Mama OWL Blog: June 2013

Sports Day

Saturday, 29 June 2013

It was Sports Week at L & H's school this week, celebrated with a sports day for all, and a race day for the KS2 children as well as various activities within school throughout the week.

Luckily, the sun was shining and we were able to enjoy both days without needing to huddle under an umbrella or wish away the hours until we could hurry off home back in to the warm. Sunglasses, sun cream and dresses on, and off E & I went to enjoy the day. My friend K joined us to watch my boys racing around the field doing their activities, and E took great delight in swinging from the playground equipment the entire time. It seems she approves, so I hope she will be happy when she starts there in September next year.
There are a series of stations set up around the playground, including a rest station under the trees with drinks & biscuits, and the children have a certain time limit at each station in which to earn points for their teams.
The school is divided up into four teams - red, green, yellow & blue - with two teams per colour, and the colour with the most points at the end is the winner. The school even provide all of the t-shirts for the children so there is no scrabbling around to find something in the appropriate colour. My boys were - as you have probably guessed - in the green team. Unfortunately they didn't win, but they did come second which they eventually all came to terms after some sulking!
The games include space-hopping, an assault course, skipping, goal scoring, rocket throwing, bean bag throwing and hurdles. Space-hopping didn't work out so well for my gangly, uncoordinated L who ended up on his face after a few bounces, and H really does not like skipping so we had some foot stamping here and there but overall they enjoyed themselves and I was very proud of the effort they put in and really loved spending the morning watching them have fun with their classmates.
With the end of term looming, we are looking forward to the next year of school and will soon start our preparations for the beginning of years three and six. L is excited but anxious about the prospect of his final year of primary school, this time next year will see lots of changes in our house as A starts the sixth form, L starts senior school and E begins primary school so we plan to make the most of this summer before everything is turned upside down. Fingers crossed for decent weather so we can get out there and enjoy it!

I have linked this post with #CountryKids at Coombe Mill
& #MagicMoments at The Olivers Madhouse.

Riding the Rollercoaster

Friday, 28 June 2013

This past week has been quite the rollercoaster for me. Not quite Thorpe Park, but emotionally it was probably as close as I could get without strapping myself in on Colossus.

This time a week ago I was experiencing my very first BritMums Live conference up in London with about a million (or if I'm not exaggerating, 500ish...) other people. I was travelling on the underground, I was away from home and fending for myself - with a little help from Ojo's World who made sure I didn't get lost, or play with knives or matches...

Last year I completely chickened out of going, but I made the decision to go this year and I'm really glad I did. I met lots of lovely bloggers in person after getting to know them through their blogs and twitter, but I did also miss out on seeing many others as I did find the experience a little overwhelming at times. I felt fully able to step out for a bit and then come back in, which was good. The sessions weren't entirely what I was expecting but I did enjoy sharing in the blogging for support session, and also learning more about Pinterest and how to get the most out of it.

In all honesty probably my favourite part of the weekend was the socialising, and drinking of wine & spirits... I liked just being around people who share a lot of my interests, and whose eyes don't glaze over when you mention blogging and who don't find it rude when you are glued to your phone, tweeting mid-conversation because they are doing the exact same thing.

I would love to go again next year and I'm hoping to find a sponsor as I'll be stumping up for A's prom (hair, make up, dress, shoes, transport... the list goes on) & forking out for L & E's new school uniforms around then so it'd definitely be beneficial to me, but I hope I will find a way. I'm very grateful to my Fairy Blogmother who enabled me to go this year, it was a great experience, thank you again x

It has been sports week at L & H's school, and yesterday & today were their sports days. We had a few tears (from both boys) during the morning yesterday and both needed a little time out and hug with mum before continuing on. Their teachers and classmates were all so supportive of each other, it was really nice to watch and the weather held out which is always a bonus. Their team came second overall which they were a little disappointed about, but they got over it soon enough.

Today was 'race day' for the older kids (years 3-6). The fact that L even agreed to take part was a milestone in itself because he finds physical activities difficult, and he has also suffered with hip pain earlier in the week so I was a bit concerned & anxious about how it would go. Fortunately, he was okay and didn't hurt himself but he was a bit distressed after he didn't win his race. Again, his teachers and classmates were supportive and reassured him, I love that they all understand him and are there for him.

