the smallest bag ever, containing the bottle and nappy. I pointed out that an actual baby's changing bag is considerably larger and requires many more things, and to think herself lucky that that's all she had to take with her. My changing bags generally doubled up as my handbag and ended up containing all sorts & was more like a suitcase!
She got the train and met her friends in town, and spent the day wandering around. When she got home she reported that VB had cried almost all day again, and that one hilarious individual had hit VB in the back and made it cry so she was going to have another 'mishandle' on the report (the first one was when E had tried to pick it up to play with it).

Come the evening, VB chose to cry at dinner time again which meant that A had to try and balance the baby & bottle while trying to eat at the same time. She did manage to find an effective way of doing this, not dissimilar to my own "managing to eat while feeding baby" methods I had employed with my newborns which I found amusing. It reached a point where she was actually counting down the hours until she could return VB to school - brilliant!

Monday morning, A was sat holding it ready to take it back to school, she was exhausted and had had quite enough of it by then.
It didn't cry during the night (I would expect because she had to get up for school!) but it was fussy all evening which had really naffed her off.

E however was rather upset that VB was going back to her 'mummy' (ie, school) & cried because she had enjoyed doting on it like it was a real baby.

The only down side for me with this project was that I must have some programming of my own that wakes me up when I hear any old baby crying because it disturbed me all weekend (not as much as it did A though, ha!). I think it is a fantastic project and never mind being designed to make teenagers think carefully about the consequences of their actions, if I was considering having another baby (which I most certainly am not) then it would have put me right off!

Of course it is not exactly like having a real baby because it is, of course, a doll, and you can hand it back at the end of the weekend - but in my opinion it is realistic enough in its behaviour to give a good idea of exactly what sort of attention a baby demands.

It has certainly been a rude awakening for A... At 1am... 3am.... 5am...

Meal Plan Monday 220413

Monday, 22 April 2013

Monday 22nd April - Farmer's Pie topped with mashed cauliflower

Tuesday 23rd April - Chili Lime Chicken with salad

Wednesday 24th April - Brinner*

Thursday 25th April - Smoky Country Style Ribs with roasted vegetables

Friday 26th April - Tandoori Chicken & cauliflower rice

Saturday 27th April - Takeaway & birthday cake for E's 3rd birthday

Sunday 28th April - A picnic on our family day out

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

Bougie Baby #CountryKids

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Today E has been Nanny's little helper, helping her watering the Bougainvilleas in the greenhouses while Grampy is away at an exhibition.

E really loves to help and took great delight in wandering up and down giving them all a good drink with the old watering can, and then she and Nanny went off to the shops where E was spoiled with some sweets for being a good girl today.

My little flower amongst the flowers.

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

Bring me sunshine, in your smile

Thursday, 18 April 2013

It finally feels like Spring has arrived. Okay, so it's raining on & off but at least it isn't snowing! And it's also about fifteen degrees warmer than it was a couple of weeks ago, I'm certainly grateful for that. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for more sunshine over the coming weeks, I don't know about you but I am happy to finally see the back of Winter.

Things have settled back into a routine since the children went back to school last week, we're back in to the swing of things and everything is ticking along nicely. J and I had an awesome date night at the weekend which I really enjoyed. He has a real hero worship thing about his Dad (which is fantastic) and so I have always just assumed he would prefer to spend time with the Mister rather than me, but I realise that is not the case and I am going to spending more time with all five of them individually just hanging out, proper quality time one on one. They're only young once, I need to make sure that I make the most of it because before I know it they will have grown up and flown the nest.

I'm still continuing on with my change of diet, and honestly I feel fantastic. The Paleo lifestyle is one that I am finding really suits me, and I am enjoying finding new ingredients & recipes and teaching myself new ways of cooking. I've lost weight (though I haven't weighed myself in a little while, but at my last check I was down 10lb), my skin is clearer and softer, my hair is in better condition, I'm sleeping better and I have more energy, no more mid afternoon crash. I can actually SEE my body changing shape. I've started Pilates again (which I forgot how much I enjoyed) and will be going swimming one or two evenings a week, too. I feel great and that makes me very happy indeed. Coupled with starting my degree in October (pending tuition fee loan approval, of course) I am getting more of 'me' back and it feels wonderful.

We're looking forward to E's birthday next week and are planning a family day out in lieu of a party (you can see why here) and I'm busy planning her cake. I can't believe she is going to be three! She'll be starting nursery this September, we'll be off for some induction days in a couple of months time, so we're going to spend lots of quality time together for the next few months while she is still at home with me. My babies are all grown up now! But like I said, it means I can do a few more things for myself which is wonderful.

Last but not least, I have come home from a busy morning out & about to discover that my blog has entered the top 100 of Tots100, in at number 95! Ahhh! I also passed 150,000 page views this month which is AMAZING.
Thank you SO much to everyone who reads, visits and shares - I really appreciate it and hope that you all enjoy visiting me here as much as I enjoy being here! I have met so many wonderful people through blogging, and can't wait to meet many more in person at last at the Britmums conference in June. I hope you'll all come by next month when I celebrate my 2 year 'blogoversary' as there will be some fantastic prizes up for grabs! Details coming soon, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week? Link up with Michelle at Mummy From The Heart and share.

Date Night

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

On Saturday night I went out on a date with a very handsome fella who is more than half my age. I had to pay for everything, he ate loads and we went on the train because he can't drive, but I had a really lovely time.

We saw G.I. Joe: Retaliation in 3D... I can forgive him his movie choice because it meant I got to ogle Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) in uniform... Worth it purely for that.
It wasn't a bad movie, actually quite funny in a couple of places and the action definitely appealed to J's almost-teenage self and he really enjoyed the film.

We headed off to catch the train, and made our way to Bath. We enjoyed some nostalgia on our way through the city centre (well I did, not sure about J) and I was telling him about when I was a teenager and how we used to go into Bath after school (as that's where I went to secondary, from the end of year 9 until after my GCSEs) and where we used to go... The chip shop that's now not a chip shop, the original shopping centre & bus station, the cinema that's now a comedy club and the time when my mum waited outside school for me and some friends so she could drive us to HMV for a CD (remember those!) signing by Peter Andre. Ah, those were the days! Memories of a misspent youth, trailing after pop stars & hanging around in Quasar.

It was really nice to share some time together, just me and J. In all honesty, I haven't spent as much time with J as I could have, instead thinking he would prefer to spend time with his Dad. Maybe he does, but on Saturday we had a really good time, just me & him. I'm going to make a more concentrated effort to give them all more one on one time, which I think will be good for us.

After the movie I took him to BK because he was apparently starving (after his bucket of pick & mix, slushy and also the drink on the way to the cinema) and he got a burger, so we took a stroll around Bath Abbey on our way back to the station while he ate. It was just getting dark and the streets were starting to light up, Bath really is beautiful by night.

The only thing that lets it down really is the sheer volume of drunks roaming the streets in the evening, it was barely half past eight and I was having to steer J through groups of people who were positively steaming and falling all over the place, and then standing in front of him with him against the wall to stop them slamming in to him at the station while they were stumbling about. It made him really nervous & wasn't particularly pleasant for me, either. I'm all for having a good time but that was beyond ridiculous.

We got home and had our dinner (which J also ate... teenagers do indeed have hollow legs) and then he watched a bit of MOTD with his Dad before heading up to bed. A was suitably miffed that I didn't take her when I got back until I reminded her that I took her - and JUST her - to the midnight showing of all of the Twilight Saga movies (bar Twilight itself) and she's asked if she & I can go and see The Host together, so I think that will be our next night out.

I think spending more quality time one on one with the kids will really us help build stronger relationships. We have a great time doing things as a family, but we need this too I think.
It was J's tutor that suggested it to me during our last meeting as something she had done with her own sons. She's a very smart lady and I am really glad that J has had her for his first year at senior school, it has been a big transition for him & we're trying to build up his confidence & self esteem. So I'll be taking her advice, and extending it throughout our family to make sure that we all have equal time & can enjoy each other's company one on one as well as all together. Anything that helps us bond can only be a good thing.

I have linked up this post with #TheGallery at The Sticky Fingers Blog.

My Dream Bathroom

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

I have to admit that one of my favourite times, is when I can shut - and lock - the bathroom door, turn on my music and have a long, hot shower... and ignore the toddler's fingers poking under the door, the knocking, the Mister asking where something is, the small voice saying "Muummmm... What you doing?" or the teenager demanding to know how much longer I am going to be...

*up goes the volume*

Unfortunately, a long soak in the bath is not an option due to the bizarre layout of my very little bathroom, and I can only assume the bath is designed for small children. And maybe jockeys.
But for a woman who is 5'10, it does not make for a relaxing dip and I would love nothing more than to stretch my legs out and enjoy unwinding in a long hot bubbly tub. I've longed to renovate the bathroom and make much better use of the space. The bath would go along the back wall, the toilet and sink opposite each other, and I would have a heated towel rail in place of the radiator.