When they were lined up waiting to start the race, his friends were all chanting his name & cheering him on and I admit that I welled up seeing the pride on his face. After a very rough start to his school life and years of him telling me that he just wanted a friend, I am so so relieved that he is settled in a fantastic school and has lots of friends around him, and to see their reaction towards him when he was upset that he didn't win for them was heart-warming. They are such lovely kids and I just hope that they remain that way as they stride headlong into the teenage years.

It has been an emotional week. And I am certainly thankful it's Friday. TGIF! Enjoy your weekend.

I have linked this post with #R2BC at Mummy From The Heart

Meal Plan Monday 240613

Monday, 24 June 2013

Monday 24th June - Egg & chips (sweet potato chips for me)

Tuesday 25th June - Cottage pie topped with mashed veg

Wednesday 26th June - Brinner*

Thursday 27th June - Spaghetti bolognese (courgette noodles for me)

Friday 28th June - Chicken fajitas (& lettuce wraps)

Saturday 29th June - Vegetable pasta bake

Sunday 30th June - Pork Chops

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

Father's Day Fun at Thorpe Park

Thursday, 20 June 2013

I considered all of my options for Father's Day celebrations for the Mister this year, and decided that the best way to mark the occasion was to take the big kid to Thorpe Park (along with the five smaller children I also have...).

I stalked the weather forecast all week, having also carefully surveilled it the week before - 'Chance of afternoon showers'... Best we were going to get during the great British summer I thought, so we ran with it. As it turned out, it was a bit overcast and we had some drizzly showers for a very short time, but then the sun came out and it ended up being a glorious day! Win!

The journey there was uneventful (aside from one side-of-the-road emergency toilet break and E vomiting - note, always take a plastic bag in the car with you... trust me) and it took just a couple of hours to get there. It was well sign-posted from the motorway which was handy because I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag, just ask my husband!

On arrival, we parked up and collected our tickets before making our way into the park. The two staff members on the turnstiles were not particularly welcoming as the first faces you see on entering the gates as they were busy talking amongst themselves. A walkie-talkie was absent-mindedly waved towards one gate, indicating that that was where my husband should walk through with the pushchair while I took the older children through the turnstiles. No smile, no welcome, they simply continued on with their conversation after we 'interrupted' them.

I was surprised that the park seemed quite quiet, but this of course was a bonus for us because that meant shorter queue times. The longest queue I saw had a 45 minute wait, which I didn't think was too bad, though you can purchase fastrack passes if you'd like to avoid the queues on busier days.
A few of the rides were out of service, including SAW which the Mister & J were disappointed about, and Logger's Leap which L had been excited to ride while Detonator unfortunately was closed down while the Mister & kids were in the queue, but these things happen and safety is of course paramount so if they need to close then so be it, there's nothing you can do about that.

Our first stop with the kids after a two hour car ride was of course, the loos. While I didn't visit the gents (obv), I can report that the ladies facilities were clean and tidy, and I particularly liked the foot pedal operated taps as I am a bit public toilet-phobic in all honesty, so not having to touch taps & doors worked for me. It also made it easier when I was holding E up to wash her hands, too. I have been assured by the Mister that the mens were in equally as good condition as the ladies.
We wandered out in to the park and our first stop was Colossus, I waited with L, H & E while the Mister, A and J went on the ride. While we were waiting I bought the little ones some snacks from a kiosk and we watched some of the other rides, looked at the map and decided where we wanted to go next. We met them off the ride (which they thoroughly enjoyed) and made our way back along to Rush. While the Mister, A & J were queuing, I visited the kiosk just in front of Rush to get some change for the RC cars and was served by a really lovely young man called Abil who was exceptionally polite and helpful, who asked if we were enjoying our day & offered directions to a ride that L mentioned while I was being served. Excellent customer service, he is a real credit to the park.

As for the RC cars, trucks and boats that were dotted around the park, I think those were H's favourite things! At £1 a go for only a minute or so of use they weren't cheap to go on, but he loved them & kept asking to go back between rides, they were a handy distraction when we were waiting for the others who were on rides that H was just a little too short to go on.

E was able to ride the Rocky Express (three times) and the Flying Fish (twice) during our visit. When the gate was opened by an older child who at the front of the queue of the Rocky Express & all the kids piled through and on to the ride, the young man operating the ride was vigilant in making sure that all of the kids returned back to the queue and were height checked before he would allow them on again. Twice this happened while I was standing there when he was busy, by children who were not being supervised by their parents in the queue (which I thought was dangerous above all else, and the catch could only have been reached by an older child leaning over the gate to unlock it) but the lad did a good job managing the situation, I thought.
E really enjoyed the rides she was able to go on, but unfortunately was too small to go on the teacups which she was a little disappointed about but we distracted her with other things and she soon forgot about it.

There were lots of places to have lunch around the Amity Boardwalk area (and I really enjoyed the 1950s music being played here!), we chose a burger restaurant as it was the closest and I knew everyone would like something on the menu. I did notice that the prices were a little higher than they are at the same chain 'on the highstreet' however it's the same at all theme parks and attractions I have visited & we were prepared for that.
The restaurant was clean & tidy and there was someone sweeping up and clearing tables constantly while we were there. The service was quick and the food was as expected, the kids enjoyed their meals & soon we were back off out into the park for more fun.
The Mister braved Stealth immediately after eating lunch, I had suspected it was all going to end in tears. Or vomit. However he surprised me with his cast iron stomach, and indeed went on it again with A & J since he enjoyed it so much! They also went on Storm Surge (this was L's favourite), the Slammer, Samurai and The Swarm which had some very impressive 'props' strewn around underneath the ride including an ambulance, helicopter & fire engine which H loved. The Swarm was A's favourite ride, I think she would have spent the entire day going round on this if she could have!
As the day ended we wandered to the other side of the park and E & I watched some water-skiing on the lake while the Mister & kids went on Quantum and Zodiac. 6pm arrived and we unfortunately hadn't managed to get round all of the rides but had really enjoyed the ones that we did go on. We definitely want to visit again to go on the rides that we missed out.
Overall, we had a really great family day and the Mister and kids had lots of fun together on the rides. The park is clean and well maintained, on several occasions I noticed litter pickers walking around clearing any stray rubbish, and there were several security guards patrolling the park too. It felt like a safe environment, and we all had a good time which is what you want from a day out. I would definitely visit again (and plan to!) and I would certainly recommend it to others, it was a wonderful Father's Day family outing.

We received complimentary tickets for Thorpe Park for review purposesThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and are written in my own words.

Meal Plan Monday 170613

Monday, 17 June 2013

Monday 17th June - Baked potatoes with coronation chicken for the Mister & kids, vegetable omelette for me

Tuesday 18th June - Home-made bacon, sweet potato & lamb burgers with chips and salad

Wednesday 19th June - Brinner*

Thursday 20th June - SausagesGF/WF & mash

Friday 21st June - I'm off to London for BritMums Live! for the weekend, but the Mister & kids will be having honey dill chicken & chips

Saturday 22nd June - Pizza & garlic bread for the Mister & kids with New York cheesecake for dessert

Sunday 23rd June - Roast Gammon

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

Better Tasting Tea

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

I live in the south in an area that has "hard water", and to be honest tea made with water from our taps has never tasted particularly spectacular. Not disgusting, of course! But definitely not quite the pure cuppa you'd really want - hence my decision to stick primarily to coffee.

Morphy Richards offered me the opportunity to try out their brand new Brita Accents Brushed Stainless Steel Filter Kettle with Brita Filter technology to see if I could taste test the difference like the BBC have recently as part of the north-south water quality debate.
The kettle boasts some great features, as well as the built-in Brita water filter including 'memo technology' that lets you know when to change your filter, it also includes a 360 cordless base, fast boil and an illuminated water gauge.

I set up my morning cuppa as normal, and made two identical cups of tea - one using my regular kettle and the other using the water filter kettle. 

So... Could I taste a difference in the water?
In short, yes. Personally, I did find that the water filter kettle offered a smoother, purer tasting cup of tea than the regular kettle. I could definitely taste the difference in the quality of the tea using filtered water.

Bearing in mind that hard water can also negatively affect the longevity of kitchen appliances, I believe that a kettle with a built-in filter would offer excellent value for money as well as better tasting hot drinks.

But then, don't just take my word for it - try it for yourself!

We received a complimentary Morphy Richards Brita Filter Kettle for review purposesThe views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and are written in my own words.