I am coveting the Galaxia Showerbath Suite from BathShop321. I can just imagine laying out and making the most of the peace & quiet, washing my worries away, but keeping the option of a shower if one of us needed to hop in & out... And for teen, who can of course spend hours in there.

Tots 100 have asked what would be my dream bathroom?  I've often daydreamed about it... What I would do for a whirlpool bath! Complete with control panel for the built-in music system with a lighting dimmer switch to create a relaxing atmosphere, and very importantly, a shelf so that I can keep my glass of wine within arm's reach. Perhaps a few scented candles dotted here and there to add to the ambience.
There would also need to be power shower for those times that I need to get in and out as quick as I can, sometimes the window of opportunity is only minutes long! And ideally all of that would come with a panoramic mountain or sea view... Maybe one day, after my lottery win (one day!).

My own little sanctuary in my busy household, but something that will serve my family well too - such as a soft-close loo seat to stop little fingers getting mashed, and to prevent the annoying seat slamming! The smallest things can mean the most to a busy mum, and even just half an hour to myself to relax and unwind is my idea of heaven.

Meal Plan Monday 150413

Monday, 15 April 2013

Monday 15th April - Roasted red pepper soup with mini meatballs

Tuesday 16th April - Honey dill drumsticks with salad

Wednesday 17th April - Brinner*

Thursday 18th April - Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Friday 19th April - Fajitas

Saturday 20th April - Chicken stuffed with goats cheese & wrapped in bacon, with steamed broccoli & honey-roasted carrots

Sunday 21st April - Family dinner out to celebrate 2x birthdays and my parents 40th wedding anniversary

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


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Nature Paint - A breath of fresh air

Sunday, 14 April 2013

I'm so happy that our house is very nearly decorated just how I want it, with the exception of the kitchen (nearly done) and the utility room (er...) it's almost perfect. The Mister has just finished revamping our hall/stairs/landing to try and brighten it up and I am really pleased with the results, he's done a fantastic job.

I chose some red, grey & black floral wallpaper on a white background to complement the 'Cuttlefish' NaturePaint we were sent to review. We only have one window in the hallway and a narrow pane of glass in the front door so it is quite dark and we chose bright, clean colours to make it as light as possible. It comes in a wide range of beautiful colours so it took us a little while to choose which we liked best.

NaturePaint is the only paint in the UK certified to contain absolutely zero VOCs. This basically means, it doesn't contain any of the bad stuff that can affect health and the atmosphere. If you would like to know more about VOCs and why they are bad then NaturePaint explain it all here for you.

NaturePaint - 100% VOC free

The paint is non-toxic and therefore was ideal to use in the hallway, stairs and landing areas because they link to almost every room in our house. The Mister painted in the knowledge that it was safer for him while he was working with it and also would not negatively affect the rest of the household. It is a high traffic area and used constantly, we were all able to continue to travel through & sleep with bedroom doors open without any ill effects or concern. Having already had a couple of wee grubby mitts touch the wall, I can also report that it was easy to wipe clean!

NaturePaint has a mild smell when it is wet, but it is not unpleasant and does not linger. It dries quickly and I also noticed that (when it is dry) it has a glittery affect to it, which reflects the light even more - bonus!

Its packaging is 100% recyclable and the paint comes in powder form, which means you only need to mix as much as you need with some water and then you can save the rest for another time or retouching later on. Better still, it is made in Great Britain, so you can support a home-grown business and British manufacturing.

As well as the website, you can also find NaturePaint on Twitter & Facebook.

NaturePaint provided us with two tins of paint to review free of charge.
The views shared are my own personal & honest opinion of the program
and are written entirely in my own words.

Thank God He's A Country Boy

Saturday, 13 April 2013

My kids all have their own likes & dislikes and interests, they're so different it has been wonderful to watch them grow up and develop their own personalities and hobbies. A is into music, and is a typical teenage girl who likes reading, movies and shopping. J likes his football & basketball, he's our sporty one. L has his special interests, particularly dinosaurs & robots and he wants to design computer games when he's all grown up. E is a walking talking gender stereotype, she loves dollies and pink and princesses (though she will get out there and play football and give her big brothers and sister a run for their money).

But H, he is my proper country boy.