Meal Plan Monday 100613

Monday, 10 June 2013

Monday 10th June - The pork chops we didn't have yesterday as we had a BBQ at the in-laws!

Tuesday 11th June - Stuffed chicken breast with vegetables & mash

Wednesday 12th June - Brinner*

Thursday 13th June - Farmer's Pie

Friday 14th June - Seasoned chicken & vegetable skewers with salad

Saturday 15th June - Bacon wrapped meatloaf

Sunday 16th June - We're off to Thorpe Park for the day, so whatever we fancy while we're out

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

Dandelions & tree-climbing #CountryKids

Saturday, 8 June 2013

What better way to spend a warm, sunny Monday morning when the children have an inset day from school, than riding on bikes, blowing dandelions and climbing trees at the park?

It was too lovely a day to waste just sitting at home. Luckily I was already all set for back to school with bags packed & uniform ready for Tuesday, so it meant that Monday could be spent having fun together before they begin the home stretch ahead of the Summer holidays.

After our afternoon feeding the ducks down town last week, we thought we would head to the park. Our local park is usually pretty quiet which is always nice, especially for L who can get distressed if there are too many people around or lots going on around him. After they tired of riding their bikes and the skateboard along the paths, L & H took to the trees!
It was lovely to see them all playing together and enjoying the outdoors. I was impressed with L's bravery, climbing trees is not normally something he would partake in but he climbed the highest out of the two of them, and took great delight in shaking the branches as he got higher up to show me where he was.
E was a bit too little to enjoy tree-climbing with the boys, so she instead spent her time carefully picking dandelions and blowing them into the breeze, as well as bringing me daisies and zipping around the park on her balance bike.
She did give the tree-climbing a go, unfortunately she was just a bit too small and a bit too timid this time. So instead, her big brothers gave her a lift. After all, that is what big brothers are for!

I have linked this post with #CountryKids at Coombe Mill.

BritMums Live... EEEEEE!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Let me start by saying - OMG ALMOST TIME FOR BRITMUMS LIVE! Obvious statement is obvious. But EEEE!

I ummed and ahhed over whether or not to go. I completely chickened out last year even though the fabulous My Lovebumps and MelkshamMum tried to convince me otherwise at a little coffee morning we had, and then when I was at home reading all of the tweets and seeing the pictures I immediately regretted that decision. So despite my initial reservations, I thought YES! I AM GOING! and started saving up in earnest.

Then... The car. Oh the CAR! The bloody car!

Everything that could go wrong with that car, DID chuffing well go wrong. It spent weeks upon weeks in the garage. It's out now, but it still isn't right! So the money I had saved, I gave to the Mister towards sorting out the car. No Britmums for me.

However... A Fairy Blogmother - as I lovingly refer to her - heard of my plight, and thanks to this wonderful, generous, amazing woman, I shall go to the ball! I couldn't be more grateful, you know who you are & THANK YOU for doing this for me. It means so much! Thank you xx

Now it is only weeks away and I am starting to finalise plans and see what is on the BML agenda. Thanks to Ojo's World - my #BML roomie, travel buddy and cousin-in-law - I will make it there in one piece (scary London underground!) and have somewhere to sleep as she has booked up the accommodation and made all of our transport arrangements, so far so good! I just need to make sure I don't look like a tramp and make an effort to join in rather than stand there staring nervously at everyone.

A couple of things about me. I am shy. I will probably be too nervous to approach you though I will make an effort to because frankly I need to get over it, I am thirty years old fgs. I will probably make a beeline for the butterflies, although that will also be because I can't wait to meet Mich (aka Mummy From The Heart).

I do my best not to stand out, but if you're looking for me - I'm 5'10 tall, I have dark almost waist length hair, black-rimmed glasses and I'll probably be wearing a maxi dress or jeans and a t-shirt and looking terrified.

Approach without caution, I am not scary just scared & I'd love to talk to you!

The sun has got his hat on #R2BC

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The weather finally perking up has really lifted my mood.

There is only so much rain, wind and cold a person can take before it really starts to grind you down, and so the beautiful sun and blue skies are being welcomed with open arms.

In the past week and a bit we've been to the park, fed the ducks, gone for a walk, enjoyed the garden (including dinnertime picnics on a blanket), climbed trees and ridden bikes outside in the sun.