Now, I was born & raised in the town where I live now with my own family, it's set in the rolling hills of the Wiltshire countryside and it is beautiful. It's a bit boring at times I will admit, but there is nowhere else I would want to raise my kids. I grew up climbing trees and building dens, picking daffodils from the fields behind our house and carrying great armfuls back to the house for my mum & nan, not to mention flinging cowpats and rolling down hills and just enjoying the best, most natural childhood that anyone could have asked for. My parents still live on and work the land, my dad is a nurseryman and grows bougainvilleas, and there is nothing that H loves more than spending a day at the nursery helping out.

He'll happily trampse around in his wellies with his old jeans and jacket on, lugging wheelbarrows and carrying pots, planting up with Grampy, and recently, helping Uncle R clear the back car park with his tractor. This morning H was up & dressed at the crack of dawn waiting for R to pick him up and take him to the nursery for a day's work, just like he did last weekend. He is in his element, he has even asked me to buy him a farming simulator game for the PC, bless his heart.

I remember my Dad playing John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" in the van & me and my sisters singing along when we went off to exhibitions around the country (Dad still exhibits at many, including RHS such as Chelsea & Hampton Court), and H really reminds me so much of my Dad.

Thank God he's a country boy, too!

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

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

Friday, 12 April 2013

I will admit, I waste lots of my time virtually wandering through Pinterest admiring the beautiful children's birthday party themes (seriously, check out Owl Birthday Party... OH MY GOD - *Owl heaven*). But I have a confession to make...

I absolutely cannot stand children's birthday parties.

Hosting them, that is.
Rushing around organising invitations, venues, catering, making the cakes, getting the decorations, doing the decorating, smiling smiling smiling, trying to remember which kid is which (I have enough trouble keeping my own kids names straight, never mind half of their class), more smiling, stopping that kid (yea, you know the one I mean) from hurling the bowling ball down the wrong alley/drowning someone/pushing someone down the slide at the soft-play centre/destroying your house, handing the right kid back to the right parent, thank you thank you thank you, THANK YOU NOTES! Cleaning up afterwards if you have been daft enough to have the party at your house (never do this, what are you thinking?!) or at least clearing up the mess at the venue.

Noooooo thanks.

I love the idea of beautifully matching cakes and desserts, with artfully placed bunting and cute coordinating snacks & gift bags and the like. I do, I swear - I LOVE it. I think it is adorable and if you can pull it off without pulling out your hair by the end of the day then I applaud you. But until my kids are attending school, I would much rather chuck a hundred pounds at a family day out than a party, something that we can all enjoy together without leaving me a quivering, drooling mess at the end of it.
To be honest, I still try and convince them to do that now since L & H are currently prime "party age", and I'm still safe for a couple of years with E.

As for taking my kids to parties, I almost skip to the door when I drop off my wee darling with the slightly crazed looking mum whose eyes are darting every which way trying to keep track of the twenty or so kids she is now responsible for for the next two hours. I smile sweetly, assure her that I have given my kid 'the chat' so s/he is not that kid, and I wish her luck.

Rather her than me!

Pure happiness

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Last Summer we went for a wander through the country park down town with the kids, we took their scooters and they all went off ahead enjoying roaming free and having fun.

E was still a bit unsure on her scooter, so H took it off for a ride instead and E enjoyed sitting on her Daddy's shoulders and squealing with delight at everything that was going on around her.

She asked to get down so she could run with her brothers and sister, and as her Daddy was lifting her down from his shoulders I captured this exchange between them...

If that right there is not pure happiness then I don't know what is!

I have linked up this post with #TheGallery at The Sticky Fingers Blog.

Family Days Out - Paultons Park & Peppa Pig World

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

We had planned to visit Paultons Park & Peppa Pig World for E's 2nd birthday in April last year, but things go on as they do and we didn't make it there until August, on L's 9th birthday, so we made it a sort of double celebration - just a few months late for E!

So that day we packed a picnic and set off in the car to just outside Romsey in The New Forest, where Paultons Park is located. I had paid online and printed off tickets beforehand, it is worth noting that tickets are discounted if you buy online in advance. Children under 1 metre are free, and Wheelchair & Mobility Scooter dependent guests are also admitted free of charge. It cost me just over £130 for my family of 7 to visit the park, but considering the amount of attractions I think it is very reasonable & good value for money.