Summer, it seems, is finally here, and long may it last!

We have lots to look forward to in the coming weeks, including J's football presentation evening this weekend, Britmums Live (Eek!), Father's day and a visit to Thorpe Park as well as our holiday to Torquay in July so I am hoping that the weather holds out!

We've also enjoyed visits to both Bristol Zoo Gardens and ZSL London Zoo in the past couple of months, so it has been a busy time for us but we are enjoying it even if I am shattered 99% of the time! The good times may not always last but the memories do so we're doing our best to make lots of them.

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week?

I've linked this post with Mummy From The Heart's #R2BC linky.

Two. #theGallery

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

This week for #theGallery, the theme is TWO.

I remember each of my children vividly at age two. That isn't to say I don't remember them at other ages too of course, but by two we were well past the 'baby haze' and things are somewhat easier to picture clearly.

They were just finding themselves, learning how to communicate their likes and dislikes, how to say NO, learning new things every day. Becoming little people rather than babies, growing up all too quickly in the bittersweet way that they do.

To see them now. Wow! Even only a year on from two, E has grown so much. A & J striding headlong into the teenage years, with L & H not far behind in the tweens. Where do the years go? What happened to my cheeky toddlers & the terrible 2s? Why are they all almost as big as me?

I look at my five smiling chubby cheeked toddlers, even the one covered in his Dad's shaving foam (if they're quiet, always be suspicious) and I wish I could give them one more squidge. The time passes faster than I ever would have imagined possible & I'm determined to enjoy every minute of their childhood.

I'll leave you with this thought. This sums it up.

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
- Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mama Owl's 2nd Blogoversary WINNERS

Monday, 3 June 2013

Thank you so much to everyone who entered, shared, liked, commented etc on my 2nd Blogoversary giveaway, and a huge thank you to the companies who generously donated prizes - Westdale Nurseries, Zulily UK, The Blackpool Tower and Free Photo Printing.

The entries have been checked & verified and I am pleased to announce the winners of the competitions are as follows:

The winner of the Lena Sheep Pillow Friend from Zulily UK is... entry #784 - ANNA MARIKAR

The winner of the £20 voucher from Zulily UK is... entry #736 - SIAN GANLY

The winner of the photo personalised iPad case from is... entry #569 - TRACY K. NIXON

The winner of the family ticket to The Blackpool Tower is... entry #378 - KAREN BARRETT

The winner of the Bougainvillea plant from Westdale Nurseries is... entry #797 - KELLY J HOOPER

Congratulations everyone!
Please contact me to claim your prize.

Meal Plan Monday 030613

Monday, 3 June 2013

Monday 3rd June - Honey & mustard chicken and bacon salad

Tuesday 4th June - Home-made cauliflower & macaroni cheeseGF/WF for the kids, vegetable omelette for me

Wednesday 5th June - Brinner*

Thursday 6th June - Courgette Bolognese

Friday 7th June - Honey dill chicken with carrot & swede mash and vegetables

Saturday 8th June - Football presentation night, so currently undecided

Sunday 9th June - Pork chops

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

The best things in life are free #CountryKids

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Yesterday afternoon, I set off down town with L, H & E for L's weekly 1:2:1 swimming lesson with his instructor, Rebecca. The sun had at last come out to play (seriously, it's JUNE! It's about time!) and we gathered up some stale bread & rolls so that while L was swimming, H & E could feed the ducks at the riverside just outside the pool, and we could make the most of the weather while it lasts!

I think my favourite thing about feeding the ducks is that it's free (save for any bread purchase you might have to make) and that kids - at least, mine - LOVE it. Something so simple but that brings them such happiness can only be a good thing if you ask me.

E was rather miffed that seagulls kept coming along and stealing the bread that she had thrown for the ducks, she was not amused when I explained to her that there was nothing I could do about it!

We talked about ducks and what baby ducks are called, and the colours that a daddy duck has on his head, and indeed what daddy ducks are called! E was quite fascinated. After all the bread was gone we wandered along the path and watched the end of L's swimming lesson before enjoying a nice leisurely stroll home.

A lovely end to the afternoon, the best things in life really are free.

I have linked this post with #CountryKids at Coombe Mill
&  #WeekendBlogHop at My Life as a Mummy
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