Paultons Park

Paultons also offer queue assist for park visitors with special needs. When we arrived at the park, I went with L to the first aid centre with our Paediatrician letter, which allowed priority access to rides because of his Autism. This made a huge difference to the enjoyment of our day, with less anxiety for both him & me! He also got a birthday badge from the kiosk just inside the gates which he was very pleased about.

Picnic at Paultons Park

We packed our own picnic but also bought more drinks & food during our visit. Refreshments are a little pricier than your normal rates (as expected from a theme park), but not extortionate.
My issue really was the speed & attitudes of a handful of the staff on kiosks within the park, considering how busy it was and that it was rather warm, I think perhaps less chatting & standing around while there were large queues of customers would have been preferable. Standing in an excruciatingly slow moving line on a hot day with thirsty children is no fun by any stretch of the imagination & I was suitably miffed by the time we were eventually served.

The park is absolutely beautiful, with lovely well-kept gardens and lots of areas to sit and enjoy a picnic. The 'Land of the Dinosaurs' walk (complete with sound effects) was good fun & enjoyed by the kids, they particularly liked the giant T-Rex at the start of the walk! The floating globe at the entrance was also a hit, and they had great fun trying to spin and turn it.

Paultons Park

There are rides and attractions to suit everyone, my kids vary in age from 14 down to 2 and there was plenty there to keep them busy and happy all day long. Muddy Puddles in Peppa Pig World was brilliant and E had a whale of a time hopping around the mini water playground in her swimming cossie, likewise the big kids thoroughly enjoyed the Water Kingdom and as it was so hot, they raced off to cool down under the jets & fountains intermittently during the day. Remember to take your swim costumes & towels if you're visiting during the Spring/Summer season.

Paultons Park Water Kingdom

A & J took off together to enjoy the bigger thrill rides, while L & H stuck with The Mister who accompanied them on the rides that they wanted to go on.
E really loved Mr Potato's playground and the rides in Peppa Pig World (especially Windy Castle), she was so exhausted she crashed out so we definitely hope to visit again so she can experience it all.

I think the highlight of the day for her was meeting Peppa & George, although she did try and steal Teddy!

Family fun at Peppa Pig World

There are also a couple of attractions that have an additional charge, like the Aqua Zorbing and Panning for Gold so be sure to factor in the extra cash if you plan to have a go on these. L & H enjoyed the Zorbing, and it was £5 each for them to have a go (price from August 2012).

All in all, I think it is a wonderful family day out and I am also impressed by their provision & consideration for the disabled & carers. It is well worth a visit in our opinion, and we certainly hope to visit again sometime soon.

Paultons Park

Garden Games – activities for the whole family

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Entertaining children – especially in the holidays is usually something that is on a parent’s mind. Having young children in a world awash with toys and games for little ones can sometimes be very easy in this respect. There is so much outdoor play equipment angled towards younger children that the choices can be endless. Entertaining younger children is also made very easy by their ability to be entertained so easily! I have lost count of the number of small children who can have fun with the simplest items – sticks and stones, buckets, kitchen utensils – you name it!

Entertaining older children can be more difficult!
Entertaining older children can be a lot more difficult than keeping the younger ones amused. It is easy to let them laze around in front of the television but there is usually something inside us telling us we should be helping them to do something a little more constructive! Computer games seem to be one of those things where you feel it could be frying their brain or turning them into an anti-social recluse!

How can we get them outside in the fresh air?
Getting your older children outside can be a difficult task. Having large items such as trampolines in your garden can be a good incentive but of course, not everyone has the space or budget for something as large as this. There are some garden games and giant games which really don’t cost a lot of money and are small and compact so can be taken on holiday with you as well as to the park or a friend or relatives house (yes, even most of the giant games).

Croquet Sets are brilliant for keeping all ages entertained. It is a game which conjures up an image of country gentlemen or ladies, but it is perfect for a little competition. The competitive side to the game is a part of the game that will keep most ages hooked. The majority of teenagers have a little (or a lot) of competitive spirit in them, and croquet is definitely a game which will get them involved and wanting to beat the others!

Croquet is easy to transport and won’t cost a fortune
Croquet sets out there range from as little as £50 and contain all the hoops, balls and mallets you need to play. You can see a good variety of different croquet sets here ranging from small sets aimed at children, to family sets to more serious high quality croquet sets. For older children, you may want to consider getting a full size set but you can always buy smaller mallets in case the younger ones want to join in. Croquet is a game of strategy, skill and above all it will include most levels of ability and even age.  Croquet is also a game which does not take up much space, so can easily be taken on a camping holiday or family get together to keep everyone entertained.

Croquet is a game that will have everyone playing together
If you have a range of different age children – or you have relatives or friends who have younger or older children croquet is the perfect game to get them all involved and playing together.  You can even play as teams rather than individuals, so you can encourage more children to play who may usually feel a little intimidated playing on their own. Croquet rules can be adapted to suit the players. There are a number of different ‘serious’ sets of croquet rules but the basics are just as fun for the whole family to enjoy a game of croquet.

A whole range of other giant garden games
As well as croquet, there are a number of other garden games which can bring different ages and abilities together and encourage the children to get outside in the garden. Giant games are becoming more and more popular now and there are a lot of different ones to choose from. Giant games like giant jenga and giant connect 4 bring family classic ‘indoor’ games outside into the garden. These giant games also create more of a team or group game atmosphere unlike their small counterparts. As they are giant, more people can gather around these games allowing more involvement from more people. Giant chess is also very popular – not only as a good strategy game, but also as something which can act like an attractive ornament when set out on a patio. Giant chess can again be played by different age groups but will appeal to older children who prefer something which will give them something a little more mentally challenging. Giant games will have your children hooked for hours.

Written by Abbi Stewart
{play expert and advisor for Big Game Hunters}
This is a sponsored guest post.

Meal Plan Monday 080413

Monday, 8 April 2013

Meal Planning Monday
Monday 8th April - Bacon & sweet potato turkey burgers with salad

Tuesday 9th April - Italian shredded beef with roasted root vegetables and mashed cauliflower

Wednesday 10th April - Brinner*

Thursday 11th April - Steamed cod with butter, served with broccoli

Homemade Guacamole (recipe from 12th April - Chicken fajitas with lettuce wraps & guacamole

Saturday 13th April - Bacon wrapped meatloaf served with steamed carrots & caramelised onions

Sunday 14th April - Roast pork with roasted sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables and carrot & swede mash

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

April showers bring forth May flowers

Saturday, 6 April 2013

On Easter Sunday the children had their breakfast (they were livid that I made them eat breakfast first, I am a terrible Mum!) and then tucked in to their Easter baskets of goodies.

We had an egg hunt in the back garden which unfortunately was marred by the poor attitudes of two of my delightful brood, before heading back in to the house for our roast lamb.

After we had eaten & the kitchen was cleaned up, we all (well, almost all - teen was glued to the laptop) went back out in to the garden to have a Spring tidy up. The Mister got the lawnmower out, and H & E and I grabbed the shovels & trowels and started digging up the borders.

Unfortunately as the garden has been quite neglected over this very long (long, long, long...) Winter, we only managed to clean up one border in the end.

We dug it all out, cleaned it all up and then H planted some Forget Me Nots. He very carefully dug a little trench with the trowel and planted them in, before covering it all up and watering them in.

E did her bit by planting our Sunflower seeds in to tin cans, to grow on ready to plant out in the garden in May. We got the seeds free with our copy of The Lorax DVD and so couldn't let them go to waste.
We're looking forward to growing them up outside the back door, E is certain that The Lorax is going to come and see them when they've started to shoot!

We can't wait for the weather to warm up a bit so that we can enjoy some more time in the garden. We're looking to replace the trampoline and play equipment this year, it has all had many good years of service but is definitely in need of replacing now.

We're going to get a bigger slide (because that is E's favourite and she has outgrown the toddler one that we have), a basketball hoop and we're also looking at wooden playhouses to get for E's birthday on the 27th. I also want to get some garden activity toys, crazy golf and swingball and that sort of thing. With the kids being older now, we need to think of different things to keep them entertained out in the garden.

I've been browsing the selection of climbing frames at, the Victory Pirate Ship climbing frame is amazing and I know even my big kids would love it. Something wooden with a slide and a swing or two would be ideal for us, so that all five of the kids could enjoy it equally. I've caught A sitting on the swings with E, I know she's not too big for them yet despite what she says!

The Mister is also in the process of rebuilding our patio. I hope it's finished sooner rather than later because we're going to need somewhere to sit for our Summer barbecues! Speaking of sitting, I also need to replace the outdoor table & chairs. I've even made a For the Garden Pinterest board to keep track of everything I am coveting, I can hear my bank account groaning already!

It'll all be worth it when it is done though, I'm so looking forward to the Springtime arriving, we could all do with a little warmth and sunshine.

I have linked this post with Coombe Mill's #CountryKids linky.
This is a sponsored post.
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